LISBON: Newcastle United have suffered an injury scare just 10 days before their Premier League season kicks off with Jonjo Shelvey limping out of their Eusebio Cup pre-season loss to Benfica.
Head coach Eddie Howe admits it would be a huge blow for the Magpies should the experienced former Liverpool and England midfielder lose his race to be fit for Aug. 6.
Newcastle were beaten 3-2 at Estadio Da Luz on Tuesday, as the Eagles netted a last-gasp winner after the Magpies were reduced to 10 men.
Goncalo Ramos opened the scoring for the hosts before Miguel Almiron leveled things up, finishing off a fine team move. Alex Grimaldo then scored a fantastic, long-range free kick before Almiron again restored parity.
Shelvey’s injury disjointed the Magpies after the break, and so too did a red card for Joelinton, before Henrique Araujo sent Howe’s Magpies packing in the 89th minute.
Howe, impressed by his team’s performance, admits he is concerned by the injury suffered by Shelvey.
He said: “It is a hamstring. We don’t know yet whether it is a strain or cramp or how serious it is.
“We hope it isn’t serious because he has worked very hard to get himself in a really good physical position. That would be a huge blow for him and for us.”
On the result itself, Howe was more positive.
“A very good performance from us. I thought it was a very good game, very high quality. I thought it was a Premier League game in terms of standards. I thought the team was excellent,” he said.
“The goal at the end took the gloss off what was a very good performance. There are lots of good signs.
“They are a very good team and made it tough for us in the early stages but we withstood that and even after conceding, fought ourselves back into it. We scored two wonderful goals, both really good team goals scored by Miggy. He could’ve had another one, too.”
Paraguay international Almiron has proven a divisive figure on Tyneside since his arrival with his incredible workrate and effort matched by few, but his final third output outshone by many.
However, a Portugal double makes it five in five for the forward this summer.
“We all know it is not just the goals Miggy has given us in pre-season, it is his overall work ethic and his team play is second to none,” said the United head coach.
“I am just pleased for him personally, that he has got the lift of the goals and I am sure that will help him going into the season.”
While it was a positive night for one part of the club’s South American contingent, it was less so for Joelinton.
The Brazilian was red carded after receiving two yellows in the space of just three second half minutes in Lisbon.
What did Howe think of the decision?
“I think in pre-season games you never want to see red cards, it is against the spirit of the game, unless they (challenges) are reckless and dangerous — and I don’t think they were from Joelinton,” he said of the Magpies’ 2021/22 player of the season.
“I think they were probably mistimed. So, I am disappointed to see that.
“It was good for us as an exercise to see if we can defend with 10 men for the latter stages of the game. We couldn’t, which was disappointing but it was a good test for us nonetheless.”
Meanwhile, United have confirmed Emil Krafth has signed a new one-year contract with the club.
The 42-capped Sweden international, whose previous arrangement with United was due to expire next summer, has put pen to paper on a new deal which will keep him at St. James’ Park until June 2024.
Howe said: “I’m very pleased Emil has extended his stay with us. He made an excellent contribution to the team last season and he continues to add valuable strength to us.”
Krafth has been at United since 2019 and has made 62 appearances in three seasons.
The 27-year-old is a former Bologna, Helsingborgs, Östers IF and Lagans AIK full-back, and will spend the campaign as understudy to England international Kieran Trippier.
Speaking to NUFC TV, Krafth said: “I’m very, very happy to extend my contract here — me and my family love to live here — and continue with the journey we started with the club.
“I’m really looking forward to the future at the club.”