Quarter-Final 1st leg
Newcastle 1-0 Sporting Lisbon
The big story on Tyneside in recent days has been the boxing match between Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer during last week’s defeat to Aston Villa. Therefore, with Sporting Lisbon in town for the UEFA Cup quarter-final encounter, Newcastle manager Graeme Souness will have been relieved to be able to concentrate on football matters.
Souness left Bowyer on the bench, recalled Jermaine Jenas to central midfield and started with Dyer on the right of midfield, not his preferred position.
Newcastle took the lead with a routine training ground set piece. From Frenchman, Laurent Robert’s free kick, Shola Ameobi blocked off Alan Shearer’s marker, leaving the veteran forward with a free header which he took with aplomb.
Shearer impressed throughout, leading the line with a cunning edge to his play. The goal was his 30th European goal; it puts him alongside great strikers such as Peter Lorimer and former Newcastle and Liverpool forward Ian Rush in the all-time list of English strikers in Europe.
Newcastle will take heart from the fact that Sporting Lisbon leading goal scorer Liedson is now ruled out of the return leg through suspension. The Sporting frontman tested Shay Given on a couple of occasions, but otherwise he did not pose much of a threat.
Rui Jorge came closest for the visitors in the first half, lashing a shot just wide before half time.
At the break Shay Given limped off with a hip injury, to be replaced by Steve Harper. The substitute looked on anxiously when Carlos Martins hit a thunderous right foot drive, which was inches wide, but that was the closest the Portuguese team came to scoring.
Newcastle thought they had added a second when Robert fired in a free-kick but the referee made him take it again, claiming he had not blown his whistle. The Frenchman claimed he asked for permission to take the free-kick quickly, but the referee ordered a retake.
Souness’s side still have a lot of work to do to finish the tie off in Lisbon, but they will happy with a professional performance and also with not conceding an away goal to Sporting.
Last week’s villain of piece, Lee Bowyer, did make an appearance, replacing his adversary from last weekend, Kieron Dyer. The two embraced and Bowyer ran on to a rapturous reception from the forgiving Newcastle crowd.
The cheers were music to Bowyer’s ears, who has pleaded for a second chance at Newcastle.
“It was really good, I couldn’t have asked for any more,” Bowyer told ITV2 after the game.
“I did a little article in the local paper today and just asked them to give me a chance, and thankfully they have done that and hopefully I can repay them in the future.”
Bowyer accepts that he may not have a long-term future at Newcastle, but vowed to give his all while he is at the club.
“Long term it is not down to me,” he added.
“I got brought on tonight and that is all I can ask for.”
“The fans know that they will get 100 percent from me every game and the support was great.”
Manager Souness seemed happy with the result and also the performance. It has been a tough week for the Scot; he certainly gained a few more grey hairs. Souness admitted that his men did not play as well as they can, but was happy to take any advantage into the second leg in Lisbon next week.
“I’m glad to get it out of the way,” said Souness.
“We didn’t pay that well but we won and kept a clean sheet which was important.”
“I’m glad to have got through a game where we had so much pressure on the players.
“But the important thing is that we have come out of it with an advantage.”
Alan Shearer also talked to ITV 2, “It was very good win,”
“We had a lot of pressure on us for various reasons, but we’ve got a good record in this competition and we proved tonight we mean business.”
“We want to go all the way, we want to win it. There was a lot of determination out there to get the win and we’ve got it.
“It will be a tough game over there, they have got enough quality on the ball to cause anyone problems but we always fancy our chances to score and we’ve kept a clean sheet tonight.”