New-look Barcelona show positive signs in defeat to Bayern

New-look Barcelona show positive signs in defeat to Bayern
Barcelona’s head coach Xavi Hernandez reacts during their Champions League match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 14 September 2022

New-look Barcelona show positive signs in defeat to Bayern

New-look Barcelona show positive signs in defeat to Bayern
  • "We will take the positives and even though it was a negative result, we can learn from the errors," said Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández
  • "We can say that we were better, but it's about winning"

BARCELONA: Barcelona showed against Bayern Munich on Tuesday that the worst may be behind for them but have not yet managed to pull level with football’s elite in the quest for the Champions League glory.
Julian Nagelsmann’s Bundesliga champions rode their luck at the Allianz Arena in the first half but improved after the break to dispatch a spirited, but ultimately frustrated, Barcelona 2-0 with goals from Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane.
The Catalans last won the Champions League in 2015, beating Bayern in the semifinals on the way to their triumph in Berlin, but have now suffered five consecutive defeats against the Bavarians.
Last season Barca, reeling from the departure of Lionel Messi, were twice defeated comprehensively by Bayern, contributing to a humiliating group stage exit.
The previous season they suffered a brutal 8-2 dissection at the hands of the Bavarians which demonstrated how far they had fallen from the game’s summit.
In Munich on Tuesday Barcelona had the better of the first half, with former Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski spurning a handful of opportunities on his return to Germany, but two goals in a five-minute second-half salvo whisked the game away from them.
“We will take the positives and even though it was a negative result, we can learn from the errors,” said Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández.
“It’s a step back. We did enough to draw, if not to win. A defeat is not deserved, but we made mistakes in the two boxes.”
Lewandowski blasted over and had a close-range header parried away by Manuel Neuer in the first half, before dallying on the ball in the box when he might have squeezed off a shot first-time.
La Liga’s top scorer seemed unusually indecisive in front of goal on his return to the Allianz Arena, the scene of so many of his successes over the past eight seasons before his summer switch to Camp Nou.
“When we talk about competing, we’re talking about doing it at a corner, or in a transition,” said Xavi, referring to defensive errors for Bayern’s two goals.
“It’s also about efficiency. You get in front of the goalkeeper and you should score.
“We did not score despite having seven clear chances, we have to put them away. I am angry but proud.”
Barcelona midfielder Pedri was also denied by the impeccable Neuer when well placed and hit the post with another good opportunity.
“In the first half we had a lot of chances but if you don’t take them against teams like this, you end up paying,” he added.
At the other end, Marcos Alonso failed to track Hernandez at a corner for the opening goal, while Sane glided away from him and the rest of Barcelona’s defense for the second goal without facing a robust challenge at any point.
“We can say that we were better, but it’s about winning,” Xavi. “The first came from a corner and the second from not stopping a counter-attack, we have to do that.
“They are a fully-fledged team, while we are at the beginning. We have to improve in both boxes.”

Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet

Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet
Updated 12 sec ago

Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet

Newcastle boss happy to keep Loris Karius after Riyadh clean sheet
  • Former Liverpool goalkeeper made his debut for Eddie Howe’s team in 5-0 friendly win over Al-Hilal on Thursday

RIYADH: Eddie Howe is determined to keep former Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius at Newcastle United.

The former Reds No. 1 only signed for the Magpies in September and made his debut for the Magpies in the 5-0 win over Al-Hilal at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium.

In an impressive 45 minutes — he was replaced by Mark Gillespie at the break — Karius made a string of goal-saving stops to keep a clean sheet.

Head coach Howe admits he was impressed by the impact of the former Champions League keeper, and he wants to secure the player on a longer term deal, with his current contract set to run out in January.

Howe said: “I think he did really well. We came under pressure in the first half and I thought he made some good saves.

“Since he’s been with us, he’s steadily improved. His distribution was very good, so a good night for him.

“I’d like him to stay but obviously the two parties have got to agree, so fingers crossed.

