Anzhi v Newcastle United – Match Report
You wouldn’t want to watch this every week but as a means to an end, Newcastle United can have no complaints.
We now have the proof of why the Russian League shuts down for three months, the extreme cold making the pitch a nightmare and you winced whenever one of the players hit the ground.
Before the match any realistic fan would have taken a goalless draw, with the ‘home’ side having won every Europa League match on their own ‘turf’ this season.
I think this is one of those results where afterwards, because Newcastle made Anzhi look so ordinary, people want to forget Newcastle were up against a team who were second favourites for the whole competition and included world class players such as Eto’o and Willian in their starting eleven.
We might not have learnt much about the opposition but we saw a very disciplined and assertive performance from Newcastle United that bodes well for the short and long-term.
A shocking surface meant that Alan Pardew generally went for players with a lower centre of gravity who could turn and twist on the frozen artificial pitch.
A great display with for me the likes of Mapou, Cabaye and Sissoko taking the honours, all three prepared to take responsibility and keep the ball when the tendency was to get rid as soon as possible.
Chances were at a premium and while Elliot made an excellent low save from Eto’o, Ben Arfa didn’t make the most of the best chance of the game when great link-up play saw him fed the ball but his attempted dink over the keeper just failed to beat him as he stayed tall.
Newcastle will no doubt facing a better Anzhi side at St.James’ Park but the Russians will see a lot more of Alan Pardew’s big hitters in the return leg.
United becoming the first team to take a point from Anzhi at ‘home’ and also the first visitors to keep a clean sheet, Liverpool one of those defeated earlier in the campaign.
I really hope that the team can take three points off Stoke and then that would guarantee the very strongest available eleven will be put out for the second leg on Thursday, due to the extra space opened up on the relegation zone.
I have a feeling we may need every bit of quality we can put on the pitch because while we’ll expect better football from Newcastle at St.James’ Park, there is no doubt that we will see a very different Samual Eto’o and others as well.
Anzhi: Gabulov, Eschenko (LOgashov 90), Carlos, Ewerton, Zhirkov, Da Silva, Diarra, Ahmedov, Willian (Traore 23), Shatov (Gonzalez 84), Eto’o
Newcastle United: Elliot, Simpson, Perch, Mapou, Haidara, Anita (Taylor 75), Cabaye (Tiote 84), Sissoko, Marveaux, Obertan, Ben Arfa (Shola 65)
Unused Subs: Alnwick, Santon, Bigirimana, Campbell
Ref: Istvan Vad (Hungary)
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