Alan Pardew likens Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa to Lionel Messi

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew likened Hatem Ben Arfa to Barcelona star Lionel Messi after another fine display in Sunday's 2-0 victory over Liverpool.

The French forward had a hand in both Papiss Cisse goals against the Reds.

"With the ball at his feet, he's magic," Pardew told BBC Sport. "As magic as [Luis] Suarez or Messi at times.

"We had to work with him to understand exactly what he's about. He has got a special talent, we know he's special."

Newcastle's third consecutive victory lifted them to level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea as their search for a European place gathered pace.

And they were once again thankful to Senegalese striker Cisse, who scored his seventh goal in eight appearances since joining the Magpies from Freiburg in January.

"Our flair players decided it, we could have had four goals," Pardew added. "In the end we deserved to win - we were in control for long periods of the game.

"I'm sure Alan Shearer will be purring about his [Cisse's] performance. He is no mystery to German football and he won't be to ours now. He's a good player."

With seven games remaining, Pardew's side now have a 10-point lead over Everton, who are a place behind them.

But Pardew said his team would do their utmost to finish as high as they can, with Arsenal and Tottenham both five points ahead.

"We've been 10 points ahead of the group below us all season and we need to see it home, we want to take this club into Europe - the fans deserve it," the Newcastle boss added. "It will be a disappointment if we don't get there now.

"For us and Chelsea it is about winning the next game and seeing what happens. The two above [Tottenham and Arsenal] have their destiny in their own hands so they're favourites, but we'll keep plugging away."

Pardew began his Newcastle reign in December 2010 by beating Liverpool and admitted his team had to defend well to match the result this time.

But in contrast to Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, he dismissed a Liverpool penalty appeal where the ball appeared to hit Danny Simpson's arm on the goalline following Mike Williamson's header.

"I've seen it [the penalty shout] three times now - it hits him [Simpson] high on the shoulder," he said. "I'd be very surprised if the referee gives that."

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