Newcastle United FC look firm favourites to reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals after a victory at nine-man Olympiacos CFP in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie.
The Greek side were hoping to give their fans something to celebrate on their 80th birthday, having been founded on 10 March 1925, but were instead defeated by goals from Alan Shearer, Laurent Robert and Patrick Kluivert. To make matters worse, Grigorios Georgatos and Athanasios Kostoulas will sit out next Wednesday's return at St James' Park having seen red.
Olympiacos had gone into the game boosted by the return of Brazilian forward Rivaldo from an ankle injury and Dimitrios Mavrogenidis from a knee problem. But their hostile crowd were silenced within 12 minutes when the English team took the lead. Kieron Dyer was pushed in the penalty area, after flicking the ball over goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis, by Georgatos, who was sent off as the referee adjudged him to be the last defender. Shearer made no mistake with his spot-kick.
However, that advantage lasted barely three minutes before Olympiacos themselves scored from eleven metres. This time Andy O'Brien was the offender, earning a yellow card for tugging at the shirt of Ieroklis Stoltidis, and Predrag Djordjevic dispatched the penalty with ease.
Newcastle nearly went 2-1 up in the 17th minute but Shearer's bullet header from Robert's corner was cleared off the line by Mavrogenidis. The Premiership club, missing injured defender Celestine Babayaro and his cup-tied colleague Jean-Alain Boumsong, were making their numerical advantage tell and it was no surprise when they regained the lead just after the half-hour when Robert's superb free-kick curled over the Olympiacos wall, giving Nikopolidis no chance.
Any hope the hosts had of getting back into the game evaporated in the final minute of the first half when Kostoulas collected his second booking, and after the interval Newcastle took complete control. That manifested itself in a third goal in the 70th minute, James Milner skipping to the by-line and turning the ball back for Kluivert, recalled to the side, to convert from close range.
Olympiacos battled bravely to recover their unbeaten record at their new Georgios Karaiskakis stadium, but were unable to breach a solid Newcastle defence - and will now have to secure a first-ever win in England if they are to progress to the last eight.