Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
Obertan's winner maintains Newcastle's fine European form
NEWCASTLE'S fringe players have been instructed to use the Europa League to push their first-team credentials this season. Five games in, and it is a case of so far, so good.
Tonight's 1-0 win over Club Brugge maintained the Magpies' unbeaten record in Europe, made it five clean sheets in a row and left Alan Pardew's side on the brink of qualification for the last 32 of the competition.
And in keeping with the rest of their European successes this season, it was achieved despite the absence of a host of star names.
The likes of Tim Krul, Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba were conspicuous by their absence, while Fabricio Coloccini and Yohan Cabaye only appeared in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Instead, new heroes stepped out of the shadows, with Newcastle's winner coming courtesy of a slick move that was initiated by Sammy Ameobi, making his first start of the season, and finished by Gabriel Obertan, who was able to celebrate his first goal.
Ameobi was the hosts' most eye-catching performer all night, dribbling effectively from midfield and displaying a maturity that belied his years. Shola insists his younger brother will one day be better than him, and on the evidence of last night's performance, that day might not be far away.
Shane Ferguson was similarly impressive on the left-hand side, and with their academy finally producing genuinely promising talent, Newcastle boast a much stronger squad than was perhaps anticipated in the summer.
One of Pardew's biggest challenges this season is to use that squad to ensure his side's European exertions do not take too heavy a domestic toll, and thus far the Magpies manager appears to be striking a successful balance.
He showed Club Brugge the right amount of respect, blooding the likes of Amoebi and Ferguson but still fielding the likes of Steven Taylor, Cheik Tiote and Papiss Cisse to guarantee an experienced core.
Brugge might have lost 4-0 to Bordeaux in their opening Europa League game, but they were lacking a number of key players on that occasion.
Back to something approximating full strength, they broke with pace and purpose throughout and asked sporadic questions of a Newcastle backline that benefited from the protective screen provided by both Tiote and the equally combative Gael Bigirimana.
The Magpies' defending was reasonably secure, although they were grateful to Steve Harper as early as the third minute, with the goalkeeper, who was making his 197th appearance for the club, getting down well to parry Maxime Lestienne's low shot.
Newcastle's first-half attacking was patient if a little pedestrian, with Obertan in particular initially struggling to make much of an impact from the flank.
The Frenchman embarked on a couple of purposeful dribbles, before Ameobi cruised past three defenders shortly after the half-hour mark, only to drag a 20-yard shot wide of the upright.
On the whole, though, Newcastle failed to ask too many questions of Brugge goalkeeper Bojan Jorgacevic.
A rare exception came in the 14th minute, with the Serbian producing an excellent point-blank save to keep out Cisse's header. The striker directed his effort much to close to the keeper as he met Ferguson's cross on the edge of the six-yard box, but Jorgacevic still did well to beat the ball to safety.
Cisse had already had a decent penalty shout turned down at that stage – Bart Buysse looked to be pushing the African as he cleared Ameobi's cross – and Newcastle's £10m man capped an industrious first-half display with an acrobatic half-volley that brought another impressive save out of Jorgacevic.
Brugge's shooting before the interval was more wayward, although the dangerous Lestienne came close with a low 44th-minute effort that whistled past the post.
Pardew introduced Shola Ameobi at the interval in the hope of increasing his side's attacking threat, and his positivity was rewarded within three minutes of the break.
Shola's influence in the goal was fairly minimal, although he released his brother, Sammy, to kick-start a move that flowed from one end of the field to the other.
Sammy did brilliantly, flicking the ball over his opponent's head to create space and slipping through a slide-rule pass to release Obertan into the area.
The Frenchman still had plenty of work to do as he advanced into the box, but he finished with a flourish, cracking a powerful drive into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. For a player who has often been accused of lacking composure, it was an excellent strike.
The goal represented an ideal start to the second half, and while Harper was called into action shortly after to tip Lior Refaelov's low effort around the post, Newcastle looked more comfortable playing in an orthodox 4-4-2 formation after the break.
Nevertheless, they would have been pegged back in the 63rd minute had it not been for an extraordinary miss from Brugge striker Carlos Bacca.
The Colombian was completely unmarked inside the six-yard box as he met Lestienne's left-wing cross, but his downward header somehow bounced harmlessly over the crossbar.
Comments are closed on this article.