BERLIN: Bayern Munich saw their lead in the Bundesliga cut to just one point on Saturday after Randal Kolo Muani’s equalizer held the German champions to a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.
The result was Bayern’s third consecutive 1-1 draw, with the reigning German champions still looking for their first win of 2023.
Union Berlin’s 2-0 derby win over city rivals Hertha earlier on Saturday meant Bayern’s three-point cushion on top of the table had been erased by kick-off.
Bayern lacked fluency early in a testy opening half, which saw both center-back Matthijs de Ligt and goalkeeper Yann Sommer pick up yellow cards.
With 34 minutes gone, former Man City forward Leroy Sane settled his team’s nerves by hammering a cross from veteran forward Thomas Mueller past the outstretched hand of Frankfurt ‘keeper Kevin Trapp.
After the goal, Bayern rekindled their early season form and produced their best spell of the match, with France defender Dayot Upamecano going close to doubling their lead just three minutes later.
Bayern continued to push for a second goal after the break but Frankfurt, who had only lost once in their previous 11 games in all competitions dating back to early October, looked dangerous on the break.
Eintracht coach Oliver Glasner brought on Japan international Daichi Kamada just past the hour and the change had an almost immediate impact, Kamada exchanging passes with Kolo Muani before the latter struck the ball past Sommer and into the net.
Earlier on Saturday, Union took the lead away to Hertha late in the first half through Dutch defender Danilho Doekhi, who headed in a free-kick from captain Christopher Trimmel.
Union doubled their lead halfway through the second half through midfielder Paul Seguin to run out victors over a spirited but toothless Hertha.
Visiting fans began singing “city champions” with 10 minutes remaining, celebrating their fifth consecutive derby win.
Union’s win deepened the woes of Hertha, who are second bottom having won just three games all season.
After the match, Union coach Urs Fischer sought to play down expectations, telling AFP’s sports subsidiary SID that his side “did not look like a top team.”
“It was a hard-fought derby. It was close over 90 minutes. In the end, we were lucky winners. We were efficient,” he said.
Elsewhere, Freiburg beat Augsburg 3-1 at home to move into fourth place.
First-half goals by towering Austrian striker Michael Gregoritsch and fellow forward Lucas Hoeler put Freiburg in the driving seat.
A 29th-minute penalty from Mergim Berisha gave the visitors hope, but Freiburg sealed their first win of 2023 through an 85th-minute strike from Philipp Lienhart.
In Bremen, Germany striker Niclas Fuellkrug scored both his side’s goals in a 2-1 win over Wolfsburg, overtaking RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku to top the Bundesliga scoring charts with 13 goals this season.
Promoted Bremen, who had lost six of their past eight matches came up against an in-form Wolfsburg who were unbeaten in 11 games under former Bayern coach Niko Kovac.
Borussia Moenchengladbach compounded Hoffenheim’s misery with a 4-1 away win.
Two first-half goals and a second-half assist for captain Lars Stindl from midfielder Jonas Hofmann, Gladbach’s only representative in Germany’s 2022 World Cup squad, gave the visitors a comfortable victory.
Hoffenheim suffered their sixth defeat in their last eight games, leaving them just three points clear of the relegation playoff spot.
Mainz overcame the disappointment of Wednesday’s last-gasp loss to Borussia Dortmund, thrashing Bochum 5-2 at home, their first win in seven league matches dating back to October.
A hat-trick from Austrian forward Karim Onisiwo, plus goals by Lee Jae-sung and Silvan Widmer lifted Mainz into 11th ahead of a midweek German Cup meeting at home with Bayern.
Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal
Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal
- The result was Bayern's third consecutive 1-1 draw, with the reigning German champions still looking for their first win of 2023
- Union Berlin's 2-0 derby win over city rivals Hertha earlier on Saturday meant Bayern's three-point cushion on top of the table had been erased by kick-off
BERLIN: Bayern Munich saw their lead in the Bundesliga cut to just one point on Saturday after Randal Kolo Muani’s equalizer held the German champions to a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.
