Tottenham Hotspur 1 Newcastle United 1
Newcastle United were denied their sixth successive Premiership win yesterday in a match so beautiful to watch that it - almost - persuaded their manager, Kevin Keegan, to be satisfied.
He was not, of course, completely happy with his team, who missed the opportunity of opening up a four-point lead in the Premiership. But the worst he could find to say about them was that they were five per cent below normal level. Beware Newcastle on a good day.
With David Ginola orchestrating their movements throughout with exquisite guile, they produced football which threatened at times to sweep the home side away. For several minutes of the first half, the Frenchman disdained to use the toes of his boots to propel the ball, angling it about instead with a series of backheels.
But Tottenham have put together their own sequences of success this season, and they refused to be demoralised, even when Ginola, Peter Beardsley and Keith Gillespie advanced on their goal with absurd ease.
Chris Armstrong's looping headed goal in the 20th minute - his fifth in 11 games - came not so much against the run of play as against all natural justice.
But after Ginola had beguiled his way past Dean Austin and Ruel Fox on the left two minutes after the break before cutting in to equalise, the home team raised their game, and they might easily have won had two penalty decisions not gone against them
Gerry Francis, Tottenham's manager, who complained that Ginola had nudged Austin in the back before scoring, was also unequivocal over two unsuccessful penalty appeals, one in each half. Darren Peacock and then John Beresford blocked efforts with their arms from Armstrong and Ronny Rosenthal respectively. Both times the referee, Martin Bodenham, ruled the actions were unintentional.
Francis, it transpired afterwards, had even more serious worries with which to concern himself. Darren Anderton, sorely missed in the Tottenham midfield, will see a specialist today about his groin injury. He will almost certainly need an operation, and is unlikely to be back in action inside six weeks.
Keegan, who dismissed reports that he had signed the Brazilian forward Edmundo for pounds 3m as "absolute rubbish", smiled sheepishly when asked about the penalty incidents. "If they had replayed them on the screen I might have been able to say," he said.
The huge screen above the goal at the Park Lane End had aroused his irritation earlier in the game. He voiced his concern to his fellow manager, and he intends to write to the FA protesting about action - and replays - being screened while the match is in progress.
"It's terrible," he said. "It puts pressure on referees and distracts the players. Anyway, why come to a live match if you are going to watch it on TV?"
Les Ferdinand, seeking to equal Willie Wardrope's 100-year-old club record of scoring in nine consecutive matches, appeared to have succeeded after 17 minutes, but his header from Gillespie's cross rebounded off the bar. Unlikely as it seemed at the time, that was to be the nearest Ferdinand came. Beardsley's little through ball in the fourth minute of injury-time appeared to give him the ideal opportunity to win the match and equal the record but, apparently distracted by the thought that he might be offside, he delayed too long and Ian Walker came out to block.
Tottenham's inspiration was one of Ferdinand's rivals for an England forward place, Teddy Sheringham. He was a constant and subtle influence and had his aim been slightly truer he too might have won the match with an audacious early shot from 30 yards halfway through the second half.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Campbell (Calderwood, 85), Mabbutt, Wilson; Fox, Dozzell, Howells, Rosenthal (McMahon, 90); Armstrong, Sheringham. Substitute not used: Thorstvedt (gk).
Newcastle United (4-5-1): Hislop; Barton, Peacock, Howey, Beresford; Gillespie, Lee, Beardsley, Sellars, Ginola; Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Watson, Albert, Srnicek (gk).
Referee: M Bodenham (Cornwall).
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