Zulte-Waregem 1 Newcastle United 3: Sibierski restores pride after Duff fall tarnishes victory

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A fine goal from Antoine Sibierski ensured Newcastle returned from Belgium in ideal shape to progress following the Uefa Cup last 32, first-leg tie here in Gent last night. Sibierski's excellent solo goal, a penalty from Obafemi Martins won after a theatrical dive from Damien Duff and an own goal from Zulte's hapless defender Frédéric Dindeleux gave Glenn Roeder's side the perfect platform to progress into the last 16.

Roeder fielded his strongest possible team, making just two changes to the side which beat Liverpool 2-1 at the weekend, with Duff and Sibierski replacing Scott Parker and Oguchi Onyewu.

The home side started at a high tempo, forcing three early free-kicks, although they were unable to make anything of them. Nicky Butt, who had been booked for an early foul on Wouter Vandendriessche, and Kieron Dyer gradually worked their way into the game. Dindeleux had to get in an important 12th-minute challenge to deny Duff a shot after he had combined with Sibierski, and the goalkeeper Pieter Merlier was called upon for the first time three minutes later when Martins shot weakly.

The home side were seeing little of the ball, although when they were in possession, they moved it well without ever threatening to open up the visitors.

Nolberto Solano and James Milner combined to good effect on 23 minutes for Solano to whip in a cross which was just too high for Martins at the far post.

Roeder's men should have been in front moments later when Dyer burst forward and picked out Martins, who controlled the ball into space only to stab it wide with just Merlier to beat.

Dyer saw an effort blocked by Merlier, before the home fans appealed in vain for a penalty when Tony Sergeant's shot hit Steven Taylor's hand. But it was the visitors who took the lead within 90 seconds of the restart, although they needed assistance as Solano's intelligent pass to Dyer allowed the midfielder to drive the ball across the goal, where Dindeleux could only help it into his own net.

Francky Dury's men were not about to give up on their dream and rallied briefly to force Newcastle back. But, the visitors increased their lead on 59 minutes after Duff went down theatrically under Merlier's challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. Replays showed little or no contact, but that did not stop Martins grabbing the ball and calmly beating Merlier for his 13th of the season from the spot.

The Belgians grabbed a lifeline on 69 minutes when Karel D'Haene glanced a header past Steve Harper from Loris Reina's free-kick, and moments later D'Haene again forced Harper to tip a stinging drive over.

But Sibierski produced a touch of class to restore Newcastle's advantage 14 minutes from time. The Frenchman collected Martins' pass and danced past Dindeleux before rounding Stefan Leleu and Merlier to score.

Zulte-Waregem (4-4-2): Merlier; De Brul (Van Steenbrugge, 82), D'Haene, Dindeleux, Leleu; Reina, Meert (Buysse, 86), Sergeant, Verschuere; Matthys, Van Den Driessche (Vandermarliere, 65). Substitutes not used: Bossut (gk), Siani.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Solano, Taylor, Bramble, Babayaro; Milner, Butt, Dyer, Duff; Martins (Luque, 86), Sibierski. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Carroll, Edgar, Huntington, Pattison, Troisi.

Referee: A Genov (Bulgaria).

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