Keegan hails Owen after crucial first win at Newcastle

March 23rd, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by admin  

(Premiership Roundup)
London, March 23 (DPA) Kevin Keegan hailed the efforts of his captain Michael Owen after his first win as Newcastle United manager eased their relegation fears in the English Premier League football. Mark Viduka Saturday put them ahead early on and Owen secured a 2-0 win over second-from-bottom Fulham with a late header to lift them six points clear of the bottom three.

Fulham remain second-from-bottom and Bolton are also stuck in the bottom three after they could only draw 0-0 at home with Manchester City.

Sunderland won away from home for the first time this season as their 1-0 victory at Aston Villa put them on 30 points - four better than Bolton - Michael Chopra scoring the only goal.

Reading are one point better off - and one behind Newcastle - thanks to two goals from Andre Bikey as they beat Birmingham City 2-1, leaving the visitors now just one point above the bottom three.

Middlesbrough look safe after Tuncay’s goal gave them a 1-0 win over bottom side Derby County, but Wigan are still not out of the woods after their 1-3 defeat at Blackburn Rovers.

Keegan breathed a huge sigh of relief as Newcastle won their first match since he replaced Sam Allardyce.

The manager started with a three-pronged attack, with Owen and Obafemi Martins playing up alongside Viduka and the Australian fired them ahead after just six minutes.

The home side were much the better team throughout and Owen sealed the points with the second goal late in the second half, much to Keegan’s delight.

“He (Owen) has led this team fantastically. He is a great skipper, not because of all the things he shouts, but because of the example he shows,” Keegan said.

“He is a team player - we have asked him to play a different role and it is not, ‘Oh, well it’s not what I do’, it is, ‘Yes, I will do that’, and he is playing it very, very well. I have said all the time what I think of Michael Owen. He would certainly be in most people’s England side.”

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson was far from despondent, despite the missed opportunity for his side.

“We were two points behind Bolton and we are now three points; Birmingham, who were four points ahead of us at the start of the day are still four points ahead,” Hodgson said.

“In seven matches, a lot of things can happen. We have got to keep believing that our football can get us out of this situation and we have got to hope that the things that didn’t go right for us today, we can put right.”

Everton missed the chance to move level with Liverpool in fourth place as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by West Ham United.

Dean Ashton equalized Yakubu’s early effort for Everton and Freddie Sears hit the post for the visitors in the closing minutes as Everton hung on for a point, leaving them two points behind Liverpool, having played a game more.

Blackburn’s win over Wigan means they are now just one point behind Portsmouth in sixth after Harry Redknapp’s side’s European hopes were dented by Tottenham Hotspur as they lost 0-2 at White Hart Lane.

Substitutes Darren Bent and Jamie O’Hara scored the goals as Spurs ran out convincing winners, cementing their 11th place.

Michael Dawson hit the crossbar in the first half for Spurs, while Nwankwo Kanu had a great chance for Portsmouth in the second half but Didier Zakora cleared his header.

It took Spurs 80 minutes to find the breakthrough as Bent headed home from a scrappy shot by Dimitar Berbatov, before Bent set up O’Hara to side-foot the second.

Portsmouth remain sixth, but six points behind fifth-placed Everton, with a number of teams stacking up behind them.

The two big games at the top are on Sunday, when leaders Manchester United face in-form fourth-placed Liverpool and second-placed Arsenal are away to third-placed Chelsea.

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