An outstanding team performance from Internazionale FC simply blew away the challenge of ten-man Newcastle United FC as the Italian side began their UEFA Champions League second group stage campaign with a sparkling 4-1 victory at St James' Park.
Newcastle striker Craig Bellamy was sent off just five minutes into a pulsating encounter, but by that stage Inter were already a goal to the good thanks to Domenico Morfeo's second-minute effort. Further goals from Matias Almeyda, Hernán Crespo and Alvaro Recoba wrapped up a deserved victory for the visitors, who bounced back from their defeat in last weekend's Milan derby in fine style.
Morfeo's dream start
The pattern for the evening's action was established very early, with several Newcastle defenders diving in to allow Javier Zanetti to race clear down the right wing and deliver a low cross which Crespo touched to Morfeo. The midfield player finished sweetly, drilling a shot high into the net after barely 70 seconds.
Bellamy sees red
If the early goal silenced the home supporters, it all changed three minutes later. Bellamy, who served a three-match ban for violent conduct during the first group stage, was involved in an off-the-ball incident with Marco Materazzi before being shown the red card by French referee Stéphane Bré. Materazzi lay on the turf as Bellamy trudged off the field close to tears and it was clear that the home side had a mountain to climb.
The ten men of Newcastle rallied but with lone striker Alan Shearer closely guarded by the Inter defence, they were most dangerous from set-pieces, Nikos Dabizas sending their best chance narrowly wide from a corner and Nolberto Solano drawing a fine save from Francesco Toldo from a free-kick. But Inter were oozing class and doubled their lead on 35 minutes after Crespo's volley had struck the post and was half-cleared by Andy Griffin, but Almeyda, making his 40th appearance on the European stage, sent a powerful 20-metre shot rocketing high into the net past home goalkeeper Shay Given.
Crespo strikes again
Newcastle were stretched and with captain Zanetti pulling the strings in the Inter midfield, the visitors further extended their lead in first-half added time. Zanetti's measured ball allowed Okan Buruk plenty of room to charge forward and slip the ball inside to Crespo, who tucked a shot past Given to move to the top of the scoring charts with nine strikes.
Solano on target
Despite being down to ten men, Newcastle gave a spirited second-half performance. Dabizas saw his 52nd-minute header pushed around the post by Toldo and Shearer headed over before the home side pulled a goal back. On 72 minutes, substitute Laurent Robert fed Solano in the area after Shearer's run had distracted the Inter defenders and the Peruvian took his time before sliding a left-footed shot underneath Toldo.
Recoba seals it
Robert twice went close from distance as Newcastle threatened to stage a remarkable comeback, but Inter substitute Recoba put the result beyond doubt after controlling a pass from fellow replacement Stéphane Dalmat with his first touch and then, with his second, curling a beautiful left-footed shot past Given nine minutes from time.