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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 11, 2006

Shearer spot on to seal glory in farewell match

Newcastle XI 3 - 2 Celtic

Alan Shearer's illustrious career drew to a close as his Geordie public gathered to honour their hero tonight.

The 35-year-old striker, whose playing days were ended three weeks prematurely by a knee injury, started and finished his testimonial game against Celtic tonight - scoring the winner from the penalty spot after returning to the pitch as a substitute in injury time.

As he walked out before kick-off at St James' Park with his wife Lainya and children Chloe, Hollie and Will, a capacity crowd on three sides of the stadium held up black, white and gold cards depicting his name and his famous number nine shirt amid a torrent of noise.

Shearer's involvement in the game - which it is hoped will raise in excess of £1million for charity - amounted to two touches, the first of them the kick-off before he was immediately substituted to rapturous applause from a crowd of 52,275.

The match was almost incidental as the Toon Army serenaded their hero throughout with choruses of `Stand up if you love Shearer' and `England's number one'.

For the record, £9.5million signing Albert Luque volleyed the Magpies in front on 70 minutes - but a Shaun Maloney penalty and a John Hartson header put Celtic ahead before Paul Lawson's own goal and Shearer's spot-kick won it.

Newcastle old boys Steve Watson and Gary Speed each played part of a first half in which the home side - with all the players wearing number nine on their shorts - enjoyed the better of the chances.

Goalkeeper David Marshall had to tip away a deflected Michael Chopra shot on 21 minutes, and defender Stephen McManus diverted an Emre corner just wide of his own goal two minutes later.

McManus denied Chopra once again a minute before the break, but Marshall had to push a Charles N'Zogbia pile-driver on to the bar seconds later.

Caretaker boss Glenn Roeder made six changes at the break, one of them handing Steven Taylor his first football since Boxing Day.

But it was the Scottish champions who created the first chance of the second half, former Sunderland defender Stanislav Varga heading wide from a Paul Telfer corner.

Marshall had to save from Matty Pattison on 61 minutes after Chopra had played him in, with the crowd building towards a crescendo as thousands of black-and-white scarves swirled in the air with Shearer looking on from the dug-out.

The noise was not quelled by the arrival of Rob Lee as a 67th-minute substitute, and it grew further when Luque volleyed home Peter Ramage's 70th-minute cross to open the scoring.

Les Ferdinand - the man Shearer regards as his best partner at the club - entered the fray seconds later. But Celtic were level on 79 minutes when Maloney was tripped by Ramage, and the midfielder converted the resulting penalty.

Hartson looked to have won the game for the visitors with a trademark header eight minutes from time. But after Lawson had deflected Ferdinand's cross into his own net, the ending the script demanded duly arrived.

Referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a `diplomatic' penalty after Ferdinand went down in the box in injury-time, and Shearer returned to the pitch to score from the spot - just as he had done in his final competitive game at Sunderland.

'The support tonight and the support for me for the last 10 years and the support for this football club ever since it's been a football club has been fantastic, and that's why you are the best,' he told the crowd after the final whistle.

'I thank you all very much for all the support you have given me over the past 10 years.

'As everyone knows, I had the chance to join other football clubs before I came here, and I was very close. It was a team in red and not far from Manchester.

'But it was always my dream and my ambition to come home back to Newcastle - and I came back.

'Whatever anybody says, I've done it and I've done it my way. I've lived the dream, so thank you very much.

'I don't want it to end, I want tonight to carry on. We will have a good drink and make sure it doesn't end.'

The proceeds of the match and events surrounding it could eventually raise around £1.6million for charity.

The memories of an emotional night will remain with the former England captain, who was cheered rapturously as he made one final lap of the pitch he has graced for a decade - before a spectacular firework display marked his exit.

'This will stay with me forever,' he said later. 'They have been great times. I've lived my dream; I've done what I wanted to do.

'When I was a young boy I wanted to play for Newcastle - and I've done that. It's been an unbelievable rollercoaster ride, some ups and downs. But overall, it's been my dream - and I've loved it.'

A roar went up when Shearer's number appeared on the board to replace Michael Chopra, and he duly sent goalkeeper David Marshall the wrong way to win the match.

'I was wondering when the referee was going to get the chance to give a penalty,' he said with a smile. 'Thankfully, Les got it for me.

'It's just been such a special night. It's been hard and emotional - but it's been great.'

Talks are ongoing over Shearer's future role at Newcastle, with chairman Freddy Shepherd determined to retain his services in some capacity.