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Magpies secure Europa League progress
THERE was a lot of talk around St James’ Park about a striker from Newcastle United’s past last night, yet it was a forward very much part of the club’s future who cemented a place in the Europa League.
When it finally became apparent Andy Carroll , who completed a season-long loan move from Liverpool to West Ham, would not be heading back to Tyneside before tonight’s transfer deadline, his hometown club finished off the job they started in Greece. Just.
Seven days earlier Ryan Taylor’s free-kick in Athens gave Newcastle a foot in the door of the Europa League group stage and, after the injured full-back’s enforced withdrawal, his replacement struck the winning goal.
Haris Vuckic, a player Alan Pardew is keen to give more first team action to, celebrated his first senior goal ten minutes after his introduction to edge the Magpies ahead on aggregate against Atromitos.
And while there were a few nervy moments – notably when Tim Krul got away without a red card and conceding a penalty when he appeared to pull down Brazilian Chumbinho – Vuckic turned out to be the match-winner.
It might not have been a dazzling display which mirrored the bright green fourth kit worn for the first time last night, but it was a two-legged performance sufficient to secure a place in today’s group stage draw in Monaco.
The contest should never been in any doubt once Vuckic had put Newcastle ahead for the first time in the final qualifying round tie. Yet Atromitos did force a couple of late scares.
Vuckic’s turn and strike to meet Danny Simpson’s throw in from 20 yards took a deflection off Walter Iglesias before shaving the post and finding the net. It was the bit of freedom required to allow the Premier League club to relax.
Before that breakthrough in the 21st minute there had been glimpses of danger for their Greek counterparts, but the biggest concern was suffered by Newcastle.
After James Perch dropped a first time lob from distance the wrong side of the post, the hero of the first meeting suffered a worrying fall near the touchline.
Taylor, whose terrific trademark dead ball in Athens set things up nicely for Newcastle, landed awkwardly as he evaded a challenge and appeared to jar his right knee.
Within minutes he had been replaced and helped down the tunnel for further examinations.
Just as he was led away, the throw in from Perch picked out Sylvain Marveaux and the Frenchman’s darting run into the box ended with former Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje palming his drive behind for a corner.
Pardew’s team selection highlighted how seriously he was about making the next stage. And while the likes of Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan had another opportunity to stake a claim on the flanks among seven changes to the team defeated by Chelsea last weekend, there was still room for Krul, Fabricio Coloccini and Demba Ba.
The latter went close to scoring when Itandje got down low to turn his low shot behind with a strong arm, but the biggest talking point was Krul’s rare lapse of concentration.
The Dutch goalkeeper had already been tested by Chumbinho when the striker had charged in behind the Newcastle defence before the Atromitos forward was unfortunate not to earn a penalty – at least.
After Krul spilled a hopeful drive from distance from Denis Epstein, Chumbinho nipped in and took the ball away from the Newcastle No 1. Krul then appeared to pull down Chumbinho by his shin, but rather than gain a penalty, the striker was handed a caution for diving.
After the restart there was very little for Krul to do, although there was a scare shortly after Obertan forced a good save out of Itandje.
Newcastle had the vast majority of the ball but when Iglesias’ shot was blocked by Gael Bigirimana it looked as if Atromitos would force extratime.
The loose ball fell kindly to the unmarked Elini Dimoutsos but he somehow side-footed wide from 12 yards.
Even then Denis Epstein still had a further opportunity to equalise. The German, who hit the opener seven days earlier, blasted a yard over the bar as Newcastle survived.
Goal: Vuckic (21, 1-0)
Bookings : Chumbinho (43,
simulation); Beljic (86, simulation)
Referee: Stephan Studer
Attendance : 29,242
Entertainment : 2/5
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-2-3-1):
Krul 4; Simpson 6, Williamson 5,
Coloccini 6, R Taylor 5 (Vuckic 11,
6); Bigirimana 6, Perch 6 (Tavernier
60, 5); OBERTAN 7, Gosling 6,
Marveaux 7 (Amalfitano 90); Ba 5.
Subs (not used): Harper (gk),
Cabaye, Cisse, Campbell.
ATROMITOS (4-3-3): ITANDJE 8;
Skondras 6, Giannoulis 6, Lazaridis
7, Fytanidis 7; Iglesias 7,
Dimoutsos 5 (Garcia 85), Brito 6
(Kuqi 88); Karamanos 5,
Chumbinho 6 (Beljic 75), Epstein 7.
Subs (not used): Radman (gk),
Tavlaridis, Nastos, Ballas.
MAN OF THE MATCH
CHARLES Itandje – made a number
of saves to keep the score down