Bert van Marwijk had stressed it before departure to St. James' Park: Feyenoord had to somehow survive the first fifteen minutes of the match. If the Rotterdammers managed to get through the opening phase unscathed, a substantial part of the mission in North England would have been a success. In the protected environment of the Marriot hotel, coach warned his side of the pressure they could expect later on in the evening and emphasised the importance of keeping their heads cool in that initial period.
Events in the great atmosphere at St. James' Park were therefore perhaps unexpected. Although Bobby Robson's side tried to take the Dutch side by surprise, the English didn't get much further than a gentle tease in the opening minutes. A shot from Bellamy went across the front of the goal. Zoetebier was called on to save an effort by Dyer and Robert had a go at goal, but the feared camp outside the Feyenoord goal failed to materialise.
And didn't materialise for the rest of the match, as Pardo gave the match an unexpected twist in the fourth minute. A high cross towards Buffel was badly cleared by O'Brein, after which the ball landed somewhat fortunately in front of Pardo's feet. The Chilean had a clear shot, clearly had no doubt in his mind and crashed the ball with impressive curve into Given's net. Feyenoord had the start they couldn't even have dreamt of.
The 1-0 lead gave Feyenoord the necessary composure and self-confidence it needed to take control of the match. With Bosvelt and Ono marshals in midfield and Van Wonderen and Pauwe demonstrating their experience as builders at the back, Feyenoord drove the English into increasingly narrow corners.
No more than five minutes after the opening goal, Feyenoord even had a second chance at goal. Bosvelt nodded the ball on to Buffel. The speedy Belgian made a beeline for Givens goal but was hassled into putting the ball wide. A second goal would have made Feyenoord's dominance that little bit easier.
The Magpies managed to recover a little and even had a major chance at 1-1. Bellamy seemed about to capitalize on a cleverly composed one-two, but Emerton saved the day just before the ball crossed the line. Irony that the Australian who is so sought after by Newcastle defused the situation with an impressive slide.
Feyenoord kept cool under the increasing Newcastle pressure and was quick to recover. The combinations between the side seem to be improving by the week and showed their worth again this evening, as was clearly shown after about 30 minutes when Emerton had another chance at goal. His shot was stopped by Given, but the build-up was impressive. With an extended series of short passes and combinations, Feyenoord weaved seemingly effortlessly from the left to the right of the park, without the English getting a sniff at the ball.
The home side's answer was predictable, as Robson's men increasingly tried the long ball. Once it was clear that both Van Wonderen and Paauwe weren't having too much trouble with the tactic, Feyenoord appeared to want to force the English into that mode of attack. With Thomas Buffel as the proverbial wasp disturbing the black and white defence, Newcastle was unable to build from the back.
The approach worked well, although as the match progressed it became clear that Feyenoord had a lot to thank its keeper for. Zoetebier parried a Shearer effort with impressive reflexes and towards the close of the first half was ready to tip an effort by Bellamy over the bar. Zoetebier continued to grown into this role in the second half. Within fifteen minutes his fists had knocked back a flaming strike by Shearer and again tipped the ball over the top following a tricky header by Solano. The Volendammer was happy to have team mate Ono's assistance later on as the Japanese player headed another Shearer attempt off the line.
Feyenoord found itself in heavy weather for the first fifteen minutes of the second half, but was quick to recover. In fact, the Rotterdammers had the first major chance of the second half, with Buffel impressively squeezing past two men to give Ono the chance to tap in from close range. It seemed a certainty, but the shot wasn’t accurate enough and lacked pace. Newcastle didn't wait to reply and Bellamy scraped the crossbar with his shot, before being replaced by Lua Lua. The attacker almost spoilt the Rotterdam party in the final phases, but thankfully for everyone at Feyenoord put the shot wide.
Newcastle United-Feyenoord 0-1 (0-1)
Referee: Vileo (Fr)
4' 0-1 Pardo
Yellow card: Bosvelt, Ono, Van Wonderen.
Newcastle United: Given; Griffin, O’Brein, Dabizas, Hughes; Solano, Dyer, Speed, Robert; Bellamy (77' Lua Lua), Shearer.
Feyenoord: Zoetebier; Emerton, Van Wonderen, Paauwe, Rzasa; Song, Bosvelt, Ono, Pardo (84' Lurling); Buffel, Van Hooijdonk.