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Shola so close as Magpies are held
8:13pm Thursday 20th September 2012 in Sport
Final Score: Maritimo 0 Newcastle United 0
Shola Ameobi came agonisingly close to firing Newcastle to an opening Europa League victory as the woodwork and Maritimo keeper Romain Salin combined to thwart him.
The 30-year-old, captaining a much-changed side at the Estadio dos Barreiros, hit both the post and the crossbar and saw Salin block another effort on a frustrating evening for the Magpies in Madeira.
Midfielder Dan Gosling was also denied by an upright after Alan Pardew’s men bounced back from a less than impressive start to their Group D campaign.
They were indebted to keeper Rob Elliot for two early saves, and he got down well 20 minutes from time to keep out dangerman Sami’s strike, but he also needed the help of the bar when Davide Santon headed Valentin Roberge’s late header against it.
But having gone into the game with only two members of what would be considered his strongest starting line-up – Steven Taylor and Santon – Pardew will have been the happier manager with a point banked and key men rested ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Norwich.
Newcastle turned in a poor first-half performance at Everton on Monday before staging a concerted fightback, and they were little more impressive during the early stages last night.
They might have been behind with less than two minutes on the clock when David Simao found space on the left to send in a dangerous cross which was only just too strong for Heldon as he slid in.
Maritimo, who went into the game unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions, were too slick for Pardew’s weakened side during the opening 25 minutes and, had it not been for Elliot, could have been in serious arrears.
The former Charlton keeper pulled off a fine reaction save to keep out Sami’s 11thminute volley and then blocked with his legs after the striker had run clear of the visitors’ defence.
But the Magpies started to find their feet and went close to the opening goal on four different occasions.
Gael Bigirimana saw his 27th-minute corner tipped over by keeper Romain Salin and then French midfielder Romain Amalfitano had a goal-bound volley blocked.
But it was the woodwork which came to the Madeira side’s rescue twice in quick succession.
Defender Mike Williamson found the ball at his feet inside the penalty area and, when his shot was deflected, Shola Ameobi dived in to head towards goal where the ball hit the post.
Gosling was denied by the opposite upright on the halfhour.
Shola Ameobi was desperately unfortunate not to score just two minutes after the restart when he capitalised on an error by Joao Guilherme to charge into the box and sidestep Roberge before curling a shot past Salin, but on to the bar.
The striker was joined on the pitch by younger brother Sammy after 53 minutes, and the pair combined well to set up Amalfitano, although his shot was wayward.
However, the home side perhaps should have gone ahead with 59 minutes gone when Sami ran into space on the left and crossed for Fidelis to blast a first-time effort just past the post with Elliot helpless.
The Magpies enjoyed a major escape when Roberge connected with Rafael Miranda’s flick-on and Santon somehow managed to smuggle the ball away.
Maritimo : Salin, Valentin, Luis Olim, Briguel, Joao Guilherme, Rafael Miranda, Heldon (Fidelis 54), Joao Luiz, Simao (Abreu 75), Sami, Danilo Dias (Adilson 82).
Subs (not used): Lima De Oliveira, Diogo, Marcio Rosario, Rossi Branco
Newcastle : Elliot, Santon, Williamson, Perch, S Taylor, Gosling, Amalfitano (Ferguson 76), Bigirimana, Obertan (Marveaux 80), Vuckic (Sami Ameobi 53), Shola Ameobi.
Subs (not used): Harper (gk), Tavernier, Abeid, Campbell