Newcastle kick off ‘new dawn’ Premier League season with Forest victory

Newcastle United's Callum Wilson celebrates scoring their second goal with Joelinton. (Reuters)
Newcastle United's Callum Wilson celebrates scoring their second goal with Joelinton. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 August 2022

Newcastle kick off ‘new dawn’ Premier League season with Forest victory

Newcastle kick off ‘new dawn’ Premier League season with Forest victory

NEWCASTLE: It took Newcastle United 15 games to record their first Premier League win last season - this time they've done it in one.

Two second-half crackers from Fabian Schar and Callum Wilson ensured an electric St. James' Park was lit up black and white on the opening day of the top-flight season, with newly promoted Nottingham Forest put to the sword.

And the struggles of the opening days of 2021/22, with a backdrop of Mike Ashley ownership and Steve Bruce in the dugout, now seem like a distant memory.

The emotion of the encounter could not have been captured any better by the United faithful, with a banner unfurled pre-kick-off lauding the impact of the club's new owners, headed by majority shareholders PIF, stating: “It's a new dawn, it's a new day, a new life for NUFC ... And we're feeling good!”

A new dawn? This has all the hallmarks of one, with Howe as creator-in-chief. 

The head coach resisted the temptation to throw in big money summer signing Sven Botman from the off, instead preferring to ease the Netherlands youth international into life at St. James' Park, much like he did the star of the back end of last season, Bruno Guimaraes.

Nick Pope was, however, given his United bow on home turf.

Very much continuing in the manner in which they finished pre-season, the Magpies started this one on the front foot - and seemed to catch last season's Championship play-off winners cold.

With Guimaraes pulling the strings in the middle, Allan Saint-Maximin finding pockets of space on the left, and Miguel Almiron running beyond, United pinned back Forest for much of the opening 45. The one thing missing, though, was a goal.

A Saint-Maximin header from close range, which he glanced across goal rather than catching flush, will be one he won't want to watch back, and so too Joelinton, who drove from deep beating two Forest midfielders before chopping back and skewing wide having done the hard work.

The visitors were quiet and submissive through much of the encounter but did come close to breaking out of their top-flight shell-shock when their shock summer signing Jesse Lingard, who United did consider, saw a low drive blocked by the excellent Schar.

Dean Henderson, another on United's radar at points in the last six months, and the outside of his post then denied Almiron, a constant thorn in Forest's side on the day.

The fear heading into the second half was that United's dominance had not brought a breakthrough, but faith their persistence would pay off was well-founded, but not after yet more final third profligacy.

Henderson denied Saint-Maximin when the Frenchman looked certain to open his account for the campaign, while Willock also couldn't quite get enough on a shot when teed up perfectly by yet more clever Newcastle front play.

The dam finally broke just before the hour mark when a short corner saw Saint-Maximin attempt to center only for a deflection to then loop up and Scott McKenna clear.

Mopping up 30 yards from goal was Switzerland international Schar who, as he has done on many occasions, saw the space in front of him as an opportunity and, having collected, drove into shooting range to unleash an unstoppable effort off the inside of the post and in. It was one for the collector's item - and proof that Schar remains one of the most dangerous, attacking central defenders in the division with the ball at his feet.

As legs started to tire, United grabbed their second, and this time it was frontman Wilson with something special.

A driving run by the metronomic Joelinton down the left saw him center for Wilson, who showed incredible forward craft to flick over the head of Henderson for 2-0.

Three points on opening day are just what the doctor ordered for Howe & Co - but how much we learned about the Magpies is up for debate, given the opposition.

What is clear, however, is that wherever Forest may lie come May, United look set to be light years ahead of them.

