By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor
At the Luzhniki Stadium
Anzhi Makhachkala 0
Newcastle United 0
Newcastle United put an end to Anzhi Makhachkala's 100 per cent Europa League home record, as they ground out an impressive goalless draw on Thursday night.
The Russians had won every one of their home matches in the competition this season, but were unable to break down a stubborn Magpies rearguard at the Luzhniki Stadium, in Moscow, in their Round of 16 first leg fixture.
Chances were few and far between in sub-zero temperatures on an artificial pitch, but United goalkeeper made two excellent saves - one in each half - to thwart former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o.
At the other end, fit-again Hatem Ben Arfa could have handed the visitors a priceless away goal, but saw his cheeky chip blocked when found in space inside the penalty area.
Manager Alan Pardew will be delighted with the result, as United look to qualify for the quarter-final stage in seven days time at St. James' Park.
The opening exchanges were even, with both sides enjoying spells of possession, but the hosts began to grow in confidence and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa did well to cut out a low Oleg Shatov cross from the left before it reached its intended target.
Anzhi were forced into an early change when expensive playmaker Willian hobbled off, replaced by Lacina Traore with just 23 minutes on the clock.
And in a spectacularly uneventful half, it took until the 40th minute for either side to register a shot.
Eto'o - playing in the 'number ten' role following Willian's withdrawal - found a bit of space around 30 yards out and let fly with a fierce effort, which goalkeeper Elliot did well to get a strong hand on and turn over the bar.
Anzhi made a strong start to the second period and only a brave block with his body from James Perch, prevented substitute Lacina Traore's strike from finding its target.
It was one-way traffic, and on the hour mark, Elliot was called into action again, diving full-length to his right to tip Eto'o's low shot from the edge of the area round the post.
The resulting corner saw Shatov chest the ball down and drill a half-volley narrowly off-target as Anzhi's pressure grew.
And then came United's moment. Having defended so stoutly they were always likely to get one chance and it fell the way of Ben Arfa.
As the ball was worked quickly and neatly from left to right, captain Yohan Cabaye slipped in his fellow Frenchman around 10 yards out. Ben Arfa took a touch and tried to dink the ball over the onrushing Vladimir Gabulov, but Anzhi's goalkeeper remained big, diverting it to safety.
That was Ben Arfa's last action as, having missed the last 12 weeks with a hamstring injury, he was replaced by Shola Ameobi on 64 minutes.
Suddenly a tense affair had become open. Eto'o blazed a free-kick high and wide at on end, while almost immediately at the other Andrei Eschenko blocked impressively as Sylvain Marveaux pulled the trigger.
And while Anzhi had plenty of possession late on, Newcastle held firm to secure an impressive clean sheet and important result against the big-spending Russians.
Anzhi Makhachkala (4-2-3-1): Vladimir Gabulov; Andrey Eschenko (Arseny Logashov 90), Joao Carlos, Ewerton, Yuri Zhirkov; Jucilei da Silva, Lassana Diarra; Odil Ahmedov, Willian (Lacina Traore 23), Oleg Shatov (Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez 84); Samuel Eto'o (c)
Subs not used: Evgeniy Pomazan, Rasim Tagirbekov, Ali Gadzhibekov, Fedor Smolov
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Rob Elliot; Danny Simpson, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, James Perch, Massadio Haidara; Yohan Cabaye (c) (Cheick Tiote 84), Vurnon Anita (Steven Taylor 75); Sylvain Marveaux, Moussa Sissoko, Gabriel Obertan; Hatem Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 64)
Referee: Istvan Vad (Hungary)
Bookings: Anzhi - none; Newcastle - Haidara (34)