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Pardew admits Toon face uphill task

ESPN staff
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Newcastle were beaten 3-1 by Benfica © Getty Images
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Newcastle manager Alan Pardew believes his side can still dare to dream of claiming a Europa League semi-final spot but admits the odds are now stacked against them after their 3-1 quarter-final first-leg defeat against Benfica.

An early Papiss Cisse goal in Lisbon looked set to put Pardew's men in pole position to continue their lengthy European adventure, but a powerful fightback from Jorge Jesus' side leaves the Premier League strugglers facing what their manager feels is an outside shot at a place in the last four.

"We've done so much right tonight and got ourselves into a great position with Papiss' goal," Pardew told ITV Sport. "The away goal could come into it if we get the first goal at St James' Park because if we can get that first goal, we are only going to need one more.

"In terms of the performance and the players, I can't fault them. We came here to have a go at them and we did that. They caused some problems to us just before half-time for ten to 15 minutes, but other than that we were in control of the game.

"If it was 2-1, you would think we would have a good chance at home, but it is an uphill chance for us now. We can be proud of the performance, but disappointed with the result."

The Newcastle manager was full of praise for a Benfica side who edged towards the semi-finals thanks to a 71st-minute penalty from Oscar Cardozo that may just have taken the tie away from his team.

"You have to say they are a quality side," he said. "We have to give them respect and on the break they are going to be dangerous at St James', but we showed signs tonight that if we are ambitious and we can hurt them."

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