Sat 5 Aug 2023, 20:51 · NUFC News

Newcastle United 2-0 Fiorentina: Sela Cup match report, highlights, player ratings, and Howe/Isak/Botman reactions

Newcastle United 2-0 Fiorentina: Sela Cup match report, highlights, player ratings, and Howe/Isak/Botman reactions
Serena Taylor | Newcastle United
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Newcastle United got their participation in the inaugural Sela Cup off to a perfect start with a deserved 2-0 win over Serie A opposition Fiorentina at St. James' Park.

Lining up in their typical 4-3-3, Eddie Howe's side started the game brightly, with the attacking trio of Miguel Almirón, Alexander Isak, and Anthony Gordon all looking sharp.

They were well-supported by Elliot Anderson, in particular, playing from the left side of the three-man central midfield. Lewis Miley barely put a foot wrong all game, while Sandro Tonali showed flashes of his quality throughout, but was sloppy in possession at times.

It was a solid day for the defence, too, with Alex Murphy impressing in an unusual right-sided centre-back role and Sven Botman marshalling things alongside him. Kieran Trippier had a typically solid game, with only Matt Targett really looking off the pace in the entire XI.

Martin Dúbravka had very little to do between the sticks, but he saved what he needed to and helped to build out from the back well with good composure and some nice passes.

The goals were very different, but Isak was heavily involved in both. First, he picked up the ball near halfway and drove at the Fiorentina centre-backs, forcing them backwards before laying off a cute pass to the onrushing Almirón, who had supported the striker's break brilliantly.

Despite running at full pace, Miggy made no mistake with his first touch, using his right foot to prod the ball forward into space past the final defender, before smashing home left-footed from the left of the penalty spot to give Newcastle the lead in the 39th minute.

Howe's side started the second half brightly but didn't double their advantage and complete the scoring until eight minutes from time when another mesmerising dribble from Isak caused Fiorentina all sorts of trouble.

Isak was playing on the left flank at this stage, with Ben Parkinson playing as the striker having come on to replace Miley a couple of minutes earlier, and the Swede ran a couple of the visiting defenders ragged before winning a corner down the left.

Trippier jogged upfield to take it, whipping in a dangerous delivery that Isak himself glanced home from six yards after a clever push in the back of his marker Arthur Cabral. That rounded things off nicely, with Fiorentina never looking likely to trouble in the later stages.

All-in-all, this was another good day at the office for Newcastle in pre-season. The unbeaten run was kept intact and there was a lot to like about the performance. The press looked dangerous, numerous individuals shone, with Anderson and Isak particularly standing out, and while we did give up a few chances we never really seemed troubled by what is a solid Fiorentina side. If Gordon's finishing had been better, it could've been a real hammering.

Are there any highlights of the game?

Newcastle United's YouTube channel was a bit slow off the mark compared to Fiorentina's, but there are now comprehensive highlights of the victory available:

What were the player ratings?

Anderson took the plaudits for his overall contribution, showing great energy and several gasp-inducing touches in the middle of the park. Isak was the real difference-maker, though, being heavily involved in both Newcastle goals and a massive threat throughout.

A special mention for Gordon and Almirón, too, who on another day could've shared a hatful of goals. If Gordon can find some confidence when in scoring positions, he could be in line for a massive season. All the other parts of his game are coming together nicely.

Newcastle United (4-3-3): Dúbravka 7; Trippier 7, A. Murphy 7, Botman 7, Targett 6; Tonali 7, L. Miley 7, Anderson 9; Almirón 8, Isak 9, Gordon 8

The substitutes barely had time to make an impact, but both Ben Parkinson and Jay Turner-Cooke were plenty involved in the minutes they did get. Both have had very solid pre-seasons and will have loved their runouts at St. James'.

Substitutes: Parkinson 6, Turner-Cooke 6, Ndiweni 5

What was Eddie Howe's reaction?

Our head coach spoke to Dan King of NUFC TV immediately after the victory, saying:

"I thought it was a step up on the games we had in America. I thought we performed well today, though still not at our peak. We're getting closer. It was a hard game played against a good team. Tactically, they're interesting, technically, Italian teams are always very good, but I thought we created the better chances in the game and probably could have won by more.