Thomas Tuchel: brilliant tactician with ‘challenging’ streak

Thomas Tuchel: brilliant tactician with ‘challenging’ streak
Updated 19 sec ago

Thomas Tuchel: brilliant tactician with ‘challenging’ streak

Thomas Tuchel: brilliant tactician with ‘challenging’ streak
MUNICH, Germany: Welcomed with fanfare by Chelsea but then sacked just over a year later, Thomas Tuchel, who is returning to Germany as Bayern Munich’s new coach, is one of Europe’s most sought-after bosses but is not without controversy.
The 49-year-old former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain coach has a reputation as a brilliant tactician who is not afraid to overhaul his side constantly.
But he also has a streak of sackings behind him — with a bad-tempered exit at Borussia Dortmund in 2017 followed by an acrimonious parting from PSG in December 2020, and most recently in September, a tumultous departure from Chelsea.
Yet Tuchel’s turbulent CV has also shown that he has the capacity to bounce back to lead subsequent top flight clubs.
The announcement Friday that he is taking over the reins at Bayern, Germany’s most successful club, from Julian Nagelsmann is yet another testimony to Tuchel’s employability.
“Tuchel is not interested in marketing, in his image. He is interested by his work, he just wants to be judged by his work and only that,” said Daniel Meuren, who wrote a biography on the German coach.
On the field, the verdict so far is unanimous — every club that Tuchel has handled has obtained results and play attractive football.
He led Chelsea to Champions League glory, won two French titles with PSG and lifted the German Cup with Dortmund.
At once charismatic and prickly, Tuchel, by his own admission, can be a challenging personality.
“I wasn’t easy to deal with as a player,” he admitted in a 2009 interview.
A knee injury cut short Tuchel’s playing career as a defender at third-division Ulm in 1998 and he turned his hand to coaching.
He cut his coaching teeth in the youth academies at VfB Stuttgart and Augsburg but his career took off at Mainz where he was promoted from Under-19s boss to first-team head coach two days before the start of the 2009-2010 season despite having no Bundesliga experience.
Like his role model, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Tuchel is not afraid to switch formation or tactics two or three times during a game, making it impossible for opposing coaches to second-guess him.
But he is also not shy about picking fights with club management.
After a pipe bomb attack that rocked Dortmund’s team bus ahead of a Champions League quarter-final match against Monaco in 2017, Tuchel lashed out at the club’s bosses for agreeing to play the game a day later rather than give players more time to recover from the shock.
At Qatar-owned PSG, the central issue for Tuchel was his relationship with sporting director Leonardo, with whom he did not see eye-to-eye and who was eager to bring in his own man.
Tuchel was eventually pushed out, despite having won the Ligue 1 title in his first season and then, in 2019/20, he secured a clean sweep of domestic honors before reaching the Champions League final in Lisbon, where PSG lost narrowly to Bayern Munich.
Given his record, his relationship with Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and outspoken chairman and former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn will be closely scrutinized.
After all, it was also Salihamidzic and Hansi Flick’s tense relationship that eventually led the former coach to leave Bayern to become Germany’s national coach in the summer of 2021.

FIFA ranking is start of something special for Saudi women’s football, says federation chief

Saudi women’s national team were officially recognized by FIFA in their world rankings for the first time. (Supplied/SAFF)
Saudi women’s national team were officially recognized by FIFA in their world rankings for the first time. (Supplied/SAFF)
Updated 24 March 2023

FIFA ranking is start of something special for Saudi women’s football, says federation chief

Saudi women’s national team were officially recognized by FIFA in their world rankings for the first time. (Supplied/SAFF)
  • The Green Falcons enter the rankings for the first time at No. 171 after nine international matches over the last year

JEDDAH: “This is just the start of something very special.”

Those were the words of Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) president and FIFA council member Yasser Al-Misehal after the Saudi women’s national team were officially recognized by FIFA in their world rankings for the first time.

With 188 nations now included in the list of FIFA’s women’s world rankings, Saudi Arabia have made their debut at 171; a respectable placement considering their relative lack of experience, highlighting the significant development that has taken place in women’s football in the Kingdom since 2019 when the SAFF first developed the Women’s Football Department, headed by Lamia Bahaian.

“Our national team made history when it was established 18 months ago and since then their journey has inspired millions across Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Bahaian, the supervisor of the Women’s Football Department and SAFF board member.

“Entering the FIFA rankings (is what) we’ve been building towards, and signals just the beginning of what we want to achieve with these girls. They can write their own history now.

“We are also already in active collaborations with many global bodies and federations and invite the world to join in our women’s football movement as we strive to give it the platform it truly deserves.”

The official recognition continues the rapid development of the women’s game within the Kingdom, which has seen unprecedented growth in the past two years. It also means the team can now enter both FIFA- and AFC-sanctioned events.

