Newcastle made a confident start and in the first half hour could have taken advantage of their superior possession.
Whilst it was expected that the home side would throw everything at United early on, they seemed slightly subdued compared to what we saw at St.James’ Park.
Looking solid at the back in the opening period, Newcastle played some good possession football and created two decent opportunities for Cisse and Sissoko but neither really tested the keeper despite both efforts being on target.
Yet again an over fussy ref gave numerous free-kicks and Newcastle did work themselves into good positions but the delivery was once again poor with Cabaye the main culprit.
The last fifteen minutes or so of the first half saw Metalist at last get into the game and started showing some of the clever pass and go we’d seen last week. However, they also struggled to break down Newcastle and whilst Newcastle had edged the first half, they hadn’t really created the chances worthy of their play.
The second half saw neither team tinker with their starting eleven as the game kicked off again and once again goals looked as though they were going to be hard to come by.
Newcastle’s defence was looking the part as Simpson came back in and looked the dependable player we saw for much of last season, though not in the tights he had on tonight!
Mapou was very comfortable at his usual centre-back position alongside Coloccini and my only criticism of Colo would be a few rash challenges giving away daft free-kicks, much like the one that led to Bale’s free-kick strike at White Hart Lane.
As the game went on, Hadaira looked better and better as he played himself into the match and looked composed going forward as well.
With the lack of clear chances maybe it was always going to take a mistake to settle the match and the home side’s centre-back, Papa, supplied it. Under no pressure he played a backpass beyond his keeper and Sissoko was alert enough to get there first and earn a deserved penalty as the keeper went in feet first.
After a few minutes treatment Shola showed the usual nerves of steel on spot-kicks and lashed it home, credit to him because all too many players bottle it when it comes to penalties.
Newcastle then dropped deep as the home side took chances and it was Tim Krul’s turn to excel as he made half a dozen very good stops as the home side belatedly tried to turn the screw.
As the clock counted down the niggles escalated and players of both teams increasingly stayed down; Krul, Cabaye and Sissoko receiving treatment that was hopefully mainly about ticking the clock down.
Alan Pardew said he would settle for a score draw as that would put his team through but the players went one better, he should be a very proud and satisfied boss tonight.
Full match report to follow.
Newcastle United: Krul, Simpson, Mapou,Coloccini, Haidara, Anita (Jonas 76), Cabaye (Bigirimana 87), Marveaux, Sissoko, Shola, Cisse (Perch 76)
Unused Subs: Elliot, Taylor, Gosling, Obertan
FC Metalist Kharkiv: Goryainov, Villagra, Gueye, Torsiglieri, Fininho, Edmar (Blanco 82), Torres (Willian 67), Marlos (Jaja 67), Xavier, Sosa, Cristaldo
Ref: Serge Gumienny (Belgium)