After defeating Gateshead by a sound 5-1 and 1860 Munich by a nice 3-0, Newcastle went dry against fellow German side Mainz 05 and wildly flopped losing 1-0 to the 8th-best Bundesliga team of the 2021/22 season.
Spot the difference? The Magpies went from dumping eight goals on its first two opponents to scoring none on Monday against an (admittedly) stronger and leveled team in terms of the quality of their players. That’s no excuse for a team like Newcastle United, its board, and the aspirations sold to fans the world over if the club wants to reach the heights they have claimed to be chasing—starting by qualifying for a continental competition by the end of next season—since the Saudi Arabia consortium took over NUFC last October.
The goals arrived in the first two games, but none of them did so by the way of a true/pure striker with the likes of Miggy Almirón and box-to-box midfielder Bruno hitting paydirt. That wasn’t the case on Monday, though, and as it’s obvious and everybody knows, a team can’t expect non-scoring players to bag goals in bunches on a game-by-game basis. Alas.
Just one goal, already into the second half and with 58 minutes on the clock, was all Mainz 05 needed to defeat Newcastle and Eddie Howe’s boys. Delano Burgzorg was the slasher of the Men in Black with a strike after the break. Not the most fireworky of games for the fans out there to enjoy, but definitely one to give pause and food for thought to Howe and his plans to how to manage the squad he currently has—or the want he wants to be in place when the Premier League season gets rolling sooner than earlier next August.
The first highlight-worthy play arrived as late as already past the first 25th minutes of play. With Dubravka starting on the goal, Botman deflected a shot from outside the area by Mainz which already had ricocheted off Joelinton’s leg that ended in Dubby’s hands after he quite embellished his effort. Mainz kept pushing and moving the ball around the Magpies area, though the next big chance was for the Mags.
Ritchie crossed a low ball from the left side that got easily deflected out of the dangerous zone. That could have turned into a chance for Mainz on the break, but Tyneside legend and always-present Trippier was very aware of what was coming, launched himself ahead of the play, recovered the ball in the final third of the pitch before Mainz could even start thinking about their offensive play, and generated a nice chance for Newcastle out of thin air.
That play, of course, ended in a pass to the space where Chris Wood was expected to run toward, get the ball, hit it hard, and force it into kissing the net... only for Wood to shoot it wide... while falling for the offside trap in the smallest of spaces—it must had actually been quite a purposeful effort by the New Zealander to accomplish it because of the tight margins, honestly. Longstaff combined sublimely with Trippier to ease the ball on Wood’s path, but the big boy didn’t know how to do a thing with it.
Dubby saved a set-piece from the left side and that brought everybody to half-time.
⏱ It remains goalless after the opening 45 minutes at the Kufstein Arena. pic.twitter.com/lybCgzNQb3— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) July 18, 2022
After using two completely different XIs in the first friendly and then softening the changes a bit the last time he managed the team over the weekend, Howe decided to not make changes in the intermission. All substitutions (with the exception of Ritchie leaving just 30 minutes into the game as a precautionary measure) would come in the 61st minute with Newcastle already down, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Mainz and Newcastle exchanged a couple of chances in the early stages of the second half with Joelinton having the clearest one of them with a beautiful strike from just outside the penalty area after getting a pass from Miggy from his natural right side of the pitch, in a play after which Longstaff seemed to be a little bit banged up (Longstaff has been, three games into the pre-season, the clear MVP of the summer. Just saying.)
And then, darkness.
Trippier (sitting deep, definitely closer to the midfield than the goal line) wanted to find Wood (a bad idea already) with a grass-level pass from the right channel but the ball got easily intercepted. Trips being Trips, his effort running back to his own side and ultimately area on defensive pursue of the now-attackers was great, so he gets a bit of a pass. It took Mainz all of seven touches of the ball (including the one that served the purpose of blocking Trips’ pass) to put the ball into United’s net. Textbook counterattack that ended with Mainz scoring the lone game of the day. Shit happens, I guess.
Already with fresh legs on the pitch, NUFC had some chances but none of them materialized. Not that anyone is surprised by that outcome, though. It is what it is when Krafth is low-crossing balls for Jacob Murphy—a right-winger in his best days—to finish with a weird-looking attempt at kicking the ball. It is what it is when über veteran Jonjo Shelvey tries to find Callum Wilson close to the penalty spot with a floated ball which, of course, he could never leap high enough to reach because he ain’t no Chris W.
Our own Geordie Maradona tried to score with a childish shot from his home. But at least he tried, I guess. Same as Shelvey later, though he almost scores on the adjacent field and not Mainz’s as his shot in the 78th minute went so wide right.
Finally, with the clock hitting 80, Wilson hit the keeper’s face, the ball got deflected out of play, Newcastle missed the best chance they got in the full 90 minutes, and Emil Krafth was seen full of pain while laying on the pitch after sustaining a tackle at the start of the play. Not the happiest day.
So that was it for a very sunny and hot game that ended with a bland result and a bad outcome for the Magpies. Hugo Ekitike is in Paris. Lucas Paqueta is flipping France for England, though he’ll probably be balling outside of Tyneside. Isak, Toney, and all of the other rumored names seem to be—FFP issues considered—realistically out of reach.
Embrace the pain ladies and gents. We have another game in just a few days, and it is huge.
Howay the Lads!