Newcastle United FC secured top spot in UEFA Cup Group D as they drew 1-1 with Sporting Clube de Portugal at St James' Park on Matchday 5. The home team took an early lead through a headed goal by the impressive Craig Bellamy before Custódio pegged back the English side.
With FC Sochaux-Montbéliard defeating Panionios NFC 1-0 in the other group game, Sporting will now face one of the other group winners in the last 32. Newcastle, who reached the semi-finals of this competition last season, will take on one of the third-placed qualifiers.
With inspirational captain and striker Alan Shearer still out with a thigh injury and an injury-ravaged side struggling to find form, Graeme Souness's Newcastle were desperately looking for a positive result. While the performance lacked incision, they got the point they needed against skilful opposition.
Mauricio Pinilla, back in the Sporting side after injury, gave Newcastle an early scare after narrowly failing to make contact in the box before Bellamy scored the opener after just five minutes. A Shola Ameobi flick-on was misjudged by Beto just inside his box and the swift Welshman nipped in to loop a header over the stranded Ricardo.
Fabio Rochemback and Darren Ambrose exchanged long-range shots in what proved a competitive opening period. Bellamy was twice caught offside before getting in behind the visiting defence on 25 minutes. The Wales international scampered free down the right flank only to be denied by Ricardo, who rushed off his line to close down the striker.
The game was played at a fast pace with Newcastle's Titus Bramble, Ameobi and Aaron Hughes receiving yellow cards. It soon got worse for the home team as, six minutes before the break, Custódio rose highest to meet Rochemback's whipped free-kick and sent a powerful header past Shay Given.
Bellamy should have restored the lead a minute before half-time, but his close-range header went wide of the far post. Liedson received a yellow card for a late challenge on Olivier Bernard before Ambrose again tried his luck - unsuccessfully - from range.
Ambrose began to trouble Sporting with his set-piece delivery after the break. A low free-kick from a narrow angle on 50 minutes was spilled by Ricardo but steered wide by Ameobi. Then Ambrose tested the Sporting goalkeeper with an inswinger from distance and the Portuguese international leapt well to punch clear.
Both sides struggled to create clear-cut opportunities as the game entered the closing stages. Newcastle's high-paced tempo - epitomised by the hard-running Ameobi - inevitably began to flag and Sporting began to find their passing rhythm.
Newcastle's goal threat was dealt a final blow when Bellamy suffered an injury with just ten minutes to go, allowing 19-year-old striker Lewis Guy to make his debut and it was the visitors who posed the biggest threat in the closing stages of a match which ultimately satisfied both parties.