Football: Thrilling Asprilla

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United 3

Elliott 12, Ferdinand 52, Shearer 75

Derby County 1

Sturridge 1

Attendance: 36,553

Derby's best moment came after 34 seconds. They spent the following 89 minutes and 26 seconds penned in their own half as Newcastle peppered their bar, bamboozled their keeper and wasted so many chances they should have been able to go home after 45 minutes.

Paul Trollope, who successfully man-marked Eric Cantona in the Rams' recent win over the champions elect, will be dizzy for days such was the spinning he received from the ever-revolving Faustino Asprilla. And poor Russell Hoult's face will be red for weeks when he recalls how he let goals two and three slip by.

But Derby started so well. Gary Rowett launched the ball from his own area and as it caught on the chilly wind Newcastle froze, Steve Watson stumbled and Dean Sturridge accelerated clear, pausing to juggle the ball on his knees before calmly slipping it past Shaka Hislop. Five minutes later, he nearly repeated the trick but Hislop beat his shot away.

By this time, John Beresford had already smacked the bar from 30 yards and Christian Dailly's crunching tackle had denied Les Ferdinand. Newcastle then forced four corners in five minutes. Robbie Elliott took the fourth and as Hoult back-pedalled, the ball lifted over his head and he could only palm it on to the post and into the net.

Mysteriously, the score was level at half-time. Alan Shearer had lashed one straight at Hoult and astonishingly volleyed on to the bar from five yards. Asprilla had twisted and tricked, and Dailly had cleared from the line.

Seven minutes after the break, though, Newcastle were in front. A simple move with Beresford overlapping Elliott and crossing resulted in a ram- rod header from a flying Ferdinand which almost broke the net.

Still Newcastle pressed. Elliott drove wide. Asprilla spun and shot for a corner. Finally, Shearer stepped in. He barged Darryl Powell off the ball on the left wing and while the midfielder protested from his knees, the England striker homed in on goal and unleashed a wicked shot that swerved, dipped and bounced before going through Hoult's open arms - and there was still time for Ferdinand to shave the post and for Asprilla to milk a standing ovation.

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