Newcastle keepers under the spotlight, as Eddie Howe looks to trim his squad

Newcastle keepers under the spotlight, as Eddie Howe looks to trim his squad
Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe applauds fans after their Premier League match against Nottingham Forest at St. James’ Park, Newcastle on August 6, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 August 2022

Newcastle keepers under the spotlight, as Eddie Howe looks to trim his squad

Newcastle keepers under the spotlight, as Eddie Howe looks to trim his squad
  • Magpies’ boss delighted with competition for places that new signing has brought to St. James’ Park
  • The Magpies currently have four senior keepers on their books

NEWCASTLE: Head coach Eddie Howe has admitted he will have to trim his Newcastle United squad this month — and one of his goalkeepers looks to be most at risk.
The Magpies currently have four senior keepers on their books, with summer signing Nick Pope claiming the No. 1 slot from Martin Dubravka for the start of the Premier League season.
Beyond that, former No. 1 Karl Darlow and ex-Motherwell keeper Mark Gillespie are the other two senior players in that position who currently find themselves out of the first-team frame.
While Newcastle named four keepers in their 25-man Premier League squad at the start of last season — Dubravka, Darlow, Gillespie and recently departed Freddie Woodman — due to illness and injury, Howe accepts doing so this season seems an unlikely prospect, especially with the intent to still sign at least two more outfield players before the close of the transfer window on Sept. 1.
When asked whether one will leave, he said: “It’s too early to say. I don’t know. Certainly, I wouldn’t want anyone to leave, but I’m well aware four is a difficult number to carry.
“My wish would be to do that, but obviously I’ve got to think of the players as well. Hopefully we’ll make the right decision.”
While Pope left Burnley to play in the Premier League, no doubt with promises of first-team football ahead of the World Cup this winter, there was still a degree of surprise on Tyneside that fan favorite Dubravka did not retain his spot in Howe’s starting 11.
The head coach said it was no easy decision to pick who started the season between the sticks, with Howe keen to praise Newcastle’s weekend understudy.
“It was a very, very, very difficult decision,” said Howe.
“I’ve got three quality goalkeepers to pick from in Karl, Nick and Martin, who, last season, was excellent.
“Certainly, my decision to pick Nick wasn’t a reflection on him (Dubravka). It was more of a reflection on Nick and how good I think he is.
“I thought he was excellent (against Nottingham Forest on debut), his ability to come for crosses. He commanded his box very well and kicked well, so I was really pleased with him. He didn’t have a lot to do with his hands, which is a good sign.
“There’s competition for places in that position as well, and I think that strength will help us through the season.”
Another big call by Howe was to leave out the Magpies’ big summer signing Sven Botman.
The Netherlands youth international arrived at St. James’ Park this summer following a six-month chase for the player, and it had been widely expected that Botman would slot straight into the side alongside weekend goalscorer Fabian Schar.
But Howe instead opted to field January signing Dan Burn at center-back, rewarding his remarkable end-of-season form with the shirt.
Explaining the decision, Howe said: “They were excellent in the second half of last season, I have to say, together with Jamaal (Lascelles), who more than played his part.
“All three center-backs, for me, were excellent, but we needed more strength in depth, we couldn’t rely on just three this season. Federico Fernandez has had his injury problems, so we felt it was a position we needed to strengthen.
“Sven was a long-term target for us. We were delighted to sign him. But I think this period, however long it is before he gets his opportunity to start, will do him a world of good. He will get to know the league, the speed, and I’ve got no doubts about him as a player.
“He’ll be a top player for this football club, but there’s real competition for places. Dan, Fabian and Jamaal — they’re not going to give up their shirts easily. That’s a battle I love to see. Knowing I’ve got that quality certainly bodes well for the season.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle are set to be without midfielder Jonjo Shelvey for much of the first half of the season after he went under the knife to fix a hamstring problem.
Shelvey limped out of United’s 3-2 friendly loss to Benfica last month and at the weekend traveled to London for an operation to fix the issue.
Howe knows how much of a loss the experienced former Liverpool and England man will be — and it may even color his transfer strategy in the final weeks of the window.
Speaking about Shelvey’s absence following the Magpies’ 2-0 win over Forest at the weekend, Howe said: “We had to work without Jonjo because he’s injured. We work very hard on all principles of our play, so the midfield dynamic without Jonjo is very different.
“Jonjo is such a unique individual and player. He can pass the ball from anywhere on the pitch to almost create a goal in any position that he receives the ball.
“Bruno Guimaraes is very different but still equally effective. He was very good today. He had a difficult job because he had Jesse Lingard to contain, so it was an interesting battle and I thought Bruno did very well.”
Newcastle currently have Guimaraes, Sean Longstaff, Joelinton, Joe Willock and youngsters Elliot Anderson and Matty Longstaff to choose from in midfield but are understood to have asked Chelsea about the availability of Conor Gallagher in recent days.


Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly

Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly
Updated 28 September 2022

Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly

Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly
  • The Selecao produced a dominant first-half display in their final outing before traveling to Qatar, with Raphinha netting twice and Neymar moving to within two of Pele’s record
  • The scene for a bad-tempered match was set when the vast numbers of Tunisia fans jeered the Brazilian national anthem before kickoff

PARIS: Richarlison was the target of a banana thrown from the crowd as Brazil thrashed Tunisia 5-1 in a friendly in Paris on Tuesday, while Neymar edged closer to Pele’s all-time scoring record for the five-time world champions.

The game at the Parc des Princes was also briefly paused in the first half as the crowd were twice implored not to point laser pens at Brazil players.

“Unfortunately... a banana was thrown on the pitch toward Richarlison, scorer of the second Brazilian goal,” the Brazilian football confederation (CBF) said on Twitter.

“The CBF reinforces its position to combat racism and repudiates any prejudiced act.”

The Selecao produced a dominant first-half display in their final outing before traveling to Qatar for the World Cup, with Raphinha netting twice and Neymar moving to within two of Pele’s record.

Richarlison also found the net, while Pedro scored as a second-half substitute before responding to more boos and missiles from the crowd by bowing in front of them in celebration.

“It’s a shame, it’s difficult to see images like that,” said Brazil captain Thiago Silva, whose team posed for a team photo before the match with a banner bearing an anti-racism message.

“Unfortunately it seems that we can’t change people’s mentality.

“I hope they will realize that this doesn’t work, it’s the past, we have to change. Unfortunately, people continue with this mentality.”

Tite’s Brazil will head into their World Cup Group G opener against Serbia on Nov. 24 on a 15-match unbeaten run, dating back to their Copa America final loss to Argentina last year.

The scene for a bad-tempered match was set when the vast numbers of Tunisia fans jeered the Brazilian national anthem before kickoff.

“I was puzzled, I was saying ‘No, it’s a lack of respect’. Football is a sport that promotes inclusion,” said Tite.

Brazil took the lead in the 12th minute, though, as Casemiro clipped the ball over the top and Barcelona winger Raphinha directed a wonderful looping header over Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen and into the net.

Jalel Kadri’s men hit back six minutes later.

Defender Montassar Talbi met Anis Slimane’s outswinging free-kick to send a powerful header into the bottom corner past ‘keeper Alisson.

Incredibly, Brazil were back ahead just seconds after that setback, as Raphinha sent Richarlison in behind to drill a strike through the legs of Dahmen to score his third goal in two games after a double against Ghana.

The Tottenham forward celebrated in front of the Tunisian supporters, who responded by throwing a banana and plastic cups in his direction.

Fred kicked the banana off the pitch, before extra security guards took up residence on the side of the field.

Brazil almost extended their advantage as Paqueta followed a fine turn with a low shot which Dahmen tipped wide.

But from the resulting corner, Casemiro was hauled down in the box and Neymar stepped up to roll home his 75th international goal from the penalty spot, despite having lasers pointed at his face.

Brazil continued to cut through the visitors’ defense with ease and Raphinha scored again in the 40th minute by firing in off the post from the edge of the box.

Things went from bad to worse for Tunisia before halftime as Dylan Bronn brought down Neymar and was harshly sent off after a brief melee between the two teams.

Tunisia were much improved after the break but Brazil still scored again with 16 minutes remaining through Flamengo forward Pedro’s maiden goal for his country.

Earlier on Tuesday, World Cup hosts Qatar survived a late penalty miss by Alexis Sanchez to hold Chile to a 2-2 draw in Vienna.

Canada, who are preparing for their first World Cup since 1986, lost 2-0 to Uruguay in Bratislava as Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez scored his third international goal.

Sardar Azmoun scored as a substitute to earn Iran a 1-1 draw with African champions Senegal. Morocco drew 0-0 with Paraguay in Seville.


