Newcastle United extended their unbeaten run in European (non-Intertoto) home matches to 23 on Thursday night but it could and should have been so much better.
A combination of crucial decisions going against us from the match officials and wasteful finishing, meant Newcastle take their chance in the Ukraine next week with no advantage.
The visitors looked dangerous with swift and skillful counter-attacks but Papiss Cisse alone could have had four or five goals on another day.You could argue that at least he made the keeper work but such were the quality of chances that he should have really done better. Firstly, Yohan Cabaye released him with a defence splitting through ball and though Cisse kept the chasing defender at bay, his shot was straight at the keeper. Then in the last seconds he made good connection with his head to a spinning ball but once again could only direct it at the keeper, in between these two golden chances we’d seen Papiss also pass up a couple of half chances as the ball buzzed around the Metalist box.
Cisse did get the ball in the net twice but the linesmen denied him. Replays showed a first time through ball set Sissoko away in an onside position with Cisse converting, only for a disbelieving Newcastle team to see the official’s flag.
Second half and once again a low cross, this time from Mapou, was turned in by Cisse and while TV replays suggested Cisse may have been offside, it was literally by an inch or two and impossible for the human eye to gauge. The official getting it right but only by guesswork, unlucky.
I was in the camp that thought Newcastle had done well against a talented opposition, while others thought United were simply not on top of their game enough.
One thing I did think was that Obertan stood out like a sore thumb as being below the level of his teammates, harsh but true. Yet again he gets a game and then when he gets into an attacking position, he doesn’t take responsibility and passes the ball/buck to Davide Santon to try and create something.
The whole match was played in a kind of stop/start fashion as both teams attacked in their different ways. Five bookings for Newcastle disrupted our flow and it was left to players like Jonas to come into his own as he showed good ball retention and chased back to cover his defence. Speaking of defence, Tim Krul may not have had loads to do but he made some fine saves and just generally has that assured air that makes you think he won’t be beaten, if given decent protection.
Not the best, or worst, day in Newcastle’s European history but a mountain to climb in the Ukraine.
One thing is for sure and that is Newcastle won’t field as strong a team with the Southampton match in mind, which should spell curtains for United, or will it?
Newcastle United: Krul, Mapou, Taylor, Coloccini, Santon, Tiote (Shola 79mins), Cabaye, Obertan, (Marveaux 62mins), Sissoko, Gutierrez, Cisse
Unused Subs: Elliot, Simpson, Perch, Haidara, Anita
FC Metalist Kharkiv: Goryainov, Villagra, Gueye, Torsiglieri, Fininho, Edmar, Torres, Marlos (Willian 73mins), Xavier, Sosa, Cristaldo (Jaja 82mins)
Ref: Tom Harald Hagen (Norway)