Newcastle v Benfica – Match Report
Newcastle United 1 Benfica 1 (2-4 On Aggregate)
Thursday 11 April 8.05pm
Watch Match Highlights Here
A negative/sensible formation almost backfired in the opening minutes as Lima nearly beat Krul from close range, only for a reflex save from the Dutchman to keep him out.
The visitors went on to dominate the first half without creating the chances their possession might have suggested. Krul made a few more decent saves but needed Haidara to come to his rescue as he misjudged a long ball and the young French full-back somehow blocked Gaitan’s effort from close range.
Newcastle struggled to get in the opposition half and the main route was long balls to try and pick out the isolated Cisse, he failed to control one half decent ball and put another in just before half-time but it was clearly offside.
Playing Bigirimana as a wide right midfielder/winger was of little benefit going forward and with Yohan Cabaye looking half-fit at best, it was again left to Sissoko and to a lesser degree Jonas to hold things together.
When Sissoko went down in what looked a fair bit of pain, I doubt I was the only one who thought please let him be ok for the mackems. A stretcher was sent back but teh way he limped off meant it was a very pleasant surprise when he was able to continue.
Half-time reached and no goal conceded, that was about the height of the positives.
The manager went for a major change as Shola joined Cisse up front and the ineffective Bigirimana making way.
Newcastle came more into the game and simple balls up to Shola were causing the centre-backs problems. The atmosphere is ramped up when Ben Arfa (64th minute) and then Marveaux (67th) enter the fray. In between those substitutions Cisse gets the ball in the net again, TV replays later showing the offside flag was correct.
Ben Arfa looks anything but fit, however he makes an almost instant impact. His run from the right ends up with SHola cutting the ball back via a defender’s leg and Cisse puts us one goal away from progressing with twenty minutes left, game on!
The double substitution and goal have seen Benfica shrink into their shells and surrender the midfield, Newcastle now dominant.
Those final twenty minutes see United easily moving the ball forward before feeding either Ben Arfa on the right or Marveaux and Jonas on the left.
The Portuguese are suddenly reeling and can’t handle the forward runs, if the sheer will of the crowd deserved anything then Newcastle would have made it.
However, despite pinning them back, Newcastle can’t quite get that break in the box and Benfica still look dangerous on the odd break as United push forward.
Ben Arfa even at half pace has the beating of the left-back and as he drifts across him yet again with a minute left, the penalty area opens up. Reaching the edge of the box the defenders come to meet Hatem and maybe he could have slid the ball in for the likes of Cisse but you would bank on him hitting the target but he hits the ball well…but over.
A quick counter-attack and seconds later the ball is in Newcastle’s net and as the Benfica team and fans celebrate the Newcastle players slump to the floor or simply stand there stunned.
Spontaneously, seemingly the whole grand breaks into a round of applause in recognition of the black & white efforts, the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.
Better to have love and lost, than never to have loved at all.
Newcastle United: Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Mapou, Haidara (Marveaux 67), Bigirimana (Shola 46), Cabaye, Anita (Ben Arfa 64), Gutierrez, Sissoko, Cisse
Unused Subs: Elliot, Gosling, Perch, Campbell
Benfica: Artur, Almeida, Luisao, Garay, Melgarejo, Salvio (Jardel 90+3), Matic, Perez, John (Rodrigo 76), Lima (Cardozo 72), Gaitan
Ref: Ivan Bebek (Croatia)
Crowd: 52,157 (1,759 Benfica)
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