The coach from Sarajevo Worldwide Airport to the lodge travelled alongside the central freeway, giving the Newcastle squad a grand tour of the war-ravaged metropolis. Excessive-rise buildings have been stained black from flames and the partitions of eating places and outlets have been nonetheless visibly punctured by bullet holes. “The hotel’s fine, the food’s okay, the people are nice, but it isn’t Hawaii,” Sir Bobby Robson stated from his lodgings.
The Bosnian metropolis had been so engulfed by the warfare seven years previous to the match that UEFA deemed the Stadion Grbavica unfit for function. Half the seats, together with its 42 trophies, had been razed by bombs through the bloody siege.
As an alternative, Newcastle performed their Champions League third-round qualification encounter towards Željezničar on the impartial Stadium Koševo. Though it stays as one of probably the most highly-attended matches in Bosnian historical past, it wasn’t the European night time Newcastle had envisioned once they’d mounted a fourth-place end the season earlier than, shocking most alongside the best way.
Robson had bought senior gamers and signed uncooked, younger and hungry expertise, together with as Jermaine Jenas and Craig Bellamy, gamers who snubbed the Premier League’s elite in favour of Newcastle. This caused a mini-revival of the Entertainers, however identical to within the Kevin Keegan period, they have been with out stability in 2001/02.
The defence, which consisted of Robbie Elliott, Andy O’Brien and Nikos Dabizas, was the 13th worst within the top-flight. Throughout the identical summer time, Robson determined to take a raffle by bolstering the again line with the haphazard Titus Bramble.
One publication dubbed the aspect a “Nationwide League defence with a Champions League forward line”, and that, with out strengthening, it might be unlikely that Newcastle would take pleasure in an identical season to the one earlier than. Ipswich City’s relegation had highlighted the problem of spectacular league type while competing in Europe.
Regardless of this, it was anticipated that they’d at the least compete within the Champions League. However after they beat Željezničar 5-Zero on combination, they have been drawn into a troublesome first part group. Dynamo Kyiv have been Champions League regulars who, bar two events, had gained each league title since Ukrainian independence in 1991. Juventus, within the midst of Marcello Lippi’s second reign, have been group favourites and Serie A champions, while Feyenoord had gained the UEFA Cup the yr earlier than.
Dynamo had 9 first-team gamers lacking for the opening recreation in Ukraine. Newcastle’s defensive frailties have been capitalised upon, which means the house aspect prevailed 2-Zero, their slick passing and direct type an excessive amount of for the north-east membership, who appeared in pre-season type. “We were never going to win all six,” stated Robson afterwards, barely dismissively. “But I’m not afraid of it.”
Learn | Kevin Keegan: the Messiah of Newcastle
Towards Feyenoord, O’Brien’s tame header arrange Sebastián Pardo for the one aim of the match. Two video games had gone with no factors and no objectives – Newcastle had a struggle on their arms. A European struggle which, even senior members of that squad, reminiscent of Alan Shearer, had barely skilled.
Every part pointed to a disastrous marketing campaign, made worse when Bellamy was given a retrospective three-game European ban for headbutting Dynamo’s Tiberiu Ghioane. Juventus, up subsequent for Newcastle, had demolished Dynamo 5-Zero of their first match and gained their earlier seven residence video games in Europe.
Robson took a special tactical strategy in what was a make or break recreation towards the Turin outfit. Andy Griffin, a conservative wing-back within the squad, posed in entrance of the defence. His job, he’d been informed, was to cease Pavel Nedvěd, who’d quickly carry that yr’s Ballon d’Or. Kieron Dyer was positioned behind Shearer, changing Bellamy, in an auxiliary attacking position.
The Previous Woman, who wore their away package, beat the English 2-Zero. It was a cushty win because of Alessandro Del Piero’s chic brace.
