Newcastle United 0
The glamour of European football….a hard and bouncy, yet slippery, pitch – a ground being rebuilt and the crowd almost exclusively on one side of the pitch, Newcastle with a fringe team.
Alan Pardew was a player short before kick-off as Vurnon Anita rushed to be by his partner’s bedside as she is expecting any time now.
Early on it looked like Newcastle were in for a tough time as crosses from the left could have been slotted home on at least two occasions, while Elliot made a few excellent stops to keep it at 0-0.
The fact it stayed goalless was a mystery as after those early stages Newcastle took control and should have won comfortably. Exactly how good the opposition are remains to be seen but I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished bottom of the group.
They played some pleasing football at times but had little end product with few players getting in the box. In contrast Newcastle at times dominated and for once we had shots from any number of players with Shola and Gosling hitting the woodwork, plus the likes of Obertan, Amalfitano and Vuckic all tried their luck.
It might have been Demba Ba making all the headlines after Everton but the writing could be on the wall for Marveaux who was a surprise omission from tonight’s starting line-up. Dragged off at half-time at Goodison he only managed a handful of minutes at the very end against the team from Madeira.
The team as a whole did the manager credit as they were clearly the better team; Bigirimana, Shola and Steven Taylor the pick for me. Sammy Ameobi impressed as a second-half replacement and is quick and tricky for such a tall man/boy.
Playing the strongest back four paid dividends with a clean sheet, while Elliot did himself no harm with an assured performance that will have given Alan Pardew plenty of reassurance.
I suppose my biggest fear was given some supporting evidence with goals nowhere to be seen despite some cracking opportunities.
Shola is an enigma and today gave by far one of his best performances of recent times over ninety minutes, of course he hasn’t played that many ninety minutes in recent times and was probably wondering why the referee didn’t blow his whistle after 20 minutes! He is an important member of the squad but not a goalscorer unfortunately, works some great positions but if only he could strike it like Shearer!
The opposition might have been average but at time she was beating them at will and created two or three glorious chances for himself with trickery, only to see repeated failures to find the net. Though he was unlucky with one run and curling shot that hit the bar, while he really should have done better when Williamson saw his shot saved only for Shola to fail to net the rebound from four yards out, though you had to give the keeper credit as well.
Bigirimana was magnificent in the middle, what a signing and at only 18 years of age he is going to be a massive player in years to come, though possibly not in size unless he is a late developer.
Steven Taylor held things together at the back while Williamson was as usual living on his nerves at times, Santon impressed once again while Perch improved after an average opening to the match.
On the other hand, Gosling did ok but no more, while Amalfitano struggled to get into the match and Obertan was hopeless. I know a lot of people talk about Vuckic as being a potential first team player but I think despite clearly having some ability, a chronic lack of mobility is going to make it very hard for him to feature in the Premier League.
With Manchester United visiting three days after that it will be interesting to see how Alan Pardew approaches
It will be interesting to see how the manager approaches that European tie but with maybe three or so changes to this starting eleven I think we could do the business against the French team.
Maritimo: Salin, Briguel, Guilherme, Roberge, Olim, Miranda, Luiz, Heldon (Fidelis 55), Simao (Abreu 75), Sami, Dias (Adilson 82)
Newcastle United: Elliot, Perch, Williamson, Steven Taylor, Santon, Bigirimana, Gosling, Obertan (Marveaux 80), Vuckic (Sammy 53), Amalfitano (Ferguson 76), Shola
Unused Subs: Harper, Tavernier, Abeid, Campbell
Referee: Robert Schorgenhofer (Austria)