NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1
St. James' Park
Saturday, January 21 2006 (Kick off 3pm)
Gary Oliver reports
NEWCASTLE United suffered a second successive 1-0 defeat in the Premiership as Blackburn Rovers left St. James' Park with the three points.
But there was more than a hint of controversy about the Rovers' winning goal in the 74th minute. Shefki Kuqi rose at the back post to knock a Lucas Neill cross goalwards, and it was touched over the line by Morten Gamst Pedersen - with television replays clearly suggesting the Norwegian had used a hand to punch the ball into the Leazes End net.
It might have been a different story had Albert Luque not been denied a sixth minute goal by a brilliant save from Brad Friedel - but at the other end, Shay Given produced an even better stop to thwart Paul Dickov in the 17th minute.
Alan Shearer forced Friedel into a diving stop just minutes after Pedersen's goal - but Rovers held firm and inflicted a second home league defeat on the Magpies.
And the manner of their win was reminiscent to two seasons ago, when Paul Gallagher was Blackburn's matchwinner with a near-identical goal.
SECOND-HALF ACTION UPDATES
90+3min - Alan O'Brien sends over a good left-wing cross, but when Peter Ramage tries to reach it at the far post, he can only put the ball behind. Rovers run the clock down further as they take of Morten Gamst Pedersen and send on Aaron Mokoena. United launch one last attack and Lee Bowyer appeals for a penalty, claiming a shot has been handled - but referee Howard Webb is unimpressed and the game ends with a defeat for the Magpies.
90min - Three minutes of additional time are announced.
87min - Lucas Neill is shown a yellow card for scything down Alan O'Brien on the East Stand touchline.
85min - As the clock ticks down, Rovers boss Mark Hughes makes a second substitution. Tugay is the player who makes way, with Brett Emerton taking over in midfield.
79min - Another Magpies attack is orchestrated by Alan Shearer. His hold-up play sets up a chance for Lee Bowyer, but his shot is blocked by Tugay.
78min - Newcastle try to respond, and when Peter Ramage's right-wing cross is chested into the path of Alan Shearer, the skipper's low drive from 18 yards is parried by Brad Friedel. United regroup through Solano and Alan O'Brien before Celestine Babayaro fires wide from the edge of the box.
74min - BLACKBURN GOAL: Rovers break upfield and the ball is played to Lucas Neill. He crosses deep from the right and climbs above Peter Ramage and knocks the ball goalwards. Lee Bowyer and Morten Gamst Pedersen tussle on the line, and the Norwegian helps bundle the ball into the back of the Leazes End net, despite strong suspicions of a handball.
71min - Another dangerous left-wing cross from Sergio Peter is again cut out by Jean Alain Boumsong.
66min - There's a scare for the Magpies as a lively run from Rovers sub Sergio Peter takes him past three players and to the byline, but his cross only picks out Jean Alain Boumsong and the French international clears.
64min - Alan O'Brien's first contribution is a positive one as he plays the ball in from the left to Michael Chopra, who in turn helps it on, but both Nolberto Solano and Alan Shearer and unable to find a way past Brad Friedel.
62min - Graeme Souness makes his first substitution and Albert Luque is replaced by Alan O'Brien, who takes over on the left flank.
61min - Newcastle recycle possession through Jean Alain Boumsong who in turn plays the ball down the left touchline to Celestine Babayaro. The Nigerian's cross is met by Alan Shearer, but he can only head straight at Brad Friedel.
59min - Ryan Nelsen becomes the first player to be booked after an altercation with Michael Chopra, who wants to take a quick free-kick. Once the ball is played into the Rovers box, Lee Bowyer has a shot blocked.
56min - Lee Bowyer spurns a glorious chance to break the deadlock. Michael Chopra picks up the ball on the edge of the Blackburn penalty area and works it out to Nolberto Solano, before the Peruvian's right-wing cross is headed back into the path of an unmarked Bowyer by Alan Shearer. The midfielder has the whole goal to aim at, but, from 16 yards, he scuffs his shot and it drifts wide of Brad Friedel's right-hand post.
