Qatar-bound Callum Wilson faces fitness race for Newcastle’s clash with Chelsea

Callum Wilson, called up to Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad this week, was withdrawn halfway through the 4-1 win at Southampton last weekend. (Reuters)
Callum Wilson, called up to Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad this week, was withdrawn halfway through the 4-1 win at Southampton last weekend. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 November 2022

Qatar-bound Callum Wilson faces fitness race for Newcastle’s clash with Chelsea

Qatar-bound Callum Wilson faces fitness race for Newcastle’s clash with Chelsea
  • Wilson’s absence would likely mean another start for experienced New Zealander Chris Wood
  • Boss Eddie Howe has expressed his delight at Wilson’s first international call-up since 2019

NEWCASTLE: Callum Wilson faces a late fitness test ahead of the visit of Chelsea to Tyneside on Saturday.

The Newcastle United frontman — called up to Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad this week  — was withdrawn halfway through the 4-1 win at Southampton last weekend due to illness, and was absent from his side’s Carabao Cup win over Crystal Palace in midweek.

“We’ll wait and see,” said Eddie Howe, Newcastle’s head coach, when asked whether the striker will be fit to face Chelsea.

“He’s been training separately from the group this week. He had an illness so he’s been away from the group. He’s been working well but I need to make a decision on whether or not he’s fit enough to play.”

Wilson’s absence would probably mean another start for experienced New Zealander Chris Wood, with record signing Alexander Isak still sidelined.

Howe expressed his delight at Wilson’s first international call-up since 2019, which predates his Newcastle transfer.

He said: “It’s an amazing thing for him individually and for his family.

“Callum’s had a difficult career. It’s not always been about the successes, and he’s risen from the lower league to the Premier League and now to the World Cup.

“It’s been a brilliant thing to witness for me, and then when you see how it’s been achieved, it’s been through dedication and consistency to his work and a really positive mindset.

“When he got injured, his first instinct was ‘I’m going to come back better.’

“It’s not just talking with Callum, he actually delivers. He’s got a way of scoring goals, so I’m delighted for him. I hope he can make a real impact.”

While Wilson was a bit of a surprise Southgate inclusion in the 26-man squad for Qatar, Howe knows the player is not going to make up the numbers.

He said: “He’s going to want to contribute, for sure, because he doesn’t want to just go there in name. He wants to go there and contribute.

“I think he will give everything after our last game to prepare himself and be ready to do that for England.”

Meanwhile, it is understood airline Saudia could be set to announce a sponsorship with United.

Representatives sporting Saudia uniforms were spotted at St. James’ Park and on the city’s Millennium Bridge, posing for photographs, on Friday.

Further detail is awaited on new sponsors as the club look to increase their commercial revenues to balance out the more than $200 million spend, and still sit within Premier League Financial Fair Play rules.

Sales outlet Noon confirmed a multi-million dollar shirt sleeve sponsorship earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have been drawn against fellow Premier League side Bournemouth in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup. The tie will be played on or around Dec. 20 at St. James’ Park.


Cremonese pull off another Italian Cup shock to beat Roma

Cremonese pull off another Italian Cup shock to beat Roma
Updated 02 February 2023

Cremonese pull off another Italian Cup shock to beat Roma

Cremonese pull off another Italian Cup shock to beat Roma
  • Wednesday’s match at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico was Cremonese’s first quarterfinal since 1997

MILAN: Hapless in Serie A, Cremonese pulled off another shock in the Italian Cup on Wednesday by beating Roma 2-1 to reach the semifinals for only the second time in their history — and the first in 36 years.

Last-place Cremonese, without a win in the league, followed up their cup victory at Napoli in the last round by eliminating Jose Mourinho’s Roma.

It will face Fiorentina in their first semifinal since 1987. The other semifinal pits holders Inter Milan against either Juventus or Lazio.

Cremonese’s win at Napoli was coach Davide Ballardini’s first match in charge and he followed that up with a draw at Bologna and a narrow loss to Inter in Serie A.

Wednesday’s match at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico was Cremonese’s first quarterfinal since 1997 but the players didn’t let the occasion get to them and impressed from the start.

Roma defender Marash Kumbulla was partly to blame for the opener, however, as he took too long on the ball, allowing Cyriel Dessers to steal it off him on the halfway line and sprint downfield into the area where he was brought down by goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

Dessers dusted himself down and fired a precise penalty into the top left corner to give the visitors a 28th-minute lead.

Mourinho rang the changes at halftime but Cremonese doubled their advantage four minutes after the break. David Okereke raced down the right flank and rolled the ball across for Charles Pickel, who tried to flick it on to Frank Tsadjout but it was deflected into his own net by Roma defender Mehmet Çelik to send the 200 traveling fans wild.

