23rd October 2002, 7.45pm. Live on
St. James' Park
Half time: Newcastle 0 Juventus
62 mins Laurent Robert surprised
everyone by playing a free-kick near the corner flag to a forward-running
Andy Griffin on the edge of the area. Griff strode clear of the
visiting defence before drilling over a cross-shot two yards from the byline.
waiting in the middle but the ball never reached him - Buffon deflecting
it into his own net at the Leazes end. The goal was greeted with a small
ripple of applause and Griffin was congratulated with a warm handshake
from the captain. Ahem.... 1-0
Full time: Newcastle 1 Juventus 0
Sir Bob said:
goes down as one of my greatest Newcastle victories.
must take pride in the fact that we have defeated one of the most powerful
teams in Europe and a side which had not tasted defeat this season.
players showed incredible resolve and tenacity to get us back into this
group and if we can show those same qualities against Kiev and Feyenoord
then who knows what we might achieve?"
knew we had to win that match and the players responded with a superb
defensive performance was the best I have seen all season and Titus
Bramble grew up against one of the best strikeforces in Europe. He made a
couple of early errors but came through well and for a 21-year-old his
distribution is up there with the best in the Premiership.
across the back we defended and attacked as a unit and that made Juve's
life very difficult."
we lost against Juve that would have been four successive defeats and no
way would my players have deserved that.
never been outplayed in this group and we have shown tremendous resolve to
beat one of European football's superpowers.
the players can wake up with their heads held high and feeling full of
pride. That victory was crucial for their confidence and defeat may have
had a quite damaging effect." Robson, as expected, picked Steve
Harper ahead of Shay Given and the Easington-born keeper survived an early
scare to keep the most important clean sheet of his career.
claimed he couldn't see Nedved when he kicked the ball straight at him and
I told him I didn't need a goalkeeper who couldn't see."
in all seriousness, it was never a gamble selecting Harps and his saves in
the dying stages were vital in getting us back into the group."
Andy Griffin said:
"It was my goal and I hope nobody
is going to try to take it off me. It was my goal, and too right, I'm
"There was a little bit of luck
involved, but I don't score many so I'm having that one. It was only the
second goal I've scored since I came to Newcastle - if you don't count
that own goal against Blackburn Rovers.
"My only other goal was that
end-of-season goal against Arsenal at St James' Park three years ago. That
wasn't a bad one, but this one was easily my most important."
About some crunching tackles on Di
"I don't dislike di Vaio, but
that's the way I am and I always will be. After all, I kick Laurent Robert
in training and he's one of our players.
"Tackling is an important part of
my game, but I am honest and fair at the same time.
"I've had some great times at
Newcastle since I came here from Stoke City. The FA Cup semi-final with
Spurs a few years ago was a big one and I really enjoyed the derby victory
over Sunderland recently.
"But this match against Juventus
takes some beating, what with the goal and the importance of the
coach Marcello Lippi said:
"Coming to play in a stadium like
Newcastle United's ground is not an easy task and what they have shown is
the fact that zero points doesn't really reflect their performances in the
"We had a few chances but
obviously when you go one goal behind in front of a crowd like this one,
it's not easy to come back.
"We created three clear chances,
but didn't take them and it wasn't easy at all because of Newcastle's
"Football is a very simple game.
It's a game where you need to score goals in order to win. We created lots
of chances and just didn't take them."
Tonight brought the highest ever Champions League
attendance to SJP (not forgetting the CL capacity was just over 35,000 in
1997/98 Croatia Zagreb: 34,465
1997/98 Barcelona: 35,274
1997/98 PSV Eindhoven: 35,214
1997/98 Dynamo Kiev: 33,694
2002/03 Zeljeznicar: 34,067
2002/03 Feyenoord: 40,540
2002/03 Juventus: 48,370
We drew closer to a century of "proper" European goals - this was
our 98th in Champions League, UEFA Cup, Cup-winners Cup and Fairs Cup
Our all-time record in those competitions is:
After the massive disappointment of the three
group games came salvation, at almost the last time of asking. And if this
victory won't live in the memory in quite the same manner as the Tino/Barcelona
night, then it won't be far away.