“I think he’s been a very calming influence. He’s a goalkeeper with a lot of experience.

“He’s trained well and is a very good character and very popular in the changing room: the lads have really taken to him.

“He’s a positive influence and that’s why I’d like him to stay.

“I think that’s down to how he’s trained because he hadn’t trained a lot when he entered the club.

“We were in a difficult situation after the injury to Karl (Darlow) and, as I say, he was a calming influence. He brought stability behind the scenes.

“Steadily, with the amount of goalkeeping he’s done now, he’s improving all the time.”

Speaking after the game, Karius revealed he is set for discussions about his future.

He said: “We’re going to have some talks and see what we’re going to do, but of course I can see myself here for longer and hopefully get some more appearances in the future, also competitive.

“That’s my aim, that’s what I’m working for every day and, at the same time, I’m supporting all the other guys.

“I think there’s a good chance I can stay here longer, but we’ll have to have that discussion over the next few weeks.”

Howe has been speaking with Newcastle’s owners over the policy the club will adopt in the January transfer window.

When asked how those talks have progressed, he said: “Very well. It’s just conversations at this stage. The big thing is a lot can change between now and January.

“We’ve talked and had discussions over what it may look like but there is such a long time before that window opens and we’re still very flexible over what we’re going to do.”

While co-owners Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Amanda Staveley jetted off to Qatar to witness England’s World Cup quarter-final against France on Saturday evening, the rest of the United group remained at their Olaya base in the commercial heart of Riyadh.

Howe took his players for a recovery session at Optimo leisure complex in the city on Friday.

Much of the club’s staffing operations have switched from the Four Seasons to the Novotel Al-Anoud, a short walk away, due to the arrival of the Chinese entourage of President Xi Jinping in the Kingdom’s capital.

Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours

Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours
Updated 18 min 28 sec ago

Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours

Iconic father-son racing duo, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, take to Yas Marina Circuit track for this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours
  • Danish motorsport powerhouses will unite on the grid for the region’s biggest weekend of GT3 endurance racing

ABU DHABI: Jan Magnussen, four-time Le Mans winner, and son Kevin Magnussen, Haas Formula One Team driver, are joining forces for the 11th edition of the Gulf 12 Hours to take place on Yas Island, from Dec. 9 to 11.

The Danish father-son duo will unite on the grid alongside American driver Mark Kvamme at Yas Marina Circuit to compete in the annual endurance event, combining day and night racing, that will see the biggest-ever line-up of GT cars in the race’s history.

Having started his career with the McLaren F1 Team’s Young Driver Programme, Kevin rose through the junior ranks to represent the British motor racing team in the 2014 F1 Championship and 2014 Australian Grand Prix, where he became the first Dane to claim a podium in F1.  

After a short stint with Renault in 2016, he got behind the wheel for the Haas F1 team, most recently securing their first-ever pole position at the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix. But with a successful career of his own — and a notably busy schedule — the Roskilde racer has not had many opportunities to drive with his father.

“We’ve both done this our whole life, and you know, done it separately,” he said. “Getting to do this with my dad, it’s very special. It’s a big privilege; I’m grateful to MDK Motorsports and our friend Mark for giving us this opportunity.”

Jan, a former F1 driver himself, shares Kevin’s sentiment and laughs when asked whether his son’s speed on the track is a result of his coaching.

“Unfortunately, I think I taught him too much,” he said. “It’s fantastic to get to compare myself to Kevin. Not just his brilliant lap times, but also to see the data and videos of how we operate the car.”

Magnussen senior boasts an impressive racing history and has competed in a range of prestigious competitions and series, including F1, IndyCar, NASCAR, American Le Mans Series, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA World Endurance Championship.

Now, the two Danes are bringing their wealth of driving experience and bold race moves to Abu Dhabi. While the track will be a first-time experience for Jan, Kevin recalls racing at Yas Marina Circuit in the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — and again in the 2022 edition.

