Another weekend, another trip to the sunny (yesterday at least) Newcastle-upon-Tyne. As well as having a wee impromptu overnight stay in the north-east of England, I (and thus Clare) thought it only right to take in Newcastle’s final pre-season friendly, before the real fun for the Magpies starts again next Sunday at home to Southampton.
For a mere-ish £15 on the day, it was a good opportunity to see Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic in action before they make their Premier League debuts next week. I was also looking forward to seeing Patrick Hermann for Mönchengladbach, who I understand is very well thought of in European football circles.
The match got underway in an about half-full St James’ Park, and two things became immediately apparent. One was that the away fans were making rather more than their (as usual) library-dwelling opposite numbers. The other was that the game was being played with no real urgency, with both teams largely happy to knock the ball about at the back with the occasional lethargic foray forward.Half-time arrived with not a great deal having happened. Mike Williamson headed just over from a corner mid-way through the half, while in the five minutes before half time Wijnaldum flicked one at the goalkeeper from a Cisse lay-off, before returning the favour for Cisse not much later with the Senegalese striker shooting just wide. The second half began in rather more exciting fashion. About a minute in, a lovely little through ball from Haidara put Sissoko in on goal – the winger could only cannon his shot off the underside of the bar, leaving the home support wondering how the Toon weren’t in front.
On the hour mark the mass substitutions that mark every good pre-season friendly began. This gave the Newcastle fans their first opportunity to see Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian striker was outdone by a fellow substitute almost straight away however – unfortunately for the Toon fans, it was at the wrong end. Eden Hazard’s not-quite-as-talented brother Thorgan picked up on a sloppy clearance from Steven Taylor, and rattled his effort from the edge of the area past Tim Krul.
The home fans were clearly enamoured with Mitrovic and Wijnaldum, both showing classy touches in their outing in front of the St James support. Mitrovic almost crowned his first appearance in Newcastle with a goal four minutes from time. A wonderful flick through from Siem de Jong (another sub) found Mitrovic on the penalty spot – he hit the post when it seemed easier to beat Yann Sommer in the Mönchengladbach goal.Full time arrived with a fairly comfortable win for Borussia. Both sides had shown an intent to keep the ball and not go long too often which was refreshing. Mönchengladbach have qualified for this season’s Champions League (by virtue of coming third in the Bundesliga last season) and they will cause problems for a few sides. Hermann did not stop running, Yann Sommer is a solid keeper while the lesser Hazard looked good when he came on.
I feel like Newcastle might have a bit to think about prior to the beginning of the season next Sunday. While both Wijnaldum and Mitrovic looked good – the fans behind me thought Wijnaldum already looked too good for Newcastle and wondered why he’d signed for them – their defence as always looked a bit shaky and there was a little lacking in terms of creativity. Founding your season on a central defensive partnership of Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor is perhaps not the way to go and I reckon the Magpies will need a further defensive purchase before they can consider themselves ready for the 38 games.
In all, a reasonable run-out for both sides, if a slightly dull game. All the same, we had a nice weekend in the Toon and got some great pictures of the tilty bridge in Gateshead tilting. No doubt I’ll be back in the North East of England again at some point this season with more bloggage to follow.
Newcastle United 0-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach (Hazard)