Newcastle target Champions League next season

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Newcastle United moved to within five points of a place in next season’s Champions League after a 3-1 win away to West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Sunday.

The match was all but over as a contest at half-time as the Magpies established a 3-0 interval lead, with Papiss Cisse scoring twice either side of Hatem Ben Arfa‘s strike.

West Brom substitute Shane Long capitalised on a defensive mix-up to pull a goal back in the 52nd minute but that was as good as it got for the Baggies as they suffered a ninth home league defeat this term.

Victory left Newcastle in sixth place in the Premier League and level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea, who have a superior goal difference.

Both clubs are now just five points behind Tottenham Hotspur, currently occupying the fourth and final Champions League place on offer to English clubs, with eight games of the domestic league season remaining.

“First half we played some really fantastic stuff,” Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, told the BBC after his side went eight points clear of seventh-placed Liverpool, their next opponents.

“I said before the game that at the training ground there was a new buoyancy after the win against Norwich and today it was champagne stuff.

“We’ve been phenomenal all year, the players have worked so hard and deserve all the plaudits they get. This is a tough place to come and they’ve won with something to spare. You don’t amass those points without quality.

“Today I was pleased with our control of the game, our passing and with players like we have at the top of the pitch you’re going to score goals.”

On Sunday, both sets of players at the Hawthorns and the match officials walked out wearing T-shirts in support of Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton midfielder who remains in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham.

And there was a minute’s applause before kick-off for former Albion midfielder Ray Barlow, a member of the Baggies’ 1954 FA Cup winning team, who died recently.

It took Newcastle just six minutes to open the scoring against a West Brom side all but assured of Premier League football next season.

France midfielder Ben Arfa’s excellent cross from out wide sped along the edge of the six-yard box and allowed striker Cisse, who was just onside, to prod the ball into the back of the net.

Six minutes later it was Ben Arfa’s turn to score, with Senegal striker Cisse involved in the build-up.

Ben Arfa played a one-two with Yohan Cabaye and then exchanged passes with Cisse before shooting past Ben Foster.

And in the 34th minute, Alan Pardew’s men were 3-0 in front.

Senegal international Demba Ba’s back-heel found Ben Arfa and his pull-back was powered into the net by Cisse, for his second goal of the match and fifth for Newcastle.

Baggies boss Roy Hodgson made a double substitution at half-time, with Chris Brunt and Long replacing Jerome Thomas and Keith Andrews respectively.

The injection of pace up front yielded a reward for Albion when a ball over the top of Newcastle’s defence was nodded away from visiting goalkeeper Tim Krul by the Magpies’s Mike Williamson and into the path of Long, who shot into an empty net.

Newcastle, however, weathered the storm and Albion had to play the closing stages a man down when James Morrison went off injured after Hodgson had used all his substitutes.

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