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Magpies' victory chance wrecked by sloppy goal
NEWCASTLE UNITED arrived at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday hoping to crash Swansea City's Capital One Cup winning party.
They had hoped the celebrations would still be in full swing and that the opportunity would be there to take advantage of a side with one eye on next season already. It was, but ironically a solitary moment that saw the Magpies take their own eye off the ball meant they left south Wales with nothing.
In truth, Alan Pardew's side - watched from the stands by owner Mike Ashley - should have got something out of this game, or even won it, but a trail of missed chances and one moment of lost focus cost them a fourth win in five Premier League games.
Their second half performance at the Liberty Stadium was as good as they have played in wins over Aston Villa, Chelsea and Southampton recently. That will encourage Pardew as he tries to pull his side further away from the relegation zone with ten games left, but the manager's frustration was clear to see after the final whistle.
The Tynesiders had dominated their hosts after weathering an early storm of expected slick passing and moving, but when their back line failed to deal with a simple ball into the box, Luke Moore was able to nip in and score to keep the party going long into Saturday night.
The Magpies must now dust themselves off in time for Thursday night's trip to Anzhi in the Europa League last 16 first leg, but having slipped back down to 15th in the Premier League table, Jonas Gutierrez insists ensuring their top-flight status remains intact is their main priority.
Seeing Swansea lift the Capital One Cup at Wembley last weekend will have reminded everyone on Tyneside of Newcastle's own trophy drought, but the hard-working midfielder believes the club's supporters would rather see their side avoid relegation.
"The Premier League is still the priority," the Argentina international said. "Ask the fans of Newcastle and the people of Newcastle if they want to win the Europa League and get relegated I think they will say no.
"The most important thing for Newcastle is the Premier League. Of course, we will do our best in the Europa League but we need to get the points to be in a comfortable position in the league too.
"For us all of the games are really important. From the beginning of the season the most important thing has been the Premier League. The Europa League is a nice competition for us but the first ambition is the Premier League. That is our priority.
"I have been in Spain and in England and I have seen big teams playing in the Champions League but who are in the bottom three. We must think game-by-game but we need to start taking the points to make ourselves feel comfortable in the league for the rest of the season.
"Of the last five games, we've won three. We lost at Tottenham, who are having a good season, and then on Saturday we didn't deserve to lose."
They didn't. Swansea might have dominated the opening 45 minutes with their trademark style of free-flowing football, but Newcastle came out in the second half and turned the game on its head.
Swansea became sloppy, but it wasn't a case of them playing badly, it was just that Newcastle were playing so well.
After his wonder goal last weekend, Papiss Cisse missed a brilliant opportunity to add to his impressive array of finishes. A Moussa Sissoko flick-on fell kindly for the striker, but his first time volley dipped just over the bar.
Less than a minute later some quick thinking from Yohan Cabaye enabled Sissoko to pull the ball back to Yoan Gouffran on the edge of the area. It was a similar move to the one that saw the Frenchman open his Newcastle account at Tottenham, but this time he could only direct his shot over the bar. Another chance had gone begging.
Cabaye then saw a long range shot tipped onto the bar by Michel Vorm, before the Dutch keeper turned Sissoko's rasping drive round the post.
How the Magpies didn't take the lead was anyone's guess, but they were punished for missed chances when Moore capitalised on some sloppy defending.
Mathieu Debuchy couldn't prevent Wayne Routledge swinging in a cross from the left and after Davide Santon failed to clear first time, the ball took a couple of deflections before Moore tucked home from close range.
"The mistake for the goal is magnified by the fact we missed two or three very good chances and you can't do that at this level unfortunately," said Pardew. "It's a sloppy goal. It's a ball in the box and we had four defenders in there and they should have dealt with it better. They didn't and it cost us."