Atromitos 1-1 Newcastle

Newcastle's Michael Williamson and Atromitos' Nazi Kuqi

An under-strength Newcastle side claimed a valuable 1-1 draw away to Atromitos in the first leg of their Europa League play-off round tie.

Denis Epstein put the hosts ahead before Ryan Taylor equalised with a trademark free-kick before half-time.

Boss Alan Pardew made nine changes from the side that beat Tottenham 2-1 on Saturday, with a league match against Chelsea less than 48 hours away.

The winners of the tie will go into the competition's group stage draw.

Pardew delved into his second-string and gave first competitive starts to summer signings Vurnon Anita and Gael Bigirimana in the absence of established players such as Fabricio Coloccini, Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba who were all left at home, and Hatem Ben Arfa who missed out through suspension.

As Yohan Cabaye, Steven Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez sweltered on the bench in a baking Athens, Atromitos took advantage of full-back James Tavernier's inexperience to open the scoring on 24 minutes as Epstein shot past onrushing goalkeeper Steve Harper.

Newcastle refused to panic and went into the interval on level terms after Taylor curled a free-kick into the bottom corner of former Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje's net with the last kick of the half.

As the heat took its toll, the second period was played at walking pace. With just under 15 minutes left, Pardew brought on 17-year-old striker Adam Campbell to break Andy Carroll's record as the club's youngest ever European debutant.

Atromitos - who were playing their first competitive game of their season after finishing fourth in the Greek Super League last term - wasted the best chance of the half shortly after as Konstantinos Giannoulis shot horribly wide when through on goal after he burst past Tavernier on the left.

The result ensured Newcastle travelled back to the north east with an away goal as they ventured into European competition for the first time in five years.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew:

"I should think in the Premier League, there are not too many players at dead balls who have the accuracy of Ryan Taylor.

"He is desperate to play in the first team, but he has got some good performances from Saturday's game against Tottenham in front of him, so he has got to be patient."

He added: "Our pre-season prep, you could argue, served us well [against Atromitos] because they let us have possession for long periods of the game, and we moved the ball and made them work really hard and took the sting out of the game a little bit.

"In the second half, I was a little bit disappointed we didn't get the win - I thought there were good opportunities - but overall, I was very, very pleased with the performance."

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