Newcastle United left Moscow with a positive result in the bag against FC Anzhi Makhachkala last night, but it’s a dangerous scoreline and the tie is still delicately poised.
In an ideal world we’d have bagged an away goal to take back to St James’ Park but a 0-0 draw against a team that have won every Europa League game at home is still a notable achievement.
United will have to be wary of complacency next Thursday and need look no further than what we managed to do against Metalist Kharkiv in the previous round. An away goal for the Russian side at SJP and United will need to score two to progress to the Quarter Finals of the Europa League. On the other hand at least we aren’t chasing a defeat from the first leg which is something I personally feared we might end up having to do.
A game of few real chances means that this match report will be short. I can’t make up any goalmouth action as there wasn’t a great deal on offer, but United’s makeshift defence held firm and rarely looked in any real danger, with Rob Elliot ensuring the final line of defence remained intact and was on hand to mop up anything loose in the box.
A cagey first-half was broken up by lots of fouls as both sides seemed unable to build up a head of steam. Anzhi were restricted to nothing but half-chances whilst United, without a recognised striker on the pitch, struggled to impose themselves in an attacking sense. The net result being that the one effort on target in the entire first-half was dealt with by Elliot who tipped a long-range Samuel Eto’o shot over the bar.
The second period wasn’t much better although the “home” side did manage to exert a bit more pressure on United. Again though this was to prove fruitless an only long-range efforts from Eto’o and Shatov posed any real threat to the Newcastle goal.
However as the home side pushed on United looked to make use of the space this afforded them. Yohan Cabaye played in Hatem Ben Arfa but the French wizard, making his comeback from three months out, found the Anzhi ‘keeper equal to his delicate effort at goal.
Shola Ameobi replaced Ben Arfa shorty afterwards and perhaps should have done better as he tried to cut inside the penalty area when a shot from his current position may have caused more threat while Vurnon Anota tried his luck from 25 yards out to no avail which just about wrapped up any attacking threat from either side on the night.
See, I said it would be short…
It’s all to play for in the second leg and this result will make us favourites to go through, but we’re not there yet by any stretch of the imagination and we’ve felt the pain of an “away goals” defeat before at St James’ Park. Anyone remember Partizan Belgrade?
Howay the lads!
Anzhi Makhachkala: Vladimir Gabulov, Andrey Yeschenko, Joao Carlos, Oleg Shatov, Yuri Zhirkov, Ewerton, Jucilei, Odil Ahmedov, Lassana Diarra, Willian, Samuel Eto’o
Subs: Yevgeny Pomazan, Rasim Tagirbekov, Arseniy Logashov, Ali Gadzhibekov, Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez, Lacina Traore, Fyodor Smolov
Newcastle: Rob Elliot; Danny Simpson, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, James Perch, Massadio Haidara; Vurnon Anita, Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux, Moussa Sissoko, Gabriel Obertan; Hatem Ben Arfa
Subs: Jak Alnwick, Davide Santon, Steven Taylor, Gael Bigirimana, Cheik Tiote, Shola Ameobi, Adam Campbell