Pardew buoyed by Euro progression

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will head into the knockout stages of the Europa League in bullish mood after seeing the Magpies limp across the finishing line.

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Tonight's unconvincing 1-1 home draw with Maritimo, coupled with Bordeaux's 2-1 victory over Club Brugge in Belgium, means that both will be in the hat for the resumption of the competition in February.

Pardew's men will need to win their final Group D fixture in France if they are to return to the top of the pile, which in theory would ensure a more favourable draw.

However, the 51-year-old, who saw Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse both limp out of tonight's game, is confident that with a full squad at his disposal, Newcastle should not even fear the Champions League drop-outs who will enter the competition at that stage.

He said: "It's sometimes misleading, the competition, when the Champions League teams come down, how motivated they are for it. It's almost a secondary competition for them.

"Some of them might be a better option than a team in the competition already.

"It becomes a stronger competition, obviously. We would obviously like the second leg at home - we need to win the group to do that, and we have still got that opportunity."

The Magpies, who had lost their previous two home games - perhaps a factor in an attendance of just 21,632 - once again failed to sparkle as they came close to losing a game they might have wrapped up before the break.

They got their noses in front after 23 minutes when Sylvain Marveaux ran on to Ben Arfa's astute pass and slid the ball through keeper Romain Salin's legs for his first goal in a black and white shirt.

Cisse thought he had eased the home side further ahead when he converted the rebound after Salin could only parry Gael Bigirimana's shot, but it was at that point that things started to unravel.

Ben Arfa, who had gone down under David Simao's challenge during the build up to Cisse's strike, limped from the pitch clutching his hamstring and when the Senegal international followed him down the tunnel five minutes after the restart, the alarm bells were starting to ring.

In truth, Maritimo, who has lost both their previous away games in the competition were the better side after the break with Danilo Dias causing all sorts of problems, and it was no surprise when substitute Fidelis levelled with a powerful left-foot strike will 11 minutes remaining.

Indeed, the striker could have snatched victory three minutes into stoppage time, but volleyed agonisingly across the face of goal.

Pardew said: "We wanted to qualify, so we have done the job. The last 20 minutes of the game, Maritimo had nothing to lose and we were poor in that period, I am not going to cloud over that.

"But to some extent, we didn't have enough threat up the top of the pitch. We lost Hatem and then we lost Papiss - we lost Shola [Ameobi] yesterday - and we didn't really have enough pressure up there that could cause them problems.

"They had nothing to lose, so they came on to us, and that was a little bit disappointing, that period.

"But I am delighted we are through. It's very important for us, for our feeling because up until that last 20 minutes, we have been excellent in this tournament, so I am not going to get carried away by that.

"We know that we are really stretched at the minute, and I thought that showed in that period."

The full extent of Ben Arfa's injury is not yet known, but he will miss Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to Southampton and the midweek visit to Stoke at the very least, while Cisse may yet be available at the weekend after taking a kick to the thigh.

Maritimo boss Pedro Martins left Tyneside with his team having bowed out of the competition, but taking plenty of positives.

He said: "In general, we were not inferior in both games against Newcastle and also with Brugge.

"We wanted more, but unfortunately we didn't achieve our objective of going through to the next stage."



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