Delighted Eddie Howe says first win is only the beginning as he eyes tough challenges ahead 

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe celebrates after the match with Burnley. (Action Images via Reuters)
Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe celebrates after the match with Burnley. (Action Images via Reuters)
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Updated 04 December 2021

Delighted Eddie Howe says first win is only the beginning as he eyes tough challenges ahead 

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe celebrates after the match with Burnley. (Action Images via Reuters)
  • Newcastle have a tough December but will hope Burnley win gives them springboard to more positive results

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe admits there’s a feeling of satisfaction about securing Newcastle United’s first three points of the season — but an understanding that this is only the start of their fight for Premier League survival.

Callum Wilson scored the only goal of the game against Burnley as the Magpies climbed off the foot of the table, kept their first clean sheet and claimed their maiden victory this campaign at the 15th attempt.

Howe’s Magpies go to Leicester City next week looking to pull themselves out of the bottom three — a win has the potential to do just that — and the head coach knows his team have done nothing but put down a foundation on which to build.

When asked whether this is the start of a United revival, Howe said: “We hope so. The last two games have given us very different challenges. We had 10 v 11 against Norwich, then this one a much more physical contest. But we have taken things forward.

“We have been defensively better, but there is still work to do all over the pitch.

“I can’t praise them (the players) enough physically and mentally. This was a real physical effort, their third game in a week — and they gave everything.

“There is a feeling of satisfaction with the result but we have to back that up,” he added.

Asked to expand on his emotions, which were obvious to see as he lapped the pitch on the final whistle, fist-pumping toward the fans on the St. James’ Park terraces, Howe continued: “It was a real mixture of emotions.

“I am very proud of the team, in what was a very difficult game against Burnley — we defended well. There were a lot of positives. To a man, we stepped up defensively.

“We started slow, but once we scored that changed. We had spells in the second half where we were excellent, then had to hang on.”

While joy reigns supreme on Tyneside this weekend, December presents a number of potential further bumps in the road.

Next up in NE1 is Manchester City on Dec. 19, coming hot on the heels of a trip to Liverpool just days after the Magpies’ King Power Stadium trip. That is before Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United travel to Newcastle shortly after Christmas.

According to Howe, his players will need every ounce of fan support to get his team through the festive period, one which looks like a nightmare on paper.

“The relationship we’ve built with fans so quickly has been great. I can’t thank them enough,” said Howe of the unwavering home support.

“It was great to get that first win, a big thanks to them (the fans), we know how desperate they were — we all were — to get it is an amazing feeling. The reaction at the end can only galvanize us to move forward positively.”

Formula E showing sustainability is way forward with net zero Diriyah E-Prix

Formula E showing sustainability is way forward with net zero Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 11 sec ago

Formula E showing sustainability is way forward with net zero Diriyah E-Prix

Formula E showing sustainability is way forward with net zero Diriyah E-Prix
  • Sport setting trends others will follow on, off track: Formula E sustainability director, Julia Palle

Year on year, the profile of Formula E continues to grow.

And with Season 8 of the electric car series set to get underway with a double-header of night races in Riyadh, environmental sustainability will, more than ever before, be at the heart of the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix, a carbon net zero event.

Formula E sustainability director, Julia Palle, said: “Sustainability is this huge wave that is coming and really changing the way we are approaching sport.

“We’ve always had this view that sports were bringing something more to fans in the world than entertainment per se. And certainly, that’s why Formula E has been created.”

As a sport whose mission is to, in Palle’s words, “advance electrification,” Formula E has been setting the standards for others to follow.

“It’s really a way to showcase sustainable lifestyles. And as you’ve seen, there are a lot of other sports that are little by little taking the example, following the leadership that Formula E has been trendsetting for eight years now.

“You’ve seen the first Premier League game that was net zero carbon a couple of months ago, and a few other sports that have followed the lead, either in terms of net zero or strong initiatives regarding gender,” she added.