53min - It's clear Paul Dickov is unable to continue, as he is helped around the touchline by the Rovers medical staff, still in obvious discomfort. Sergio Peter comes off the bench to replace him. Rovers have a free-kick to defend after Zurab Khizanishvili flattens Alan Shearer from behind, but when Nolberto Solano crosses from the left to the far post to pick out Lee Bowyer, his fellow midfielder makes a mess of his header.
50min - Paul Dickov takes an awkward tumble and goes down holding his collarbone after falling when try to reach a Lucas Neill ball played up the East Stand touchline. Play is halted while the Scot receives treatment.
49min - More good defending from Blackburn, this time from Ryan Nelsen, sees the visiting centre-back steer Nolberto Solano away from the danger area after both Alan Shearer and Michael Chopra initially try to connect with a low left-wing cross from Celestine Babayaro.
46min - Newcastle are quickly on the attack and when Peter Ramage crosses from the right into the near post, Zurab Khizanishvili concedes a corner to deny Michael Chopra. Rovers only half clear the flag-kick, and when Titus Bramble knocks the ball back in from the left, Albert Luque sends a downward header wide of goal.
FIRST-HALF ACTION AREAS
Half-time arrives with the score still goalless, but there has been no shortage of action in the opening 45 minutes. Brad Friedel pulled off a fantastic save to deny Albert Luque scoring in the sixth minute, but that piece of goalkeeping was bettered by opposite number Shay Given 11 minutes later when he denied Paul Dickov from close range.
45min - With just seconds of the first-half remaining, Titus Bramble catches Paul Dickov and concedes a free-kick little more than 20 yards from the United goal. Robbie Savage cannot clear the home defensive wall with his effort, and Steven Reid then sees his shot from the follow-up charged away.
42min - Lee Bowyer does well to win a 50-50 challenge with Tugay inside the Blackburn half and the ball breaks for Alan Shearer. The skipper tries to send Nolberto Solano through on goal, but Rovers keeper Brad Friedel races from his line to smother the danger.
40min - An end-to-end passage of play sees United launch a swift counter-attack through Nolberto Solano who picks out Alan Shearer on the right flank. The skipper cuts inside the challenge of Michael Gray and then plays a ball low into the feet of Lee Bowyer, but he can only shoot wide at the near post under pressure from Robbie Savage and Tugay.
36min - Robbie Savage is pulled up for a handball against Lee Bowyer, giving Newcastle a free-kick 25 yards out. Nolberto Solano and Albert Luque stand over the ball, but it's an anti-climax as the Spaniard's curling effort is way too high.
33min - Blackburn waste a free-kick when Tugay shoots tamely from 30 yards and the Magpies suddenly surge upfield with Michael Chopra leading the raid. He holds up the ball until Lee Bowyer arrives in support before the midfielder then tries to release Alan Shearer. The Leazes End rises in anticipation of the skipper's record goal, but though he lifts the ball over keeper Brad Friedel, it drifts agonisingly wide of the target.
31min - Morten Gamst Pedersen picks up a loose ball in the Newcastle penalty area, but fires low into the side netting from the visitors' left. Rovers break upfield again a minute later through Robbie Savage, who plays the ball out to Paul Dickov on the right, but he crosses straight into the arms of Shay Given.
29min - Newcastle try to launch a raid down the left, but when Albert Luque lifts the ball forward aiming for the run of Lee Bowyer, Ryan Nelsen reads the danger and the New Zealand defender clears for Rovers.
24min - Tugay is mugged in possession by Nolberto Solano and concedes a free-kick deep inside his own half, which the Peruvian takes quickly to find Lee Bowyer. His cross into the penalty area is headed back across goal by Albert Luque and into the feet of Michael Chopra, but with his back to goal, he cannot find a way to work a shooting chance as Zurab Khizanishvili throws on the shackles.
22min - Jean Alain Boumsong shadows Paul Dickov's run to the byline and concedes a corner. Morten Gamst Pedersen swings the ball across from the Rovers' right to the far corner of the area to pick out Tugay, but the Turk's ambitious volley flies into the stand.
