By Chief Sports Writer Marley Anderson

Newcastle United were held to a goalless draw with Metalist Kharkiv after a frustrating night at St James’ Park. Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko had the ball in the visitors’ net but both goals were ruled out by marginal offside decisions, meaning Newcastle must travel to Ukraine in seven days time and ensure qualification to the next round by winning or scoring a vital away goal.

Alan Pardew selected a strong side in an attempt to get his side as close to qualification as possible but despite creating numerous chances, they were thwarted by a resolute Kharkiv. Cisse could have had any amount of goals but wasted his opportunities, while the linesman was on hand to frustrate the home side when Cisse finally converted.

With Newcastle’s new system centred around getting the best out of Sissoko and fellow Frenchman Yohan Cabaye, much of the chances the pair create fall towards lone striker Cisse. When the Senegal striker scores, Newcastle generally win but tonight was one of those where the former Freiburg front man failed to finish.

The Geordies were comfortably the better side in the contest, especially in the later stages when Kharkiv started to tire. It was the visitors’ first competitive game since early December, as the Ukrainian winter break continues.

But for all their dominance, there was no cutting edge. Gabriel Obertan – starting on the wing ahead of Sylvain Marveaux – had the first sight of goal when he was found by Sissoko but pulled his shot wide instead of testing Olexandr Goryainov in the Metalist goal.

Then came the controversy, when Sissoko burst down the right before finding Cisse who had made a good run through the middle. After finishing, the flag went up and the referee trusted his assistant’s decision, although replays showed that Sissoko was level when collecting the through ball.

Metalist had their moments too, with South American flair causing problems for Newcastle’s defence at times. Winger Marlos enjoyed testing Davide Santon and midfielder Cleiton Xavier had three chances but failed to seriously test Tim Krul.

Cisse was then put through on goal by Cabaye, only for Goryainov to save when the striker was favourite to open the scoring, before Cisse missed the target after the break when well positioned.

The goalkeeper pulled off another good save from the same man later too, before Cisse finally had the ball in the net, only to be denied by the offside flag again. This time the Senegal man was adjudged to have been marginally ahead of the final defender before converting new-boy Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s cross.

With the second offside decision going against his side, Pardew must have realised that this was not going to be his night. He can be encouraged by the amount of chances his side created though, although perhaps not by his main striker’s inability to finish one of the opportunities.

Newcastle will now travel to Ukraine next week with every chance of qualifying for the round of 16 and could secure their passage through with a score draw, thanks to the away goals rule.