Within the recreation in Italy, Marco Di Vaio collided with O’Brien, who, as he lay stricken, swallowed his tongue. Robson joked that he wished the striker would endure an analogous destiny when Juventus performed at St James’ Park for the fourth recreation, as it might’ve eased the strain. The Italian media, consequently, labelled him “a cretin” – however the Englishman’s tactic of going all-out assault, pushing wing-backs so ahead they virtually turned wing-forwards, lastly paid off in Europe.
Within the 64th minute, in what’s turn into one of these oddly sensible moments in soccer, Griffin, the Wigan native who was reinstated in his acquainted wing-back position, put Newcastle forward. In a single slick transfer, he’d jinked by way of Juve’s complete defence, then performed a diagonal cross. The ball rebounded off Gianluigi Buffon’s arm and into the web.
The residence help leapt up in ecstasy, then rubbed their eyes in disbelief. It had taken 334 minutes however Newcastle had their first Champions League group stage aim of the season. The Bianconeri’s document of scoring in damage time, one thing which that they had carried out of their final three matches, drew to an in depth.
Together with their first objective, Robson’s males received their first three factors. However it was the defensive fortitude of Newcastle that really earned the win. Bramble, the 21-year-old whom Robson claimed had been the topic of a “witch-hunt” by journalists earlier than the sport, put in a person of the match efficiency.
Learn | How Sir Bobby Robson modified the make-up of trendy soccer
Newcastle’s probability of progressing to the second group part went from nearly unattainable to distant. They nonetheless needed to beat Dynamo on house soil or face elimination, however at St James’ they have been reluctant to place a foot incorrect, enjoying the primary half ponderously and missing conviction within the remaining third.
Robson rolled his eyes, shook his head, and winced as he rubbed the three damaged ribs he’d suffered falling down a flight of stairs the week earlier than. As suggested by his physician, he was within the director’s field to keep away from getting too animated and trigger additional injury. However when Maksim Shatskikh scored early within the second half, he made his method right down to the dugout to dictate proceedings.
The aim had an antagonistic impact for Alexei Mikhailichenk’s males. It galvanised Newcastle: the Toon Military jumped to their ft and roared the group ahead – and the gamers reciprocated. A nook was whipped throughout on the Gallowgate Finish and Gary Velocity scored a diving header, his first Champions League objective in a decade. Then, Shearer’s arm was pulled by Andriy Husin contained in the field, a foolish foul for a defence recognized for its self-discipline. The native hero positioned his penalty into the underside left, securing his first Champions League objective for Newcastle. The house aspect earned a 2-1 victory, and these lingering possibilities Newcastle had become tangible hope.
De Kuip was lit up with pink pyro, supporters threw objects onto the pitch, and the entire area bounced. Hearts have been in mouths on each side. Like Newcastle, the Dutch needed to keep away from defeat and hope Juventus, who have been more likely to subject a weakened aspect, turned up and beat Dynamo Kyiv within the later recreation.
Bellamy, again from his ban, was relentless, regardless of having a dodgy knee. He missed two carbon copy possibilities however in stoppage-time, on the finish of the primary half, the 23-year-old broke via to place Newcastle forward. Early within the second half, the enigmatic Hugo Viana, on the sting of the field, took a swipe at a ball which bounced in entrance of him and it trundled in.
Newcastle verged on the unthinkable. Substitute Mariano Bombarda pulled one again for Feyenoord earlier than the house aspect equalised with 20 minutes to go. Anthony Lurling’s volley put Feyenoord second within the desk, with Newcastle on the right track for a UEFA Cup place in third. The clock ticked nearer to the top. Minutes appeared to hurry up because the Newcastle dugout turned extra frantic.
Nobody was positive why Viana, when substituted, determined to go away the sector like Newcastle have been a objective up and wanted to waste time. Nor why Shay Given took so lengthy to ship objective kicks. A pair of half possibilities went begging for Newcastle within the final 10 minutes, however they have been unable to execute a end within the last third.