Last year’s Diriyah E-Prix launched Season 7 of Formula E with a double-header of night races for the first time, notably under new state-of-the-art LED floodlights. This year’s races will look to take it up a level or two.

Palle said: “We’ve decided to build on this kind of innovative approach to LED lighting. This year, the entire race is going to be powered by renewable energy.

“There’s another important thing, which is the fact that we work with a local charity each year, which is always the same, it’s the Society for Autism families. This is something that we always work closely on with the government, and what is important is that they’ve chosen us as the sport to develop this partnership.

“One of the beauties of the sport is that we have no noise pollution. So, we are able to be a family event that brings on different types of people, including people that suffer from autism, having a great day with us, including sharing something really special with their families.

“So, there’s much more to it than the environmental side, it’s also the social impact that we create,” she added.

Palle pointed out that every aspect of the Diriyah E-Prix had a sustainability obligation, from VIP hospitality areas to the stands and waste recycling outlets.

Formula E hopes its holistic approach to the event will have an influence on the lifestyles of its fans and beyond.

“We’ve actually done lots of studies and the good thing is that all sports are basically raising awareness, and inviting people to live more sustainable lifestyles,” Palle said.

“So, for example, on our events, you will see some vegetarian and vegan options, because we know that a less intensive meat diet is something that is better for your health, and also better for the planet.

“Waste recycling constantly, a very careful approach to the use of plastic, and this year we will have this partnership with Aquafina (brand of purified bottled water), and it’s clearly marked up that all the bottles will be recycled, again, locally. It’s really good, like trying to showcase some simple initiatives that the public can take,” she added.

Formula E has just launched No Turning Back, a season-long campaign setting the tone for the championship’s journey into a new era ahead of the Season 9 debut of the Gen3, the sport’s fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient racing car yet.

Palle said: “No Turning Back’s messaging is literally about the fact that the future is electric, the way forward is electric. You see that in every country and city of the world that electrification is the biggest trend. Governments are taking legislation to basically ban the sale of anything that is not electric.”

The sustainability director is also involved in Extreme E, the all-electric SUV rally series that, similar to Formula E, has been spreading the sustainability message beyond its sporting boundaries.

“So really, the future in terms of mobility is electric. And I would extend that and say that the future is living sustainable lifestyles that are really exciting and that’s what Formula E or Extreme E are, showcasing that the future is promising and exciting and not showcasing that the future is doom and gloom. We have technological solutions, and we work with partners and experts in their field,” she added.

Season 8 of Formula E may be about to start but already there is excitement at what Season 9 will bring.

Palle said: “Gen3 is the pinnacle of racing performance and sustainability, and probably that’s the best way to sum up what the championship is all about. Gen3 is going to be super-light, super-fast, it’s going to create half of the energy it needs for the race during the race.

“But also, it’s been built with sustainability at its heart. All suppliers that are integrating the different parts, the tires, the batteries, and the chassis, have basically been given strong sustainability key performance indicators that they will have to deliver on.

“All the tires are going to be recycled, they’re going to be made at least by 30 percent of sustainable material. The batteries are going to be recycled. It’s something that has never been seen in the sport. It’s what the future of motorsport can look like, and not just should look like, because we’re doing it so we’re proving it’s possible,” she added.

And is Formula E increasingly becoming a championship that the best drivers and carmakers will turn to?

“One of our latest announcements speaks for itself. Maserati, the first Italian brand, are joining the championship and there are really high-performance cars that are capturing the imagination of any driver.

“It’s justifying the interest that manufacturers have for us, but also really showcasing that the platform is highly relevant for whichever type of car you’re producing.

“And certainly, that goes with the kind of drivers that you want to attract. We have an amazing lineup of drivers, with a couple drivers that are completely new coming from really prestigious backgrounds and carriers that are certainly going to continue to elevate the sport,” Palle said.

