Moussa Sissoko

By Kristan Heneage

Throughout the summer we are reviewing the 2012/13 campaign, a season of highs and lows which saw Newcastle thrive in Europe but struggle domestically. The fourth instalment covers February and March, which included a thrilling victory over Chelsea and a last-gasp success against Stoke...

February

An exciting month for the Club began with a five-goal thriller against European Champions Chelsea. On a day that saw the return of Demba Ba to the Club for the first time, it was new boy Moussa Sissoko who stole centre stage and etched himself into Newcastle folklore. Drawing his side level after a curled Juan Mata strike put Chelsea 2-1 up, Sissoko provided an emphatic finish for his second and Newcastle's third.

Rushing towards his manager for a squad embrace, a speechless Alan Pardew could not hide his delight after the game as his side picked up their second win in less than a week.

Following that with a trip to White Hart Lane, another new signing was to thank as Yoan Gouffran netted his first for the Club. Unfortunately his deflected strike was not enough to stop Gareth Bale's brace further cementing his reputation as one of the Premier League's best and handing Tottenham Hotspur a deserved win.

The return of the Europa League fell on Valentine's Day as Newcastle began the first leg of their tie against Metalist Kharkiv on Tyneside. The visitors boasted an exciting South American frontline, meaning only a stern rearguard action from the home side kept the scores at 0-0, before a penalty from Shola Ameobi in Kharkiv gave Newcastle the vital away goal and put them through .

A potentially nerve-wracking situation, a serene Ameobi revealed afterwards: "There's no doubt going through my mind when I take a penalty. It's a free shot at goal so I just try to step up and put it where I want to put it and fortunately I've never missed one yet."

The month finished with visitors from the south coast, as Mauricio Pochettino looked to continue his impressive start as Southampton manager. A chance for Pardew to best his former employers, Newcastle got off to a poor start when Morgan Schneiderlin gave the Saints an early advantage.

However goals from Sissoko and a special strike from Papiss Cisse put the Magpies on top before Rickie Lambert restored parity. In fine attacking form again at home, a penalty from Yohan Cabaye and an unfortunate own goal from Jos Hooiveld secured a 4-2 victory and a nice ending to February for Pardew.

Goal of the month: Papiss Cisse v Southampton

During his 18 months at the club, Cisse has developed a reputation for the spectacular, supplementing that perception with this wonderful strike against the Saints. A direct approach from Rob Elliott saw the ball bounce in front of Cisse before he delivered a devilish, dipping half volley that flew past Artur Boruc in goal.




March

Continuing to fight on two fronts, March was a busy month for Newcastle as they began at the Liberty Stadium against Swansea. The impressive performances from Alan Pardew's men continued as they tested goalkeeper Michel Vorm on a number of occasions during the first half. Unable to find the breakthrough, Luke Moore eventually made them pay for their wastefulness in front of goal with a somewhat fortuitous finish five minutes before time.

Promptly back into European action, Anzhi Makhachkala presented the Club's second visit to Eastern Europe this season. Boasting a wealth of exciting names including three time Champions League winner Samuel Eto'o and Lassana Diarra, the Magpies once again displayed stern defensive qualities as they secured a vital clean sheet.

Unfortunately the same couldn't be said when Stoke City were the visitors just a few days later. A penalty from Jonathan Walters gave the Potters the edge before a precise free kick from Yohan Cabaye drew the sides level. Desperately pressing for the victory, Newcastle continued to test the Stoke defence but it seemed their day would end with just a point as the visitors held firm.

However heading into the final seconds, the miniature magician Sylvain Marveaux delivered a delightful through ball to Papiss Cisse who calmly took a touch before slotting it past an onrushing Asmir Begovic.

Four days later and again Cisse was grabbing the headlines with a last gasp winner, this time in the Europa League. An enthralling end to end affair with Anzhi, the visitors were reduced to ten men in the second period when Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was sent off for his second bookable offence. With the game looking set for extra time, Cisse and Marveaux combined once again as the Senegalese striker headed home causing St. James' Park to erupt.

"I have never experienced a game finish as late as that ever," an exasperated Pardew said afterwards. "John (Carver) came over and told me the game was over. I thought it was over before he (Cisse) scored, actually, for a horrible moment, so it was great that it was the last strike of the game."

Still enjoying Europa League euphoria, a trip to a rain soaked DW Stadium awaited Newcastle on Sunday. A game that was steeped in controversy, the home side were lucky not to be reduced to ten men after Callum McManaman's wild lunge on Massadio Haidara. Forcing the French youngster off the field, Pardew was left disappointed by referee Mark Halsey's decision not to dismiss the Wigan youngster.

Having already fallen behind through Jean Beausejour, Davide Santon celebrated his first goal for the club midway through the second half before yet more controversy as Arouna Kone appeared to handle the ball for the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Heading back to the north west little over a week later, reigning Premier League champions Manchester City were in fine form as Carlos Tevez and David Silva gave the Citizens a two goal lead before half time.

A difficult day for Pardew's men saw the Magpies eventually bested by four goals, and it would have been more had it not been for Rob Elliot. Commended for three superb saves by his manager, the 27-year-old was proving the club had strength and depth between the posts as he continued a fine run of form following Tim Krul's injury in the Europa League.

Goal of the month: Papiss Cisse v Stoke City

Wonderful combination play from Sylvain Marveaux and Cisse secured the Magpies' victory as craft from Marveaux was complimented by supreme composure from Cisse. Allowing the ball to delicately drop with just seconds remaining, his cool finish past the imposing Asmir Begovic secured the Club a vital three points.