Newcastle tough it out

FA decide to study video evidence of two incidents as Asprilla plays bi g part in leaders' fightback
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Manchester City 3

Quinn 16, 62, Rosler 77

Newcastle 3

Albert 44, 81, Asprilla 71

Attendance: 31,115

THRICE Manchester City led but thrice Newcastle United recovered to earn a point from a pulsating Premiership match at Maine Road yesterday. Such stubbornness, as accompaniment to the style, will surely serve them well in a title endgame becoming tenser by the week. Faustino Asprilla scored his first goal for the leaders, but he also demonstrated a less wholesome side to his nature. Indeed, he was fortunate to finish the game. Twice he escaped punishment from the lenient referee Martin Bodenham after retaliating in clashes with Keith Curle, once appearing to elbow him, then, in the game's rainswept conclusion, head-butting him.The FA may not be so lenient, however. Last night they confirmed they will examine video evidence of the incidents. In between he was booked for dissent. Kevin Keegan saw neither offence but City's Alan Ball commented: "None of our players has complained. If you have got a bit of fire in your belly, there's nothing wrong with that." The sourness was vastly overshadowed by a sweet, sweet match, all thrust and parry. Such enterprising performances will surely see City survive; no team with the sophisticated Georgi Kinkladze deserves to go down. Players of 10 nationalities were onview - and not a Scotsman among them - but none eclipsed the Georgian's sublime balance and ball control. Philippe Albert came close, garnishing his defensive work with two splendid goals either side of Asprilla's strike to negate Niall Quinn's less elegant brace. "Two footballing sides having a go at each other," Ball said. In more ways than one. "We threw everything we could at them and they kept coming back. That's a good sign for Kevin that his team won't lie down in the run-in." Manchester United go to Bolton today seven points adrift and for Newcastle this surely was a point gained rather than two dropped, after a midweek defeat at West Ham. The crunch will come when United travel to St James' Park a week tomorrow. David Ginola, back from suspension, was immediately effective, aided by the shortcomings as a right back of Nicky Summerbee and, after a neat move with Asprilla, he hit the outside of a post with a low drive. Newcastle must have been having early doubts, remembering that they struck woodwork twice at West Ham and Scott Hiley, a debutant at left-back on loan from Birmingham, soon imposed himself on the game to confirm them. There seemed little danger to Newcas tle when he picked the ball up wide on the left but swiftly he skipped past two tackles before forcing the ball inside to Nigel Clough on the edge of the penalty area. His low shot seemed mishit but a touch from Niall Quinn helped it on its way and past Pavel Srnicek. At this stage, Newcastle were not the fluent side of earlier in the season, and they were often restricted to long shots, only Ginola accurate enough to force Eike Immel into two sprightly saves. Then it all came together on the stroke of half-time. Asprilla rode a tackle by Clough in midfield and curled a beautiful ball over Kit Symons to pick out Albert's run. Without breaking stride, he met the ball full with his left foot and it sailed into I mmel's far corner. Kinkladze enlivened City again early in the second half with a run past two players in a crowded Newcastle penalty area. It was but notice. Fed by Curle, he twisted the very blood of Warren Barton on the left and when Srnicek pushed his shot back out to him, he found Quinn at the far post for a header that went in off Darren Peacock. Back came Newcastle. Ginola fed Albert and Immel could not hold his low shot, Asprilla following up to squeeze home. Back came City. Newcastle failed to cut out Steve Lomas's cross-shot and Uwe Rosler popped up at the far post to turn the ball home.Albe rt's was the final gesture as Ginola's cross was half-cleared and his shot zipped home off turf and Quinn's ankles. "Alan's lucky, he's ginger so he won't go grey," Keegan said of a hair-raising match. For all his side's resilience, there remain concerns, however: a three centre-back formation that looks vulnerable and the integration of the loping Asprilla, for example. Not to mention calming down his excesses.

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