Football: Newcastle left numbed by Belgian one-two

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The Independent Online
Simon Turnbull

Newcastle United 0

PSV Eindhoven 2

With no specialist strikers, no central midfielders and, on the evidence of last Saturday's performance against Leicester, no defence either, Newcastle had nothing going for them as they faced PSV Eindhoven in the Champions' League at St James' Park last night. They finished with nothing too, defeat against the Dutch champions leaving Kenny Dalglish and his bare-bones team needing to win in the Nou Camp in three weeks to revive their all- but faded hopes of a quarter-final appearance.

Judging by Barcelona's fitful form in Group C, that might not be the daunting task it once seemed. But only Louis van Gaal's team cushioned Newcastle from the foot of the table last night after Shay Given was beaten by two members of the Belgium squad awaiting him and the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup play-off in Brussels on Saturday week.

Between them, Luc Nilis and Gilles de Bilde cut through the spirited heart of Dalglish's greatly weakened team, combining in the razor-sharp moves which earned themselves a goal apiece and earned PSV a chance of making it to the last eight should they win in Kiev while Newcastle are paying homage to Catalonia.

So depleted were Dalglish's resources that the Newcastle manager was unable to fill the seven substitute places on the home bench. He was three bodies short, with the goalkeeper Shaka Hislop and the demoted Darren Peacock joined by two players yet to make their full league debuts: Jimmy Crawford and Aaron Hughes.

At least Dalglish was able to welcome back Alessandro Pistone, a Uefa Cup finalist with Internazionale last season. The Italian replaced the injured Steve Howey in central defence, Peacock dropping to the bench to allow room for Des Hamilton and Warren Barton to bolster a midfield missing the suspended Rob Lee and David Batty.

It was hardly surprising that PSV held sway from the start, serenaded by their boisterous following, who left the Toon Army in muted mood. Wim Jonk was particularly prominent in the first half, although Newcastle succeeded in restricting pressure to long-range pot-shots until the 32nd minute.

It might have been different had Newcastle hit lucky with the half-chances which fell to their stand-in central strikers, Keith Gillespie and Jon Dahl Tomasson. As it was, Nilis cut through the middle on the counter attack, clearing the home guard with a wall-pass neatly returned by De Bilde before shooting past Given.

Half-time news that Andy Cole had gone double Dutch hardly lifted the air of gloom and it did not help in the opening minute of the second-half that Gillespie, the supposed pounds 1m makeweight in Cole's transfer to Old Trafford, betrayed his identity as a winger in predator's clothing as he swung aimlessly at the ball when Tomasson found him unmarked and in sight of the Eindhoven goal.

It was a fair summary of Newcastle's make do and mend mission. As Dalglish was quick to state in the aftermath: "The lads worked their socks off. We could not have asked any more of them."

Ultimately, Dalglish and the deflated Toon Army had to be grateful that the damage was limited to two goals. Given made one particularly blinding save to keep out a thundering Jaap Stam header, before the PSV pressure told once again.

De Bilde, Philippe Albert's room-mate on national team trips until the Newcastle defender's retirement from international football, unlocked the back door with Nilis' assistance, playing a wall-pass of his own before rounding the last two lines of defence and side-footing the formality of the goal that left England's back door qualifiers staring at the Champions' League exit.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Watson, Pistone, Albert, Beresford; Hamilton, Barton, Barnes; Ketsbaia; Gillespie, Tomasson. Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Peacock, Crawford, Hughes.

PSV Eindhoven (4-4-2): Waterreus; Vampeta, Stam, Faber, Numan; Iwan, Jonk, Cocu, Petrovic; Nilis, De Bilde. Substitutes not used: Van Ede (gk), Bruggink, Moller, Claudio, Stinga, Temrukov, Degryse.

Referee: G Benko (Austria).

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