Clad in the unfamiliar and decidedly non-Toon like away garb, United set
about their task in a realistic manner as Juventus settled into their expected
pattern of deep defence, not unlike their tactic in Turin.
For once the crowd didn't get the players over-excited and while there was pressure
from United in the opening moments it wasn't of the desperate boys-own
comic type variety. That's apart from O'Brien, who seemed to have some crazy
notion that the best way to unhinge the Italian scudetto holders was for a
central defender to charge headlong at them, attempting impossible dribbles.
Thankfully his central defensive companion Bramble was in command at the back
and grew in stature and confidence as the clock ticked on. His Newcastle career
so far has been a little rocky, but in this match he showed good timing in the
tackle and an eye for a positive and creative ball out of defence - and by
goodness do we need someone capable of the latter.
A cynical person would say that Juventus played within themselves until we took
the lead and then moved up a gear, but that's to underplay the performance of
our side in the latter stages when the Italians pressed hard for an equaliser.
It also overlooks the body of responsible work that the likes of Speed, Jenas
and Solano did to assist their defensive colleagues, as well as their more
Shearer was less spectacular than we've seen in recent games but every bit as
committed, and again seemed to be relishing tussling with the foreign foe pitted
against him. Maybe it brought back happy memories of playing for England.
Alongside him, LuaLua also got through a lot of running without ever threatening
to do something genuinely outrageous in the skill/shooting department. It would
have been nice to see Bellamy tearing through on goal, but it later transpired
that if suspension hadn't robbed us of the chance to see that, injury would have
So, with Newcastle matching their illustrious opponents, history looked to be
repeating itself on a number of occasions - notably when Robert spurned a chance
just before the interval, and when we gave away a free kick just outside the
box. Thankfully on this occasion the ball was planted high into the crowd, not
the Newcastle net.
The mood in the crowd had remained positive, if not always as raucous as some
media watchers would have you believe. However they kept faith with the team and
provided heartfelt support as we made our way towards goal.
Again our set pieces were variable - a few wasted from Robert and a pile-driver
free kick from Shearer, but just after the hour the enigmatic Frenchmen found
Griffin with a shorter pass instead of pumping a free-kick near the corner flag into the box, and
the rest is rapidly becoming history.
In typical style, we then tried to get a second and me, Solano and around 30,000
others thought we had, until the world's most expensive goalkeeper made a
staggering stop, flinging himself at the ball and even managing to
steer it away from the lurking Shearer
At the opposite end the contribution of Harper was slightly less spectacular but
no less important, as he rode his luck in the first half in an incident with
Nedved but came off his line to make a vital block when the Italians swarmed towards the Gallowgate goal
His post-match celebrations also told the story of a man genuinely pleased to be
doing his job - playing for Newcastle. No great gestures or playing to the crowd
- just clenched fists and a wide grin as he strode towards his celebrating team
This sits alongside the mackem victory as our two biggest results of the season
so far, and there are certain similarities in that we made the running and
deserved to win both games, were underwhelmed by the contribution of the
opposition and never scaled the heights that we are capable of.
We're not really in a patch of great form at present, but happily seem to be making
up for it in work rate and commitment. The good fortune that deserted us earlier
in this campaign returned tonight (excluding Kiev) the confidence boost doubtless
So a night to savour, but only in the knowledge that we've got to do it all again
next Tuesday and then almost certainly find at least a point amid the ferment of
Oh, and fit in the odd Premier League game, to ensure we earn enough points
to put ourselves through all of this nonsense again next season. There is no
other place to be (although I'd still settle for dropping into the UEFA Cup this
season and seeing Seville full of Geordies come next May....)
There's an Ultra flag often seen at the
Stadio Delle Alpi, which reads "black and white fighters".
Lippi's men may have had the strip, but tonight Bobby's boys had the balls.
Still playing, still hoping, still fighting. Toon, Toon.