reacted smartly to intercept a slack ball out of the home defence and
retained possession as Atsu overlapped him. The former Chelsea man threaded
his low centre through the legs of Uduokhai to Aleksander Mitrovic,
whose first time finish was helped in by a defender. 1-0
Atsu's run across the
edge of the Wolfsburg box was halted by a defender at the cost of a free
kick. Mitrovic stepped over the ball and with Shelvey also lurking, Matt
Ritchie supplied a fine conversion into the top right hand corner of the
VfL 0 NUFC 2
51 mins The
referee was only too willing to point to the spot when Yanus Malli advanced
into the United box and fell over following the merest contact from Paul
Dummett. Rob Elliot went to ground as Malli shuffled forward and netted with
his penalty. The players then lined up for the restart as some indescribably
awful doo wop record was blasted out by the stadium PA.
Thank the almighty that Wolfsburg didn't score again and spared us more of
and Perez exchanged passes on halfway down the right before Florian Lejune's
powerful ball reached Shelvey in space. He advanced into the box and as
Vieirinha helpfully went to ground, squared the ball for Christian Atsu
to knock into the net in front of the away fans.
Full time: VfL 1 NUFC 3
Rafa Benitez said:
"Weíve had more time on the
pitch and it was fine. We scored more goals and made some chances, and didnít
give them chances, so it was a little more positive.
"We arenít far away. The strikers need to score for confidence. Sometimes if they donít play well
they still score which is important.
"But even if Mitrovic scored or not, thatís only a contribution. He worked very
hard. He knew would only be playing 45 minutes so the idea is right. He did well.
"The team was better from Mainz and that was the positive - we still have more time to improve.
About Matt Ritchieís free-kick:
ďIt was good and he has
this quality to score those type of goals. These things can change a game obviously. For us now itís about working as
a team together and be sure everybody knows what they have to do.
ďYeah, I didnít see the penalty we conceded. The one we didnít get was a penalty (when Perez was fouled),
but itís OK, itís a friendly.Ē
coach Andries Jonker (once Arsenal's Academy boss) commented:
"It was a good game but the opponents
counter-attacked from every mistake. There were too many mistakes in the first
half, but they were young players."
Sports director Olaf Rebbe chipped in to say that:
"We have seen a few things that we can work on. Defeats in preparation
games are okay if we draw the right conclusions from them."
This was United's
second-ever meeting with Wolfsburg following another 3-1 victory
following a successful promotion campaign. That came in May 1965, when
3,000 fans saw United win 3-1 at the Stadion am Elsterweg, Willie Penman (2)
and Bobby Cummings on target.
That ground was home to Wolfsburg until 2002 and then hosted the
reserves until 2015. It remains intact on the other side of the railway
line from the Arena and still hosts Wolfsburg pre-season reserve games
plus occasional fixtures involving local side Lupo Martini Wolfsburg.
Unlike 1965 though, the 2017 Newcastle party didn't tour the nearby
Volkswagen car factory that dominates the skyline and the local
This place has the feel of a company town; not least because it was only
constructed along with the VW factory in the late 1930s.
Further "remodelling" came courtesy of bombing during World
War 2 aimed at destroying the VW factory that was producing military
vehicles and parts for V weapons.
And as late as 2016, a 400lb US Air Force
bomb was found and defused in the factory that would be renowned as the
birthplace of the Beetle.
Sitting outside a bar near the station, it felt for all the world like
we were in Cramlington, while some areas were so
ridiculously clean and manicured (as were the people) that it appeared
that a German version of The Truman Show was taking place.
Leaving the stadium after the game, it was noticeable that a queue was
forming outside the Arena. Rather than match tickets though, home
followers were waiting to attend an autograph session with Wolfsburg
players in one of the stands.
It was also apparent that a good number of
them hadn't actually been to the match at the stadium next door - or the
counter-attraction of the water ski-ing school immediately behind. There's
not one of them in Cramlington....
