FK ZTS DUBNICA 1 NEWCASTLE 3
A first ever Newcastle senior goal from Michael Chopra and others from Alan Shearer and young James Milner have all but made the Intertoto Cup second leg clash at St James’ Park on Saturday academic.
However, United were given plenty to think about in this third round, first leg tie by Dubnica who finished fourth in last season’s Slovakian League.
United chairman Freddie Shepherd says his side earn Rolls Royce salaries, yet they received a few scares by a club set up in the 1920s by Skoda workers.
Without a pre-season friendly and more importantly without most of their leading players for a various of reasons, United had the game all but won in the opening seven minutes as they raced into a 2-0 lead.
There was less than four minutes on the clock when a long ball found Chopra in the clear. Looking suspiciously a yard offside, the striker was allowed to charge forward and nonchantly tucked his shot to the left of keeper Dusan Pernis from just inside the box for his first hometown goal.
It was a dream start that got even better in the seventh minute thanks to the determination of Charles N’Zogbia.
N’Zogbia battled his way into the left of the box and refused to be forced off the ball before seeing his shot take a deflection off Martin Svetska and while the ball appeared to drop over the line and bounce back out it was quickly bundled into the net by Shearer.
Whether or not UEFA will allow the United skipper to be credited with the goal - only time will tell.
At this stage it looked like an afternoon stroll in the park and just a matter of how many goals United would score.
But to their credit Dubnica picked themselves up and when sloppy work saw Nicky Butt lose possession on the half-way line a quick attack saw Marian Adam break clear and although he was forced wide by Steve Harper his low shot still hit the near upright.
Adam was proving more than a handful with his willingness to run with the ball.
Harper pulled of three stunning saves to maintain the two goal advantage after 39 minutes. First he made a great save from Igor Drzik, managed to keep out Lukas Tisak’s follow up and even then did enough to put off Peter Kiska before the ball was scrambled clear.
Drzik then produced a perfect right wing cross which Tiska headed in from close range after losing Steven Taylor and earn Dubnica the goal they so much deserved two minutes before the break.
Overrun in the second half, Harper saved from Drzik and Tesak as worried United boss Graeme Souness sent on Martin Brittain to tighten it up in midfield.
Milner was encouraging on the left and when he cut inside to race through the middle another United goal appeared to be on the cards after 64 minutes.
Milner held off two challenges and rounded Pernis only to repeat the first half feat of Adam and fire against the upright.
With two goals from their two shots on target, United completed a hat-trick after 70 minutes with a stunning goal from Milner with their third effort on goal.
Milner found some space and when he spotted Pernis off his line, lifted in the most delightful of lobs to all but book United’s semi-final spot.