Belfast Telegraph

Pardew admits Champions League on

Alan Pardew has finally admitted Newcastle are in the hunt for Champions League qualification after seeing Hatem Ben Arfa light up their bid.

The Frenchman scored a goal of jaw-dropping quality to set the Magpies on their way to a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Bolton, their fifth successive win in the Barclays Premier League. It left them level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham, who lost 2-1 at home to promoted Norwich, with five games of a wholly unexpected campaign to go.

Asked about the possibility of a top-four finish, Pardew said: "I have never actually ruled it out. You guys kept saying to me, 'Are you going to make the Champions League?', and I said we were just looking to win the next game. This week could be important for us because if the [FA Cup] semi-final results go our way, we could be in Europe, I think, by next weekend."

He added: "If that works in our favour, then really, really there is nothing left to go for but the Champions League.

"That's important to us, the semi-finals, we will be looking at them because we are up against Chelsea for that Europa League place if the results go against us, and that's still very, very tough on us.

"To have this points total and not make Europe would be tough to take, so we have got to keep our eye on the ball, and we ain't giving up on anything - apart from winning it."

The Champions League may prove to be a dream for Newcastle this season, but the quality of the goal which sent them on their way to their latest victory would certainly not have been out of place on that stage.

Bolton were actually enjoying the better of a drab encounter when, with 73 minutes gone, Ben Arfa took it upon himself to embark upon an outrageous run from deep inside his own half after turning away from defender Sam Ricketts.

The sense of anticipation grew as he sprinted past Mark Davies and then between central defenders David Wheater and Tim Ream before sliding a shot beyond keeper Adam Bogdan.

Pardew said: "I am a lover of football. You don't see too many goals like that. I have been lucky enough to see two of them this year, both from the same player. It was a truly special goal."

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