Asprilla's fanfare

Newcastle United 4 Watson 12, Lee 45, Beardsley pen 76, Elliott 87 Coventry City 0 Attendance: 36,571
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The Independent Online
It was supposed to be the game in which Newcastle, rocking after three consecutive defeats and suffering a striker crisis, would be made to pay for scrapping their reserve team and selling their most promising prospect, Darren Huckerby, to Coventry.

However, it was not the prodigy's pace that decided this game but the slippery feet of an acknowledged master, Faustino Asprilla. He unsettled Coventry as early as the fifth minute and then baffled them completely in the 12th. His deft backheel from Peter Beardsley's pass through a crowd of defenders left Steve Watson to walk the ball around Steve Ogrizovic and into the net.

Approaching half-time, Asprilla latched on to Kevin Richardson's miss on the halfway line, sped around Alex Yevtushok and, with a sixth sense, lifted the ball for Robert Lee to finish. But the Colombian is also a master of controversy. He came out for the second period with the intention of doing as little as possible. Richardson, though, aroused him from his slumber by grabbing his shirt in the 71st minute. He narrowly avoided a retaliatory forearm for his troubles.

Three minutes later the awakened Asprilla raced on to Philippe Albert's pass and tumbled over last man Brian Borrows's leg. It was not a foul but Borrows was sent off. Asprilla recovered quickly enough to curl the free-kick on to the post. Within three minutes, Asprilla outpaced Dion Dublin to reach Beardsley's pass. Too tired to shoot, he waited for the tackle and tumbled again.

Asprilla watched as Beardsley drilled home the penalty and then waited a full five minutes for the stretcher to arrive. It paraded the hero around the pitch before his fans. The messiah, Kevin Keegan, might have left but Kenny Dalglish must have inherited his healing touch for Asprilla got up from his sickbed and walked into the dugout. He will play in Tuesday's Uefa Cup quarter-final against Monaco. "He's different from anything I've ever seen before," Dalglish admitted, with a hint of a smile.

Robbie Elliott tapped in a fourth in the final minutes, leaving Coventry's Gordon Strachan predicting: "If we play like that we'll be relegated, no doubt." And Huckerby? He was substituted after 80 minutes of anonymity.

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