We interrupt your indulgence in women's beach volleyball and men's archery to bring you some quick hits from Newcastle's 2-1 victory over Sporting Braga. The win netted them some sort of trophy. I'm sure the name of the trophy and a picture of the team holding it is available somewhere on the internet, but let's be honest: It's worth about as much as the bowling trophy I've got sitting in my garage. Let's see what we can glean from this most recent preseason match:
*Somehow this win was not quite as encouraging as the draw we saw yesterday. More first teamers played, but if you didn't know better, you might have thought that yesterday's squad was the choice XI. They started slowly in both halves, and after each goal (and after the called off goal, where Sammy Ameobi was offside when he put in a deflection off the post). That lack of concentration and focus is perhaps the most worrying development from today's tilt. Yes, it's the preseason, but August is coming soon and there's really no excuse for slacking off.
*Also disappointing were Steve Harper, who left his line when he shouldn't have on 2 occasions and was beaten badly on the first goal, and Cheik Tiote, who was poor from start to finish. His rough play can be forgiven when he's taking charge of the midfield on both sides of the ball, but he did neither today, and still managed to draw the referee's whistle at least 5 times, including a deserved yellow.
*There were some bright spots. Sammy Ameobi utilized both his size and his pace, creating most of the offense for the Toon. It was clear his marker was overmatched, and he took advantage. Sylvain Marveaux also created a few chances, though he fell silent during the second half. Demba Ba scored on a penalty (or rather, a deflection of his own penalty) and connected with Papiss Cisse (who was not quite himself) a few times. Ryan Taylor scored on a free kick over the wall and did just fine at left back.
*Jonas Gutierrez played in the center of midfield, further displaying his versatility, but he didn't exactly stand out. I doubt that there will be many clamoring to move him off of the left wing.
*James Tavernier did a fine job at CB, though there were one or two lapses, and it was clear to me that Fabricio Coloccini was doing a lot of covering for him.
*Gabriel Obertan, Haris Vuckic, and Yohan Cabaye came in as substitutes late, and the three of them created a chance at the end when Braga were busy playing in front of the ball.
What did you see? Let us know in the comments.