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Magpies' Europa dream is still alive
Final Score: Newcastle United 1 Anzhi Makhachkala 0 (Newcastle win 1 - 0 on aggregate)
ALAN PARDEW dared Newcastle United fans to dream of reaching the Europa League final in May before last night's second leg against Anzhi. As Tyneside woke this morning, that dream had taken a step closer to reality.
There have been some memorable European nights at St James' Park over the years, but last night's show proved the Magpies still have what it takes to compete amongst some of Europe's elite, thanks to another last-gasp winner from Papiss Cisse.
The Senegal striker has already experienced some pretty special moments in a black and white shirt, but his header - the last meaningful touch of the game - sent Pardew's side into the quarter-finals of the competition.
Lightning had struck twice at St James' Park. Only four days earlier Cisse's late winner against Stoke had taken the Magpies a step closer to Premier League survival and again the £9m striker saved his side, this time when the game seemed destined for extra time.
He might have been Newcastle's match-winner, but once again a special mention has to go to Steven Taylor, who kept his team in the game throughout.
Anzhi came and gave their best shot and, at times, looked destined for a place in the next round, but a red card to Mehdi Carcelo-Gonzalez early in the second half gave the Magpies a huge advantage, and St James' Park a massive lift.
Whoever Newcastle are paired with in today's quarter-final draw won't matter.
They were fearless against Anzhi over both legs and, although there were nervy moments they ultimately came out on top. Dream a little longer.
Pardew made three changes to his starting line-up from Sunday's win, with Massadio Haidara, Vurnon Anita and Sylvain Marveaux coming in.
It was an attacking line-up with a front three of Marveaux, Cisse and Sissoko.
LAST GASP JOY: Papiss Cisse heads Newcastle into the quarter-finals of the Europa League
Knowing Anzhi could strike at anytime with a precious away goal, the Magpies had to go for it from the off, but it was the Russians that came out firing.
They looked a different entity to the side that struggled to break down a resolute Newcastle a week earlier in Moscow, passing the ball around quickly and freely with Hiddink's men targeting Hairdara down the left.
As early as four minutes in and Anzhi could have broken the deadlock when Andrei Escenko ghosted past Anita to set up Samuel Eto'o, who fired a low shot wide.
The expectation was high on Tyneside before kick-off, but the St James' Park crowd were quickly silenced by a string of Anzhi attacks.
Marveaux started brightest for Newcastle and he went close after tricking his way past two defenders before firing wide of Vladimir Gabulov's near post.
Encouraging yes, but what followed was a barrage of Anzhi attacks and the men in black and white had one man to thank for not being behind.
Taylor - not named in Roy Hodgson's England squad yesterday despite impressive displays recently - made four crucial blocks to deny the Russians.
The first was a spectacular double effort after Eto'o had played in Lassana Diarra, but the centre back headed clear before hoofing the ball away from danger six yards out.
It was a similar performance to the one Taylor produced recently in Swansea when his efforts eventually proved in vain and once again he was keeping his side in the game.
They were on the back foot and struggling to create anything meaningful, with the loss of Yohan Cabaye in the 34th minute to injury a further blow.
The hosts had put themselves in a brilliant position to progress after their heroics in Moscow, but were guilty of giving the ball away far too cheaply in dangerous positions.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa almost gifted Odil Ahmedov a goal when he passed a free-kick straight to the Anzhi midfielder, but luckily for the French defender his shot hit the side netting.
Newcastle were living on the edge, but moments before they went in to regroup at half time, they missed a chance if their own when Taylor headed over from the back post.
Something needed to change - and quickly - or dreams of being at May's Amsterdam final would slip away.
Pardew needed a reaction, and needed his offensive players to be more probing - thankfully after the break they were.
Sissoko, after a quiet opening half by his standards, leapt to meet Marveaux's cross, but his header went inches over.
Taylor, a wall at the back, went close at the other end when Cisse knocked down Marveaux's cross, but the defender's shot was comfortably collected by Gabulov.
It was a frantic start to the second half, but the game swung massively in Newcastle's favour when the visitors went down to ten men.
Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was booked twice within ten minutes for reckless fouls on Tiote and Haidara and German referee Deniz Aytekin showed no hesitation to produce a red card.
The decision gave the 45,000-strong crowd a huge lift and that translated onto the pitch with the Magpies gaining some momentum.
Tiote had Gabulov at full-stretch when going for a rasping long-range drive, but the shot whistled over the bar.
There was a heart in mouth moment in the dying minutes when Mbark Boussoufa's free-kick rattled the crossbar.
It looked as if the game was heading to extra time, but Cisse popped up to head in Marveaux's cross when it mattered.
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