Shola Ameobi

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

After nearly 12 years as a Newcastle United first-team player, there aren't many things that Shola Ameobi hasn't encountered on a football pitch - but a penalty shoot-out without a winner was a new experience even for him.

The skipper for the night had been replaced by Papiss Cisse by the time the full-time whistle blew on Friday night's 1-1 draw against Olympiakos and watched from the dugout as the sides took five kicks each, both missing one apiece, meaning the shoot-out finished 4-4.

But despite the rather puzzling format - each successful spot-kick will count towards the Trofeu Internacional de Futebol do Guadiana tournament in the event that the three competing sides finish level on points - Ameobi felt the penalty scenario added to a hugely worthwhile occasion at the Estadio Algarve.

Cisse blazed United's first kick over the bar, meaning that another miss would almost certainly have seen them lose on penalties, but Haris Vuckic, Romain Amalfitano, James Perch and Mehdi Abeid all confidently converted while Tim Krul saved from Andreas Tatos.

"It was good practice for the lads," Ameobi told nufc.co.uk before boarding the coach back to the team hotel.

"Obviously we're disappointed that we drew again after leading the game comfortably, but the shoot-out was a real-life situation and it was great to have that sort of pressure put on them, especially the younger lads, because we're going to be playing in competitions this year that might require that.

"So it's great that we didn't lose it. The boys who came later on, the pressure was on them really and they came through with flying colours.

"But it was another great game for us for a bit of fitness, which is ultimately what it's all about, and we played some nice stuff."

Kostas Mitroglou cancelled out Steven Taylor's first-half opener with ten minutes left, following on from last weekend when Newcastle were denied victory against Fenerbahce by a last-gasp goal.

But 30-year-old Ameobi is not too concerned about that becoming a habit and is positive that the Magpies will keep on going until the very end once the competitive action starts in three weeks.

"It's never good when you concede late goals, but better now than when the season starts," he said. "Now we can look at things, analyse it and hopefully improve.

"But the good thing is, we're not losing games. The manager's trying to change our style of play, which will take a while for us to get used to, so it was another good run-out for the boys and hopefully we can get another on on Saturday."

Ameobi was one of only four players not to play the whole game against the Greek champions - something of a rarity in friendly fixtures, where there are often a raft of substitutions.

But Alan Pardew's decision to stay with largely the same team throughout added to the intensity and helped to keep the game competitive - a fact highlighted when Francois Modesto was sent off for a second bookable offence.

"I think the manager wants the boys to play as many 90 minutes as possible because we've got three games in that first week so he wants everybody to be ready to go for August 18th," Ameobi said. "I'm sure the boys who didn't play today will get a good run-out on Saturday and that means the whole squad has had a good amount of minutes.

"That's very important because it's all well and good playing 45 minutes, but come the first game of the season, the boys are going to have to play full games and I think that's what we're building up to so hopefully we can be ready to go."

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