Shearer slays Bayer

Last updated : 27 February 2003 By Martyn Elliott

Captain fantastic Alan Shearer struck his first ever Champions League hat-trick to leave Newcastle in with a fighting chance of making the quarter-finals.

Shearer struck his three-goal-knockout blow inside the opening 36 minutes to leave United breathing down the necks of Barcelona and in particular Inter Milan after their win double over the Germans.

It was Shearer's first treble for almost three and a half years since he hit five goals against Sheffield Wednesday in September 1999, when United crushed the Owls 8-0 in what was Sir Bobby Robson's first game in charge at St. James' Park.

Incredibly Shearer went into Newcastle's fourth group match having never scored a Champions League goal from open play for either Newcastle or former club Blackburn.

That unwanted stat disappeared inside the opening five minutes when he escaped the attention of Thomas Kleine at the back post to dive full length and head in Gary Speed's left-wing cross.

For the second week running Newcastle had stunned last season's beaten finalists with an early goal and just as they had done in Germany raced into a 2-0 lead after 11 minutes.

Andy Griffin had seen a low drive blocked before Shearer helped himself to a second headed goal. Shola Ameobi, the scorer of the two opening goals in Germany, crossed from the left and the stooping Shearer did the rest at the back post.

Shell-shocked Leverkusen were thrown a lifeline on 19 minutes when Franca went down from Shay Given's challenge, but the keeper redeemed himself by diving to his right to hang on to a poor penalty from Oliver Neuville.

The outstanding Kieron Dyer was then hauled back by the over worked Kleine to win Newcastle a 36th minute penalty and Shearer finished off by drilling in goal number 21 of the season.

Ameobi was inches wide on 55 minutes and soon afterwards teed up Shearer who put the ball wide from just eight yards.

Laurent Robert saw a 35-yard free-kick clawed behind before the Germens pulled back a goal on 71 minutes.

Half-time sub Marko Babic linked with Yildiray Basturk to lift the ball over Given, but it was only a consolation goal.