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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Newcastle beats 'Boro, moves out of relegation zone

NEWCASTLE, England (AP) Newcastle beat fellow struggler Middlesbrough 3-1 for Alan Shearer's first victory as a coach on Monday to climb out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Substitutes Obafemi Martins and Peter Lovenkrands fired goals in the last 19 minutes to push Newcastle above Hull into 17th place on goal difference after next-to-last Boro had threatened an upset with a third minute goal at St. James' Park.

After only two points from five games, it looked bleak for Shearer but he finally led the Magpies to victory and a strong chance of survival after 20 consecutive seasons in the top flight.

"To go one-nil down and to come back and show the character that they did — I think it's the first time this season that we've went behind and won a game — I knew we had some characters in that dressing room and it's been shown out there tonight," Shearer said. "They were fantastic, each and every one of them."

With two rounds of games remaining, Newcastle and Hull have 34 points and Middlesbrough and last place West Bromwich Albion have 31.

Despite the loss, Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate said he was proud of his team.

"We did have a terrific start, I think there were a few turning points in the game which were crucial, but even though we've lost I'm very proud of what is a young group of players that had to grow in to men tonight and they'll take that experience with them for a long time," Southgate said.

Without a goal for 10 league games, Michael Owen returned to the Newcastle lineup after being dropped for the 3-0 loss to Liverpool but 'Boro took an early lead.

A shot by Tuncay Sanli was blocked by Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper but the loose ball came off Newcastle defender Habib Beye and rolled into the net.

Mark Viduka volleyed against the post as Newcastle continued to threaten and Steven Taylor headed home a ninth-minute equalizer from a corner by Danny Guthrie.

Owen was replaced by Martins with almost 20 minutes remaining and the Nigerian had only been on the field for 55 seconds when he gave Newcastle the lead. He collected a header from Viduka and skipped past a defender before firing Newcastle ahead with a low shot.

"Someone once said to me it's better to be a lucky manager than a good one," Shearer said. "You make substitutions at that time hoping they'll have an impact but I would be a liar if I said I would put him on to make an impact that quick."

Lovenkrands added the third goal in the 86th minute when he ran onto Kevin Nolan's pass to fire home.

In the race for the final promotion spot to the top flight, Sheffield United edged Preston 1-0 to advance to the League Championship playoff final, Greg Halford scoring in the 59th minute.

Appeals denied

NYON , Switzerland (AP) UEFA on Monday upheld the refereeing decisions that rule out Darren Fletcher of Manchester United and Barcelona's Eric Abidal and Dani Alves from playing in the Champions League final.

UEFA's disciplinary committee rejected both clubs' appeals to let the suspended players take part in the May 27 final in Rome.

UEFA said in a statement that both clubs missed their deadline to appeal within 24 hours of their semifinals matches played last week.

However, UEFA said even prompt appeals "would have been rejected as unfounded as there were no grounds for contesting the referees' original decisions.

"All three players are therefore suspended for one UEFA club competition match and will serve their suspensions . . . in the UEFA Champions League final," the statement said.

Neither club expected success in their appeals because UEFA rules allow for field of play decisions to be overturned only in cases of mistaken identity.

Fletcher was sent off after tackling Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas in the semifinal second leg on May 5. Fletcher connected with the ball first but his momentum brought down the Spaniard.

Abidal was sent off when Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka went down after a challenge on May 6, though TV replays suggested there was no contact.

Alves received a yellow card that activated a ban because of his past disciplinary record.

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