By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor
At the Estadio da Luz
Benfica 3 (Rodrigo 25, Lima 66, Cardozo 71)
Newcastle United 1 (Cisse 12)
Papiss Cisse netted an away goal but Newcastle United suffered a 3-1 defeat at Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night.
The Senegalese front man fired the Magpies into an early lead, only for Rodrigo, Lima and Oscar Cardozo to reply for their Portuguese opponents, who now have the upper hand going into next week's deciding fixture on Tyneside.
With many outsiders predicting an easy home win at the Estadio da Luz, Newcastle sprung a shock as Cisse tapped home Moussa Sissoko's cross, and the same player could have doubled their advantage but saw a deflected strike hit the post.
Benfica soon equalised through Rodrigo but still the visitors wouldn't lie down and Cisse was again denied by the woodwork early in the second half.
Substitute Lima then added number two for the hosts before Cardozo hit their third from the penalty spot, but Newcastle will feel like they are still in with a chance of progression to the semi-finals.
United created the first opening inside two minutes. Davide Santon floated an inch-perfect diagonal ball from left to right and in to the path of Cisse.
The front man took it on his chest, racing past Melgarejo in the process but saw his low strike from a tight angle smothered by home stopper Artur.
After a slow start, Benfica began to impose themselves on proceedings. First, Andre Gomes dragged a long-range strike well wide, before - from similar range - Nicolas Gaitan forced Tim Krul into an unconventional save, which he gathered at the second attempt.
But Newcastle had proved they weren't in the last eight to make up the numbers and broke the deadlock in the 12th minute with a crucial away goal.
There looked to be little on when right-back Danny Simpson received the ball on the halfway line, but the former Manchester United man struck an outstanding, skidding pass down the line, disecting the home defence and into the path of Sissoko.
The French international's cross was low and hard and on a plate for Cisse, who tapped home from inside the six-yard box.
Not content with one, the visitors were inches away from doubling their advantage on 23 minutes.
As a Benfica move broke down, United broke at pace, with Cisse and Sissoko combining to find Jonas Gutierrez in space on the left flank.
The Argentine beat Andre Almeida before delivering a low cross which Cisse turned goalwards, only to see his shot take a deflection, wrongfoot Artur but roll agonisingly against the post and then back into the goalkeeper's arms.
And they were made to pay almost immediately as Rodrigo levelled things up. Oscar Cardoza let fly from the range and, although Krul made an excellent stop, the Dutchman was powerless to prevent Rodrigo firing home the rebound.
Suddenly, the hosts were in the ascendency and Krul made an outstanding double stop to keep the Magpies level, first blocking Rodrigo's drive before getting up brilliantly to turn away the follow-up effort from Andre Gomes.
Krul was almost single-handedly keeping Newcastle in the tie and produced yet more heroics as half-time approached.
Gaitan's left-wing cross was met first time by Rodrigo, whose sweetly-struck effort was flying into the bottom corner until the intervention of Krul's fingertips.
And he also stuck up a strong hand to prevent a completely unmarked Nemanja Matic from edging Benfica in front before the break.
The Magpies began the second period as they had the first - on the front foot - and again, were only denied a second goal of the night by a lick of paint.
Jonas Gutierrez broke up play on the edge of their own area and lofted the ball up to the halfway line, where Cisse cleverly flicked a header into the path of Marveaux.
The Frenchman drew the Benfica backline before slipping a ball into the path of Cisse, who raced into the box and lifted an outstanding chipped finish over Artur, only to see it once again bounce against the upright.
But Benfica continued to look dangerous in the final third and spurned a glorious chance to take control of the first-leg.
Rodrigo robbed Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa just outside the box and, with Krul caught in no-man's land, squared for Cardozo around 12 yards out. It looked a certain goal but the pass seemed to take the big striker by surprise and, stretching, he was unable to make clean contact, shanking the ball well wide.
However, they didn't have to wait too long to finally get their noses in front, and it was an absolute gift from the United rearguard.
Santon underhit a backpass, allowing substitute Lima - who had only been on the field five minutes - to nip in, round the keeper and slot home from a tight angle.
Things got worse for the visitors just three minutes later as they conceded a penalty.
Ola John's right-wing corner struck the arm of Taylor and, after some deliberation, referee Antony Gautier pointed to the spot.
Cardozo stepped up and thumped the ball past Krul, only for Mr Gautier to order a retake. The front man picked a corner this time and, although Krul picked the right direction, he was unable to keep the powerful penalty out.
But the pair were unable to inspire the visitors to a second goal from a gusty team performance which deserved more than the scoreline suggests.
Benfica (4-3-3): Artur; Andre Almeida, Luisao (c), Ezequiel Garay, Melgarejo; Nicolas Gaitan, Nemanja Matic, Andre Gomes (Enzo Perez 61); Rodrigo (Lima 61), Oscar Cardozo (Maxi Pereira 77), Ola John
Subs not used: Paulo Lopes, Roderick, Urreta, Pablo Aimar
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson (Dan Gosling 83), Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Davide Santon; James Perch (Vurnon Anita 62), Yohan Cabaye (c); Sylvain Marveaux (Shola Ameobi 81), Moussa Sissoko, Jonas Gutierrez; Papiss Cisse
Referee: Antony Gautier (France)
Bookings: Benfica - Rodrigo (28), Perez (73); Newcastle - Perch (20), Ameobi (87)