DEMBA Ba’s brother labelled Alan Pardew “crazy” before kick-off.
And this game was certainly bonkers. Gloriously, bonkers.
Newcastle United, let’s be honest, were woeful before the break, and Ba, aggrieved at being left out of the starting XI, simmered on the bench.
But he came nicely to the boil in the second half.
The striker’s brother, Hamady, had taken to social networking site Twitter before last night’s game to criticise Pardew for leaving him out of the team.
“So Demba scored 17 goals since last year and Alan Pardew decided to put him on the bench ... I think this guy is crazy,” he tweeted.
Whether by luck or judgement, Pardew got the best out of what he described as an “angry” Ba on a damp night at Goodison Park, where there was an emotional tribute to the Hillsborough tragedy before kick-off, by leaving him out of his side.
United – who had missed the calming influence of injured captain Fabricio Coloccini before the interval – played with passion and purpose after the break, and Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse, for the first time this season, were a handful together.
It had all been so different in the first half.
Everton didn’t waste any time setting about their visitors, and Nikica Jelavic had the ball in the net in the second minute, the striker netting at the far post after Steve Harper – making his first Premier League appearance since April last year – parried a shot from Marouane Fellaini.
Stand-in captain Jonas Gutierrez and Vurnon Anita, protecting the back four in a re-jigged formation, had their work cut.
And Stephen Pienaar, pairing up well with Baines on Everton’s left, should have done better in the 11th minute when the left-back pulled the ball back from the byline, the midfielder skewing his shot well wide of Harper’s goal.
Using the ball intelligently, Everton were making Newcastle work hard without the ball, and their pressure told in the 15th minute, when Baines, after playing a one-two with Pienaar, skipped into the box and lashed a low shot beyond Harper before Mike Williamson could close him down.
United had barely left their own half, but they attempted to regroup, and Cisse shot narrowly wide as the half-hour mark approached after Phil Neville’s attempted clearance inadvertantly dropped to him in the box.
It proved to be a rare attack on the Gwladys Street End, and Phil Jagielka struck Harper’s post with a fierce drive in the 31st minute.
Baines did his job at the other end of the pitch, stopping a shot from Anita on the line after Ben Arfa crossed from the left.
However, by the break Newcastle had shown a few signs of life, and they wouldn’t have to contend with Jelavic, who had left the field injured.
Ba spent the latter part of the interval warming up, and it didn’t take him long to have an impact on the game after coming on for the ineffective Sylvain Marveaux.
Yohan Cabaye, out of sorts in Newcastle’s first three league games, won the ball and played Ba in with a precise pass. One touch later, the ball was in the back of the net, the goal the club’s 1,000th in the Premier League.
Crazy, indeed. Maybe Ba should start from the bench every week.
From that moment on United looked a different side, and they started to impose themselves on Everton as Pardew, serving a two-game touchline ban, watched from the directors’ box. Even Williamson, under so much pressure before the break, found himself in the opposition half.
The visitors still rode their luck, however. Fellaini, always a handful, had a goal disallowed, and the home fans grew increasingly frustrated with referee Mike Jones. The momentum their team had built up in the first-half had ebbed away.
Everton were wobbling, and they knew it. Jones’ decisions were neither here nor there – until his linesman failed to spot that a header from Victor Anichebe crossed the line after bouncing up and down off the crossbar after a save from Harper.
Anichebe, however, found the net two minutes from time, beating Harper with a shot on the turn.
Still, Newcastle weren’t finished, and substitute Shola Ameobi played in Ba, whose shot bobbled over the line with Baines helpless.
Ba was among the last to leave the field, his job done. And his – and Newcastle’s – point made.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Harper 7; Perch 7, S Taylor 7, Williamson 7, Santon 7; Anita 7, Gutierrez 7; Marveaux 5 (Ba, 46, 8), Cabaye 7 (Bigirimana, 90), Ben Arfa 7; Cisse 6 (Shola Ameobi, 80). Subs not used: Elliot, Gosling, Obertan, Tavernier.
EVERTON: Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Mirallas (Naismith, 83), Neville, Osman, PIenaar; Fellaini, Jelavic (Anichebe, 44). Subs not used: Mucha, Heitinga, Gueye, Coleman, Duffy.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Demba Ba. A stunning substitution.
HIGHLIGHT: The sight of the ball bobbling over the line for Newcastle’s second equaliser.
LOWLIGHT: The entire first half – United were dreadful.
Goals: Baines 15, Anichebe 88; Ba 49, 90,
Bookings: Neville 6, Anita 30, Perch 38, Pienaar 78, Fellaini 85, Shola Ameobi 86
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester)