Newcastle boss Alan Pardew confident of European progress
Alan Pardew is confident Newcastle can mount a genuine challenge for Europa League glory after passing the sternest of tests in Kharkiv.
The Magpies arrived in Ukraine having been held to a 0-0 draw by Metalist Kharkiv on Tyneside last week. And despite losing midfielder Cheick Tiote to illness an hour before kick-off, they turned in a fine away performance to win 1-0, only their second success on the road in all competitions to date this season, and progress to the last 16.
Pardew, who has laboured through much of the campaign to date with a depleted squad, said: "It's an important result for us. We lost Cheick just before the game, but Vurnon [Anita] did an excellent job coming in late. He only knew an hour before we kicked off that he was going to play."
The Magpies boss added: "With [Hatem] Ben Arfa coming back and Cheick to add to that side, I really feel as though we can give this competition a good go."
Newcastle won the tie with 26 minutes remaining when striker Shola Ameobi nervelessly converted from the spot after Moussa Sissoko, who had been fouled by keeper Olexandr Goryainov to win the penalty, underwent treatment.
But Newcastle still needed three excellent saves by keeper Tim Krul, who left the stadium on crutches after a challenge by striker Jonathan Cristaldo, to deny substitute Willian and Cristaldo with Metalist fighting for their lives as the clock ran down.
Ameobi's goal was his 15th in European competition, a feat bettered only by Alan Shearer in a black and white shirt. And Pardew said: "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.
"But he's shown tonight what quality he has. Against this team, I always thought he might influence the game. He did that all night really and it bodes well moving forward."
The Magpies flew straight back to Tyneside after the game to start preparations for Sunday's all-important league clash with Southampton. Pardew will allow his players to enjoy their success briefly, but then all efforts will be focused on avenging their tame 2-0 defeat on the South Coast on November 25.
He said: "We had some real heroes today and it's been a great week for us. We just need to repeat it on Sunday because that will be an important game."
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