COLUMBUS, Ohio — Newcastle United took advantage of the short-handed Columbus Crew to notch a 3-0 win on Tuesday in a friendly match at Crew Stadium that took a turn to the bizarre just before halftime, when Columbus were forced to use MLS emergency goalkeeper Chris Konopka after Andy Gruenebaum was shown red for a handball outside the penalty area in the 45th minute.
Konopka allowed two goals after Newcastle built on a 1-0 lead on a score by Shola Amoebi in the ninth minute. Fabricio Coloccini got the second goal in the 53rd minute from a muddled clearance of a corner kick as the service by Sylvain Marveaux hit Crew players Justin Meram and Julius James before falling to the Argentine.
Substitute Haris Vukcic added the dagger with a strike off the right post in stoppage time.
Konopka was called in because third-string goalkeeper Alex Riggs is out with a bruised hip, leaving Gruenebaum as the only healthy ‘keeper on the roster at the moment.
Regular Crew starting netminder William Hesmer missed last Saturday’s game vs. Portland with a left quadriceps strain and is questionable for Saturday’s match at Real Salt Lake.
Trailing 1-0, Gruenebaum was caught in no-man’s land as Demba Ba broke free from defender Eric Gehrig. Gruenebaum slid to take the ball of Demba’s foot and had it cradled to his stomach as Demba fell over him.
Gruenebaum is still eligible for Saturday’s match.
Konopka, who trained with the Crew in the preseason, has been working out with the New York Red Bulls recently. He played for Waterford United of the League of Ireland in 2010 and had a tryout with England’s lower division Oxford United last week when they were in the US.
The Crew’s ad hoc lineup, which featured three rookie starters, proved costly in the ninth minute, when miscommunication in the back led to the opening goal by Amoebi.
Emmanuel Ekpo tried a back pass to Gehrig about 30 yards in front of the Crew goal. As Gehrig stepped into the ball, teammate Kevin Burns came back to dribble it off his foot only to see Amoebi make a steal and head toward goal. He got Gruenebaum to come off the line then skillfully slotted the ball into the goal.
In the 40th minute, a Burns turnover led to a try in the box by Demba but Chad Marshall was there to clean up the mess with a block of the shot.
Columbus got their only chance of the opening half in the 26th, when Cole Grossman strode into a loose ball after a nice run by Ekpo but his 22-yard strike went left of the goal.
Both sides substituted liberally as expected for an exhibition and the Crew went through most of their roster save for the expanding injury list.
Forward Jeff Cunningham, tied for the MLS career lead in goals with Jaime Moreno, did not dress because of a sore right knee. His status for Saturday’s match at Real Salt Lake is unknown.
Also not playing Tuesday because of injuries were forward Andrés Mendoza, midfielders Dilly Duka, Rich Balchan and Danny O’Rourke.
On the positive side, defender Shaun Francis, who has played just one MLS match this season, went 45 minutes as did Emilio Rentería, who made his second appearance in four days after missing 10 games with a leg injury.
The Magpies fielded a strong side considering three players — Joey Barton, Yohan Cabaye and Nile Ranger — were denied visas to the US for the tour; Hatem Ben Arfa injured his knee vs. Sporting Kansas City last week and Danny Simpson went home over the weekend for the birth of his baby.
Newcastle, 12th in their return to the Premiership last season, completed a tour of the United States with a 1-1-1 record. The Magpies tied Sporting Kansas City 0-0 and lost 1-0 to USL Pro side Orlando City.
The Crew are 2-2-2 against English club and 10-3-2 in all international friendlies.
NCU -- Shola Amoebi (unassisted) 9
NCU -- Fabricio Coloccini (unassisted) 53
NCU -- Haris Vukcic (Demba Ba) 91+
CLB -- Andy Gruenebaum (ejection; Denied Goal Scoring Opportunity (Handball)) 45
NCU -- Cheik Tote (caution; Reckless Tackle) 56
Newcastle United -- Steve Harper, Fabricio Coloccini (Paul Dummett 54), Sanchez Jose Enrique, Steven Taylor, James Tavernier, Cheik Tote (Alan Smith 62), Dan Gosling, Jonas Gutierrez (Mehdi Abeid 85), Sylvain Marveaux (Haris Vukcic 76), Shola Amoebi (Leon Best 75), Demba Ba.
Substitutes Not Used: Fraser Forster, Tim Krul.
Columbus Crew -- Andy Gruenebaum, Sebastian Miranda (Korey Veeder 46), Chad Marshall (Julius James 46), Eric Gehrig (Ben Sippola 86), Shaun Francis (Josh Gardner 46), Emmanuel Ekpo (Eddie Gaven 46) (Aaron Horton 85), Kevin Burns (Santiago Prim 75), Cole Grossman (Dejan Rusmir 60), Bernardo Anor (Robbie Rogers 46), Emilio Renteria (Chris Konopka 45), Tommy Heinemann (Justin Meram 46).
Substitutes Not Used: None
Referee: Michael Kennedy
Referee's Assistants: Paul Scott; Bill Dittmar
4th Official: Chico Grajeda
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 85 degrees