Newcastle United FC manager Sir Bobby Robson insisted his side can still win their first trophy since 1969.
By Alex O'Henley in Newcastle
Newcastle United FC manager Sir Bobby Robson feels his side still have a good chance of getting to their first European final since 1969 despite failing to score against Olympique de Marseille in the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final at St James' Park. "0-0 is not as bad a result as some people might think," insisted Sir Bobby.
The Newcastle manager had to field an understrength side against the French visitors after injuries ruled out key players such as Craig Bellamy, Jermaine Jenas and Kieron Dyer and although his players could not get the goal that would have given them an advantage in the Stade Vélodrome in a fortnight's time, Sir Bobby still thinks the fixture is wide open.
He said: "The tie is very open and someone now has to score to win the game. It might even go to penalties as there's not a lot between the two teams as you can see. It was a high-class game between two evenly matched sides. I thought both sets of defences played very well and I was especially pleased with the performances of Jonathan Woodgate and Andy O'Brien."
Woodgate in particular was outstanding at the heart of the home defence and he had to be on top form against Marseille striker Didier Drogba, who was a threat throughout this tense and absorbing encounter. The Ivory Coast forward has scored in every round he has played in the UEFA Cup this season, but a combination of good defending and bad luck prevented him from adding to his four-goal tally on this occasion.
Drogba looked to have scored a priceless away goal for the French side on 64 minutes when he volleyed Demetrius Ferriera Leite's cross against the post with Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given beaten, but to his obvious dismay the ball rebounded to safety.
"We had a bit of luck with Drogba's shot in the second half," Sir Bobby conceded. "But you need luck in games like this. I thought Drogba's shot was going in, but it stayed out and I'm glad about that as it would have been difficult to go to Marseille a goal behind. Having said that, we also had chances in each half. Fabien Barthez made a remarkable save from Shola [Ameobi] in the first half; Gary Speed was unfortunate not to score early in the second half and Michael Bridges had another chance near the end."
Marseille coach José Anigo was pleased not to have conceded a goal away from home and congratulated all his players on a very professional performance. "A 0-0 draw has to be considered a fair result for any visiting team," he said. "However, we had four clear chances to score and we should have taken at least one of them."
Like Sir Bobby, Anigo singled out the Drogba chance as the crucial moment. He said: "Drogba was unlucky with the shot that came back off the post, but hopefully our finishing will be better in the second game. The players now have a great incentive to get to a European final."
Newcastle captain Alan Shearer felt that the players who came into the side acquitted themselves well. "We did well in the circumstances," said the 33-year-old forward. "As the manager said, we were down to the bare bones in terms of players, but it was a good chance for others to come in and show what they can do and on the whole I thought it was a very mature perfomance."