NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Shola Ameobi of Newcaslte United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers at Sports Direct Arena on January 15, 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
I've condensed some thoughts about Newcastle's preseason match with Olympiacos into bullet point form, which I think might be useful if you happened to be watching the Opening Ceremony or were simply unable to watch today.
EDIT: Apparently they're going to penalties. Somebody's got to win the tournament, I guess.
EDIT 2: Cisse missed (well over the bar), Vuckic made, Amalfitano made, Perch made. Krul saved the fifth, so Abeid salvaged the draw. They were slated for 5 penalties only, so the match was still a draw.
- Steven Taylor started and looked 100%. He of course scored NUFC's lone goal, off a deflection that was set up nicely by Dan Gosling's low cross through the box.
- The match did feel a bit like a training exercise, though there were some hearty tackles - and a red card! - that gave it the feel of something resembling a contest. I suppose there is some sort of cup involved, after all.
- For me, the most encouraging performances were turned in by Gael Bigirimana and Gabriel Obertan. Bigirimana was massive in midfield, making smart, meaty challenges and playing the role of distributor just fine. He looked like a first teamer. Obertan caused trouble with his pace, as ever, but he also managed to have a bit of an end product as well. He lost his marker several times and created several chances. He also seems to have a bit of chemistry with James Perch, of all people.
- Shola Ameobi wore the armband and was a man amongst boys until he was hurt in the first half. He kept playing and looked fine, but he wasn't the same and basically disappeared.
- Papiss Cisse followed his shot, gathered his own rebound, and hit the woodwork in an effort to pull back ahead. No goal, but the magic was there.
- The back four defended well, with Mike Williamson actually acquitting himself well one on one. There were few set pieces in the defensive half, so the unit wasn't really tested. The defenders did have a problem moving the ball on the ground to build from the back, but it was clear that they had been instructed to do so rather than just hoof the ball.
- Sammy Ameobi looks like he's grown another 3 or 4 inches.
- The team as a whole kept their shape fairly well and were effective on the counter, mostly thanks to Obertan.
- Overall, a nice performance, but I was disappointed in some of the players who didn't seem to show up. I thought Haris Vuckic might take advantage of his opportunity to play up top, but he displayed a troubling tendency to give the ball away just as the attack was building. Tim Krul was beaten on a ball he should have saved in the waning moments, and he wasn't really tested beforehand. No real cause for worry, just not what I hoped for.
- There were only a few substitutions, and I imagine we'll see a completely different squad for tomorrow's tilt.
What did you see? Let us know in the comments.