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Season 2017-18
VfL Wolfsburg (a)


Wednesday 2nd August 2017, 4.00pm (local)

 AOK Stadion

Conditions: warm/overcast

Admission: Ä10 seats, Ä8 standing

VfL Wolfsburg

Newcastle United

1 - 3




37 mins Ayoze Perez 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

43 mins 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 net. 2-0

Half time: VfL 0 NUFC 2

 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 that.

68 mins Mo Diame 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. 3-1

Full time: VfL 1 NUFC 3

We Said


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


They Said

Wolfsburg's Dutch 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 economy. 

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. Slightly disconcerting.

PS: 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 Beetles....

Magpies v Bundesliga sides - PL era:

In Germany:

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)
VfL Wolfsburg won 3-1 (Friendly)

(United also faced third tier side Chemnitzer in 2012, losing 0-1 in Germany) (Friendly).

Outside Germany:

2001/02 Munich 1860 won 3-2 (Intertoto) SJP
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:

Aarons 45+45+29+45+20=184
Atsu 45+45+61+30+70=251
(1 goal)
Clark 45+45+77+45+90=302
Colback 28+45+13+60+0=146
Darlow 0+24+0+60+20=104
De Jong 75+62+29+60+20=246
Diame 62+45+45+60+45=257
Dummett 45+45+61+45+70=266

Elliot 63+45+61+0+70=239
Gamez 45
+0+29+45+20=139 (1 goal)
Gayle 45+45
+61+30+0=181 (3 goals)
Haidara 62+0+0+0+0=62
Hanley 28+45+0+0+0=73
Hayden 0+45+77+30+70=222
Lascelles 45+0+0+0+20=65
Lazaar 15+0+0+0+0=15
Lejeune 45+76+61+79+70=331
Manquillo 0+14+45+63+70=192
Mbemba 62+90+29+45+20=246
Merino 0+0+0+11+20=31
Mitrovic 45+45
+29+60+45=224 (3 goals)
Murphy 0+45+45+60+20=170 (2 goals)
Perez 45+45
Ritchie 0+0+45+45+70=160 (1 goal)
Roberts 0+28+0+0+0=28
Saivet 45+0+13+0+0=58
Shelvey 45+45
Woodman 27+20+29+30+0=106
Yedlin 0+45+45+27+0=117


Newcastle's 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 reached him.

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 unmoved.

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 


Page last updated 07 August, 2017