Newcastle Utd 1 Birmingham City 0

Last updated : 07 November 2005 By Footy Mad - Editor
NEWCASTLE UTD: Given, Ramage, Taylor, Bramble, Babayaro, Solano (Clark 82), Parker, Emre, N'Zogbia (Ameobi 57), Shearer, Owen. Subs Not Used: Elliott, Harper, Faye.

BIRMINGHAM CITY: Maik Taylor, Cunningham, Martin Taylor, Upson, Clapham, Pennant, Izzet (Forssell 86), Kilkenny, Lazaridis (Pandiani 86), Jarosik, Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Vaesen, Tebily, Painter.

It was hardly a match that brought the 52,000 to its feet, apart from the goal of course, but far better win a "raggy-arsed" match than lose it, and the Toon Army will be happy enough on Monday morning knowing we are heading in the right direction.

Emre gave Graeme Souness another return on his £4million investment when he blasted home his second winner in a fortnight to claim a fourth successive victory for the Magpies, and as we reported earlier in the week, this guy is going to become a Black And White Legend!

There were just 12 minutes remaining when the Turkish international finally beat goalkeeper Maik Taylor with a left-foot drive to secure three points the home side will know they scarcely deserved. Before Emre - who claimed the winner against derby rivals Sunderland on October 23 - struck, City looked the more likely victors with Graeme Souness' men labouring and struggling to create genuine chances in front of an expectant crowd of 52,191.

However, the former Inter Milan star's intervention proved decisive as Birmingham slipped to a fifth Barclays Premiership defeat in a row to send the respective managers into the international break with contrasting emotions.

The Magpies were hunted down in midfield, where Emre and Scott Parker found themselves compressed into far less space than they would have liked, while wide men Charles N'Zogbia and Solano saw too little of the ball to provide any meaningful service to front two Owen and Alan Shearer, back in the starting line-up after being rested for the 3-0 win at West Brom last weekend.

Taylor had only one save to make in the first 45 minutes, and even that was not form a direct shot as Emre's free-kick was allowed to reach him at the far post, where he palmed it away.

Muzzy Izzet blocked an N'Zogbia shot, which looked to be going wide anyway, and Solano was unfortunate to see a 42nd-minute free-kick end up in the side-netting with Taylor beaten.

Birmingham rarely looked like troubling Shay Given - the lively Jiri Jarosik twice fired wide in the dying minutes of the half and caused the Irishman his one tricky moment with a teasing cross towards Stan Lazaridis - but they were solid enough with Matthew Upson and Martin Taylor holding firm at the back.

Referee Mike Dean waved away penalty appeals for handball against Upson and a challenge on Owen by Upson and Kenny Cunningham, and also booked Lazaridis for diving in the box at the other end.

The visitors started the second half just as they had done the first, and Shearer's efforts to out-muscle defender Taylor came to nothing as the big man proved immovable. Owen found half a yard of space on 51 minutes to get his head to an Emre corner, but he mistimed his effort and the ball was hacked clear.

The longer City survived, the more they grew in confidence, and they mounted a dangerous attack on 54 minutes when Jermaine Pennant out-stripped Celestine Babayaro down the right and squared for Jarosik, although the ball bobbled just as it reached him and he spooned his shot high over the bar.

However, the Czech went agonisingly close to opening the scoring four minutes later as the Newcastle defence waited in vain for Emile Heskey to be penalised for handball, blasting a 35-yard drive against the post with Given beaten.

Upson should have done better when he headed wide from teenager Neil Kilkenny's free-kick on the hour with the home side clearly rattled, leaving Souness distinctly unhappy.

As the Magpies pushed men forward, they looked increasingly vulnerable to counter-attacks with Pennant in particular causing problems, although it was Heskey who forced a vital save from Given 17 minutes from time with a well-struck left-foot shot. Emre floated a free-kick well over the bar two minutes later after being brought down by Kilkenny, but the Turk was to prove the hero once again. Owen picked up possession inside the box on 78 minutes and twice seemed to have worked shooting positions for himself before squaring for Babayaro.

The full-back in turn found Ameobi, who laid the ball back for Emre to thump in a left-foot rocket which Taylor could only palm over his own line. City could hardly believe their luck and immediately set about the task of earning an equaliser as Walter Pandiani and Mikael Forssell were introduced, but it was simply not their day.