Two minutes into damage time, an extended ball reached Feyenoord’s field. Shearer outjumped his marker to place Dyer by means of. The attacker neatly reduce inside to seek out himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, however he hit his effort proper at Patrick Lodewijks. A collective sigh of aid echoed from the house help, however the ball spilt to Bellamy out large. The angle was tight, virtually unimaginable, and the ahead hit a poor shot. One way or the other, the ball was diverted into the web after it rebounded off the goalkeeper’s chest. “Has there ever been a more dramatic night in the Champions League?” Jon Champion blared into his microphone. You couldn’t assume of many.
Learn | Alan Shearer: the best Premier League goalscorer of all
From dropping their first three matches and dropping a two-goal cushion of their remaining recreation, Newcastle have been on track to progress to the second group stage of the Champions League, the sport in Holland ending Three-2 to the guests. It’s a Hollywood conclusion, however actually it was Dynamo’s 2-1 loss to Juventus that confirmed Newcastle’s development to the subsequent group stage, one which caused a fair harder problem.
Barcelona and Internazionale have been on the lookout for an enchancment after they completed fourth of their respective leagues the season earlier than, and Bayer Leverkusen, the final marketing campaign’s Champions League finalists, have been preventing relegation within the Bundesliga.
Newcastle have been elated from their night time in Rotterdam, however a harsh reminder of the brutality of European soccer was served virtually instantly. Most of the seats at St James’ have been but to be taken when Domenico Morfeo scored for Inter. It was a poor however manageable begin. That was till Bellamy kicked Marco Materazzi and the defender dropped to the ground clutching his leg. It was a straight pink for Bellamy, who can be banned for an additional three video games. The striker left the pitch in tears. “Crying because he’ll be fined six months wages,” in line with one moderately harsh reporter.
Matías Almeyda then doubled the customer’s lead with a long-range magnificence, earlier than Hernán Crespo made it three. Nolberto Solano scored for Newcastle – however it was a comfort: Álvaro Recoba, who had been on the pitch for lower than 30 seconds, delivered the deathblow within the second half.
Not solely was Bellamy banned, however video proof additionally captured Shearer swinging an elbow to the again of Fabio Cannavaro’s head. “He was given a yellow card early on and, on another day, he might have got another for persistent fouling,” Shearer stated. “But that’s what you get when you play the Italians.” Regardless of his complaints, Shearer was banned for a lenient two matches.
The recreation on the Camp Nou was delayed for 24 hours as a result of persistent rain, and it was like a hole chamber when alternative strikers Shola Ameobi and Lomana LuaLua, each 21, led the road for the Magpies. The subdued environment meant the sport performed out like a coaching match – there was no house benefit, and the remaining away help consisted of those that have been capable of pull a sickie. The majority of the four,000 followers who travelled went house after the delay.
Dani García scored a header towards the run of play to place Barça forward. Nolberto Solano then nutmegged Philippe Christanval earlier than feeding Ameobi, who scored from contained in the field to silenced the final speckle of noise on the floor. Marc Overmars later ferried to Patrick Kluviert for 2-1 regardless of Newcastle wanting the extra more likely to rating.
Within the second half, Thiago Motta headed a nook in the direction of aim. Kieron Dyer, who was purported to be overlaying the road, solely bent out a leg on the final second, his thoughts elsewhere. The referee judged that the ball went over the road and the sport was put to mattress, the Catalans profitable Three-1.
Learn | The chaos and the allure of Newcastle cult hero Laurent Robert
Newcastle had as soon as once more performed two and misplaced two – however a minimum of that they had a pair of objectives this time.
Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have been unable to win away on the BayArena the earlier season, however the Germans had suffered a remarkable fall from grace ever since Zinedine Zidane rippled the web together with his beautiful volley within the 2002 Champions League last. It was just like the aim was so devastating, it had sucked the soul out of Leverkusen.
