YOU can’t keep a good man down.
And in Europe, that man – for Newcastle United – is invariably Shola Ameobi.
The striker stepped on to the freezing Metalist Stadium pitch last night in a short-sleeved shirt. There were no gloves, either.
He meant business. And so did Newcastle.
And today Alan Pardew and his players were looking forward to a Round of 16 tie against Anzhi Makhachkala thanks to Ameobi’s smartly-taken penalty in the 64th minute, the goal seeing Metalist Kharkiv defeated 1-0 in the Ukraine.
That’s not forgetting Tim Krul’s heroics in goal at the other end.
The club, after last month’s much-needed investment, now has the squad to attack this competition.
And a European adventure that at one point looked an unwelcome distraction from what was becoming a grim battle against Premier League relegation is now a welcome preoccupation for a club which hasn’t won a major trophy since 1969.
Certainly, the spirit United showed in the latter stages of their second leg should carry them a long way in this competition.
It wasn’t easy on a bitterly cold night in Kharkiv. Far from it.
Pardew lost midfielder Cheik Tiote to illness on the day of the game, and he made five changes to the side which played out a goalless draw against Metalist at St James’s Park last week, with debutant Massadio Haidara the most notable.
The 20-year-old, signed from Nancy last month, started at left-back, while Ameobi, Vurnon Anita, Danny Simpson and Sylvain Marveaux also came into an attack-minded side.
Mindful of Sunday’s Premier League game against Southampton, Pardew named Steven Taylor as a substitute.
The players took to the field amid worrying reports of United fans getting attacked as they made their way to the sold-out stadium, a host venue for Euro 2012.
Pardew’s side made a promising start, and Ameobi almost played in Papiss Demba Cisse with a low cross from the left.
United, attacking the end of the stadium which housed Metalist’s fanatical supporters, settled well into the game, with Haidara, a tall and rangy player, in particular catching the eye.
Moussa Sissoko took a pass from Yohan Cabaye on the right in the 15th minute, but his weak shot was easily gathered by goalkeeper Olexandr Goryainov.
Ameobi had another effort deflected wide in a solid spell of Newcastle pressure which helped quieten the home fans, who had been so vocal as the kick-off neared.
Captain Fabricio Coloccini adeptly dealt with a half-chance that came Kharkiv’s way at the other end of the pitch, but the home team slowly turned up the heat as the break neared at the sub-zero Metalist Stadium.
Speaking before the match, Pardew had been convinced there’d be goals in the tie, but the first half ended goalless, despite a late surge from Myron Markevich’s side which as aided by Belgian referee Serge Gumienny.
The whistle-happy official didn’t seem to like Coloccini or tackling in general, and his decisions infuriated assistant manager John Carver, who remonstrated with the fourth official on the touchline.
The second half was scrappy to start with, but it almost came to life in the 56th minute when Sissoko played in Marveaux on the left. The winger cut into the box, but his shot flew over Goryainov’s crossbar.
Sissoko scuffed another shot wide, and it just wasn’t happening for Newcastle up front until a horrendous back-pass from Papa Gueye led to Goryainov bringing down Sissoko, who was chasing the stray ball.
Up stepped Ameobi, who sent Goryainov the wrong way to score his 15th European goal for the club.
The strike sparked wild celebrations in the away end, but the game was far from over.
Goalkeeper Krul, largely a spectactor, pulled off a superb save to deny substitute Willian with the stadium on their feet ready to cheer what seemed a certain equaliser.
There followed a frantic spell for Newcastle, and Krul superbly denied Jonathan Cristaldo and Cleiton Xavier.
United survived a fraught last few minutes to book their place in the next stage of the Europa League.
Ameobi is still well behind United’s all-time European goalscorer – Alan Shearer (30) – but the 31-year-old looks to have a few left in his locker.
And you wouldn’t write this team off.
Not after this. Not now.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: KRUL 8; Simpson 7, Yanga-Mbiwa 8, Coloccini 8, Haidara 8; Anita 8 (Perch, 76), Cabaye 7 (Bigirimana, 87); Cisse 6 (Gutierrez, 76), Sissoko 8, Marveaux 7; Shola Ameobi 8. Subs not used: Elliot, S Taylor, Gosling, Obertan.
METALIST KHARKIV: Goryainov; Villagra, Gueye, Torsiglieri, Fininho; Torres (67), Edmar (Blanco, 82); Marlos (Willian, 67), Cleiton Xavier, Sosa; Cristaldo. Disljenkovic, Berezovchuk, Shelayev, Krasnopyorov.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tim Krul. Put simply, he kept United in Europe in the space of a few frantic minutes.
HIGHLIGHT: The sight of Shola Ameobi’s penalty hitting the back of the net.
LOWLIGHT: The referee, Serge Gumienny. He was awful, but at least he got the penalty right.
Goals: Shola Ameobi 64 (pen)
Bookings: Haidara 44, Cisse 74, Fininho 87, Cristaldo 88, Krul 90
Referee: Serge Gumienny (Belgium)