Danny Simpson

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Defiant Danny Simpson insisted Newcastle's Europa League dream is still alive despite a 3-1 quarter-final first leg defeat away to Benfica.

It was from the right-back's defence-splitting pass that Moussa Sissoko crossed for Papiss Cisse to give United a 12th minute lead at the Estadio da Luz and at that moment, they were in the driving seat.

Before the match, as is traditional before big games at Benfica, an eagle flew around the perimeter of the stadium but it was the Magpies who were flying in the opening exchanges as goalscorer Cisse saw a shot hit the inside of the post before Rodrigo equalised midway through the first half.

Then the Senegalese striker again came within a lick of paint of scoring a matter of seconds into the second half but two goals in the space of six minutes from Lima - who siezed on a poor Davide Santon backpass - and Oscar Cardozo, who converted a twice-taken penalty, completely altered the complexion of the tie.

Yet although it will now take a monumental effort in the second leg on Tyneside for Alan Pardew's side to reach the semi-finals, Simpson still believes it's all to play for.

"The away goal's massive," he told nufc.co.uk. "We said that at the start of the game: if we were going to do anything, we had to take an away goal back to St. James' and if we play like that at St. James' and we don't concede the soft goals we conceded, you never know.

"They'll come to our place and they'll expect our fans to be right on them like their fans were tonight.

"We've got to take the positives from tonight and if we play like we did in patches tonight at home, and don't concede the soft goals, anything can happen.

"The away goal helps massively and I'm sure we can get two at home.

"We couldn't have started any better. I don't think many teams could live with us the way we started that game. We had a chance to go 2-0 up and it hit the post.

"They're a quality team, they're the home team and we knew they were going to have the ball but I think we contained them quite well.

"Even in the second half we had another chance to go 2-1 up and the last two goals we conceded are just soft goals, really, for all the work that we've done. We were just unlucky on the night. We had the chances.

"To come to Benfica and create the chances we created shows how well we did tonight. The second goal was unfortunate - it's one of those things - and then there was a soft penalty.

"But there are positives we will take from that because I thought we did do well."

Simpson limped off in the 83rd minute and with Mathieu Debuchy a doubt for Sunday's game at Fulham, the last thing Newcastle need is to be without the ex-Manchester United man too.

But he said: "It's just a knock on the ankle. I should be alright. I'm just going to ice it over the next couple of days but it shouldn't be a problem.

"Obviously I've not played much over the last three months but I got 90 minutes at the weekend and got a bit of rustiness out of my legs.

"I felt better tonight and hopefully I'm selected for Sunday. Every game I play, I'm going to give 100 per cent - that's all I can do."

Tickets for the crucial second leg against Benfica and the vital league game against Fulham are on sale and can be bought here