Newcastle battled back from two goals down against Club Bruge in Brussels to earn a hard fought 2-2 draw that kept them top Europa League Group D. The result was thanks in no small part to the contributions of Sammy and Shola Ameobi, who became the first brothers to start a game for the club in 60 years, emulating the feat of George and Ted Robledo in 1952.
After conceding twice in the game‘s early exchanges, a two minute spell at the end of the first-half saw Vurnon Anita’s exquisite volley halve his side’s arrears, before the Ameobi brothers combined to complete the Magpies comeback. With a slide rule pass, Sammy played his elder brother through on goal and Shola made no mistake with the finish to score his second goal of the season, the other coming against Bordeaux, also in the Europa League. The game in the Belgian capital capped a fine couple of days for the brothers following their respective call-ups to international duty.
Sammy has been drafted into Stuart Pearce’s England U-21 squad to face Northern Ireland at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road on Tuesday, whilst a day later in Miami, Shola will be in with a chance of winning his first cap for Nigeria, who play Venezuela. Cleared by FIFA last November to represent the Super Eagles at senior international level, between 2000 and 2003 Shola won 20 England U-21 caps, netting seven goals in the process.
The elder Ameobi places eighth in the list of all-time leading goal scorers for the U-21s, whilst his younger brother aims to open his own account. Previously capped in quick succession almost a year ago against Iceland and Belgium, Sammy would be justified in believing he can achieve this, given the fine form he has shown in response to the opportunities Alan Pardew has handed him in Newcastle’s first team.
In addition to the assist for his big brother’s equaliser against Bruge, he played a pivotal role in both Gabriel Obertan’s winner against the same opposition at St. James’ Park a fortnight ago and Papiss Cisse’s decisive goal three days after that, which defeated West Brom. Aside from these flashes of his undisputed potential, Sammy’s overall development as a player, whilst still in its early stages, appears to be accelerating with each game in which he is involved. Although a tendency to overlook passing to a teammate in favour of trying to go past an opponent still persists, he has made significant progress since making his debut in a May 2010 Premier League away to Chelsea.
That was also a memorable day for the Ameobi’s. With Shola – who too made his first-team debut against Chelsea in September 2000 – already on the field of play, they were the first brothers to feature in the same Newcastle XI at any stage of a game, since the aforementioned Robledos. Given the assuredness with which they played in Bruge, it is relatively safe to say that Sammy and Shola will feature in the same Newcastle starting XI again. This could quite conceivably be in two weeks’ time when the chance to clinch qualification to the Europa League’s last-32 will present itself against Maritimo at St. James’.
Before then, home fixtures against Swansea on Sunday afternoon and West Ham provide the Magpies with a realistic chance of improving their place in the top-half of the Premier League.
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