LONDON: Gabriel Obertan fired his side into pole position in Europa League Group D with the only goal as Newcastle beat Club Brugge 1-0 at St James' Park this morning, reported Eurosport.
With nine changes from the side that faced Sunderland last Sunday, including Sammy Ameobi, 20, and Shane Ferguson, 21, it was Obertan who came up with the breakthrough, finishing off a counter-attack shortly after half time for only his second goal for the club.
The win puts Newcastle three points clear at the half-way point, while an injury-hit Brugge side sit four points back in third.
Newcastle started well, with Papiss Cisse heading over a golden chance to give his side the lead on 13 minutes after Ferguson picked out the striker with a pinpoint cross from out on the left wing.
The Senegalese striker almost made amends minutes later – working himself space in the box, before firing his shot over as the sides went in goalless at the break.
Manager Alan Pardew brought on an extra striker at half-time - Shola Ameobi joining up with his younger brother – with the change having an instant impact, giving Newcastle noticeably more direction up front.
The home fans didn’t have to wait long to see the results – the younger Ameobi played Obertan in down the right wing, and after showing electric pace to beat his man the French winger slotted the ball calmly past the Brugge goalkeeper.
The Belgian side reacted well to the goal, Ivan Trickovski coming off the bench to exploit their advantage in the middle of the park, linking well up with Brugge’s own young star, 20-year-old Maxime Lestienne.
With Cheick Tiote breaking up play in front of the Newcastle defence – now one of just two yet to concede in the competition – the rangy Lestienne and Colombian striker Carlos Bacca were limited to shots from long range with Steven Harper only once looking troubled, diving low to parry a Trickovski strike round his near post.
With the clock ticking down the departures of Sammy Ameobi and Ferguson were met with warm applause by the St James’ crowd, while their replacements, Fabricio Collocini and Yohan Cabaye, brought control to Newcastle’s play in the latter stages.
However Brugge nearly had the last word – a fine block by captain Steven Taylor was needed to deny a curling Trickovski effort that appeared to be heading for Harper’s top corner.
While Brugge have struggled to replicate their domestic form in Europe, a win in the return fixture and the Belgian side will be right back in contention for the knockout stages – however Pardew will surely be content with his side’s response to their opening day draw against C.S. Maritimo, and Newcastle are now favorites to top the group.