Battling Newcastle earn vital point in 1-1 draw with West Ham

West Ham United’s English midfielder Michail Antonio fights for the ball with Newcastle United’s English defender Matt Targett during Saturday’s Premier League match in London. (AFP)
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Updated 20 February 2022

Battling Newcastle earn vital point in 1-1 draw with West Ham

  • Despite the absence of Allan Saint-Maximin due to a calf injury, Magpies came back to draw thanks to Joe Willock’s first goal of the season

NEWCASTLE: Joe Willock’s first goal since May 2021 ensured Newcastle United kept up their unbeaten Premier League start to 2022 with a battling draw at West Ham United.

A Craig Dawson header had given the home side an unexpected lead, only for Willock to pop up with his first of the season on the stroke of half-time.

The result ends a run of three wins in the top flight for the Magpies but extends their unbeaten run to six games. You have to go back to mid-December and Manchester City for when Newcastle last lost in the Premier League.

Eddie Howe’s side are now in 17th place, four points clear of the bottom three.

The headlines before the match were taken up by a surprise absence in the United starting 11 as Allan Saint-Maximin was left at home with a calf problem.

It was a blow, but it didn’t seem to affect Howe’s side.

It’s rare a team away from home in the Premier League dictates play, dominates field position, possession and chances — but that’s exactly what Newcastle delivered in the opening 45 of this encounter.

Nevertheless, they almost found themselves behind at the break.

Joelinton was the first to go close for the Magpies as he nipped in to dispossess Declan Rice in the area, only to see his low shot blocked by the feet of Lukasz Fabianski.

Ryan Fraser and Willock both tried their luck, but to no avail, while Jarrod Bowen’s deflected cross was tipped on to the bar brilliantly by Martin Dubravka, in what was a very rare foray forward by the Hammers.

In total control, it felt as if the only way this would swing the way of David Moyes’ side was if the Magpies shot themselves in the foot — and just after the half hour they pretty much did just that.

An unnecessary foul on Michail Antonio by Emil Krafth gave away a free-kick that was curled into the area for an unmarked Dawson to nod home with ease. It felt like self-destruction.

However, Newcastle continued to dominate and frustrate the home crowd.

They got their deserved leveller in added time, when a Ryan Fraser cross from the left was bizarrely headed back towards his own goal by Rice and Willock nipped in to squeeze the ball past Fabianski, off the post, and just over the line.

One for the purists, the second half became a bit of a war of attrition in wind-swept and soggy conditions as neither side really looked to have the ideas or intent to open the other up.

Again it was that man Willock who went closest, as he swung a swirling effort wide of the post.

The game was hardly an advert for English football, and if you didn’t have an active interest in either of these sides you’d have stopped watching. However, that matters little to Newcastle, who keep marching on in 2022.

Take away the FA Cup shock against Cambridge United and it’s been a near kick-perfect year so far for Howe & Co. And how they needed it, too.

The 12 points taken in the last six games have more than doubled their season tally for the campaign.

With 22 points on the board, safety feels like a tangible target. It only took 29 points to retain Premier League status in 2020/21 — a similar tally this season might unlock the door to future riches for United. 


British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban

Updated 57 min 57 sec ago

British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban

  • The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban
  • The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, also barred them from competing at this year's edition of tennis' oldest Slam

LONDON: British tennis chiefs said Wednesday they were “disappointed” at being fined $1 million by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for banning Russian and Belarusian players from its events.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban.
The LTA stages five events — Queen’s Club in London, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley — in the calendar of the ATP, which runs the men’s professional tennis tour outside of the four Grand Slams.
Russian and Belarusian players were barred from all five tournaments.
The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, also barred them from competing at this year’s edition of tennis’ oldest Slam.
Both the ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points in protest at a ban labelled “crazy” by Novak Djokovic.
The Women’s Tennis Association had also previously issued a fine of $1 million to British tennis authorities, split between $750,000 to the LTA and $250,000 to the All England Club.
It is also understood the LTA has been threatened with expulsion from the ATP Tour if it repeats the ban.
The LTA, responding Wednesday to the latest sanction, accused the ATP of a “lack of empathy” over the situation in Ukraine, saying in a statement: “The LTA is deeply disappointed with this outcome.
“The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government’s response to that invasion.
“The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules — with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced.”
The statement said the fines would have a financial impact on the LTA’s ability to “develop and host” tennis in Britain.
It added: “We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA’s decision and sanction.”
Michelle Donelan, the British government’s Culture Secretary, also urged the ATP and WTA to reconsider their punishments.
“We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimize this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries,” she said.
“Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result.
“This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”
Speaking after an executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, IOC president Thomas Bach also took aim at the British government for politicizing participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
Despite ice hockey players from the two countries playing in the NHL, Bach said, “on the other hand we had Wimbledon, the British Government interfering and forcing the Wimbledon organizers to exclude Russian and Belarusian players.”
“Governments should not decide on political grounds who is participating in which sports events.
“The qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits and not on political interference.”
Bach accused the British government, and others, of going against the Olympic Charter — guarantor of the IOC’s political neutrality.
“To take a decision, a political decision, on a sports competition is clearly not in line with these resolutions and with these commitments and is not in line with the mission of international sports,” he said.

