MOUSSA Sissoko is focused on leading Newcastle United to a derby victory – after proudly taking the captain’s armband.
Sissoko skippered the Magpies’ in Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal.
I want to win this game for my team first and for the fans as wellMoussa Sissoko
And the 25-year-old will lead John Carver’s side out against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on April 5.
“I came here to play in the big games,” said Sissoko.
“And I know for Newcastle as a club, and for all the fans, when you play against Sunderland it’s a big game.
“I want to win this game for my team first and for the fans as well.”
After conceding two sloppy goals to Arsenal before the break, with Olivier Giroud notching twice, injury and suspension-hit Newcastle fought back in the second half.
Sissoko, stand-in captain during Fabricio Coloccini’s three-game ban, netted in the 48th minute, and the Tynesiders created chance after chance as they pressed hard for a second goal.
But Arsenal held on to claim all three points, and Newcastle dropped one place to 12th in the Premier League table, below former boss Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace.
Sissoko – in the France squad for this week’s friendlies against Denmark and Brazil – believes he and his team-mates can take encouragement from their second-half performance ahead of their next game on Wearside.
“In the second half, we created a lot of chances,” said Sissoko.
“We scored quickly, and we tried to score the second goal, but we didn’t, and we are little bit disappointed.
“When you are losing 2-0 at half-time, it’s hard to win the game, but the team showed good character.
“We have to learn from this game and try to be better in the next game.
“After the national team, we play against Sunderland. It will be a massive game. We lost the last three games against them, so have have to do something and try to win the game for us first and for the fans as well.”
Carver, also without injured vice-captain’s Cheik Tiote and Siem de Jong, felt Sissoko was the outstanding candidate to skipper his team.
And Sissoko is happy to shoulder the extra responsibility during Coloccini’s suspension. “I’m happy to be captain,” he said. “I know it’s a big responsibility. I think I’ve showed some good things – that’s why the manager chose me. I was happy. After, for me, it’s the same.
“Whether I’m captain or not, I try to do my best for the team. I tried to do my best (against Arsenal). I’m a little bit sad, but we have to try to be better for the next game.
“We played well. We showed good mentality and character against a big game. We have to do like this every game, and take three points from the teams at the bottom.”
Boss Carver felt after the game that his team’s spirited fightback had answered ex-Everton captain Phil Neville’s claim, made after the previous week’s dismal 3-0 defeat at Goodison Park, that his already players “had their flip-flops on” ahead of the summer.
And Sissoko added: “People talk a lot, but we know what we have to do.
“We work every day at the training ground. We want to do the best and finish in the top 10. We’ll do the best and see at the end of the season.”
Newcastle fielded a makeshift rearguard. Carver moved right-back Daryl Janmaat into the middle to partner his only fit senior central defender Mike Williamson, and asked midfielders Ryan Taylor and Jack Colback to fill in at right and left-back respectively.
It was not long before it was cruelly exposed. The visitors took the lead with 24 minutes gone when Giroud reacted first after Danny Welbeck flicked on Santi Cazorla’s free-kick, sparking a siege on the Newcastle goal.
Welbeck volleyed wide and then allowed the ball to squirm away from him after being played in by Giroud, but the respite was only temporary for the home side, who contributed to their own downfall on 28 minutes.
Williamson became involved in a wrestling match as the pair awaited Cazorla’s corner, and when the ball eventually reached the goalmouth Frenchman Giroud was able to head past goalkeeper Tim Krul despite neither man leaving the ground.
The Magpies rallied three minutes of the restart when Taylor and Remy Cabella twice exchanged passes down the right before the Frenchman crossed for Sissoko to sweep the ball past the helpless David Ospina to cut the deficit.
Referee Mike Jones waved away strong appeals for an 82nd-minute penalty after Cabella went down under Laurent Koscielny’s challenge, then Ospina had to make a fine reaction save to keep out Ayoze Perez’s deflected 87th-minute shot with his leg as the hosts battled all the way to the whistle.
NEWCASTLE: Krul, R Taylor, Janmaat, Williamson, Colback, Anita (Gutierrez 72), Sissoko, Gouffran, Cabella, Ameobi (Armstrong 89), Perez. Subs not used: Elliot, Obertan, Riviere, Satka, Kemen. Goal: Sissoko 48
ARSENAL: Ospina, Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Sanchez (Flamini 71), Cazorla (Rosicky 71), Welbeck (Bellerin 89), Giroud. Subs not used: Szczesny, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Walcott. Goals: Giroud 24, 28.
Att: 50,544. Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire).