This is getting ridiculous.
Despite a rising tide of injuries to significant players and a more rarified
level of opponent, United were again able to delight their followers and record
yet another improbable last-gasp victory.
With both fans and players poised for an extra half hour after 186 minutes of
play failed to produce a goal, the Magpies summoned up one more effort and found
both inspiration in the form of a perfect pass and a classically simple finish.
No wonder the opposition players sank to their knees.
While the recent late glory of seeing off Chelsea and Stoke here was massively
satisfying, for sheer unadultered joy and wonderment this was on a par with
Temuri Ketsbaia in Zagreb and Craig Bellamy in Rotterdam. Goals whose
significance and timing far outweighed the manner of their conversion. To that
list can now be added Papiss Cisse, inducted into our European Hall of Fame
Absent from the first leg due to illness, the man from Senegal had largely been
shackled during the evening and was visibly isolated from his team mates in the
first half. However he was still on the field to make a memorable impression on
the tie - and a Leazes End
advertising board - with a Ketsbaia-esque celebration, delivering some hefty hoofs
For much of the evening, it had been damn near impossible to see where a goal
would come from - at least for the home side. Fortunate to go in on level terms
at half time after allowing Anji to dominate possession to such an extent that
we looked like the away team, although Rob Elliot had only been called up for
routine work by that point.
Make no mistake, this was a one-off cup tie.
The artificial surface in Moscow looked to have been every bit as much of a
hindrance to Anji as Newcastle and the Russians were instantly more fluid when
playing on the Tyneside turf.
That had the effect of quickly quietening the home crowd, who while not quite
hushed in awe were perhaps intrigued by what they were seeing. That was a
visiting team quite unlike anything we've seen here in domestic football, asking
demanding responses from a Newcastle side of more direction and subtlety than
merely "playing for the shirt".
It's too glib a comment to say that we were lucky, but fortune certainly
favoured us with the absence of Willian through injury, the exit of Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez
for two avoidable yellow cards and the late free kick conceded by Cheick Tiote.
That latter incident looked dangerously like the end of the road for us in the
competition, but Mbark
Boussoufa's effort rebounded off the Gallowgate crossbar after beating Rob Elliot and
deflecting off him and mercifully away from the goal line.
As was the case in the first left, Anzi's lack of competitive games so far in
2013 must also have had some effect; with the wisdom of using only one of their
permitted substitutions open to question.
Perhaps like Newcastle, they were holding back until extra time to make a
change, with our final throw of the dice Shola Ameobi still on the bench when
the winner went in. Passing a fitness test before the game, Shola warmed up but
then saw Pardew replace Vurnon Anita with rookie Adam Campbell for the final 20
minutes. In our own world, that was also significant as the point at which
Gabriel Obertan's career here ended - punished for his perfunctory
non-performance in Moscow.
Already without a trio of big hitters in the form of Tim Krul, Fabricio
Coloccini and Hatem Ben Arfa, the loss of Yohan Cabaye to a groin strain after
half an hour threatened to make what was already shaping up to be a sizeable
task possibly insurmountable for Alan Pardew's team.
In fairness to Jonas Gutierrez, he attempted and largely succeeded in giving a
more up-tempo, high profile display in deference to the boots he was asked to
fill. Our routine accusation that he's resting on his laurels wasn't applicable
tonight. It's a pity though that the local telly collared him in the mixed zone
and succeeded only in recording his thoughts on the election of an Argentinean
What did little to improve the mood of those present however was the ongoing
unpredictability of Tiote on the ball, something that Anji had rightly picked up
from their observations of our Ivorian and attempted to use to good measure by
chasing him down and provoking him into further acts of random dribbling and
passing. The second component to that pressing was a concentrated effort to
shackle Moussa Sissoko, who as a result only rarely found both space and
On a night when chances were at a premium, Steven Taylor made a string of vital
blocks and interceptions to keep Anji and his old adversary Samuel Eto'o at bay
(he was in the Real Mallorca side on the night that Tayls made his debut nine
years ago). And in addition to being close enough to Cisse to join his goal celebrations,
our number 27 also popped up right in front of the Anji goal to put a weak shot
right down the throat of Gabulov.
In addition to Taylor, an unfamiliar-looking defensive lineup came through the
night with credit - a welcome return to full backs kicking with the correct foot
for their position resulting from the deployment of Davide Santon at right back
and Massadio Haidara on the other flank. Meanwhile, another encouraging display
from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa inspired both confidence on the night and hope for the
future, as the curtain begins to fall on Coloccini's five season career
Back to that last manic, magic Magpie moment though and what is now becoming a
fixture of home games in 2013 saw crowd and fans salute each other at the end -
both parties now firmly up for this elongated competition that began some seven
months and twelve games ago in an Athens suburb in front of less than 5,000
To Setubal, Anderlecht, Monaco, PSV and Sporting Lisbon, Benfica can now be
added to our list of European Quarter Final opponents. As a club, we have
unfinished business on the banks of the Tagus, but return to Lisbon with a more
united front than in 2005 here -
and a better defence.