The Geordies remain unbeaten in pre-season following their trip to Belgium. Rafael Benitez’s men will now look to keep their undefeated record in-tact as they approach their final two friendlies against Southend United and Vitesse Arnhem.
Room for improvement
Benitez revealed there is “plenty of room for improvement” The 56-year-old claims that he has seen improvement in United’s three games against Bohemians, Doncaster and Sporting Lokeren but “wants to see more.”
The Toon boss question Lokeren’s physical condition by saying: “I don’t know the physical condition of the other team but I could see them trying hard in the early part of the game."
And Benitez feels the early goal may have given his side too much of an advantage: “We got an early goal and it is not easy when you play friendlies. Sometimes you win because you are closer (fitness) but sometimes you don’t want to get injuries.”
Perez gets brace to make it three in three
A late equaliser from Ayoze Perez at the Keepmoat on Tuesday night ensured that Newcastle avoided a surprise defeat to the League Two side.
The 23-year-old’s first goal of pre-season earned him his first start of the campaign. And it was the perfect start for Perez and his team-mates when he scored the opener on 13 minutes.
Perez will no doubt be a big player for United this season, but the striker done no harm in showing what he is capable of. The first goal was started and finished by Perez, a phase that included a nutmeg leaving Rolando Aarons to find the quick moving Spaniard to fire home in the six-yard area.
Perez then turned provider on 26 minutes when he whipped in a free-kick to the back-post for Daryl Janmaat to double Newcastle’s lead.
The Spaniard returned to the score-sheet on 38 minutes with the goal of the night and Toon Army’s pre-season. A long ball was lofted forward by Jack Colback towards Dwight Gayle, the former-Crystal Palace man then cleverly flicked it into the direction of Perez who was left to lash home a first-time volley from 20-yards.
Benitez decided to bring Perez’s excellent half to an end at half-time for Aleksander Mitrovic to join the action.
United could only manage to add one more in the second half as Jonjo Shelvey’s deflected shot seen the ex-Swansea man grab his first goal for the club, three minutes after the restart.
Sels makes a great save
The Belgian shot-stopper had little to do in his first appearance in Newcastle colours at Bohemians last week. Sels then got the nod in front of Karl Darlow at Doncaster, but it turned into a nervy performance for the 24-year-old.
After Matz Sels’ error to give away a penalty on Tuesday evening, Darlow must have been licking his lips as the ball looked to have been thrown in the Englishmen’s court as the bid to become the Magpie’s number one opened.
But Benitez stuck with his summer signing, and Sels repaid this manager’s faith. In the 31st minute, Sels pulled off a great stop to deny Marko Miric as the attacker found himself with a clear sight at goal.
Solid defensive unit
The United defence were tested more in the second half, which they were equal to.
With the addition of Grant Hanley confirmed on Friday, the competition will be heated in the centre-back area. Rafa started with his regular pre-season two of Jamaal Lascalles and Chancel Mbemba.
Benitez changed the defensive partnership mid-way through the second half. Hanley was unable to travel to Belgium with his team-mates, which allowed Benitez to sample Paul Dummett alongside Mbemba.
Lesson for Gamez
The 31-year-old has slowly been bedded into the team over pre-season following his move from Spain.
The Spanish Leagues are known to be less physically demanding than the English League meaning it will take Gamez time to adjust. And the difference in physicality was the reason Jesus Gamez received his marching order on 88 minutes - reacting to a tackle made by Miric on the former-Atletico defender.
However, it can be taken as a huge positive in making sure that it doesn’t happen again. Tackles will be different to which they are in Spain. Gamez will have to learn to adapt, otherwise it’ll be a tough season for the Spaniard.