Newcastle stood up to a tough test in Ukraine last night earning only their second away victory in all competitions this season.
Shola Ameobi did what he does better than most players on the planet and converted yet another penalty to keep his spot-kick streak going and United’s Europa League adventure alive.
However Shola shouldn’t be the only one to take some plaudits and at the other end of the pitch Tim Krul more than earned his corn with a succession of fine saves to keep United in with a shout of reaching the last 16. The fact he left the ground on crutches though is not good news and hopefully scans scheduled for when he returns to Tyneside show no lasting issues that could affect his presence in the league.
Newcastle started the match brightly and took control of the early exchanges without really threatening the Metalist goal and had to make do with half chances and nearly moments. Shola Ameobi nearly setup Moussa Sissoko in the opening two minutes but the former Toulouse man was unable to get on the end of Shola’s pass.
Sissoko had another effort on 15 minutes but his shot flew straight at the Metalist ‘keeper before Ameobi saw another effort deflected wide of the Kharkiv goal. United had the game under control and it took the home side 28 minutes to muster their first meaningful attack but Jonathan Cristaldo shot wide of Tim Krul’s goal.
Just before half-time Papiss Cisse had the best chance of the game so far after being played in by Shola Ameobi only to see Goryainov – who denied Cisse three times in the first leg – once again equal to his effort at goal.
Half-time: Metalist Kharkiv 0-0 Newcastle
Eleven minutes into the second-half United had probably their best chance of the game after Sylvain Marveaux and Moussa Sissoko exchanged passes giving Marveaux the chance to find the back of the net or set up a team mate. He did neither as his shot flew over the bar when squaring for Ameobi would have more than likely resulted in a goal.
Yohan Cabaye played in Sissoko on the hour mark but he was unable to shrug off the attention of Metalist defenders and shot harmlessly wide. Just three minutes later though Sissoko was in place to capitalise on a poor back pass from Papa Gueye. Sissoko stormed into the penalty area and was brought down by Goryainov resulting in the award of a penalty which Shola duly struck home sending the goalkeeper the wrong way in the process.
Then came the Tim Krul show as the home side turned on the pressure in an attempt to avoid elimination from the competition. Knowing that they now needed two goals to progress Metalist made some attacking substitutions and put us under pressure, arguably for the first sustained amount of time of the night.
No matter, not when Tim Krul is in the kind of form he was. First he pulled off a double save to deny Cristaldo before James Perch cropped up to clear off the line when Krul looked beaten. Willian was the next to be denied when Krul pushed his header onto the post and in the end the United defence held firm and claimed the result which will see through to the next round.
Full-time: Metalist Kharkiv 0-1 Newcastle
In the next round we will face FC Anzhi Makhachkala (who will now be called ‘Angie’ on here to keep it easy!) of Russia after they defeated Bundesliga outfit Hannover 96 4-2 over the course of their two-legged encounter. The first leg will be played at Dynamo Stadium on Thursday 7th March with the return leg at St James’ Park being played on Thursday 14th March.
Back to the match, I’m glad we’ve gone through but I hope my worst fears haven’t come true and we’ve not lost Tim Krul to injury for a length of time. Yohan Cabaye apparently also picked up a knock and with Cheik Tiote succumbing to illness prior to the match the very last thing we need to see now is our injury starting to grow again.
All eyes will turn to Southampton now where, for me anyway, getting a result is even more important than the one we got last night. Win against the Saints and all is well. We start to pull away from the bottom clubs and can worry less about relegation and start to focus more on the Europa League. Lose though, and we’re back to square one rendering the result last night almost worthless.
Howay the lads!
Metalist Kharkiv: Oleksandr Goryainov; Cristian Villagra, Papa Gueye, Marco Torsiglieri, Fininho; Juan Manuel Torres, Edmar; Marlos, Cleiton Xavier, Jose Sosa; Jonathan Cristaldo
Subs: Vladimir Disljenkovic, Andrey Berezovchuk, Oleg Shelayev, Sebastian Blanco, Jaja Coelho, Oleg Krasnoperov, Willian
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Fabricio Coloccini, Massadio Haidara; Vurnon Anita, Yohan Cabaye; Papiss Cisse, Moussa Sissoko, Sylvain Marveaux; Shola Ameobi
Subs: Rob Elliot, James Perch, Steven Taylor, Dan Gosling, Gael Bigirimana, Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Obertan