Spain snare Nations League semifinal spot from Portugal

Spain snare Nations League semifinal spot from Portugal
Updated 28 September 2022

Spain snare Nations League semifinal spot from Portugal

Spain snare Nations League semifinal spot from Portugal
  • Spain will join Italy, Croatia and the Netherlands in the semis in June 2023, although attention now switches to the fast-approaching World Cup

BRAGA, PORTUGAL: Alvaro Morata’s late strike snatched Spain a 1-0 Nations League victory over Portugal in Braga on Tuesday and sent them into the semifinals.

La Roja needed to win to finish top of League A Group 2, but struggled on another difficult night for the Euro 2020 semifinalists, until Morata’s 88th-minute breakthrough.

Spain have not been able to hit top form in the internationals leading up to the Qatar 2022 World Cup, but this hard-fought victory provides a welcome morale boost.

Portugal had the better of the game but Spain brightened in the final stages, with the introduction of several substitutes, including Nico Williams, who headed across goal for Morata to gleefully turn in at the back post.

“When we had to stand up, we did,” Morata told TVE. “If we had lost, it had to be giving everything we had on the pitch, and that’s what we did.

“I’ll remember the attitude of the team, we fought until the end. And Nico Williams, in his second game for the national team, was key and I put it over the line.”

Spain will join Italy, Croatia and the Netherlands in the semis in June 2023, although attention now switches to the fast-approaching World Cup.

Luis Enrique made wholesale changes to the side that suffered Spain’s first home defeat since 2018 against Switzerland on Saturday, retaining only four starters.

Morata was brought in to lead the line, while the Asturian coach rotated his entire midfield trio.

Spain still dominated possession, as their gameplan demands, but to little effect as Portugal created the more dangerous openings.

Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon made a solid save to deny Ruben Neves and then a brilliant one to keep Liverpool striker Diogo Jota at bay.

With Portuguese confidence increasing, Bruno Fernandes lashed an effort narrowly off-target, celebrated prematurely by swathes of the stadium as the ball appeared to settle in the net.

Just as they did against Switzerland, Spain failed to get a single shot on target in the first half, and after Simon made another good save from Cristiano Ronaldo early in the second half, Luis Enrique took action.

The coach sent on Pedri, Gavi and Yeremy Pino to try and give La Roja more inspiration going forward, although it was the hosts who almost broke the deadlock when Dani Carvajal deflected a strike narrowly over his own crossbar.

The changes livened Luis Enrique’s team up and they began to turn the tide, building momentum as the game reached its denouement.

Carvajal launched a crossfield ball into the area, with Williams’ header leaving Morata with the simple task of firing into the empty net to put the runners-up of the last edition of the Nations League back into the final four.

An exasperated Ronaldo was denied by Simon at the death and Fernando Santos’s Portugal left ruing their missed chances and wishing they had killed off Spain when they had the chance.

“We had many chances and Spain few, we are sad, we would have liked to have been in the finals,” said Santos.

“Ronaldo had three or four chances that he would usually score, but he could not. That’s football.”

It was a disappointing end to a good run for Portugal, while Spain experienced the opposite sensation.

After defeat by Switzerland and frustrating draws with Portugal and the Czech Republic in June, Morata’s late winner provided relief for La Roja.

“This is a wonderful sport in which winning is the best antidote to any depression or sadness,” said Luis Enrique.

“Portugal are a top, top, top team. In the first half I insisted, maybe too much, on having the ball, and we did. It’s evident we’d prefer to play the passes in their half.

“(But) the first half was necessary to show that the ball was ours, and in the second we had the sensation that the goal would come. We’re in the final four again and it’s a great joy.”


Improved Saudis draw with US as preparations for World Cup continue

Improved Saudis draw with US as preparations for World Cup continue
Updated 28 September 2022

Improved Saudis draw with US as preparations for World Cup continue

Improved Saudis draw with US as preparations for World Cup continue
  • Concerns over lack of goal-scoring chances persist, with Herve Renard’s injury-hit team failing to find then net for a fourth game in a row

Saudi Arabia drew 0-0 with the USA in Spain on Thursday, delivering a performance that was certainly an improvement over the stalemate with Ecuador four days earlier and probably their best in any of the four friendlies since their successful World Cup qualification campaign concluded.

It is true that they failed to score for a fourth game in a row but the Green Falcons more than held their own against a team that included a number of stars who play in the big European leagues.

