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. 

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Moroccans celebrate historic World Cup win against Spain

Updated 07 December 2022

Moroccans celebrate historic World Cup win against Spain

  • The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, praised the national team and sent his “heartfelt congratulations”
  • In central Paris, cars started honking almost immediately after Morocco’s surprise win Tuesday

RABAT, Morocco: Exuberant Moroccans poured into the streets of their capital and in cities across Europe on Tuesday, waving flags and honking horns to celebrate their national soccer team’s historic victory over Spain at the World Cup.

Morocco defeated Spain in a penalty shootout, making the Atlas Lions the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the quarterfinals in Qatar — and the first Arab team in World Cup history to make it to the last eight.

“We are so proud of our Lions, who fought hard to get us into the quarterfinals,” said Niama Meddoun, a Rabat resident. “We are delighted to be Moroccans today, since we are the first Arab country that has reached the quarterfinals.”

The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, praised the national team and sent his “heartfelt congratulations” to the players, the technical team and administrative personnel, “who gave their all and blazed a trail throughout this great sporting event,” according to a statement from the royal palace.

The king said the players represented “hopes and dreams of Moroccans in Morocco, Qatar, and all over the world.”

Morocco is the only Arab — and African — nation left in the tournament, the first World Cup held in the Middle East. Its World Cup success has reverberated across the Arab world and among Moroccan and some other immigrant communities in Europe.

In Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, a crowd of youths waving Moroccan, Egyptian, Algerian and Palestinian flags gathered in the center, where fans of FC Barcelona traditionally celebrate big victories. People cheered to the sound of drums. Some were lighting flares.

In a Barcelona restaurant where viewers had congregated, people jumped on tables and lifted chairs in the air. Outside, cars honked horns and people lit firecrackers and red and green smoke bombs.

Youssef Lotfi, a 39-year-old construction worker who was born in Casablanca but moved to Spain as a child and said he feels love for both countries, was brimming with pride.

“Today is a day of joy for Moroccans and all the Arab world,” Lotfi said. “It was a heart-attack finish that could have gone either way.”

He called the victory “once in a lifetime” experience. “Morocco is representing all the Arab world, all the African continent, that is beyond description, it is the most glorious part,” he said.

In Ceuta, a Spanish exclave which borders with Morocco on the north African coast, the win was also celebrated with cars honking horns. Ceuta’s population is a mix of Spaniards and Moroccan residents and workers.

“What pride! What happiness! Now to celebrate with friends. I have lost my voice!” said 20-year-old Ismael Mustafa. “We were able to pull it off. For Spain? You will win next time, so no worries.”

Celebrations across Spain, which has some 800,000 Moroccan residents, were mostly peaceful, though Spanish media reported a brief scuffle between Morocco and Spain fans in a bar in the southern city of Huelva. No injuries or arrests were reported.

In Qatar, Moroccan fans clashed briefly with police outside the stadium before the game started.

Ten days ago riots broke out in Belgium and the Netherlands as Morocco fans celebrated beating Belgium in the group stage in Qatar.

In central Paris, cars started honking almost immediately after Morocco’s surprise win Tuesday, and crowds of people streamed toward the Champs-Elysees to celebrate. Men and women, in business suits or track suits, from teenage to middle-aged, cheered or raised their hands in victory. Cries of “Allez, allez!” in French rang out, and one woman asked strangers “Who has a Moroccan flag I can borrow?”

Spain fans were crushed by the loss.

“They have been very unlucky in the penalties, but it seems to me that they have also made a mistake in the players who take the penalties,” said 64-year-old Dionisio Sánchez, who was among a group of fans who trickled out of bar in Madrid.

“They shot with very little enthusiasm ... little desire to score, but the penalties, it’s luck, it’s a lottery,” he said.
 

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Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal crush Swiss to reach World Cup quarters

Updated 07 December 2022

Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal crush Swiss to reach World Cup quarters

  • Goncalo Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958
  • Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target for a rampant Portugal, who booked a showdown with Morocco on Saturday

DOHA: Goncalo Ramos justified the shock decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring a hat-trick on his full debut as Portugal demolished Switzerland 6-1 on Tuesday to power into the World Cup quarter-finals.
The 21-year-old Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958.
Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target for a rampant Portugal, who booked a showdown with Morocco on Saturday for a place in the last four in Qatar.
Ronaldo, 37 and now without a club after his departure from Manchester United, has hogged the headlines during the tournament while looking a shadow of his former self.
The only man to score at five World Cups, Ronaldo was left out by coach Fernando Santos against the Swiss following his angry response to being substituted in the last group game.
It was a bold call to omit a player with a record 118 international goals in favor of giving a full debut to Ramos, the Benfica striker who had played just 33 minutes across three previous appearances.
But it took just 17 minutes for Ramos to reward Santos’ faith, and to achieve something Ronaldo has never done — score in a World Cup knockout game.
Joao Felix clipped delicately into the feet of Ramos, who quickly swivelled past Fabian Schaer and rifled into the roof of the net past a stunned Yann Sommer.
Otavio, who returned to the Portugal midfield after injury in their opening match, shot straight at Sommer before Ramos did likewise moments later.
Xherdan Shaqiri drew a fingertip stop from Diogo Costa with a dipping free-kick from distance, but Portugal soon had their second.
Bruno Fernandes whipped in a corner and the 39-year-old Pepe towered above the Swiss defense to powerfully head home.
Diogo Dalot hacked Remo Freuler’s header off the line after Diogo Costa failed to properly deal with a cross, but the Swiss simply had no answers against an irresistible Portugal.
Ramos turned in his second from close range six minutes into the second half from Dalot’s cross down the right.
He then turned provider by playing in Guerreiro to lash in another just four minutes later as the Swiss defense was ruthlessly ripped apart.
It was also Ramos who inadvertently glanced a corner toward Manuel Akanji at the far post as the Manchester City center-back pulled one back for Switzerland.
Ramos completed his treble after more outstanding work from Felix, nonchalantly dinking over Sommer with one of his final touches before making way for Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s introduced elicited the biggest roar of the night. Ronaldo did have the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for a clear offside.
Leao capped off a sensational Portugal performance with a terrific curling strike in stoppage time.