“I think the changes made to the track over the last two years are good for some things,” he said. “I think before, it was a little more technical, so maybe a bit more difficult. Now, the track has become faster and more enjoyable to drive.”

Despite having raced the circuit before, the second-generation F1 driver is in for an entirely new experience as he steps out of his comfort zone and into an unfamiliar GT car.

“I did it in an F1 car, and GT is going to be completely different. It feels like a new track for me,” he said. “It’s fun to be challenged in different ways as a racing driver. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

With scheduling conflicts and international travel keeping them occupied, the Magnussens are uncertain when they will drive together next. This weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours will be a unique opportunity for the duo to share in their passion for the sport — with the hopes of winning the race.

“We know each other. When we get into this stuff, it just gets competitive, and we want to do as well as possible,” Kevin said. “That’s the most fun, so that’s really what we’re focusing on – me and my dad.”

Allan Saint-Maximin not interested in leaving ‘home’ of Newcastle United

Allan Saint-Maximin not interested in leaving ‘home’ of Newcastle United
Updated 09 December 2022

Allan Saint-Maximin not interested in leaving ‘home’ of Newcastle United

Allan Saint-Maximin not interested in leaving ‘home’ of Newcastle United
  • Frenchman has been a target for Premier League rivals Tottenham but wants to stay at St. James’ Park

RIYADH: Newcastle United star Allan Saint-Maximin is ready to rebuff the increasing advances of Champions League rivals Tottenham Hotspur because he has finally found a club that really feels like home.

The Frenchman was one of Antonio Conte’s primary targets in the summer transfer window, and despite an up-and-down campaign so far, which has contained just four Premier League starts, the player admits he could not be happier at St. James’ Park.

Saint-Maximin had only ever shown flashes of brilliance in his early career prior to his near $20 million move back in 2019.

Spells at the likes of Nice, Bastia and Monaco brought little love for Saint-Maximin, who is undoubtedly adored by the Geordie public, especially for his ability to get fans off their feet.

But now, finally, he knows home is where the heart is.

“It’s very nice. It’s like finding your first house,” he said of being at Newcastle United.

“It’s like when you have found a very nice house and you know what you are going to build. You start to see the potential there and you are like, ‘Wow, this is huge.’ That is a great example because I really feel at home here.”

Comparing the ownership of the Public Investment Fund to former custodian Mike Ashley, of the Sports Direct clothing empire, the 25-year-old said: “This is a different place now. There are a lot of beautiful houses in the world now but there are some houses where you put your feet and think ‘Here is my home.’

“It’s the feeling I have in Newcastle. I am very proud because...when you work very hard, you start to see everything change.

“Especially when you have the choice to go to another club. You just say, ‘No, I will believe until the end at this club.’

“I want to give back the love they give me…I will always be a Newcastle fan, I love the club so much.”

Saint-Maximin follows in a long line of enigmatic, crowd-pleasing Gallic talents to grace the fields of Tyneside, with the likes of Laurent Robert, Hatem Ben Arfa and David Ginola remembered with fondness by those who witnessed their swagger in black and white.

It is a line of succession, and Saint-Maximin is in no mood to give up any time soon. 

“I will try to do my best,” he said of emulating those who have gone before him.

“There are many legends. You talk about French players (Robert and Ginola). There are English players as well like Alan Shearer.

“Everywhere I go, I want to be the best. I try to change things in my life and with my mentality. I work even harder than before. I am sure if I keep thinking like that and try to fight for my teammates, many good things can happen.”

One player who has arguably restricted Saint-Maximin’s game time this campaign has been Miguel Almiron. The Paraguayan has netted eight goals in the Premier League and has been Newcastle’s surprise package of the campaign so far.

And while many a player may well begrudge the success of a forward rival, Saint-Maximin has shared his absolute delight at the player’s unexpected success— although there is nothing unexpected about it in his eyes.

Saint-Maximin said: “Miggy has always been a great player. He is an incredible guy but a great player.

