Manchester City 1 Newcastle United 0

Last updated : 01 May 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Paolo Wanchope scored what could be one of the most precious goals in Manchester City's most recent history in their defeat of Newcastle United at Eastlands.

The Costa Rican striker's 59th minute header earned a vital victory, one which virtually guarantees their Premiership status for next season.

Wanchope's super strike remarkably earned City only their fourth home league victory of the season in 18 attempts.

While City fans celebrated only their third Premiership win in 25 matches, Newcastle were left reflecting on a costly defeat in their bid to land the fourth Champions League place.

They must still be wondering how they left Manchester empty-handed following a first-half onslaught in which City goalkeeper David James kept them at bay with an inspired display.

Sir Bobby Robson admitted the defeat was a setback to their hopes of winning the last Champions League place saying: "We lost a very important match and it does not help our hopes of finishing fourth.

"We gave a reasonable performance in the first half and Shola Ameobi could have had a couple of goals.

"In the second half we didn't look like creating a chance, and that has happened too many times this season." Robson cited 1-0 defeats at Tottenham, Bolton and City as being particularly expensive.

And the Newcastle manager added that he was mystified by this season's disappointing away form saying: "We have been poor away from home with only two wins compared with nine last season.

"Our home form has been magnificent, but for some reason we have not been doing it away. Maybe we need to work harder away." City manager Kevin Keegan conceded his side rode their luck in the opening half, blaming tension for their failings.

He said: "We had four or five players who were struggling though they were putting in the effort.

"I told them we would have to battle and scrap in the second half and when we had the ball to try and play.

"We needed to show good spirit, resilience and courage which we did.

"And in the second half we did that and maybe we could have had a few more goals." Keegan added that the victory was a massive boost to their survival hopes.

He said: "It is in our hands and more in our hands than at Leicester last week.

"The only thing we could do was to take a step towards staying in the division, though I told the players afterwards we are still not safe." City named an unchanged starting line-up following their 1-1 draw at Leicester with Robbie Fowler, omitted from last Saturday's 16, back on the bench alongside Jon Macken and Antoine Sibierski as Keegan went for a bold attacking line-up.

Newcastle's one alteration from the team that beat Chelsea last weekend saw Titus Bramble replace the injured Jonathan Woodgate in the centre of defence.

City had a let-off in the opening minutes after Alan Shearer was fouled 35 yards from goal.

Free-kick specialist Laurent Robert stepped forward to fire a shot towards goal which, though mis-hit, fell invitingly at the feet of Bramble whose first-time shot from eight yards was brilliantly kept out by James diving low to his right.

And there was another escape early on when Bramble's header, following another free-kick awarded for a foul on Shearer, beat James only for Wanchope to head off the goal line.

Robert made an electrifying burst down the left and put in a low cross which Shola Ameobi, sliding in, failed by inches to connect with and score in front of an open goal.

Goalkeeper Shay Given's long kick was headed on by Shearer for Ameobi to race clear on goal only to be denied by James' brilliant block.

Central midfield player Hugo Viana also tested James with a long-range drive, though the shot looked to be drifting off target.

It remained one-way traffic and Ameobi broke clear on the right and slipped a neat ball inside to Darren Ambrose whose fiercely-struck drive was kept out by James as he pulled off another smart stop.

City had to wait until the 37th minute before mustering their first attempt on goal, when they almost snatched the lead against the run of play.

Richard Dunne met Michael Tarnat's corner with a bullet header from six yards only for Given to keep out the effort with a brilliant reflex save.

Outplayed for much of the opening period, City came out for the second half with renewed determination and dictated the flow of play.

And it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 59th minute with one of their most meaningful attacks of the match.

Nicolas Anelka cut in from the right and crossed for Wanchope who rose in between two defenders to head home from 12 yards low to the right of Given.

City had penalty appeals waved aside with ten minutes remaining when Wanchope went down in the box following a tackle by Olivier Bernard.

Television replay suggested Bernard played the ball before the City striker and the referee was spot on with his decision.

And shortly afterwards, City almost scored what would have been a decisive second goal when Bosvelt's drive from outside the area was tipped over by Given.

And the keeper came to Newcastle's rescue again moments later blocking Wanchope's shot with his legs after the striker had been released by Anelka's excellent pass.

Newcastle's last throw of the dice came with four minutes remaining when Robson threw on attacking substitutes Michael Chopra and Michael Bridges.

But it was too little too late as City held on for a vital victory.

MAN OF THE MATCH: David James - Outstanding in the first half as he single-handedly kept City level with a string of fine saves.