ALAN Pardew took on one of football’s great coaches in Moscow – and came out on top.
But Newcastle United’s manager knows this Europa League Round of 16 tie is far from over.
Pardew was far happier than Anzhi Makhachkala’s Guus Hiddink at the final whistle at the Luzhniki Stadium last night.
He’d watched his team strangle the life out of Hiddink’s hugely-talented side.
Chances for his own team were few and far between, but the priority on an unfamiliar surface was to stop Anzhi scoring – and his players did just that in the club’s 131st European outing.
It’s doubtful any of United’s previous European fixtures have been played in such bitter cold.
But the team coped with the weather – and the Luzhniki Stadium’s artificial surface.
The first-half was largely unremarkable – and that suited Newcastle.
Pardew’s players – all wearing tights bar Moussa Sissoko – were understandably cagey on the artificial pitch.
Anzhi, more used to the surface, saw most of the ball – but they didn’t do anything with it until Samuel Eto’o tested goalkeeper Rob Elliot from 25-yards as the half-time break neared.
Had £30m forward Willian stayed on the pitch – he was forced off by injury – the Russian side might have carried more of a threat, with the Brazilian having troubled United in his free role behind Eto’o.
Fit-again Hatem Ben Arfa – Pardew’s “false nine” – was a peripheral figure at the other end of the pitch. Gabriel Obertan, playing on the left, couldn’t get the ball to his French countryman.
Newcastle had another scare as the half-hour mark neared. Danny Simpson lost the ball, and last man Massadio Haidara stopped substitute Lacina Traore having a free run at goal.
United were again camped in their own half early in the second half as the temperature inside the stadium – the game kicked off at minus five – continued to plunge.
Anzhi’s noisy supporters filled around half of one side of the ground, while the 70 or so travelling Newcastle fans were penned in high behind one goal in the cavernous arena, the venue for last season’s Champions League final.
United lost possession time and again trying to break forward, with Obertan particularly culpable.
Ben Arfa, at least, had an energy about him when the ball came to him.
But that wasn’t often enough, and Elliot again denied Eto’o again with an hour gone.
Ben Arfa’s last act before being replaced by Ameobi was to attempt a dink over Vladimir Gabulov after being played in by captain Yohan Cabaye, but the goalkeeper was equal to his shot.
Defender Steven Taylor followed Ameobi on to the pitch – Vurnon Anita was taken off – for the last quarter of an hour.
Pardew – who moved James Perch into midfield – was looking to shore up his under-pressure team, who defended deep and in numbers for much of the game.
Cheik Tiote replaced Cabaye for the final few freezing minutes.
And after the final whistle, Pardew led his players to the club’s travelling support.
They hadn’t had much to cheer over the 90 minutes, but no matter.
Football’s about results, and Newcastle took a very good one back to Tyneside ahead of the second-leg at St James’s Park in six days time.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: ELLIOT 8; Simpson 6, Yanga-Mbiwa 8, Perch 7, Haidara 7; Cabaye 6 (Tiote, 84), Anita 6 (S Taylor, 75, 7); Marveaux 6, Sissoko 6, Obertan 5; Ben Arfa 6 (Shola Ameobi, 65, 6). Subs not used: Alnwick, Santon, Bigirimana, Campbell.
ANZHI MAKHACHKALA: Gabulov; Eschenko (Logashov, 90), Joao Carlos, Ewerton, Zhirkov; Diarra, Jucilei; Ahmedov, Willian (Traore, 21), Shatov (Carcela-Gonzalez, 64); Eto’o. Subs not used: Pomazan, Gadzhibekov, Smolov.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Rob Elliot – he kept United in the side with two superb saves from Samuel Eto’o.
HIGHLIGHT: Elliot’s second save from Eto’o.
LOWLIGHT: The cold – it had to be felt to be believed.
Bookings: Haidara 34
Referee: Istvan Vad (Hungary)