Speed gives Tyneside sight of glory

Newcastle United 2 PSV Eindhoven 1 Newcastle win 3-2 on agg
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The Independent Football

There were more cameras than usual at St James' Park as crowd scenes were being filmed for what we are earnestly promised will be a "Hollywood blockbuster" on football. James Nesbitt, he of Cold Feet fame, who in hairstyle if not enunciation resembles Alan Shearer, strode around the Milburn Stand in a manager's mac.

However, if Hollywood seeks a subject for a second film, Newcastle could provide other material such as the story of a 71-year-old returning to his boyhood club to recapture the Uefa Cup he won 23 years before. Perhaps David Jason might consider himself for the role of Sir Bobby Robson.

Last night was emotional enough for the Newcastle manager, overcoming his former club, PSV Eindhoven, to force a place in the Uefa Cup semi-final with Marseilles. It says something for the French club, who eliminated Liverpool in the previous round, that Robson said afterwards he would have preferred to play Internazionale, whose attitude to the competition was ambivalent.

It says everything about this Newcastle side that the goals that sent them through should have been scored by their two most reliable outfield players and created by the most erratic and frustrating footballer in their ranks. In both Sunday's Premiership fixture against Arsenal and this Uefa Cup quarter-final, Laurent Robert has given the impression that it is all rather beneath him. Yet it was his two corners, one in each half, that provided the platform for Newcastle's victory.

In the ninth minute he drove across a corner that Shearer, lurking at the near post like a wolf in the forest, rose above Wilfred Bouma to head home. It was his 27th goal of the season, his sixth in the Uefa Cup, and he greeted it with a salute to the Leazes End of a conquering Caesar.

It was nothing compared to the wave of relief which greeted Newcastle's second goal of the evening, the one which restored their lead. Again it was a Robert corner, again PSV failed to deal with it effectively and another of Robson's blue chip players, Gary Speed, headed in, a goal which his manager described as "a prodigious leap, full of courage". It goes without saying that from the first corner to the second, Robert had been utterly anonymous.

When Robson arrived on Tyneside, Newcastle's defence was an object of derision. Now, with Jonathan Woodgate at its heart, it has become mightily effective while retaining the capacity for isolated, disastrous errors. In Eindhoven, one slip by Aaron Hughes had presented Mateja Kezman with a goal and now a wild tackle from Olivier Bernard gave him another.

It was a measure of Bernard's success that moments before he gave away the penalty that was to alter the complexion of this tie, he had seen off Dennis Rommedahl, whom the Frenchman had claimed to be the fastest footballer he had ever faced. Shortly afterwards, Bernard was presented with a routine cross from Young Pyo Lee which he had ample time to chest down and clear. However, he allowed himself to be pressured by Eindhoven's other Korean, Ji Sung Park, and brought him down with an abject challenge.

"We were always flirting with danger," Robson remarked. "We gifted them a goal and right to the end they only needed to score once and we were out."

That, perhaps, is the Newcastle way. Kezman beat Shay Given and, moments later, PSV might have had another penalty when Titus Bramble appeared to bring down Mark van Bommel. Four minutes from the end Given saved beautifully from Bouma's free-kick.

These are crucial days at St James'. The games with Marseilles come after a trip to Aston Villa and in between lurks a home fixture with Chelsea. Should they survive them all, Robson may be on course to end his season with re-qualification for the Champions' League and a piece of silverware. Now that would be a Hollywood romance.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Hughes, Bramble (O'Brien, 78), Woodgate, Bernard; Ambrose (Ameobi, 81), Jenas, Speed, Robert (Viana, 90); Bellamy, Shearer. Substitutes not sued: Harper (gk), Elliott, Dyer, Bridges.

PSV Eindhoven (4-5-1): Waterreus; Bogelund, Colin, Bouma, Rommedahl (Vennegoor of Hesselink h-t); Lee, Van Bommel, Vogel (Vonlanthen, 75), De Jong, Park; Kezman. Substitutes not used: Van Dijk, Addo, Wuytens, Van der Schaaf, Leandro.

Referee: M.Gonzalez (Spain).

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