Injury to Ben Arfa sours Newcastle's progress
Newcastle United 1 Maritimo 1
There will be more European football at St James' Park next year. The hope is that it will be better than this, a night when Newcastle United stumbled into the final 32 of the Europa League, battered (two of their best players limped off) and bruised (they came within a whisker of losing).
The sight of both Hatem ben Arfa and Papiss Cissé limping off in the 38th and 50th minute respectively added to the sense that disappointment came in the midst of qualification.
The pair limped off, Newcastle limped through.
Ben Arfa has damaged a hamstring. He was ruled out for the next two Premier League games at Southampton and Stoke City. It could even be longer though. That will be a key blow, given his importance to the team. Yohan Cabaye will not play this year. They are major losses. Cissé has a chance of playing against Southampton on Sunday. His was a bruised thigh. Shola Ameobi, who missed last night's game, is out for two weeks. James Perch is still at least two weeks away from a return. Ryan Taylor is likely to miss the entire campaign. They are not all injuries picked up in the Europa League, but they are absences that the competition exposes.
"We wanted to qualify and we have done the job," said the Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew. "The last 20 minutes, Maritimo had nothing to lose and we were poor. I won't cloud over that. We didn't have enough threat up the pitch. They came on to us and it was disappointing but I'm delighted we're through. It's important for us and our feeling. Up to the last 20 minutes we've been excellent in this tournament. We know we've been stretched and that showed in that period.
"It's impacting on the Premier League and the Europa League. We're having a real run of it at the moment. We're trying not to make too much of it but we know we will have to be better, a lot better on Sunday."
That it could have been so much worse offered a form of relief. Sylvain Marveaux had scored in the 23rd minute with a fine finish, his first for Newcastle. Fidelis, the Maritimo substitute, replied 11 minutes from time when he ghosted past Steven Taylor and shot through goalkeeper Tim Krul's legs.
And then a move that set Newcastle nerves jangling. In the third minute of injury time, came a sweeping Maritimo break. Ruven Ferreira seized on an error from Danny Simpson down the Newcastle right and the left-footed cross swept across the face of the Newcastle goal, reaching Fidelis again. This time his left-foot shot flashed past Krul's near post.
The Maritimo bench thought he had scored. It would have made a three-point gap between the teams going into the final round of Group D games, with Newcastle heading to the group leaders Bordeaux.
"Of course, I thought Fidelis's shot had gone in," said Pedro Martins, the Maritimo manager. "It would have been the cherry on the top of the cake. It would have been a good goal. We worked for it. Unfortunately it didn't happen. In general we were not inferior in both games against Newcastle."
Man of match Coloccini.
Match rating 3/10.
Referee D Makkelie (Neth).
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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