Spurs buried by a landslide

Newcastle United 7 Shearer 20,82, Ferdinand 22,59, Lee 61,88, Albert 79 Tottenham Hotspur 1 Nielsen 89 Attendance: 36,308
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The Independent Online
It must have seemed like a glorious Groundhog Day to Kevin Keegan and the Toon Army at St James' Park yesterday when Philippe Albert nonchalantly slid the ball past Ian Walker and into the Leazes End goal. It put Newcastle 5-0 up, as the Belgian's chip into the same net had when he made it five past Schmeichel 10 weeks ago.

But time did not stand still for Keegan's revitalised side yesterday as they rediscovered their attacking verve with a vengeance. Newcastle scored twice more in the last 11 minutes. Allan Nielsen's 89th-minute apology of a reply for Tottenham denied Newcastle their most convincing win in the five years of Keegan's management. The final score, however, still matched their best ever in the Premiership, achieved at Swindon's expense in March 1994. When the dust started to settle it seemed astonishing to reflect that such an irresistible force had gone six weeks and seven matches without a league win, Newcastle's worst run of results since Ossie Ardiles led them to the brink of the old Third Division.

What made the afternoon all the more remarkable was the fact that Walker more than won his spurs in the visitors' goal. He was Tottenham's best player by the length of Scotswood Road. Terry McDermott was not exaggerating when he said: "We could have easily scored double figures."

Keegan's lieutenant acted as post-match spokesman because the manager himself beat a hasty retreat at the final whistle. "He's rushed home because his wife's poorly," McDermott reported. Keegan, at least, departed with convincing evidence that he is not suffering from a bad side.

It was certainly the perfect re-launch to a title mission which had veered so far off course that Newcastle reached the half-way mark in their campaign with 31 points - 14 fewer than they had when they finished five points short of the championship last term and two fewer than they managed from Christmas onwards last time.

Keegan chose to start the second half of this season as he had done the first, with Shaka Hislop as the last line of his defence. It was the Trinidadian's first Premiership appearance since Newcastle's opening-day defeat at Everton and, as well as the assured performance he produced between the posts (which featured one particularly outstanding save from Nielsen), he prompted his team's all-out attacking tour de force.

Appropriately for someone whose first experience of work was a three- month assignment to Nasa in his US college days, he launched a booming kick-out. Les Ferdinand headed on for Alan Shearer, who lashed in the 20th-minute opener after audaciously flicking the ball over Stephen Carr.

Two minutes later it was 2-0. Keith Gillespie crossed from the right and Ferdinand beat Walker at the second attempt. It was the first Premiership goal for six weeks by a Newcastle player other than Shearer and it would have been followed swiftly by two more for Ferdinand and other goals for the midfield duo Robert Lee and Peter Beardsley but for the agile Walker's heroic acrobatics.

It was an achievement in itself by Tottenham that Newcastle did not double their lead until the 16th minute of the second-half. First, in the 59th minute, John Beresford - restored at left-back in place of Robbie Elliott - skipped down his flank and crossed for Ferdinand to side-foot his second goal. Then, two minutes later, Lee teased Carr on the apron of the Spurs penalty area before rifling in a right-foot drive.

Goal number five, courtesy of Albert, was followed by second goals for Shearer in the 82nd minute and Lee in the 85th minute, both from close- range shots.

Nielsen's last word at least saved Spurs from their worst result since a 7-0 slaughter by Liverpoolat Anfield in 1978. "It was not a very pleasant experience," Gerry Francis, the Tottenham manager, said. The understatement was as heavy as his team's defeat.

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