The lads went into today's game a little bit fresher than the games in America, as we've scaled training down a little bit. We've still trained harder than we would for a Premier League game but it was a step down from where it was pre-Chelsea and those games. So we were a little bit fresher, a little bit more dynamic in our movements, and though they had a couple of chances the better ones fell our way.

We're always going to miss chances, we're never going to be perfect, but there were a couple in there that we would probably rue if it was a Premier League game. The big thing today was the step up in terms of our defending. I thought we limited them. I think they had one good chance in the first half but apart from that I thought we were relatively okay.

He (Alex Murphy) did very well. It was difficult for him because he's a very left-footed player playing on the right-hand side. It was a challenge for him, but he did really well. It's never easy playing in front of the crowd, but he's grown with that experience and I was really pleased with his performance.

Let's wait and see how the lads perform tomorrow. I think the guys today have done well and I'm pleased with the majority of what I've seen. I think the first day of the season is always a difficult team to pick because with our lads, their attitudes and their commitment, they've given everything to try and get in that team, so let's wait and see.

Scoring goals in pre-season, although it's not Premier League games, is really important because it builds your confidence and gets you used to that feeling. Miggy's looked in good shape this pre-season.

I think it (pre-season) is about feeling good in your surroundings, it's about building how we want to play because our style of play is really important in and out of possession. We're making sure we're ready for that first game and the rigours of a Premier League season.

Tomorrow we want to see everything put together, as we saw today. I still think there's room for improvement but I'm looking for those lads to go out and execute how we play."

What did Alexander Isak and Sven Botman have to say?

Our goal-scoring and goal-making striker gave NUFC TV a few minutes after the whistle, commenting:

"It's been a good pre-season and we wanted to finish off in a good way ahead of the Premier League. I think we performed well and kept a clean sheet, so it was very positive.

We know it's a weapon for us (the transition). So I think when we get the chance we should really attack and that's what I did. I just turned and ran at them, and Miggy made a good run as well, so I just played him in.

It's exciting that we have a lot of quality. We just need to find ways to maximise that to get the best out of everyone and then we can be dangerous. We're working at that every day with the team and the coaching staff, so I don't think it's going to be a problem to perform and show it.

I wasn't surprised (to score). I went into a space, it was a very good ball from Tripps, and I'm happy with the goal. It's not often that I head the ball into the net so I'm happy with that. With this being the last game before the competition starts it's a good feeling.

I have qualities to play out wide as well, so in a game like this when towards the end it gets more open, I think my qualities fit there as well.

We made a good performance here at home in our first game back in front of our fans. It's positive, but at the end of the day, it's still a friendly. We know we need to be better, sharper, and need to up the level for the Premier League. With every game you play, you get in better shape and I've had a good pre-season now, I've been fit, so I have a positive feeling."

Our Dutch number four also spoke to NUFC TV and had the following to say:

"It was a nice feeling and an important day for us. Another 90 minutes in the tank and it was important to get this last push before the season starts.

It's always nice to have a good feeling to start with and just to know where we're at. We are fit and we are sharp, so it's always nice to get in that mood before the season starts.

They (Fiorentina) played good football, they weren't defending in their own half, so it was similar to the Premier League. The pace is a little bit higher in the league but it was a good test before the Premier League starts. Fiorentina are a good team and they played very good football.

He (Alex Murphy) is progressing really well. He's still really young but he's training really well. The important thing for him is to push every day and train hard, then his chances will come.

We are really fit and really sharp now, so it's been a progression and like a journey for the four/five weeks (of pre-season). From where we came from we're at a good level now.

We have to win again tomorrow. It's just a friendly but the mentality has to be the same as always. It will be a good day and a good game for us, so let's see what happens and then get ready for the season."

What's up next in NUFC's pre-season?

Newcastle sit atop the Sela Cup standings with five points, trailed by Nice and Villarreal on two each, with Firoentina propping everyone up on zero.

Howe's side will be looking to round off their pre-season in style with a win against Villarreal tomorrow (Sunday the 6th of August) at 4 p.m., which will guarantee them the trophy.

Tickets for the final pre-season game of the summer are still available from the NUFC booking site, priced at £30 for adults and £15 for concessions.