FK Zeljeznicar 0-1 Newcastle United FC
Kieron Dyer put Newcastle United FC on target for a place in the UEFA Champions League first group stage with a well-taken winner against FK Zeljeznicar in Sarejevo tonight.
The English club, bidding to return to Europe's blue-riband competition for the first time since 1997/98, will be delighted with the first-leg victory and, more importantly, an away goal. They will now welcome the Bosnia-Herzegovina champions to St James' Park in two weeks' time confident of going through.
Goal ruled out
Zeljeznicar, who saw off ÍA Akranes and Lillestrøm SK in the previous two rounds, began in determined fashion in front of 36,000 fans. They thought their side had taken the lead after just two minutes when a superb strike from 26-year-old striker Almir Gredic was ruled out for offside.
Newcastle roared back and should have scored themselves three minutes later. Peruvian international Nolberto Solano's free-kick found Alan Shearer and the former England captain held the ball up before feeding Aaron Hughes. He then picked out Lomana Lualua in the penalty area, only for the DR Congo forward to head wide.
The home side managed to keep Newcastle at bay throughout the first half, despite the promptings of Portuguese starlet Hugo Viana, in fine form along with Solano and Shearer. Zeljeznicar, who were without the services of suspended captain Bulend Biscevic, created little but were more concerned about conceding.
However, the hosts could have taken the lead just 30 seconds after the break, Shay Given having to dive spectacularly to keep out an effort from Jure Guvo. Then, in the 55th minute, Newcastle went in front. Sir Bobby Robson's men launched a swift counterattack with Lualua breaking free on the halfway line. He found Dyer, who played a neat one-two with Shearer before firing the ball superbly over Kennan Hasajic in the Zeljeznicar goal
Lualua then had two good opportunities to put Newcastle in a commanding position, but failed on each occasion. On 70 minutes, he burst through the home defence but, despite going past Hasajic, could only steer the ball wide. Eight minutes later, after collecting Titus Bramble's pass, Lualua again missed the goal. Yet the best chance of all came moments from the final whistle when Shola Ameobi, on as a substitute, received a pass from Jermaine Jenas but smashed the ball against the crossbar.