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Saturday, September 11, 1999 Published at 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK

Newcastle lose on Robson debut

Dyer (right) thought he should have had a penalty for Newcastle

Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle

Newcastle welcomed Bobby Robson back to English football with a battling display against Chelsea but went down 1-0 to a controversial penalty.

The BBC's John Murray: "Newcastle's worst ever start to a season goes on and on"
A lacklustre Chelsea had Frank Leboeuf - and referee Graham Poll - to thank for their first half spot-kick and showed little appetite to increase the lead in the Stamford Bridge heat.

Newcastle could and probably should have had their own penalty to level the game when Kieron Dyer appeared to be tripped but this time Poll waved play on.

Robson, given a loud welcome by both sets of fans, had made only one change to the line-up which had been thrashed 5-1 by Manchester United, Didier Domi coming in for Aaron Hughes.

Defensive measures

Newcastle United manager Bobby Robson: "They won with a scrambled penalty"
But the Durham-born lad switched the formation to try and shore up a Newcastle defence which had let in 18 goals this season.

Nolberto Solano and Domi played at wing-back while centre-backs Alain Goma, Nicos Dabizas and Warren Barton cemented a three-man defence.

It appeared to be working as the newly-shaped Newcastle easily contained Chelsea in the opening half hour.

But when referee Graham Poll ruled Celestine Babayaro had been fouled by Gary Speed as he tried to head home a dangerous curling free-kick from Gianfranco Zola, Leboeuf struck from the spot to give Chelsea the lead.

Harsh treatment

Speed, who had earlier missed an excellent opportunity to put Newcastle ahead when he put a free header well wide, appeared to have been harshly punished.

The Geordies best chance fell to tall Scot Duncan Ferguson but his powerful header was saved brilliantly by the only man on the pitch taller than him, Ed de Goey.

Ferguson, absent through for so much of his ten-month stay at St James' Park, proved a handful for the Chelsea back four.

But his captain Alan Shearer - taunted by chants of "Where were you on Wednesday?" in reference to England's goalless draw with Poland - was causing far fewer problems. He has now scored only once in open play in 16 Premiership matches.

Dynamic Dyer

Dyer, who had fed Shearer so profitably from his left-back position against Luxembourg a few days earlier, was pushed into midfield by Robson and surged forward at every opportunity.

He believed he had won a penalty for his side a quarter of an hour after the interval when De Goey seemed to step on his trailing leg as he tried to nick a lose ball past the Chelsea keeper.

But the linesman kept his flag down and Poll, in touch with his assistants by two-way radio like all Saturday's Premiership referees, booked him for dissent.

Chelsea were lucky but despite being only one ahead continued to squander chances and act as though the three points were never in doubt.

Sutton off

Gianlica Vialli made a series of changes as he sought the goal which would put the game beyond Newcastle's reach - Dan Petrescu came on for Bjarne Goldbaek, influential playmaker Gus Poyet replaced Graeme Le Saux and finally ineffective striker Chris Sutton made way for Tore Andre Flo.

Keeper Tommy Wright made a hat-trick of fine saves to keep the defecit to just one as Newcastle kept the game alive until the death - Robson sending on 20-year-old Sunderland fan Paul Robinson for Ferguson to try and find the equaliser.

It didn't come and although the final scoreline was depressingly familiar to Newcastle fans there was much in the side's performance to encourage both Robson and the long-suffering Toon army.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf, Le Saux, Goldbaek, Wise, Morris, Babayaro, Sutton, Zola.
Subs: Petrescu, Hogh, Poyet, Flo, Cudicini.

Newcastle: Wright, Barton, Dabizas, Goma, Domi, Dyer, Speed, Lee, Solano, Shearer, Ferguson.
Subs: Harper, Hughes, Maric, McClen, Robinson.
Referee: Graham Poll (Tring)
Bookings: Wise (32), Barton (36), Dabizas (36), Dyer (60), Ferrer (81)
Scorers: Leboeuf (37)

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