On a very cold night in Kharkiv, a nearly full-strength Newcastle United squad took the pitch needing a score draw or an outright win. For the first 27 minutes, it looked like they were well on the way to achieving that goal (if not seeing reward by scoring a goal). They were controlling possession, passing the ball around confidently. For their part, Metalist looked slightly slow and uncertain - until a free kick (one of about a thousand given by the ref in the first half - for both sides) was headed just wide of Tim Krul's post. The chance seemed to awaken Metalist and they came more and more into the match. Their 18 best minutes of the tie to this point would follow.
Largely, Newcastle have looked controlled and composed. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has had a couple notable positive involvements (blocking what many felt should have been an opener for Metalist). Massadio Haïdara largely looked as though the stage was not too big for him, having an impact on both ends of the pitch although he did pick up a yellow card late in the half.
Predictably, Shola Ameobi looked focused and interested early on but as Metalist came into the match, he was less and less of a factor. In fact, all of our attacking players saw their effectiveness drop off as the first half progressed. Unfortunately for some, their initial starting effectiveness was "Low" if even that. Sylvain Marveaux, Moussa Sissoko, Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye have largely been non-factors over the course of 45 minutes and will have to get themselves much more involved if Newcastle are to have hope of wrapping this tie up in the 90 regulation minutes.