Newcastle United defeated Sydney FC 4-0 Tuesday in the first of two matches to be played in Dunedin, New Zealand on their preseason tour. It was a clinical performance from a squad made up mostly of regulars who would have expected to win comfortably.
Nevertheless, we can learn something from even the most basic of glorified public training exercises, and there were plenty of storylines for us to latch onto in this one. What did we learn?
There's really nothing new to report here. Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor did an excellent job in the center of the defense. Though they weren't really tested all that much, it was nice to see composure from them. In the absence of Daryl Janmaat, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa played right back and was more than adequate, while Massadio Haidara showed why many fans prefer him to any of the other left backs currently in the squad. Yoan Gouffran might have been the hardest worker on the pitch.
The four new players currently in New Zealand (Siem De Jong, Jack Colback, Emmanuel Riviere, and Ayoze Perez) all played, and all were impressive in their own right. De Jong didn't have a whole lot to do - most of the action was happening on the wings - but was still very much in control of the proceedings, if that makes sense. He's got a quick mind and is adept at directing traffic. Emmanuel Riviere's goal was mostly the work of De Jong and Gouffran, but as the BT Sport announcer suggested, it was impressive that he was able to find room to work in a crowded space. He has the look of a player who can be in the right place at the right time, a la Kevin Nolan. Colback worked the pivot with Vurnon Anita, and was by far the busier of the two (though it must be said that Vurnon Anita provided the most exciting bit of individual effort of the match when he got free of his man and was shrewdly taken down just outside the box). Even though he's the known commodity of the bunch, it was still encouraging to see him use his work rate and size to his advantage in Alan Pardew's system. He also took corners and free kicks and was not terrible at them, which is nice to see from a Newcastle player. Ayoze Perez came on in the second half and showed a deft first touch and some skillful dribbling on more than one occasion. He never really threatened the goal, but had a hand in setting up some opportunities. He's not a traditional back-to-the-goal target man, but he was able to hold up play effectively. Shirt numbers: Colback 14, De Jong 15, Ayoze 17, Riviere 29.
Of course, several young players got some playing time in the waning moments of the friendly, and there were some encouraging signs and some that weren't so much. The trio of young strikers featured prominently once they were all on the pitch. Adam Armstrong scored in the 80th with a patient, clinical finish following a clever back heel from Ayoze and then a nice find from Adam Campbell. Elsewhere, Mehdi Abeid and Haris Vuckic, both of whom are now 21 and therefore subject to squad restrictions, failed to stake a claim in Alan Pardew's pecking order. Neither played poorly, but Vuckic was mostly uninvolved and Abeid was inconsistent. Sammy Ameobi was able to cause problems with his pace, but seemed to be out of shape. Most impressive outside of the striker trio was young Rolando Aarons, who has already been given two chances to start this preseason and appears to be making the most of them. The pace and crossing ability are there. Can he do it against better competition? We may get a chance to see the answer to that question sooner rather than later, the way things are going.
Elliot | Yanga-Mbiwa, STaylor (Satka 74'), Coloccini (Campbell 80'), Haidara (Dummett 74') | Anita, Colback (Abeid 67') | Gouffran (Armstrong 74'), De Jong (Vuckic 46'), Aarons (Ameobi 67') | Riviere (Ayoze 53')
Goals: De Jong (18'), Riviere (25'), Yanga-Mbiwa (32'), Armstrong (81')
The match was preceded by a ceremony honoring fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who tragically perished aboard flight MH17 on Thursday.