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The Senegal striker is turning into the signing of the season as his goals continue to propel Alan Pardew's team towards a potential Premier League top-four finish

COMMENT
By Rob Stewart

It must seem like the good old days again for Newcastle United fans thanks to Papiss Cisse and his sensational goalscoring exploits.

The way that the stealthy Senegalese centre forward is banging in the goals suggests that he is a worthy successor to local hero Alan Shearer in the iconic Newcastle No.9 shirt - and Shearer himself would have been proud of Cisse's sublime strikes in the 2-0 win over Swansea City that strengthened Newcastle’s push for a Champions League spot.

The 26-year-old has now scored nine goals in eight games for Newcastle since he was signed from Bundesliga side Freiburg in January in a £9.5 million move that came out of the blue.

After a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations campaign, he hit the ground running with a goal on his debut when coming on as a substitute against Aston Villa and has not looked back since.

He has been described as a combination of former Newcastle forwards Andy Cole and Faustino Asprilla by ex-Toon hero Rob Lee and it is easy to see why.

Cisse has the clinical finishing ability that helped Cole to take Manchester United to the summit of European football and the pliability that made rubber-limbed Asprilla such a mercurial player and a penalty box menace.

STAR OF THE SHOW

 FROM OUR LIVE COMMENTARY
69' GOAL! I don't believe it. What a finish by Cisse. Another goal against the run of play. Cabaye with the pass again. The striker traps the ball just inside the box before lifting it over Vorm and into the top corner. Brilliant goal.
 PLAYER RATING
7.5 Had barely had a touch before expertly slotting past Vorm in the fifth minute to score his eighth goal in as many games, before scooping a delightful improvised shot beyond Vorm in the second half. Lethal and clinical finishing from the Newcastle No.9.
Both have gone down in Geordie folklore thanks to their sharpshooting abilities and the new man also seems destined to become a favourite in a part of the world where they love their strikers for many years to come.

Cisse's double against a Liverpool side featuring his predecessor in the No.9 shirt, Andy Carroll, last weekend showed what a shrewd investment club owner Mike Ashley had made in the 26-year-old.

There is no official award for signing of the season but if there were one then it would surely go to the Senegalese.

He seems to have been in England for only two minutes and yet he is following in the footsteps of record-breaking goalscorer Shearer by spearheading Newcastle’s quest for a place at European football’s top table with a flurry of goals just as the former club captain did a decade ago.

Cisse has given the Magpies a cutting edge that makes their counterattacking brand of football increasingly effective and his goals have propelled Alan Pardew’s team towards winning four games in a row, while their opponents struggle towards the season’s finishing line.

He might struggle to understand English as he adapts to his new surroundings in the North-East but there can be no doubting his comprehension of what it takes to stick the ball in the back of the net.

He is right on his team-mates’ wavelength and Newcastle seem to be timing their run towards the Champions League as perfectly as Cisse times his runs into the penalty box.

Pardew has continually played down Newcastle’s top-four prospects but even he must now acknowledge that his team are right in contention to oust one of Tottenham, Chelsea or Arsenal from the top echelon of English football and what had been a three-way fight for the third and fourth places is now contested between four.

Everyone expected their challenge to fade – it still might given the history of false dawns at this curiosity of a club - but this Newcastle team seem to be timing their run to perfection and, with home games looming against Bolton and Stoke City, the stage is set for a return to the top four for the first time since 2002-03.

Not bad for a team that was slugging it out with the likes of Scunthorpe and Preston North End in the Championship just two seasons ago.

The convincing 2-0 defeat of Liverpool last weekend was one thing but their fourth consecutive victory, recorded at Swansea after being dominated possession-wise for large parts of the game, showed that they have the cutting edge and the resilience that means they just have to be taken seriously now.

Cisse’s compatriot, Demba Ba, has not scored in eight games now and was substituted on the hour by Pardew, who showed his tactical nous and bravery by sending on unsung Shane Ferguson in the striker’s place on the hour to keep the Swans at bay.

Ba’s time will come again. He will have plenty of chances to add to his 16-goal tally this term but, for now, Cisse is carrying the baton instead of the lead man and Newcastle are speeding towards the top four.

Now a Europa League place will seem like an anti-climax. Newcastle must seize the day and, with Cisse leading their attack, the Champions League beckons.

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