Cisse's debut offers plenty of hope for Newcastle
Papiss Cisse's Newcastle debut may have come a bit earlier than expected, but he sure gave fans on Tyneside something to get excited about.
The Senegal international was the most expensive signing in a subdued January transfer window when he moved from German side Freiburg to Newcastle for nearly $16 million.
But the African Cup of Nations not only took Newcastle's leading scorer, Demba Ba, away from the club in January but would also delay the debut of Cisse.
Newcastle was expected to struggle without Ba, who leads the club with 16 goals this season, but Senegal's early exit from the competition has been a big boost to the fortunes of the Magpies.
Senegal was considered to be one of the top teams in the tournament, but stunning defeats to Zambia, Equatorial Guinea and Libya saw the team crash out in embarrassing fashion.
This paved the way for the early returns of Ba and Cisse, who both made major contributions in the club's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
Cisse had just arrived earlier in the week and found himself on the bench for Sunday's match, with the chance that he might feature as a substitute in the second half.
However, a knee injury to striker Leon Best just 14 minutes into the contest paved the way for Cisse, who got a warm reception from the fans at Sports Direct Arena upon his arrival.
And the 26-year-old didn't disappoint, generating a few decent scoring chances before capping his debut with a moment of brilliance.
With the game tied at 1-1, Jonas Gutierrez crossed the ball from the left wing to Cisse at the edge of the penalty area. He took the ball down off his chest and in one smooth motion, found the upper corner of the net with a left-footed strike that was pure genius.
It was a goal that was worthy of a match-winner, and gave Newcastle fans a glimpse of what could be a very promising future.
Early this season Newcastle found itself in the top five in the EPL table because of a stingy defense that yielded only four goals in its first seven games.
But injuries to the back line, including a season-ending one to Steven Taylor, has since seen the opposition find the back of the net more frequently, bringing about concerns that Newcastle simply doesn't have enough firepower to keep up.
Ba has enjoyed a stellar campaign for Alan Pardew's men with 16 goals, but after the former West Ham man, Best is next on the list with four goals to his name.
The arrival of Cisse provides a potent strike partner for Ba, who should benefit from playing alongside another proven scorer.
Cisse notched nine goals in 17 Bundesliga games for Freiburg prior to his arrival on Tyneside this season, which follows a campaign in which he finished second to Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez on the German scoring chart with 22 goals in 32 games.
The 26-year-old has yet to prove that his prolific scoring prowess will transfer to the Premier League, but Sunday's highlight-reel goal is a good start.
Ba and Cisse together give Newcastle the potential for one of the top strike partnerships in the Premier League, and have fans dreaming of a place in Europe for next season.
Following Sunday's 2-1 win, Newcastle sits in fifth place and just one point back of fourth-place Chelsea.
There is still plenty of work to be done to secure a European berth, but the arrival of a player like Cisse could be the kind of difference-making move necessary to put Newcastle over the top.