Alan Pardew said:
"It's a hamstring problem (with Ben Arfa), so it will
definitely keep him out on Sunday, and probably next week. I don't know from
then on. I don't think it's a tear, according to the doctor, so it's not a
long injury, but it will certainly keep him out for the immediate future. We
are just having blow after blow.
"He (Cisse) got a kick on
the thigh and he was starting to limp with it because it tightened up over
half-time, so unfortunately I had to take him off when I didn't really want
to. With no striker on the bench, it was proving problematic.
"Shola looks doubtful for the next
couple of weeks but Papiss, I think, has got a good chance for Sunday -
hopefully we have done enough tonight to protect him.
"We didn't have enough attacking
flair to keep the ball and put the pressure on. It gives the other team a
lift and we didn't have enough getting down the sides and attacking play.
"We needed to get a result and got
that and got through. I look at this competition - with a sticky second half
today but otherwise I think we have been excellent.
"It's sometimes misleading, the
competition, when the Champions League teams come down, how motivated they
are for it. It's almost a secondary competition for them. Some of them might
be a better option than a team in the competition already. It becomes a
stronger competition, obviously. We would obviously like the second leg at
home - we need to win the group to do that - and we have still got that
"We wanted to qualify, so we have done the job. The last 20 minutes of
the game, Maritimo had nothing to lose and we were poor in that period, I am
not going to cloud over that.
"But to some extent, we didn't have enough threat up the top of the
pitch. We lost Hatem and then we lost Papiss - we lost Shola yesterday - and
we didn't really have enough pressure up there that could cause them
"They had nothing to lose, so they came on to us, and that was a little
bit disappointing, that period, but I am delighted we are through.
"It's very important for us, for our feeling because up until that last
20 minutes, we have been excellent in this tournament, so I am not going to
get carried away by that. We know that we are really stretched at the
minute, and I thought that showed in that period."
Despite failing to record the hoped-for victory
that would have given the club a collective boost, Newcastle made it through to
the Last 32 of the Europa Cup at St. James' Park on Thursday night. However,
injury concerns over a further two players overshadowed our progression.
With Shola Ameobi added to an ever-lengthening list of non-combatants that
included the suspended Cheick Tiote, Hatem Ben Arfa limped off during the first
half with a hamstring injury. Papiss Cisse meanwhile was unable to continue
after the interval - although fears that his infamous back injury was the cause
were allayed, the striker suffering stiffness after a kick on the leg.
Winger Sylvain Marveaux scored his first senior goal for the club but a late
leveller from visiting substitute Fidelis was enough to knock the Magpies off
the top of the group, the same player shooting narrowly wide in added time to
deny the visitors from Madeira an improbable victory.
In truth, United did the bare minimum to progress to the next stage of the
competition, failing to beat the weakest team in the group for the second time.
Fringe players in midfield struggled for fluency and the continual loss of
possession puts question marks over their suitability for Premier League duties
anytime soon - the flip side of the Carr Master Plan.
The squad is now stretched beyond the limit and the weaknesses are glaring. The
most mundane of opponents continually caused us problems tonight and it doesn't
bear thinking about what havoc a decent side would have wreaked - despite the
fact we fielded our first-choice back five.
For much of the game, Ben Arfa's pass and Marveaux's subsequent finish looked
enough to secure the three points that would confirm United as group winners,
but as the tie entered the final quarter, Alan Pardew's side were firmly stuck
in neutral and the prospect of a second goal had evaporated, something that
Maritimo sensed and were able to take advantage of.
The sparse crowd had seen only sporadic goalmouth incidents in the first half;
Davide Santon warming the goalies gloves early on with a swerving shot and
Cisse's disallowed follow-up to a Marveaux effort after we were 1-0 ahead. That
latter move saw Ben Arfa stretch and quickly pull up, before hobbling off the
pitch to be replaced by Demba Ba.
After the break though, the Gallowgate penalty area almost became a no-go area
for the home side: Sammy Ameobi toe-poking a Taylor nod-back wide and Ba almost
turned home a cross from Santon - one of the few times that our top scorer
wasn't penalised by an over zealous referee when either in possession or
attempting to challenge for the ball.
Cisse's departure and the later removal of Ameobi brought Romain Amalfitano and
Mehdi Abeid into the action - although they completely failed to make an
impression on the game. Shane Ferguson warmed up but wasn't called upon - which
didn't make a great deal of sense to us.
Maritimo meanwhile had efforts from Danilo and Sami go close, with Krul tipping
over one effort and pushing another shot from Ferreira behind for a corner. And
after his deserved equaliser, Fidelis had the ball in the net again only to be
correctly denied by an earlier linesman's flag.
And with just seconds remaining the same player should have got the winner when
the ball fell to him at the far post. Thankfully though he placed a first-time
shot wide, to Krul's evident relief.
In Belgium meanwhile, Bordeaux's 2-1 win over Club Brugge left them top of Group
D, meaning we must go there and win our final Group game to reclaim top spot. Despite
tonight's disappointment though, Newcastle can at least now travel to France
assured of qualification - regardless of the scoreline in the Stade Chaban
Delmas next month. God knows who'll be in the team for that one.