LIVERPOOL: Teenage striker Wayne Rooney capped a memorable week by scoring for Everton in their 2-1 win over Newcastle United here at Goodison Park yesterday.
Just days after the 17-year-old Rooney inspired England to a 2-0 Euro 2004 qualifying win over Turkey at Sunderland's Stadium of Light on Wednesday – his full international debut – he sent his club on their way to an important victory.
Lifelong Everton fan Rooney's 18th-minute opener provided the platform for a victory which saw the Toffees leapfrog Merseyside rivals Liverpool into fifth place.
Everton are now just four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea who currently occupy the final Champions League qualifying spot for English clubs – a remarkable turn of events for a club used in recent seasons to staving off the threat of relegation
For third-placed Newcastle the result may have signalled the end of their title challenge. They are still six points behind reigning champions Arsenal who lead the Premiership on goal difference from Manchester United, also on 67 points.
It looked like Sir Bobby Robson's men might close the gap when, after Rooney's opener, France winger Laurent Robert levelled with a spectacular equaliser five minutes before half-time.
However, after Everton striker Kevin Campbell was brought down in the box by Jonathan Woodgate, David Unsworth's 65th-minute penalty secured all three points for David Moyes' rising stars.
But there was controversy in the build-up to the penalty when Everton's Thomas Gravesen appeared to catch Newcastle's Olivier Bernard late.
As Bernard lay on the ground, with the Newcastle bench pleading for the ball to be kicked into touch so Bernard could receive treatment, referee Neale Barry allowed play to continue.
United could have levelled in injury time only to see Jermaine Jenas' shoot straight at England keeper Richard Wright.
And the former Arsenal shot-stopper then reacted superbly to tip over a close range header from his one-time Ipswich team-mate Titus Bramble as Newcastle, including keeper Shay Given, pushed forward for an equaliser.
Earlier Rooney overcame a bruising collision with Given to head Everton into the lead.
From a corner, he reacted first to David Weir's flick-on and as Newcastle appealed for offside, Rooney headed home to claim his fifth league goal of the season. – AFP