Newcastle halt slump to take a huge step toward Premier League survival

Newcastle United's Chris Wood scores their first goal from the penalty spot Action. (Reuters)
Newcastle United's Chris Wood scores their first goal from the penalty spot Action. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 April 2022

Newcastle halt slump to take a huge step toward Premier League survival

Newcastle United's Chris Wood scores their first goal from the penalty spot Action. (Reuters)
  • A second-half penalty from Chris Wood was enough to secure the victory and move the Magpies 10 points clear of the relegation zone with seven games to play
  • The star of the night was Bruno Guimaraes, who manager Eddie Howe said ‘is going to be a mainstay of the team … he offered a different dimension’

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United took a giant leap toward Premier League safety by securing all three points against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday, ending a three-game losing streak in the English top flight.

Chris Wood’s second-half penalty allowed United to steal an early weekend march on their rivals in the bottom half of the table by reopening a 10-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone.

With just seven games left to play for the Magpies, it feels like survival is so close they can almost touch it.

“Massive tonight,” head coach Eddie Howe said of the win. “It was the kind of game we expected it to be. Wolves make it difficult for you. We had our moments. It took a penalty to win the game but the players gave everything, again.

“I am so pleased for Chris Wood. You could see him filling in on the left of midfield. He is a willing lad. The goal will do wonders for him. I am pleased he stepped up and took it.

“Bruno Guimaraes is going to be a mainstay of the team. The difficulty is that we went on that winning run and it was difficult to break the midfield up. He got his opportunity today and I thought he was excellent. He offered a different dimension. I am excited by what he can bring to the team,” Howe added.

“We still have work to do but that was a massive step forward, tonight. It brings us closer to safety. I hope there will be a different Newcastle in the future but we have to play a certain way to get results at the moment.”

Having taken stock of the 5-1 hammering by Spurs last Sunday, Howe made some tweaks to his starting XI for United’s first home game in more than a month. In came Guimaraes for his first home start since his $52million move in January from Lyon, with injured Joe Willock making way. Emil Krafth replaced Javier Manquillo at right-back.

A cagey opening period by the visitors allowed United much of the early ball without them really creating a whole lot in front of goal. Guimaraes buzzed around, pulling the strings and dictating the play, but Wolves stood firm, a well-drilled, well-oiled Bruno Lage-inspired machine.

The only bit of quality in the opening 45 came when United appeared to take the lead — for about 120 seconds until the video assistant referee decided otherwise. In a silky move, Guimaraes and Miguel Almiron, taking the place of the injured Ryan Fraser, exchanged passes and then found Wood, who diverted the ball home at the second attempt. He was denied his second goal in black and white because Bruno had strayed an inch offside in the build up.

Wood wasn’t to be denied for long, however. On 72 minutes he was played through on goal by Joelinton as United broke through with purpose. Wood touched the ball around Portuguese keeper Jose Sa, who clipped Wood’s ankles and the penalty was awarded.

Having only scored once since making the switch from Burnley in January, few would have been surprised, perhaps, if the striker had displayed a lack of confidence in front of goal but Wood was quick to pick up the ball and made no mistake in dispatching it past Sa with a minimum of fuss to make it 1-0.

With the goal came a collective sigh of relief that swept over the stadium, no doubt felt most acutely by New Zealander Wood.

Although they saw the game out, the Magpies did not have it all their own way in the latter stages, as Wolves wrestled back control and dominance. Fabio Silva had two late chances to level things as United rode their luck; one he put over the bar, the second was a poorly angled header that went wide.

At the other end Allan Saint-Maximin showed some flashes of his undoubted brilliance — and his influence arguably swung this one in United’s favor. A burst of action during which he had two goal-scoring opportunities and showed some typically fearless running preceded Wood’s penalty.

The star of the show, however, was Guimaraes, who lit up the evening with his midfield brilliance.

“I thought he did very well today,” said Howe of the Brazil international. “It was a difficult game but he showed real intelligence in terms of his positional play. His desire to get on the ball is so strong; there is no fear about getting on the ball and that’s in part why we love him so much.

“But also defensively, the discipline, his ability to recover, help his teammates out of possession was very good. As we know, the Premier League is very different and that was always going to be his biggest challenge, adapting to the pace of the league, but he had no issues with that tonight.”

