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Season 2004-05
Panionios (Greece) (a) UEFA Cup Group Game 1
Date: Thursday 21st October 2004, 7.30pm(BST)
9.30pm (local) Live on ITV2

Venue: Nea Smyrni Stadium, Athens 

Conditions: Balmy


No programme  


Newcastle United

0 - 1



Half time:  Panionios 0 Newcastle 1

87 mins Jermaine Jenas played the ball up to Shola Ameobi on the edge of the area and Shola turned sharply, tried to get through two defenders and tumbled over the challenge of one. 

Alan Shearer fired the penalty into his favourite top left corner over the 'keeper, who had guessed correctly. 1-0

Full time: Panionios 0 Newcastle 1

We Said

Graeme Souness said:

"We have to be happy with three points in difficult conditions.

"The tactics of the opposition made life difficult, they didn’t get people forward and tried to play on the break. One goal was always going to be enough, they were never going to step out and make it an even game."

"We dominated the game throughout and were worthy winners.

"They showed us great respect by playing like that, they were similar tactics to the Greek national team when they won the European competition.

"I thought we were disciplined throughout, controlled things throughout and the longer the game went on, it was all about whether we were going to get a chance to get a goal."

About the penalty and Shearer:

"I’m 70 yards away, but it looked like a penalty to me. He’s a big boy and he’s used to pressure situations."

About the pitch:

"When you're attacking, you want a fast pitch and a smooth pitch, and that wasn't the case.

"When you're defending, you want a slow pitch where you want the opposition to always have to take a second touch.

"That slowed us down tonight, that's why we've just won by one goal. The pitch was the biggest problem we encountered."

Penalty scorer Shearer said:

"It was hard work. If anyone's been to these places they know it's hard work, the pitch was in a bad state and they mark you very tightly.

"There was only one team going to win that game and we thought it would only take one goal to open them up, but as it happened it took us 87 minutes to get one.

"We knew that the French team had gone to Tblisi and won so we know that we had to win."

Craig Bellamy said:

"It's been difficult for me with everything going on, but you saw me out there running all over the place - even defending at the end. I love the club, I love Newcastle and this is the only place I want to play.

"It was always going to be tough tonight - it was a very bumpy pitch. We knew if we could keep a clean sheet than we would have a chance.

"We knew these points are valuable with it being a group stage."

They Said

Panionios boss Karol Pecze said:

“When you’re playing in a group stage, you always try to estimate how many points you will get at home. We wanted to get as many points as we could at home.

“These three have gone, but there are a lot more to play for and we’ll keep going.”

About the penalty:

“It’s always a very difficult decision in a tight match, but the referee had to make it and he gave the penalty.”

Wor Karol didn't have much time to elaborate further, as Panionios chose to discontinue his employment within 24 hours of our game.


Second appearance of the new "lucky" yellow away kit. Two wins so far.

Shay Given
made his 42nd European appearance for the club to extend the appearance record further, despite the imminent birth of his child.

Alan Shearer scored his 21st goal in Europe and has now netted 180 Toon goals - Milburn got 200.

James Milner's first European start after two sub appearances in the first round against Sakhnin.

Our first tie against Greek opposition: we've now faced teams from 21 countries (including England - Southampton in the Fairs Cup.)   


What a year for the travelling Mag.

Putting aside the not-insignificant fact we're competing in a second-rate European competition for the second season running, 2004 has seen opportunities to watch the lads in locations hitherto only imagined.

From the incendiary atmosphere of Marseille to the rain in Spain, via a foray up the fjords and latterly the Israel experience, the UEFA Cup draw has offered up exciting new venues to reach...and drain those precious reserves of leave and funds.

It's a given that things are never easy where we are concerned and this time it was UEFA playing their joker by drawing the smoggies to play in Athens at the same time, while also handing Arsenal a Champions League tie in the city some 24 hours previously.

While the media hype machine went into warp drive, with the Daily Record predicting carnage at the Acropolis and the Chronicle dreaming up a figure of 2,000 Teesside travellers, the reality was slightly more mundane: all told less than 1,000 made the trip over in total - around 350 following the gunners and in the region of 300 at each of the UEFA Cup games. 

Of course it was easy to tell the Boro fans on the plane from Newcastle - they were the ones concentrating intently on the pre-flight safety demonstration and opening up their meal with the relish of a hyper-active child on Christmas morning.

Those of us in black and white of course were rather more laid back about such matters, now being seasoned travellers, but we obeyed the club instructions not to associate with the boro boys and girls - and later found out via a third party that they'd been issued with the same advice about staying away from nasty Geordies.

The small numbers travelling and the vastness of the city of Athens did mean that it was fairly difficult to even find local football fans, never mind English supporters, but occasional groups could be found sitting outside bars or cafes in a very low-key manner.

