Toon 1 Atromitos 0
By Footy Mad - Editor
Updated Friday, 31st August 2012
Newcastle only had 47 fans in Athens last week, and I counted 30 Greeks in the corner of the East Stand last night. So there weren't many places selling kebabs in the Toon last night.
This was Newcastle's 122nd match in European competition, and can I add ... Sunderland have played FOUR (1973/4) ... and the Magpies will now have at least six more games to add to that proud tally.
However, we have seen some fabulous evenings in European competition at St James' Park since our first fixture against Feyenoord back in 1968 - but this was not one of them.
Alan Pardew played the reserves in Athens, and he threw together a side last night that was stronger (on paper) but not one player shone brighter than the third strip they wore.
They stumbled through to the group stages on a night when Tim Krul looked very shaky and the referee was very kind to us Geordies.
That after the goal the highlight of the game was the appearance of a streaker who had the crowd laughing as he slipped and skated his way across the wet pitch ... which tells you much about the quality of the game.
United settled the quicker, and pressed and probed in the early stages backed by a big crowd, but it was never a vintage performance.
I still have questions to ask of Sylvain Marveaux, and it's hardly surprising Pardew has been on his case recently.
Demba Ba causing panic in the visiting defence, when he was given the ball, but that wasn't that often.
Gabriel Obertan, like Marveaux, has good points ... but a lot of bad points too ... although I must admit the former Man Utd winger was one of our best performers. At least he raised the crowd at times, and not many of the others can say the same.
Ryan Taylor went down badly on the touchline close to the Milburn Stand and was substituted.
But with 22 minutes played it was Taylor’s replacement, Haris Vuckic, who broke the deadlock. Vuckic let fly with a deflected left-footed effort at the Leazes End which left Charles Itandje with no chance.
United almost doubled their lead on 27 minutes when Ba fired in powerfully with his left foot after Marveaux’s cute pass but Itandje pushed the ball away low to his right.
The only nervous moment of the first half came when Tim Krul swiped the feet of Marinaldo Da Silva, and the referee said the Greek had dived and booked him.
The consequences of a penalty and a red card for Krul would have been unthinkable. Down to ten men and Krul banned for three games.
Yet United survived.
Marveaux did well to nick the ball from Jonas lookalike Walter Iglesias before bursting down the left, but his indecision allowed the Greeks to snuff the chance out.
Moments later on the right hand flank, Obertan found space down the right before being denied by Itandje.
With the Greeks growing in confidence, it resulted in a nervous finish at St James’ – not least when Nikolaos Lazaridis rolled one just wide of the post in the dying stages.
In the end 1-0 was enough.
NEWCASTLE: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Ryan Taylor (11 Vuckic), Obertan, Bigirimana, Perch (59 Tavernier), Marveaux (91 Amalfitano), Gosling, Ba. Subs: Harper, Cabaye, Cisse, Campbell.
ATROMITOS: Itandje, Skondras, Fitanidis, Lazaridis, Giannoulis, Iglesias, Brito, Dimoutsos, Chumbinho, Epstein, Karamanos. Subs: Radman, Tavlaridis, Kuqi, Beljic, Nastos, Balas, Garcia.