With 34 points on the board, and 35 points being enough to guarantee top-flight survival for nine of the past 10 seasons, it is looking increasingly likely that United will live to fight another day in the Premier League next season. How big an achievement that will be cannot be overstated, especially when you consider that no other team has ever managed to remain in the top flight after failing to win any of their first 14 games of the season.

Safety was always seen as having the potential to unlock the door to a brighter future on Tyneside. Having endured nearly 15 loveless years with Mike Ashley at the helm, few could begrudge the Newcastle fans their rare moment of joy — joy, they hope, that will become more common in the years to come as part of this new-look, Saudi Public Investment Fund-driven dream.


World Cup hospitality website lists Palestine, not Israel, as country

World Cup hospitality website lists Palestine, not Israel, as country
Updated 29 sec ago

World Cup hospitality website lists Palestine, not Israel, as country

World Cup hospitality website lists Palestine, not Israel, as country
  • Arab football fans hail ‘bold and rightful step’
  • “FIFA should do the same since Russia is perceived as an aggressor and occupier, then so is Israel,” fan tells Arab News

DUBAI: The official website for booking match tickets and hospitality packages at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 lists Palestine as a country instead of Israel, according to media reports.
Israelis wishing to make bookings to travel to Doha for matches have to choose Palestine as their territory instead of Israel.
Winterhill Hospitality is the exclusive sales agent of match hospitality in Asia and Oceania territories for official hospitality programs.
Palestinian news agency WAFA said the previous listing read “Palestinian Territory, Occupied” before being changed to “Palestine.”
Arab football fans took to social media to hail the move, which was described as a “bold and rightful step” for recognizing Palestine as a country on the list instead of Israel.
Israeli media first raised the issue on Wednesday as Israel was not listed in the section for Europe either.
“Thank you to Qatar for crossing out the name of Israel from the list of the countries of the World Cup. Salute to the Government of Qatar,” read one tweet.
Lebanese football fan Ali Halawi said he was thrilled to see an Arab country supporting Palestinians.
“Qatar has decided not to recognize that Israel exists and not to grant them the right to join an Arabic event, just like when there’s a foreign event happening and organizers decide not to allow whoever they want not to attend,” he told Arab News.
He said the myth of not involving politics in sports had fallen, especially since FIFA and UEFA were permitting teams, clubs, and fans to show solidarity with Ukraine in its war with Russia.
“The international football governing body should do the same since Russia is perceived as an aggressor and occupier, then so is Israel,” concluded Halawi.
But Iraqi Ali Ebrahim said there was no issue for him as a football fan as neither team had qualified for the tournament.
“It only matters (to) the fans of those countries who qualified to the big event,” he told Arab News, saying the step was “nothing more than a moral victory to Palestinians.”
A US-Palestinian lawyer who requested to be identified as Jamal said the listing was an “appreciated move” that indirectly recognized Palestinians’ rights and their ongoing fight for a free land.
“Not that this will change anything, but it’s an emotional and moral victory. I love football and hate politics, so I’d rather not say much and enjoy the game,” he added.
Samer Osman said he did not like to involve sport in any political issue and was unsure if the move would improve the quality of life for Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza.


NUFC could become Premier League’s 4th club to be featured on Amazon Primes’ All Or Nothing

NUFC could become Premier League’s 4th club to be featured on Amazon Primes’ All Or Nothing
Updated 14 min 45 sec ago

NUFC could become Premier League’s 4th club to be featured on Amazon Primes’ All Or Nothing

NUFC could become Premier League’s 4th club to be featured on Amazon Primes’ All Or Nothing
  • Arsenal are the current English club being shown in the third Premier League instalment of the series
  • Amazon would request access to the Magpies’ hierarchy, manager Eddie Howe and his first-team squad

