Newcastle Utd 2 Celta Vigo 1
Thursday November 23rd 2006
NEWCASTLE UTD 2 CELTA VIGO 1
NEWCASTLE: Given, Solano, Bramble, Taylor, Ramage, Milner,Butt (Parker 65), Emre (Martins 70), N'Zogbia, Luque, Sibierski.
Subs Not Used: Harper, Huntington, Edgar, Carroll, Troisi.
CELTA VIGO: Esteban, Angel, Yago, Contreras, Placente,Jonathan, Iriney, Borja, Nene (Lopez 74),Baiano (Jesus Perera 61), Canobbio (Jorge 86).
Subs Not Used: Pinto, Jonathan Vila, Juncal, Martino.
Who can explain why an injury hit Newcastle United have produced three superb results - and performances - in this group stage of the UEFA Cup, yet look a pale shadow when they play in the Premiership?
Make no mistake, this was as good a result as anyone could have hoped, against a team who have won at Real Madrid and Deportivo in recent weeks.
What beat the classy Spanish outfit, in my humble opinion, was the old-fashioned English game. While Celta tried to get hold of the ball, control the game, and strike when it fancied them ... and it certainly worked with Fabian Canobbio's ninth-minute opener ... Newcastle used width to pin them back. James Milner hit them hard down the flank, and Celta couldn't handle Antoine Sibierski when he powered into the box. The Frenchman is not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but when comes at you full force, you had better get out of his way!
This superb result extends United's unbeaten run in cup ties this season to 11 games, and they have not lost in their last four in all competitions.
Some questioned why Glenn Roeder went for Nobby Solano at full-back, but with so many defenders injured, the manager had little option. Solano has played for Peru at right-back, so it wasn't as though he was thrown in at the deep end.
United took 30 minutes to find their feet, but hardly surprising considering Roeder's hands were tied. He had a right-winger playing at right-back, a central defender at left-back and no recognised striker on the pitch, but not through choice.
Albert Luque, who has repeatedly voiced his frustration at his lack of chances, did nothing to show the folks back home he is still a class act. The match was shown live back in his home country and personally I'd have taken him off at half-time, to show the Spanish people just how much of a flop he is! But with Roeder trying hard to off-load him, he was right to give him the chance to 'right a few wrongs'.
Celta's goal was majestic and Shay Given didn't stand a cat in hell's chance of keeping it out. Just nine minutes gone, Steven Taylor headed a seemingly harmless Angel free-kick out of goalkeeper Given's hands. When the ball was sent back in Canobbio skipped past Emre's poor challenge and curled a superb left-foot shot past the goalkeeper.
There were 36 minutes on the clock when Milner picked up possession wide on the right and flighted a cross towards Sibierski at the far post, and he jumped unopposed to head firmly past Esteban.
Titus Bramble might have put the home side in front on the stroke of half-time, but he could not keep his header down from an Emre free-kick.
As time ran down, Newcastle looked the more likely to snatch victory, substitute Obafemi Martins giving Charles N'Zogbia a run at goal and then seeing his own shot blocked 14 minutes from time.
However, it was defender Taylor who provided the decisive touch, thumping a header past the stranded Esteban from Luque's 86th-minute corner before sprinting the length of the St James' pitch in celebration.