West Ham, Fiorentina aim to end long European trophy droughts in Europa Conference League final
- West Ham earned their lone European title in 1965, the old European Cup Winners’ Cup
- The reward for the winner of the final is not just a trophy but also a berth in the Europa League next season
PRAGUE: West Ham and Fiorentina haven’t won a European trophy for more than 50 years.
The drought will end for one of them when they play out the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday in Prague.
“This will be the biggest match that the club has had in so long, so it’s going to be an honor to be part of and hopefully we can create some history on the night for the fans to cheer about,” said West Ham captain Declan Rice, who is widely expected to leave the club after the season.
West Ham earned their lone European title in 1965, the old European Cup Winners’ Cup. Alan Sealey scored twice to beat 1860 Munich 2-0 at Wembley Stadium. The Hammers reached the final again in 1976.
Forward Jarrod Bowen scored four goals in helping West Ham reach its third European final and said it will be “certainly be the biggest game of my career.”
“I’ve played for England, but I think achieving this with your teammates who you’ve been with together to get to a final and you have the opportunity to win a trophy together, it will be a massive moment,” Bowen said. “We’re mentally ready, physically ready for a massive game tomorrow night.”
Fiorentina’s only European trophy was also the Cup Winners’ Cup, the first one back in 1961 when it defeated Rangers in a two-leg final 4-1 on aggregate.
By reaching the second final of the Europa Conference League, Fiorentina have become the first club to contest a final in four major continental competitions.
Fiorentina were defeated by Real Madrid for the 1957 European Cup (the forerunner of the Champions League), and by Juventus in the 1990 UEFA Cup final. They also failed to win the Cup Winners’ Cup back to back, losing the 1962 final to Atletico Madrid.
Fiorentina have had a good buildup. They played the Italian Cup final two weeks ago and were beaten by Inter Milan 2-1. That’s the only loss for the Florence-based club in their last six matches. The last warmup for the Conference final was beating Sassuolo 3-1 last Friday for an eighth-place finish in Serie A.
“We needed this victory,” Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano said after the match. “Now we have a mountain to climb but we will be aiming for the summit in Prague.”
Despite struggling to a 14th-place finish in the English Premier League, West Ham have been a European title contender for a second straight year under manager David Moyes.
Following a campaign to the Europa League semifinals a year ago, West Ham marched to Prague as the only undefeated team in the third-tier Europa Conference League. West Ham won 13 games including qualifying, and were held by Gent to 1-1 in the first leg of their quarterfinal. The Hammers were the first club to win all six group stage encounters.
“They’re a team that has a lot of ability, they’ve got some top level players, they have got strength all over the pitch,” Italiano said about West Ham in Prague on Tuesday. “But if we’ve made it to the final, then we clearly have some strength as well.”
At Eden Arena in the Czech capital, West Ham will face a team that scored the most goals in the campaign, 36, led by forward Arthur Cabral’s seven.
“I’ve been hugely impressed by Fiorentina,” Moyes said. “A difficult opponent, an Italian opponent is always difficult and we respect that.”
The reward for the winner of the final is not just a trophy but also a berth in the Europa League next season.
The first Conference final was won by Jose Mourinho’s Roma against Feyenoord 1-0 in Tirana, Albania a year ago.
Juventus plan to leave Super League project after season of legal turmoil
- Juventus responded to reports they already left the Super League by explaining they contacted the two Spanish clubs “to initiate a discussion period” about their exit
- It has been a tough season for Juventus’ owners, players and lawyers with no trophies won, legal cases lost and mass resignations among the board of directors
TURIN, Italy: Juventus plan to leave the Super League project still being pursued by Real Madrid and Barcelona, though the club denied Tuesday they had been threatened with a European ban by UEFA.
The three storied clubs are awaiting a ruling expected within weeks from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg into their legal challenge against what they claimed is UEFA’s monopoly control of European club competitions.
But Juventus responded to reports they already left the Super League by explaining they contacted the two Spanish clubs “to initiate a discussion period” about their exit.
The three clubs were holdouts after the other nine Italian, Spanish and English clubs who joined them to launch the breakaway Super League in April 2021 renounced it within weeks of its quick failure.
UEFA was a clear winner when the Luxembourg court gave a first, non-binding opinion in the Super League case in December that went against the clubs.
