By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the Peristeri Stadium
Atromitos 1 (Epstein 24)
Newcastle United 1 (R Taylor 45)
Ryan Taylor netted a stunning free-kick right on the stroke of half-time to earn Newcastle United a 1-1 draw away at Atromitos in their Europa League fourth qualifying round first leg tie.
The Magpies trailed to Denis Epstein's composed finish midway through the first period, but Taylor stepped up to score a trademark 'over the wall' set piece with the final kick of the half.
Njazi Kuqi and Matias Iglesias both threatened for the hosts before Epstein got in down the right to slot home and give Atromitos a shock lead at the Peristeri Stadium.
Taylor almost bagged an equaliser direct from a free-kick out on the touchline but found the back of the net with a curled 25-yard effort to hand United what could be a crucial away goal as they strive for a place in the competition proper.
And history was also re-written as 17-year-old Adam Campbell became the Club's youngest European debutant when he was introduced from the substitutes' bench with 13 minutes remaining.
After a patient opening period from both sides - in sweltering heat - it was the hosts who created the first chance of the evening, however Kuqi - younger brother of former United front man Shefki - was unable to steer his strike on target, having connected with a Elini Dimoutsos cross from the right.
Next to try his luck was Matias Iglesias in the 12th minute, with the holding midfielder striding forward and unleashing a 30 yard drive which was never going to trouble Steve Harper as it flew harmlessly over the bar.
It took a further four minutes before United threatened, but Papiss Cisse was unable to connect properly with a superbly lofted through ball from Vurnon Anita and skewed a difficult volley well off target.
Atromitos goalkeeper Charles Itandje almost gifted the visitors a breakthrough on 21 minutes when he made a right hash of James Tavernier's deep right-wing delivery, but the former Liverpool stopper managed to scramble the loose ball behind for a corner before Dan Gosling could pounce.
But having survived that scare, Atromitos went straight down the other end and grabbed a shock lead. Nikola Beljic knocked a ball in behind Tavernier, and Epstein was on to it like a shot, taking a touch before steering a confident finish past Harper and into the far corner.
United were shocked and nearly fashioned an unlikely equaliser on 35 minutes through Ryan Taylor. Having been fouled out wide on the left touchline by Ioannis Skondras, the full-back picked himself up and curled a low delivery right into the six-yard box.
In fact, it was heading for the back of the net until Itandje stuck out a foot in desperation, managing to somehow clear the danger.
But that one was clearly just a sighter as Taylor went one better with the final kick of the half. Dan Gosling was halted in his tracks by a near rugby tackle from Iglesias and Taylor did the rest, stepping up to curl over the wall and past the despairing dive of Itandje, who was absolutely helpless.
Newcastle came out for the second half spurred on by their leveller and should have edged in front within two minutes of the restart, but Sylvain Marveaux - provided with a free header from Papiss Cisse's cross - somehow contrived to almost completely miss his cue, and the ball ran safely through to the keeper.
The visitors were starting to dominate and when Gabriel Obertan reacted quickest to a loose ball which dropped around 15 yards out, the winger's strike only ended up inches over the bar due to a deflection.
Atromitos had already made two changes by the time Alan Pardew rolled his dice for the first time of the evening in the 64th minute, introducing Romain Amalfitano for his Magpies debut in place of Gosling.
Campbell was handed his debut, and in doing so became the youngest player to represent the Club in Europe, at just 17 years and 236 days.
But with all eyes on the youngster, it was Atromitos who stole up field and could have snatched the lead for the second time on the night. Left-back Konstantinos Giannoulis suddenly found the ball at his feet inside the area, but showed a defender's finish with a lashed effort which swerved off the outside of his boot and miles wide.
Campbell was to get one goalscoring opportunity, as he raced on to a pass down the right, but the angle was too tight for the diminutive forward and his effort was simple for Itandje to claim at his near post.
Atromitos (4-1-4-1): Charles Itandje; Ioannis Skondras (c), Sokratis Fytanidis, Nikolaos Lazaridis, Konstantinos Giannoulis (Athanasios Karagounis 87) ; Matias Iglesias; Nikola Beljic (Anastasios Karamanos 60), Elini Dimoutsos, Eduardo Luiz Brito, Denis Epstein; Njazi Kuqi (Anastasios Karamanos 60)
Subs not used: Velimir Radman, Eustathios Taylaridis, Sebastian Pitu Garcia, Evaggelos Nastos
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Steve Harper; James Tavernier, Mike Williamson (c), James Perch, Ryan Taylor; Gael Bigirimana, Vurnon Anita; Gabriel Obertan, Dan Gosling (Romain Amalfitano 64), Sylvain Marveaux (Jonas Gutierrez 71); Papiss Cisse (Adam Campbell 77)
Referee: Alon Yefet (Israel)