THE 65-year-old Trofeo Teresa Herrera is so hefty neither side fancied the onerous labour of lifting it.
So daunted by the task that required two stewards to move the coveted pre-season prize on and off the Riazor turf before kick-off and at half-time, Newcastle and Deportivo conspired to fluff a host of chances to avoid the job – before the Magpies eventually triumphed 5-4 on penalties.
Leon Best, Andy Carroll, Michel and Riki all wasted glorious opportunities to break the deadlock – and with mere minutes remaining Joey Barton topped the lot by scuffing a penalty and then shanking the rebound over the bar.
Such is the importance of this local tournament that a draw leads to penalties, and so the night’s fare proved – and, second time lucky, Barton made amends for his earlier miss by striking the winning spot kick in the shoot-out.
Graffiti is as good as any mood marker, and the Deportivo brand underlines the city’s muscular and threatening air.
‘Insult us at your own peril’ is hardly a veiled threat, but that lucid caveat adorns the ageing Riazor Stadium walls. Galicia’s capital, La Coruna, shares many parallels with Tyneside. The bustling industrial port bisects the Bay of Biscay and the North Atlantic Ocean, standing proudly on Spain’s northern promontory.
The lengthy Riazor beach frames a gritty centre where easy-going locals talk only one thing – football.
Don’t mess with Depor is a decent dictum, and will certainly resonate with United fans. There might be no stars of Diego Tristan-ilk these days, but a decorated team like this needs no pin-ups to survive. Industry underpins the culture of the town, and so it goes with the football team, that won La Liga as recently as 10 years ago.
Deportivo might not have lifted any serious silverware of late, but until last term they had scooped their own pre-season trophy nine times on the trot.
The Trofeo Teresa Herrera might seem small fry in comparison to the Premier League, but the tournament dates back to 1946 and the list of winners reads like a who’s who of world football. Sevilla won the inaugural tournament, and nearly all the world’s top sides have claimed the tower-like trophy in the past.
A trophy so sizeable and heavy by the way, that it took two men to heave it to and from the pitch.
Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Monaco, Lazio, Dinamo Kiev, Benfica, PSV and Sao Paolo have their names engraved on the silver slab, and Newcastle took the opportunity to join such exulted company.
United should have turned around with a 2-1 lead, but by the break neither team had broken the deadlock. Carroll and Best ought to have scored for Hughton’s charges, while Michel’s whimpering shot wasted a gilt-edged opportunity. Former Depor favourite Fabricio Coloccini captained a strong Newcastle side, an extra nod to his and Xisco’s Riazor return.
Newcastle took 25 minutes to muster the strength for a shot, Barton blasting over from range. Carroll then headed over from Enrique’s cross, and ever so slowly, the game sprinkled into life.
Perch was booked for a late sliding challenge on Michel, then Coloccini headed away well from Depor skipper Manuel Pablo’s dangerous cross.
Former Coventry striker Best should have buried Barton’s excellent left-wing dead-ball cross, but the Republic of Ireland forward just could not find the spring to make contact. Depor hit back when Saul lifted the ball high and wide from 18yards, and the hosts should have taken the lead through Michel. The midfielder’s tame shot limped against Steve Harper’s left post after Urreta’s left-wing cross. Best was called offside when connecting with Carroll’s clever ball into the box, but Manu was hardly troubled in any case. Sneaking round the back on the left, Carroll nodded wide from Taylor’s corner, and the powerhouse striker will have certainly considered that a chance missed.
The second period pattern mirrored the first, with both sides making and wasting plenty of scoring chances.
After Kevin Nolan saw yellow for a robust tackle on Perez, Riki’s tame pea-roller would have done well even to amuse Tim Krul.
Best’s far-post header sailed cruelly wide next as Newcastle failed to profit from their move of the match.
Carroll’s chested lay-off had Routledge flying down the right, and the former Crystal Palace speedster lofted a sumptuous cross to the skulking Best.
Barton was booked for tugging back the ever-dangerous Riki, and from the free-kick Andres Guardado curled a fine effort over the wall – but straight into a full-stretch Krul’s grateful mitts.
When Coloccini picked keeper Manu’s pocket the home stopper upended the Argentinean, and Newcastle had a penalty.
Barton stepped up, amid hysterical cat-calls, and failed to make proper contact.
Manu made the easy save, and Barton skied the loose ball over the bar.
Jonas Gutierrez had time to mis-hit Kevin Nolan’s cross, the umpteenth chance heralding the full-time whistle.