“What these girls achieved in just a year and a half has been nothing short of incredible,” said a very proud Al-Misehal. “Since 2019 we have managed to successfully establish a national team, a premier league, a first division, a school league — with 50,000 girls signing up, and an under-17 national team.

“In just two years, we have nearly doubled the number of registered players, clubs, referees and staff and seen an 800 percent growth in the number of coaches. (These are) statistics all of football can be proud of and it just shows what is possible when you love the game.”

Most significantly, at a time when many national associations are at war with their players over equal pay and treatment, including a number that will compete at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Al-Misehal says the SAFF is determined to ensure their female players are treated the same as their male counterparts.

“We are fully committed to offering equal opportunities for boys and girls, in sport and beyond,” he said.

“For instance, our national teams get equal daily allowances while representing their country, regardless of gender. They share the same training pitches, stay in the same quality accommodation, and have access to the same equipment and resources.”

To get to this point, it has been an 18-month journey that began with the formation of the team in September 2021, after more than 700 players took part in nationwide tryouts in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Assessing each of those players was Monika Staab, the veteran German manager and ex-player, who took on the Herculean task of starting the national team from scratch, ultimately giving 28 players the honor of being the first to be selected for the national team’s first training camp in Riyadh in November of that year.

It wasn’t until a few months later that they played their first official matches in a three-team tournament with the Maldives and Seychelles, winning both of their fixtures 2-0.

Since then there have been a further seven official matches and Saudi Arabia also hosted (and won) its inaugural women’s football tournament against Pakistan, Comoros and Mauritius earlier this year. Staab has now moved into the technical director’s role with Finland’s Rosa Lappi-Seppälä becoming coach.

“Each player has their own story, but what we all share is a love of football and a desire to compete,” national team captain Sarah Khalid said.

“To be FIFA ranked makes us part of world football and that means everything. We recognize that we have a huge responsibility to inspire the youth and pave the way for the future generations who will represent Saudi Arabia.”

Having achieved official recognition, the focus now turns to the future and building a sustainable women’s football program.

To that end, the under-17 national team was recently formed, playing their first matches earlier this month against Kuwait. The next fixtures for the senior team are currently being arranged as they look to improve on their inaugural ranking.

The focus remains on Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, aiming to become just the second West Asian nation to host the tournament and fast-tracking the growth of women’s football within the Kingdom.

NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team looking to build on Season 3 opener

NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team looking to build on Season 3 opener
Updated 24 March 2023

NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team looking to build on Season 3 opener

NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team looking to build on Season 3 opener
  • Emma Gilmour, Tanner Foust finished Saudi Desert X Prix with 14 points in 7th place

RIYADH: As the championship’s 10 teams got behind the wheel at the Season 3 opener, NEOM McLaren Extreme E looked to pick up where they left off with a podium finish at the Season 2 finale in Uruguay.

The 3.4-kilometer course of the 2023 Desert X Prix in NEOM provided the first of the challenges in what promises to be the most tightly fought season to date.

A hectic Qualifying 1 on Saturday saw McLaren’s Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust experience a frustrating start to their Season 3 campaign. Albeit running in P3 in Qualifying 1, the driver pairing ultimately finished fifth in the first session, suffering a Switch Zone penalty as they also adjusted to the course.

Bouncing back with a stronger performance in qualifying, the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team finished their heat in third place. It was not enough to escape the Redemption Race, however, as the team finished sixth in the overall qualifying standings – one spot short of a place in the grand final.

Having won the Crazy Race in spectacular fashion at last year’s Desert X Prix, Foust and Gilmour were no strangers to battling it out against the best of the rest in NEOM.

Foust enjoyed a great start to the series’ first ever Redemption Race, but multiple incidents including Nasser Al-Attiyah’s ABT CUPRA XE car rolling over the top of Foust’s ODYSSEY 21, saw the race red flagged.

In the chaos, Heikki Kovalainen had taken the lead for JBXE, but as the race resumed Gilmour used her ENOWA Hyperdrive to close the gap on Hedda Hosas and overtake the JBXE driver as NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team won the Redemption Race and secured valuable championship points.

