Newcastle United FC and FC Metalist Kharkiv drew an unexpected blank in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 encounter, with both sides uncharacteristically indecisive in front of goal.
Having sold celebrated attacking midfielder Taison to Ukrainian rivals FC Shakhtar Donetsk during the winter break, Metalist lacked their usual menace in the final third, while their 37-year-old goalkeeper Olexandr Goryainov grabbed an unexpected share of the limelight, making crucial interventions to stop Papiss Cissé and Moussa Sissoko from seizing the initiative for Alan Pardew's men.
One of the most consistently entertaining teams in the UEFA Europa League, Metalist's propensity for slightly reckless attacking football could easily have got them into trouble early on. Gabriel Obertan rolled an effort wide and Cissé had a goal ruled out for offside before Tim Krul produced a fine save at the other end to fend Jonathan Cristaldo's bullet header round the post.
Goryainov's rearguard evaporated again following a swift Newcastle surge, and the veteran had to be sharp to keep Cissé off the scoresheet as he raced through on goal. Captain José Ernesto Sosa then snatched at a chance to beat Krul, before Goryainov once more proved to be Metalist's only effective line of defence, blocking a marauding Sissoko's path to goal.
The drama continued after the interval, Cristaldo blazing wide as Newcastle's concentration flickered, but the home side were to provide the more tangible threat thereafter. A pull back into the box found Cissé, yet he could not steer his powerful effort around the ever-alert Goryainov, and the Senegalese striker's luck was out once more when a referee assistant's flag denied him another goal for offside. Luck, however, may have played more of a part than judgement when Goryainov repelled Cissé's close-range header at the death.
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