RYAN Taylor hit Atromitos with a bolt from the blue – after being struck by one himself!
Taylor’s stunning free-kick spared Newcastle’s blushes as they drew in the first leg of the club’s Europa League qualifier. He put a 25-yard set-piece over the wall and beyond goalkeeper Charles Itlandje with what turned out to be the last kick of the first half.
Denis Epstein had earlier opened the scoring at the Peristeri Stadium, where the game kicked off in punishing 36 degree heat.
Taylor – who was jeered by Atromitos fans before he scored – revealed after the game he’d been hit with a bolt as he took a corner.
Fortunately he was unhurt, and Taylor and his team-mates, who play the return match at the Sports Direct Arena next Thursday, left Athens today for London ahead of tomorrow’s game at Chelsea happy with the result.
“I didn’t see how far out it was, to be honest, but I saw (Itlandje) leave a fair old gap that side,” Taylor said.
“I just knew I had to get it over the wall, and if I did that, I’d have half a chance.
“These balls fly. They are a different ball to those we play with at home – and when we were shooting with them, they come at you with such a pace.”
Taylor was disappointed to have had a bolt thrown at him.
“I think their fans let themselves down,” he said.
“I went over for a corner, and I got hit on the back with a bolt. I didn’t say anything, but it wasn’t nice.”
Full-back James Tavernier had little time to become acclimatised to the heat as the home side repeatedly tried to play the ball in behind him for pacy wide-man Epstein to chase.
It was a ploy with which the Greeks were to persevere, ultimately to good effect.
Having survived a third-minute scare when he managed to recover to dispossess Epstein after he had collected Sokratis Fytanidis’ ball over the top, keeper Steve Harper was relieved to see the German side-foot weakly from a tight angle after being played in once again.
But it was a case of third time lucky for the Greeks when Nikola Beljic drifted a 24th-minute ball into the space behind the defender and Epstein finished calmly as the 37-year-old keeper came to meet him.
Newcastle might have been level 10 minutes before the break when Itandje hacked Taylor’s free-kick away before Gael Bigirimana fired the rebound over the top.
The home side looked to be heading into the break with a deserved lead until the final kick of the first half.
Iglesias was fortunate to escape further punishment when he hauled Gosling back by the throat, and Israeli referee Alon Yefet awarded a free-kick 25 yards out.
Taylor once again reprised his speciality to curl a dipping shot low to the keeper’s right to level.
The Magpies could have taken the lead within two minutes of the restart when lone striker Cisse, who had been largely starved of possession before the break, found space down the right to cross for Sylvain Marveaux, but the Frenchman failed to make meaningful contact with his header as the ball dropped over a defender.
But it was the home side, stung by their late capitulation, who were dictating the play once again and Kuqi sent a dipping 51st-minute volley over Harper’s bar.
Itandje had to help a 55th-minute Taylor corner out of the danger area under extreme pressure as the visitors responded, but the keeper was relieved to see Gabriel Obertan’s volley deflected just over the bar four minutes later.
Cisse passed up a glorious opportunity to fire his side in front with 67 minutes played when he controlled Obertan’s deep cross and attempted to round Itandje, but the keeper managed to get in a hand to deny the Senegal international.
Itandje was quick to leave his line and deny substitute Romain Amalfitano after Cisse had back-heeled him in on goal 17 minutes from time, but Konstantinos Giannoulis really should have won it for the home side six minutes later.
Tavernier was once again found wanting as the left-back surged past him into the penalty area, but he shot wildly high and wide with just Harper to beat.
Atromitos: Itandje, Skondras, Giannoulis (Karagounis), Fitanidis, Beljic (Chumbinho), Lazaridis, Brito, Iglesias, Dimoutsos, Epstein, Kuqi (Karamanos). Subs: Radman, Tavlaridis, Nastos, Garcia.
Newcastle United: Harper, Williamson, Perch, R Taylor, Tavernier, Anita, Gosling (Amalfitano), Bigirimana, Marveaux (Gutierrez), Obertan, Cisse (Campbell), Subs: Krul, Santon, S Taylor, Cabaye.
Ref: Yefet Att: 4,872.