Foust said: “We certainly didn’t disappoint on the extreme side. We started off with some pretty aggressive set-up changes due to the lack of track time we have in this series. We unfortunately lost a bit of time in the process in Qualifying 1, but then showed good pace for the rest of the day.

“The team were fantastic, repairing the car, enabling us to improve, and we won the Redemption Race making us the best of the rest.”

Round 2 offered a chance to use the momentum from that race win for a better qualifying stint, with plenty of racing and points opportunities still on the table in NEOM.

Sunday was another challenging day for the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team, with fourth and third-place finishes in their respective qualifying heats meaning the team narrowly missed out on Round 2’s grand final.

Running in second and fighting for points once again in the Redemption Race, Foust and Gilmour nearly gained an all-important two championship points from the Continental Traction Challenge as they pushed hard for another Redemption Race win.

Closing out their weekend with second place in Round 2’s Redemption Race saw the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team come away from Saudi Arabia having accrued a total of 14 points and in seventh place in the championship standings.

Gilmour said: “It was a slightly frustrating day and it’s a shame that we have not come away from this Desert X Prix with more points.

“In motorsport though, you can always have worse weekends. Considering where we were at the start of the weekend, and the progress we had to make, I think we did well.”

The Neom McLaren Extreme E Team will be looking to hit the ground running at the next Extreme E round in Scotland on May 13 and 14.

Ronaldo’s words of praise sprinkle stardust on ‘competitive’ Saudi Pro League

Ronaldo’s words of praise sprinkle stardust on ‘competitive’ Saudi Pro League
Updated 24 March 2023

Ronaldo’s words of praise sprinkle stardust on ‘competitive’ Saudi Pro League

Ronaldo’s words of praise sprinkle stardust on ‘competitive’ Saudi Pro League
  • Back in Portugal for first time since Riyadh move, Al-Nassr player lauds standard of football in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: It is a sign that a league is a significant one that when foreign players go back to their home countries for international duty, comments to their native media about the leagues where they play football and the clubs they are at make headlines around the world.

Unsurprisingly, it helps when that foreign player is Cristiano Ronaldo. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner signed for Al-Nassr at the end of December and looks to have enjoyed his time in Saudi Arabia so far, scoring nine goals in eight league games for the title-chasing club.

For the first time since arriving in Riyadh, the 38-year-old is back in Europe and preparing with Portugal for two 2024 European Championship qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. Given that Ronaldo moving to Mrsool Park was a huge deal, it is natural that local journalists have been asking the former Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Juventus star what the Roshn Saudi League is like.

He said: “I think you should look at the (Saudi Pro League) in a different way. I’m not going to say that the league is a Premier League, that would be a lie.

“But it’s a very competitive league that I’m positively surprised by, a very balanced league and good teams. I am sure that in the coming years the league will be ... the fourth, fifth, or sixth most competitive league in the world,” the attacker added.

It has made headlines around the world. Some newspapers and websites said that the claim was “bold,” while others talked of it being “astonishing.”

There may have been some eyebrows raised but here was one of the best players ever and currently the most famous (he has 564 million followers on Instagram, more than any other person in the world) talking in positive terms about football in Saudi Arabia. Only the biggest leagues in the world can dream of such exposure.

Cynics would say that it is in the interests of players to be complimentary of football in the country in which they play and the club that pays their salary but there is a long history of the opposite happening.

There have been many times when stars have gone home to play World Cup qualifiers and have said something negative about club coaches, team-mates, or food back in the place where they are employed.

When it upsets people back at their clubs then the time-honored excuse is that the player was misquoted or the comments were taken out of context.

Kim Min-jae, now with Napoli, once had to back track quickly when he appeared to question the level of defending among his Beijing team-mates when back home in Korea.

Obviously, the reverse is much more pleasant for coaches, team-mates, and fans to hear. Praise always goes down well. The first part of Ronaldo’s comments were clear for all to see and hard to dispute. The league is competitive.

Just look at Al-Hilal. The Blues are the most successful team in Saudi Arabian and Asian history and in February defeated the champions of Africa and South America to book a FIFA Club World Cup final with Real Madrid. The 5-3 defeat against the European giants was an exciting spectacle for fans and won respect for the losers from those watching on every continent.

