Newcastle United were well below their best in a 1-1 draw with Maritimo at St James’ Park, but the Magpies still qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League after results in Group D went their way.
Sylvain Marveaux scored his first goal for the club with a fine run and finish midway through the first half, but impressive substitute Fidelis levelled for the Portuguese side with a near-identical effort with 11 minutes remaining.
Pedro Martins’s side went closest to snatching a winner, but the hosts held on for a draw.
Bordeaux’s 2-1 win at Club Brugges meant that Alan Pardew’s team qualified anyway, with their final match in France on December 6 a decider for the group winner, Les Girdondins a point ahead of Newcastle.
A dreadful first half saw both sides employ a hit-and-hope policy as the normally short-passing Portuguese side struggled to find any rhythm.
Newcastle are somewhat more effective with the direct approach and, while their lead was deserved, it was hardly a half for the neutral.
The goal came midway through the period, a shining light in an otherwise dreary affair. Hatem Ben Arfa played Marveaux through on the left, his fellow Frenchman shimmying past a defender before drilling a low finish through the legs of Romain Salin.
It was a nice boost for the 26-year-old Marveaux, who missed most of his first season at the club after arriving from Rennes with a serious knee injury.
Ben Arfa soon limped off with a thigh injury, another blow to Pardew, who is already without Yohan Cabaye and Jonas Gutierrez, while the only other act of note was a Papiss Cisse ‘goal’ disallowed for offside.
The second half was marginally more entertaining, as Maritimo went on the offensive, knowing that anything but a win would see them out of the tournament.
Danilo Dias forced a smart stop from Tim Krul before sending another drive wide, while Sami headed past the post from a good spot.
Ruben Ferreira then saw a half-volley batted away by Krul and their equaliser was ultimately deserved when Fidelis – who had been a handful after coming off the bench – skipped away from a weak Steven Taylor challenge before driving his finish through the legs of Krul.
It was eerily similar to Marveaux’s strike, while Fidelis then mimicked Cisse in netting from an offside position.
There was a scary moment in injury time as Fidelis volleyed wide after arriving unmarked at the far post, but they could not force a winner, and the point was enough for Newcastle to seal their passage to the knockout phase with one match left, while Maritimo and Brugges exit.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Fidelis - Maritimo: The Brazilian made a huge impact from the bench, scoring a good goal, seeing one disallowed and sending a late volley just wide.
NEWCASTLE: Krul 6, Coloccini 7, Santon 7, Simpson 6, Taylor 5, Anita 5, Ben Arfa 6, Bigirimana 6, Marveaux 7, Sammy Ameobi 6, Cisse 5; Subs: Amalfitano 7, Abeid N/A, Ba 6
MARITIMO: Salin 6, Marcio Rosario 6, Ruben Ferreira 6, Joao Diogo 6, Rafael Miranda 6, Roberge 5, Joao Luiz 6, Simao 5, Sami 5, Adilson 6, Danilo Dias 7; Subs: Birigido 7, Fidelis 7
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