Newcastle United FC manager Sir Bobby Robson hailed his side's 1-0 victory against Juventus FC in Group E of the UEFA Champions League as a 'big scalp'.
The result resurrected the English Premiership side's hopes of reaching the second group stage and left Robson delighted. "The performance and result showed that I got the response I wanted from my players," said the 69-year-old. "I believe it's the first time they [Juventus] have lost this season and it wasn't easy but we just had to win. There was a lot of will in the side and a lot of tenacity."
Despite going into the match with no points and no goals from their opening three Group E matches, Robson's side certainly did not look short of confidence in front of a packed St James' Park with Lomana LuaLua and Titus Bramble proving willing replacements for the suspended Craig Bellamy and Nikos Dabizas. Of the 21-year-old defender Bramble, Robson declared: "He grew up tonight and never let us down. He came through well."
Another youngster, 19-year-old Jermaine Jenas, also proved solid in the midfield role vacated by the injured Kieron Dyer, while goalkeeper Steve Harper, brought in for usual No1 Shay Given, also put in a gutsy display, despite the odd nervy moment. "He wasn't a gamble," Robson said. "He's a top-class goalkeeper."
Hosts on top
Newcastle shaded a fiercely competitive and enjoyable first half by virtue of creating goalscoring opportunities with greater frequency then their opponents. LuaLua's pace unsettled the Juventus back four on several occasions, and Alan Shearer, Nolberto Solano and Laurent Robert all went close to scoring for the hosts. "We were disappointed not to be ahead at the break," Robson later admitted.
Di Vaio close
The visitors threatened more sporadically. Marco Di Vaio almost scored on his return from injury after being released by a superlative Edgar Davids pass and Alessandro Del Piero fired a trademark free-kick and then a fierce drive over the crossbar. In the second half though, Newcastle really upped the ante and gained the goal their enterprise deserved – albeit from the unlikely source of 23-year-old full-back Andy Griffin. Robert played a clever short corner to the Englishman, who raced in to the penalty area and saw his cross go into the net via a deflection off goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
The strike, Griffin's second for the club, capped a tireless performance down the right-hand side. "It was certainly the most important goal I've ever scored," he said. "And I think tonight could be the best match I've ever played for Newcastle. I got a lucky goal, the game was important as it was in the Champions League and we got three points."
'Nobody to blame'
Despite the element of misfortune about the goal that sealed his side's fate, Juventus coach Marcello Lippi proved magnanimous in defeat. "Coming to play Newcastle in a stadium like this is not easy," he said. "And when you go behind in front of this crowd it is very hard although we did have some chances. Trying to blame anyone in particular [for the defeat] would be unfair."
Lippi did not seem unduly unconcerned that the result had damaged his side's qualification prospects. "By winning our next game [against Feyenoord] we will be mathematically through," he said, before admitting that he believed Newcastle can still harbour qualification hopes of their own. "From what I've seen tonight they have the will to get through," he added.
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