Football: Spurs in the grip of genius

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 1

Barmby (pen) 61

Newcastle United 2

Beardsley 55, 90

Attendance: 30,780

PETER BEARDSLEY'S absence from the England team who made such a mess of qualifying for next year's World Cup was frequently lamented. But when he performs as he did for Newcastle United yesterday, scoring both the goals that took his side to third in the Premiership, it is enough to make you weep. Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle manager, called the way he has been overlooked 'a crime - a waste of four years'. And that just about sums it up.

Beardsley's enduring genius - he is now 32 - was encapsulated in one sensational moment in the last minute of an enthralling match. The situation was made for him - just inside the Tottenham penalty area, the ball at his feet, his little legs a blur of jinking, stuttering movement. One defender beaten, two, three, and finally a shot that left the Spurs goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt without a hope.

It was a fitting climax to 90 minutes of wonderfully inventive and skilful football. Not even the losing manager, Ossie Ardiles, had any complaints. Tottenham may now have gone eight Premiership games without a win, but as far as Ardiles is concerned, if they go on playing as they did yesterday the run will soon stop.

Beardsley was by no means the only star of the show - he just stole the best lines. His team-mate Andy Cole showed again what a distinctive talent he is, and he had fine support from Robert Lee and Lee Clark. Tottenham contributed just as much.

The opening goal, in the 55th minute, had looked inevitable long before Newcastle scored it. It was whose net it would go into that was unclear after a first half in which both sides came close. They were matching each other stride for stride, chance for chance, when Clark hit a corner to the back of the penalty area. Lee headed it forward and Beardsley made the most of an inviting bounce.

Within six minutes, however, Tottenham were level - a coolly-struck Nick Barmby penalty after Steve Watson fouled Darren Anderton. It signalled an extraordinary final half-hour in which both sides hit the heights of creativity. In the space of five minutes Tottenham could have had three more goals - Vinny Samways hit the post, there was a terrific low save by Mike Hooper from Barmby, and Steve Sedgley headed wide from just a few yards out.

But Newcastle did not worry about any of that. They continued to attack with panache and penetration. Cole hit the post as he and Beardsley repeatedly opened up the Tottenham defence. Beardsley's winning goal was the clincher, but even then the drama was not quite over, Hooper saving brilliantly from Barmby's header in the dying seconds. What price Beardsley in the next England team - under Keegan's management?