Endurance stars ready to tackle AlUla challenge in Fursan Cup

Endurance stars ready to tackle AlUla challenge in Fursan Cup
Updated 47 min 54 sec ago

Endurance stars ready to tackle AlUla challenge in Fursan Cup

Endurance stars ready to tackle AlUla challenge in Fursan Cup

ALULA: Stars from the sport of endurance have landed in Saudi Arabia in preparation for the Fursan Cup 2022 on Jan. 29.

More than 200 riders from more than 30 countries will contest the 120 km ride, which will be staged in the historic AlUla region on Saturday, Jan. 29.

Among those competing in the across-the-desert landscape is Carmine Villani, the World No.1 in the FEI rankings in 2020.

Villani, who represents Great Britain, said: “AlUla for me is really like riding in the Grand Canyon — one of the most beautiful places in the world with sand and cliffs. It’s magical.”

The event is a thorough test of skill and stamina for riders and horses alike. With four loops, the ride takes eight hours on average to complete.

Villani added: “It’s a technical course — because of the very deep sand. That’s the challenge of course and you have to manage that. It’s really an important thing.”

Costanza Laliscia, the 2016 and 2019 winner of the FEI Young Riders World Endurance Ranking, is another top rider looking forward to lining up in the Fursan Endurance Cup, the third staging of which carries a huge prize of $4.2m (SR15 million).

“I can’t wait to go to Saudi Arabia,” the Italian said. “I’ve never been yet but imagine wonderful landscapes and a very high-level race. From the photos, I see it as a unique landscape that will surely leave me great memories and very intense emotions. It is a desert different from all the others I have known.”

Laliscia, whose father Gianluca is a former endurance champion, believes that the ride in AlUla will provide further impetus for the sport in the region and beyond.

“I know the history of horses in Saudi Arabia,” she said. “I am sure that with this race, and the excellent organization, you can make an important contribution to the growth of sport and especially of endurance in this country with great potential. This is a moment of growth.”

The growing stature and global nature of the Fursan Endurance Cup is underlined by the involvement of competitors such as Pedro Pablo Gomez Martinez. The rider, trainer and breeder has undertaken an extensive journey of approaching 24 hours from his stables in Chile to be in AlUla for the event.

Pedro Pablo Gomez said: “AlUla will be a perfect place for endurance and Saudi will hopefully grow in the sport eventually as it has all the needed potential and real Arabian horses come from there. I am very excited for this trip as I will learn even more. I’m truly honored for this to part of this event, and I want to thank all the authorities of Saudi Arabia making this happen in AlUla — and its spectacular and breathtaking landscapes — with the support of endurance experts to organize it.”

The Fursan Cup is organized in cooperation with the Royal Commission for AlUla and Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation. The event will be one of the main attractions of the Winter at Tantora Festival, which runs from Dec. 21 to Feb. 12.

Tantora is one of four main festivals being introduced in 2022 under the AlUla Moments banner. The festival includes another flagship equestrian event, AlUla Desert Polo, Feb. 11-12, as well as a series of music events at Maraya.

Speaking on behalf of the Royal Commission for AlUla, Phillip Jones, chief destination management and marketing officer, said: “AlUla’s equestrian events are key pillars of what is a longer-term strategy to share with the world the monumental beauty of AlUla as a place that is unique in the Arabian Peninsula and perfect for exploring on horseback. The RCU vision includes significant infrastructure and facilities for the elite end of the sport as well as more riding trails and itineraries for visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the cultural landscape.”

“The experience of horseback riding among the desert splendour and rock formations creates unforgettable memories. Our third staging of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup will be no different for our all riders.”

