Sunday, September 02, 2012

Thank Vuck for that

Newcastle Utd 1 - 0 Atromitos

A first senior strike from Haris Vuckic proved to be all that was necessary to overcome a spirited Atromitos side on Thursday night and book our place in the Europa League group stage.

With the Silver Fox electing to again shuffle the pack and hand the likes of Sylvain Marveaux, Gael Bigirimana (aka Bigi) and Obertan Kenobi starts, it was reassuring to see us start brightly and look to move the ball at pace to try and unsettle our opponents.

Unfortunately, disaster struck when Raylor rode a tackle before collapsing in agony clutching his leg, clearly unable to continue with what was subsequently confirmed as knee ligament damage which will rule him out for most if not all of the season. We shuffled the pack, Perchinho dropping back from midfield to left-back and Vuckic coming on to join Bigirimana in the centre of the pitch.

It was the young Slovenian who really grasped the opportunity of his early appearance from the bench, proving difficult for the visitors to pick up and when he collected a throw in on the right, he turned infield and fired a powerful left-foot shot, which flicked off the defender and nestled just inside the far post to give us a deserved lead.

What followed was a fluid attacking display in which both Marveaux and Obertan Kenobi looked to really stretch the Greek defence without ever quite managing to provide a gilt-edged chance for Demba Ba.

At the other end, despite the reshuffle, we looked steady right up until just before half-time, when Tim Krul fumbled a long-range shot and appeared to catch Chumbinho as the Brazilian latched onto the loose ball.  Thankfully, though, his theatrical fall gave the referee reason to believe it was a dive and not award the penalty or brandish a red card.

The second half saw us lose some of our early fluency, with the Greeks defending better against the threat posed by our wingers, without threatening too much themselves (one Elini Dimoutsos effort aside). That said, we couldn't get the second goal which would have put the game safe, and when Chumbinho again fell after minimal contact by Sideshow Bob there was an uncomfortable moment when the referee blew his whistle. Thankfully he chose to book Chumbinho for the dive rather than award what would have been a harsh penalty.

Otherwise we looked relatively steady without ever totally convincing, and if we're to make serious progress in the competition we'll need to find a greater fluency to our play than was evident in this match.

Other report: BBC

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