A pre-season defeat for Eddie Howe’s Mags as we lost 3-2 to Benfica on Tuesday night – but it was a feisty and competitive affair at the Estádio da Luz which could serve us well ahead of the new Premier League season.
23 players featured, Miguel Almiron made it SIX for the summer with another brilliant brace and 1,500 travelling Geordies saw us give as much as we got against a very decent side.
We conceded a few poor goals and Joelinton’s late red cost us in the end, but these are all valuable lessons to learn ahead of the new season.
It was always going to be our toughest test of the summer so far, as the hosts had comfortably beaten Girona, Fulham and Nice prior to this clash in Portugal.
Pre-season results don’t really matter, but this felt like a good test of where we were at against a strong side who went toe to toe in the quarter finals of the Champions League just a few months ago.
Both sides fielded a strong side and Benfica took the lead from a 15th minute corner. It was a great ball in, but Nick Pope didn’t cover himself in glory, finding himself in no man’s land as Ramos glanced into an empty net.
We were level seven minutes later through Miguel Almiron, who combined brilliantly with Kieran Trippier and smashed home after the England international’s perfectly weighted cut-back fell to the in-form Paraguayan.
Grimaldo made it 2-1 Benfica just after the half hour mark with a brilliant free kick Pope could do little to stop, but Miggy was back at it again before the break, making it 2-2 after more link up play with Trippier resulted in a fantastic left-foot finish into the bottom corner. That’s now six goals over pre-season for the smiling South American and another emphatic finish!
We made 11 changes at the break, seeing the likes of Pope, Botman, Trippier, Guimaraes, Saint-Maximin and Wilson replaced by Darlow, Burn, Krafth, Joelinton, Murphy and Wood.
We actually had more control of the game in the second half and were the better side in the final 45, with Shelvey creating big chances Murphy and Wood could and should have converted.
However, shortly after Jonjo was forced off with a concerning hamstring injury, Joelinton received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Benfica midfielder Florentino, leaving us a man down for the final 10 minutes.
That red proved costly, as Henrique Araujo scored an 89th minute winner for the hosts after Yaremchuk beat Burn for pace down the line. Against the run of play, but a lesson learned in a friendly that felt competitive and fiery from first minute to last.
Shelvey’s injury is a concern – he looks razor sharp and added balance to our midfield in the second half – however it was good to see Anderson get another start and fellow U21 talent Matty Bondswell do very little wrong after coming on for the final 45.
Botman showed his class, Almiron continued to look a player full of confidence in the final third and the intensity of our pressing was clear to see from the off, showing how our fitness levels have improved.
Here’s everyone who featured in last night’s game, followed by our pre-season schedule in full – featuring the double-header to come at St James’ Park this weekend:
First half XI: Pope – Trippier, Lascelles (C), Botman, Targett – Guimaraes, S Longstaff, Anderson – Almiron, Wilson, Saint-Maximin.
Second half XI: Darlow, Krafth, Schar, Burn (C), Bondswell – Willock, Shelvey (M Longstaff 75), Joelinton – Ritchie, Wood, Murphy.
Unused subs: Turner-Cooke.
Not in squad: Dubravka, Manquillo, Fernandez, Lewis, Fraser, Dummett.
Benfica XI: Odysseas, Grimaldo, Morato, Otamendi (C), Gilberto, Florentino, Enzo, João Mário, Rafa, David Neres, Gonçalo Ramos.
- 1st July (Friday) – Players returned for pre-season training
- 9th July (Saturday) – Newcastle 5-1 Gateshead (behind-closed-doors)
- – Austria training camp
- 15th July (Friday) – Newcastle 3-0 1860 Munich (SaalfeldenArena Bürgerau)
- 18th July (Monday) – Newcastle 0-1 Mainz 05 (Kufstein Arena)
- – Portugal training camp
- 23rd July (Saturday) – Newcastle beat Burnley (behind closed doors training games)
- 26th July (Tuesday) – Benfica 3-2 Newcastle (Estádio da Luz)
- 29th July (Friday) – Atalanta (7.45pm) at St James’ Park
- 30th July (Saturday) – Athletic Bilbao (3pm) at St James’ Park