Andrea Belotti pulled one back for Roma in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Fiorentina avenged its league loss Torino by beating it 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

After chances for both teams in Florence, the breakthrough was made in the 65th minute. A corner was taken short to Aleksa Terzic, who whipped in a cross for Luka Jovic to head in at the far post.

Jonathan Ikone sealed the result — and a place in the final four — with a fine strike into the bottom right corner in the final minute after good work from Arthur Cabral.

Cabral also hit the crossbar in stoppage time before Yann Karamoh pulled one back for Torino to set up a nervy final three minutes.

Torino had won 1-0 at Fiorentina in Serie A less than two weeks ago.


Lewandowski scores as Barça beat Betis to improve league lead

Lewandowski scores as Barça beat Betis to improve league lead
Updated 02 February 2023

Lewandowski scores as Barça beat Betis to improve league lead

Lewandowski scores as Barça beat Betis to improve league lead
  • Lewandowski sealed Barcelona’s sixth straight victory in all competitions with his first league goal since October

MADRID: Robert Lewandowski ended his scoring drought in the Spanish league to help Barcelona defeat Real Betis 2-1 and increase their lead over Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Lewandowski sealed Barcelona’s sixth straight victory in all competitions with his first league goal since October. He is the league’s leading scorer with 14 goals. The Poland striker was making his return from a three-game suspension for disrespecting a referee in a match last year.

Raphinha opened the scoring for Barcelona, which now are eight points ahead of second-place Real Madrid ahead of the rival’s home match against Valencia on Thursday.

Both midweek games were postponed from January because of the teams’ participation in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. Barcelona defeated Betis in a penalty shootout in the semifinals before eventually winning the final against Madrid. Madrid played Valencia in the other semifinal, also advancing in a shootout.

It was Betis’ sixth straight league loss at home against Barcelona, who have won seven straight if counting the shootout win over Betis in the Super Cup.

Betis stayed in sixth place in the league, 19 points behind Barcelona. They are three points behind fourth-place Atletico Madrid in the final Champions League place. Manuel Pellegrini’s team has won one of its last five games in all competitions.

Raphinha put Barcelona ahead with a touch from close range after a left-flank low cross by Alejandro Balde in the 65th minute. Lewandowski added to the lead with a shot from inside the area in the 80th, and Betis got on the board with an own-goal by Barcelona defender Jules Koundé in the 85th.

Lewandowski has five goals in his last five matches in all tournaments.

The win came after Barcelona closed the winter transfer window without any signings to boost their squad. It saw forward Memphis Depay move to Atletico and Hector Bellerin join Sporting Lisbon. Veteran defender Gerard Pique retired.

Betis lost defender Alex Moreno to Arsenal and forward Loren Moron to Las Palmas, but it signed former Leicester forward Ayoze Perez.


Mbappe misses penalty, comes off injured in PSG win

Mbappe misses penalty, comes off injured in PSG win
Updated 02 February 2023

Mbappe misses penalty, comes off injured in PSG win

Mbappe misses penalty, comes off injured in PSG win
  • PSG host Bayern in Paris on February 14, with the second leg in Germany on March 8

