Newcastle United’s preseason tour of Portugal got off to a stuttering start with a 3-1 defeat to Rio Ave in Vila do Conde on Saturday.
The damage was done inside the opening 26 minutes, when a three-goal burst from the home side threatened to turn the tie into a rout. And despite a much–improved performance after the break, there was no way back for the Magpies.
Shola Ameobi netted a consolation for Alan Pardew’s side with 14 minutes left after good work from Gabriel Obertan.
But the club’s attacking options, already depleted by the absence of Papiss Cisse, suffered a further blow when Ameobi left the field with an arm injury after falling awkwardly.
The scoreline could have been worse for United in the closing stages, when the home side were awarded a penalty after Mike Williamson fouled Sandro Lima. Lima picked himself up to take the spot-kick, but substitute goalkeeper Rob Elliot pulled off a strong save to his right to deny the Primeira Liga side a fourth goal.
In an interview with Anthony Marshall on the club’s official website, Pardew said:
I don't think the result really reflected the game because I think we bossed about 70 per cent of it.
But they had three chances in the first half and scored them all, which put us right on the back foot.
We were a bit passive for the first 20 or so minutes and, if I'm being honest with you, they surprised us a bit with their quality.
A couple of their players were very, very good and it shows why they nearly qualified for the Europa League last season.
Newcastle were left shell-shocked as early as the sixth minute when lively Egyptian forward Hassan gave Rio Ave the lead after converting Yonathan Del Valle’s right-wing cross.
And things got worse for the visitors just three minutes later when Hassan grabbed his second after a neat turn and finish inside the 18-yard box.
Pardew’s game plan unravelled further on 26 minutes, with Del Valle the provider once more.
The Venezuelan, currently on loan from Auxerre, delivered from the left this time, and when his cross found Bruno Braga, the midfielder applied the finish from eight yards out.
The Magpies looked for an immediate response, but they were denied a route back into the tie when Sylvain Marveaux’s long-range strike produced a stunning save from Ederson Moraes.
And they were unlucky not to pull a goal back just before half-time when captain Yohan Cabaye saw his dipping effort crash off the angle of the post and crossbar.
Wholesale changes were made at the break, with United bringing on five substitutes, including the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Cheick Tiote.
But despite going close through loan frontman Yoan Gouffran, they had to wait until the 76th minute to finally make the breakthrough. Good work from Obertan down the right saw the Frenchman find Ameobi, who steered home from eight yards to hand Newcastle the slimmest of lifelines.
And though Elliot’s late penalty save kept things vaguely respectable, the side that finished sixth in Portugal’s top flight last season ran out comfortable winners in the end.
The Magpies’ next friendly is on Tuesday night, when they’ll face Pacos de Ferreira at the Estadio da Mata Real at 8 p.m. (W.E.S.T.)