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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 March, 2003, 17:21 GMT
Newcastle stay in title hunt
Shay Given saves at the feet of Dwight Yorke
Yorke had several chances to score for Blackburn
Newcastle 5-1 Blackburn

Newcastle recovered from the disappointment of their Champions League exit with a victory over Blackburn that puts them just three points behind Premiership leaders Manchester United.

Nolberto Solano opened the scoring and Laurent Robert put the Toon back in front after Damien Duff's well-taken equaliser.

Jermaine Jenas sealed victory close to full-time, Vratislav Gresko then turned the ball into his own net and Craig Bellamy smashed home from short range to complete a miserable afternoon for Rovers.

Blackburn had won their previous four matches including last weekend's victory over Arsenal and matched Newcastle for the opening hour.

Graeme Souness' team enjoyed lengthy spells of possession with Hakan Sukur and Dwight Yorke showing a good understanding up front, but they collapsed in the final minutes as Newcastle scored three goals in six minutes.

Newcastle's success this season has revolved around their superb home form and Sir Bobby Robson's team once again underlined why they remain in the race for the Premiership with another win at St James' Park.

Blackburn had the first good opportunity to open the scoring when Sukur rose above Titus Bramble and directed Vratislav Gresko's deep free-kick towards Yorke.

The Rovers striker got in front of Jonathan Woodgate and shot at goal, but Shay Given made a superb reaction save.

24 mins: Solano opens the scoring for Newcastle
54 mins: Duff brilliantly equalises
61 mins: Robert scores with a free-kick
85 mins: Jenas scores from 18 yards
89 mins: Gresko puts the ball in his own net
90 mins: Bellamy completes the rout
Sukur and Yorke linked well again shortly afterwards, but after again Rovers former Manchester United striker was thwarted by Given.

Newcastle eventually took the lead through Solano, but Robert was the undoubted creator.

The French winger jinked one way then the other, dazzling the Rovers defence with his dribbling skills before crossing for the Peruvian to head home from short range at the far post.

Robert smashed a free-kick against the post as Newcastle looked to take the game beyond Rovers, but Blackburn broke straight away and could have equalised if Duff had made the most of the opportunity.

Shortly afterwards the Irish forward did restore parity, defeating Given with a volley that left Given with no chance.

But Blackburn had no answer when Robert improved upon his previous free-kick to give Newcastle the lead for a second time,

Souness introduced former Toon favourite Andy Cole for Yorke, a decision that disgusted the Trinidad & Tobago striker, who launched a verbal volley and gesticulated towards the Blackburn manager.

Cole, playing for the first time since his training ground row with Souness, had a half-chance to equalise for a second time but it was Newcastle who scored the game's remaining goal.

Substitute Jermaine Jenas further underlined his burgeoning reputation with a neat finish from 18 yards.

Gresko then turned Dyer's driven pass across the face of goal into his own net.

And with full-time looming Bellamy profited from more superb approach work from Dyer, smashing home from six yards.

Newcastle: Given, Griffin, Woodgate, Bramble, Hughes, Solano (Jenas 65), Dyer, Speed, Robert (Viana 77), Shearer (Ameobi 86), Bellamy.
Subs not used: Harper, O'Brien.

Booked: Bramble.

Blackburn: Friedel, Taylor, Berg, Short, Gresko, Gillespie (Dunn 45), Flitcroft, Tugay (Grabbi 70), Duff, Sukur, Yorke (Cole 63).
Subs not used: Kelly, Todd.

Booked: Gresko.

Attendance: 52,106

Referee: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).

BBC Five Live's Ian Dennis
"The Premiership dark horses remain in the race"



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