Bangladesh edge past India to clinch ODI series 2-0

Updated 07 December 2022

Bangladesh edge past India to clinch ODI series 2-0

  • Mehidy Hasan Miraz scores maiden century, takes two wickets
  • Bangladesh beat India by 5 runs to take unassailable lead in ODI series

DHAKA: Mehidy Hasan Miraz hit his maiden one-day international century and took two key wickets as Bangladesh prevailed in a five-run win over India that clinched the series on Wednesday.

The all-rounder made an unbeaten 100 and put on 148 runs for the seventh wicket alongside Mahmudullah Riyad to pull Bangladesh out from a precarious 69-6 and post 271-7 in Dhaka.

India skipper Rohit Sharma batted at number nine with an injured thumb and hit an unbeaten 51 off 28 balls to give Bangladesh a scare as India ended on 266-9 in 50 overs.

Bangladesh, who took an unassailable 2-0 lead with the final match on Saturday, won their second successive series against India after they got past them in their previous meeting at home in 2015.

Rohit, who hit five sixes in his blitz and needed a six to win on the final ball when Mustafizur Rahman held his nerve, had gone for scans after he took a hit while attempting a catch at slip in Bangladesh's innings.

Mehidy, who opened the bowling with his off spin, returned figures of 2-46 as he struck with the wickets of KL Rahul, out lbw for 14, and Shreyas Iyer, who top-scored with 82.

Fast bowler Ebadot Hossain stood out with three wickets including Virat Kohli bowled for five and later cut short the left-handed Axar Patel's knock on 56.

But Mehidy and former captain Mahmudullah set up victory with the highest seventh-wicket stand against India by any team in 50-over matches as thwarted an inspired bowling attack.

India's Mohammed Siraj led the attack after he removed the openers and fellow quick Umran Malik, who also took two, soon joined forces to push Bangladesh onto the backfoot.

Mystery spinner Washington Sundar struck three times in seven deliveries including the key wickets of Shakib Al Hasan (eight) and Mushfiqur Rahim (12).

Mehidy, who starred in his team's opening win by one wicket, hit back and reached his third ODI fifty and soon after Mahmudullah got his 27th half-century. The duo then shifted gears with regular boundaries.

Umran, a tearaway quick, finally got Mahmudullah caught behind but Mehidy kept up the charge to reach his hundred on the final ball of the innings in an unbeaten stand of 54 with Nasum Ahmed, who made 18.

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Updated 07 December 2022

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

  • Judy Murray, Barbara Schett-Eagle and Mats Wilander hold tennis try-outs for women on sidelines of Diriyah Tennis Cup
  • Judy Murray: ‘To be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on around it, is very, very important’

Female students from Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) Riyadh participated in tennis coaching sessions with leading international coaches and former players as part of the Diriyah Tennis Cup program.

The students were coached by Judy Murray, mother of leading players Jamie and Andy Murray, former World Number 1 Mats Wilander from Sweden and Austrian Barbara Schett-Eagle.

Some of the women students held a racquet in their hands for the first time and were introduced to the sport by the tennis legends.

“At the sessions we had a real mix of complete beginners who want to learn the game, some people who have been playing for years and wish to improve and also teachers and coaches,” said Judy Murray.

“I have worked in tennis for over 30 years and the last twelve years I have really focused on encouraging women and girls. Not just to play tennis but to get involved in delivering tennis. We don’t have enough female coaches in tennis worldwide, so actually to be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on in the community around it, is very, very important.”

“As a — hopefully — role model and female coach I like to go out and share all the content I have created over many years. I am so passionate about getting more women and girls involved, so this is a lovely opportunity for me to come to Riyadh to do that.”

Former leading player Mats Wilander said: “People are very much into sport here. To play tennis with the female students was wonderful. Judy Murray has a wonderful program. It’s important, to bring tennis to the women of Saudi Arabia, women in general and people in general. Everybody should have a chance to experience and try out the sport.”

