Bowyer on target as Newcastle coast home

Sochaux 0 - Newcastle United 4
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The Independent Online

A survey of Premiership clubs this week revealed that Newcastle supporters spend more following their team than anyone else. Ant and Dec, the current embodiment of Geordie culture, would have considered the £420 they splashed out securing the Australian rights to this Uefa Cup match so they could watch it while filming I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! a decent investment.

A survey of Premiership clubs this week revealed that Newcastle supporters spend more following their team than anyone else. Ant and Dec, the current embodiment of Geordie culture, would have considered the £420 they splashed out securing the Australian rights to this Uefa Cup match so they could watch it while filming I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! a decent investment.

They saw one of Newcastle's most impressive displays of the season, their first victory on French soil, and one that secured their passage to the last 32 of the competition, although it was one when Newcastle's shots on target almost precisely equalled their number of goals.

The more Sochaux pressed, the more they conceded. The third, set up by a superb pass from Kieron Dyer, allowed Aaron Hughes to pull the ball back for Craig Bellamy to clip home. The fourth, in the final moments of a surreal icy evening in the car-manufacturing capital of France, was a delicately placed free-kick from Laurent Robert. Sochaux looked shocked.

Since coming to Tyneside accompanied by a baggage train of controversy, Lee Bowyer has struggled to recapture the ability to score freely from midfield that made him such a force at Leeds. Nevertheless, last night's goal may have been his first in 16 matches but it was supremely well taken.

It was created by one of Shola Ameobi's great qualities, his sheer awkwardness to play against. In attempting to take the ball from the Newcastle striker, Gregory Paisley, the Sochaux left-back, was confronted by a flurry of arms and legs; and saw it rebound off his heel straight into Bowyer's path. A thunderous shot did the rest.

Paisley's night was to become steadily worse. A mere 49 seconds into the second half, he lunged in to cut out Olivier Bernard's cross, missed completely and put off his goalkeeper, Teddy Richert, to such an extent that Ameobi had the simplest of tasks to roll the ball into an empty net.

The stadium was rather nonplussed. Newcastle had scored twice from two shots; Sochaux had enjoyed rather more. Jacques Crevoisier, Gérard Houllier's first-team coach at Liverpool, now plying his trade as a commentator, stated that, with Monaco, Sochaux are currently the best pure footballing side in Le Championnat. They proved the theory with some lovely passing on a bitter evening and but for Shay Given they would have had some goals to show for the quality of their play.

This was the Irishman's 300th game for Newcastle and he marked it with an inspired performance. His saves ranged from flinging himself to turn aside Jérémy Menez's free-kick to blocking Ilan's drive with a desperately outstretched right leg. However, it was his passing that would most linger in Given's memory. Sprinting out of his area, he took the ball halfway up the pitch before finding Craig Bellamy with a long pass any midfielder would have claimed as his own. Bellamy's first-time centre should have produced a goal but James Milner somehow managed to scoop his volley over from less than six yards.

Given even survived a penalty, awarded for what must have been the slightest of tugs on Michael Isabey's shirt by Bernard during a furious goalmouth scramble. Jérémy Mathieu, however, ensured some kind of justice was done by putting the spot-kick wide. When their coach, Guy Lacombe, reflected on this night, he would conclude that Sochaux's defeat was largely self-inflicted.

Sochaux: (4-4-2) Richert; Daf, Diawara, Paisley, Mathieu; Isabey (Diarra, 84), Lonfat (Boudarene, 17), Pitau, Oruma; Menez (Santos, 57), Ilan. Substitutes not used: Gnanhouan (gk), Tall, Lavie, De Carvalho.

Newcastle United: (4-4-2) Given; Hughes, Bramble, Elliott, Bernard; Ambrose (Taylor, 90), Milner (Robert, 81) , Butt, Bowyer (Dyer, 61); Ameobi, Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Brittain, Jenas, Kluivert.

Referee: C M Davila (Spain).

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