It has been a tough season for Juventus’ owners, players and lawyers with no trophies won, legal cases lost and mass resignations among the board of directors.
A 10-point deduction in Serie A was finally confirmed last month in a false accounting case that dropped Juventus to finish seventh instead of qualifying for the next Champions League. That entry would have been worth tens of millions of euros (dollars) to the financially troubled club.
However, even the two-time European champion’s place in the third-tier Europa Conference League are at risk from a separate UEFA investigation of the false accounting allegations.
Juventus appear likely to have broken UEFA’s financial fair play rules that can lead to bans imposed by a UEFA-appointed panel. A final verdict, potentially on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, is needed before the Europa Conference League qualifying playoffs round in August.
Long-time club president Andrea Agnelli resigned in November in fallout from the case. He had been a UEFA executive committee member and chairman of the influential European Club Association before giving up those positions of power in 2021 to help launch the Super League.
Benzema bids farewell to Real Madrid as he heads to Saudi Arabia
- The French striker, 35, will leave as a free agent in the close season
- He is set to move to Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad, signing a two-year deal estimated by media reports to be worth more than 100 million euros
MADRID: Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema said farewell to Real Madrid in a small, private ceremony closed to fans and media on Tuesday following a trophy-laden 14-year stay with the LaLiga club.
The French striker, 35, will leave as a free agent in the close season and is set to move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad, signing a two-year deal estimated by media reports to be worth more than 100 million euros ($106.93 million).
There were no tears in a ceremony that lasted less than 20 minutes and in which only players, family and close friends were allowed to attend.
“I will never forget Real Madrid. It’s impossible, it’s the best club in history. But I think today is the time to leave and to get to know another story,” Benzema told the small audience at Real’s training facilities.
“It’s difficult to talk with so many feelings, but I wanted to thank Real Madrid and my team mates. It was a good path in my life. I have been lucky enough to fulfil my childhood dream.”
Having joined Real in 2009 from Olympique Lyonnais, Benzema became the spearhead of the club’s attack and their main goal-scoring threat after Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.
Benzema scored 354 goals for Real to sit second on the club’s all-time scoring list behind Ronaldo.
He had his best season in the 2021-22 campaign when he scored 44 times in all competitions to lead the side to a record-extending 14th European title as well as the LaLiga crown.
His pivotal role earned him the Ballon d’Or award, making him the first French player to win the trophy since Zinedine Zidane in 1998 and the fifth Frenchman overall.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez praised Benzema for all he had done at the club.
“Karim, you have been an example of behavior and professionalism in our club,” Perez said.
“You have earned the right to decide your destiny. A future that only belongs to you and we must respect it.”
Iniesta says goodbye to old friends at Barcelona in friendly in Tokyo
- Iniesta played 674 games for Barcelona from 2002-18, winning 30 trophies
- Last month, he announced he was leaving the Japanese club after his final match on July 1 in the western city of Kobe
TOKYO: Andres Iniesta said goodbye to old friends as he played for his Japanese club Vissel Kobe against his former club Barcelona in a friendly at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
Barcelona won the match 2-0. Iniesta played 674 games for Barcelona from 2002-18, winning 30 trophies. He also scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final.
Last month, he announced he was leaving the Japanese club after his final match on July 1 in the western city of Kobe.
Iniesta played five seasons with Vissel Kobe and has not announced his plans. The 39-year-old midfielder says he wants to keep playing, which he has not been doing much of this season.
Spanish champion Barcelona flew directly to Japan after their last Liga match on Sunday, and were expected to return by charter after the Kobe friendly.
Japanese online retailer Rakuten owns Kobe Vissel and is also its shirt sponsor. Rakuten was Barcelona’s shirt sponsor until several years ago. Rakuten is run by Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani.
Newcastle United end-of-season awards: winners and losers from historic 2022/23 campaign
NEWCASTLE: The wait for silverware goes on at St. James’ Park, but Champions League football has returned.
Having suffered the seemingly endless pain of one relegation battle after the next, this season has proven a welcome distraction for Newcastle United.
