Newcastle United’s ruthlessness allowed Alan Pardew to look back with asatisfaction on a “funny afternoon” despite a start which wiped the smile off his face.
The Magpies were rescued from a lacklustre start by two Stoke City red cards in three first-half minutes.
Even with Thomas Sorensen saving Loic Remy’s penalty after Marc Wilson’s pull on him, the game was Newcastle’s to lose.
They mercilessly ran up a 5-1 win which put them sixth in the Premier League, three points off the Champions League places.
Pardew reflected: “It was a funny afternoon, but it wasn’t for 35 minutes because the change we made (to the formation) wasn’t working and they had a foothold in the game.
“I was just trying to get to half-time. Then the game changed.”
Glenn Whelan was booked in the 34th and 40th minute, then Wilson dismissed for a professional foul five minutes before the interval. Remy made up for his penalty with a first goal in six matches a minute later.
Mark Hughes was sent to the stands for kicking the ball on to the field in frustration at Martin Atkinson’s decision to award the spot kick.
Pardew added: “Maybe the first booking was a soft one for Glenn Whelan, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with the other decisions. For the second, he made no attempt to play the ball and for the red card, he (Wilson) clearly tugs Loic’s shirt as the last defender.
“We were clinical in the second half. We moved the ball really well and it could have been more. I’m still not sure how Hatem (Ben Arfa) has not scored.”
On his first Premier League start since October’s Wear-Tyne derby, Ben Arfa hit the post and bar 60 seconds either side of Remy’s second goal. He also set up Yoan Gouffran’s strike to start the second-half onslaught, although he was fortunate the linesman did not rule the ball out of play in the build-up.
Pardew said: “Hatem has been kept out of the side by (Moussa) Sissoko and Gouffran and I’ve told him they have set the standards in terms of how hard they work for the team, but if he continues to play like that he will get his place back.”
Hughes said Atkinson “performed worse than the standard required,” but apologised for his behaviour.
He said: “Whelan kicked the ball away but that bemuses me as Cabaye went over the top.
“Two minutes later he received his second, but an experienced referee should get both players together and tell them to calm down.”
Meanwhile Ben Arfa has dodged the issue of whether he will leave Newcastle, saying: “I do not think about it. I’m at Newcastle and feel good. We’ll see.”