Coach Herve Renard had a few reasons to be quietly satisfied with the performance in Murcia, given that in addition to a number of long-term absences, the his team were also without the injured quartet of star player Salem Al-Dawsari, captain Salman Al-Faraj, marauding full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani and goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais, the hero of the 0-0 draw with Ecuador last Friday.

This gave the French boss an opportunity to take a look at some other players in his squad and while it was not the most exciting of games, he will not be too displeased with what he saw.

While the goalless draw with the South Americans four days ago was mainly down to the efforts of Al-Owais, the clean sheet on Tuesday was the result of a solid defensive performance from the whole team, who stayed compact and worked hard to deny the likes of Christian Pulisic of Chelsea clear sight of goal.

The Saudis struggled to get shots on target four days ago but this time, in an almost empty stadium, their first attempt came inside 30 seconds, forcing Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner to get down quickly to push away a well-struck snap shot by Sultan Al-Ghannam from outside the area.

This spurred the Americans, who lost 2-0 to Japan on Friday, into action but the Saudi defense coped with the attacks reasonably well, even if there was a threat of the high defensive line being breached.

The men in blue were in control from a possession point of view but struggled to create clear chances, and so it was Saudi Arabia who next had the best sight of goal, just before the half-hour mark, when they were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the area, only for Hattan Bahebri to fire over.

Minutes later, the Greens should have taken the lead from the best chance of the game for either side. Firas Al-Buraikan won possession on the right side and found Haitham Asiri, who was not long on the pitch after replacing Sami Al-Najei. He reached the byline and found Bahebri on the edge of the six-yard box, where the Al-Shabab forward had a chance to shoot but instead opted to pass and the Americans were able to clear the danger.

All in all, it was a solid first half, with the USA, who are preparing for their first World Cup appearance since 2014, having 50 percent more of the possession than Saudi Arabia but, in terms of quality and quantity of chances, the Asian team were more than holding their own.

Renard’s men made a bright start to the second half as they looked for chances down the left, with Saud Abdulhamid and Bahebri in particular working hard. But despite balls being whipped into the area there was nobody in the middle to get on the end of the crosses and when the attacking moves came from central areas, the final ball was not quite there.

Still, as the game reached the hour mark, Saudi Arabia were just about on top against a team growing increasingly frustrated at their inability not only to score but to create clear chances.

Then the 2002 quarter-finalists had their best opportunity. Jesus Ferreira took advantage of a defensive mix-up to shoot from just inside the area, only for Mohammed Al-Yami, who did not have many saves to make, to get down quickly and smother the danger.

With 20 minutes remaining, it was Turner’s turn to push away a well-struck shot from Asiri. The Saudis continued to attack but could not quite find a way through. There was more frustration when centre-back Abdulelah Al-Amri’s close-range header from a corner went high.

Saudi Arabia continued to make most of the running in an attacking sense but were unable to capitalize and their disappointment was complete when Nawaf Al-Abed fired over from the edge of the area in the final moments when he had options to pass.

The dry spell in front of goal has now stretched to 385 minutes and is certainly a major cause for concern. However, with the big games in Qatar against Argentina, Poland and Mexico only two months away, there were also some signs of improvement.


Qatar tests out massive bus fleet ahead of World Cup

Qatar tests out massive bus fleet ahead of World Cup
Updated 27 September 2022

Qatar tests out massive bus fleet ahead of World Cup

Qatar tests out massive bus fleet ahead of World Cup
  • Thani Al Zarraa, who is overseeing transport preparations, said some 4,000 buses will be used during the monthlong tournament
  • The bus fleet will shuttle passengers between main transport hubs and the eight stadiums

DOHA: Qatar has tested out a massive fleet of buses ahead of next month’s World Cup, when an estimated 1.2 million soccer fans will descend on the small Gulf nation, an official said Tuesday.
Thani Al Zarraa, who is overseeing transport preparations, said some 4,000 buses will be used during the monthlong tournament, which begins Nov. 20. That includes 3,000 buses acquired for the World Cup on top of a pre-existing fleet of around 1,000, he said.
Of the new buses, around 700 will be electric, he told The Associated Press. Fans can also use Qatar’s Metro rail system.
The bus fleet will shuttle passengers between main transport hubs and the eight stadiums where the matches will be held. Authorities held tests over the weekend involving some 1,800 buses without passengers.
Transport will be free for holders of the Hayya card issued by the government, which is required for entry to stadiums. An accompanying app has a feature in which fans can plan their journeys.
All visitors to Qatar, even those not planning to attend the matches, will need a Hayya card to enter the country from Nov. 1 to Jan. 23. Cardholders will also be able to enter the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
This will be the first World Cup hosted by an Arab nation.


