Football: Italians keep Newcastle at bay

Newcastle United 0 Roma 0 Roma win 1-0 on aggregate
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NEWCASTLE MAY be in the money after their pounds 25m link-up with the cable television giants NTL, but they are out of Europe. Despite a huge investment of energy in their attempt to become an unlikely inclusion in the Uefa Cup's last 16, they went out after this third-round second leg here last night.

There was plenty of graft, plenty of grit from the team Bobby Robson has successfully picked off the Premiership floor but, when it came to it, Newcastle did not quite have the quality to unnerve a Roma side currently lording it at the top of Serie A, and Francesco Totti's penalty in Rome's Olympic Stadium two weeks ago proved, after all, the tie's most decisive moment.

Not that Newcastle fans will complain too loudly or too long about their team's predicted exit. After all, their manager, Robson, should soon have significant transfer funds at his disposal following the deal with NTL, who now hold a 9.6 per cent stake in the Tyneside club and will be their main sponsors from next season. For the moment, though, the fans are simply grateful that this Newcastle team has the passion sadly lacking under Ruud Gullit.

If Newcastle were ever going to triumph then they really should have sown the seeds in the opening half when they carved out the clearer chances.

As Roma's coach, Fabio Capello, pointed out later with some relish: "They did have their chances - but missed them!"

Without doubt, the clearest of them fell to Temuri Ketsbaia after half an hour when Robert Lee, rejuvenated under Robson, set the Georgian up with an enterprising piece of play. However, as if he had been given prior notice to the move, Roma's excellent goalkeeper, Francesco Antonioli, read Ketsbaia's chipping intentions perfectly, producing the first of several vital saves.

At least no one was able to accuse Roma, set on giving Capello another championship, of attempting to sit on their lead. They could very well have had the tie in the bag seven minutes before half-time if only their Brazilian defender, Aldair, had done better with a free header, and every time Totti found himself in advanced space he looked a serious threat.

It could be argued, though, that Antonioli exercised a more decisive influence over the tie, and on the hour he produced another piece of quality goal-keeping to frustrate Ketsbaia.

In the end, Newcastle's hopes of forcing the tie into extra time rested on their wild card, the half-fit Duncan Ferguson, who replaced Ketsbaia after 73 minutes, but with him came only unfulfilled expectation.

Robson was probably not surprised, but neither was he downhearted. The Newcastle manager praised his brave losers, saying: "Overall I am delighted with their performance. If we fell short then it was in perhaps not playing enough direct British-style football."

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Solano, Charvet, Dabizas, Pistone; Dyer (Glass, 73), Lee, Dumas (Hughes 28), Speed; Shearer, Ketsbaia (Ferguson, 73). Substitutes not used: Barton, Maric, McLen, Given (gk).

Roma (3-5-2): Antonioli; Zago, Aldair, Mangone; Cafu, Tommasi, Assuncao, Candela, Totti; Montella (Di Francesco, 64), Del Vecchio. Substitutes not used: Alenitchev, Tomic, Gurenko, Rinaldi, Choutos, Lupatelli (gk).

Referee: H Strampe (Germany).