Under Eddie Howe, and with PIF at the helm, the days of feeding on scraps at the foot of the Premier League seem long gone. This very much feels like the era of progress and positivity on Tyneside.
The season that was full of highs, with the odd low along the way, but it all ended in success with a top-four finish in the bag and trips to Barcelona and Madrid in the offing, rather than fears of Preston and Barnsley.
Looking back, here’s our take on the highlights, lowlights and the standout performers across the season.
Player of the season
You know it’s been a remarkable campaign when you find it impossible to mention your 18-goal, Premier League fourth top-scorer for the season, Callum Wilson, in your top three players for the season. In fact, he might not even make the top five, such has been the competition at the top.
Honourable mentions must go to the likes of Bruno Guimaraes, Fabian Schar, Kieran Trippier and Nick Pope, who have all more than proven their value over the course of the season, but in my opinion, it is very difficult to look past the talents of last season’s official POTY, Joelinton. He’s a player who just keeps getting better and better.
Signed as a forward and used in a back-to-goal, central role on arrival, the big Brazilian looked like a fish out of water in the Premier League. It is easy to forget that it must have been hard to settle during the COVID-19 lockdown, not speaking the language, playing in a new country, new environment and being asked to perform a role that you had never played.
Those days, though, seem long gone. And while the shoots of recovery were evident in the latter days of the previous manager, Howe sprinkled some magic on the player in his opening weeks, dropping him into a deeper midfield role, with the switch paying instant dividends. From then, Joelinton has been used as a left forward or to the left side of a central midfield three, bursting forward to score goals and also provide cover to the backline with his physical, commanding style.
This season, playing largely in midfield, Joelinton had his most successful season in front of goal, netting eight — and from his deepest starting slot yet. Bigger than any Arab News player of the year gong, Joelinton received his maiden Brazil call last week, just reward for his outstanding form and growth under Howe.
Most improved player
Sean Longstaff. Always undervalued, never by Howe and his coaches, though.
In the space of a year, Longstaff transformed from a player who appeared to have lost his way under previous boss Steve Bruce and was heading for the Newcastle exit door. The North Shields native — a city suburb on the banks of the Tyne — never wanted to leave his boyhood heroes. However, his breakthrough under Rafa Benitez and big money links to Manchester United seemed a million miles away from the reality of this time last year.
And even after penning a new deal, one which saw his chronic underpayment readjusted, things in the garden weren’t exactly rosy for Longstaff, with Jonjo Shelvey ahead of him in the midfield pecking order, as well as usual suspects Joelinton, Joe Willock and Bruno Guimaraes. But a knock to Shelvey in pre-season in Portugal opened the door to the Geordie, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Makeshift left-back Dan Burn could easily make a case for unsung hero, too.
Young player of the year
Elliot Anderson had a brilliant breakthrough year, and bigger and better things are expected of the youngster next season, but this one is really a two-way shootout.
Sven Botman and Alexander Isak, both signed last summer, enjoyed sensational first seasons at the club, the latter despite a long, frustrating spell on the sidelines.
Isak, signed for a club record fee, broke on the scene with a flawless display on debut at Liverpool and looked set for great things, only for an injury, sustained while away with Sweden, to keep him out until the new year. But after his return, Isak displaced top-scorer Wilson as the club’s central striker and netted 10 goals in total himself. His most memorable contribution probably came on the blue half of Merseyside when he weaved in and out on the left to tee up Jacob Murphy. It was every bit a throwback to Thierry Henry at Arsenal. Rumour has it, Everton’s Michael Keane is still twisting and turning to this day.
Botman, on the other hand, has been Newcastle’s Mr. Consistent, a rock alongside Schar at the heart of the Magpies’ backline. And while he hasn’t put in the flashy shows like Isak, his solidity, in his debut campaign in the joint best defense in the division, means he gets the nod for me.
Underperformer for 2022/23
This one isn’t difficult. Allan Saint-Maximin. He started the campaign like a house on fire, but injury curtailed his blistering start, which saw Kyle Walker turned inside-out in a 3-3 draw with Manchester City as never seen before. It was a flash of the old Maxi. Sadly, flashes are all we get these days.
