Football: Newcastle's partial salvation

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Newcastle United 3 Chelsea 1

BETWEEN them these two teams might well be able to muster a combination capable of a viable and sustained championship challenge next season. Individually, however, they are likely to require substantial restructuring if they are to advance from their current positions.

Newcastle overwhelmed Chelsea in the concluding fixture of the current campaign at St James' Park with sheer willpower, the intensity of their football befitting the significance of the occasion and finally answering the exhortations of their long-tormented fans. The spectre of relegation had been banished and the relief exploded over Tyneside.

Chelsea, of course, were not driven by the same cause and consequently could not - with the notable exception of their player-manager - maintain the same level of commitment and discipline.

Gianluca Vialli's over-zealous contribution, doubtless generated by the frustration over the inadequacies of his colleagues, might have cost him a second yellow card and expulsion, an irony not lost on the much-villified Alan Shearer.

But then Shearer presumably understands a player who cares until it hurts. Vialli's defiance was obsessive whilst those about him seemed already to be focusing on the European Cup-Winners' Cup final.

Newcastle may now indulge in a little Cup final planning of their own, and it would be altogether consistent with the "Lucky Kenny" tag if Dalglish denied Arsenal at Wembley. That would make all the hum-drum offerings of the past months just about forgiveable.

Dalglish acknowledges: "Sometimes the way we've played has not been to everyone's satisfaction, but I've got no complaints about the commitment. We've never been complacent."

So it was that at the end of the match the players made, in Dalglish's words, "not so much a lap of honour as a show of appreciation to the supporters".

That loyalty, however, cannot be expected to endure a re- enactment of this season and Dalglish will have to add to the commendable spirit some of the exotic skills Chelsea flaunt - and Newcastle discarded - in a reactionary embrace of pragmatism.

The breakthrough, when it came, was a routine set play, Lee flighting the ball to the far post and Nikolaos Dabizas scoring with a leaping header. Lee emulated the spectacular feat, lunging in to head the second from Shearer's cross.

Speed's precise finish secured the points and Newcastle's premiership status, and Roberto Di Matteo's delightful late goal served merely to compound his manager's exasperation.

Goals: Dabizas (39) 1-0; Lee (42) 2-0; Speed (58) 3-0; Di Matteo (77) 3-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Dabizas, Howey (Watson, 45), Pearce, Pistone; Barton, Lee (Hamilton, 83), Batty, Speed; Shearer, Andersson (Barnes, 80). Substitutes not used: Tomasson, Hislop (gk).

Chelsea (4-4-2): Kharine; Clarke, Charvet, Leboeuf, (Poyet 45), Granville; Nicholls, Newton (P Hughes, 77), Di Matteo, Morris; Vialli, M Hughes (Flo 45). Substitutes not used: Lee, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Pontypandy).

Bookings: Newcastle: Pearce, Vialli, Leboeuf.

Man of the match: Lee.

Attendance: 36,710.