NEWCASTLE UTD 2 LEVADIA TALLIN 1
NEWCASTLE: Harper, Carr, Bramble, Taylor, Ramage, Milner, Butt,Emre (Parker 80), N’Zogbia (Duff 70), Martins (Luque 70),Sibierski.
Subs Not Used: Krul, Moore, Ameobi, Pattison.
LEVADIA TALLIN: Kotenko, Sisov, Lemsalu, Cepauskas,Kalimullin, Dovydenas (Sander Puri 55), Vassiljev, Nahk,Dmitrijev (Kink 63), Purje, Voskoboinikov (Zelinski 63).
Subs Not Used: Stonys, Marmor, Kristian Malov, Regelskis.
Quite a low turn out with 27,012 present, leaving 25,000 empty seats, making many of us wonder why half the season ticket holders gave this UEFA Cup tie a miss. Ticket prices? TV coverage? Or the fact many thought it was formality and decided to keep their hard earned dosh for a later date?
Whatever the reason, they didn’t miss much in the first half, but Obafemi Martins put on a show in the 25 minutes he was on the pitch in the second half to take United into the UEFA Cup group stage.
The 21-year-old got his head to an Emre corner two minutes after the interval to claim his first goal at St James’ Park, and then added a second three minutes later with a superb strike that rattled down off the crossbar and into the back of the net.
Levadia saw a bit of light when substitute Indrek Zelinski pulled a goal back with the help of an error from Steve Harper in the 65th minute, but the Mags made changes and killed off the game to ease into the next round.
Antoine Sibierski’s goal at the Le Coq Arena was a fantastic cushion to rest on, but we didn’t expect Roeder’s lads to go to sleep! And United only created two real chances during the opening 45 minutes, and both came from set-pieces.
Defender Steven Taylor saw his goalbound shot blocked on 12 minutes after he connected with a Milner corner, and Emre forced keeper Artur Kotenko to make his only save of the half with a powerfully-struck free kick from a tight angle on 39 minutes.
Levadia enjoyed periods of pressure themselves and might have levelled the aggregate scores on 22 minutes when striker Vladimir Voskoboinikov dived to meet a Konstantin Vassiljev cross and powered a header over Harper’s bar.
Thank God Martins was awake, andthe 21-year-old Nigerian rose to glance a neat header past the helpless Kotenko from Emre’s near-post corner on 47 minutes.
But there was better to come three minutes later when, after Sibierski had headed the ball back, he smashed a left-foot drive past the keeper and in off the underside of the bar before celebrating with a series of somersaults.
However, Shay Given’s deputy was left red-faced once again with 65 minutes gone when he allowed Zelinski’s header to squeeze under his body to give the visitors renewed hope.
But Newcastle sat deep and took the sting out of the visitors, leaving the Estonians to try their luck from distance. But, unlike at Liverpool that week, Harper was equal to what was thrown his way.