NEWCASTLE keeper Tim Krul admits he feared his campaign was over in February, writes MILES STARFORTH.
The Dutchman, fit after sustaining ankle ligament damage in February, makes his comeback in tonight’s Europa League quarter-final first leg away to Benfica.
However, when Metalist Kharkiv’s Jonathan Cristaldo caught him with a late challenge in Ukraine, Krul – who celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday – feared he wouldn’t play again this season.
And the Holland international – sidelined for seven games – is looking to make up for lost time.
“He left his leg hanging, hit me on my shin and I went over on my ankle – I felt the pain straight away,” said Krul (pictured).
“I was rolling with serious pain. They said I was time wasting, but it was serious.
“The adrenalin got me through the game with five minutes to go, but when I walked off the pitch and looked at my ankle, there was a massive egg on it. I knew it wasn’t good – I feared my season was over.
“The physio and doctors weren’t relaxed about it because it was so big. Luckily, it was only one ligament. I tore it. It was a serious injury, and unfortunately it cost me five weeks of my season.
“Now I’m feeling great and can’t wait to play – my season could have been over.
“We could have been out of the Europa League by now, but there’s seven or eight big games as well, so a lot to enjoy.”
However, Krul and his team-mates face a tough task at the Estadio da Luz. Benfica are unbeaten in 24 games, and only Barcelona have kept a clean sheet at the stadium in Europe this season.
“It would be nice to set us up for next week,” said Krul. “It’s a fantastic tie, and it would be nice to score a goal and help us through. The Europa League’s a fantastic competition to be in. It’s a great opportunity.
“There aren’t many games left, and we’re in with a shout, but it’s a massive task. I’m really looking forward to this one. There aren’t many nights like this. Benfica are a top team.”
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew labelled Krul “one of the best goalkeepers in the world” in his pre-match Press conference yesterday.
Defender Steven Taylor is looking to cause an upset. He said: “I think we need a goal. That’s important. People don’t understand what it felt like in the second leg (against Anzhi in the last round). It was squeaky bum time at St James’s Park.
“I thought they had the advantage (after a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Moscow). They played more relaxed. We have to get a goal – it’s vital for us to do that. Benfica are going to be technically very good. They’ve got some quality players in their squad, but we’ve got players coming back from injury. Hopefully, that’ll give us a boost.”
opstep up to the plate.
“We’re looking forward to it. There’s no reason why we can’t do well.”