Vurnon Anita and Shola Ameobi were on target as Newcastle fought back to draw 2-2 at Club Brugge - to maintain their unbeaten record in this season's Europa League and stay top of Group D.
Ivan Trikovski punished Newcastle's lack of cutting edge in front of goal with a classy finish to put the home side ahead before Jesper Jorgensen beat Tim Krul from distance to double the Belgian side's lead.
But Anita stunned the Jan Breydelstadion with a fine volley and Shola Ameobi completed the comeback before the break with a deflected effort.
Newcastle have made light work of their first Europa League campaign, and boss Alan Pardew elected to field a number of peripheral players including James Tavernier, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi and Gael Bigirimana as Newcastle looked to pick up the three points that would secure their progress. They will now look to rubber stamp their place in the knockout stages when Maritimo visit St James’ Park in two weeks.
Newcastle looked a little lightweight without Hatem Ben Arfa and top scorer Demba Ba – and Yohan Cabaye on the bench - as the Belgian started the stronger. With the sides trading early blows, it was clear we were in for an open game – with Club Brugge’s Carlos Bacca causing Newcastle problems and Gabriel Obertan spurning two early chance for the visitors.
The second of Obertan’s chances, a glaring miss from close-range after he was put clean through, proved costly as the hosts drew first blood soon after. Bacca’s classy touch to bring down a long ball bamboozled captain Fabricio Coloccini, who couldn’t recover, as The Colombian guided a superb low effort across Krul.
Newcastle barely had time to steady the ship when they found themselves two goals behind. Latching onto a cross from the left, Jorgensen’s low shot from 20 yards seemed to catch Tim Krul, who was possibly unsighted, flat-footed as the tame effort bobbled into the bottom corner.
The goal stunned Newcastle, whose early confidence was drained. But they continued to create chances against a brittle home defence and Marveaux, a player who’s never been able to establish himself at St James’ Park, wasted a golden opportunity to pull a goal back as he could only miss his kick from eight yards after Sammy Ameobi had drilled a low cross in from the left. Marveaux’s wait for a Newcastle goal goes on.
But Newcastle were rewarded for their superiority when Anita found the net with a sensational volley from 20 yards, after Tom Hogli’s headed clearance dropped straight onto his right boot.
In the same way the home side had stunned Newcastle with two quick-fire goals, Pardew’s side hit back in similar fashion – finding the net barely three minutes after Anita’s wonder strike. the Dutch international was involved again with a crossfield ball to Sammy Ameobi, who then cut in from the left and played in brother Shola, who then poked in at the near post, courtesy of a big deflection off the goalkeeper’s legs. It was an apt way to celebrate the fact that it was the first time brothers had started for Newcastle in 60 years.
If Newcastle had the better of the first half, the second belonged to the hosts. Club Brugge have endured a torrid run of late – losing five games in a row which cost coach Georges Leekens his job on Monday.
But a spirited second half display saw them craft the better chances and Bacca, a threat throughout, almost put the Belgian side into the driving seat when he latched onto a long throw into the Newcastle box and drilled a low effort at goal from close-range – but Krul showed great agility to get down low and turn the ball around the post.
The Magpies had their backs to the wall for much of the second period and threatened the Club Brugge goal only once during the second period when substitute Cabaye’s overhit free-kick sailed over everyone and crashed back off the bar.
With time ticking away, substitute Steven Taylor was lucky not to concede a penalty when he grappled with Bacca in the box. But Newcastle held on to maintain their unbeaten record in the competition – and will be looking to secure their place in the knockout stage against basement side Maritimo.