Sir Bobby Robson celebrated his 70th birthday in style as Newcastle United FC defeated Group A rivals Bayer 04 Leverkusen 3-1 in the BayArena.
It was the stand-in strikers who took the plaudits as 21-year-old Shola Ameobi and 22-year-old Lomana LuaLua scored the goals to give Newcastle victory. Both players were only in the side due to suspensions to Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy yet Newcastle made a confident start and opened the scoring after just five minutes when LuaLua neatly turned past his marker Cris before delivering a curling cross for Ameobi to head into the net from four metres.
United extend lead
Newcastle continued to play the ball around with some aplomb and it was no surprise that they extended their lead on 16 minutes. Ameobi was again on target as he latched on to a mistake in the centre of the Leverkusen defence to dispossess Cris before rounding the static Thomas Kleine and hitting a fierce low shot into the corner of the net.
Bayer bounce back
To their credit Leverkusen refused to accept that there was no way back into the contest and with Neuville probing down the right flank, the 1. Bundesliga side slowly came back into the game. Fittingly, their first fluid attack, on 26 minutes, produced a goal. A series of neat passes found Yildiray Bastürk who played the ball to the edge of the area where França's quick interchange with Pascal Ojigwe enabled the Brazilian striker to break free before coolly lifting the ball over the advancing Shay Given.
With the BayArena crowd voicing their support, Leverkusen pressed for the equaliser and Kleine saw a header hit Gary Speed in the midriff and then deflect to safety. However, on 32 minutes, Neuville allowed his enthusiasm to get the better of him when the German international's attempt to keep the ball in play only gave possession to Olivier Bernard. The French full-back sent a ball down the flank to Laurent Robert whose low first-time cross was smartly volleyed into the net by LuaLua.
New Leverkusen coach Thomas Hörster who replaced Klaus Toppmöller on Sunday, had only retained three of the side beaten by Hansa Rostock at the weekend, but his players gave a more committed performance in the early stages of the second half. Thomas Brdaric headed a 47th-minute corner over the crossbar and Given reacted smartly to claim a curling Neuville cross as Hanno Balitsch lurked at the far post two minutes later.
Newcastle upped their work-rate after that, with the ever-sprightly Robson cajoling from the technical area. On 70 minutes, Robert saw a 20-metre free-kick flash over the crossbar and as Leverkusen ran out of energy, the visitors began to find success on the counterattack.
LuaLua should have scored his second goal of the evening after Kieron Dyer ran through the middle before freeing the Democratic Republic of Congo striker in the area, but his first-time shot went over the crossbar.