Saturday, July 21, 2012
Sporting Club Braga 1 Newcastle United 2
“I’ve heard Vilamoura is a classy joint love, perhaps you and Wendy can spend the evening there, strolling around the shops and sampling the fine restaurants that are on offer, whilst ‘Dafty’ and I entertain the kids.” Hook, line and sinker, readers!
It’s Saturday morning. We’ve been holed out at the Balaia Golf Village for nearly a week. Tears streamed down Mrs P’s face last Tuesday when sea blue skies were replaced with cotton wool coloured clouds for the day.
‘Dafty’ and I slip away for a few hours and sink a couple of pints of Super Bok at a local Portuguese bar. There’s time for some horseplay in the pool before a pre-match meal of pizza and chips.
‘Gangsta’ is wearing his new blue Michael Jackson hat that he has been hanging his nose over the last few nights on the local Strip. “Anna’s husband” asks if we’re sure if there’s a game on tonight, as we sweep off the A22 and into desolate stadium car park. Suddenly an opening appears where a small gathering of Toon fans are milling around a ticket booth swilling pints of Carlsberg lager (Newcastle Brown not available).
I’m ushered into the ‘Supervisor’s Office’, where I’m greeted by an attractive, slim Portuguese lady. I arrange to collect my belongings after the game. I’m flipping fuming, readers.
The kids and ‘Dafty’ are in hysterics. They merrily snap away as we take our seats on the upper tier. Hopper has proper got the bottom lip on. ‘Live is Life’ by Austrian pop-rock band Opus is bouncing out of the stadium’s speakers.
The Estadio Algarve was purpose built for the 2004 European Championships. It hosted three games including a quarter final match between Sweden and Holland which ended goalless (Sticky doesn’t do 0-0s). A taxi driver told me it’s mainly used for pop concerts and cultural events. I remember on a previous holiday in the Algarve that Sean Paul and Simple Minds played here.
It has a capacity of 30,000. It has two huge curve-covered stands running along both touchlines. Both ends behind the goals are open. It would be a schoolboy error to forget the sunscreen on a sweltering Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It’s the third consecutive game tonight. Panathinaikos are also competing in this round robin tournament. The pitch looks worn and is cutting up.
Braga is a city in north west Portugal with a population of 170,000. They have qualified for this season’s Champions League. In 2011 they reached the Europa League final where they lost 1-0 to rivals Porto.
Newcastle upon Tyne is in north east England with a population of 280,000. It is famous for its wool trade, coal mining and ship building. Famous custodians include: Sting, Neil Tennant, Mark Knopfler, Cheryl Cole and Ant and Dec. It’s a hotbed for producing brilliant footballing talent. Alan Shearer, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle, Andy Carroll and Michael Carrick are all from the area.
Everyone in the stadium is taking photos now apart from Sticky, who has even left his malfunctioning HTC phone back at the apartment. What a miserable beginning to the evening this has been. I’m cheered up by the flashing white teeth and permanent smile of Newcastle’s 20 year old winger Sammy Ameobi. He’s as tall as a giraffe but has legs like pencils. He’s sharp out of the blocks but is inclined to turn inside onto his favoured left foot.
Braga play keep ball for the first 20 minutes as the Magpies chase shadows. Ivory Coast international Cheick Tiote looks sullen and moody. He loses possession and fakes an injury. He takes an age to get to grips with the pace of the game. Demba Ba drops deep as Pardew plays Cisse on the shoulder with Ameobi wide right and the impressive Sylvain Marveaux on the left.
At the break Shola Ameobi is wheeled out to sign autographs and pose for pictures. He says that former Tricky Tree James Perch is the best golfer in the Club. Looking at his playing time last season I’m not least surprised. Sticky Junior attempts some banter with ‘Perchy’ but the miserable sod is having none of it.
‘Laura’s Dad’ is waving what appears to be some old fish n chip paper in the air. Hugo Viana has scrawled a personal message to his daughter. “She’ll be made up marra.”
The Toon are awarded a penalty following a theatrical dive by Marveaux. Demba Ba, who has spent most of the evening bad-mouthing the officials, steps up to take the spot kick, only to see the keeper make a great save. He coolly rolls in the rebound. “You’re not singing anymore” chant the ‘Toon Army’ in the direction of the four Braga fans who have made the long trip south, and who are congregated in the stand on the opposite side of the ground.
Braga equalise immediately, must to the disgust of perennial moaner Alan Pardew, who has been meticulously penning notes all evening. A fine move is finished off by Amorim.
Both teams go for the jugular in a very entertaining 45 minutes. The winning goal arrives on 75 minutes following a moment of brilliance from former Tranmere and Wigan full back Ryan Taylor. His 25 yard floated free-kick leaves Beto rooted to the spot.