Battling performance reaps only one point for reinvigorated Newcastle against Manchester United at St. James’ Park

Battling performance reaps only one point for reinvigorated Newcastle against Manchester United at St. James’ Park
Manchester United’s goalkeeper David de Gea saves a shot from Newcastle United’s midfielder Allan Saint-Maximin during the English Premier League match on Dec. 27, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 28 December 2021

Battling performance reaps only one point for reinvigorated Newcastle against Manchester United at St. James’ Park

Battling performance reaps only one point for reinvigorated Newcastle against Manchester United at St. James’ Park
  • Edinson Cavani equalizer cancels out Allan Saint-Maximin’s spectacular opener to leave Magpies with only one win all season and stuck in 19th position

NEWCASTLE: A point after a wonderful performance full of verve in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United at St. James’ Park was arguably the high point of Eddie Howe’s reign so far.

But when all is said and done, at the end of the Premier League season, it is not Newcastle United’s points tally against the top six teams in England that will keep them in the division. It will be the results against those around them that will define 2021-22.

And so far, it is fair to say neither have really been good enough. No team has conceded more goals than Newcastle this season. No team has won less games. They have set a new Premier League record for the number of goals given away in the calendar year — 80 — and just one team has fewer points.

However, and this has caveats, there was enough in their performance against Ralph Rangnick’s Manchester United to suggest that when May rolls around, the fate of their season will be anything but a foregone conclusion. It really should be given the statistics.

It was a case of so near, yet so far for Newcastle at St. James’ Park on Monday night — and for 63 minutes it felt like lift-off for Newcastle United.

A jinking run and finish from Allan Saint-Maximin set Tyneside alight with hope and promise.

And for more than an hour a makeshift Newcastle backline held firm, with Cristiano Ronaldo cutting a clearly frustrated figure at the head of a blunted Red Devils attack.

But just as three points began to appear on the horizon — only the second of a troubled campaign — an Edinson Cavani hammer blow dented survival hopes and brought Howe’s Magpies and a capacity 52,000 crowd back down to earth with a bang.

“We are desperately disappointed not to win,” said head coach Howe in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw. “We defended really well. I thought we were tight in our lines. I thought that we were really diligent, tactically excellent.”

“And we were really good in transition, a counter attack threat throughout the game. We created so many chances to get that second goal, which would have proved crucial in the end.”

With Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie, Isaac Hayden and Joe Willock all absent from the matchday squad, Howe was forced to make six changes to the side beaten 4-0 by Manchester City last time out.

Howe was unable to even name a full bench with kids Elliot Anderson and Joe White again present, with two goalkeepers — Mark Gillespie and Freddie Woodman — also named.

The recalled Saint-Maximin took just seven minutes to light the touchpaper for the home team.

Cutting in from the left, the Frenchman jinked his way into a yard of space on the Man United area and, while falling to the ground, managed to dig out a shot that left David de Gea rooted to the spot. Cue wild celebrations.

One goal to the good, Newcastle dominated the midfield battle, with Fred and Scott McTominay second best to the very impressive duo of Joelinton and Sean Longstaff.

Top scorer Callum Wilson, who succumbed to injury just before half-time, had the ball in the net on 37 minutes, but his joy was cut short with the lifting of the linesman’s flag.

Having seen his side bettered in almost every department in the opening 45, Rangnick changed the emphasis at the break as he introduced Uruguayan Cavani.

The frontman popped up in spaces the passive and petulant Ronaldo refused to occupy.

That change, which strongly improved Manchester United as an attacking force, could not quite halt the flow at the other end, though, as Saint-Maximin somehow failed to turn home from just six yards as the Magpies pushed for a second.

As Newcastle’s counter-attacking became more sporadic, so Cavani began to influence.

On 70 minutes, the home side’s resolve crumbled as Cavani first saw a shot blocked, only to turn home the rebound with Martin Dubravka helpless.

Just five minutes later a chance fell his way again, but rather than claim the winner, his finishing failed him as he skewed wide with the goal at his mercy. A let-off for Howe’s men.