Saudi nearly there, UAE playoff hopes alive: 5 things we learned from latest Asian World Cup qualifiers

Saudi nearly there, UAE playoff hopes alive: 5 things we learned from latest Asian World Cup qualifiers
Updated 28 January 2022

Saudi nearly there, UAE playoff hopes alive: 5 things we learned from latest Asian World Cup qualifiers

Saudi nearly there, UAE playoff hopes alive: 5 things we learned from latest Asian World Cup qualifiers
  • Iraq continue to underachieve despite plenty of talent while Lebanon’s lack of firepower proved costly again

Seven down and just three to go. Qatar 2022 and the end of Asia’s World Cup qualification journey is in sight for those at the top of the two groups. Below are five things Arab News learned from Thursday’s games.

1. Saudi Arabia missed Al-Faraj but got the crucial win


While Saudi fans will be celebrating the 1-0 win over Oman that keeps them four points clear at the top of Group B, there will be a slight worry there too. It wasn’t exactly a secret that Salman Al-Faraj is a classy customer and it wasn’t a surprise that Saudi Arabia’s worst performance so far in the final round of qualification came without the Al-Hilal star sitting in the middle. The Green Falcons had 55 percent of the possession but continuously gave the ball away. 

It was his presence that was conspicuous by its absence. Al-Faraj is a calm influence for Al-Hilal and Saudi Arabia and it all felt a little rushed without him in the face of speedy Omani midfielders. His replacement, Sami Al-Najei, did not last long and was withdrawn after half an hour as coach Renard made a tactical switch that improved the team’s control of the middle, but even then Al-Faraj was still missed.

The most important part was the three points, however. Sometimes in qualification you just have to grind out a win and that is what happened in Jeddah. 

2. Energetic UAE get crucial cushion


Suddenly it is all smiles in the UAE after a second successive win, this time a 2-0 victory over Syria in Dubai. It was a much-improved performance against an opponent that is never easy, despite their bottom ranking, and surely the UAE’s best display in this stage so far.

Finishing in the top two spots in a group containing South Korea and Iran was always going to be difficult, even if the fact that those two powerhouses were never put under any pressure was disappointing.

Now however, the UAE can focus on securing third place and a place in the play-offs. It was especially pleasing given that there were some major absentees such as Ali Mabkhout and Fabio De Lima. Caio Canedo scored the opener and was lively throughout.

Coach Bert van Marwijk had said before the game that there was a new energy in the team, and that is what proved to be the difference. There was movement and an intensity that had been missing. If the Whites can build on this win against the already-qualified Iran on Tuesday then third spot will be virtually secured.

3. Oman deserved more than Jeddah defeat


If an alien, or just a non-Asian football fan, had sat in the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium and watched Saudi Arabia and Oman then they would not have been able to tell which team was leading Group B and which was in fourth. They would not have been able to tell which team was missing several players due to COVID-19 and injury. 

Apart from the goalkeeping mistake that allowed Firas Al-Buraikan to bundle the ball home from close range, Saudi Arabia never really looked like scoring in Jeddah. Instead, it was Oman who looked the more dangerous. Perhaps it was because they were free from pressure; the underdogs with little chance of reaching the play-off spot, but Oman deserved a point from the game. Rabia Al-Alawi never stopped running up front and was a constant thorn in the side and the center of the Saudi backline.

Ultimately, Saudi Arabia will barely remember this game and will take the points and move on but Oman should take heart from a big performance and further proof, after September’s win in Japan, that they can live with the big boys of Asian football. 

4. Iraq do their best but questions to answer


The 1-0 loss to Iran in Tehran leaves Iraq with just four points from seven games, a full five points off the UAE in third place. It’s just not good enough for a team that has genuine talent and slim hopes of a play-off spot are hanging by a thread.

The latest defeat was hardly a surprise given that they were missing eight players — seven through COVID-19 and one through injury — and were unable to fill the bench at the Azadi Stadium with just 18 players available. It could have been worse, with the best performer on the day Fahad Talib in goal.

