Newcastle United 2 Liverpool 2
Date: 26th December 1999 3pm.
Venue: St.James' Park.
Kit: Normal home.
NUFC: Harper, Barton, Hughes, Dabizas,
Pistone, Dyer (Glass 52 mins), Lee, Solano (Gallacher 73 mins), Speed, Ferguson
(Ketsbaia 90 mins) Shearer.
Subs n/u: Given, Marcelino.
Sent Off: None.
LFC: Westerveld, Gerrard, Song, Hyypia, Matteo, Murphy (Fowler
82) Hamann, Carragher, Berger, Camara (Heggem 69), Owen.
Subs n/u: Staunton, Friedel, Traore.
Sent Off: None.
Referee: David Elleray. By the laughable standards of referees
this season, had a proficient and incident-free game.
12 mins Shearer/Solano - you take your pick, and wait to see if the Premiership
Panel who judge such things agree with you. Solano took a freekick in front of the Milburn
Stand, facing the Leazes end. One quick flap from Westerveld and it nestled in the back of
the goal - Alan Shearer claiming the merest of touches that TV later couldn't pick out. 1-0.
31 mins Delayed dispersal of presents to Michael
Owen, who managed to take the ball
off a seemingly hypnotised Pistone on the byline and slip a shot past Harper. 1-1.
52 mins Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, as a wayward backpass from Dabizas was
seized upon by an unattended Michael Owen and gleefully dispatched from 18 yards for the lead 1-2.
67 mins Man of the Match Barton flighted an angled ball into the penalty area and
Duncan Ferguson managed to scrape his barnet across it, to direct the ball into the bottom corner
of the Gallowgate goal. 2-2.
Ah, Boxing Day, time of irrelevant aftershave wearing, non-existent public
transport and for our favourite team, much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Not since the
halcyon days of the pre-Premiership era had we managed a goal on this day, and our best
return of recent seasons was a bland nil-all draw at Leeds.
Indeed, a trip back in the
toon time machine to 1988 is required for a top-flight success, when Rob Macdonald and the
unwitting knee of Michael O'Neill gave us a win at Hillsborough.....and of course we
barely won another match and were deservedly relegated. Happy days.
In the context of this sort of record then, a point at home and goals scored
represents progress of a sort, although in the typically off-kilter world of this football
club, it could so easily have been three.
Late pressure on the visitors goal didn't manage
to force in a winner, but a point was fair reward for two costly lapses at the back that
allowed Owen to sustain his personal anti-Geordie scoring vendetta.
Memories of his treble
in Rudi's rude 4-1 awakening last season were briefly prompted by the joyful celebration
that followed his second goal, and the embarrassed
faces of the defence, but a more dogged
attitude ensured that this would be no Red walkover.
Amongst the interested parties watching was England boss Kevin Keegan, now no
longer a St.James' stayaway, accompanied by his former player Philippe Albert (the pair
also met in up in Albert's home town of Charleroi some days later, as KK went over to
check out the European Championship venue.)
They would both have been impressed with the
performance of Barton, both in defence and as an attacking force, where his persistence
and intermittent dollops of skill were a threat to the scousers.
In these times of reduced
expectations, it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that ol' Centre Parting could yet
add to his small reservoir of international appearances from the mid 90's.
Similarly Robert Lee may also have prematurely written off his chances of a 22nd
cap given his run of form since the Dutch bloke slung his hook. A midfield that doesn't
look marvellous in theory seems in practice somehow to work, with Speed and Lee doing the
harrying and Nobby continuing to create goals at a prolific rate.
(The subsequent absence
of Lee through injury against West Ham underlined the loss, as Robson chose the
inexperienced talents of Fumaca over the unremarkable McClen and the midfield suddenly
At the risk of falling into a fawning cup-runneth-over trap of praising Bobby to
the Heavens (as is the current vogue), this game, above most of the other ones during the
Robson Reign (along with Roma) seems to provide the starkest contrast between him and the
While I have reservations about some of the players he clearly favours
(principally Fumaca, Marcelino and Gallacher) and cannot fathom his mania for late
substitutions, his ability to inject a sense of team spirit back into this United side
should be held up to younger wannabe managers as a shining example. God bless the old