Newcastle triumph on night of fury

Olympiakos 1 - Newcastle United 3
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The Independent Online

The plastic receptacle hurled at Arturo Ibanez was clear for all to see, but in the cauldron of Olympiakos' home ground last night Newcastle United also showed conspicuous bottle in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie in the Uefa Cup.

The plastic receptacle hurled at Arturo Ibanez as he left the field at half-time was clear for all to see, but in the seething cauldron of Olympiakos's home ground last night Newcastle United also showed conspicuous bottle.

While the Athenian crowd raged at the Spanish referee, who awarded the visitors a 12th-minute penalty and reduced the Greeks to nine men for 46 minutes, Graeme Souness's side kept their cool, maintained their recent vein of form and succeeded where Europe's élite had failed before them.

In this season's Champions' League, Liverpool, Monaco and Deportivo all lost and failed to score in the intimidating Piraeus pit that has been a fortress for Olympiakos since they moved there last summer. In their domestic league, the Greeks had conceded only one goal and dropped just two points, but on the occasion of their 80th birthday they could not stop Newcastle from earning a place in the record books as the first visitors to win at their new home ground.

Ultimately, it was Laurent Robert's 34th-minute free-kick that put the Magpies within reach of a quarter-final place in the Uefa Cup, with their sixth win in succession. The Frenchman's flashing left-footed delivery, though, was far from the only firework of the night.

The atmosphere was hostile enough at the kick-off ­ hardly surprising, given that the notoriously fiery followers of Olympiakos had been banned from their home ground for three months ­ and the natives were positively apoplectic when Ibanez awarded Newcastle their early penalty and reduced the hosts to 10 men.

In attempting to head the ball past Antonis Nikopolidis in the home goal, Kieron Dyer was pushed by Grigoris Georgatos, Olympiakos's lively left-winger. Ibanez reached for his red card, pointed to the penalty spot and, to a deafening chorus of whistles, Alan Shearer stepped forward to convert his 16th goal of the season.

It looked a harsh decision and three minutes later the Spanish official seemed to be evening the score when he pointed to the spot at the other end to penalise Andy O'Brien for tugging Ieroklis Stoltidis. The Newcastle defender received just a yellow card but Pedrag Djordjevic administered the punishment from 12 yards.

Still, the sight of Rivaldo in the opposition ranks might have offered some comfort for Newcastle, the Brazilian World Cup winner having been a member of the Barcelona side famously beaten by a Faustino Asprilla hat-trick at St James' Park eight years ago.

At 32, and wearing an unfamiliar No 5 shirt, the Barça old boy has been described as merely half of the player who helped Brazil to their global triumph in 2002.

Souness's side proceeded to show their mettle, Shearer having a header cleared off the line by Dmitris Mavrogenidis before Robert struck, smacking a free-kick past Nikopolidis from 25 yards. The crowd were stunned to silence, but they erupted with rage 10 minutes later when ­ after showing a yellow card to Djordjevic ­ Ibanez was alerted by a linesman to a case of mistaken identity and sent off the hiding defender Thanassis Kostoulas for a second booking, a foul on Nicky Butt.

As the howls of disapproval rained down on him, accompanied by the plastic bottle, the referee might have reflected that it was not quite the same when he sent off Alan Smith, also for a second yellow, in England's international against Macedonia at Southampton in 2002.

Not that Newcastle could care. In the 69th minute James Milner cut back a ball from the left byline for Patrick Kluivert to score a third for the Magpies ­ leaving Souness a happy man, and a proud one, too.

"Extremely proud," the Newcastle manager said. "My team had to be extremely disciplined tonight."

Olympiakos (3-5-2): Nikopolidis; Schurrer, Anatolakis, Kostoulas; Mavrogenidis, Maric, Stoltidis, Djordjevic (Kafes, 76), Georgatos; Rivaldo (Giovanni, 64), Okkas (Pantos, 64). Substitutes not used: Giannou (gk), Castillo, Vallas, Filipakos.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Bramble, O'Brien, Hughes; Dyer (Jenas, 60), Faye (N'Zogbia, 84), Butt, Robert (Milner, 60); Shearer, Kluivert. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Ameobi, Taylor, Bowyer.

Referee: A Ibanez (Spain).

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