17min - Another incredible piece of goalkeeping by the brilliant Shay Given stops Rovers going in front. Steven Reid advances deep into Newcastle territory before playing the ball to Morten Gamst Pedersen on his left. The Norwegian's low cross is missed by Titus Bramble and travels across to an unmarked Paul Dickov at the back post. The Scot seems a certain scorer as he sidefoots goalward, but Given flings himself to the floor and somehow scoops the ball clear with his left hand - prompting the Gallowgate End to sing his name in praise.
15min - Michael Chopra has begun the game in lively fashion, and he draws applause from the Leazes End as he cuts inside from the left flank and fires over the bar from 20 yards.
13min - A lively start to the game continues as Rovers break down the right through Morten Gamst Pedersen and Shay Given juggles with his cross before it can reach Shefki Kuqi at the far post.
12min - Another clever pass from Nolberto Solano finds Albert Luque who releases Michael Chopra in the inside right channel with a neat touch. The striker tries to cross for the Spaniard, but Steven Reid gets his head in the way as the Spaniard tries to hook the ball goalward, and then Morten Gamst Pedersen concedes a corner to prevent Peter Ramage breaking onto the loose ball. Solano delivers the flag-kick from the right and Alan Shearer heads over from eight yards.
10min - Good approach play by Michael Chopra and Nolberto Solano provides Albert Luque with two chances to cross from the United left. From his second, Alan Shearer rises at the back post, but he is pulled up for climbing on the back of Zurab Khizanishvili.
8min - Morten Gamst Pedersen crosses from the left and the ball is headed clear by Celestine Babayaro only as far as Steven Reid, lurking on the edge of the Newcastle penalty area, but he volleys high and wide into the Gallowgate End.
6min - Albert Luque is denied a first Magpies goal by some brilliant goalkeeping by Brad Friedel. Nolberto Solano's ball over the top sends Michael Chopra racing clear down the inside right channel and his square pass across the penalty area is met by Luque eight yards out at the back post, but the Rovers shotstopper flings himself to his right and turns the ball behind for a corner. The American international then rises to claim Solano's resulting flag-kick.
3min - There is a scare for Newcastle when Lucas Neill delivers a right-wing cross that looks as though it might drop kindly for both Steven Reid and Paul Dickov, but crucial challenges by Peter Ramage and Titus Bramble clear the danger. Dickov requires treatment after feeling the full force of Bramble's block tackle.
Blackburn get the game underway attacking the Gallowgate End.
NEWCASTLE boss Graeme Souness handed Michael Chopra a place in the starting line-up as he welcomed his former club Blackburn Rovers to St. James' Park on Saturday.
Charles N'Zogbia had to be content with a place on the bench to make way for Chopra, while Titus Bramble also back in the starting line up after missing the game at Craven Cottage with an ankle injury.
Bramble returned at centre back, allowing Peter Ramage to move across to right back with Stephen Carr out injured.
Despite reports that Emre could have been ready to return for this fixture after missing the last eight matches, there was no place for the Turk in the 16.
Blackburn boss Mark Hughes had to reckon without suspended duo Craig Bellamy and David Bentley, while Andy Todd failed to shake off a virus.
Newcastle United: Shay Given, Peter Ramage, Jean Alain Boumsong, Titus Bramble, Celestine Babayaro, Nobby Solano, Lee Clark, Lee Bowyer, Albert Luque (Alan O'Brien 62m), Alan Shearer, Michael Chopra.
Subs: Steve Harper, Robbie Elliott, Charles N'Zogbia, Martin Brittain.
Blackburn Rovers: Brad Friedel, Lucas Neill, Zurab Khizanishvili, Ryan Nelsen, Michael Gray, Morten Gamst Pedersen (Aaron Mokoena 90m), Robbie Savage, Tugay (Brett Emerton 85m), Steven Reid, Paul Dickov (Sergio Peter 53m), Shefki Kuqi.
Subs: Peter Enckelman, Aaron Mokoena, Jemal Johnson.
Referee: Howard Webb.