Football: Vibrant Cole on a high

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United 4

Cole 7, 66, Fox 21, Lee 53

Chelsea 2

Peacock 15, Furlong 27

Attendance: 34,435

THIS was the football that your Dad told you about, the reason you fell in love with it in those flickering black and white days. Now there are new vibrant, attacking - but swifter than of yore - black and white images.

Newcastle United top the Premiership with five consecutive wins that equal their best start to a season of 86 years ago. Two more goals for the singularly sensational Andy Cole gave him six from those five; Newcastle total 19. Some locals thought he and the team were below par. They should simply savour these days.

It takes two to dance so flashily, however, and this was not the Chelsea who once grew faint-hearted at the first service station on the M1. Bravely they equalised twice, but could not overcome the final blow of their captain Dennis Wise being sent off for verbally abusing a linesman 18 minutes from time. It was Chelsea's first defeat of the season.

St James' Park is built next to an old site of public hangings - hence the Gallowgate end - and many teams will be summarily executed here in such a pulsating atmosphere as the 35,435 generated. We will not know quite how exceptional are Newcastle until they are confronted by a more solid defence. Theirs, too, was scarcely stiffer, but to dwell on the inadequacies of the two teams would be akin to saying that Van Gogh was an ear short.

Instead the starry, starry attacking talents often took the breath away, chief among them Cole. Terry Venables may talk sensibly about players who pass, move and link until the Magpies come home to roost, but while there is a finisher of such naked talent a place in the England set-up must surely be found for him.

His first goal, after only eight minutes, was a stunning example of his directness. Reacting with more speed of thought than the defender Jakob Kjeldbjerg, he fastened on to a lob forward from the England midweek debutant Barry Venison, loped forward a few strides and struck an outrageously powerful left-footed shot into the roof of the net by angle of post and bar.

Chelsea retaliated swiftly and Gavin Peacock poached a satisfying goal against his former club, following up after Wise's shot.

Chelsea soon squandered their work, however, and Cole's mere presence was soon enough to undermine them. As he jumped for Steve Watson's cross, Steve Clarke held him down. The excellent Dmitri Kharine saved Robert Lee's penalty, but the alert Ruel Fox was quickest to the rebound to stroke home.

Back came Chelsea to equalise again when Paul Furlong, making amends for a miss moments earlier, sent a solid header towards the corner from Spencer's cross and Hooper could touch it only on to the underside of the bar and over the line.

Peacock had a chance to give Chelsea the lead but shot over and St James' was stunned at this departure from the script. Cole, too, was floundering now, temporarily anonymous and providing fodder to his doubters.

But as Newcastle remembered their lines in the second half, so did he. After Lee, with his fifth goal of the season, had steered home John Beresford's low cross, Cole capped a display that will surely lead to a cap. Lee played him in with a return pass and, right-footed this time, he scooped the ball over Kharine and into the net. A weak shot and Kharine's save denied him a hat-trick.

'Defensively we looked vulnerable,' admitted Kevin Keegan, who received his manager of the month award before the start of the match. 'People say that Andy Cole can't play on the left side, but his first goal was a classic. That was the 250th goal we have scored since I came here and I don't think there has been a better one.'

His Chelsea counterpart, Glenn Hoddle, questioned Wise's sending off, saying that he had been using worse language on the bench. 'I was disappointed with the way we lost three of the goals. You can't come up to a place like Newcastle and give things away.'

Those defences apart, both sides can approach European competition next week with confidence. Chelsea will be relieved for the sanctuary of Stamford Bridge against Viktoria Zizkov of Prague in the Cup-Winners' Cup on Thursday. Newcastle will need tightening for their visit to Royal Antwerp in the UEFA Cup on Tuesday. Still, they always have the comfort zone of St James' where Cole is king.

(Photograph omitted)

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