Newcastle boost hopes with draw at Anzhi
Luzhniki Stadium, Europa League last 16, first leg - Anzhi Makhachkala 0 Newcastle United 0
Newcastle boosted their hopes of reaching the Europa League quarter-finals with a 0-0 draw against Anzhi Makhachkala in their last-16, first leg tie in Moscow.
Alan Pardew's side were comfortable throughout the evening in freezing conditions on the artificial surface at the Russian capital's gigantic Luzhniki Stadium that can hold 78,000, but was occupied by less than 13,000 diehards.
Less than 100 Newcastle fans made the trip to Moscow, and were rewarded with a performance of some discipline as Guus Hiddink's big-spending Anzhi lost new signing Willian to injury in the first half before flattering to deceive for the rest of the match.
Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot had only two real saves of note to make throughout the match as he turned a Samuel Eto'o piledriver over the bar from 30 yards out in the first half before doing likewise to tip an Eto'o volley from the edge of the box past a post in the second period.
Newcastle know a win at St James' Park next Thursday will be good enough to see them into the last eight.
Newcastle handed a first start to Hatem Ben Arfa since December after he recovered from a hamstring strain. Elliot, central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, and midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko were the only survivors from the weekend defeat to Swansea in the Premier League.
Anzhi had a full squad to pick from - bar the suspended Mbark Boussoufa - and began with former Premier League players Yuri Zhirkov and Lassana Diarra. Willianed play in a three behind lone striker Eto'o, formerly of Inter and Barcelona, before he hobbled off.
Special mention must go to the Newcastle central defensive pair of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and James Perch, who produced a towering performance at the heart of the visiting rearguard to snuff out the threat of Eto'o and Lacina Traore, who replaced the hobbling Willian on 23 minutes.
Ben Arfa could have won it for the visitors on 62 minutes when he was sent in on goal by the returning Yohan Cabaye, who tried to chip Vladimir Gabulov, but the home goalkeeper stood his ground to make his only save of note of the night.
Oleg Shatov also whacked a volley wide of goal, but that was about if from them as the Russian side failed to score for the first time in Moscow during their run to the last 16 of this tournament.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Newcastle): A real rock at the heart of the visiting defence.