Shearer's sharpness puts knife into Boro

Bobby Robson's side move up to third place as North-east rivals are humiliated at the Riverside
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The Independent Online

They may have declared a loss of £19m hours before this match kicked off but, in Bobby Robson, Newcastle United have a treasure beyond price. That Newcastle are now in a Champions' League position is another sign of why this venerable, remarkable man may yet be asked to take care of England, a move that would horrify his club and probably his family.

They may have declared a loss of £19m hours before this match kicked off but, in Bobby Robson, Newcastle United have a treasure beyond price. That Newcastle are now in a Champions' League position is another sign of why this venerable, remarkable man may yet be asked to take care of England, a move that would horrify his club and probably his family.

Robson said before the season began that Newcastle "had a duty to challenge Manchester United" and with the campaign a quarter gone, his words look more than mere bravado. "We won't win the title but if we finish in the top six that will be par for our course."

Significantly, he did not rule out stepping into the breach left by Kevin Keegan's resignation. "I'm not the man for the long-term," the 67-year-old said. "But if that's the decision of the FA and I can help in some way then I will speak to my chairman."

The other B Robson faces a considerably bleaker future. The Riverside stadium has become a prison rather than a fortress; Middlesbrough have not won a Premiership game there since they managed to put just one goal past the disintegrating defensive shambles of Sheffield Wednesday on 25 March.

Robson confessed his side, who have been kept afloat by Alen Boksic's ability to score vital away goals, were badly lacking in confidence at home.

It was not especially difficult to see why since many in the crowd have lost faith in a manager who has transformed Middlesbrough from a sidewater in English football.

Chants of "Bryan Robson on the dole" from the Newcastle contingent were met by applause from sections of the home spectators, most of whom had disappeared by the time Brian Deane rolled the ball over the line for a meaningless consolation.

The usual problems associated with Middlesbrough have begun to surface with dreary predictability. Tactically they looked bereft of ideas and once more exotic foreigners are failing to settle by the Tees.

In an effort to dispel some derogatory comments she made about the region, the Wonderbra model Adriana Sklenarikova, the wife of Christian Karembeu, had arranged for a banner of herself to be paraded around the stadium with "Wonderboro" emblazoned on it. Her husband's team resembled not bras but a different piece of underwear. They were pants.

It was billed as a derby but as an occasion it means more to Boro supporters (the real enemy on Tyneside will forever be Sunderland) and it was they who began more aggressively with Gianluca Festa's header pushed away by Shay Given as early as the second minute. Thereafter, there was no competition; Newcastle possessed an inventiveness their rivals simply could not match.

The opener, when it came in the 39th minute, was beautifully worked, a cross from Nolberto Solano, who is considering turning his back on playing for Peru to devote more time to his club, was headed into Alan Shearer's path by Gary Speed. The Newcastle captain, who had enjoyed a mid-season break for the first time in years, was in front of goal, unmarked, and there was only one possible outcome.

His manager played a curious formation with Kieron Dyer lurking behind the front two and it was a measure of the fluidity of the system that Newcastle threatened through defenders. Alain Goma settled the match with a muscular header for his first goal for Newcastle, and Didier Domi, moved into a left-wing position, crossed for Daniel Cordone to slide home in the 26th minute. The goal, however, was ruled offside, although television replays suggested the Argentinian had been level.

It mattered little. Newcastle had won this game the moment Goma's header struck the net and although Boksic struggled manfully, sending a left-footed shot inches over, the game was up. Shearer twice went close and Lomano Lua Lua, a thrilling 19-year-old prospect born in Zaire, was sent on to torment an already weary Middlesbrough defence.

He set up the third goal, two minutes from time, for Dyer, who his manager had repeatedly told in training not to side-foot shots. The young man obliged and looking round the emptying stadium there was scarcely a quorum to boo the home team off.

Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Crossley; Cooper, Pallister, Festa; Fleming (Stamp, h-t; Marinelli, 58), Karembeu, Ince, Mustoe (Deane, 75), Gordon; Ricard, Boksic. Substitutes not used: Vickers, Beresford (gk).

Newcastle United (3-4-1-2) Given; Charvet, Hughes, Goma; Solano, Lee, Speed, Domi; Dyer; Cordone (Lua Lua, 76), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Marcelino, Bassedas, Gallacher, Harper (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

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