“When you play and touch the ball less and the team doesn’t play well, it’s much more difficult to shine. It is more difficult to show your quality.

“You see people saying Miggy is a new player. He’s not a new player. He has always been a great player.

“I want to be on the pitch with him, to help him, make assists and have the best season possible for him.

“He deserves that. It’s the type of mentality every player should have. I am sure every player will help us to be where we need to be.”

On Thursday evening, Newcastle United lifted the Diriyah Season Cup with a 5-0 win over Saudi Pro League champions Al-Hilal.

Almiron netted twice along with Joelinton while Dylan Stephenson netted the Magpies’ fifth at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium.

Newcastle are next in action on Saturday, Dec. 17, when they take on Rayo Valladolid at St. James’ Park prior to the return to domestic football against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup on Dec. 23.

Erling Haaland reflects on season so far as Manchester City train in Abu Dhabi

Erling Haaland reflects on season so far as Manchester City train in Abu Dhabi
Updated 09 December 2022

Erling Haaland reflects on season so far as Manchester City train in Abu Dhabi

Erling Haaland reflects on season so far as Manchester City train in Abu Dhabi
  • The Norwegian forward has had a sensational start to his career at the Etihad

Manchester City FC are in Abu Dhabi for a warm-weather training camp ahead of the domestic season’s restart later this month, with Pep Guardiola and his squad set to head back to Manchester to meet up with those who have been playing at the FIFA World Cup.

Star striker Erling Haaland, who has had a sensational start to his City career, took time out to speak about the trip, the season so far and hopes for the rest of the campaign.

On having a break in the season

It’s been a good opportunity to reset. Of course, every player wants to be at the World Cup. It’s my dream to represent my country there, and I’ll work hard to make sure that I do that one day. But the break has been positive. I’ve had the chance to rest, take my mind off football for a few weeks and put myself in the best possible place to return. I can’t wait for it to start again. I’m raring to go.

On watching the World Cup

The World Cup is great to watch for any football fan. Of course, I would prefer to be there playing, but it’s the best teams and the best players competing against each other. There have been some fantastic performances and some that maybe people wouldn’t have expected. Now we’re into the most exciting part of the tournament when one little mistake means you could be out, which makes it even more enjoyable to watch.

On Abu Dhabi

It’s a beautiful place. We’re lucky as professionals to go to many beautiful places and travel around the world. To come here before the start of the new season is a great opportunity just to recharge and focus our minds again on club football returning. We have all the facilities we need; the weather is a little warmer than it is in Manchester this time of year, and we can prepare as a group. Okay, not all of our teammates can be out here, but for the ones that are, it’s a good opportunity to come together in a more relaxed setting and make sure we’re ready for when the rest of the group comes back.

On his first season in England

It’s been positive. I feel like I’ve settled into the team and the league, which can always take some adapting to, and I’ve been pleased with how it’s started. But it’s not about me. It’s about the team, how we’re performing, and the second half of the season is the most important now. We’ve put ourselves in a good position and we’ve had a lot of strong performances, but we’re second in the league and that’s not where we want to finish. We have to hit the ground running when we return because we have some tough games across the different competitions, and we want to win them all.

On the rest of the season

Our focus is always on the next game. I know it’s cliché and people might not like that, but if you get ahead of yourself then you lose focus. The challenge now is for us to get back up to speed and play how we know we can. This training camp will be important for a number of us to do that, and the rest of the guys will join us when their World Cup ends. The focus will be on getting fit, getting ready and then heading into the Carabao Cup game against Liverpool looking to get a positive result and giving our fans something to be excited about as we head into the second half of the season.

Medvedev starts with win as Diriyah Tennis Cup returns after 3-year absence

Medvedev starts with win as Diriyah Tennis Cup returns after 3-year absence
Updated 09 December 2022

Medvedev starts with win as Diriyah Tennis Cup returns after 3-year absence

Medvedev starts with win as Diriyah Tennis Cup returns after 3-year absence
  • Tournament is part of Diriyah Season and is taking part for the first time since 2019

Defending Diriyah Tennis Cup champion Daniil Medvedev kicked off his defense off the trophy with a superb quarterfinal win over German star Alexander Zverev as 12 of the world’s leading players returned to the Kingdom for the tournament’s first edition since 2019.

