FESTIVE CHEER was in short supply for Stoke City as they slipped to a heavy but controversial Boxing Day defeat at Newcastle.
The Potters were leading when they had Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson red carded – and manager Mark Hughes sent to the stands – in a turbulent nine-minute spell in the first half as they were beaten 5-1 in the north east.
Newcastle made the most of their numerical advantage as they came from behind to claim maximum points, thanks to a brace of goals from Loic Remy, efforts from Yoan Gouffran and Yohan Cabaye and a Papiss Cisse penalty on an afternoon that was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
City were ahead thanks to another stunning Oussama Assaidi strike and were in control of the game at St James’ Park before events took a turn for the worse.
Whelan was given his marching orders after collecting a second yellow card in the space of just five minutes and referee Martin Akinson then demanded that Hughes left the touchline … but the drama was far from over.
Wilson was shown a straight red card two minutes before the break after being adjudged to have pulled back Remy in the area. Remy failed to convert the resultant spot-kick as Thomas Sorensen marked his first Premier League start of the season with an outstanding save.
But Newcastle levelled before half-time ... and again there was more than a hint of controversy about their equaliser.
Home defender Mike Williamson clearly handled the ball but referee Atkinson allowed play to continue, despite having an unimpeded view of the incident, and seconds later Remy made amends for his penalty miss by firing past Sorensen.
It was a bitter pill for City to swallow, particularly as they had looked the far more accomplished of the two sides after Assaidi’s opener.
Spectacular goals are fast becoming a feature of Assaidi’s loan spell from Liverpool and the Moroccan international added another to his collection, which of course features his match-winner against Chelsea earlier in the month.
He broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark as he cut inside from the left before curling a shot from the edge of the area beyond the reach of Tim Krul.
City looked comfortable at that point and had effectively managed to quieten the home support but the contest was to take a dramatic twist.
Whelan was booked in the 34th minute after squaring up to Yoan Cabaye – a decision that looked harsh at the time and even harsher when he saw yellow again, and subsequently red, for a challenge on the same player.
Hughes was ordered from the bench amid the fall-out and it went from bad to worse for City when Wilson joined Whelan in the dressing room.
Sorensen, who had been drafted in for his first Premier League start since May 2012 after Asmir Begovic suffered a broken finger in training on Christmas Day, was the hero as he thwarted Remy from the spot.
However, Remy only had to wait 60 seconds to make amends as he fired under the body of Sorensen to level matters after the referee had failed to spot Williamson’s handling offence.
City made a change at the start of the second half with Andy Wilkinson bolstering their defence ranks at the expense of goal-scorer Assaidi.
Newcastle went in front just three minutes after the break as Yoan Gouffran fired home after City had failed to deal with a pull back by Hatem Ben Arfa, who had looked as though he had run the ball out of play before centring.
Cabaye hit the outside of Sorensen’s right-hand upright as Newcastle went in search of a third goal, which duly arrived in the 56th minute as Remy headed home from close range after Moussa Sissoko had flicked on Davide Santon’s cross from the left.
Ben Arfa also hit the woodwork as Newcastle threatened to run riot, while Stoke introduced Wilson Palacios to the action just before the hour mark in place of Peter Crouch as they looked to stem the tide.
That proved too big an ask however, and the home side made it 4-1 in the 66th minute when Cabaye curled a first-time shot beyond Sorensen.
They bagged a fifth goal with 10 minutes remaining with substitute Cisse scoring from the spot after Erik Pieters had been adjudged to have brought down Ben Arfa.