By Alex O'Henley at St James' Park
Graeme Souness's reign as Newcastle United FC manager got off to a winning start as his side overcame Israeli side Hapoel Bnei Sakhnin FC in the first round of the UEFA Cup at St James' Park.
Patrick Kluivert set last season's semi-finalists on their way with two first-half goals, but they could not add to their lead in a bad-tempered second half which saw two players dismissed. Souness kept Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy and Nicky Butt in reserve and handed Kluivert and Shola Ameobi the opportunity to inflict some early punishment on the Israeli minnows.
It took only three minutes for the Netherlands forward to put the home side ahead when a Laurent Robert cross was dropped by goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro and Kluivert reacted first to knock the ball into an unguarded net. The Zimbabwean keeper made amends minutes later when he tipped over another Kluivert shot and the former FC Barcelona striker went close again on 18 minutes when he fired wide after Abed Rabbah had misjudged a high ball out of defence.
Sakhnin finally broke out of defence on 29 minutes with Adhan Hamlid testing Shay Given from 15 metres out but the Irishman, who was making his 40th European appearance for Newcastle, was equal to the task and diverted the ball for a corner. The home fans were becoming edgy as their favourites struggled to score again and England midfield player Kieron Dyer wasted an excellent opportunity on 39 minutes when he lifted the ball over from six metres after being put through by Robert. However, three minutes before half-time Kluivert settled their nerves when he headed home the Frenchman’s left-wing corner.
Sakhnin introduced Brazilian forward Cléber minutes after the restart and Souness also made another change when Dyer pulled up with a recurrence of his recent hamstring problems. Butt joined the fray but the former Manchester United FC player was soon back in the dressing room after reacting to a late challenge by Abbas Swan on Kluivert. The Sakhnin captain was also dismissed and several bookings followed as tempers became frayed.
Newcastle needed another goal to give them a bigger cushion going into the return leg in Tel Aviv in a fortnight, but they ended up on the defensive as Sakhnin pushed for an away goal that never came.