Newcastle may have been beaten 3-1 by Benfica in Portugal, but the visitors gave their Primeira Liga opposition more than a few scares and it took a second-half error from Davide Santon for the favourites to get their noses ahead in an excellent match.
Although most would have expected Newcastle to have a very tough time at the Estadio da Luz, the visitors were having none of it and went on the attack immediately. Papiss Cisse was the main man, and within two minutes of kickoff had managed to squeeze off a shot on target, although he failed to trouble Artur with his angled effort.
More dangerous opportunities were to follow. Yohan Cabaye opened open Benfica's defence with an astonishing long ball for Cisse, but the Senegalese striker was unable to bring it down clearly, his poor touch allowing Artur to collect. No matter -- the visitors had the lead shortly thereafter.
Moussa Sissoko burst down the right and Benfica simply couldn't track him down, allowing the midfielder to pull across for Cisse to finish from the top of the six yard box, giving Newcastle a vital away goal. Sylvain Marvauex nearly pulled off the exact same move a little while later only to dilly-dally on the ball, and then a silly deflection plus an incredible save managed to turn another Cisse effort onto the post.
Newcastle could have been 3-0 up, but there was still only one goal in the match, and they'd come to regret not making more of their earlier opportunity. Benfica were never going to stay down for long, and they got back into the game in the 25th minute -- Tim Krul had done very well to beat away Oscar Cardozo's vicious effort, but Rodrigo was first to the rebound and was able to poke home for the equaliser.
Suddenly, the hosts were ascendant, and Krul was called into action immediately after conceding when his impressive double save kept both Andre Gomes and Ola John at bay. By the time the first half was over the returning Newcastle stopper had already managed seven saves.
Benfica weren't having it entirely their own way, however, and they suffered a huge scare just after halftime when Cisse got clear of the defence again, beat Artur with a lob and saw his effort find a home at the base of the left-hand post. That opportunity was matched by a huge opportunity from the hosts when Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa slipped in his own box, allowing Rodrigo to centre, but Cardozo wasn't expecting a pass and was caught flat-footed despite being gifted a virtually open goal.
They wouldn't ignore their second gift. A horrific backpass from Davide Santon handed possession to Lima one-on-one against Krul, and the substitute took the ball wide before slotting in from an acute angle to make it 2-1 with 65 minutes elapsed.
Worse was to come. Steven Taylor tried to block off a corner with his arm, but was caught out, with referee Antony Gautier immediately pointing to the spot. Cardozo's first effort, blasted with prejudice past Krul, was ruled out for encroachment, but the Paraguayan was no less emphatic with his next finish, smashing into the bottom corner to extend Benfica's lead.
Cisse (who else?) had an opportunity to get a goal back when he found himself behind the defence again, but instead of shooting he tried for a pass to Sissoko that didn't quite come off, but Newcastle were perhaps fortunate not to go further behind when Nemanja Matic found only the side netting with a header when left unmarked following a corner, and a double block by Santon and then Krul prevented Gaitan from grabbing his side's fourth.
3-1 was enough, though. Benfica will be worried by the ease with which Cisse penetrated their defence, but the result will work for them. A goal for the Portuguese at St. James' Park will make it very difficult for Newcastle to advance now.