LONDON: Newcastle United are reportedly being lined up to be the fourth Premier League club to be featured on Amazon Prime’s All Or Nothing documentary series.
Following Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham, the Magpies, who were bought by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in 2021, are being targeted by Amazon to be the Premier League’s upcoming side to be depicted in All Or Nothing, according to British media.
All or Nothing is a brand of sports documentary series distributed on Amazon Prime Video platform.
The current English club being shown are The Gunners in the third season. The documentary goes behind the scenes of European and Premier League clubs.
Amazon Prime’s executives are expected to approach Newcastle United and hope to convince their top management to become the fourth EPL club inside where they want to have their cameras fixed, according to Daily Mail.
Following the season in which Tottenham Hotspur were featured, the documentary targeted Italy’s Serie A top tier Juventus under Andrea Pirlo.
Amazon Prime appear to be hopeful that the series will not take a break especially that the next instalment of the series is scheduled to be released within two years.
It is believed that Amazon would request access to the Magpies’ hierarchy, and manager Eddie Howe and his first-team squad.
The same happened in previous editions with Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, Daniel Levy, Edu Gaspar and Josh Kroneke who were all featured alongside the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourihno and Mikel Arteta.


Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton

Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton
Updated 36 min 23 sec ago

Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton

Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton
  • Pope racked up a second straight clean sheet since joining Newcastle
  • Newcastle struggled for clear openings despite high endeavor in searing heat

BRIGHTON: Two games, four points and zero goals conceded. When assessing Newcastle United’s opening fortnight of the Premier League campaign, it is hard to find fault.
However, the Magpies were in many ways very lucky to leave East Sussex with a share of the spoils and had Nick Pope and Dan Burn to thank for their help in keeping United’s unbeaten start to the season going.
It is not often that you will see Eddie Howe change a winning team, but this time injury forced the head coach’s hand, with a Matt Targett dead leg forcing a backline reshuffle.
Having stated that he would allow Sven Botman time to settle into English football, Howe was forced to throw the Dutchman in from the off at the Amex Stadium as Dan Burn shifted to the left of the back four.
In an evenly-matched first 45, both sides could easily make a case for walking in ahead at the break.
Fresh from his first strike of the season, Callum Wilson had the ball in the net after a smart turn and finish, but the whistle of Graham Scott prevented the goal from standing, as the United frontman was deemed to have raised a high boot in the run-up to his cool finish.
With Brighton winning the midfield battle, Adam Lallana and Moises Caicedo’s prominence began to switch the balance of play in favor of Graham Potter’s men.
Solly March’s influence on the right against Newcastle’s makeshift left flank also began to pay dividends, and it was the winger who came within an inch or two of breaking the deadlock.
Joelinton gifted the ball to the Seagulls in the middle and on the break a half-cleared ball dropped favorably to March, whose drilled drive looked set to squirm into the far corner only for Pope to first get a fingertip to it, then for Kieran Trippier to scoop up and clear off the line. On second look, only one-third of the ball was still on the line — Brighton could barely have gotten any closer to a goal.
At the other end, Robert Sanchez saved low from Wilson but the flag went up anyway, even if, again, on replay, the United number nine was, in fact, onside.
Brighton, who swept aside Manchester United for their historic first-ever win at Old Trafford last weekend, came out a team transformed in the second period and put United under the cosh.
Dominating possession and field position, the Seagulls still had to try and beat the towering frame of Pope, between the sticks for United. And it is fair to say that they found it tough.
England keeper Pope stretched his long, long left lever to deny a goal-bound Lallana header, in what was easily one of the best saves of the Premier League season to date. Pope then made sure March was not getting on the score sheet as he pulled off yet another potentially point-saving stop low down.
United were hanging on and fighting for their lives. Dan Burn was next to show some penalty box heroics as he flung his body in the way of a Joel Veltman strike. Fabian Schar tidied up the mess with Danny Welbeck lurking.
And in what proved to be the final act in a frenetic, very one-sided second period, substitute Kaoru Mitoma skinned a tired-looking Trippier and squared for the Seagulls’ two-goal hero from last week, Pascal Gross, but somehow the German diverted wide when just four yards out.
In truth, Newcastle deserved little from the encounter. And while they more than competed in the opening 45, the team was thoroughly outclassed and outpassed for much of the second.
However, not one to dwell on the negative, a point on the road in the Premier League, particularly so far from home on the south coast of England, is no mean feat and the result ensures that Howe and United’s unbeaten start to the top flight season goes on.
The point could prove crucial, especially given that Manchester City and Liverpool lie in wait in the Magpies’ next three Premier League games.


Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League

Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League
Updated 13 August 2022

Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League

Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League
  • Haaland was mostly crowded out by Bournemouth who sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise

MANCHESTER: Erling Haaland might not hog all of Manchester City’s goals this season, after all.
Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden were City’s scorers — along with an own-goal — in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday, with Haaland barely getting a sight on goal at Etihad Stadium.
The Norway striker scored both of City’s goals in their opening-weekend 2-0 win at West Ham but was mostly crowded out a week later as Bournemouth sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise.
City’s midfielders reaped the benefits of the extra focus on Haaland.
Gundogan’s goal did involve City’s new star striker, with Haaland holding off his marker with his back to goal and clipping a ball through to the Germany midfielder. Gundogan’s left-footed finish found the bottom corner in the 19th for his 50th goal for City.
De Bruyne scored the pick of the goals, the playmaker cutting inside on a counterattack led by Foden in the 31st, beating a defender and bending his shot with the outside of his right foot into the far corner.
De Bruyne returned the favor for Foden six minutes later, slipping a brilliant pass through the legs of a defender and into the path of his teammate, who took a touch and fired in a deflected shot that beat goalkeeper Mark Travers.
Haaland’s best chance fell in the 73rd when he mishit a first-time shot wide from Jack Grealish’s cut-back. The striker was substituted moments later.
The scoring was completed by Jefferson Lerma, who unwittingly turned a cross from Joao Cancelo into his own net from inside Bournemouth’s six-yard box.
It was a wake-up call for Bournemouth after the promoted team started the season with a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend.
City manager Pep Guardiola again chose to start with Bernardo Silva on the bench. The Portugal midfielder has been linked with a move to Barcelona and didn’t start against West Ham, either.


Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener
Updated 13 August 2022

Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener
  • The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday
  • They sold 24.5% of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth $103 million

BARCELONA, Spain: Working against the clock, Barcelona sold off even more of their club assets on Friday so they could meet the Spanish league’s financial rules and clear Robert Lewandowski and other summer signings to play in their season opener.
The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday after they sold 24.5 percent of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth 100 million euros ($103 million).
That improved their financial balance enough to satisfy the Spanish league, which added Lewandowski and fellow newcomers Raphinha, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen as well as the recently renewed Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto to their list of eligible players.
But, by late Friday, the league had yet to declare eligible France defender Jules Koundé, who arrived to Barcelona from Sevilla last month. The club will still need to reduce their current salary load by selling one or more current players to register Koundé.
Last month Barcelona sold an initial 25 percent stake in their production hub to Socios.com, a blockchain provider, for another 100 million euros as well as 25 percent of their Spanish league television rights for the next 25 years for nearly 670 million euros ($689 million).
All told, the heavily indebted Catalan club has mortgaged their future for 870 million euros ($895 million) to sign Lewandowski, Raphinha and Koundé for a combined 160 million euros ($165 million). Kessié and Christensen arrived as free agents.
But the Spanish league has strict financial requirements that limit the amount clubs can spend on players’ salaries and transfers based on the clubs’ financial health. Despite efforts to reduce costs and pay down their debt, Barcelona still hold 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in debt and has seen their salary cap slashed by the league in recent seasons.
Earlier on Friday, coach Xavi Hernández said he was “optimistic” that he can have his new players available for the first game of the season.
“Everyone at the club is very optimistic,” Xavi said. “We have until two hours before the match.”
The club are also pushing to sell players with big salaries like Frenkie de Jong or players unwanted by Xavi such as Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite.
Orpheus Media is run by Catalan businessman Jaume Roures, the owner of Mediapro, a major television company involved in Spanish soccer but whose 2020 broadcast rights deal for the French league collapsed. Roures was a major financial backer of Barcelona club president Joan Laporta when he returned to run the financially troubled club in 2021.
Roures said on Friday that he was not sure if the money he paid Barcelona would be sufficient.
“The league won’t have any problems with this operation,” Roures told Cadena SER radio. “If the 100 million euros are enough, I don’t know. If it isn’t, the (necessary) amount must be close to that.”
Xavi also said that Barcelona may not be done signing new players, but that any arrivals would have to come after current players were sold. Barcelona are linked to interest in Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, who would provide competition for Jordi Alba at left back.
Laporta at least was able to avoid the embarrassment of having Lewandowski watching from the Camp Nou stands on Saturday.