Swedes bear Ginola's crosses

Newcastle United 4 Halmstads 0
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The Independent Online
To think last time Newcastle United were in the Uefa Cup they fell victim to their naivety. Last night they were as vulnerable as steel, sweeping Halmstads aside with a flourish to all but ensure a place in the second round.

There were none of the defensive blemishes that dissolved a 3-0 lead against Athletic Bilbao in 1994, but only a cold-blooded swagger that yielded enough to make the second leg a formality. They might have been short of total ruthlessness but four goals - from Les Ferdinand, Faustino Asprilla, Philippe Albert and Peter Beardsley - were more than satisfactory.

The Swedish part-timers were simply outclassed, their penetrative attacks coming after the damage had been done, Magnus Svensson and Torbjorn Arvidsson both hitting the post in the final 20 minutes. Even then you suspect Pavel Srnicek would have had more accurate shots covered.

"We played some great football," Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle manager, said, "and importantly we kept a clean sheet. Teams like that have beaten Blackburn in the past."

Recklessness had cost Newcastle in Europe two years ago but if Keegan was preaching caution his team suggested bolder intent. Attack appeared to be on the agenda, and so it was to prove on the field in a thrilling first half in which Newcastle's one-touch passing ripped the Swedes to pieces. They scored two goals and might have had four.

The first arrived after five minutes, a sweeping move that went from Beardsley, Alan Shearer and David Ginola before the French winger crossed precisely for Ferdinand to head his fourth goal in three matches.

Twenty one minutes later they were 2-0 up, and Ginola's cross from the right again proved decisive. This time it was Asprilla rising to reach it, high kicking past Vjorn Nordberg from eight yards. In between, Shearer hit the post with a header and had a free-kick plucked from under the bar.

The Swedes possibly felt they had been reprieved but there was no escape after the interval. Ginola switched wings to deliver another cross that Albert converted on the rebound after first heading against a post.

The best was yet to come, and almost inevitably it arrived via Beardsley. Asprilla played a 54th-minute corner to the former England striker, who beat one defender by fainting to shoot from the edge of the area and then beat Nordberg with a chip of such perfection it took the breath away.

Newcastle United (3-4-1-2): Srnicek; Watson (Barton, 65), Peacock, Howey (Albert, h-t); Ginola, Lee (Gillespie, 69), Clark, Asprilla; Beardsley; Shearer, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Hislop (gk).

Halmstads (5-3-2): Nordberg; Karlsson, Wiberg, Mattsson, T Andersson, F Andersson; Smith, Arvidsson, M Svensson; Vougt (Lennartsson, 72), R Andersson (Ljungberg, 60) Substitutes not used: Stierna, Selakovic, H Svensson (gk).

Referee: K Fisker (Denmark).