FARO, PORTUGAL - JULY 27: Gael Bigirimana (R) of Newcastle United is tackled by Rafik Zoheir Djebbour of Olympiacos during a pre-Season friendly match between Newcastle United and Olympiacos on July 27, 2012 in Faro, Portugal. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Newcastle United drew with Portuguese side Maritimo in the first match of Group D play in the Europa League Thursday. The Magpies basically fielded their reserve team, bringing back only 4 of the players (the entire back line) that played against Everton on Monday. Despite their self-inflicted disadvantage, they bossed play for much of the affair, but were unable to find a winner, hitting the post at least twice (a Shola Ameobi diving header may or may not have clipped the post on its way out). Maritimo had their own chances, to be fair, and Newcastle were fortunate that Davide Santon was able to clear a ball off the line after they themselves hit the bar on a corner.
If all of the near-goals weren't exciting enough, there was a dust-up near the end of the first half when Joao Simao decided to keep the ball for himself following an injury stoppage, rather than giving the ball back as is the custom. Gael Bigirimana (who was involved in every play whenever the Portuguese crossed into NUFC territory) immediately slid in for the ball and received a yellow for his efforts. It would be Maritimo's turn to be outraged just a minute or two later when Rob Elliot picked up what was clearly a back pass from Mike Williamson, a play the referee somehow missed.
Ultimately, Newcastle gained a point on the road using a second-choice squad, so it's hard to complain. There's really not a good excuse for failing to find the back of the net given the amount of chances they generated, however. In other Group D news, Bordeaux thrashed Club Brugge 4-0 at home. Newcastle will face the French side at Sports Direct Arena in two weeks.
Who was the Man of the Match for Newcastle?
Gael Bigirimana (36 votes)
Steven Taylor (1 vote)
Shola Ameobi (10 votes)
Sammy Ameobi (4 votes)
Rob Elliot (4 votes)
55 total votes