Newcastle were left frustrated last night as two offside flags, some poor finishing and some good saves combined to leave United’s Europa League participation in the balance.
A 0-0 result on the night means that Alan Pardew must take his side to Ukraine knowing that anything less that a score draw will mean elimination from the competition.
It could and perhaps should have been a different scenario had it not been for the intervention of the offside flag with Papiss Cisse being denied twice by one harsh and one just plain wrong offside call. With the benefit of those decisions we’d be heading to one of the more hostile grounds in Europe with a two goal advantage although missed chances on the night also prevented us from taking an advantage to Kharkiv next Thursday.
Three changes were made from the side that lost to Tottenham last weekend as Gabriel Obertan replaced the injured and cup-tied Yoan Gouffran, Cheik Tiote replaced James Perch and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa made his full debut for the club replacing a cup-tied Mathieu Debuchy.
However despite the strong side it took until the 17th minute for United to register their first real effort at goal. Moussa Sissoko rolled the ball to Gabriel Obertan who shot wide of the Leazes End goal.
The visitors weren’t just playing for a draw though and caught United napping when Marlos threaded the ball through for Sosa only for Xavier to get in his way just as he was about to strike the ball leaving Tim Krul with perhaps an easier save than he might have had otherwise.
Moments later came contentious decision number one as Moussa Sissoko was flagged offside before squaring to ball for Papiss Cisse to scramble home even though subsequent replays show the former Toulouse man was played onside by a number of yards by the Metalist left-back.
But again Metalist showed their threat as Xavier got on the end of a cross forcing a fine save from Tim Krul with his headed effort.
Just after the half-hour mark Cisse was again denied, this time by Horyainov in the Metalist goal after Yohan Cabaye played the ball through to the Senegal striker first time leaving Cisse free of the defence. Sissoko then found the Ukrainian ‘keeper equal to his effort after bursting into the box from the left as the first-half drew to a close.
Half-time: Newcastle 0-0 Metalist Kharkiv
Papiss Cisse fired wide after a good first touch early in the second period, while a long-range effort from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa flew harmlessly over the Gallowgate End goal.
With 20 minutes left Santon crossed for Cisse who again found Horyainov in the Ukraine goal equal to his effort before Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa crossed for Cisse to prod home the ball via the inside of the post only to see that effort denied by the offside flag.
Contentious issue number two but with the benefit of still shots and TV replays Cisse was marginally offside, although how it could have been called in real time with any real degree of accuracy is beyond me. And where is the benefit to the attacker as mentioned in the rulebook? We’re talking a matter of inches here.
Shola Ameobi replaced Cheik Tiote and his knockdown very nearly found the boot of Moussa Sissoko before more frustration for the home side in stoppage time as Horyainov denied Papiss Cisse’s point-blank range diving header after a cross from Davide Santon.
Full-time: Newcastle 0-0 Metalist Kharkiv
I hate blaming officials for results but you can’t get away from the clangers they dropped in this one. If you feel hard done by with the second decision then the first one must leave you searching for words to describe such an error.
It wasn’t just about the offside calls though. Newcastle picked up yellow cards for things which Metalist were getting away with, and whilst I have no qualms about Cheik Tiote’s or Yohan Cabaye’s bookings I feel Moussa Sissoko was hard done by.
Having said that we’re also guilty of missing some glorious chances and should be taking a lead to Ukraine. Unfortunately that isn’t the case and now we have to name a stronger squad than we perhaps would have liked if we are to progress to the Round of 16, which could cause issues for our next “six-pointer” against Southampton just three days later.
On a positive note I’d like to give honourable mentions to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Papiss Cisse. Yanga-Mbiwa played well at right-back and looked both powerful and composed on the ball. He could be a real defensive asset for us although it’s early days as yet. As for Cisse, he was unlucky not to score and did all the right things pretty much but that degree of luck just deserted him when he needed it most. However it was his hold up play and link up play which impressed me the most. A vast improvement from the Senegal hitman.
I noticed some people last night bemoaning tactics and saying that we played poorly. For me that wasn’t the case. We had the bulk of the ball, the bulk of the chances and but for some dire luck we would be taking a lead to Ukraine. We did everything right last night, apart from avoiding some dodgy decisions and encountering a 37-year-old goalkeeper, who was only playing due to injury, in top form.
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye; Gabriel Obertan, Moussa Sissoko, Jonas Gutierrez; Papiss Cisse
Subs: Rob Elliot, Danny Simpson, Massadio Haidara, Vurnon Anita, James Perch, Sylvain Marveaux, Shola Ameobi
Metalist Kharkiv: Oleksandr Horyainov; Cristian Villagra, Papa Gueye, Marco Torsiglieri, Fininho; Edmar Halovskyi, Juan Manuel Torres; Marlos, Cleiton Xavier, Jose Ernesto Sosa; Jonathan Cristaldo
Subs: Vladimir Disljenkovic, Andriy Berezovchuk, Oleh Shelayev, Sebastian Blanco, Jaja Coelho, Oleh Krasnopyorov, Willian Gomes