Alan Shearer ensured Newcastle United FC enjoyed a happy end to a week of disappointment by scoring the only goal in their UEFA Cup quarter-final first-leg win against Sporting Clube de Portugal.
The Newcastle captain epitomised a determined display by the home team and the goal means he has scored in every UEFA Cup tie in which he has featured this season, taking his tally to eleven in the tournament.
Newcastle went some way to dampening Saturday's 3-0 loss to Aston Villa FC, when Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer were sent off for fighting each other. Dyer started tonight's game and was replaced by Bowyer in the second half after suffering a hamstring problem.
The first half was an eventful affair. With eight minutes played, Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi's studs caught Sporting goalkeeper Ricardo on the face in a 50-50 challenge and the Portuguese international needed treatment on a cheekbone injury. Ricardo eventually decided to continue, but looked groggy.
There were few clear chances in the early stages with Sporting frustrated by Newcastle's packed defence. Liedson, Sporting's prolific striker, did not help by getting booked for a challenge on Aaron Hughes. The yellow card means he will miss next Thursday's second leg in Lisbon's Estádio José Alvalade, also the venue for May's final. Within two minutes, the same fate befell Hughes.
On 34 minutes Shearer had the ball in the net as he latched on to a Laurent Robert free-kick from the left. The goal was disallowed, however, as the Frenchman had taken the set-piece too quickly for last season's semi-finalists.
The visiting back line did not heed this warning though as, just three minutes later, Newcastle's veteran captain gave Graeme Souness's side the lead. Shearer peeled into space and was picked out again by Robert, again from the left, again from a free-kick, and headed firmly past Ricardo. The Sporting defence looked guiltily on.
Newcastle came out for the second half without goalkeeper Shay Given, who had a hip problem, instead calling on substitute Stephen Harper. The reserve had little to do in his 45 minutes, although he did make a fine left-handed save to deny João Moutinho. Substitute James Milner had Newcastle's best chance of the second period with a volley over the bar, while Ameobi twice went close in the final minutes.
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