Newcastle United claimed a fine 1-0 win in Palermo to move to within touching distance of a place in the third round of the Uefa Cup. Albert Luque's 37th-minute header capped an impressive first half from the Magpies in Sicily last night.
As Palermo pushed for an equaliser in the second half, the debutant goalkeeper Tim Krul kept Glenn Roeder's side in the game with several match-winning saves.
The 18-year-old described his debut as "unbelievable" after he was called in to replace the injured Steve Harper who failed a late fitness test. "What an atmosphere. It was unbelievable, and I got a clean sheet as well," Krul said.
Luque earned a rare start in attack with Roeder having little option but to thrust the Spanish striker in to the fray due to injuries and the unavailability of Giuseppe Rossi. Roeder had said it was up to Luque to prove he deserved a regular place in his side - however, it was James Milner who looked the more motivated.
Shifting from the left-wing into a support role up front, the 20-year-old created the biggest threat for the Magpies.
Having first tested Alberto Fontana from just inside the area, his trickery allowed him to turn Andrea Barzagli inside the six-yard to make room for another shot, but he appeared to be impeded unfairly by the Palermo defender. His shot was too weak to test Fontana, however, while his stronger claims for a penalty fell on deaf ears.
Palermo had shown more going forward inside the opening 10 minutes and Craig Moore twice came to the rescue of Krul with last-ditch clearances.
Krul looked a little nervous and his kicking was particularly wayward with the home side's brightest player Franco Brienza almost capitalising on a poor clearance, only to fire over from 25 yards.
As the visitors began to push forward again, Milner provided the opportunity for Luque to open his account for the season, and he did not disappoint either.
With Barzagli and Hernan Dellafiore both stood like statues in the middle, Luque stole in between the pair to head in Milner's left-wing cross and give Newcastle a lead they deserved.
The goal was only the second Palermo had conceded at the Renzo Barbera in seven European games, the first since 9 September last year. And the scorer back then will be familiar to Newcastle fans - the Georgian midfielder Temuri Ketsbaia who scored for Anorthosis Famagusta in a 2-1 defeat.
Palermo were keen not to lose their unbeaten home European record and camped in the Newcastle half for the second half. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff for Roeder's men, but just as the Newcastle manager had predicted on Wednesday, it was time for one of his youngsters to make a name for himself. After an hour, Krul had certainly settled down and began to repay Roeder's faith with a string of good saves.
The Palermo substitutes Giuseppe Biava and David Di Michele both failed to beat him as Brienza's free-kick seemed certain to produce the equaliser. First, Krul dived low to tip Biava's stooping header to his left and then he got back on to his feet to block Di Michele's follow-up.
The goalkeeper then produced another top-drawer save to deny Andrea Caracciolo. But several wayward passes convinced the home fans it was not going to be their night and Newcastle were comfortably able to play out time.
Palermo: Fontana; Dellafiore, Cassani, Barzagli (Biava, h-t), Pisano, Tedesco (Simplicio, 66), Guana (Di Michele, 66), Parravicini, Munari, Brienza, Caracciolo. Substitutes not used: Sirigu (gk), Zaccardo, Bovo, Bresciano.
Newcastle United: Krul; Ramage, Moore, Bramble, Taylor, Solano (Carroll, 90), Emre, N'Zogbia (Sibierski, 68), Milner, Butt, Luque (Pattison, 77). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Huntington, Bernard, Troisi.
Referee: J Jara (Cz Rep).Reuse content