Newcastle United held serve at home Thursday, defeating Greek Superleague side Atromitos 1-0 to advance to the Europa League Group Stage on a goal by Haris Vuckic. Alan Pardew fielded a much stronger lineup than I anticipated (though not nearly full strength), and the team responded with some strong, aggressive play for about 40 minutes. The Toon had chance after chance, but were only able to equalize when Vuckic's intended cross for Demba Ba took a wild deflection off a defender and tucked just inside the far post. The rest of the game would be a choppy affair, and at one point near the end of the first half Atromitos midfielder Chumbinho was taken down by Tim Krul in the box, yet was booked for diving. It was a huge break that the Greek side actually recovered quite well from, almost scoring again later in the match. In the end, Newcastle were just good enough to advance. If they'd like to advance to the knockout stage, they'll need to play much better.
The Group Stage draw will be held Friday at 1200 BST. Stay tuned to Coming Home Newcastle for a preview of the draw and a live thread starting at 1530.