Newcastle United have qualified for the group stages of the Europa League for the first time in over five years, as they edged out Greek side Atromitos 1-0 at St James’ Park. Haris Vuckic scored the goal that Alan Pardew’s side held on to, as the Magpies enjoyed a relatively comfortable night at home.

There were a couple of scary moments for the home side though, as Brazilian striker Chumbinho was brought down by Tim Krul inside the area and looked to have won a penalty, only for the referee to book the Atromitos player instead.
Alan Pardew will also have to make the decision whether to enter the transfer market before the deadline or not, as Ryan Taylor had to be withdrawn early on with a serious looking knee injury. The former Wigan man sustained the problem after hurdling a tackle and collapsing, suggesting it could be ligament damage.

Taylor’s withdrawal proved to be a blessing in disguise though, as it allowed Vuckic to be introduced earlier than anticipated. The 20-year old attacking midfielder is highly rated by those around the club and he proved why when he found the back of the net from long range just ten minutes after coming on. Hopefully this can be the start of the Slovenian’s emergence as a top player on Tyneside.

Vuckic’s goal had an air of confidence about it, as he collected Danny Simpson’s throw-in and cut inside onto his stronger left foot. His 25-yard shot was unlikely to trouble Charles Itandje but a deflection off Matias Iglesias gave the former Liverpool goalkeeper no chance.

Newcastle looked likely to get a second too, as Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux caused problems down both flanks for the visitors, although the final ball just wasn’t there as Demba Ba toiled away in the centre. The closest they came was Marveaux’s shot was comfortably saved, while James Perch also seen an effort drift wide.

The visitors started to create chances of their own, with Chumbinho at the centre of everything positive Atromitos did. First, the Brazilian striker tested Krul with a smart shot, before evading the Dutch keeper inside the area only to be brought down. The replays looked to be in favour of the Greeks although the referee was convinced Chumbinho had dived and promptly booked the forward.

Newcastle replied by almost doubling their lead, but Obertan’s effort was kept out by Itandje. The visitors quickly went back on the attack and did look dangerous at times, although the killer pass was always missing from their play.
They did waste a golden chance in the dying moments though, as a loose ball fell to Elini Dimoutsos inside the area, only for the midfielder to blaze wide with the goal at his mercy.

But in the end Newcastle held on and secured their place in the group stages of the Europa League. There will be bigger and tougher tests to come in future but this win ensures the Magpies will have the chance to mix it with some of the European big boys on Thursday nights in future months.

By Chief Sports Writer Marley Anderson