Ryan Taylor hit a trademark freekick in first half injury time to spare Newcastle’s blushes and give them the upper hand in their Europa League qualifying tie against Atromitos.
With the score poised at 1-1 in the tie it gives Newcastle the advantage ahead of the home tie at St James’ Park next Thursday, with Alan Pardew now knowing that avoiding defeat will be enough to see us qualify for the group stages of the competition.
It was a case of “job done” as far as the fixture went. I dare say most of us would have liked a victory to return home with, but when you consider that nine changes were made to the first team in preparation for the game against Chelsea on Saturday, combined with a pitch that didn’t look great along with searing 38 degree heat, then all things considered it wasn’t that bad.
Gael Bigirimana made his debut while Adam Campbell becaume United’s youngest ever player to appear in Europe. Romain Amalfitano also made his competitive bow while Sylvain Marveaux and Steve Harper both made first team appearances for the first time in a number of months.
It was the home side who started off the strongest with left-winger Denis Epstein causing James Tavernier problems at right-back. Atromitos seemed to be focusing on young Tavernier, and to be fair it was a tactic that proved to be successful although neither side really looked like breaking the deadlock.
That was until the 24th minute when a long diagonal ball evade James Tavernier and found his tormentor Epstein who drifted in from the left and finished low past Steve Harper and give the Greeks the lead.
Newcastle immediately upped the tempo but with Papiss Cisse starved of possession for long periods ultimately chances to score were hard to come by. The best the away side could muster in response was a Taylor freekick which former Liverpool ‘keeper Charles Itandje kicked away.
However on the stroke of half time Newcastle managed to find an equaliser after Dan Gosling was pulled back 25 yards from goal allowing Ryan Taylor to do what he does best and bend his freekick over the wall and past Itandje into the back of the Atromitos net.
Half time: Atromitos 1-1 Newcastle
Newcastle were better in the second period. Sylvain Marveaux should have done better with a header from Papiss Cisse’s cross, and Cisse himself was unlucky not to find the back of the net after Itandje palmed away a cross which Cisse was shaping to shoot for. Gabriel Obertan fired a volley wide while Romain Amalfitano was denied the winner after intervention from an Atromitos defender.
At the other end Shefki Kuqi’s younger brother, Njazi, fired wide and Konstantinos Giannoulis shot wildly over the bar six minutes from time spurning the chance of a win for Atromitos with it.
Full time: Atromitos 1-1 Newcastle
As I said earlier, I’d have liked a win but I’m not overly disappointed with the draw. It gives us the upper hand for next week although I don’t want to be overly confident about anything just yet. Remember Partizan Belgrade anyone?
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Steve Harper; James Tavernier, Mike Williamson, James Perch, Ryan Taylor; Gael Bigirimana, Vurnon Anita; Gabriel Obertan, Dan Gosling, Sylvain Marveaux; Papiss Cisse
Subs: Tim Krul, Davide Santon, Steven Taylor, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Romain Amalfitano, Adam Campbell