Football: Ketsbaia volley stuns Spurs

Newcastle United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
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The Independent Online
TEMURI KETSBAIA struck a point of honour for Ruud Gullit's understrength Newcastle at St James' Park last night in what was not so much a dress rehearsal as an undressed rehearsal for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford.

A contentious 50th-minute penalty awarded by referee Mike Riley, converted by Darren Anderton, looked like giving Tottenham a pyrrhic victory to take with them into the weekend rematch until Ketsbaia struck with a thundering 25-yard volley 13 minutes from the end of a contest that had a hollow ring to it.

Tottenham lined up without David Ginola and Les Ferdinand, while the list of notable absentees from the home team included Alan Shearer, Dietmar Hamann, Duncan Ferguson, Steve Howey and Robert Lee.

Gullit had promised not to play mind games with George Graham but his line-up suggested otherwise. Jamie McClen was pushed into the first-team frame for the first time, even though he failed to feature in the new squad picture printed in the match programme. The 19-year-old Northumbrian lined up alongside Gary Speed in central midfield and, despite his school- boyish appearance, acquitted himself competently enough.

Tottenham, though, played with the greater assurance. They were first to threaten, Shay Given diving to palm wide Steffen Iversen's low drive in the 13th minute, and despite two close calls at their end - Nolberto Solano scooping a left-wing free-kick inches over Ian Walker's bar and McClen miscuing from the right edge of the area - were the dominant force before the interval.

Newcastle had Given to thank for remaining on level terms. The Irishman's legs prevented Chris Armstrong from converting a ball from Anderton in the 20th minute and he then summoned his reflexes again to block an Iversen shot after a run and cross by Stephen Carr.

The half-time whistle was greeted with boos, and a message from the Greater Manchester Police Force for the Toon Army to booze in moderation en route to Old Trafford on Sunday. It raised a laugh but the prevailing mood darkened five minutes into the second-half.

The natives were more than restless when Mr Riley pointed to the penalty spot at the Leazes End. Warren Barton, a half-time replacement for Andy Griffin, failed to stop Carr charging past him on the left and appeared to make no significant contact as the right-back went to ground.

Anderton stepped forward and, despite a valiant effort from Given, smashed in the penalty kick. The popular feeling was that Carr had dived too but Newcastle nevertheless, were behind.

They very nearly struck back immediately, but Walker managed to tip Laurent Charvet's header over his bar. Walker could have been forgiven for thinking his goal was in little danger when Ketsbaia trained his sights from 25 yards but the Georgian made sure honours ended even.

Newcastle United (4-4-2); Given; Hughes, Dabizas, Charvet, Griffin (Barton, h-t); Solano, McClen (Georgiadis, 57), Speed, Domi; Maric (Saha, 57), Ketsbaia. Substitutes not used: Brady, Harper (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Campbell, R Nilsen, Taricco; Anderton, Sherwood, Freund, Sinton; Iversen, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: A Nielsen, Fox, Dominguez, Young, Baardsen (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).