When fit — and that was rarely this season — Saint-Maximin struggled for gametime even though he showed a willingness to bend to Howe’s more disciplined tactical approach. It has never quite felt like enough, though. And even though more flashes were shown on the final day at Chelsea, you’d have to feel his time on Tyneside may well be up.
The player himself took to Instagram to post this very cryptic message on Monday. It read: “When I joined @nufc in 2019, nobody understood my choice. I always believed in this club, as soon as I step onto the pitch, the fans directly adopted me. Since then there has been highs and lows, when we were in the relegation zone, but I always believed in the team and trusted the project even if it was hard to stay in the PL, I knew that the club deserved much better and we had to prove it. I gave everything on the pitch to keep the team at the highest level. I am grateful that some people remember that.”
It continued: “I am now entering a turning point in my career and I will give everything until the end to achieve my dreams. It’s often said that human beings forget quickly, but me I won’t be able to forget everyone that love me for who I am and believe in me in difficult moments, it’s in these hard situations that we see the real supporters. Thanks to everyone for the support, whatever happens, I will always give everything when I have the chance to step onto the pitch. Thanks, God, for everything.”
It’s fair to say that message has got fans guessing.
Goal of the season
Newcastle had two contenders in the Premier League’s goal of the season competition, and both deserve a special mention.
Miguel Almiron’s cracker of a volley, which was stroked in at Fulham as it dropped over his shoulder, is up there with the best the league was graced with in the past 12 months, however, you would have to go a long way to see a better strike than the one produced by Saint-Maximin at Wolves.
The goal meant a lot, it rescued a point for Newcastle in their first real struggle of the season, but the technique in itself was worthy of winning any competition. Hit with such velocity, having dropped from so high, first time, in the 90th minute from 1-0 down, it was the pinnacle of the Frenchman’s ultimately disappointing season.
Result of the season
Spurs. It had to be: 21 minutes of unbridled mayhem, five goals and a team decimated without getting out of second gear.
This was one of the finest, most brutal, Premier League performances I’ve ever seen. Easily the most impressive period of play, in those opening exchanges, ever produced in the Premier League by a team in black and white.
Sitting in the St. James’ Park press box, we were swamped by fans falling off their seats and jumping with joy, time and time again that day. Jacob Murphy’s face told the story of the masses — no one could believe their eyes, particularly those furnished in sky blue. It was a long trip back, no doubt. Final score, Newcastle United 6, Tottenham Hotspur (Harry Kane alone) 1.
Moment of the campaign
In a campaign of many moments, for me, one stands above all. The final whistle at the end of the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal.
Newcastle United dominated their struggling opponents from near minute one to 90, and with just 20 minutes to go, edged themselves in front via Joelinton. The job wasn’t done yet, but still, at the halfway point, playing a side who’d go on to finish bottom of the top-flight last season, it felt the groundwork had been laid.
I was at Wembley — the old pre-development one — as a fan in 2000, the last time Newcastle played there in a cup competition. And as the whistle sounded, for the first time, a wave of realization swept over me that a return was on the cards.
That being said, the win over Brighton, which all but sealed a Champions League spot, was also up there in a close second. The outpouring of emotion that night, on and off the field, was a joy to behold.
The one big regret...
At almost any given time this season, Newcastle would have bettered Manchester United. But in front of 87,306 people on Feb. 28, they barely laid a glove on them. Sadly, for Howe and Newcastle, it was the most meaningful afternoon of the whole campaign.
Losing the Carabao Cup final was not really something alien to the club; they’ve lost final after final before. However, there was something a whole lot different this time around, yet so much remained the same.
This was not the Man United treble-chasing side of 1999, nor was it Arsene Wenger’s pre-Invincible, but near untouchable Gunners of 1998 — the last two teams to beat the Magpies in a showpiece finale. This was the fallible, very beatable Man United, one in transition, moving toward glory of old, but lacking belief that a win was an inevitability. That’s why losing it felt so painful.
The thing to take from this moment, though, and the whole season, is that these times will come again for Newcastle — but next time, they’ll be in a stronger position to grasp the opportunity — and silverware — with both hands.