Newcastle’s gamble in playing forward Craig Bellamy paid dividends as he scored a 90th minute winner to ensure their qualification for the second phase of the Champions league.
Bobby Robson’s side, 3-2 victors over Feynoord, qualified as runners-up to Juventus who ensured the Premiership side’s qualification by defeating Dynamo Kiev 2-1.
The Tyneside team, who had lost their opening three fixtures in the campaign, threw away a two goal advantage, before Bellamy’s last-gasp winner.
Robson was delighted with the result, claiming it was his greatest success since taking the job.
“I’m ecstatic – but numb as well”, said the 69-year-old manager.
Referring to the turnaround following their disastrous start to the group, he said: “We never gave it up, but we didn’t think we’d get nine points from three games, so it’s worked out wonderfully well, and Juventus have done us a great job.”
Robson was kept informed about events in the Ukraine throughout the match.
“I heard at one stage it was 1-1 in Kiev, but this game had too much in it for me to think about another game. I couldn’t take two games at the same time, so I gave that one up,” he explained.
The Geordie manager was delighted when Bellamy netted in the 90th minute, justifying his recall from injury.
“He hasn’t played for three and half weeks. I thought he just might give us that last20-yard surge to give us a goal”
The Welsh international forward, who also scored the first goal, was jubilant afterwards.
He said: “I knew this was always going to be the big one and was desperate to play. I just tried to get it on target and did enough to score. Typical of us to do it the hard way.”
The win will earn the club in excess of œ12 million through gate receipts, appearance and win bonuses as well as sponsorship spin-offs.
Despite missing out on this cash bonanza, Dynamo Kiev coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko has already set his sights on the UEFA cup.
The former Rangers midfielder said: “Of course we’re disappointed we didn’t take second place in the group. It doesn’t matter who we face in the UEFA Cup, the main thing is it represents another opportunity for us, and we will do our best to make the most of that opportunity.”
After going one-nil up in the 50th minute, the Ukranian champions were unable to contain the Italian giants and goals from Salas and Zalayeta ended their chances. However, the Kiev coach was full of praise for the Italian champions.
“Even though Juventus were missing several players, their team still represents a perfectly working machine, and we will try to learn from it.”