Benfica 3 - 1 Newcastle Utd: Magpies face tough task

NEWCASTLE manager Alan Pardew conceded his side faced a tough ask to qualify for the last four of the Europa League after a 3-1 defeat in their quarter-final first leg against Benfica in Portugal last night.

Scorers: Benfica - Moreno (25), Lima (65), Cardozo (71 pen); Newcastle - Cisse (12)

The Magpies were rewarded for a lively start to the game when Papiss Cisse put them 1-0 up in the 12th minute, and the Senegal striker then hit the post.

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Almost immediately after Benfica levelled through former Bolton forward Rodrigo, who fired in the rebound from a Tim Krul parry. Cisse was denied by the goalframe again early in the second half as his delicate lob struck the upright, and then a terrible back-pass by Davide Santon allowed Lima to put the hosts ahead.

Oscar Cardozo’s 71st-minute penalty then made it 3-1 after Steven Taylor was penalised for a handball.

Pardew would have been relatively pleased with a one-goal deficit to take to St James’ Park but admits it will now be hard.

“If we’d taken 2-1 you’d like to think we’d have a fantastic chance but it’s an uphill chance now,” he said. “I think the away goal could come into it if we get the first goal [in the second leg]. If we can get the first goal we only need one more.

“They are a quality side and we have to give them respect, but we showed tonight if we are ambitious we can hurt a team.”

Despite the individual errors that let his side down, Pardew was in no mood to criticise his side. “In terms of performance you can’t fault them, it was a great effort,” he said. “We can’t hold any blame. As a group we can be proud of the performance but disappointed in the result, that probably sums it up.”

Benfica: Artur Moraes, Almeida, Luisao, Garay, Melgarejo, John, Matic, Gomes (Perez 61), Rodrigo (Lima 61), Cardozo (Maxi Pereira 77), Gaitan. Subs Not Used: Paulo Lopes, Roderick Miranda, Aimar, Urreta.

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson (Gosling 83), Steven Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon, Perch (Anita 62), Cabaye, Gutierrez, Sissoko, Marveaux (Ameobi 80), Cisse. Subs Not Used: Elliot, Williamson, Obertan, Campbell.