Former Austrian player Barbara Schett-Eagle added: “I had an unbelievable day playing tennis with the female students, some playing for the first time. I love tennis. It’s my love and my passion. At the end, they were all able to hit a tennis ball. Some never held a racket before. It was great, there were lots of smiles.”

The President of the Saudi Tennis Federation Arij Almutabagani said that she sees a bright future for tennis in the kingdom.

“There is a strong possibility of finding some young talent. We are really starting at the grassroots, at the beginning, but we have to start somewhere. I think Judy Murray is a great inspiration and I think this program with her is a good start and I hope we can work with her in the future,” said Almutabagani.


Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Updated 07 December 2022

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

  • Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event
  • Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes

Shane Lowry, the 2019 Open Champion, has announced that he will compete in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event.

Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes. A four-time winner on the DP World Tour, and twice on the PGA TOUR, Lowry secured his second Rolex Series title at the BMW PGA Championship in September, in a season that also included a top three finish at The Masters.

On the prospect of teeing off at Emirates Golf Club from 26th to 29th January — as he aims to add more silverware in the UAE following his 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title — Lowry said: “I always enjoy going to Dubai and I am delighted to be returning to Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic in January.

“I’ve had success in the UAE in the past, and it would be great to add my name to the impressive list of players who have lifted this trophy.”

Fleetwood ended the 2022 season in style, securing his sixth DP World Tour title when he successfully defended his Nedbank Golf Challenge title in November. The former European Number One has also tasted success in the UAE with two wins in Abu Dhabi, and was runner-up to Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow fan favorite Lowry at the 2019 Open. It is his joint best Major outing to date, having also finished second at the US Open the previous year.

New Zealand’s Fox has had a stunning 2022, finishing second behind McIlroy in the season-long DP World Tour Rankings after winning the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February and the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October. With a further eight top tens throughout the season, including a narrow playoff loss at the Dutch Open, the Kiwi, will be looking to take that impressive form into 2023 and his appearance in Dubai.

Englishman Hatton is another tournament addition with considerable pedigree, who has experienced recent success in the region following his 2021 triumph in Abu Dhabi. The two-time Ryder Cup star has six DP World Tour victories to his name, including four Rolex Series titles. After a runner-up finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, he will be aiming to carry on that form when he returns to Dubai in January.

The four will join two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, four-time Major winner and current World Number 1 McIlroy, who has already confirmed his participation.

Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The latest player announcement shows the strength of the Dubai Desert Classic and its ability to attract the very best players in the world. Over the years we have been proud to assemble stellar line-ups for fans to enjoy some scintillating golfing action — and the 2023 edition will be no exception.”

“To add the 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton to the field guarantees that we have a world class field. Ryan Fox will come to us on the back of a brilliant 2022, his best career year to date and will be another excellent addition to our line-up,” added Corkill.

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Updated 07 December 2022

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

  • The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia
  • The defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from travelling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajime Moriyasu

NARITA, Japan: Japan will put their World Cup heartbreak behind them and focus on becoming Asian champions for a fifth time, captain Maya Yoshida said after the team returned home on Wednesday.
The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia in the last 16 on Monday, denying them a first-ever place in the quarter-finals.
But the defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from traveling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajjime Moriyasu back from Qatar.
“We won’t stop here,” Yoshida said at a news conference after arriving.
“We will aim to become the best in Asia,” he added.
“Our fight will continue. As long as we keep playing football, we must keep fighting.”
The Asian Cup will also be held in Qatar after original host China dropped out due to its strict anti-Covid policies.
The tournament was set to be held in June and July 2023 but is now likely to be postponed until early 2024 to avoid Qatar’s fierce summer heat.
Japan won the most recent of their four Asian Cup titles the last time Qatar hosted the tournament, in 2011.
The Blue Samurai could not find a way past Croatia in the last 16 of the World Cup, but they stunned former champions Germany and Spain to top their first-round group.
“We couldn’t reach new heights but my players showed us a new era, and this is just the beginning,” said Moriyasu.
Among the crowd of fans waiting to welcome the team home at the airport was 55-year-old Takamichi Masui.
He said the wins over Germany and Spain were proof that “Japan has become a soccer powerhouse.”
Another fan, 37-year-old Takahiro Ichikawa, said that like captain Yoshida, he is only looking ahead.
“For now, I hope the national team will focus on pulling off a solid performance in the Asian Cup in Qatar,” he said.