Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will head into the knockout stages of the Europa League in bullish mood after seeing the Magpies limp across the finishing line.
The unconvincing 1-1 home draw with Maritimo, coupled with Bordeaux's 2-1 victory over Club Brugge, means that both will be in the hat for the resumption of the competition in February. Pardew's men will need to win their final Group D fixture in France if they are to return to the top of the pile, which in theory would ensure a more favourable draw.
However, the 51-year-old is confident that Newcastle should not even fear the Champions League drop-outs who will enter the competition at that stage. He said: "It's sometimes misleading, the competition, when the Champions League teams come down, how motivated they are for it. It's almost a secondary competition for them."
He added: "Some of them might be a better option than a team in the competition already. It becomes a stronger competition, obviously. We would obviously like the second leg at home - we need to win the group to do that, and we have still got that opportunity."
The Magpies, who had lost their previous two home games - perhaps a factor in an attendance of just 21,632 - once again failed to sparkle as they came close to losing a game they might have wrapped up before the break.
They got their noses in front after 23 minutes when Sylvain Marveaux ran on to Hatem Ben Arfa's astute pass and slid the ball through keeper Romain Salin's legs for his first goal in a black and white shirt.
Ben Arfa, who had gone down under David Simao's challenge during the build up to Papiss Cisse's strike, limped from the pitch clutching his hamstring and when the Senegal international followed him down the tunnel five minutes after the restart, the alarm bells were starting to ring.
In truth, Maritimo, who have lost both their previous away games in the competition, were the better side after the break with Danilo Dias causing all sorts of problems, and it was no surprise when substitute Fidelis levelled with a powerful left-foot strike will 11 minutes remaining.
Pardew said: "We wanted to qualify, so we have done the job. The last 20 minutes of the game, Maritimo had nothing to lose and we were poor in that period, I am not going to cloud over that. But to some extent, we didn't have enough threat up the top of the pitch.
"They had nothing to lose, so they came on to us, and that was a little bit disappointing, that period. But I am delighted we are through. It's very important for us, for our feeling because up until that last 20 minutes, we have been excellent in this tournament, so I am not going to get carried away by that."
- Sports & Recreation
- Europa League