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Newcastle grind out draw at Anji

FC Anji Makhachkala 0-0 Newcastle United FC
Samuel Eto'o came closest as defences dominated in in Moscow, leaving this last-16 tie wide open ahead of next week's second leg.

Newcastle grind out draw at Anji
Newcastle grind out draw at Anji ©UEFA.com

Newcastle United FC held on for a deserved goalless draw at FC Anji Makhachkala in a tight first instalment to their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie.

The injury-hit Magpies performed strongly, especially at the back, to frustrate Guus Hiddink's side in a game where chances were always at a premium.

The best opportunity of the first half fell to Oleg Shatov in the 14th minute. The 22-year-old midfielder was put through on the right, but elected to seek Samuel Eto'o with a cross when a shot may have been the better option.

There was no shortage of possession for the hosts; the problem was doing something with it and their cause was not helped when creative director Willian was forced off.

The pace of the match picked up after the restart. Eto'o's low left-footed strike looked bound for the bottom corner before Rob Elliot, deputising for the injured Tim Krul, got down well to turn the ball round the post.

Newcastle had created little but almost provided a sucker punch after a good move. The ball found its way to Hatem Ben Arfa on the right, leaving the French international one on one with Vladimir Gabulov. Making his first appearance of 2013, Ben Arfa's attempted chip failed to clear the Anji keeper.

It was as close as the visitors came, though, and bar a late Eto'o effort easily gathered by Elliot, the Russian team were equally unable to ask questions at the other end. Alan Pardew's men will go into next week's return in confident mood.