Ameobi spares Magpies’ blushes in poor European showing
Club Brugge 2 Newcastle 2
Shola Ameobi’s 14th European goal kept Newcastle’s Europa League campaign on track on an eventful evening against Club Brugge.
The 31-year-old struck from younger brother Sammy’s 43rd-minute pass two minutes after Vurnon Anita had dispatched a sweet volley to cancel out the 2-0 lead Brugge had been handed on a plate during an awful start by the visitors.
The Belgians went ahead with 14th minutes gone when Ivan Trickovski embarrassed skipper Fabricio Coloccini to register the first Group D goal conceded by Newcastle, and Jesper Jorgensen doubled their advantage within five minutes with Alan Pardew’s men simply not at the races.
However, a side featuring eight changes to the one which ran out at Liverpool on Sunday managed to summon up a commendable response to take a point which means they remain at the top of the group.
They might even have emerged victorious had substitute Yohan Cabaye’s 74th-minute free-kick not come back off the bar with keeper Bojan Jorgacevic stranded, although Tim Krul made vital second-half saves from Carlos Bacca, Mohamed Tchite and Vadis Odjidja as the home side finished strongly.
Newcastle arrived in Bruges to face a team which had lost its previous five games in all competitions, including a 1-0 reverse on Tyneside last month, and as a result dispensed with the services of manager Georges Leekens.
Pardew saw enough at St James’ Park to convince him that victory in the reverse fixture would be a tough ask and no doubt will have sent his troops into battle warning them to give nothing away.
In the event, they did exactly the opposite to hand Brugge a two-goal advantage inside 19 minutes.
First Coloccini, only starting the game because he is suspended for Sunday’s Barclays Premier League clash with West Ham, allowed Ryan Donk’s 14th-minute long ball to drop over his head, much as he had done at Anfield to allow Luis Suarez to score a brilliant equaliser, and Trickovski took full advantage to beat Krul.
The Dutchman had earlier been rescued by his captain after striker Bacca had charged down his attempted clearance with the Magpies woefully below par.
But things were to get much worse when, five minutes later, James Tavernier’s clearing header fell to Jorgensen 20 yards out and he fired into the bottom corner past a distinctly flat-footed Krul.
Newcastle looked to be heading for a real drubbing, but Sylvain Marveaux passed up a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit after 24 minutes when Gabriel Obertan presented him with an open goal, only for him to completely miss his kick.
However, as the half wore on, Pardew’s men eventually found a rhythm and Brugge keeper Bojan Jorgacevic had to tip Shola Ameobi’s header over the bar after he climbed well at the far post to meet brother Sammy’s cross 10 minutes before the break.
But the fireworks were still to come and were sparked by Anita’s first goal for the club, a sumptuous 41st-minute volley after full-back Tom Hogli’s header dropped invitingly to him on the edge of the penalty area.
The travelling fans were still celebrating when Shola Ameobi ran on to his 20-year-old brother’s pass two minutes later and stabbed the ball past the advancing Jorgacevic to level and spare himself and his team-mates the wrath of their manager at half-time.
Caretaker manager Philippe Clement sent on striker Tchite for Trickovski after the break, but it was the older Ameobi who was handed the first chance of the second half when he headed Coloccini’s cross straight at Jorgacevic.
The same man powered another effort inches over from Marveaux’s 50th-minute corner and then forced a diving one-handed save from Jorgacevic with the home side falling apart defensively.
However, it took Cheick Tiote’s timely intervention to deny Bacca a clear run at goal eight minutes after the restart and Krul had to make a smart save to keep out Tchite’s snapshot three minutes later.
But it was the visitors who were largely dominating proceedings with the Ameobis leading the way and Marveaux and Obertan starting to make an impression.
Krul had to palm Bacca’s close-range effort around the post after he had turned smartly on the edge of the six-yard box, and the Colombian sent a 65th-minute header over the bar after Maxime Lestienne had broken at pace down the right and crossed.
The Holland international excelled himself as time ran down to tip Tchite’s header over and then keep Odjidja’s curling shot out of the bottom corner with Brugge going for broke.
Bacca was appealing in vain for an 87th-minute penalty after going down under substitute Steven Taylor’s challenge, but Italian referee Luca Banti was unmoved, although Jorgensen went agonisingly close to an 89th-minute winner from a well-worked free-kick.