The first game of the German pre-season continued where we left off after the first game - little more than a bit of a run around. That said, at this stage in pre-season thats all thats required really in order to build up the sharpness ahead of the trip to Merseyside in August.
Bielefeld themselves were in their 8th pre-season game, and although they play at a much lower level, they were much much sharper, and a 1-1 result shouldn't be frowned upon with so many debutants.
Steve Bruce chose to start the game with four of the new boys - Simon Mignolet started in goal, at fullbacks were Phil Bardsley and new lad John O'Shea with Michael Turner partnering Titus Bramble in the middle for the second week running. Across the middle were Kieran Richardson, Lee Cattermole who held the captaincy) and debut's for Sebastian Larsson and David Vaughan, whilst Steed Malbranque was tasked with getting forward from midfield supporting Ji Dong-Won in attack.
For the second week in a row a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 was favoured by Bruce, and could be a sign of what's to come next season, although it wasn't quite as rigid as that. Much as we've predicted/suggested/begged for here on Roker Report.
As we said at the top, this was little more than another workout and the first half was nothing to write home about with all due respect. There was nobody you could put down as doing anything more than 'putting a shift in' even amongst the new boys. Speaking of those, lets talk about them a little.
David Vaughan continued exactly where he left off for Blackpool being busy, tidy, and doing the leg work. Unfortunately for us the leg work in this instance was for Lee Cattermole. Catts for all his good points isn't Charlie Adam, so we lumbered on with a midfield pairing where one grafter grafted for another. Ridiculously early to judge, but I can't see this being the favoured partnership come opening day.
John O'Shea only lasted about half an hour before being taken off with injury... "Here we go again" was the colllective groan around the Schuco Arena, however we're told post-match by Brucey it was little more than a precaution, and he'll be fine.
Ji Dong-Won did well in the circumstances. Those circumstances being that he barely speaks the language, and he had little to no support from midfield. He nearly managed to notch an effort on goal, but was denied by a flying defender, who cleared by the home side.
Sebastian Larsson started wide in midfield, and we all waited with baited breath to see some of the oft-discussed set-piece speciality-ness. In fairness we did see it. A cracking shot on goal from a freekick in the first half, and, spoiler alert, his corner provided our equaliser later.
For the second game running we chose to give away a penalty. This time Ahmed Elmohamady the guilty part having tugged on some Bielefeld player having only been on the pitch for all of about 5 minutes. The Bielefeld taker send Mig the wrong way from the spot, the Germans celebrated with all the grandiose you expect on the continent, and we looked to head towards defeat.
However between Sess, Gardner, Larsson & Wickham we looked a much more potent attacking force. It was combinations of those which caused the most problems for the hosts.
Wickham had a few drives at goal, a few decent runs too, and it looks like we've got a real good player on our hands. Sessegnon also trying his luck from distance whilst Gardner & Larsson provided an omnipresent threat by lurking around the danger zone.
It was 10 minutes after Bielefeld's opener which lead to our equalizer. What for most teams would be considered a very routine corner was a bit of a highlight for us as Sebastian Larsson actually delivered a dangerous ball, Turner flicked on and Sessegnon stabbed home into a relatively unguarded net near the back post.
From that moment on it was like the game actually begun,although it was Bielefeld who continued to attack with more gusto. A few shots from range which didn't really give Mignolet much of a scare, but it was more than we could offer up.
So, a decent enough work out if an unspectacular game. Much like any early pre-season game, signs of encouragement, but certainly things to work on - in particular making sure this penalty business doesn't become a feature.
Onwards to Hameln now for the game against Hannover 96 on Wednesday.