Inevitably, sights such as the Parthenon had its fair share of visitors on matchday for that essential photographic record of the trip - it was a bit of a trek to get there in the heat, but believe me, the view of the city from the top was worth every step...

As night fell, travelling to the ground was simplified by catching one of the sleek new trams from Syntagma Square (less than 3 euro for a 24 hour pass including the airport bus), then walking through a fairly opulent residential area to reach the stadium, tucked away in the suburbs.

The usual street sellers and corner bars were in evidence outside the ground, but the local fans were more placid than expected and the atmosphere outside before the game was cordial, with riot police in evidence, but finding little to do except escort a party of Newcastle officials into the ground - from the way Shepherd and Co. feigned deafness as they walked past, the coppers were presumably to protect them from toon fans, not Greeks.

Also spotted near the ground were a familiar part of the Athens street scene - stray dogs. Quite simply they're everywhere: sleeping on the pavement outside McDonalds, following groups of tourists across pedestrian crossings and generally being a nuisance. 

Flares greet the arrival of the teams - note
the empty end of the three-side stadium.

The away section consisted of one uncovered corner of the ground, with the usual seats bolted on to the terraces and a small bar which sold Heineken throughout the game (and none of your alcohol-free stuff either) but took precautions by pouring the lager into coca cola cups.

Meanwhile, a few locals opted to watch the game from nearby balconies and roof tops rather than pay the admission fee, with one group above and behind the away end craning to see in, with kebabs in one hand and drinks in the other - the overall laid-back atmosphere was almost like a cricket match, with the police presence low-key and only the 40 minute post-match holdback in the ground being an irritation. 

The main stand at Nea Smyrni - a cross 
between a dog track and Gateshead stadium

Like the second leg of the Israel tie, this game almost assumed secondary importance, with it widely being assumed that the home side would present easy pickings for Shearer and Co.

In the event though, after a bright start that woke their fans up, the negativity of the Greeks and the unevenness of the grassy pitch presented us with a hurdle that we almost didn't overcome. 

It's virtually unheard of for a team playing at home in any one-off to approach a match with quite the lack of adventure Panionios showed against us - and that unadventurous approach was to cost the coach his job after the game, apparently after some booing from the home fans that was about on a par with the pocket of disenchantment that caused Jackie Charlton to abdicate when Newcastle manager - they were hardly manning the barricades.

It's tempting to write that Panionios took inspiration from the success of Greece in Euro 2004, but that theory falls down when considering both the league of nations-type ensemble of the side, plus the fact that even the Greeks tried to score goals at times.

As it was, Given's first half dive to push a Breska header away was the only time he got his gloves dirty, while at the other end our efforts to open the scoring were hampered by some inept passing and thoroughly uninspiring midfield play.

Robert was especially culpable in both regards, with his set pieces provoking derision from the toon section, as did his languorous wandering across the field - looking as if he'd popped out for a copy of Le Monde, not to play in a football match.

But while the Frenchman flitted around and often went missing, Milner toiled away on the opposite flank and Bowyer tried to kick people, at least Bellamy was trying to make headway, while Jenas showed some maturity and filled in the gaps with his energetic prompting and tackling. 

JJ should have scored before the break, but fluffed his lines (as did Shearer), leaving Souness to try and instill some much-needed urgency and organisation into his troops at the interval.

The second half was at least an improvement on the opening 45 minutes, in that it occasionally threatened to become mediocre, but at least we started to show signs of banging on the door - even if genuine goalmouth excitement was a rarity and the stand-in home 'keeper wasn't being seriously tested.

With three quarters of the game gone, Shola was introduced into the mix and turned the heat up a notch or two with his individual skills. A better referee would have booked him for a inept attempt at winning a penalty with a blatant dive, but three minutes from time he looked to be genuinely impeded in the area and you know who stepped up to drill the ball home before running to the nearby toon section, having ensured that we'd leave Athens with at least one happy football-related memory....         

Full time and the victors greet the away support - or at least 
ten of them do, a certain Mr. Bellamy having lost his way en route....

These three points already put us in a good position in our group, where to be blunt, the artificial organisation of the competition now makes it fairly difficult not to qualify. Putting such criticisms to one side though, while Panionios weren't exactly bearing gifts, we came, saw and conquered. 

Like the other sides we've faced both domestically and in this trophy since Souness arrived, our opponents were no great shakes - but we claimed the win to edge our unbeaten tally towards double figures and give ourselves another confidence boost after some unwanted press attention before the game.  

Another successful night then on the never-ending tour for manager, players and fans. 

Next stop, Sochaux.   



Page last updated 06 August, 2019