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Spirit saw us through tricky Oxford tie, says Bentaleb

Nabil Bentaleb believes Newcastle United’s character and spirit helped see them through an epic FA Cup fourth round replay at Oxford United on Tuesday night.

The Magpies held a 2-0 lead at half time, as goals from Sean Longstaff and Joelinton put them in command at the Kassam Stadium.

But the League One outfit mounted a dramatic late comeback, as goals from Liam Kelly and Nathan Holland took the contest to extra time.

Both sides had opportunities in the additional 30 minutes but in the end it was an Allan Saint-Maximin stunner which won it for United, saving his side from the ordeal of a penalty shoot-out.

And Bentaleb – who turned in an assured display in central midfield before being withdrawn during the first half of extra time – hailed his team’s resolve after they were pegged back as they refused to let Karl Robinson’s side complete their turnaround.

“In a previous interview, I said it was going to be a tough one – we had to go to war,” the 25-year-old told nufc.co.uk. “We knew what to expect from this kind of team, that they would never surrender. We were leading 2-0 and they managed to get two goals back, so it was brilliant from them, but we showed character and believed until the end. We stayed strong, and managed to get the victory.

“We conceded the second goal right at the end of the game. We had the break and we spoke and said, ‘OK, now we are not losing this – there is no chance we are losing this. OK, we didn’t make it easy for ourselves, but now we have to work it back, give for the fans and also prove to ourselves that we deserve to go through.”

Bentaleb added: “We have a lot of personality in the team. We had really good momentum, and it was very, very tough to go up against them and their crowd, and make sure we ended up on top. We managed to do it, well and I’m pleased – everyone is pleased tonight.”

The result means Steve Bruce’s charges are through to the last 16 of the competition for the first time in 14 years.

United will face West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns for a place in the quarter-finals and Bentaleb, who is on loan from Schalke until the end of the campaign, says United know they are capable of advancing further in the FA Cup – and that now it is a case of proving it.

“We’re not hiding – it’s no secret that we want to go as far as we can in this cup,” he said. “We truly believe that we can go far and that showed – that’s what we showed today. At some point we could have given up when they came back, but we stayed strong and we fought for the victory.

“It’s exciting. We have a tough one away from home, against West Brom, and it’s going to be interesting. Like always in the cup, we have to fight until the end.

“It’s always good to have positive momentum, and I think we’ve been working really hard to get this momentum going. Now we have some tough games coming after the break, so we are going to have to recover and be up for it, and we will be.”

"We spoke and said, ‘OK, now we are not losing this – there is no chance we are losing this. OK, we didn’t make it easy for ourselves, but now we have to work it back, give for the fans and also prove to ourselves that we deserve to go through."

Nabil Bentaleb

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