Newcastle United’s third pre season friendly saw them travel to Portugal for, on paper at least, a tricky tie against a very good Porto side.
Tributes before the game to a mutually held legend of the game, Sir Bobby Robson, were plentiful and heartwarming. As touching as it was, and as much as Rafa and his players would no doubt appreciate such sentiment, this was about the here and now.
STARTING XI: Dubravka (Darlow), Lascelles, Clark (Schar), Yedlin (Sterry), Dummett (Manquillo), Murphy (Atsu), Diame (Hayden), Joselu (Longstaff), Shelvey (Ki), Ritchie (Roberts), Perez (Armstrong)
News had reached the press box before kick off that a deal for Mitrovic had been concluded, hence his absence from the starting line up or bench. The Serb flying back to London as the game kicked off in fact to hopefully, from his point of view, finalise a £22m move to Fulham.
Rafa and his men would soldier on regardless. His rag tag band of enthusiastic men, cobbled together by some bloke in an office detached from the reality of football, giving their all for the shirt. As did the 1000+ travelling fans (as always).
There was a gulf in class.
Porto are Portuguese Champions after all. A place in the group stages of the Champions League already guaranteed
A good test then for Rafa and his men. And one that unsurprisingly brought the organised and dogged side out of the Magpies.
The Portuguese would see well in excess of 60% of possession. They’d have more than 3x the attempts at goal than their black and white visitors. A test indeed for what lies ahead this season for the Magpies.
The top and bottom of this one were the performances of Dubravka and Lascelles.
Dubravka saving making several smart stops. Lascelles, for his part, picked up where he’d left off last season. Commanding and decisive at the back. Links to Leicester as a possible replacement for Maguire, rumoured in the region of £35m+ had better not come to fruition on this and last seasons form. He is integral to this team and critical for the way Rafa ‘needs’ to play with what he has.
It’s fair to say that Porto made all the running. Marius and Brahimi in particular looked lively up from for the home side. But there would be no way through and Newcastle held on for a creditable draw in the end.
After the game Rafa said he was pleased with how his team competed in the game but said ‘but we will need to improve the team if we want to compete in the Premier League’.