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Pardew: We are not favourites
10:40am Friday 8th March 2013 in Sport
ALAN PARDEW refused to accept Newcastle are favourites to reach the Europa League quarter-finals despite witnessing a spirited display in Moscow.
The Magpies became the first side to deny Anzhi Makhachkala a European victory on home soil this season as they fought out a 0-0 draw on the artificial pitch at a wintry Luzhniki Stadium.
Indeed, they might have headed into next Thursday night’s second leg with a precious away goal had Hatem Ben Arfa accepted the glorious opportunity which came his way on his 26th birthday.
In the event, the two sides will battle it out at St James’ Park with everything to play for, and Pardew is relishing the prospect.
He said: ‘‘I wouldn’t say we are favourites because they have got good counter-attacking abilities in the team, but it’s going to be a very different game at St James’ Park.
‘‘But we really need to set it up on Sunday [against Stoke].
Sunday is something we need to put right.
‘‘If we can get a win there, then I think the mood in our stadium is going to be something that’s going to be very difficult for Anzhi to cope with.
‘‘We didn’t really have to fight the crowd, and that probably helped us to settle.’’ Pardew was without six members of his strongest team – Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini through injury, Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran, who are ineligible in Europe, the sick Papiss Cisse and Jonas Gutierrez, whose knee his manager did not think would stand up to the plastic pitch – and chose not to start with Davide Santon, Steven Taylor or Cheick Tiote.
But his confidence in his squad was rewarded with fine individual displays by goalkeeper Rob Elliot, who made two vital saves from Samuel Eto’o, and January signings Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara at the back, while Ben Arfa returned from a 12-week injury lay-off to play in an unaccustomed striking role.
Pardew said: ‘‘It’s something I have thought about in the past with Hatem because if I was a central defender, he’s the last person I would want to get possession in and around the box.
‘‘He obviously isn’t 100 per cent fit, but he still put a really good shift in. He actually lasted longer than I thought.
‘‘Dropping deep and Moussa [Sissoko] going in behind, I think it’s a nice option, and if we lose Cisse any time between now and the end of the year, I will look at it again.
‘‘I think it worked okay and certainly when he is up to speed – and I don’t think it’s going to take him long – he can play that role, no problem.’’ Anzhi, who lost dangerman Willian through injury after 23 minutes, enjoyed plenty of possession, but were unable to make much of it with Yanga-Mbiwa expertly marshalling his defensive troops.
However, Ben Arfa might have won it for the visitors three minutes later after being played in by Yoan Cabaye, but Vladimir Gabulov blocked his ambitious chipped effort.
Pardew said: ‘‘We got what we deserved. We came and gave a really disciplined display.
Rob had to make two good saves and really and truly, if someone had said that to me before the game I would have taken that.
‘‘That’s a really good display in the conditions and environment we were in.’’ Opposite number Guus Hiddink did not attend the post-match press conference because of illness, but assistant Zeljko Petrovic summed up Anzhi’s emotions.
He said: ‘‘We played tonight a very complicated game against a team from the Premier League, and you can see that between the teams that we played before Newcastle, there’s a big difference to the Premier League teams.
‘‘We are not disappointed because we played a good game, tactically a very strong game, and Newcastle actually didn’t play a Premier League game, they played a European game.’’
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