Milner's quality glosses over Newcastle rustiness

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The Independent Football

Two goals inside the first seven minutes set up a relatively easy afternoon for Graeme Souness's side, despite a lack of match fitness that allowed Slovenia's ZTS Dubnica to stay in touch with them for longer than they should have.

Lukas Tesak provided some semblance of hope for the home side with a header just before half-time, but United restored their two goal advantage ahead of the return leg at St James' Park through James Milner's delightful lob.

Souness has barely been able to hide his irritation at his chairman Freddy Shepherd's decision to enter this competition. While the club is keen to further its standing abroad by qualifying for the Uefa Cup for a third consecutive season, Souness would rather concentrate on rebuilding the side's reputation in the Premiership.

As a result, he left several first-choice players back on Tyneside to rest, Stephen Carr and Jermaine Jenas joining new signings Scott Parker and Emre, while Shay Given rested on the bench. Jean-Alain Boumsong would not have played had it not been for Titus Bramble's broken arm and Kieron Dyer was withdrawn as a precaution due to a "tight" hamstring.

Lee Bowyer was also absent, fuelling speculation he is on the verge of a move back to his first club, Charlton Athletic.

It gave the game a low-key feel as hopes of an upset effectively disappeared once Michael Chopra had slotted the ball calmly home for his first goal for his hometown club. The lead was doubled two minutes later when Robert Novak deflectedCharles N'Zogbia's cross over the line.

Dubnica enjoyed increasing possession as Newcastle tired, but they could not convert their chances, profligacy that was punished when the impressive Milner lobbed goalkeeper Dusan Pernis.

Goals: Chopra 5 (0-1), Novak (og) 7 (0-2), Tesak 42 (1-2), Milner 70 (1-3).

FK ZTS Dubnica (4-5-1): Dusan; Marian, Novak, Zimen, Pleva; Tesak Izvolt (Grendel 69), Kiska, Kopacka, Drztk (Filo 85); Adam. Substitutes not used: Postrk, Svikruma, Grendel, Brusko, Filo, Skultety, Augustini.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Taylor, Boumsong, Elliott, Babayaro; Milner, Butt, Faye, N'Zogbia; Chopra (Brittain 58), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Given, Ramage, Huntington.

Referee: Yefet Alon.

Man of the Match: Milner.

ZTS DUBNICA 1

NEWCASTLE UNITED 3

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