Magpies boss Alan Pardew’s side head into the return leg with a real chance of making the quarter-finals after the ex-Barcelona striker failed to put away any of his chancesAnzhi Makhachkala and Newcastle United battled to a dull stalemate in their Europa League last 16 first-leg tie.
Guus Hiddink named ex-Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra and former Barcelona man Samuel Eto’o in his starting line-up, while his managerial counterpart Alan Pardew handed starts to a host of French players including Hatem Ben Arfa.
Anzhi started the brighter of the two teams, with big-money January arrival Willian getting on the ball in good areas and helping to keep his side ticking over.
And it was the hosts who had the first real opening of the match. Willian slid the ball through to Oleg Shatov but instead of opting to shoot, he decided to try and pick out a team-mate in the middle but the ball was cleared to safety.
However, Anzhi were dealt a blow halfway through the first half when Willian was forced to go off after picking up a knock - with freescoring forward Lacina Traore coming on in his place.
The Russian outfit tried to step it up a gear just past the half-hour mark, when Traore thought he was clean through on goal after latching on to an Eto’o through ball, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot was forced into making his first save of the match when Eto’o ran with the ball before unleashing a dipping volley from 30 yards which was well tipped over by Tim Krul’s stand-in.
Neither side could manage to create any real openings with Pardew's men struggling to get into their stride going forward, and the match remained goalless at the interval.
The second half continued in the same fashion as much of the first, with Newcastle struggling to keep the ball long enough to create any chances, and Anzhi enjoying the majority of the possession.
On the hour mark the Russian side threatened to break the deadlock when Traore laid the ball back for Odil Ahmedov to cross. He could only overhit his attempted ball in, but it broke to former Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov who chested it down for Eto’o to strike a hard, low shot which Elliot did well to parry behind.
This seemed to spark Newcastle into life and they created their first chance of the game shortly after. Yohan Cabaye did well to pick out Ben Arfa inside the box, but his attempt to dink the ball over Vladimir Gabulov failed to come off and the stopper made a comfortable save.
Anzhi continued to look for a vital goal, with Eto’o again squandering half-chances in the closing moments of the match, and the tie remains delicately poised ahead of next Thursday’s second leg at St James’ Park.