Newcastle managed to do just enough to secure passage into the final 32 of the Europa League last night, but qualification came at a cost.
In terms of performance it was more of the same as the hosts struggling to assert themselves on the game, but the bigger news concerned yet more injuries as Alan Pardew’s threadbare squad took yet another battering.
First off Hatem Ben Arfa hobbled off with a hamstring injury that has already ruled him out of the clash with Southampton on Sunday and could potentially sideline him for a few weeks. Whilst the manager has said it’s not looking too serious these are the types of injury that should be treat with care. Papiss Cisse was the other injury victim on the night, coming off with a calf problem although he should be fine for Sunday.
Newcastle left the field to a chorus of boos come the full-time whistle after nearly suffering a shock defeat to the Group D strugglers. In the end the draw as probably a fair result but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the 21,632 strong crowd after yet another dire performance.
Davide Santon had the first chance of the game as he stung the palms of the Maritimo goalkeeper with an effort in just the third minute but his powerful effort was turned away by Salin.
Aside from that chances were at a premium for both sides until the home side took the lead on 23 minutes. Hatem Ben Arfa rolled the ball down the right for Sylvain Marveaux to curl past Salin and register his first senior goal for United.
Ten minutes before half-time Papiss Cisse thought he’s doubled the lead for the home side after he turned in the rebound from a Gael Bigirimana shot only to be called offside by the linesman. the last real significant action of the first-half was the aforementioned injury to Hatem Ben Arfa who was withdrawn five minutes before the interval and replaced by Demba Ba.
Half-time: Newcastle 1-0 C.S. Maritimo
The first real significant action of the second-half saw yet more injury troubles for United, this time for Papiss Cisse who hobbled off the field to be replaced by Romain Amalfitano. In terms of goalmouth action it was the visitors who looked most threatening as Tim Krul had to be on hand to deny Dias with a smart save in 54 minutes.
Newcastle struggled to make anything happen really with long, hopeful balls from Tim Krul failing to connect resulting in attacking momentum failing to build up. It came back to bite us ten minutes from time as Brazilian substitute Fidelis eased past Steven Taylor and fired past Tim Krul.
Danny Simpson and Davide Santon both tried to grab a winner in the closing stages, but it was the visitors who very nearly grabbed all three points in stoppage time as Fidelis fired wide at the back post.
Full-time: Newcastle 1-1 C.S. Maritimo
At the end of the day we are through but it has come at a cost. We’ve lost our only attacking player who looks likely to create something which makes it something like 11 senior squad members out of Premier League action through various injuries and suspensions. I hear the argument about lack of investment and champion it somewhat, but I do wonder whether any further investment in the summer would have been able to deal with a crisis of missing players such as this?
It wasn’t pretty and we’ve lost top spot in the group and now we must head to Bordeaux in a fortnight knowing that we have to win on French soil if we are to regain top spot and avoid a potentially tricky draw in the Round of 32.
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigirimana; Sammy Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux; Papiss Cisse
Subs: Rob Elliot, James Tavernier, Shane Ferguson, Mike Williamson, Mehdi Abeid, Romain Amalfitano, Demba Ba
C.S. Maritimo: Salin; Diogo, Roberge, Rosario, Ferreira; Luiz, Miranda, Simao; Dias, Adilson, Sami.
Subs: Ricardo, Fidelis, Olim, Briguel, Antonio, Brigido, Guilherme