Newcastle’s fourth warm up game of pre-season saw the Magpies travel to Portuguese side Braga.
STARTING XI: Dubravka (Darlow, 69, Dummett, Clark, Lascelles (Schar, 45), Yedlin (Manquillo, 69), Hayden (Ki, 55), Diame, Ritchie (Longstaff, 80), Atsu (Murphy, 55), Perez (Roberts, 80), Gayle (Joselu, 69)
With Mitro now gone and no sign of any further incomings it was left of Dwight Gayle, linked with a swap deal with Rondon and West Brom to lead the line.
With Jonjo out with what was described as a ‘slight knock’ there would also only be a place on the bench for Schar and Ki.
Braga would make most of the early running in terms of possession but the best chance in the first 10 minutes would have already fallen to Perez, who’s neat turn in the box would end with his shot being well saved by Matheus in the SC Braga goal.
Matt Ritchie would have a well hit effort well comfortably saved from distance whilst at the other end the home side would keep finding space but not manage to either get a shot away or find the killer pass.
Bragg had finished 4th in the Portuguese top flight last season, being giants Porto, Benfica and Sporting. Whilst they were 13 points behind Champions Porto they were streets ahead of the rest of the pack finishing on 75 points, 24 points ahead of 5th placed Rio Ave.
Maybe a sign of things to come, again this season, as Newcastle seemed very happy to be well organised and hit their hosts on the break. And they perhaps should have been ahead after a great break on 15 minutes, but Gayle and Atsu couldn’t quite combine to find a way through.
At the other end Dubravka was called upon first to make what looked like a routine save before spilling the ball. His recovery save was, as they say, very decent!
Just before the 20 minute mark Newcastle could once move have nicked a lead. This time it was the Braga keeper who would make the error, pushing the ball to Perez when under no pressure but the Spaniard reaction hit would clear the bar.
Then the closes either side had come. A poor throw by Yedlin allowed Braga to steal the ball and when it found it’s way to Wilson his strike came thundering back off Dubravka’s left hand post. Unlucky.
Rafa would have had no issues with his sides commitment, but concentration and composure certainly was an issue. After Dubravka’s spill, Yedlin’s poor throw, next Lascelles hit a back pass so far wide of his keeper that it went straight out for a corner.
And, greatest respect to these players, but the lack of quality at the other end was palpable too. Missing pass after pass, through ball after through ball.
No Kenedy, no new striker and no flying winger that Rafa was so keen to add to replace Ritchie looking a real issue. No surprise there. Less than 7 days to go!!
When NUFC did get any quality ball in the final third, it was predominantly the case of lots of little triangles on the touchline with nowhere to go in the fist half.
0-0 at half time.
It didn’t take long for Braga to break the deadlock after the break. With just 52 minutes on the clock Ricardo Horta would fire past Dubravka into the bottom corner to make it 1-0. No more than they deserved on the balance of play.
And it should have been 2-0 moments later the a ball in behind Dummett would leave the the home side 3 against 2, but they failed to make the most of the position.
Newcastle feeding on scraps now.
Things could have been worse on 68 minutes, when but for an offside flag the referee would surely have given a spot kick to the home side.
What a miss then on 70 minutes, with Newcastle still looking switched off after another three changes, three Braga players found themselves clean through only to fire wide with only Darlow to beat. What a let-off.
Joselu would see his tap in ruled off side, on 75 minutes, but the home team had stopped running as three Newcastle players were easily offside
Two minutes later Matt Ritchie would let his man run clear and the cross would find Novals to volley home.
On 85 minutes another goal for Braga. This one a headed goal conceded from a set piece as Fransergio would do the damage on 85 minutes after some horrible marking.
It is wasn’t over yet. There was just time for Sousa to fire home from close range to complete a miserable evening for Newcastle United.
Far too easy at both ends of the pitch.
What will be most frustrating for the boss is he’s had no chance to build or work with the team he’d like to hope he’d have started the season with. Or maybe its the fact what he has left just rolled over!
Lejeune now out injured, Kenedy not available, Shelvey with a knock, no new striker. You’ve got to feel for the man. And on this performance we’ve got a good deal to worry about next season.