5 Newcastle United Players Who Impressed vs. Pacos De Ferreira
Newcastle United ended their brief preseason tour of Portugal with a deserved 1-1 draw against Champions League qualifiers Pacos de Ferreira on Tuesday evening.
After falling to a 3-1 defeat to Rio Ave at the weekend, Alan Pardew’s men produced an improved performance against the side that finished third in last season’s Primeira Liga.
The hosts opened the scoring after 15 minutes when Rui Caetano was allowed time to pick his spot from inside the box, but the Magpies drew level thanks to Shola Ameobi’s strike on the hour mark.
Both sides were reduced to 1- men before the break following a clash between Caetano and Fabricio Coloccini.
But the Premier League outfit created enough chances to win the game in the second half, and here we take a look at five United players that caught the eye at the Estadio da Mata Real.
Newcastle’s left-hand side was largely non-existent in the opening 45 minutes, but the introduction of Frenchman Yoan Gouffran after the break changed all that.
His direct approach and strong running troubled the Pacos back four immediately, and it was his determination that led to United’s equaliser.
Gouffran’s tenacity earned him enough space to find Shola Ameobi inside the penalty area, and the striker did the rest, with a powerful finish to bring the game level.
His impact lessened once Ameobi was replaced by Sylvain Marveaux and the former Bordeaux man was switched into the middle, but his cameo on the left was enough to earn the Magpies a share of the spoils.
Another plus for Newcastle after the break was the performance of Italian defender Davide Santon, who brought further urgency to United’s left-hand side after replacing Hatem Ben Arfa.
Fabricio Coloccini’s red card in the first half saw the visitors switch to a 4-3-2 formation, and Santon needed little encouragement to branch out and support his forwards.
His attacking instincts stem from his early days at Inter Milan, where the 22-year-old was utilised as an out-and-out winger before being converted to left-back by Jose Mourinho.
And if his performance at the Estadio da Mata Real is anything to go by, Santon looked in good shape ahead of the new Premier League season.
Newcastle’s improvement in the second half owed much to a solidity in the middle of the park, and substitute Jonas Gutierrez played a major part in that.
His partnership with Cheick Tiote brought a calmness to the midfield that was sorely lacking in the opening 45 minutes.
Predominantly used as a wide player for the majority of last season, Gutierrez’s battling qualities were often underused as his team struggled to exert their authority.
But the Argentine international’s performance against Pacos de Ferreira was reminiscent of his 2011-12 form, when the 30-year-old produced some of his best football alongside Tiote in United’s engine room.
Cheick Tiote was not without his critics last term, but against Pacos de Ferreira the Ivorian’s composure ensured Newcastle enjoyed the lion’s share of possession after the break.
There is a reluctance to Tiote’s play when he is paired with Yohan Cabaye in midfield, as he was for the opening 45 minutes at the Estadio da Mata Real on Tuesday.
But once Jonas Gutierrez was introduced, the 27-year-old’s duties became clearer, and despite a late slip that almost handed the home side a winner, his second-half display was one of simplistic stability in front of United’s back four.
His arrival from FC Twente for just £3.5 million in 2010 was hailed as a masterstroke following an impressive debut season, and Magpies fans will be hoping his performance in Portugal was not a one-off.
Somewhat lost in the left-back berth, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa struggled to find his rhythm for Newcastle against Pacos de Ferreira, but he soon found his feet following an enforced change in tactics.
When captain Fabricio Coloccini saw red following a tussle with Rui Caetano, Alan Pardew switched Yanga-Mbiwa to centre-back, and from that point onwards the Frenchman grew in confidence.
His positioning and timing in the heart of defence allowed United to play a high line after the break and gave both full-backs the security and confidence to stretch their legs and support the forwards.
In what was an improved team performance in the second half, the 24-year-old was influential in creating a solid base that allowed the Magpies to dictate the pace as the game wore on.