By Chief Sports Writer, Marley Anderson

Newcastle United’s Europa League campaign has finally come to an end as Benfica snatched a late goal to kill the Magpies’ hopes of continuing their fairytale cup run.

Papiss Cisse had netted to put Newcastle within one goal of going through to the semi-finals on away goals but Eduardo Salvio’s stoppage time strike put the Portuguese side level on the night and sent them through.

It really was a heroic performance from the Geordies, who dominated the entire second half and were denied by two offside goals and numerous close chances, only to be denied by Salvio’s late strike.

If Newcastle were to give the raucous St James’ Park crowd a chance to become a major factor in how the game panned out, the home side needed a quick start.

However, it was the Portuguese heavyweights that settled quickest and could have been ahead after just two minutes. A long spell of possession culminated in a cross from the right wing being cheekily turned towards goal by Brazilian striker Lima, only for Tim Krul to repel the effort with his legs.

In fact, Krul turned out to be the busiest man on the pitch in the opening stages. Seconds after making the stop from Lima, the Dutch goalkeeper had to be alert to tip over a cross from Lorenzo Melgarejo as it dipped towards his top corner.

After the initial pressure from Benfica, the Magpies started to come out of their shell and force the issue slightly more. Papiss Cisse was making good runs up front and being assisted by the playmaking efforts of Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko.

One of those runs provided a half chance for the Senegal striker, too. He ghosted off the back of giant centre-half Luisao and was found by Gael Bigirimana’s superbly weighted pass, only to be let down by his touch as the chance passed.

Benfica pushed forward again and almost capitalised on some confusion to take the lead after half an hour. Krul rushed to the edge of the box to deal with a through ball but was forced to release when in danger of carrying it outside the area and the rebound fell to Lima. The striker turned and found Nicolas Gaitan and with an open goal gaping, Haidara pulled off a stunning block to keep the score level.

A minute before half-time, Newcastle thought they had the lead. A free-kick was cleared as far as Bigirimana, who crossed to find Cisse at the far post and the striker tapped home, only to be correctly denied by the offside flag.
With the deadlock still intact, the stage was set for a Geordie onslaught in the second half. Shola Ameobi was introduced as the home side adopted a more direct style and attempted to break the visitors down with their physical presence.

The tactics certainly worked as Alan Pardew’s side battered on the Benfica door in search of the opening goal that would put them within a solitary strike of achieving the 2-0 result they so craved.

Newcastle could only create a series of half chances before Pardew turned to the bench for inspiration. The crowd were chanting for the introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa and the Toon boss obliged, bringing on the Frenchman with half an hour remaining.

All of a sudden, things started to open up for Newcastle and Cisse once again had the ball in the net illegally. This time it was from Ameobi’s flick that Cisse was able to convert from, only to be again denied by the flag.

The first time Ben Arfa received the ball and ran with it, the goal came. The former Marseille winger seemed to be running into a dead end but after some hesitancy from two Benfica defenders, he nicked it back and allowed Ameobi to connect with a cross.

As it looped up off another defender, Cisse was on hand just inches out to head home and give the home crowd something to cheer about.

The sound around St James’ Park was deafening and the home side responded by continuing to throw everything they had at Benfica.

The closest they came was again through Ben Arfa, who turned inside a defender before lashing a powerful effort narrowly over the bar with two minutes remaining.

With the home side in all out attack mode, Benfica were allowed to break when they finally found a way out of their half and with two minutes of stoppage time remaining, substitute Rodrigo burst clear down the left wing. The former Bolton loanee crossed for the waiting Salvio, who swept home as Moussa Sissoko was caught ball-watching and sent Benfica into the last four of the Europa League.