IT was a day and night for intoxicating blends in Belgium’s beer capital.
While an invading horde of 5,000 or so travelling supporters supped on the hard stuff in Bruges’ picturesque Markt square, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew continued the process of fermenting a formula for success in Continental competition.
Just as it has in all of their other Europa League engagements, United’s heady mixture of youthful vigour, players with a point to prove and experienced old stagers ensured they survived a bruising night in Bruges with their unbeaten record intact. One more win should do it.
Newcastle are enjoying life in Europe, discovering new stars and rehabilitating reputations with every new match.
Here it was the further adventures of Sammy Ameobi which thrilled black and white hearts, but Vurnon Anita’s sumptuous volley and a defiant display from Shola Ameobi generated more momentum ahead of a critical Christmas period.
The Ameobis became the first brothers to represent Newcastle in a meaningful competition for 60 years and they marked the historic occasion by linking up for the equalising goal.
However, if Shola is reliable and steadfast, his younger brother has a whiff of some altogether more exciting.
There were times when his work was a bit rough round the edges in the Jan Breydelstadion, but one back-heeled flick on the byline which preceded an electrifying run into the heart of Club Brugges territory was a joy to behold.
He has a future in black and white and for the first time you can probably say the same about Anita – who was tigerish in the heart of midfield alongside a European goal for the ages to kickstart Newcastle’s recovery. Concerns remain. Newcastle have only kept four clean sheets this season and there was little prospect of another one here, given the way they defended at times over an exquisitely enjoyable match.
Cheick Tiote also appears to be having a crisis of identity, with Pardew suggesting afterwards he is worried about his appalling disciplinary record.
All-in-all though, it was a fantastic game. After a nip and tuck start, the first half threatened to turn into a disaster for United.
For weeks the talk was all about who was going to Bruges.
But in the first half an hour Newcastle had cause to bemoan the black and whites who hadn’t turned up – namely the visiting back four.
They were shocking, with the spine of the defence snapped by a series of quickfire Club Brugge counter-attacks.
The alarm was sounded as early as the fourth minute when wasteful Gael Bigirimana sloppily misplaced a pass to let in Carlos Bacca, but the Colombian could not get any purchase on a drive which flew high, wide and not particularly handsomely over Krul’s upright.
The travelling hordes breather a sigh of relief, but the reprieve was temporary.
The home side surged into the lead just before the quarter-hour mark as United were caught out by a move alarmingly similar to Luis Suarez’s sumptuous strike at Anfield.
With respect to Ivan Trickovski, a Macedonian international striker who has shown a few touches over two Europa League meetings with United, he is no Suarez – but he still managed to waltz past Coloccini after latching onto Ryan Donk’s raking through ball.
Coloccini has played with a regal air ever since his catastrophic first campaign but, for the second time in as many games, the halo slipped slightly by his inadequate reaction to a ball dinked over the top of the United back four.
Perhaps – just perhaps – opposition teams have discovered a chink in the skipper’s armour.
Worrying, but it got worse before it got better for the visitors.
They were undone again five minutes later by another error – this time Dane Jesper Jorgensen wriggled past Mike Williamson before rolling a shot past Tim Krul, who reacted ponderously to the shot.
If the back four was a concern, the forward-thinking players weren’t much better.
Pardew’s pointed remarks about certain players needing to stake their claim this season was a reference to Sylvain Marveaux, and his early efforts did not bode well for his Newcastle future.
He and Gabriel Obertan were especially wasteful as Club Brugges ceded possession and the former Rennes man was responsible for one of the misses of the season after a forward run by his compatriot.
Obertan’s run and cross was controlled but Marveaux, six yards from goal and with no-one beyond him, aimed at air - and the ball bobbled embarrassingly beyond him.
It said much about the quality being served up on the pitch the travelling supporters were at that point amusing themselves by singing the praises of the substitutes but redemption came, like a bolt from the blue, from the right boot of Vurnon Anita.
In and out of the team, the Holland midfielder has endured a rough ride in English football and needed something special to introduce himself to the Newcastle faithful.
When it arrived, it was some announcement as Anita cracked a searing right-footed volley from 30 yards that flew past a helpless Bojan Jorgacevic.
Suddenly, a party in danger of falling flat was re-ignited and three minutes later United were level after the brothers Ameobi combined to tee up Shola’s 14th European goal.
Cue wild celebrations from the visiting fans, and a renewed bout of the jitters from the managerless hosts.
The second half was a heady mix of end-to-end football.
Krul recovered to make several top drawer saves while Newcastle nearly nicked it through sub Yohan Cabaye, who curled a brilliant free-kick on to Jorgacevic’s upright.