The big question now is: What direction do Iraq go in now? There was the big-name foreign coach experiment with Dick Advocaat that didn’t work as the Dutchman resigned in November after just six games to leave his assistant Zeljko Petrovic in charge, but there are still issues in terms of who really calls the shots and regardless of all that, preparation remains overly chaotic and ad hoc.

The Iraq national team needs a reset. The World Cup has virtually gone and while the talent remains, there is a lack of direction. 

5. Lebanon need a striker


Losing 1-0 to South Korea is no disgrace for Lebanon but while the Taeguk Warriors were the better team, the Cedars will know they could have got something from a hard-fought game.

It has been the story of the stage for Lebanon. They have given everything and pushed the bigger teams all the way only to fail to get the necessary points on the board. 

Korea may have dominated first-half possession but nobody in Lebanon, or watching back in East Asia, will ever know how the hosts did not take the lead not long before the break. 

Alexander Melki hit the bar from close range but, no problem, as his brother was there to shoot the rebound into an empty net. Somehow, however, Felix Melki shot wide when it was easier to score. 

Heads had not long been removed from hands when the visitors took the lead in a razor-sharp move. A beautiful inswinging cross from the left was met first-time by a sliding Cho Gue-song. It was more of the same after the break and again Lebanon hit the woodwork with a fierce low shot from Felix Melki. And then substitute Fadel Antra headed a cross over the bar when unmarked as the game entered injury time. Lebanon had the chances but just lack that little quality in the final third.

Jake Dennis keen to face fellow Brit in new Formula E head-to-head qualifying format

Jake Dennis keen to face fellow Brit in new Formula E head-to-head qualifying format
Updated 28 January 2022

Jake Dennis keen to face fellow Brit in new Formula E head-to-head qualifying format

Jake Dennis keen to face fellow Brit in new Formula E head-to-head qualifying format
  • The eighth season of the all-electric championship begins this weekend with a double-header of night races in Diriyah on Friday and Saturday

DIRIYAH: Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis said he looks forward to the possibility of facing his long-time friend, Mahindra driver Oliver Rowland, in a head-to-head battle under Formula E’s new “dueling qualifier” format.

Dennis said he and Rowland have been friends for 15 years and recalled his fond memories of the pair coming up in the sport together, as he told Arab News he would love to take him on in the championship’s new knockout qualifying format.

“I’d like to go against Oliver Rowland,” he said. “He’s a fellow Brit and a good friend of mine and we never went head-to-head in qualifying. I’d pick Ollie — it would be quite cool to see that.”

The championship’s eighth season gets underway this weekend with a double-header of night races in Diriyah on Friday and Saturday. This year the all-electric series has introduced a new qualifying format that uses a knockout system to determine who takes pole position.

In the first round of qualification the drivers are split into two groups of 11, and each driver can make multiple attempts at a fast lap within a 10-minute session. The four fastest in each group progress to head-to-head duels in a knockout format featuring quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final, the winner of which secures pole-position. The other grid positions will be based on the results of the head-to-head duels or lap times depending on what stage of qualifying the drivers managed to reach.

“The competition was tough last year; I think Formula E is just becoming more challenging in terms of difficulty and I think it’s just going to be even tighter this year,” Dennis said.

Last year, he proved himself to be a title-contender during a stunning rookie season in which he took third place in the ABB FIA Formula E 2020-21 Driver’s Championship, after a DNF (did not finish) in the season finale Berlin left Mercedes-EQ driver Nyck de Vries to claim victory in the overall championship.

“I think people’s expectations of me are definitely different this year,” said Dennis. “People see me as a proper title contender going into the new season. There’s always that added pressure but I’m looking forward to it.”

Considered the most successful rookie the championship has yet seen, Dennis now has his sights set on becoming the first British driver to win it. His confidence is evident, after his successes last season when he clinched his first win in Valencia then another in London. No rookie, other than drivers in Formula E’s first season, has won more races than the 26-year-old managed, and nobody led more laps than he did last season. This season he aims to achieve even more.

