ALAN Pardew is targeting a sustained assault on the Europa League after last night's 1-0 victory over Metalist Kharkiv took Newcastle United into the last 16 of the competition.
The Magpies will head back to Eastern Europe in a fortnight's time to take on Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow, and while the Russian side are one of the favourites for the Europa League after their two-legged win over Hannover, a repeat of last night's dogged defensive display will make Alan Pardew's side hard to beat.
Shola Ameobi's 63rd-minute penalty proved decisive, with the striker, who is second to Alan Shearer on Newcastle's all-time list of European scorers, converting from the spot after Metalist goalkeeper Olexandr Goryainov had fouled Moussa Sissoko.
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However, it was the quality of the Magpies' defending that ultimately made the difference over the two legs, with Tim Krul producing a string of excellent saves in the Metalist Stadium to see his side through.
“I thought over the two legs it was a really good encounter,” said Pardew, who will now switch his attention to Sunday's crucial Premier League game with Southampton. “I definitely felt we deserved to win the first game, and here I felt as though we had a good grip of the game right through the first 60 minutes “I was really pleased with the team, and we got the goal at a great time. We had to weather a little storm in the last 15 minutes as you would expect, but I couldn't be more pleased with the team and I thought every part of the team played well.
“With (Hatem) Ben Arfa coming back, and Cheik (Tiote) to add to that side, I really feel as though we can give this competition a good go. This will give us good experience and we can look forward to the next tie.”
Ameobi's goal came at a crucial stage and was just reward for a committed display from the striker, who performed as lone centre-forward with Papiss Cisse stationed on the right.
The 31-year-old has developed into something of a European specialist during more than a decade of service on Tyneside. Last night's goal was his 15th in continental competition and his third Europa League strike of the season, making him Newcastle's leading European goalscorer this term.
“I had a little quiet word with Shola before the game because, in the last few weeks, I thought his contribution could have been greater,” said Pardew. “But he's shown tonight what quality he has, and against this team, I always thought he might influence the game.
“He did that all night really and it bodes well for moving forward. We will be fighting on two fronts and have some very important Premier League games to come as well as continuing in this competition. He's going to play a significant role between now and the end of the season.”
The same is likely to be true of Krul, although the one downside of an otherwise memorable night was the sight of the Dutchman leaving on crutches at the end of the game.
Krul damaged his ankle in a stoppage-time challenge from Jonathan Cristaldo and it remains to be seen whether he is fit enough to appear in Sunday's game with Southampton.
Tiote should be available after sitting out last night's game because of an illness, and Pardew will have to decide whether to restore Steven Taylor and Davide Santon after Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara performed so impressively.
“It was a bit of a case of 'Into the lion's den' for Massadio, but he coped very well,” said Pardew. “I thought he was up against a good player, but he showed he's got great potential for us.
“Mapou is what he is, a quality centre-half and we now find ourselves in the fortunate position of having Steven, Mapou and Colo (Fabricio Coloccini) who are all producing top-drawer performances at the moment.
“It was an important period because if we had conceded with ten minutes to go, it might have been difficult for us. But a couple of key minutes and some critical defending saw us home.”
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