Lua Lua leaps into history

Newcastle United 3 Charlton Athletic 0
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The Independent Football

It was a goal in 5,000 and a celebration in a million. When Lomana Lua Lua's right-foot shot screamed into the back of the Gallowgate End net a minute into the second-half at St James' Park yesterday, it took Newcastle United to the 5,000-goal mark in competitive matches on their home ground.

It was a fine finish, struck on the turn from the left edge of the Charlton penalty area by the 21-year-old Republic of Congo international. It was the gymnastic display which followed that matched the momentous occasion. It was not to be the only milestone of the day, though – nor the only commemorative act. Trust Alan Shearer to steal the show.

It needed something exceptional to eclipse the sextuple somersault that left the crowd gasping and that might have had Jeff Winter, the fourth official, searching for a number 10 board at pitch-side. As Bobby Robson observed afterwards, it was twice as good as the triple somersault with which Lua Lua marked his first Premiership goal, against Derby at Pride Park eight days ago. It was also one better than the two quintuple versions performed by the Nigerian striker Julius Aghahowa at Pittodrie on Wednesday night. By the final whistle, though, it was already a fading memory as players from both sides joined Robson and the Newcastle coaching staff in affording Shearer a guard of honour from the pitch.

At Derby the Newcastle captain had broken his nose. Yesterday, with a minute remaining, he broke through to the 200-goals mark in the Premiership. After controlling a prompting pass from Gary Speed 12 yards from the Charlton goal, the totem of the Toon Army thumped a right-foot shot past Dean Kiely. It moved Shearer into what, for him, was a wild celebration – leaping off the ground and punching the air. "It was the icing on the cake for us," Robson said.

It was a satisfying cake for Robson and his side, too. The victory set up by Speed's first-half goal has left Newcastle just one step away from a place in the Champions' League. They need one point from their final three matches now to secure fourth place in the Premiership.

"If anyone had told us at the start of the season that we would be in this position," Robson started, before checking himself, "...well, it's not beyond our wildest dreams, because we have wild dreams here."

It needed a bold imagination at times in the first half yesterday to conceive anything special emerging from a less than ordinary Premiership encounter. With five men strung across midfield and Jason Euell ploughing a lonesome furrow up front, Charlton succeeded in stifling Newcastle's creativity at source in the opening 20 minutes. They succeeded in rattling Newcastle's nerves too, John Robinson firing narrowly wide of Shay Given's goal before Alan Curbishley's side were caught cold from a right-wing corner in the 21st minute.

Having been starved of possession, Nolberto Solano made the most of his set-piece opportunity, curling the ball to the edge of the six-yard box where the unmarked Speed planted a firm header past Kiely. It was a gift of a goal for Newcastle, but they showed little sign of building on their good fortune as half-time approached.

Solano and Kieron Dyer continued to see precious little of the ball and Lua Lua, picked ahead of Carl Cort for his first start of the season, had little chance to strike up a promising attacking partnership with Shearer.

Newcastle had reason to be grateful for reaching the interval in front, Scott Parker steering one decent scoring opportunity directly into the arms of Shay Given and directing another wide of the Irishman's goal. It took just 44 seconds of the second half, though, to put the Magpies into the comfort zone.

Lua Lua's goal killed the contest and his celebration proved a nigh on impossible act to follow. Indeed, 20 minutes passed before either side could muster any action of note, Lua Lua himself dispatching a 20-yard drive that Kiely beat away with both arms.

The first hint of a grandstand finish came with just five minutes remaining. Shearer, latching on to a throughball on the right, tried to beat Kiely with a nutmegged finish.

He should have known better. Four minutes later, from a near identical position, the former England captain produced one of his trademark thumping finishes. It brought the Toon Army to their feet in honour of their hero. It was Newcastle's 100th goal of the season and, of course, goal number 200 in the Premiership for Shearer – scored on his 400th appearance in league football.

"The reception the fans gave me in those last few minutes will live with me forever," he said. "Here's to the next 100," his manager said.