Newcastle 2 Athletic Bilbao 1 – Saturday 30 July 2022 (3pm)
A second home game, consecutive days, completely different starting eleven.
Eddie Howe said that he wanted tough opposition, tough games, in the final friendlies of pre-season.
He certainly got that, a tight game on Friday night seeing a 1-0 victory over Atalanta, who were eighth last season in Serie A.
Saturday afternoon even more competitive, Athletic Bilbao finished eighth in La Liga in the season just gone and they gave Newcastle a tough game.
A minority of vocal fans questioning why Eddie Howe had done this, two games within 24 hours and splitting his first choice starting eleven.
Maybe even the biggest moaner will accept there was most definitely method in his (supposed) madness. Two wins, only one goal conceded and twenty two first team squad players getting a full match, give or take a few minutes.
Against Atalanta, Newcastle started really slowly and looked nervy the opening 25 minutes, very different this game.
Within five minutes Newcastle were ahead, a great run by ASM saw him dribbling infield and then his pass was helped on by Ritchie into Callum Wilson on the edge of the box, he twisted and turned unbalancing the defender and created the space for him to coolly finish with his left foot into the bottom right corner. Great to see Wilson in this kind of goalscoring form / mood.
Athletic Bilbao straight up the other end and when the ball cut back from the left, centre-forward Williams put his eight yard effort wide of the left post when he should have done better. A sign of things to come.
The game played at a great tempo and Newcastle getting numbers forward time after time, on 11 minutes Botman playing a great controlled ball out of defence into the feet of Joelinton in midfield. The smart pass giving him time and space to turn, with the swift attack ending with a low Bruno shot from outside the area, saved by the keeper low down.
ASM looking lively and his run across the pitch ending with a pass to release Krafth on the right and his low cross gathered by the keeper.
I think the visitors clearly had worked out that Bruno is a bit good and midway through the first half a ‘strong’ challenge saw the Brazilian needing treatment. It wouldn’t be the last tasty tackle he would experience.
Bruno in the thick of the action and good team move ended with the former Lyon player lining up a shot on the edge of the area, only for Ritchie to stray into the middle and get in the way. Next, Guimaraes released Willock behind the defence on the right with a great ball, a really poor first touch saw him then late on the keeper as he reached for the ball and picked up the first yellow card of the game.
A swift counter-attack saw Williams one on one with Krafth, the defender doing well initially to hold him up, then after the visiting striker eventually got the better of the Swedish defender, Dubravka made himself big and Williams put his effort just wide from a tight angle.
United deserving their half-time lead and nine minutes after the break they doubled it.
Bruno sending a lofted pass to Joelinton on the left, he added his own lofted pass beyond the last defender and set ASM away. He had loads left to do but cut across the last defender who couldn’t touch him and despite number converging on him, ASM kept his cool with a great right foot low finish into the bottom right corner.
At 2-0 up, it wasn’t a case of Newcastle relaxing, more a case of Athletic Bilbao going for it and bringing fresh legs on. The final half hour seeing them increasingly dangerous.
A cross from the right and Garcia headed in at the far post, getting above Krafth when having a run and able to outjump him. Dummett had stuck at his task but danger was increasingly coming from that side and he should have done better to try and prevent the cross.
The minutes ticked by and the score remained 2-1 due to a combination of last ditch defending , Dubravka doing well, poor finishing and the woodwork.
A draw would probably have been fair but Newcastle battled it out, with all but Dummett getting 90 minutes.
Sven Botman looks a class act and Bruno superb.
ASM and Wilson showing plenty of promise on top of their goals.
Plenty of positives over these two home friendlies.
Newcastle 2 Athletic Bilbao 1
Wilson 5, ASM 54
Newcastle team v Athletic Bilbao:
Dubravka, Krafth, Lascellles, Botman, Dummett (Bondswell 70), Bruno (Matty Longstaff 89), Joelinton, Willock, Ritchie, ASM (De Bolle 89), Wilson (Munoz 90)
Gillespie, Stephenson, Turner-Cooke, A.Murphy, Miley
Attendance – 46,856
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