Tell me ma me ma.....

Posted by Marc Duffy

.....I won't be home for tea, we're going to Italy, tell me ma me ma

Well that might not strictly be true, but we are in the group stages.

Lineups:Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, R.Taylor (Vuckic 11), Bigirimana, Perch (Tavernier 59), Marveaux (Amalfitano 90+2), Obertan, Gosling, Ba.

Unused subs: Harper, Cabaye, Cisse, Campbell.

Atromitos: Itandje, Skondras, Giannoulis, Fitanidis, Lazaridis, Brito (Kuqi 88), Iglesias, Dimoutsos (, Garcia85), Epstein, Karamanos, Chumbinho (Beljic 75).

Unused subs: Radman, Tavlaridis, Nastos, Balas.

We went onto the front foot from the start of the game and five minutes in James Perch curled a shot just wide of the post. Shortly afterwards one of the differences between what we see domestically each week and European football was perfectly highlighted. James Perch won the ball brilliantly making no contact at all with the opponent. The referee awarded a free kick to the Greeks. Given that the ref (from Switzerland) has awarded 29 yellows in his 6 games this season, Perchy was probably lucky no card was shown!

We suffered a blow in the 7th minute when Ryan Taylor looked to twist his knee after landing awkwardly when riding a tackle. His immediate discomfort was obvious. It doesn't look promising and it would be a blow to lose a player with his versatility when the season has barely even started. Fingers crossed its not a major tear. He was replaced with Haris Vuckic. James Perch dropped into left back and Gosling fell back into the position Perch started in at holding mid. That's Perchinho's third position already this season!

As Ryan was receiving treatment on the touchline Marveaux made his way into the area and shot across Itandje, who saved well. Most of the positive forward play was driven by Gabriel Obertan. He looked a different player to the unconfident, uncertain player that we are used to watching and his explosive breaks continued from the Frenchman throughout the whole game. I'm pretty sure he will have no difficulty sleeping tonight!

We also had a few corners early on in the game and almost every single one was penalised by the ref in favour of the defending team. It's so frustrating. This happened in the first leg too - I don't know why UEFA don't just go the whole hog and outlaw corners altogether..... Another pathetic aspect of European football.

We took the lead through Haris Vuckic. He put in a very lively shift and although he should probably have scored 2 or 3, it was his goal that ultimately decided the tie. His great movement made him space, he collected the ball from a Simpson throw and his curling shot deflected into the far corner. Good goal, 1 v 0.

Our next chance fell to Mike Williamson, but he failed to score (obviously!) it came from a corner and his left foot swinger went wide of Itandje's left hand post. It wasn't a bad effort really, but this was Williamson's 74th appearance and he is yet to score a goal despite piling into the penalty area for every single corner!

The brilliantly named Chumbinho forced a save from Krul (Krul fumbled it, more on that later) and at the other end Itandje saved very well from Ba. Gosling, who has failed to impress me at all over these two legs, took a pop at goal which ended up as an Atromitos throw in! Gosling failed to make an impact on either game and looks very slow.

Back to Krul. 42 minutes in and a shot from distance was again saved but spilled by Krul. Chumbinho collected the rebound and took the ball past Krul. Krul reached out for the ball and in real-time it looked like Chumbinho took a dive. When I watched it later in slow motion it was totally obvious that Krul took him down. It should have been a penalty and probably a red card too. It wasn't, so let's move on.....!

We seemed to lose most of our drive in the second half and Atromitos began to play with some momentum. They had a goal disallowed for offside and they also missed a great chance late on after a Bigirimana error. Gosling also gave the ball away 25 yards from goal but the resulting shot was poor.

We had further chances - Obertan was played in and Itandje saved brilliantly, Ba had a couple of half chances but the only thing that stopped Atromitos from scoring a goal was their own lack of quality. Beljic nipped into the box late on and took a preposterous dive that earned him a yellow card and Gosling had another strike at goal - this one went about 50 feet over the crossbar. There was very little quality from either side in the second 45.

We are through and tonight that is all that matters. Not without concerns though - the Taylor injury could be a big blow. His versatility should be vital in 50+ game season. Perch also went off injured with a neck injury. I've read a lot in the past week or two about our lack of signings. Many believe that our backup players are more than capable of stepping up if required, but based on the two legs of this tie I am not so sure. Tavernier will be a great player in a few years - he was dreadful when confronted with a bit of pace last week. Gosling has been awful and Bigirimana, although 90% of his game is very good, he has played a few terrible passes in dangerous areas and for that he would be seriously punished in the Premier League. Let's hope he doesn't deliver too many more free kicks either. Marveaux looks tidy but has been largely ineffective. He could do with more playing time. Personally I would like to see more of Abeid and Vuckic.

There are some great teams through to the group stage including last years finalists Atletico and Bilbao, Napoli, Inter and Joey Barton's Marseille. The draw for the group stage will take place in Monaco tomorrow (Friday)

Attendance: 29,242

Man of the match: Gabriel Obertan

If you would like to talk all things NUFC on twitter drop me a line @MarcSDuffy

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