No, they're not waiting for the
Magpies v Bundesliga sides - PL
1999/00 VfL Bochum lost 2-3 (Friendly)
2001/02 Munich 1860 won 3-1 (Intertoto)
2002/03 Bayer Leverkusen won 3-1 (CL)
2006/07 Eintracht Frankfurt drew 0-0 (UEFA Cup)
2014/15 Schalke 04 won 3-1 (Friendly)
2017/18 FSV Mainz 05 lost 1-2 (Friendly)
2017/18 VfL Wolfsburg won 3-1 (Friendly)
(United also faced third tier side Chemnitzer in 2012, losing 0-1 in Germany)
2001/02 Munich 1860 won 3-2 (Intertoto)
2002/03 Bayer Leverkusen won 3-1 (CL) SJP
2003/04 Bayern Munich drew 2-2 (Friendly) SJP
2008/09 Hertha Berlin lost 0-1 (Friendly) Mallorca
2015/16 Borussia M'Gladbach lost 0-1 (Friendly) SJP
Pre-season pitch time:
De Jong 75+62+29+60+20=246
Gamez 45+0+29+45+20=139 (1 goal)
Murphy 0+45+45+60+20=170 (2 goals)
Ritchie 0+0+45+45+70=160 (1 goal)
two game tour of Germany ended with victory in Lower Saxony - around 200 miles
away from the scene of their Rhineland defeat some four days earlier.
The temperatures were rather more forgiving than in Mainz at the weekend, while
the decision of Wolfsburg coach Andries Jonker to field a mixed lineup of senior
players and understudies also went in United's favour - German international
forward Mario Gomez languishing on the bench.
Adding Jonjo Shelvey to the visitor's starting XI contributed to a rather more
focused and aggressive game plan from United, both he and Ciaran Clark
contributing some keen tackling, Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu switched wings
meanwhile in an effort to provide service to Aleksander Mitrovic.
The Serbian looked was more energetic than in his last appearance and noticeably
retreated to defend from corners. Before that, he should have opened the scoring
within three minutes of the start, only to hesitate when Ritchie's low cross
Mitrovic then had a shot blocked by Max Grun just before the half during another
spell of United pressure that saw the Wolfsburg 'keeper also deny Ayoze Perez.
Grun then earned himself a knee in the backside from Mitrovic (who was booked)
after beating him to the ball. But before reminiscences of Mirandinha doing
something similar to Dave Beasant at SJP an age ago could be aired, Mitro had
his goal - sweeping in Atsu's low centre from the United right.
Atsu then played a pivotal role in a second goal for the Magpies just before the
interval, skipping infield again from the right and carrying the ball to a
central point before being knocked over.
Up stepped Matt Ritchie to stick the free-kick left-footed into the
top right corner, perfectly placing the ball between the 'keeper and the post.
The home side gained a foothold in the game early in the second half when Yanus
Malli went over after brushing against Paul Dummett in the box - the midfielder
getting up to fire past Rob Elliot. Perez
then had a stronger penalty claim of his own seconds later, but the referee was
United regained a two goal cushion midway through the second half though, when
Shelvey unselfishly laid the ball to Atsu whose first touch ended up in the back
of the empty net.
A plethora of replacements then muddled the closing stages somewhat, but Mikel
Merino showed some decent touches and Karl Darlow was called into action to keep
out a speculative effort by Vieirinha from within his own half.
And there was almost a fourth Newcastle goal in the final seconds following a
corner, when Jacob Murphy's goalbound shot was punched away by Grun.
A morale-boosting victory then, but the fact that recruitment hasn't gone to
plan for Rafa cannot be ignored and at least partly devalues the pre-season
programme. It's difficult to bed in players when they aren't on your books....
Post-match newspaper reports about Siem De Jong looking forward to the season do
seem ominously close to the dreaded "like a new signing" mantra.
Meanwhile, comments Rafa made outside the team hotel in Wolfsburg about a lack
of funds hardly inspire confidence of further reinforcements.
A season of consolidation then, which might not always be the most attractive
thing to witness - and make away results like this one rare indeed. Competence
and commitment on the field could be the key differences to McClaren's rabble of
2010 - allied with a bit of patience in the stands.
One more thing, these two German games haven't half stirred memories of our
competitive European adventures; not just the well-recalled Milan/Feyenoord
ones, but the more mundane but no less enjoyable ones like Tallinn, Frankfurt
and Sochaux. Europe is greatly missed.
Das Likely Lads: I'd
offer you a beer but I've only got four