A first half strike from Loic Remy and an outstanding goalkeeping performance from Tim Krul gave Newcastle United the win on a frustrating afternoon at the Lane.
The visitors scored the only goal of the game in the 13th minute and then saw their Dutch stopper produce no fewer than five magnificent saves as we took the game to the Magpies but just couldn’t find that elusive breakthrough.
We made four changes from the side which drew 0-0 at Everton last Sunday, with Hugo Lloris, Sandro, Aaron Lennon and Lewis Holtby replaced by Brad Friedel, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele.
The game got underway following an impeccably observed minute’s silence for Remembrance Sunday, and there was a good tempo to the match right from the first whistle, with both sides moving the ball quickly and looking to get on the front foot early. The first clear chance fell to us on 10 minutes when Roberto Soldado headed Eriksen’s corner just over.
Newcastle responded immediately a minute later when Yohan Cabaye released Remy down the left channel in on goal, but Vlad Chiriches came across to get the slightest touch as the French striker went to shoot. The resulting corner was cleared to Mathieu Debuchy, whose long range effort was tipped away by Friedel, who was then up quickly to deny Cabaye from the rebound.
Just two minutes later though and the Magpies were ahead when Yoan Gouffran won possession from Paulinho centrally and fed a quick throughball to Remy, who rounded Friedel and rolled the ball home for the opening goal.
There was an opportunity of an equaliser on 19 minutes when Andros Townsend and Eriksen worked space down the right, Eriksen whipped in a delightful ball which went right across the face of the goal and eluded everyone.
Jan Vertonghen tried his luck from 25 yards in the 26th minute but his effort when straight at Krul, and the Belgian’s 25-yard free-kick three minutes later went through the Newcastle wall but just a yard wide of the far post.
We were certainly dominating possession at this stage and the visitors were grateful to their goalkeeper for keeping them ahead with two fine saves. On the half hour mark, Eriksen clipped in a free-kick from 30 yards and Soldado’s back-header from just inside the area looked like it was going into the top corner but Krul produced a magnificent save to tip it away for a corner.
The Dutch stopper then stopped a stinging Eriksen drive before another outstanding save in the 43rd minute ensured the teams were level at the break, tipping over Paulinho’s drive from the edge of the box after Townsend’s lay-off.
We made a double substitution at the interval with Sandro and Younes Kaboul coming on for Dembele and Chiriches and there was a real buzz to our play in the opening stages, which should have led to the equaliser five minutes in. Paulinho won the ball in midfield, threaded it wide to Townsend and his low cross fell to Eriksen 15 yards out right in the middle of goal but his low shot hit Krul’s outstretched left leg and went out for a corner.
And quite how the ball stayed out two minutes later still remains a mystery. Sigurdsson’s free-kick deflected off Cheick Tiote and wrong-footed Krul who still managed to get a hand to prevent it going in. The loose ball looked like it was going to be tapped home by Kaboul but somehow Krul got a touch again before Yanga-Mbiwa hooked clear.
Suddenly the game was end to end, with Moussa Sissoko forcing a smart save out of Friedel as Newcastle utilised the space in behind as we pressed forward, while Townsend and Walker combined well down the right, Walker’s cross just failing to reach Soldado.
And the Spaniard went close again on 65 minutes when Townsend’s fierce drive was palmed away by Krul to Soldado, but his header was comfortable for the keeper.
It was one-way traffic by this stage, helped by the fact the visitors had taken off Shola Ameobi up front and replaced him with Vurnon Anita, while we went two up top with the introduction of Jermain Defoe for Sigurdsson.
Townsend then brought another good save out of Krul on 71 minutes, the rebound just eluding Soldado and Krul was there to deny us again 10 minutes later. It was Townsend again doing the damage down the right, he centred for Defoe who held it up before laying off to Paulinho who stabbed an effort goalwards, only for Krul to save with his legs.
And when Vertonghen crashed a header against the crossbar from Eriksen’s corner on 87 minutes, it just wasn’t meant to be our day.