Newcastle United sealed their passage into the Europa League group stage with a 1-0 victory over Greek side Atromitos giving them a 2-1 victory over the two legs.
A strike from substitute Haris Vuckic was all the team needed to ensure they were in the draw which took place yesterday amidst the madness that it transfer window deadline day.
Now we know who we will be facing if we are to progress in the competition. We’ll be facing trips to France, Belgium and Portugal to take on Bordeaux, Club Brugge and Maritimo respectively which, when you look at the distances involved, isn’t as bad as it could have been and all of them are pretty easy to reach.
The side had many changes from the first leg tie, notably Tim Krul found himself back involved in between the sticks. It was a blend of experience, fringe players and youth.
Newcastle started brightly, Sylvain Marveaux proving a dangerous outlet for the Magpies and drew a save from Itandje when drifting in from the left flank before striking a fierce shot that had to be saved by the Greek side’s goalkeeper.
Demba Ba looked at the top of his game, challenging for the ball and drawing free kicks from the defenders. It seems as if the Senegal international has decided to up his game after fading into obscurity when Papiss Cisse joined during the transfer window.
The first half should have seen Newcastle double their lead and ensure the tie was over but that was not the case. Resolute defending from Atromitos saw Haris Vuckic have a shot blocked and other opportunities the home side had were wasted.
Gabriel Obertan returned to the side and seemed to be up for the challenge after having a torrid time since joining last summer. He used his pace to his advantage and sent in many crosses for Newcastle to attack. He even had an opportunity to score in the second half, one he took perhaps too long to decide what to do with it and the other had to be pushed away by Itjande.
The team survived a scare in the first half when Chumbinho was adjudged to have dived in the penalty box. Television replays suggested otherwise and Tim Krul found himself to be a very lucky man to still be on the pitch.
If the first half was anything to go by, then you expected the second half to build on that excitement. That was not the case, Newcastle seemed to lack the energy that they had shown, allowing Atromitos to find themselves a foothold in the game.
There were more chances for Newcastle to further their advantage but again opportunities were wasted.
But one goal was enough to see the Magpies through into the group stages of the Europa League.
With good performances from fringe players such as Marveaux and Obertan, Pardew will be pleased with the way that his side dispatched with the Greek side.
The only worry is the injuries to Ryan Taylor and James Perch. Perch’s injury seems less serious but Pardew was deeply concerned with the injury to Ryan Taylor.
All in all it was a fantastic night for all those involved with the club and it ensures that European football will stay at St James’ Park for a little while longer.