NEWCASTLE face a daunting challenge in next Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Benfica – after blowing a lead at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light tonight.
The return tie is at St James’s Park just three days ahead of the eagerly-awaited Tyne-Wear derby against Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland – a massive game for both clubs, with Premier League survival far from guaranteed.
Papiss Cisse gave the Tynesiders a 12th-minute lead in Portugal, tapping home a low cross from Moussa Sissoko.
But the Portuguese giants hit back to level through Rodrigo Moreno, who fired past Tim Krul from close range after the keeper made an outstanding save to deny Oscar Cardozo’s ferocious strike.
Two goals in six second-half minutes, though, scuppered Newcastle’s hopes as sub Rodrido Lima – on for Moreno only four minutes earlier – drove home on 65 minutes after an horrendous error by Davide Santon, whose backpass was intercepted by the Benfica man and tucked away from a tight angle.
Cardozo slotted a penalty for 3-1, following a handball offence by defender Steven Taylor.
BENFICA: Artur, Luisao, Garay, Melgarejo, Old John, Gaitain, Matic, Almeida, Gomes (Perez 61), Cardozo (Pereira 76), Moreno (Lima 61)
NEWCASTLE: Krul, Simpson (Gosling 83), Santon, S Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Perch (Anita 62), Sissoko, Cabaye, Cisse, Marveaux (Shola Ameobi 80), Gutierrez