Newcastle United 1 Lillestrom 1: Luque's strike sets up vital match for Roeder

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The Independent Online

It is a sobering measure of how far the mighty have fallen when Newcastle United's new manager and the club's most experienced player describe next Saturday's Intertoto Cup tie as one of the most significant fixtures in the club's history.

Glenn Roeder and Shay Given are, of course, entirely right. Without European football Newcastle lack the finance, profile and pulling power to compete with the Premiership's élite. But the Magpies should be there on merit, not chasing Uefa Cup qualification in July.

It is not so long ago that Newcastle were in the second group stage of the Champions' League and from Barcelona to Chelsea, Internazionale to Arsenal, Europe's leading clubs feared their trips to Tyneside.

Yet somehow Newcastle lost their way, much to the frustration of their loyal supporters. There were more than 31,000 of themat St James' Park on Saturday for the visit of the Norwegians of Lillestrom. This on a day when the hot summer sun shone brightly over the spectacular Northumberland coastline and local hero Steve Harmison was in action at the home of cricket.

It is not even as if there was an abundance of new attractions to thrill the paying customers. Newcastle have not bought a single player during the close season and that is one of the reasons why Roeder and Given are so keen for victory in Oslo this weekend.

"There is a lot riding on next week," said the latter, whose typically athletic first-half saves prevented an embarrassing defeat. "It is key that we are in Europe in terms of attracting more players."

Roeder added: "When you are looking to bring players into the club it's always more helpful if you are playing in Europe.

"I won't let it slip easily and neither will the players. Prospective targets will look at what competitions we're in and want to see we're in the Uefa Cup. That adds more importance to the game next week."

If, as Lillestrom's manager Uwe Rosler claimed, the Norwegians rested four key players against Newcastle, then the prospect of Roeder recruiting his top targets appears unlikely. Far from overawed, the visitors should have been two goals to the good before Robert Koren broke the deadlock with a deflected 21st-minute shot. When United's Albert Luque equalised five minutes after the restart the Scandinavians were regretting those missed opportunities.

Luque, an inconsistent and injury-prone £10m purchase from Deportivo La Coruña last summer, is indicative of the type of high-earning, low-impact player Roeder will avoid as he looks to make his first signings as Newcastle manager this week. Nevertheless, without the Spaniard's goal the Magpies would be in a perilous position ahead of a return leg Given correctly describes as "massive".

Goals: Koren (21) 0-1; Luque (50) 1-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Taylor, Bramble, Babayaro; Solano, Parker, Emre, N'Zogbia; Milner (Ameobi, 65), Luque (O'Brien, 81). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Faye, Butt, Ramage, Pattison.

Lillestrom (4-4-2): Muller; Winsnes (Kali, 5), Andresen, Rambekk, Stefanutto; Riise (Wehrman, 68), Mouelhi, Sogard, Koren (Strand, 61); Occean, Misfud. Substitutes not used: Fredrikson (gk), Myklebust, Kippe, Sundgot.

Referee: J van der Velde (Belgium).

Booked: Lillestrom Occean.

Man of the match: Parker.

Attendance: 31,059.

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