Newcastle United gave themselves every chance of progressing to the quarter finals of the Europa League after holding Russian giants Anzhi Makhachkala to a goalless draw in Moscow. With the temperature the wrong side of zero, a solid defence was the inspiration behind the Magpies performance, not allowing the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Lacina Traore any clear chances. The game won’t last too long in the memory in all honesty, but Newcastle can be proud of their performance against one of the strongest sides left in the competition. The first half in particular was a drab affair, with neither side really threatening and Anzhi’s attacking flair affected by the loss of star man Willian. The Brazilian clashed with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and never recovered from a heavy fall. Lacina Traore was introduced for the home side but it was Eto’o who had the only opportunity of the half. The former Barcelona man struck a venomous long shot which Rob Elliot only just managed to turn over his crossbar. Newcastle continued to frustrate the Russians, often with every player inside their own half. Hatem Ben Arfa – playing in an unfamiliar centre forward role – struggled to get into the match on his 26th birthday. In fairness, none of the Newcastle players could mount any extended periods of possession, due to the bouncy plastic surface at the Luzhniki stadium. Peter Beardsley had flown out earlier in the week to check out the unfamiliar surface, in an attempt to learn more about the 4G pitch. In an equally uninspiring second half, Eto’o almost opened the scoring when his low drive looked to be going in, only for Elliot to pull off a fantastic low save. Minutes later, Alan Pardew’s side could have pulled off an unlikely win when Ben Arfa was set free, only for the Frenchman to tamely chip into the arms of Vladimir Gabulov when he was trying to trick the Anzhi goalkeeper into committing himself. The chance was the last of the action and the rest of the match passed without any real incident, setting up the second leg perfectly for a magical night on Tyneside. Newcastle have home advantage and after proving they can shackle the talents in the Anzhi ranks, they will be full of confidence heading into the deciding leg.