So United march on to face Munich in the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night. No, not that United – nor that Munich. Instead of the English champions and the champions of Europe, the tie in the Bavarian capital will be an 11th in the Premiership v 11th in the Bundesliga affair. Such is the allure of the Intertoto Cup.
It was alluring enough to draw 29,021 folk to St James' Park last night, a record crowd for the competition. And the massed ranks of the Toon Army were happy enough to see Newcastle United overcome the nominal challenge posed by Sporting Lokeren to confirm a semi-final date against 1860 Munich. In truth, Newcastle's progress was never in doubt, Bobby Robson's side having returned from the away leg last Saturday with a 4-0 lead. For good measure, though, they made it two wins out of two in the poor man's European Cup, thanks to a goal on the hour by Craig Bellamy.
That Newcastle were grateful to see off a team described as "the Brentford of Belgium" measures just how low the Magpies have stooped in the continental scheme of things in the since the night they beat Barcelona in the Champions' League. Only Warren Barton remained from the Newcastle side that beat Rivaldo, Figo and Co 3-2 on Tyneside. Alan Shearer and Kieron Dyer were among the injured or convalescing absentees and after all the talk from the boardroom in March of Newcastle attracting the cream of European talent the only new recruits in black and white were Bellamy and Robbie Elliott, hardly two of the continent's finest.
Bellamy produced a Ronny Rosenthal masterclass of sitter-missing on his last visit to St James', with Coventry in February, and squandered the first clear chance that materialised last night. The Welshman was put through with only Mladen Dabanovic to beat – courtesy of Wayne Quinn's angled ball and Shola Ameobi's deft flick – but his low shot was saved.
There was precious little after the break either – apart from the point-blank finish Bellamy applied when Gary Speed rose to head Christian Bassedas' left-wing cross. Newcastle were never more than functional. Not that they needed to be.
Lokeren lived up to their Brentford billing. They finished a man short, too. Alen Mrzlecki, their Croatian defender, was asked to depart with nine minutes remaining after commiting a second bookable offence. By then, the Toon Army were already planning their march to Munich.
Newcastle United 1
Half-time 0-0. Attendance: 29,021. Agg: 5-0Reuse content