Newcastle United vs. Anzhi: 6 Things We Learned

Christopher AtkinsContributor IMarch 14, 2013

Newcastle United vs. Anzhi: 6 Things We Learned

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    Newcastle United secured progress to the quarterfinals of the Europa League on Thursday night with a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala at St. James' Park.

    Papiss Cisse's towering header was the last touch of the game and settled a tie in which neither side had found the back of the net for the previous 180 minutes of action.

    As a result, the Magpies continue their search for their first major trophy for 40 years, and the feel-good factor brought about by the club's January signings continues to grow.

    Let's take a look at six things we learned from Thursday night's hard-fought encounter in the North East.

Yohan Cabaye Is Essential to Newcastle Ambitions

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    Yohan Cabaye may not have been having his best game before withdrawal due to injury in the 37th minute, but Newcastle would have benefited from his presence later on.

    When Anzhi went down to 10 men after 55 minutes, the game was crying out for a player of Cabaye's quality to take control and assert the hosts' man advantage. For all his virtues, replacement Jonas Gutierrez is not that player.

    Newcastle huffed and puffed against their opponents for nearly 40 minutes before capitalising on their numerical advantage. One can't help but feel the assured presence of the Frenchman would have settled the tie sooner.

    For the sake of Newcastle's remaining Europa League campaign, they had better hope the former Lille midfielder's injury is nothing too serious.

Sylvain Marveaux Can Be a Second Ben Arfa

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    Newcastle were forced to make do without Hatem Ben Arfa on Thursday night as the France international continues to feel the ill effects of the hamstring injury that had kept him out for so long until his recent return, per ITV.

    Their fans need not have worried, however, as the much-improved Sylvain Marveaux put in a fine performance from the right flank. His footwork and left-footed delivery were, at times, reminiscent of his injured colleague.

    While Marveaux's technical ability has always been known, he has struggled for fitness and consistency of performance in recent years.

    Of late, however, he has been an impressive force for the Magpies and thoroughly deserved his last-minute assist after a series of fine balls into the box from his position on the wing.

Anzhi Are Impressive but Eto'o Dependent

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    Anzhi will return to Russia with the feeling that they have lost a winnable tie. The Russians, despite failing to score at home last week, were easily the better side in the first half at St. James' Park in the second leg.

    With €35 million attacking midfielder Willian absent, Odil Akhmedov, Mbark Boussoufa and Mehdi Carcela were all lively and retained possession well. Indeed, Akhmedov could and probably should have scored twice after Newcastle defensive errors.

    Bar those defence-instigated chances, though, there was a feeling that everything Anzhi did in attack depended on the abilities of Samuel Eto'o.

    Eto'o may lack the pace of his younger days but is still an excellent player. He caused difficulty for the home defence throughout and created chances for his side. Sadly for Anzhi, though, they weren't converted.

Steven Taylor Is in Fine Form

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    When the England squad was announced on Thursday afternoon, some Newcastle fans were outraged at the non-inclusion of centre-back Steven Taylor.

    Their opinion would appear justified to anyone who watched this encounter.

    Taylor, who was also excellent in the first leg in Russia, had an outstanding game at St. James' Park. Having been outshone by partner Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa previously, Taylor came to the fore on this occasion with an all-action display.

    Three blocked shots and 12 clearances are the facts presented by WhoScored, but they do not do justice to the importance of the defender's contribution.

    There is no doubt that those blocked shots prevented goals, and just one goal would have ended Newcastle's hopes of progression.

    Taylor was the most important player to the hosts' success on the night.

Refereeing Decisions Continue to Affect Matches

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    The picture shows the red card of Mehdi Carcela in the 55th minute after the awarding of a second yellow card for a foul on Newcastle full-back Massadio Haidara.

    That decision appeared a simple call for the Turkish referee. However, a red card should have been handed to the other side.

    Newcastle's Vurnon Anita should have joined Carcela just a few minutes later. A reckless tackle from the Dutchman saw him stand halfway up the shin of his opponent, and he was lucky not to have caused major damage.

    Newcastle escaped.

    Red cards change matches—just ask Sir Alex Ferguson. Anzhi will no doubt feel that had Anita also been sent off, as he should have been, they would have had a chance to secure victory. Ultimately, though, we will never know.

Newcastle Desperately Need Width

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    In the opening fixture of the tie in Moscow, Newcastle employed Gabriel Obertan on the left wing as they sought to use the flanks to their advantage. As so often, the Frenchman was poor.

    Marveaux may have done well on the right on this occasion, but his invention and quality were not matched from the left. Indeed, the club lacks quality wide players in general.

    The supposed plan was for full-backs Davide Santon and Haidara to provide the side's width. With Anzhi pressing high up the pitch, though, the full-backs found themselves pinned back.

    The club will undoubtedly look for at least one wide player in the summer. Marveaux and Ben Arfa have both expressed a preference for playing centrally, while Jonas Gutiérrez is no longer effective as a winger—Obertan even less so.

    The Magpies desperately lacked width in the first half as their strong central core lacked options when in possession. The result was that striker Cisse became isolated.

    It is not a new problem for Newcastle, but one that was particularly evident on this occasion.