Newcastle United 4 Blackpool 1
IT is not just on plush green Catalan fields where jinking Argentinians are in vogue.
Jonás Gutiérrez may not occupy the same rarefied air as compatriot Lionel Messi – although he yet might come July 11 in Johannesburg – but the irresistible winger served notice of his Premier League intent by orchestrating the effortless destruction of one of the few teams to lay a glove on United this season.
Ian Holloway complained afterwards his Blackpool side looked like sparring partners afraid to tag the champions, but with Jonás Gutiérrez and fellow wing menace Wayne Routledge ducking and weaving like this it was little surprise they failed to land a significant blow on the Championship’s heavyweights.
Gutiérrez, in particular, was devastating.
On a lazy, low-key spring day which offered the perfect excuse for complacency in black and white ranks, he injected urgency and direction to ensure Newcastle United’s title tilt remains on track.
Scoring one goal and supplying another, he was a whirling dervish of attacking energy in arguably his most complete 90 minutes in a Newcastle shirt.
Crucially, and unlike a few of the performances of his debut season in England, that enthusiasm and endeavour was channelled to inflict the maximum damage in the penalty area.
His goal on 12 minutes set Newcastle on the way to an ultimately straightforward victory over a Blackpool side whose impressive travelling support left a bigger mark than the unsatisfactory efforts of their Tangerine-clad players.
Gutiérrez had already worried poor Seamus Coleman with two tasty runs and the Argentine’s capacity to embarrass was playing on his mind when, in conjunction with the equally culpable Alex Baptiste, he made a terrible hash of trying to check the winger’s run.
Gutiérrez twisted past both Blackpool players before cutting in and applying a finish which deflected off Ian Evatt and past the otherwise excellent Matt Gilks.
Out came the Spiderman mask from his shorts, its appearance no longer the novelty it was once was. The accusation consistently levelled at Gutiérrez during a solid first season was that he did not possess the end product to convert his flashy wing contributions.
Slowly but surely, buoyed no doubt by the confidence of being the only potential World Cup winner in the second tier, he is putting that right.
After waiting nearly 18 months to apply a finishing touch to one of his mazy runs, this was his third goal in four weeks.
No-one is saying Premier League defences will fold as readily as Blackpool’s did, but Gutiérrez is undoubtedly returning to the top tier a better player for his Championship sojourn.