Spurs end Newport’s Cup run at the second attempt

Tottenham Hotspur ended Newport County’s brave FA Cup run with a 2-0 win. (Action Images via Reuters)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Spurs end Newport’s Cup run at the second attempt

LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur finally ended lowly Newport County’s brave FA Cup run with a 2-0 win in a fourth-round replay at Wembley on Wednesday.
Eight-time winners Spurs were just eight minutes away from a humiliating exit when England striker Harry Kane scored to salvage a 1-1 draw away to fourth-tier Newport last month.
But it was a different story at Wembley where, with South Korea’s Son Heung-Min impressing for Tottenham, Dan Butler’s 26th-minute own goal and an Erik Lamela strike eight minutes later put Spurs 2-0 up before half-time.
Tottenham will now travel to third-tier strugglers Rochdale for a last-16 tie on the weekend of February 17-18.
“It’s the FA Cup and it’s difficult,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino told the BBC. “But I am happy because we wanted to be in the next round.
“Son Heung-Min is doing fantastic this season and he feels important.
“It is important to keep going and winning games. We are going to be very busy in the Premier League, Champions League and the FA Cup but we want to keep this run.”
Meanwhile Newport manager Michael Flynn praised the visitors’ performance.
“It was a good start in the first 25 minutes, but the manner of the goal, the way it went in, it took it out of the boys and deflated them,” he said.
“I am very proud of the players. They put in a huge amount of work and they have done themselves and the club proud.”
But not even the lure of a fixture at Wembley, Spurs’s temporary home while a new ground that will replace White Hart Lane is constructed, could stop Newport midfielder Sean Rigg quitting between the two ties to become a tattoo artist.
The FA Cup has been a huge financial boost for Newport, with their run to this stage earning them at least £700,000 ($972,000, 792,000 euros).
But the concern for the Welsh club was that the chance of an upset had come and gone at their Rodney Parade ground, where a goal from Irish striker Padraig Amond put them on course for a famous giant-killing.
Newport were far from overawed in the replay and they were unlucky when a cross from Moussa Sissoko deflected off Butler and past stranded goalkeeper Joe Day to put Spurs ahead.
It was not long before Spurs had their second goal, when Lamela, getting on the end of a well-weighted through ball from Son, scored for the first time since finding the net against Gillingham in September 2016.
Spurs were comfortable in the second half but late in the game Amond had a chance to add a Wembley goal to his one at Rodney Parade in the original tie only to shoot at Michel Vorm.


London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

Updated 16 August 2018
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London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

  • Super Cup final in UK capital can boost Saudi football's image around the world, claims SAFF official
  • SAFF defends number of foreign players allowed to play in Saudi Pro League claiming they help raise the standard.

LONDON: Saturday’s Super Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in London will not just be a great experience for the players, but also a chance to showcase the best of Saudi Arabian football on an international stage ahead of what should be a season to remember.
That is according to Luai Al-Subaiey, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)ahead of the cup clash at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers. The match is the traditional season curtain-raiser that features the champions and the winners of the King’s Cup. And with holding fixtures overseas a growing trend in modern football, Al-Subaiey told Arab News the decision to play the match in London was a no-brainer.
“Club teams from one country playing in another country is commonplace,” Al-Subaiey said.
“Teams from the English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese leagues played in the US this summer. The Spanish Super Cup was played in Morocco last week.
“We do it because it is good for our players to gather more international experience, to learn what it’s like to play in large overseas stadia, and of course, there is a large Saudi Arabian and Middle Eastern population living and working in London, (roughly) 300,000 people there.”
Al-Subaiey and Co. are confident that a great game in London this Saturday will be a springboard to a great season to come, especially with leading clubs in the country active in the international transfer market.
With eight overseas players allowed in Saudi Arabian teams in the upcoming Saudi Pro League season, there have been concerns that opportunities for local talent could be reduced. Al-Subaiey, however, believes that importing quality players can only be a good thing.
“Foreign players in the Saudi League will help improve the quality of football,” he said.
“But it also needs to be managed and balanced with the need to nourish domestic talent and provide our homegrown players with a pathway to the top.”
International stars such as Omar Abdulrahman have a part to play in the development of the Saudi Pro League and its ambition to be one of the leading leagues in the world. The United Arab Emirates playmaker joined Al-Hilal earlier in August in a season-long loan deal worth a reported $15 million — the second highest in football history.
As well as Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo, who scored at the World Cup this summer, as well as former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia. Al-Nassr have bought Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Leicester City and Nordin Amrabat from Watford.
“Has Wayne Rooney added something to DC United and the MLS? Has Omar Abdulrahman added to Al-Hilal? Of course, additions like these improve the quality of football,” Al-Subaiey said. “For the fans, these players bring excitement, and for the clubs and their league, these players bring a higher profile and greater attention — but there is something deeper too.”
For the official, what the best players bring is attitude and the utmost professionalism.
“Central to high performance sport is the right mindset. People like Rooney and Abdulrahman bring a great work ethic and possess great skills — but they also possess a professional mindset. And the young players who will work with them will see this, experience this — and learn from this.”
If all goes according to plan Saudi Arabia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and perhaps even
progress to the second round for the first time since 1994. In Russia the Green Falcons started off with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the hosts in the opening game in Moscow. The team tightened up before losing narrowly to Uruguay, and then going on to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final game.
“We were absolutely delighted to be at the World Cup,” Al-Subaiey said.
“As you can tell with teams like Italy, Holland and the USA not qualifying and teams like Germany and Argentina not progressing (far in the tournament), the standard of play in international football is very high.
“Our particular group was quite challenging, and our initial game against host Russia, one of the biggest surprises of the World Group, was a difficult first match. Our final game, our win against Egypt, was a World Cup high point for our team. It was a match our young players and our national program can build on.”