Hatem Ben Arfa eager for European adventure to continue for Newcastle
The Magpies drew 0-0 with Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow
Friday 08 March 2013
Hatem Ben Arfa has urged Newcastle not to pass up the opportunity to continue their march into the Europa League quarter-finals.
The Magpies have endured an indifferent domestic season to date - victory over Stoke on Sunday would significantly ease any lingering fears over their Barclays Premier League status - but their progress in Europe has been, if not exactly serene, increasingly impressive.
Last night, they took on the challenge of big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala on the artificial pitch at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium in sub-zero temperatures and emerged with a 0-0 draw.
That gives them every chance of progressing when the two sides reconvene at St James' Park next Thursday evening, and Ben Arfa, who played in Russia for the first time in 12 weeks after recovering from a hamstring tear, is not ready for the adventure to end just yet.
He said: "We can now finish the job. Next week we have a great chance, we have the chance to win with our team.
"St James' Park will be a different game now. We were solid and we tried to keep the ball, but it was a night when we didn't have too many chances to score.
"I think 0-0 though is a good scoreline. We always prefer to score a goal or two, of course, but this gives us a good chance to get through."
Alan Pardew's men could have returned to Tyneside with a lead to defend had Ben Arfa managed to celebrate his 26th birthday with the kind of finish which has become his trademark.
His big chance arrived with 64 minutes gone when compatriot Yohan Cabaye played him in, but he attempted to chip keeper Vladimir Gabulov and got it all wrong.
The France international said: "I had a chance. I actually tried to chip it high over the keeper. I was aiming for more uplift, but on that pitch, it isn't the same as on grass.
"I hope in the next game, I get another chance - and this time I'll score.
"It was a good birthday for me still, almost perfect, but 0-0 is okay. We didn't lose and we have a great chance to qualify."
For all Ben Arfa might have won the game, Anzhi had triumphed in all seven of their previous European home fixtures to date this season, and they might have done so again had it not been for keeper Rob Elliot.
The 26-year-old, deputising once again for the injured Tim Krul, denied former Barcelona superstar Samuel Eto'o either side of half-time to preserve his clean sheet and lay the platform for a solid result.
However, he later revealed the prospect of attempting to keep Anzhi at bay in the prevailing conditions had caused him a sleepless night.
Elliot said: "We trained there the night before and the lads were taking free-kicks and shots at me, and the balls were moving all over the place.
"I didn't sleep well the night before the game because I was concerned over the way the balls move.
"I don't know if it was the balls or the cold air or the Astroturf, but there was something about them. But it's part and parcel of being a keeper.
"Eto'o's first shot came at me and dipped down and I managed to get enough of it.
"I wasn't in full control, but my job is to keep the ball out of the net and I did. The second one, I didn't think I was going to get there maybe the surface helped.
"If they had scored, it might have opened the game up, but I'm pleased to make a contribution.
"To come to a place like this with the stars they have got and get a result is brilliant."
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