The three-day competition with the Super Tie-break format kicked off on Thursday in the setting of At-Turaif, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Diriyah, and will conclude with the final on Dec. 10.

Medvedev, who has never lost in Saudi Arabia, raced to a 6-0 first set win despite a minor injury scare to his calf. The world No. 7 then proceeded to see out a competitive second set 6-4 against Zverev, who was making his eagerly awaited comeback from a seven-month injury lay-off.

“I felt I played better in the second set than the first one, but Sascha was really getting better as well,” said Medvedev.

“My injury was not so bad in the end. I was sliding unintentionally. My knee hit my calf, felt like a foul in football. It was painful to walk, but funnily I was much better to run. I love the crowd and how they cheered for me and look forward to tomorrow. We still have some weeks before the Australian Open to prepare more but I’m here and I want to win.”

Briton Cameron Norrie defeated Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios in target sets in the first round, before overcoming Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

Norrie, a 2022 Wimbledon semifinalist, was sharp and efficient in his 6-4, 6-4 win over world No.4 Tsitsipas — forcing the Greek star into uncharacteristic unforced errors in front of a lively crowd under the Diriyah Arena lights.

“The crowd really helped me through it,” said Norrie. “Playing in a stadium like this also helps a great deal in my preparation for the season. It has been a very good day and the crowd really got into tonight chanting our names. We’re trying to inspire some of the younger Saudi players and I saw some kids and that’s a reason I’m playing here — to inspire a new generation.”

Stan Wawrinka, the only competitor in his thirties in this week’s field, proved once again that he is still of the highest caliber by defeating Andrey Rublev, the eighth-ranked player in the world, 6-7, 6-2, 10-6 (tie break).

“It’s my second time here, I enjoy being here. There are many things going on,” Wawrinka, who visited Saudi in 2019, told Arab News.

“Now we don’t have too much time because we have to be ready in focus for tournaments because that’s why we are here — to try to do our best 27 days or longer on site. But I enjoy being here. And as I said, hopefully, I will have more time in the next few days or maybe next year to visit even more.

“I’m glad I won today, and I believe I’ll be able to get for the grade level; we played a great game, and I’m excited to be back here tomorrow in the semifinals,” he added.

After defeating Dominic Stricker 7-6, 7-5, American Taylor Fritz, who is ranked in ninth in the world, completed the lineup for tomorrow’s semifinals.

Earlier in the day, there were four Round One matches with a fast-moving best-of-three Super Tie-break format. There were wins for Wawrinka, Norrie, Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Zverev. The event’s top four seeded players — Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Rublev and Fritz — had all received a bye.

In addition to the singles competition, there is also a doubles competition at the Diriyah Tennis Cup this year.

Over the course of the three-day tournament, Saudi tennis fans will have the chance to take in these thrilling matches and special interactions with some of the top tennis players in the world.

First Round Results:

Stan Wawrinka beat Matteo Berrettini (5-10, 10-4, 10-6)

Alexander Zverev beat Dominic Thiem (10-8, 10-7)

Cameron Norrie beat Nick Kyrgios (10-6, 10-6)

Hubert Hurkacz beat Dominic Stricker (10-7, 10-5)

The Diriyah Tennis Cup continues on Friday with the semifinals and a new doubles competition for Thursday’s losers:

Singles Semifinals

Daniil Medvedev vs. Stan Wawrinka

Cameron Norrie vs. Taylor Fritz

Doubles Semifinals

Alexander Zverev & Dominic Thiem vs. Andrey Rublev & Matteo Berrettini

Nick Kyrgios & Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Dominic Stricker & Hubert Hurkacz

The semifinals take place on Friday, Dec. 9.