Atromitos 1 Toon 1
I know the media are having a dig at the quality (or lack of it) in this Europa League fixture ... but let's give credit to the kids who were thrown in at the deep end.
ATROMITOS: Itlande; Skondras, Fytanidis, Lazaridis, Giannoulis (Karagounis, 86); Iglesias; Beljic (Chumbinho, 61), Dimoutsos, Brito, Epstein; Kuqi (Karamanos, 60). Subs not used: Radman, Taylaridis, Garcia, Nastos.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Harper; Tavernier, Williamson, Perch, R Taylor; Bigirimana, Anita; Obertan, Gosling (Amalfitano, 64), Marveaux (Gutierrez, 71); Cisse (Campbell, 77). Subs not used: Krul, Santon, Cabaye, S Taylor.
I cannot understand Alan Pardew at times ... SERIOUSLY!
He ALWAYS has one priority - the Premiership - never cup competitions or this trip into Europe's unknown.
Yet if we are going to win a trophy - which is long overdue - it WON'T be the Premiership. Having taken a full season to qualify for Europe and call it a "success" (as Pardew did), why not go out and win the bugger?
So he went into this fixture making nine changes to his first team, and put the prospect of meeting Europe's bigger fish, on the line.
As it happens, it worked. But throwing together a team that obviously hadn't played together before, was a massive risk.
NEWCASTLE United have been involved in some unforgettable European games.
But thanks to a moment of class from Ryan Taylor, the club now has one foot in the group stage of the Europa League.
More memorable games are on the horizon for Alan Pardew and his team, whose effforts on home soil last season ended a run of five barren seasons without European football.
The 50 or so travelling fans at the humble Peristeri Stadium home of Greek side Atromitos were singing long after the final whistle, having seen a much-changed side more than hold their own on the club’s return to the continent.
In truth, however, they hadn’t had much to shout about on the pitch during the match.
The game kicked off in 36-degree Athens heat, and the conditions told in the early stages, as Atromitos, seemingly targeting right-back James Tavernier, pressed forward time and again.
Njazi Kuqi, brother of former United striker Shefki, was off-target with an early chance.
At the other end, Papiss Demba Cisse, one of only two survivors from the starting XI against Tottenham Hotspur, the other being James Perch, volleyed wide after Vurnon Anita, making his full debut, found him with a fine lofted pass forward.
Dan Gosling was finding pockets of space when Newcastle did press forward, but he couldn’t profit when Charles Itandje fumbled a ball from Tavernier.
Atromitos’s breakthrough came in the 24th minute when Nikola Beljic found Denis Epstein on the right. He got in behind Tavernier and placed a low shot across Steve Harper and into the far corner of the net.
United had been second-best up to then, but the goal galvanised them, and Pardew’s side started to see more of the ball with Atromitos content to sit deeper.
Taylor tested Itandje with one free-kick in the 35th-minute, the former Liverpool goalkeeper saved with his legs, but the position was better for his second in first-half injury time.
Gosling was collared, literally, by Nikolaos Lazaridis 25 yards from goal, and Taylor – who had been abused by fans all the length of the pitch – stepped up and precisely placed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
Pardew sent out the same XI for the second-half, and Gabriel Obertan – who had struggled to impose himself on the game before the break – saw a shot deflected over Itandje’s bar.
After a tight opening 15 minutes, Pardew brought on Romain Amalfitano for Gosling.
Obertan found Cisse at the far post in the 67th minute with a deep cross, but a prone Itandje somehow clawed the ball away from his feet.
Pardew’s next move to was throw on Jonas Gutierrez for Sylvain Marveaux, and 17-year-old Adam Campbell replaced Cisse with 13 minutes left to become the youngest player to represent the club in Europe.
Campbell was lively going forward in the final stages of the game, but he couldn’t conjure up a goal.
Still, United are now odds-on for a place in the Europa League’s group stage.
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