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain extended their lead at the top of Ligue 1 with a 3-1 win at Montpellier on Wednesday but their evening was overshadowed by an injury to Kylian Mbappe, who had earlier missed a penalty.
The France superstar had an eighth-minute spot-kick saved by Montpellier’s Benjamin Lecomte and then remarkably saw his second attempt turned onto the post by the goalkeeper after the referee ordered a retake.
Mbappe then limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury midway through the first half, raising the alarm for PSG with the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich now less than two weeks away.
Speaking after the game, coach Christophe Galtier suggested the injury was down to a knock rather than a muscle problem.
“He took a knock to the back of the knee or the back of the thigh, so we’ll see,” Galtier told broadcaster Canal Plus.
PSG host Bayern in Paris on February 14, with the second leg in Germany on March 8. They are desperate to avoid a repeat of last season when they were knocked out at the same stage of the Champions League by Real Madrid.
After winning just one of their last four league games, Wednesday’s awkward trip for PSG saw them also lose Sergio Ramos to injury and have two goals disallowed before Fabian Ruiz put them ahead 10 minutes into the second half.
Ruiz then set up Messi to make it 2-0 with a deft finish in the 72nd minute, the Argentine scoring his 14th club goal of the season.
Sixteen-year-old midfielder Warren Zaire-Emery made sure of the win in stoppage time after Arnaud Nordin — a friend of Mbappe’s from their time together at France’s national training academy — had pulled one back.
PSG, who were without the rested Neymar, extended their lead at the top of the table from three to five points after Lens lost 1-0 at home to Nice.
“It was a good performance in general,” Galtier said.
“There was an incredible scenario in the first half with the retaken penalty, we hit the post, had goals disallowed and two injuries because Sergio Ramos was involved in a collision and on falling he hurt his adductor, but apparently it is nothing serious.”
The win for PSG came after a frustrating end to the January transfer window on Tuesday as they failed to process the paperwork to complete the loan signing of Hakim Ziyech from Chelsea after the Moroccan winger had passed a medical.
Gaetan Laborde scored the only goal of the game for Nice as Lens dropped points at home for the first time this season after winning all 10 previous matches there.
Marseille climbed above Lens into second place thanks to a 2-0 victory at Nantes earlier, secured by an own goal from Joao Victor and then a late strike by Azzedine Ounahi, the Moroccan World Cup star making his debut after signing in the January window.
Monaco in fourth beat Auxerre 3-2, while fifth-placed Rennes eased to a 3-0 win against struggling Strasbourg.
On-loan Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun followed up his last-gasp equalizer against PSG at the weekend by netting a hat-trick as Reims came from two goals down to beat Lorient 4-2 and extend their unbeaten run to 15 games.
Bottom side Angers suffered a new French top-flight record 13th consecutive defeat as they conceded in stoppage time to lose 2-1 at home to Ajaccio.
That result leaves them 11 points from safety.


Al-Ahly sweep aside Auckland City in Club World Cup opener

Al-Ahly sweep aside Auckland City in Club World Cup opener
Updated 02 February 2023

Al-Ahly sweep aside Auckland City in Club World Cup opener

Al-Ahly sweep aside Auckland City in Club World Cup opener
  • Hussein El Shahat hammered in a long-range drive in first-half stoppage time for Al-Ahly, who added to their lead with goals from Mohamed Sherif and Percy Tau

TANGIERS, Morocco: Egyptian giants Al-Ahly brushed past New Zealand’s Auckland City 3-0 on Wednesday in the opening round of the Club World Cup in Morocco.

Hussein El Shahat hammered in a long-range drive in first-half stoppage time for Al-Ahly, who added to their lead with goals from Mohamed Sherif and Percy Tau.

El Shahat’s strike put him in elite company as the fourth player to score at three different editions of the Club World Cup — joining Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Auckland, the Oceania champions appearing at the tournament for a record 10th time, had defender Adam Mitchell sent off in the closing moments.

Al-Ahly, runners-up to tournament hosts Wydad Casablanca in last year’s CAF Champions League, play the Seattle Sounders on Saturday with the winners advancing to meet Real Madrid.


Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final

Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final
Updated 02 February 2023

Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final

Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final
  • United book their place in a first League Cup final for six years

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Manchester United will meet Newcastle at Wembley on February 26 in the League Cup final after a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest sealed a 5-0 semifinal aggregate victory.
Anthony Martial and Fred scored the goals for Erik ten Hag’s men in the final 17 minutes as United booked their place in a first League Cup final for six years.
The damage was done for the Red Devils in last week’s 3-0 win at the City Ground in the first leg as Ten Hag was able to rotate his squad with United still involved in four competitions.
Ten Hag made six changes from the side that beat Reading 3-1 in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday with Marcus Rashford among those left on the bench, but Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes did start despite the heavy schedule.
United failed to reach the heights of their first leg performance but were let off the hook by Forest in the first half as Brennan Johnson and Emmanuel Dennis missed big chances to reduce the visitors’ arrears in their first major cup semifinal since 1992.
Wout Weghorst opened his account for United when the sides last met and the giant Dutch striker was inches away from his first goal at Old Trafford as he headed Casemiro’s cross off the post just before half-time.
Ten Hag was handed a limited budget in the January transfer window after spending over £200 million ($247 million) in the summer with just the loan signings of Weghorst, Marcel Sabitzer and Jack Butland.
But the return of Jadon Sancho comes at just the right time to bolster United’s attacking options.
The England international had been sidelined since October due to a combination of mental and physical issues, but made his return just after the hour mark.
Rashford and Martial were introduced alongside Sancho and made an instant impact.
The Frenchman slotted home after Rashford’s initial effort was blocked to open the scoring.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 as this time Rashford teed up Fred for the simplest of finishes into an empty net.
A much tougher test lies ahead for Ten Hag’s men against high-flying Newcastle, but the former Ajax boss is just one game away from his first goal of ending United’s six-year trophy drought.