Patience will bring Premier League points for Newcastle: Kieran Trippier

Patience will bring Premier League points for Newcastle: Kieran Trippier
Updated 27 September 2022

Patience will bring Premier League points for Newcastle: Kieran Trippier

Patience will bring Premier League points for Newcastle: Kieran Trippier
  • The Magpies have so far been frustrated in their search for an elusive second win of the top-flight campaign
  • They head to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Saturday looking to end that run, which has seen them draw five and lose one

NEWCASTLE: Kieran Trippier believes patience is a virtue for Newcastle United when it comes to English Premier League points and progress.

The Magpies have so far been frustrated in their search for an elusive second win of the top-flight campaign, having not claimed three points since the opening-day victory over Nottingham Forest.

They head to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Saturday looking to end that run, which has seen them draw five and lose one — in time added on at Anfield — to see them sit slap bang in the middle of the Premier League table.

And while some fans are starting to question Eddie Howe’s new possession-based methods, which are a far cry from the counter-attack systems of old, England international Trippier is in no doubt.

He said: “You see teams now coming to St. James’ and have that low block, so we’ve just got to deal with that, try to break teams down, and be more composed at certain teams. That will come of course it will, but it’s been a big change since January, so we just need to keep taking the next steps. It’s just about being patient.

“You look at when we played Manchester City, they were 3-1 down but they didn’t panic, they kept the ball, they know they’re 3-1 down and they believed they could get back into the game.

“That’s where we want to be as a club, like Man City, like Liverpool, it’s just about not panicking, keeping the ball, keeping composed, and the opportunities will come,” he added.

Trippier returns from England duty this week having played a peripheral role for Gareth Southgate’s men. Last year’s European Championships runners up have largely flattered to deceive since their summer 2021 exploits. They did so again against Italy and Germany, although recovered from being 2-0 down to draw 3-3 with the Germans at Wembley in their final pre-Qatar encounter, with Trippier an unused sub in both matches.

On his time with England, the United skipper said: “It’s always an honor of course, going back to my debut against France, I’ve always enjoyed going whether I play or not.

“Everyone knows how much I give to the team. It’s good to see the lads, see the manager and come back with the games coming thick and fast for Newcastle.”

United will come face-to-face with former striker, and in-form Premier League frontman, Aleksandar Mitrovic when they take on the Cottagers this weekend — and the Serbian very much has a point to prove against Newcastle, having struggled for form, goals, and games in his three campaigns on Tyneside.

Newcastle, however, will be looking to two forwards of their own — Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin — to kick their campaign back into life.

“You’ve seen Maxi the past couple of games he played before he got injured, he’s shown what he’s all about, so direct, so quick, he’s impossible to play against and I see it in training every day.

“Callum as well is a natural goalscorer, so they’re two massive players for us and they are a miss, but we’ve got players who can step in. We’ve got a good group and good competition,” Trippier added.

United looked a more potent frontline force with Wilson in the team, although reflecting back on the start the team has made this season, Trippier has regrets.

He said: “Mixed feelings really, if you look at the way we played against City, Liverpool and to only come out of those two games with one point is disappointing.

“We want to go toe-to-toe with these teams and that’s what we’re trying to do, the way we’re playing is different to when the takeover happened. We’re taking the right steps.”

On the disappointment of the home draw with Bournemouth, a result which dampened the wave of positivity at St. James’ Park somewhat, Trippier added: “There was no excuse, we should be full of energy but at times in football, these things just happen.

“You have to give credit to Bournemouth for the way they played but there’s no excuses from us. Second half was a bit different; we had a lot of possession and it’s about being controlled and patient with the ball and at times we weren’t, we were shooting from 45-yards out which isn’t us.

“Disappointing, it feels like two points dropped obviously. Again, we create so many chances, we just need to be clinical to take that next step.”

United look set to be without Alexander Isak and fellow striker Chris Wood in southwest London this weekend, with both players returning injured from international duty with Sweden and New Zealand, respectively.

Better news is hoped for on Bruno Guimaraes, with the Brazilian expected to again be available, so too Wilson. Saint-Maximin is said to be touch and go for a Newcastle return, having not played since the 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers last month.