The weekend earlier than they performed Newcastle, they sacked their supervisor, Klaus Toppmöller, the coach topped the “best in the league” by German journalists the season earlier than. Objectives from secondary strike-force of LuaLua and Ameobi noticed Newcastle to a Three-1 away win, nevertheless it was the disastrous show of the Leverkusen defence which finally handed Newcastle the three factors on a plate.
The buzz round Tyneside was again, and many requested themselves what Newcastle might muster of their remaining video games with the return of their two key strikers. The reply: an awesome deal. Shearer returned from suspension for the sport at St James’ Park as Bayer opted for a weakened aspect, concentrating on survival. “I have no dreams about progressing in the tournament,” new supervisor Thomas Hörster stated. “This game is a distraction.”
However Newcastle might afford to dream some extra. Shearer scored a hat-trick, with one of the guests’ defenders, Cris, at fault for the primary two objectives earlier than remarkably being taken off on 28 minutes. “Thought last week’s performance by Cris was the worst I’d ever seen by a professional footballer, but he’s surpassing himself tonight,” remarked one commentator.
Boasting six factors, with Inter on seven and Barcelona on 10, and two video games left, issues weren’t fairly in Newcastle’s arms: it was unlikely that Leverkusen and their ragged defence might stand up to Barça, so the Magpies needed to win towards Inter in Italy. Defeat would see them knocked out.
Over 10,000 travelling supporters occupied the stand behind the objective on the Giuseppe Meazza. Flags studying South Shields, Gosforth and Gateshead draped over the metallic caged fence on the primary two rows as resilient supporters, some bare-chested, taunted the Milanese followers, who threw bottles and cash in the direction of them. The well-known stadium did its greatest to intimidate, whereas Inter gamers have been equally as unsportsmanlike on the pitch.
Bellamy scuttled previous the defence to arrange Shearer, who bagged the opening objective, although it appeared offside. Christian Vieri then beat two defenders to win a header and equalise, the inconsistent defence costing the English giants once more.
Learn | The magic and the insanity of Faustino Asprilla
Later, Laurent Robert smacked a wild cross from deep that was spilt by Francesco Toldo. Shearer pounced on the error and scored his fifth Champions League objective in two video games. The away help’s celebrations created scenes that may be reprinted on mugs, t-shirts and scarfs in years to return.
The wind was of their sails, their prime strikers on the pitch, and their supporters have been creating bedlam, all within the face of the hostility from the house help. The gamers needed to stand up to numerous floated balls into the field and guarantee they weren’t unnerved by Inter’s tough fashion of play.
Deep into the second half, Emre Belözoğlu crossed the ball for Iván Córdoba, who stood at 5 ft eight inches and managed to outleap Gary Velocity and head in. On the touchline, Robson gesticulated to assistant supervisor John Carver, who simply shrugged. Newcastle plugged away however Inter bit and fouled their method to some extent.
For his or her last group stage recreation, not solely did they need to beat Barcelona at residence, however additionally they needed to hope Inter would draw or lose towards the desolate Leverkusen.
Supporters received updates from pals again at house, glued to Teletext: Inter have been already profitable and the sport wouldn’t matter. Kluviert pounced on confusion between Bramble and Shay Given to attain. Then, a free-kick was swung in, and the towering Motta doubled the lead. Leverkusen misplaced 2-Zero to Inter, and Newcastle have been lastly out.
No aspect had ever misplaced their first three Champions League video games and progressed to the second group stage, and no workforce has ever naively strolled into the Champions League and matured a lot in such a brief area that a knockout place was arguably deserved.
On the last whistle, Sir Bobby Robson and his squad walked down the tunnel, sweat gleaming off their bowed heads, to a standing ovation at St James’ Park. It’s potential that supporters have been protected within the information that, despite the fact that they got here away with out silverware this time, this younger, vibrant aspect, with their sensible Geordie supervisor, had a vibrant future to look ahead to within the coming seasons. That this all could possibly be half of a larger plan. It wasn’t, however the reminiscences maintain agency.
By Jacque Talbot @jac_talbot