Football: Beardsley injury mars Newcastle's victory: Keegan fears the worst for his England man

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Leicester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

PETER BEARDSLEY and Andy Cole, the ready-made club partnership Kevin Keegan would like to see tried at international level, wasted little time in plundering their first goals of the season as Newcastle gave Leicester an uncomfortable introduction to the Premiership at Filbert Street yesterday.

The deadly duo's deeds, to which Robbie Elliott added a third goal, were sadly overshadowed in a hectic final 10 minutes by a potentially serious facial injury to Beardsley and the dismissal of Newcastle's Czech goalkeeper, Pavel Srnicek.

Beardsley, who suffered a triple fracture to his right cheekbone in an incident involving Neil Ruddock during a pre-season match last August, was rushed to hospital following an accidental collision with Steve Thompson that left him clutching the left side of his face. The outcome of X-rays will be known today, but Keegan said: 'We're afraid it's the same injury.'

Whatever the pictures reveal, Terry Venables will clearly have to plan without the 33-year-old Beardsley for England's next match, the friendly against the United States at Wembley on 7 September. Ironically, his unavailability is likely to enhance Cole's prospects of a first cap.

The only other casualty was Leicester's post-promotion optimism. The 20,048 crowd saw nothing to encourage a belief that this is likely to be anything other than a long, hard season for Brian Little's team.

Philippe Albert, their new Belgian centre-back, came closest to rewarding Newcastle's first-half ascendancy. From 30 yards, he struck a half-volley which Gavin Ward tipped over. With Beardsley endlessly inventive, and Ruel Fox twice failing to convert simple chances, Leicester were grateful to survive until the interval.

In contrast, Cole was relatively subdued until the 51st minute. Scott Sellars then found Beardsley on the left, and his low pass was deftly turned in from close range for Cole's 47th goal in 53 League games for Newcastle.

Seven minutes later, after another bout of quickfire passing involving Fox and Robert Lee, Beardsley found himself free inside the penalty area. A swivel of the hips left Nicky Mohan flat-footed, and his drive passed through Ward's legs on its way into the net.

Leicester were handed a chance to cut the deficit on the hour when Albert was adjudged to have pushed Steve Walsh. Mark Draper hurried his spot- kick, allowing Srnicek to smother, falling to his left.

Elliott, on as substitute, punished Draper's profligacy with his first senior goal, converting a right-wing cross 16 minutes from time. Leicester continued to battle gamely, and might have gained some reward had not Srnicek left his box to take Joachim's legs. Mr Reed rightly dispatched the culprit. Still the drama was not over: the replacement keeper, Mike Hooper, spilling Steve Agnew's shot to give Joachim a goal his lone foraging deserved.

Leicester City (5-3-2): Ward; Grayson (Thompson, 65), Smith, Hill, Mohan, Whitlow; Draper, Blake (Roberts, 65), Agnew; Walsh, Joachim. Substitute not used: Poole (gk).

Newcastle United (4-1-3-2): Srnicek; Hottiger Peacock, Albert, Beresford; Venison; Fox, Lee, Sellars (Elliott, 69); Cole, Beardsley (Mathie, 82; Hooper, gk, 86).

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Reports, results, pages 30, 31