Newcastle United 0: Ventspils 0 (Newcastle win 1-0 on aggregate)

Newcastle show need for Martins' theatrics
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The Independent Online

Reflecting on the handsome wages he has secured from his new club, Obafemi Martins perhaps realised the strong bargaining position he has just relinquished to wring a few thousand more pounds from prospective employers. If ever a club were in desperate need of a goalscorer, it is Newcastle United.

From his vantage point in the Milburn Stand, within shoulder-rubbing distance of the watching Alan Shearer, the man whom he has arrived to replace, the £10m signing from Internazionale witnessed Newcastle's at times desperate shortcomings in front of goal against Ventspils in the Uefa Cup second qualifying round second leg last night.

They take their place in this afternoon's draw for the first round proper after a modest aggregate victory against a Latvian side of League One standard, but Newcastle's manager, Glenn Roeder, clearly needs an instant return on his investment when Newcastle are pitted against sides more able to exploit their chronic lack of firepower. James Milner struck the bar with an 80th-minute free-kick, but there was little else to dissuade Martins that the weight of expectation rests squarely on his shoulders.

Martins began the first leg of his "welcome to Tyneside" tour in impressive fashion, his theatrical milking of the applause as he strode on to the pitch prior to kick-off suggesting self-confidence will not be an issue for the 21-year-old. The Nigerian striker will be formally introduced at a press conference this afternoon.

His new team-mates tried their best to match Martins' obvious talent for showmanship, producing a series of impressive early moves as they looked to build on a single-goal advantage from the first leg.

It soon became clear that Ventspils' main aim was to minimise the magnitude of their aggregate defeat rather than attempt to produce the kind of shock their sole supporter, engulfed by empty seats in the visitors' enclosure, was clearly rooting for to reward his one-man pilgrimage.

Scott Parker miscued a shot from close range when he met Milner's intelligent cut-back, while Charles N'Zogbia's strong run ended with the Frenchman sending a low shot narrowly wide as Newcastle sought the goal to spell the point of no return for the Latvians.

Despite Newcastle's dominance, Andris Vanins was not seriously called upon until the final 10 minutes of the first-half, when the goalkeeper made a meal of stopping Emre's dipping 20-yard shot, before improving on that with a rather more impressive low save from N'Zogbia.

Newcastle United (4-3-2-1): Harper; Carr, Taylor, Bramble, Babayaro; Emre, Parker, N'Zogbia; Duff, Milner; Luque. Substitutes not used: Krul (gk), Solano, Butt, Huntington, Ramage, O'Brien, Pattison.

FK Ventspils (4-4-2): Vanins; Kacanovs, Ndeki, Gorkss, Bicka; Pokarynin, Dubenskis, Vukovic, Zizilevs; Rimkus (Stukalins, 90), Kolesnicenko (Kosmacovs, 86). Substitutes not used: Soleicuks, Sokolskis, Goncars, Lazdins, Davidovs (gk).

Referee: T Einwaller (Austria).

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