Football: Asprilla steps into limelight

Newcastle United 2 Asprilla 2, 72 Sheffield Wednesday 1 Carbon e 8 Attendance: 36,711
Click to follow
The Independent Online
It was a point proven, as well as three gained, for Kenny Dalglish and his new model Toon Army. Alan Shearer may have been confined to a seat on the bench but the limit of Newcastle's ambition, on the strength of this mightily impressive first-day showing, may not be as static as the critics have suggested.

Faustino Asprilla, entrusted with line-leading duties in the absence of Shearer, scored the two goals required to overcome an obdurate Sheffield Wednesday side. Yet, even more encouraging for Dalglish, was the promising form the Magpies assumed with five debutants settling into a new wing- back formation.

It was more than a season's opener for the Tynesiders, of course. Croatia Zagreb visit St James' Park on Wednesday night for the first leg of their Champions' League qualifying-round tie and the number 15 in the opposition ranks yesterday was a reminder of the clipped-wing fate the Magpies suffered on their last European venture. Patrick Blondeau, right-back in the Monaco team who beat Newcastle in last year's Uefa Cup quarter- finals, quickly found his name in Peter Jones' notebook for a crude challenge on Temur Ketsbaia that was required to halt a Newcastle side Shearer-less, but in sheer rampant mood.

They would have been a goal ahead inside the first minute had Jon Dahl Tomasson not dallied too long in executing the clear shot on goal Asprilla's deft flick afforded him. By the end of the second minute, though, Newcastle were in front, Asprilla meeting Philippe Albert's inviting downward header with a rasping volley. It was just as well for Wednesday that they managed to conjure a quick reply as Newcastle threatened to knock them into the middle of next week.

Even the home fans could not help instinctively applauding Benito Carbone for the party trick he performed in the eighth minute, trapping the ball with his chest and flicking it into the air before beating the bemused Shay Given with a hooked shot. Thanks to Mr Jones, who chalked off efforts by Tomasson and Robert Lee, and to the stubborn last-line heroics of Kevin Pressman, the Italian's flash of inspiration kept Wednesday level until Asprilla drilled home his second in the 72nd minute. St James', Shearer included, could only sit back and applaud.