Toon 0 Metalist Kharkiv 0
By Footy Mad - Editor
Updated Friday, 15th February 2013
The boos at the end said a lot about this game, and although Alan Pardew put out a strong side, they never seemed to get out of first gear.
NEWCASTLE 0 METALIST KHARKIV 0
NEWCASTLE: 1. Tim Krul 13. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa 27. Steven Taylor 2. Fabricio Coloccini 3. Davide Santon 25. Gabriel Obertan 62' 24. Cheick Tiote 79' 4. Yohan Cabaye 18. Jonas Gutierrez 7. Moussa Sissoko 9. Papiss Cisse
Subs: 21. Rob Elliot 5. Danny Simpson 8. Vurnon Anita 14. James Perch 22. Sylvain Marveaux 62' 23. Shola Ameobi 79' 35. Massadio Haidara
METALIST KHARKIV: 29. Oleksandr Goryainov 3. Cristian Villagra 30. Papa Gueye 6. Marco Torsiglieri 15. Fininho 19. Juan Manuel Torres 25. Bonfim Marlos 73' 8. Edmar 10. Cleiton Xavier 11. Jose Sosa 21. Jonathan Cristaldo 81'
Subs: 81. Vladimir Disljenkovic 4. Andriy Berezovchuk 5. Oleg Shelayev 23. Sebastian Blanco 50. Avelino Coelho Jakson 81' 55. Oleg Krasnopyorov 86. Gomes Willian 73'
I don't know what Pardew said in the pre-match build up ... but United started this match as though it was a pre-season friendly, with very little passion and even less idea.
I spent 90 minutes wondering if the back-line was three, four or five, and I think the players did too.
Striker Papiss Cisse saw two goals disallowed as Pardew's side failed to claim the first-leg lead over Metalist Kharkiv they so desperately wanted to take to Ukraine.
The Senegal international had a 23rd-minute effort controversially ruled out for offside, and then another 16 minutes from time for the same reason to leave the Magpies facing a stern test in next Thursday's Europa League last-32 second leg.
Cisse also passed up a series of other opportunities, the last of them an injury-time header from point-blank range, but the visitors did more than enough on Tyneside to show they will be intensely difficult to beat on their own pitch.
This was their first competitive match in three months, but they buzzed like busy bees and more than held their own.
Indeed, had it not been for keeper Tim Krul, who made a fine first-half save to keep out Cleiton Xavier's header, Newcastle's task might have been even more difficult.
Metalist keeper Olexandr Goryainov also had to be at his best to deny Cisse either side of half-time and Moussa Sissoko late on, but the Ukrainians, for whom skipper Jose Ernesto Sosa and fellow midfielder Marlos caused all kinds of problems, were good value for their draw.
The visitors arrived on Tyneside having not played a competitive match since their last European game, a 1-0 away defeat by Rapid Vienna on December 6 when their place at the top of Group K had already been assured.
However, Alan Pardew had warned his players in advance not to expect ring-rusty opposition, and his advice proved well-founded as they gave as good as they got.
The Newcastle manager fielded as strong a side as he could with Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran ineligible and Hatem Ben Arfa still working his way back to fitness, but they had things far from their own way during the opening 45 minutes.
Indeed Myron Markevich's men arguably enjoyed the better chances with Krul having to pull off two important saves.
It took 17 minutes for either side to muster an attempt at goal, and it was the Magpies who were first to threaten when Gabriel Obertan cut inside from Sissoko's square ball to drag a right-foot effort just wide.
However, the visitors should have taken the lead four minutes later after carving a path through the home defence.
Marlos slid the ball in between Fabricio Coloccini and Davide Santon to set up skipper Sosa, but after team-mate Xavier accidentally blocked his path to goal, Newcastle smuggled his shot away.
The Magpies thought they had gone ahead when Obertan played Sissoko into space on the left and he squared for Cisse to tap home, but the offside flag had gone up before the ball had arrived at the Senegal international's feet, although replays suggested harshly so.
As play moved swiftly from end to end, Krul had to dive to his left to claw away Xavier's 29th-minute header from Jonathan Cristaldo's left-wing cross, but Goryainov proved equally resilient two minutes later to deny Cisse one-on-one after Yohan Cabaye had split the Metalist defence.
The pair traded saves once again as half-time approached, Krul claiming Xavier's well-struck shot from distance and Goryainov reacting smartly after Cisse turned Obertan's wayward effort towards goal.
However, the Dutchman was relieved to see Sosa shoot high and wide four minutes before the break after he and Marlos had left Santon and Coloccini standing once again.
A poor first touch prevented Cisse from making the most of Cabaye's raking pass seconds after the restart and he eventually sent the ball harmlessly across goal from a tight angle.
But as Metalist sensed an opportunity, they went close twice within seconds, defender Fininho heading wide from Sosa's corner and then Cristaldo shooting wastefully wide with just Krul to beat.
Newcastle started to pile men forward in search of a breakthrough, but looked vulnerable at the back as a result.
Pardew replaced the tiring Obertan with Sylvain Marveaux with 28 minutes remaining, but it was Cisse who might have broken the deadlock eight minutes later, only for Goryainov to block his snapshot from Santon's low cross.
Marveaux's touch let him down after he had intercepted a Metalist throw-in to run in on goal seconds later, and Cisse had a second effort ruled out for offside after turning home Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa's 74th-minute cross.
Sissoko forced another diving save from Goryainov with 10 minutes left on the clock, but Krul had to be on his toes to field Sosa's speculative 30-yard volley in a tense finish.
But Cisse might have snatched victory deep into stoppage time when he powered a header towards goal from Santon's cross, only for Goryainov to be in the right place at the right time once again.