Newcastle almost pulled off the impossible tonight, as they came on strongly in the second half and a good goal from Papiss Cisse (who else?) after 671 minutes set it up for a grandstand finish, with Newcastle needing one more goal to get through to them last four of the competition.
Cisse in action tonight – yes he scored again – and had two “goals” disallowed
And in the second half Alan Pardew brought on Shola Ameobi, Ben Arfa and Sylvain Marveaux – all attacking moves – to increase the pressure on a Benfica side that were almost being over-run in the last twenty minutes of the game – and with a little luck Newcastle could have had a second goal as they went all out and had the chances to score a second.
But then in the second minute of stoppage time, a quick breakaway from Benfica ended up in Eduardo Salvio putting the ball into the net – and Benfica won the tie by 4-2. It’s just a pity we couldn’t have won it 1-0 to say we beat Benfica and ended their winning streak – but it was not to be.
But Newcastle came ever so close to getting through tonight, in front of a sold-out St. James’ Park crowd – who were roaring the lads on – and it was a perfect game plan from Alan Pardew – and with just a little bit of luck in those last 10 minutes Newcastle could have produced the miracle we all wanted to see.
This was the 14th game in Europe for Newcastle this season – and they have done really well – considering all the injuries the side has had – and they were great tonight.
Ben Arfa in particular tried hard to open up things in the last 20 minutes of the game, and the mercurial Frenchman got a huge reception from the crowd when he was introduced – and Hatem had a couple of decent chances – which he may have blasted home – with a little more match practice.
The lads were fantastic tonight – let’s give them the credit they deserve – even though we didn’t get through against a very good Benfica side – who could go on to win the whole thing.
We were proud of the lads tonight.
Now we have to ensure we beat Sunderland on Sunday, and start picking up points in the Premier League.
We’ll get a full match report out a little later.
You can also reach Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org