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Pardew insists Newcastle remain well-placed to qualify
ALAN Pardew insists Newcastle United remain well placed to qualify for the last 16 of the Europa League despite being held to a goalless draw in last night's first leg with Metalist Kharkiv.
Papiss Cisse had two efforts controversially disallowed for offside, and the Magpies' failure to break down their opponents means they face a difficult task when they travel to Ukraine next week.
Metalist have suffered just two home defeats all season, and their attacking play at St James' Park was bright enough to suggest they will pose problems on home soil.
However, Newcastle's clean sheet means they will be in a strong position if they can claim an away goal in Kharkiv, and Pardew remains confident his side will progress beyond the first knock-out round.
“I don't think they (Metalist) have the advantage,” said the Newcastle boss. “It was a very even game, but it will be a different game in their stadium with a different agenda.
“They need to come and beat us, but the way we defended and were well organised meant it was very tight. I think the second leg will be the same.
“There's no way we were going to win that game by a big margin. I always knew the opposition were good enough for that not to happen. We were always going to have a slender lead at best, but a score draw will take us through and that's something for us to take into the second leg.
“Our best chances came when Metalist came on to us, on the break, and hopefully that will be a feature of the second leg.”
Nevertheless, Newcastle should be taking at least a one-goal lead to Ukraine with the decision of the Norwegian assistants to rule out a Cisse effort in each half coming in for considerable criticism.
The first decision was particularly misjudged, with Moussa Sissoko at least a yard onside when he raced on to Gabriel Obertan's pass before squaring for Cisse to tap home.
The second verdict was a much tighter call, although Cisse was perhaps level with the last defender when he converted Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa's cross with 16 minutes left.
“Both goals were goals,” said Pardew. “If you see the replays, you can see that. I was a bit undecided about the first one at the time from where I was sitting, but I instantly thought the second one was a definite goal.
“That's tough to take. The benefit of those lines is supposed to be for the striker. That's the reality – both goals were level.”
Cisse was understandably frustrated at having both of his efforts ruled out, although the Senegal international can take some comfort from one of his liveliest displays of the season.
He has scored three goals in his last nine outings, and is finally showing signs of recapturing his superb form from the second half of last season. With Demba Ba having departed for Chelsea, Newcastle could certainly do with him sparking into life in the final three months of the campaign.
“He hasn't seen the replays yet, but I think that when he does, it will hinder his sleeping somewhat,” said Pardew. “All strikers feel a lot better when they score. When he looks back, he will be disappointed, but hopefully it will put fire in his belly for the next time he plays.
“He's a natural finisher and some of the positions he took himself into were very evident. He would have had two goals to his name if decisions had gone his way and was very unlucky not to score.”
Steven Taylor helped ensure Newcastle did not concede an away goal, and while the centre-half was understandably frustrated at the decision to rule out Cisse's two strikes, he saw enough to confidently predict that the Magpies will score in the Metalist Stadium.
“We are gutted,” said Taylor. “We scored two goals that should have been allowed. I thought it was one of our best performances in a while.
“We did everything the gaffer asked us to do. As for the second leg, I think we showed there are goals in our team. We played with a lot of confidence in the second half and I'm sure we can score over there.”
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