Shearer on target as Newcastle salute peace

Newcastle United 1 - Sporting Lisbon 0
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The Independent Online

Just before Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer emerged from the tunnel for the pre-match kick-about at St James' Park last night, the man on the public address system chose to give Johnny Wakelin's hit from the mid 1970s the timeliest of airings. Thankfully for Newcastle United, the strains of "In Zaire", a homage to the Ali-Foreman classic in Kinshasa, failed to rouse a rematch of last Saturday's rumble in the Tyneside football jungle.

Shortly before Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer emerged from the tunnel for the pre-match warm-up at St James' Park last night, the man on the public address system chose to give Johnny Wakelin's hit from the mid 1970s the timeliest of airings. Thankfully for Newcastle United, the strains of "In Zaire", a homage to the Ali-Foreman classic in Kinshasa, failed to stir a rematch of last Saturday's little rumble in the Tyneside football jungle.

Nothing kicked off in the kick-about and, when the hamstrung Dyer approached Bowyer in front of the home dug-out 18 minutes into the second-half, both men raised their hands for nothing more sinister than a double "high fives" greeting. The gesture was as symbolic as the decision by Graeme Souness, the Newcastle manager, to send on Bowyer, identified as the villain of the piece of infighting that left St James' stunned in the closing stages of Aston Villa's visit last Saturday, as a substitute for Dyer, the perceived victim.

Both players were warmly applauded by the Toon Army on a night when peace and harmony broke out at the home of the sparring Magpies. The crowd even excused Bowyer for a scything tackle on the Sporting striker Sa Pinto that earned a yellow card for the errant midfielder. The only strike of the night was the winning goal, which came from an Alan Shearer header. Whether it proves to be a knock-out blow remains to be seen, with the reunited Newcastle facing a difficult trip to Lisbon next Thursday for the second leg of this Uefa Cup quarter-final.

Having issued a plea for forgiveness in last night's edition of the local Evening Chronicle ("I'd die for this football club ­ what I did on Saturday is something I will regret for the rest of my career"), Bowyer had reason to be satisfied with his generous reception and swift rehabilitation. "I could have asked for no more," he said afterwards. "I asked the fans to give me a chance and, thankfully, they've done that. The fans know that they will get 100 per cent from me every game and the support was great."

Souness, naturally, was a happy man too. "It's been a stressful week," he said. " We're pleased to get that out of the way. There was a lot of pressure on the players tonight."

It was pressure that might have intensified had Sporting struck on the break after contentedly sitting back in the opening quarter and waiting for a chance. It came after 18 minutes. Cutting in from the left, the Brazilian Liedson unleashed a vicious drive that almost deceived Shay Given as it dipped at his near post. Happily for Newcastle, though, their Irish goalkeeper managed to push the ball wide.

Push then came to shove at the other end, but when Dyer threw himself to the ground under minimal contact from Anderson Polga the referee merely offered a wry smile and waved for play to continue. For the second time in three days, Dyer managed to escape punishment ­ unlike Liedson and Aaron Hughes, who both drew yellow cards for subsequent challenges, ruling them out of next week's return in Lisbon.

From the Liedson offence, Shearer diverted a Laurent Robert free-kick into the net too quickly for the referee's liking. Three minutes later, though, the same combination put Newcastle in front, Robert pulling a free-kick to the unmarked Shearer, who found the net with a header from the splendid isolation of the penalty spot.

It was the veteran striker's 30th goal in European competition and it was assisted by a convenient block on his would-be marker by Ameobi. It might have been followed by an equaliser in first-half injury time but Rui Jorge's curling shot whistled fractionally wide of Given's left-hand post.

It was the final scare of the night for the Newcastle No 1. Suffering from an injured hip, Given made way for Steve Harper after the interval. His replacement made his presence felt with a brilliant diving save from Joao Moutinho. It left Souness and his Magpies with a fighting chance of making it to the semi-final stage ­ more than they could have hoped for in the aftermath of last Saturday's rumble.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given (Harper, h-t); Carr, O'Brien, Taylor, Hughes; Dyer (Bowyer, 63), Faye, Jenas, Robert (Milner, 57); Ameobi, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Butt, N'Zogbia, Ambrose.

Sporting Lisbon (4-1-3-2): Ricardo; Rogerio, Beto, Enakarhire, Rui Jorge; Rochemback; Carlos Martins (Mota, 68), Joao Moutinho, Pedro Barbosa (Tello, 83); Sa Pinto, Liedson. Substitutes not used: Ferreira (gk), Niculae, Garcia, Paito.

Referee: Y Baskakov (Russia).

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