Football: Cole fires Euro vision

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Newcastle United 2

Cole 46, Beardsley pen 66

Arsenal 0

Attendance: 32,216

GEORDIE mania reached new levels of intensity at sunny St James' Park yesterday. A carnival occasion, full of fancy dress and fancier passing, celebrated Newcastle's third place in the Premiership only two years after relegation from what is now the First Division was avoided. And how better to state European aspirations than by outplaying the new Cup-Winners' Cup champions?

Kevin Keegan, Newcastle's fancily titled Director of Football, believes the talk of the Toon can become 'the biggest club on earth', competing in a European league 'or perhaps the inter-planetary Cup'.

Such expansionist sentiments were echoed by the 32,216 who sang and swayed in Sir John Hall's magnificent arena which increasingly dominates the Tyneside skyline. 'We're going to Italy,' the Toon thousands chanted, after amiably applauding Arsenal on to the field. Newcastle's players formed a guard of honour to salute the Gunners but, courtesies completed, Keegan's black- and-white-shirted attackers swarmed all over their jaded visitors.

Arsenal needed to beat their haughty hosts by seven goals to overtake them, a highly unlikely scenario that disappeared within seconds of Roger Dilkes's initial whistle. Arsenal, missing Merson, Keown, Jensen, Campbell and Seaman, were understandably below par following their Copenhagen heroics, and George Graham, a former Newcastle trialist, admitted his Arsenal side were 'there to make up the numbers in the party'. Yet nothing should detract from a vibrant home performance crowned by strikes from that prolific 65- goal partnership of Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley.

The Magpies' front pair were well marshalled by Tony Adams and Steve Bould until half-time, but Cole needed only a minute of the second period to slip Adams and record his 41st goal of the season. Ruel Fox dribbled in from the right, the momentum maintained by Beardsley, who darted through the heart of the visitors' defence. Alan Miller, Seaman's able stand-in, blocked instinctively but could only divert Cole's overhead return into the net.

'Thank you very much for Andy Cole, thank you very much . . .' the Gallowgate sang to the Arsenal camp, grateful that the ex-Gunner has taken them to the threshold of Continental competition.

Beardsley was narrowly over with the cheekiest of chips on the hour before, five minutes later, the England striker netted his 24th goal of a admirable season. John Beresford, neat in defence, determined in attack, constructed a breathless one-two with Cole which advanced the full-back deep into Miller's area. Lee Dixon knocked him down; Beardsley knocked in the penalty.

Cole and Robert Lee could have doubled the margin but, by the end, all minds had turned to laps of honour and Europe. 'Arsenal's win must have helped our case for a place,' Keegan argued. 'It would be a farce if we finished third in one of the toughest leagues in the world and didn't qualify. But I believe in fate and we're fated to be in Europe.' Uefa will decide on that. Meanwhile the Toon Army left a jubilant St James' to pack their bags.