Friday, February 15, 2013

Decisions, decisions

Newcastle Utd 0 - 0 Metalist Kharkiv

A goalless first leg, then - but certainly not for want of trying on our part. It was a game which encapsulated in a nutshell the reasons why Papiss Cisse has been so frustrated and frustrating this season: two perfectly legitimate goals disallowed for offside but also a clutch of costly misses on a night when we really should have capitalised on our superiority.

The BBC's report refers to Metalist 'keeper Olexandr Goryainov as being "the only Ukrainian-born player in the Metalist line-up" though neglects to mention that there were the same number of English-born players in ours (just Saylor). With Goofy and Mathieu Debuchy ineligible, the Silver Fox brought in Obertan Kenobi and MYM, the latter for his full debut at right-back, and while Mr T won't be doing much driving off the pitch in the near future, he was at least handed the opportunity to drive us forward on it, in place of Perchinho.

If we were hoping that Metalist would be out of sorts and out of shape due to their league's lengthy winter break, then we were sorely mistaken, as they stroked the ball around neatly with Marlos their trickiest customer up against a somewhat bewildered Davide Santon. For our part, we looked a bit shaky at the back, wary of their threat, but didn't help matters with too much loose midfield passing in our own half. Nevertheless, the best chances fell our way.

Obertan Kenobi, who was making the odd decent foray on the flanks, had our first really decent shot, trickling a shot agonisingly wide after cutting in from the left. Moussa Sissoko, once again an all-action colossus in attacking midfield, burst into the edge of the six-yard area only for Goryainov to smother. The Frenchman it was who broke through to set up Cisse to roll the ball into the net only for the linesman to flag for a non-existent offside. Neither could our Senegalese striker register when played in by a wonderful first-time pass from the generally deep-lying Dreamboat, firing straight at Goryainov with a defender breathing furiously down his neck.

Mr T showed no appetite for staying out of trouble following his arrest, picking up a yellow card for a typically clear-cut and cynical foul, while Dreamboat too showed his aggressive side and found himself in Norwegian referee Tom Hagen's book before half-time.

The second half generally followed the pattern of the first: neat and tidy football from the visitors but more cut and thrust from us. We had narrow escapes when first a fortuitous ricocheted header and then a shot flew wide of Tim Krul's post, but once again slowly began to exert our dominance. Obertan Kenobi, as usual useful only in flashes, was replaced by Sylvain Marveaux, who instantly gave us more dynamism and creativity in midfield alongside Sissoko and Dreamboat. His introduction meant that Spidermag pushed wider, helping Santon deal with Marlos but also giving us added width. The Argentinian found himself in space on the left corner of the area at one point, but rolled his shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post, while Marveaux was unlucky to overrun the ball slightly when darting into the box.

Still, our number nine wasn't faring any better. When MYM's persistence won him the ball in an advanced position on the right, Cisse deftly flicked the cross in off Goryainov's far post. Deadlock broken - or so he and we thought. Not so - another linesman's flag. If he was offside, it was by a matter of centimetres - certainly not the usual ten yards...

Further firepower was called for, which meant the introduction of Big Lad for Mr T. The substitute made a reasonable impression, nodding down a couple of high punts into the box and delivering one pull-back from the byline, but the ball just wouldn't fall to those in black and white.

The 90 minutes up, there was time for one last golden chance - though only after we'd survived a penalty shout, Metalist substitute Willian justifiably booked for a ludicrous dive. A cross came in from the left and Cisse stole in front of his statuesque marker at the far post, but his diving header from point-blank range was predictably blocked by Goryainov.

Would we have won the game with Demba Ba in the side? Let's not torture ourselves by contemplating it. Objectively speaking, a 0-0 draw at home in the first leg of a European tie has been increasingly regarded as a good result in recent years. But if you take into account the key factors - our disallowed goals and squandered opportunities, the fact that our opponents looked sufficiently dangerous to cause us problems on their own turf, our dismal away record this season, our Premier League predicament and the proximity of the return leg to our crunch clash with Southampton - then the prospects for our progress into the next round don't seem quite so good.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

Labels: , ,



Post a Comment

<< Home