The Champions League 2002, Newcastle went into the game needed to win to progress to the next round. What happened next will forever be imprinted into Newcastle United folklore…
14 years later, Newcastle sit in the Championship after their second relegation in seven years, a stark contrast to the jubilant celebrations which followed the final whistle from 3,000 travelling fans. United were heading in the game knowing that only a win would be enough for Sir Bobby Robson’s men to have a chance of progressing to the next round of Europe’s premier club competition. United begun the group in disastrous fashion in a group consisting of Dynamo Kiev, Juventus and Feyenoord. In the first matchday, the Magpies fell to defeat at the hands of the Dynamo Kiev losing 2-0 at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. This was followed by further defeats to Feyenoord and Juventus.
However, the second half of the group saw United turn the tables and began to see their fortunes pick up. This began with a historic result against Italian giants, Juventus, an amazing result under the floodlights at St. James’ Park, with the only goal of the game coming from the unlikely source of United defender Andy Griffin, who through this wrote himself into United folklore. Beating the strongest team in the group featuring the likes of Del Piero and Thuram in the height of their powers, clearly changed the attitude of the Magpies. This clearly showed in United’s next encounter in the competition with Newcastle seeing off Dynamo Kiev in a 2-1 victory with Gary Speed and Alan Shearer scoring in another eventful night at St.James’.
United headed into the final group game needing to win in Rotterdam to progress to the next stage of the competition. Little did anyone know how much of a lasting memory the game would leave in the Toon Army’s minds forever.
3,000 United fans made the 563-mile journey to Rotterdam, a quite stunning number who well and truly provided the noise at the Feyenoord Stadium. Sir Bobby’s men faced a tough night against a talented Feyenoord featuring a young Robin Van Persie on the bench. United started with some of their finest players of recent years with fine layers such as Messrs Bellamy, Shearer and Speed to list but a few. United started well on the night, Craig Bellamy should have put the Magpies in front after 36 minutes, sprinting through before Lodewijks, the Feyenoord keeper saved the effort. However, the Magpies took the lead through Bellamy on the stroke of half-time sending the United faithful mental in the corner. Newcastle were on top and a selection of chances went a stray including a Shearer free kick and another great chance which Bellamy failed to make count. However, this didn’t last for long as Hugo Viana add a second with a fine strike placed past Lodewijks and into the bottom corner.
However, Feyenoord struck back giving them a lifeline through Bombarda and six minutes later Feyenoord equalised through Lurling. It was seemingly a lost cause for Newcastle needing a win as well as a favourable result in Kiev and it was beginning to look like the Magpies would have to settle for a place in the UEFA Cup when perhaps the greatest moment in United’s European history took place. Kieran Dyer skipped past and managed to get the shot away, however, it wasn’t precise enough to beat Lodewijks in the Ajax goal. However, the ball was tipped into the path of Craig Bellamy who fired the ball off Lodewijks which managed to deflect into the net sending the travelling fans into ecstasy and allowing Newcastle to progress into the next round.
This result allowed United to have some more famous European nights in the second group with memorable trips to the Nou Camp seeing perhaps the strangest moment of all time when Shola Ameobi managed to find the net as well as the 2-2 draw at the San Siro against Inter Milan and a double over Bayer Leverkusen. These memories are important now as they document just how good Newcastle were in the 90’s and early 2000’s as well as allowing fans to remember these glorious days through the tough days. The result against Feyenoord will live long in the memory and so it should it epitomises just what following Newcastle United is all about.
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