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 Wednesday, November 27, 2002 21:02 EST

Inter Milan routs 10-man Newcastle


LONDON -- Barcelona made it nine out of nine and Thierry Henry three out of three, while Inter Milan's 11 were too strong for Newcastle United's 10 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Barcelona opened its second phase campaign with a 2-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen and Inter won 4-1 at Newcastle United in the night's other game in Group A.

Arsenal is the early leader in Group B after winning 3-1 at AS Roma, while Valencia drew 1-1 with Ajax Amsterdam in the group's other match on a miserable night for home teams.

Barca's win at Leverkusen was the club's ninth successive European victory this season and came courtesy of an 88th minute goal from Dutch substitute Marc Overmars.

Dimitar Berbatov had given Leverkusen a 39th minute lead, but Javier Saviola equalized early in the second half before Overmars sealed the points.

After two wins in the qualifying phase, Barcelona won all six matches in the opening group stage and Wednesday's victory made it nine out of nine.

Inter Milan scored early in its match at St James' Park, but unlike Roma the club held onto its lead and went on to beat Newcastle 4-1 on a night to forget for the home side, who had Craig Bellamy dismissed after five minutes.

Newcastle was already trailing to a goal scored by Domenico Morfeo after just 65 seconds when Bellamy was sent off for an off-the-ball punch on Marco Materazzi.

Bellamy, who missed three first-phase matches for a head-butt when Newcastle played Dynamo Kiev, was the hero with two goals against Feyenoord two weeks ago -- but now is cast in the role as villain again and faces another ban.

His red card severely affected Newcastle who was out of it by halftime as Matias Almeyda (35) and Hernan Crespo (45) put Inter 3-0 ahead.

Unsettled Peruvian Nolberto Solano gave Newcastle a slight chance with a 72nd minute goal, but Alvaro Recoba settled matters with Inter's fourth after 81 minutes -- 20 seconds after coming on as a substitute.

In contrast to the quick goals at Newcastle and Rome, the scoring came in the last few minutes in Valencia where Ajax took the lead after 88 minutes through substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the home side levelled when Miguel Angel Angulo scored in injury time.

Valencia, European Cup runner-up in 2000 and 2001 and tipped by many to do well again this season, dominated much of the match but appeared to be heading for defeat when Ibrahimovic stole into the box to convert a pass from Rafael van der Vaart.

But Angulo saved a point for the Spaniards when he finally beat Ajax goalkeeper Joey Didulica, who had been the outstanding player on the pitch.

The competition continues in two weeks' time.

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