Just a few days later, the Riyadh giants were booking a place in the Asian Champions League final in February with a 7-0 thrashing of Al-Duhail of Qatar in the semi-final. Al-Hilal are currently in fourth and desperately trying to stay in touch with the top three.

Al-Shabab in third, Al-Nassr in second, and Al-Ittihad, currently in pole position, are three of the top teams in Asia and there is strength going all the way down the league. Indeed, Al-Faisaly in the second tier, reached the knockout stage of the 2022 Champions League.

Whether the league could become one of the top six in the world will be seen in the future. For now, it is a matter of debate, but it is a debate that league officials would love to see happen in Europe and elsewhere. This is one of the benefits of signing famous foreign players.

There are plenty of top foreign players in Saudi Arabia who play for international teams. In the next few days, there could be four facing each other in the same game. Al-Wehda’s Abderrazak Hamdallah and Mounir Al-Mohammadi of 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco will take on Brazil in a friendly on Saturday and the following Tuesday, the Atlas Lions take on Peru with Andre Carrillo of Al-Hilal and Christopher Gonzalez from Al-Adalah.

The likes of Ahmed Hegazi and Tarek Hamad of Al-Ittihad are regulars for Egypt, Al-Shabab goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu is South Korea’s No. 1, and there is also Grzegorz Krychowiak who was with Poland at the World Cup.

As more international players and coaches come to Saudi Arabia, more of them can see a thriving and competitive league with talented local players, who showed what they are made of at the World Cup, and can then go home and spread the word.

Banchero’s late-game scoring lifts Magic over Knicks 111-106

Banchero’s late-game scoring lifts Magic over Knicks 111-106
Updated 24 March 2023

Banchero’s late-game scoring lifts Magic over Knicks 111-106

Banchero’s late-game scoring lifts Magic over Knicks 111-106
  • Isaac Okoro hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 0.7 seconds remaining and finished with 11 points as Cleveland sent Brooklyn to their fifth straight loss

ORLANDO, Florida: Paolo Banchero scored 21 points, included a 3-pointer with 1:26 remaining and two free throws in the final seconds, to help the Orlando Magic beat the New York Knicks 111-106 on Thursday night.

Cole Anthony added 18 points for Orlando and Wendell Carter Jr. had 16 points and eight rebounds. Franz Wagner scored 16 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with ankle injury.

Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley each scored 25 points for the Knicks, who lost their third straight. Julius Randle finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.

With Jalen Brunson out with an injury and Randle on the bench, the Knicks went almost 5 1/2 minutes without scoring in the second quarter and fell behind by 19 points.


In Los Angeles, Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points, making 13 of 15 field goals, and Los Angeles defeated Oklahoma City in the Clippers’ first game since losing Paul George to a knee injury.

George sprained his right knee in the closing minutes of a 101-100 loss to the Thunder two nights earlier. He’ll be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

Los Angeles shot 49 percent from 3-point range, with Nicolas Batum and Bones Hyland making four each. Russell Westbrook added 24 points and seven assists for the Clippers.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 30 points. Josh Giddey added 18 and Jalen Williams had 16.


In New York, Isaac Okoro hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 0.7 seconds remaining and finished with 11 points as Cleveland sent Brooklyn to their fifth straight loss.

Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points, Evan Mobley had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Jarrett Allen finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds against his former team. Cleveland won for the eighth time in 10 games.

Mikal Bridges scored 32 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 25 points and 12 assists and Joe Harris hit five 3-pointers and finished with 15 points as the Nets lost their fifth straight game.

Cleveland trailed 112-104 with 2:13 left before closing the game on a 12-2 run. Trailing by one, Mitchell missed the a second free throw that would’ve tied the game. But the ball bounced to Okoro in the corner, who drained the 3-pointer to give Cleveland the lead. A heave from half court by Bridges at the buzzer fell short.


In New Orleans, Brandon Ingram had 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the first triple-double of his seven-year NBA career, leading New Orleans over short-handed Charlotte.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 20 points and grabbed 19 rebounds for his 38th double-double of the season to help the Pelicans win their third in a row. C.J. McCollum added 20 points, Trey Murphy 19 and Naji Marshall had 16 off the bench.

P.J. Washington scored 18 points, including 16 in the first half for Charlotte. Svi Mykhailiuk had 15 points and Gordon Hayward 12 points.