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A big week for Newcastle began with an almost comical 1-0 defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, writes Jonathan Wilson at White Hart Lane.With a Uefa Cup quarter-final second leg against Sporting in Lisbon and an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United in Cardiff to come in the next seven days, this always seemed likely to be a game that meant more to the home side, and so it proved.
Without a host of players missing through injury and suspension, Newcastle began with an ultra-negative midfield pairing of Nicky Butt and Amdy Faye, and the result was a fragmented, ugly game that was only enlivened by Spurs' comical winner three minutes before half-time.
Celestine Babayaro rolled a back-pass to goalkeeper Stephen Harper - in for the injured Shay Given - but his clearance, although well struck, was straight at Simon Davies. The Wales international managed to direct the rebound towards Jermain Defoe and, played onside by Babayaro, he stabbed it past Harper. The fates have a way of toying with Newcastle, but it is hard to imagine a more ludicrous misfortune befalling them this week.
Paul Robinson was probably more culpable at the other end 13 minutes after half-time, prodding a ball to the side of Ledley King as the centre-back ambled the other way. James Milner seized on the loose ball, but his subsequent chip drifted well wide. That was Newcastle's only real chance, and two badly fluffed second-half chances by Frédéric Kanouté never looked likely to be damaging.
Milner was a half-time substitute for Alan Shearer, who succumbed to a dead leg, but is likely to be fit for Thursday. Tottenham can revel in their first Premiership double over Newcastle and climbing two places to seventh, and a possible Uefa Cup qualification, while for Newcastle the best that can be said is that they have incurred no further casualties ahead of Thursday's game in Lisbon.
* Paul Robinson scored an injury-time equaliser against local rivals Aston Villa to move West Bromwich Albion out of the Premiership relegation zone. Crystal Palace's 4-0 defeat at Everton secured West Brom's place outside the bottom three for the first time in five months. Left-back Robinson headed home with the last touch of the match to equalise Darius Vassell's first Premiership goal since the opening day of the season. Albion's Jonathan Greening and Villa's Liam Ridgewell were sent off for violent conduct.
Tim Cahill scored twice as Everton kept a firm grip on fourth place. The other goals were scored by Mikel Arteta and substitute James Vaughan who, at 16 years and nine months old, became the Premier League's youngest goalscorer.
Celtic will play Dundee United in the Scottish Cup Final after goals from Chris Sutton and Craig Bellamy enabled them to defeat Hearts 2-1 at Hampden Park.
* Real Madrid gave themselves a chance of winning La Primera Liga by defeating arch-rivals and league-leaders Barcelona 4-2 at the Bernabéu stadium on Sunday night in a game that more than lived up to its star billing. Real narrowed the gap between them and Barca to six points with seven games remaining.
Zinedine Zidane opened the scoring with a diving header from a cross by Ronaldo, and it was the Brazilian striker who made it 2-0 after 20 minutes with a header from a David Beckham free-kick. Samuel Eto'o toe-poked Barcelona back into the game eight minutes later, but Raúl scored on the stroke of half-time to make it 3-1.
Beckham, who had an outstanding game, provided a pinpoint through ball for England team-mate Michael Owen to further justify his starting selection with the fourth after 65 minutes. Barca's Ronaldinho then kept an absorbing contest alive with a trademark free-kick over the wall 17 minutes from time.
* Not so much déjà vu as Groundhog Day at the top of the Zurich Premiership, with Wasps again pushing towards a third consecutive double of second place followed by a play-off final victory, writes Huw Richards at the Causeway Stadium.
A comprehensive 45-24 beating of play-off contenders Saracens also maintains their chances of finishing top. With two matches left they are only four points behind leaders Leicester, whom they meet on the final day at Welford Road on April 30. Too bad that this competition treats the league as merely a prelude to play-offs rather than an end in itself. Instead of a perfect climax, that match will be a shadow box between teams likely to meet again in the play-off final.
The same problem applied here. Instead of the euphoria that attends a brilliant display in a real title chase, a subdued atmosphere reflected the reality that the main competitive issue was Saracens' chances of squeezing into the third play-off place. Those hopes were put firmly into context as Wasps, as ever peaking at the right time, scored five first-half tries. Josh Lewsey, Wasps' one Lions certainty among several serious hopefuls, displayed his versatility by playing at centre and creating two scores for wing Paul Sackey.
If Wasps have a weakness, it is a propensity for declaring their innings once well ahead. Down 38-10 at the break, Saracens had the better of the second half. Flanker Richard Hill rounded off a 34-minute first-team comeback with a try that gave Saracens brief hope of bonus points before Joe Worsley's second try made the final score a reflection of the game's real balance.
Worcester, meanwhile, improved their chances of avoiding relegation by winning 21-16 at Newcastle to climb three places off the bottom of the table.
* Ruby Walsh, who on Saturday rode Hedgehunter to victory in the Grand National, is set to partner Cornish Rebel at Ayr next weekend in an attempt to land an unprecedented grand slam. The rider has this season now won the Welsh, Irish and English Nationals, and will attempt to complete a sweep of the four in the Scottish Grand National on the Paul Nicholls-trained horse.
* Anything the men can do …Australia's women cricketers won the World Cup final at Centurion Park, South Africa, overcoming India by 98 runs. Australia posted 215 for 4, and India managed only 117.
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