Friday 27th July 8.45pm

Newcastle United 1 (S.Taylor 24)
Olympiakos 1
(After penalty shoot-out a draw declared at 4-4 as only 5 penalties per team allowed!) 

One of the strangest Newcastle United pre-seasons I can remember took yet another twist in United’s latest match against Olympiakos.

The club having started the pre-season campaign by bizarrely refusing to confirm who we would be playing and at which venue, we now have a match ending with a draw even after a penalty shoot-out!

Then you could add another layer of ridicule with the match played out in front of a few hundred spectators, in a 30,000 capacity stadium which was built for the 2004 Euros.

This is at a time when we have the best team since at least Sir Bobby’s time and players who would add to Newcastle’s commercial value if the club used them correctly to market the club elsewhere. I don’t want Newcastle’s players doing a world tour but for NUFC’s long-term health there must be some happy medium which doesn’t involve playing in tournaments where there is clearly no local interest in Newcastle United!

Anyway, a nice trip for the couple of hundred Newcastle fans who made up most of the ‘crowd’ though when it is a case of matches on consecutive days you know that will mean watching half a first team at best.

The headline news was the return of Steven Taylor who marked his comeback with a 24th minute goal that took a deflection, maybe ‘Tayls’ was responding to Alan Pardew’s very public intention to bring in a centre-back who can give him goals. The fact we have no new face at the back yet and Pardew was talking up James Tavernier as being a big bonus in helping out at centre-back, does set the odd warning bell off.

Newcastle looked decent in the first half but lost it a bit in the second, apart from the late introduction of Cisse that is.

The Greeks were getting stuck in and eventually paid the price as their captain, Francois Modesto, received a second yellow for a bad challenge on Amalfitano.

Newcastle failed to take advantage though and Mitroglou scored 11 minutes from time for the Greek champions to take the game in a penalty ‘decider’.

During the ninety minutes it was great to see Krul back between the posts and both he and Taylor impressed, though the centre-back was only risked for the opening period.

It is always dangerous to read too much into friendlies but certainly in a striking sense, it becomes clearer in every match that beyond Ba and Cisse, Newcastle don’t look to have an awful lot of goals in them. Shola might have found a new role last season where he had some value as a, last twenty minute help kill the game off player, but apart from those two valuable late finishes against Spurs and the mackems he just isn’t going to score the goals we need if called upon.

With Ba not involved, it was left to Cisse again to show in his late twenty minute spell what it is all about as he hot the post and brought a good save out of the keeper.

Elsewhere, Obertan looks the same as ever…while the rest put in the normal shifts you would have expected, no better or worse. Abeid looks to have come on a bit and the two young signings (Bigirimana and Amalfitano…might just start calling them Gael and Romain from ¬†now on!) look to have something about them, though at best should only be on the bench when the real stuff starts.

Ironically, Cisse blazed his spot-kick over while the likes of Vuckic, Amalfitano, Perch and finally, Abeid, tucked theirs away. The Greeks scoring their first four before Krul ‘saved’ the day.

No injuries in front of next to no crowd, I suppose we’ll have to take this all overall as a plus.

Newcastle now face Braga and leaving aside a bizarre points for goals slant in this tournament, the bottom line is that if Newcastle beat the Portuguese side then they will lift the (worthless!) cup!

Newcastle United: Krul, Perch, Williamson, S Taylor (Dummett 46), Santon,  Obertan (Sammy Ameobi 73), Bigirimana, Gosling (Abeid 36), Amalfitano, Vuckic, Shola Ameobi (Cisse, 73)

Subs not used: Harper, Coloccini, Simpson, R Taylor, Tavernier, Cabaye, Marveaux, Tiote.

Olympiakos: Carroll, Papazoglou, Fesa, Rafik, Fetzatzidis, Dimitris, Claude, Valahodimos, da Silva, Luis Santo, Vasileios.

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28th July Following the draw against Olympiakos, United now face Braga, kicking off at 8.45pm. (Live On ESPN)

18th August Premier League kicks-off – Newcastle v Spurs 5.30pm (Live On ESPN)

25th August First away match – Chelsea v Newcastle 5.30pm (Live On ESPN)