Football: Asprilla's display cheers Geordies

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United 4 Coventry City 0

Where there is Faustino Asprilla there is hope. Newcastle United face an uphill task when they aim to overturn a 1-0 deficit away to Monaco in the second leg of their Uefa Cup quarter-final tomorrow, but the form of their Colombian international should give Kenny Dalglish's team some reason for optimism.

Asprilla, who has started only 17 matches this season, produced a dazzling display at St James' Park on Saturday as Newcastle ended a run of three successive defeats and overwhelmed a poor Coventry City side. He laid on first-half goals for Steve Watson and Robert Lee and might have claimed a second-half hat-trick for himself.

However, Asprilla's afternoon came to a premature end when Dion Dublin brought him down to concede a penalty. Asprilla was taken off the field on a stretcher with an injury to his right ankle, although Dalglish said afterwards that he should be fit for tomorrow night's match.

Asprilla was suspended for the first leg of the Monaco tie, when Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand were also missing. Shearer is still out and Ferdinand remains doubtful after aggravating a hamstring injury against Liverpool last week.

Dalglish saluted his side's much improved display, saying: "It's the most professional performance since I came here. Every department functioned well and we got our just rewards."

Gordon Strachan, the Coventry manager, was far from happy with the performance of his team, who are now only one point above the relegation zone.

"If we play like that for the rest of the season, we'll get relegated. There's no doubt about that," Strachan said. "We'll be left with the stigma of relegation and I'm told it's horrible. I am sniffing it now and I don't like it. Newcastle wanted to win more than we did and I find that baffling when we are in the position we are in."

Goals: Watson (12) 1-0; Lee (45) 2-0; Beardsley pen (76) 3-0; Elliott (87) 4-0.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Hislop; Watson, Peacock, Albert, Elliott; Barton, Batty, Lee (Clark, 77), Ginola (Crawford, 80); Beardsley, Asprilla (Gillespie, 77). Substitute not used: Srnicek (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Shaw, Dublin, Breen, Hall; Richardson (Boland, 83), McAllister, Yevtushok (Borrows, 46), Telfer; Jess, Huckerby (Ndlovu, 80). Substitutes not used: Burrows, Filan (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

Bookings: Newcastle: Albert, Beardsley. Coventry: Telfer, Shaw, Dublin. Sending off: Borrows.

Man of the match: Asprilla.

Attendance: 36,571.

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