BEN Thompson and Connor Mahoney scored superb goals as Millwall drew 3-3 with Real Sociedad in their last pre-season friendly ahead of their Championship opener against Preston next Saturday.
Thompson found the top corner from distance to make it 2-2. Mahoney sent Cristian Portugues skidding with a drag-back before shooting into the roof of the net to level the scores at 3-3.
Shaun Williams missed a penalty in the sixth minute after Matt Smith had chested down Jake Cooper’s long ball and was fouled by Modibo Sagnan. Williams placed his penalty low to Alejandro Remiro’s right but the goalkeeper made a comfortable save.
Millwall were awarded another penalty in the 20th minute when Cooper was fouled as he went to attack Mahoney’s corner. This time Jed Wallace took it and though Remiro got a hand to it there was enough power on the ball to take it into the middle of the goal.
The visitors were level a minute later when Alexander Isak turned on a pass from Nais Djouahra and finished past Frank Fielding from 10 yards.
Mahoney’s free-kick from 40 yards missed everyone and came back off the woodwork, before Alex Pearce followed up with a shot that hit Joseba Zaldua.
La Real took the lead in the 31st minute when Asier Illarramendi found David Zururuza 22 yards out and he turned to fire in a fierce drive past Fielding’s right hand.
Millwall were level in spectacular fashion four minutes into the second half. Thompson won the ball back 30 yards out before curling brilliantly into the top-left corner. Remiro in goal didn’t move, as Lions fans got to their feet to applaud a superb goal.
But again the La Liga side quickly replied, going 3-2 up when Adnan Januzaj crossed low from the right and Isak tapped in at the near post.
Mahoney equalised in the 83rd minute, firing into the top-left corner after being found in the box by a lovely cushioned volley pass from Mahlon Romeo.
Sociedad are ideal opposition
The Lions will face plenty of sides this season in the Championship with the quality to keep the ball for long spells.
It was little surprise to see Sociedad passing so well. Real Madrid once paid £34million to Sociedad for Illarramendi, who was the deep-lying midfielder today. Former Manchester United winger Januzaj also showed his quality, frequently linking with Martin Odegaard, who Madrid signed as a 16-year-old.
Still Millwall will be disappointed how much space they left Zururuza in to turn and pick his spot so close to goal. They won’t get away with that, either, against plenty of Championship sides.
Millwall have work to do defensively
The hosts again gave away poor goals, and Preston showed last season when they won 3-1 at The Den how clinical they are in capitalising on loose defensive play.
Sociedad of course had great quality on the ball, but their players were often left in too much space in and just outside the box.
Millwall conceded too many goals in the last 10 minutes of games last season. Here they were vulnerable just after they had scored.
There is plenty to work on next week ahead of the opening weekend of the season, with getting it right at the back a key priority. But there are also lots of positives.
Harris to revisit penalty taker?
Williams has shown before how capable a penalty-taker he is. He usually hits them with force, but with his last two, including against Bristol City last season, he has taken the pace off the ball.
Wallace went with power, and it was needed as it was too close to Remiro but the goalkeeper couldn’t keep the ball out.
Harris has previously taken penalty duties off Lee Gregory and given the responsibility to Williams. It will be interesting to see who takes the Lions’ first spot-kick this season.
Team to face Preston next weekend
This was close to Harris’ first-choice XI. There should be more movement on the transfer front nest week but the back five today will likely be the same against Alex Neil’s side.
It’s hard to see how Thompson can’t start. He was superb against the Spanish side, full of hard running, winning the ball back and using it well, and then showing that moment of supreme technique for his goal. And Mahoney will surely also be in the starting XI next weekend. His set-piece deliveries are so dangerous and he is such a good technical player.
Matt Smith will almost certainly start up front, but none of the other three strikers – Aiden O’Brien, Tom Bradshaw and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson – have made a compelling case to play alongside him. In fairness to the latter three, they are all catching up on fitness.
Millwall: (4-4-2): Fielding; Romeo, Pearce (Hutchinson, 71), Cooper, M. Wallace (Ferguson, 71); J. Wallace (Skalak, 71), Thompson (Mitchell, 87), Williams (Leonard, 71), Mahoney; Smith (Bodvarsson, 71), O'Brien (Bradshaw, 71)
Image: Millwall FC