Postseason picture:

Benfica 3-1 Newcastle: Cisse strike offers Pardew’s men slim hope

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Premier League Preview: Newcastle - Fulham
Benfica will take a 3-1 lead into the second leg of the Europa League quarterfinal with Newcastle next week after producing an impressive performance at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon.

The visitors took the lead through Papiss Cisse, but were then pegged back by a Benfica side brimming with creativity. Goals from Lima and Oscar Cardozo after the break sealed the win after Rodrigo had cancelled out Cisse's effort before halftime.

Newcastle made a positive start to the game as Cisse twice got in behind the Benfica defense, but on both occasions the Senegalese forward was thwarted by some instinctive defensive play from the home team's goalkeeper, Artur.

Pardew's side took a deserved lead in the 13th minute when Cisse made amends for his earlier missed chances by connecting well with Moussa Sissoko's sumptuous cross from the right to hammer the ball into the net.

And Newcastle then came close to adding a second when Artur adjusted his body brilliantly to tip a deflected effort from Cisse on to the post.

That Cisse chance seemed to spur Benfica into action, as it quickly equalized through Rodrigo. The Spaniard reacted quickest when Tim Krul parried Oscar Cardozo's dangerous shot, and poked the ball under the Newcastle goalkeeper to make it 1-1.

Jorge Jesus' side grew in confidence as the half wore on and were it not for a handful of great saves from Krul, could easily have gone in ahead at the interval. The Dutchman made fine stops from Nicolas Gaitan, Cardozo and Rodrigo before the end of the half.

Rodrigo in particular was proving a mischief for the home side, as he flittered between Newcastle’s midfield and defense to initiate a number of his team’s most dangerous moves.

Newcastle started the second half in a similar vein to that of the first, as Cisse raced onto a tempting through ball from Sylvain Marveaux and lifted a delicate chip over Artur that flicked agonizingly off the post and away from danger.

The Eagles began to push forward as they sensed Newcastle tiring, and they went ahead in the 65th minute after a terrible back pass from Davide Santon. The Italian's wayward pass went straight to Lima, and the Benfica substitute took the chance brilliantly by gliding past Krul and sweeping a shot into the net from a tight angle.

Within minutes the home side had made it 3-1 after it was awarded a penalty following a handball from Steven Taylor. Despite being made to take the spot kick twice by the referee, Cardozo showed great nerve to hammer the ball past Krul on both occasions.

Benfica looked the more likely to score in the closing stages of the game, as Newcastle struggled to create chances.

The result leaves Pardew's side with a big task on its hands when it welcomes the Portuguese giants to St James' Park for the return leg on April 11.

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