Morocco players celebrate with Palestinian flag after Spain upset

Updated 06 December 2022

Morocco players celebrate with Palestinian flag after Spain upset

  • The Palestinian flag -- which has been fluttering widely across Qatar during the finals -- was seen being held aloft by Moroccan players

DOHA: Morocco’s players unfurled a Palestinian flag during their on-pitch celebrations after the team’s stunning World Cup upset victory against Spain on Tuesday.
The Palestinian flag — which has been fluttering widely across Qatar during the finals — was seen being held aloft by Moroccan players following the dramatic penalty shoot-out win over the Spaniards.
FIFA regulations prohibit the display of banners, flags and fliers that are deemed to be “political, offensive and/or discriminatory nature.” In the past, football’s governing bodies have issued fines for displays of the Palestinian flag inside stadia.
Morocco’s players also displayed the Palestinian flag after the team’s win against Canada during the group stage last week.
World Cup host Qatar has no relations with Israel and remains a supporter of the decades-long Palestinian cause for statehood.
Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories of east Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War fought with Arab nations.
About 250,000 Palestinians live in Qatar which has a population of around 2.9 million, most of them foreigners.


Ronaldo benched for Portugal’s last 16 tie with Switzerland

Updated 06 December 2022

Ronaldo benched for Portugal’s last 16 tie with Switzerland

  • Ronaldo, 37, is the only man to score at five World Cups
  • He angered Portugal coach Fernando Santos with his reaction to being substituted in the last group game

DOHA: Cristiano Ronaldo was left out of Portugal’s starting line-up for their World Cup last 16 clash against Switzerland on Tuesday, with Goncalo Ramos selected up front at his expense.
Ronaldo, 37, is the only man to score at five World Cups, but he angered Portugal coach Fernando Santos with his reaction to being substituted in the last group game.
Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix return for Portugal after they were rested in the 2-1 loss to South Korea, as does Bernardo Silva who made a brief appearance off the bench in that game.
Joao Cancelo drops out, with Diogo Dalot keeping his spot at right-back and Raphael Guerreiro restored at left-back.
Otavio starts in midfield after recovering from an injury in Portugal’s opening match.
Switzerland welcome back goalkeeper Yann Sommer from illness and Fabian Schaer retains his place in defense having filled in for Nico Elvedi in the 3-2 win over Serbia.
Edmilson Fernandes comes in for the absent Silvan Widmer at right-back.

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Eto’o sorry for fan ‘altercation’ but slams Algeria ‘provocation’

Updated 06 December 2022

Eto’o sorry for fan ‘altercation’ but slams Algeria ‘provocation’

  • Eto'o released a statement in which he admitted being involved in a "violent altercation"
  • He only addressed his apology to "the public" however and made no gesture to the fan

DOHA: Former Cameroon star Samuel Eto’o apologized Tuesday for kneeing an Algeria supporter in the face but insisted he was the target of “relentless provocation” by the North African state’s supporters since a controversial World Cup qualifier this year.
The 41-year-old Cameroon federation president and ambassador for the Qatar World Cup flew into a rage after being approached as he left Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea in Doha on Monday night.
A video widely shown on social media showed the four-time African player of the year breaking free from people seeking to restrain him and kneeing the face of a blogger named as Sadouni SM.
The man fell back after being struck but has not reported any serious injury.
Eto’o released a statement in which he admitted being involved in a “violent altercation.”
“I would like to apologize for losing my temper and reacting in a way that does not match my personality,” said the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker.
Eto’o only addressed his apology to “the public” however and made no gesture to the fan.
Eto’o lashed out at Algeria’s supporters for their behavior since Cameroon beat Algeria on away goals in a World Cup qualifying playoff in March.
Algeria later complained to FIFA about the referee and initially demanded a replay.
“I pledge to continue to resist the relentless provocation and daily harassment of some Algerian supporters,” Eto’o said.
“I have been the target of insults and allegations of cheating without any evidence,” he added.
He said Cameroon fans at the World Cup had also been “harassed and pestered” by Algerians.
“The scenario of Algeria’s defeat was cruel but perfectly in line with the rules and ethics of our sport,” Eto’o insisted.
All of Algeria’s appeals have been rejected and Eto’s said that Algerian authorities must now act to halt “this unhealthy climate before a more serious tragedy occurs.”
The African football legend was surrounded as soon as he left the 974 Stadium where the round of 16 match was played.
Wearing a blue baseball cap, he is seen allowing selfies with some fans before he was approached by the Algerian.
Eto’o handed his mobile phone to a man before surging at the blogger to deliver the blow with his knee.
Sadouni SM said in a video posted online Tuesday that his camera and microphone had been “smashed” in the incident.
“He hit me,” the man adds, pointing to his chin.
“I did all that for Algeria,” Sadouni SM says in the video.
“I am at the police station now for the inquiry.
“This video must be shared. As Eto’o is a celebrity I am afraid they will cover up the inquiry, but I trust the Qatari police,” he added.
Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee has not commented on the incident. Eto’o toured Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana in August to promote the World Cup.
The former international has a history of fiery outbursts, receiving a three-match ban in 2010 for headbutting an opponent while playing for Inter.

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