Newcastle: Newcastle recorded its first Premier League win in six matches by beating 10-man Wigan 3-0 on Monday after two goals by Demba Ba and another from Gael Bigirimana.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew had been under pressure with his injury-hit team winning only one league match since he signed an eight-year contract extension in late September to sit just two points above the relegation zone. But his players responded to the 12th-minute dismissal of Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa for fouling Papiss Cisse in the box in a contentious decision with the players appearing to be shoulder to shoulder.
"It was nice to get a break - and I think it was a break, I'm not a great lover of that rule with the penalty and the sending off," Pardew said. "But at the time I thought it was a penalty, the defender lifts his arm at the end of the challenge. The referee had a tough decision to make, but I think it was a penalty and obviously it put us in a great position."
Ba converted the resulting penalty, and scored again in the 21st minute from an error by goalkeeper Al Habsi at St. James Park. Those strikes took Ba to 10 league goals for the season, drawing level with Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, Liverpool forward Luis Suarez and Swansea attacker Michu at the top of the scoring chart.
Bigirimana, a second-half substitute, struck a left-footed curving shot into the net in the 71st for his first goal for the club. Wigan kept its shape in the second half despite the numerical disadvantage but never threatened to get back in the match. Unsurprisingly, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez thought the result pivoted on the opening 45 minutes. "It became a very, very difficult game in 10 minutes, giving up a two-goal cushion and a man down," he said. "But you will get adversity in football and I'm proud of our reaction in the second half, we never gave up or felt sorry for ourselves.
"(The sending off) was a big decision, I think he needed to be certain about a decision like that. The ball was between the two players, Maynor Figueroa is entitled to challenge for that ball and I thought it was shoulder-to-shoulder. It was a fair race and both players challenged for the ball."
Newcastle stayed in 14th place but is five points above the drop zone. Wigan fell one spot to 16th and has two points more than 18th-place Southampton. The biggest concern on the night for Pardew was Ba's sparkling form attracting clubs aware of the Senegal international's release clause in his contract that could hasten his departure. "We've tried to do a deal and take the clause out," Pardew said. "We've not managed it yet, so it's always there hanging over us and that makes it difficult for me, for Demba and the club."