The visitors’ profligacy in front of goal galvanized Newcastle and the final stanza of this enthralling encounter belonged to the hosts.

And it is fair to say Newcastle were just a post’s width away from what would have proven a vital, relegation battle-reinvigorating victory. Substitute Jacob Murphy curled a right-footed effort from the left on to the inside of de Gea’s goal, only for the Spaniard to somehow get across and parry Miguel Almiron’s top corner-bound shot into the Gallowgate End.

With that, it ended all square. A point gained or two points dropped for Newcastle? Ultimately for Howe, that evaluation depends at what cost, as goalscorer Saint-Maximin and six-goal Wilson both look to have picked up medium-term injuries.

“Callum’s injury doesn’t look good. I don’t know what it is, or the extent of it. But looking at it, it didn’t look good. I felt the worst for him in that moment,” said Howe. “He thought he’d taken a kick and that’s why he got up and tried to run it off. That wasn’t to be.”

He added: “Maxi? I don’t know how bad that is. We will have to see how that one is. That’s the big disappointment from tonight.”

With numbers already short, what does that mean for Thursday’s scheduled trip to Everton?

Howe continued: “We need to count the cost and see where we are. We will count the bodies up and see whether we have enough to play the game.”

With injuries mounting, January just around the corner and United’s new majority shareholders, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, ready to spend big in the window, a COVID-19 call-off on Thursday might not be the worst thing for the Magpies, strategically speaking.


Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US
Updated 11 sec ago

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US
  • Vanessa Bryant alleges she suffered emotional distress because personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and firefighters snapped pictures of the scene, which they later shared with friends and first responders

LOS ANGELES: A court case brought by Kobe Bryant’s widow over graphic photographs taken by first responders at the site of the helicopter crash that killed him got under way in the US on Wednesday.

The basketball superstar and his teenage daughter were among nine people who died when their chopper smashed into a hillside near Los Angeles in January 2020.

Vanessa Bryant alleges she suffered emotional distress because personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and firefighters snapped pictures of the scene, which they later shared with friends and first responders.

“At least 11 (sheriff’s) personnel and a dozen firefighters shared the photos within 24 hours of the crash,” Bryant’s attorneys wrote in court papers.

“In the following weeks, one (sheriff’s) deputy flaunted photos of remains at a bar, another texted photos to a group of video game buddies, and (county fire) personnel displayed photos at an awards gala.”

Lawyers for Los Angeles County do not dispute that the photos were taken, but insist they have never been made public and have now been deleted.

Mira Hashmall, representing the county in the civil litigation, said the case hinged on this issue of public dissemination.

“From the time of the crash to now, the county has worked tirelessly to prevent its crash site photos from getting into the public domain,” she said.

“Over two and a half years later, no county photos have appeared in the media, none can be found online, and the plaintiffs admit they’ve never seen them.”

Vanessa Bryant’s case has been combined with a similar case brought by Chris Chester, whose wife and 13-year-old daughter also died in the crash.

A jury of six women and four men were selected Wednesday, CNN reported.

Relatives of several other victims were last year granted $2.5 million in compensation over the photo-taking.

An investigation into the crash found the pilot had probably become disorientated after flying the Sikorsky S-76 into fog.

Bryant is widely recognized as one of the greatest basketball players ever, a figure who became the face of his sport during a glittering two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016, after which he began building a lucrative business portfolio.

He was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.


Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup
Updated 11 August 2022

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

HELSINKI: This time, there were only two goals.
David Alaba and Karim Benzema scored in each half for Real Madrid to win the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Alaba prodded the opener home from close range in the 37th minute when Casemiro cushioned Benzema’s header back after a corner. The French star then sealed Madrid’s record-equaling fifth Super Cup title in the 65th thanks to an assist from the lively Vinícius Júnior.
It was Benzema’s 324th goal for Madrid, overtaking club legend Raúl. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has more after scoring 450 goals for the club between 2009-18.
But the game between the Champions League winners, Madrid, and Europa League champions, Frankfurt, failed to match the spectacle of their previous meeting.
Their only other competitive game was the 1960 European Cup final, when Alfredo Di Stéfano scored three goals and Ferenc Puskás chipped in with four to give Madrid a 7-3 win and fifth consecutive European crown.
Frankfurt goal-scorer Erwin Stein and teammate Dieter Stinka were in Helsinki for the rematch 62 years later, but it was the 93-year-old José Santamaria — the only remaining Madrid player from that final in Glasgow — who celebrated another win. The three veterans embraced warmly when they met before kickoff.


Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia
Updated 10 August 2022

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia
  • New centers will be in Jouf, Hail, Al-Hudud Ash Shamaliyah and Al-Baha

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation is set to establish four new regional associations to help promote the sport across the Kingdom.

The federation told Arab News on Wednesday that is has 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions, but aims to establish new associations in the remaining four regions “to make sure that we have future cricket activities all around the Kingdom.”

The long-term aim is for Saudi Arabian cricket teams to compete professionally at regional and international competitions, with the national teams taking on world’s best.

In recent years, the SACF has introduced several competitions and programs to encourage the country’s youth to take up one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports.

In October 2021, it signed an agreement with sports management company JSW Sports to develop cricket in Saudi Arabia, focusing on high-performance academies.

The SACF was established in 2020 and lined up a series of major initiatives the following year, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social program in several cities.

The initiatives are part of a mission to promote healthy and active lifestyles under the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life scheme, with the SACF — supported by the Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — mandated to increase physical activity levels by 40 percent over the next decade.

In November, the SACF partnered with Saudi’s Sports For All Federation to launch the Kingdom’s first cricket talent-spotting program.


FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier
Updated 10 August 2022

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier
  • FIFA is looking at a plan to let the host nation play Ecuador on Nov. 20
  • The World Cup is set to open on Nov. 21 with the Netherlands facing Senegal

GENEVA: Host nation Qatar is set to play in the opening game of its own World Cup tournament after all — and on a stand-alone day being added to the schedule barely 100 days before kickoff.
Soccer’s marquee tournament is now set start one day earlier than originally scheduled seven years ago in a move that would allow Qatar to play Ecuador on Nov. 20, a person familiar with the proposal told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The proposal will be put before a committee comprised of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the heads of the six continental soccer bodies, the person said. A decision is expected this week.
According to a letter sent by FIFA this week and seen by the AP, the governing body is asking for approval from the continental soccer bodies by Thursday.
Qatar should now get an exclusive Sunday slot for its opening ceremony and World Cup debut at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.
The World Cup is currently scheduled to start on Nov. 21, a Monday, based on a FIFA decision in 2015 after it agreed to push back the tournament to avoid the extreme desert heat in June and July. FIFA also got agreement for a shorter, 28-day program to minimize disruption to domestic soccer, especially in Europe, which will shut down ahead of the World Cup.
Recent World Cup tradition gave 2014 host Brazil and 2018 host Russia exclusive opening days to play their first opponents. But the tighter schedule in Qatar called for four games daily for the entire group stage — 48 games in 12 days.
At the tournament draw in Doha on April 1, the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador landed in Group A with Qatar. The Dutch and Senegal were allocated the 1 p.m. local time start and Qatar was to play Ecuador in the third game with an evening kickoff six hours later.
The proposal to create a 29-day tournament instead of 28 has been favored by Qatari officials and South American soccer body CONMEBOL, with talks also involving the Qatar and Ecuador soccer federations, the person told the AP.
FIFA acknowledged in its letter that changing the date, after tickets have been sold, would affect some traveling fans. However, FIFA said “any risk is sufficiently outweighed by the value and benefits of the proposal” commercially.
A Qatar-Ecuador game involves only a few players who are with European clubs. Several on the likely Ecuador roster play for clubs in Spain, the United States and Mexico, where leagues stop play ahead of the Nov. 12-13 weekend.
The schedule switch would have been tougher to agree to if Qatar was scheduled to open against the Netherlands, which has key members playing until Nov. 13 with clubs in England and Italy.
Because of the proposal, FIFA is expected to push back the Netherlands-Senegal from the lunchtime start to the early evening slot that would be vacated by Qatar.
While an opening game on a Sunday evening in Qatar should play well with viewers in Asia and Europe, in the United States it puts the World Cup in direct competition with NFL games. The US soccer team plays its World Cup opener against Wales as the late Monday game in Qatar.
The 2022 World Cup is the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be played outside of the traditional northern hemisphere summer. The previous 21 editions were all played between late-May and the end of July.
The Nov. 21-Dec. 18 tournament schedule was agreed to so European clubs could play on the Nov. 12-13 weekend before releasing their players to the 32 World Cup teams. Changing opening day should not alter the tournament rule that players must report from their clubs to national teams no later than Nov. 14, FIFA said in its letter.
The final will be played on Qatar’s National Day, a Sunday, allowing a full week for players to return to clubs before the Premier League plays its traditional Boxing Day games on Dec. 26.
Qatar original bid was made to host the tournament in June-July, promising innovative stadium cooling technology to overcome heat expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) during the first World Cup held in the Middle East.
In December 2010, Qatar won a controversial bid contest beating the United States 14-8 in a final round of voting by the FIFA executive committee, a group later widely discredited by corruption scandals.
More than four years later, FIFA moved the tournament to be played on dates when temperatures should be around 25 to 30 degrees C (77 to 86 degrees F).
Now, a further seven years later, the dates are set to change again.


SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football

SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football
Updated 10 August 2022

SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football

SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football
  • The new app was officially launched through a collaboration between SAFF and Sportradar Integrity Services
  • The SAFF Integrity Unit will be responsible for handling reports received through the app

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has announced the launch of the SAFF Integrity mobile app, which allows players, officials and members of the public to report suspected match-fixing, match-manipulation or other integrity concerns in a safe and secure manner.
The SAFF Integrity mobile app, available in both Arabic and English, was established in collaboration with Sportradar Integrity Services.
The launch comes just in time for the start of the 2022-2023 season and will further support the work of the SAFF Integrity Unit, composed of experienced lawyers from the federation’s legal and governance department.
The SAFF Integrity Unit will be responsible for handling reports received through the app, investigating credible reports and initiating any necessary disciplinary procedures under the disciplinary and ethics regulations.
The new platform, which is closely modeled on the FIFA Integrity and AFC Integrity mobile apps, is one of a range of tools acquired by SAFF to combat match-fixing under a partnership agreement signed with Sportradar Integrity Services. It will further strengthen SAFF’s efforts in promoting and safeguarding the integrity of football in the Kingdom.
“Safeguarding the integrity of Saudi Arabian football is one of the biggest priorities at SAFF, and in looking to achieve this, we are delighted to be working with Sportradar Integrity Services, who are the clear leaders in the particular field of sports integrity,” said Ibrahim Alkassim, general secretary at SAFF.
“Monitoring services provided by their team of experts through the [Universal Fraud Detection System] will strengthen our existing integrity measures, whilst the Education and Prevention webinars will ensure that all stakeholders are adequately and appropriately educated in how best to tackle integrity challenges.”
As part of the agreement, several football competitions organized by SAFF will be monitored by Sportradar’s UFDS, a technically advanced bet monitoring system that has been independently assessed and verified by recognized experts in sports betting and integrity. Sportradar Integrity Services will also provide SAFF with an integrity risk assessment to identify any potential integrity risks.
In addition, teams, players, match officials and other key SAFF staff and stakeholders will also be educated on the importance of integrity via a series of informative webinars delivered in both English and Arabic. Players and officials from teams participating in the 2021-2022 Saudi Pro League were the first group to have attended the webinars, followed by SAFF staff members.
Sportradar Integrity Services Managing Director Andreas Krannich said: “It is an honor to partner with SAFF, and as the global leader in sporting integrity, we are confident that our experience and expertise can help protect SAFF against integrity-related issues. We look forward to working alongside them throughout the next few years and providing our support to their overall integrity program.”