The resurgent Michael Owen scored both goals as Newcastle United beat bitter rivals Sunderland 2-0 in a keenly fought north-east derby at St James’s Park on Sunday.
The England striker headed in his first in the fourth minute and scored his second from the penalty spot in the 45th minute just before half-time to leave the Black Cats still living with the threat of relegation.
Man-of-the-match Owen is revelling in his new role playing behind Mark Viduka and Obefami Martins and has now scored six goals in six games for the Magpies.
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker has endured a torrid time in north-east England, plagued by injuries and struggling for form.
However, he is thriving under returning Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan, despite word that he did not get on with Keegan when he was the England manager.
The result leaves Newcastle 12th on the table and means they have ensured their survival in the Premier League.
However, Sunderland remain five points and three places above the relegation zone with three games remaining.
Newcastle captain Owen wasted no time in putting his side ahead.
Geremi, in midfield, saw Owen’s run into the penalty box and curled in an excellent cross.
Owen ghosted in behind marker Paul McShane and rose to divert his header past Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Owen claimed his second just before the stroke of half-time, scoring the penalty he played a part in earning.
Bearing down on goal following a quick interchange of passes, Owen tried to clip the ball over Danny Higginbotham, but it accidentally hit the diving defender’s hand, taking it out of Owen’s path.
The referee had no choice but to award a penalty, which Owen struck low and slightly to the left.
Gordon got down to it and got his hands to the ball, but the shot was just powerful enough to squirm under the Scot’s body.
Gordon made a good block to defy a Martins shot from close range in the 68th minute.
Seconds later, Newcastle goalkeeper Steven Harper pulled off an excellent diving save to keep out a Kenwyne Jones header.
Sunderland boss Roy Keane threw on striker Michael Chopra with 10 minutes remaining in a bid to salvage a point. The former Newcastle forward’s introduction and every touch were greeted by deafening boos by the St James’s Park faithful.
But he could do nothing to prevent the Magpies cruising to victory and earning local bragging rights. — AFP