“I’m coming in this year with a lot more experience,” he said. “I think I’m a faster driver than what I was last year and that’s what it ultimately comes down to. It’s been a really busy winter for us and we ended up pretty competitive in Valencia (during pre-season testing).

Avalanche, known for being an eco-friendly blockchain company, took over from BMW last October to sponsor Andretti in what both parties hope will be a long partnership committed to sustainability.

Dennis said minor difficulties presented themselves in the beginning, as dealing with new team members can be challenging, but he feels the team are now prepared for the season ahead.

“Working with Andretti feels like a big family environment and I’ve got a new teammate this year as well, Oliver (Askew), and we’re going to do the best job we can for the team.”

‘A fairer chance to fight at the front:’ Stoffel Vandoorne

‘A fairer chance to fight at the front:’ Stoffel Vandoorne
Updated 28 January 2022

‘A fairer chance to fight at the front:’ Stoffel Vandoorne

‘A fairer chance to fight at the front:’ Stoffel Vandoorne
  • The Diriyah E-Prix gets underway on Friday with fans returning to the UNESCO World Heritage site for the first time since the pandemic

DIRIYAH: Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne seeks to redeem himself in Diriyah this weekend after the title eluded him last season, and the opportunity may take for the Mercedes-EQ driver in what he called a “fairer chance to fight at the front” under the championship’s new qualifying format.

The Diriyah E-Prix gets underway on Friday with fans returning to the UNESCO World Heritage site for the first time since the pandemic. The double-header race weekend kicks off the eighth season of the all-electric racing championship, with reigning team world champions Mercedes-EQ stepping into their final season in Formula E.

Vandoorne, who is embarking on his fourth campaign with Mercedes-EQ, is heading into this weekend having finished ninth in last season’s championship with a victory in the Berlin finale, three poles and three podiums to his name. 

“Last year was a very close season between a lot of the competitors, I remember getting into the final race with 17 drivers still able to win the championship,” Vandoorne told Arab News. “Maybe I didn’t have luck on my side, but with the changes to qualifying we’ll have fairer chance to fight at the front.” 

For this season, the championship introduced a new qualifying method that uses a knockout format to determine who will take pole position for the race.

The format changes feature a first round of two 11-driver groups, each driver able to make multiple attempts at fastest laps within their allocated time in a 10-minute session. The top four fastest-lap drivers in each group will progress into head-to-head duels on a knockout basis in quarter-finals and semifinals. Pole-position will be decided in a final head-to-head duel.

“I think this will equalize the field a little bit more and qualifying now won’t be decided purely on track evolution,” he said. “It’s still going to be hard but I think the way the system is right now should be a lot fairer and I think we’ll generally see more of the same faces at the front, rather than having some sort of mixed-up grid — or when if you found yourself in group one last year, you basically had no chance to be in the top 15.

“I think it will change in a good way, but it’s so competitive that we’ll still see some some crazy weekends or some unexpected things that will happen,” Vandoorne said.

Vandoorne’s teammate, De Vries, qualified on pole for the first race of last season’s opening Diriyah E-Prix, leading every lap thereafter en route to his first victory in the series, ending the campaign with two wins, four podiums and 99 points, becoming the first official FIA Formula E World Champion, following the series’ long-awaited FIA sanctioning.

“Obviously you know me and Nick have some good competition and we always want to be better than the other every time we get to get out on track,” the Belgian driver said. “So far it’s been a very healthy relationship, we get on really well and we do it in a constructive way. It’s been a good collaboration. And, you know, for sure, once we get out on track, we always want to want outdo one another and that’s no different this year.”

The Diriyah E-Prix Season 7 opener hosted the first all-electric night race as part of the 2020-21 calendar. The spectacular double-header in the dark used renewable lights with the latest low-consumption LED technology, which reduced energy consumption by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technologies, which all fits into the racing ethos of sustainability the championship embodies.