Newcastle United double injury boost for Arsenal as Eddie Howe snubs Man United chief’s comments

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has questioned the media circus around this week’s Premier League vote and the focus on the Saudi Pro League. (Screenshot/NUFCTV)
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Updated 24 February 2024

Newcastle United double injury boost for Arsenal as Eddie Howe snubs Man United chief’s comments

NEWCASTLE: Alexander Isak and Joe Willock have handed Newcastle United a huge boost ahead of their trip to Premier League title challengers Arsenal.

The Magpies head to the Emirates Stadium in the late kick-off on Saturday hoping to net their first win at the venue for more than a decade. You have to go back to 2010, for an Andy Carroll header in a 1-0 smash-and-grab to find the last time Newcastle left the red half of North London with three points.

Coach Eddie Howe has confirmed his injury-ravaged squad will be boosted by the return of top-scorer Isak and former Gunners’ midfielder Willock, who has barely kicked a ball for Newcastle in the last 10 months.

“They’ve trained this week, it’s been good to see them back on the grass,” said Howe.

“It’s been a long time for Joe but he’s a huge player for us. It’s been great to see him back among the group, he’s a very popular member of the squad. Really pleased for him.

“He was battling so hard to come back and then he had a couple of setbacks along the way, they’re difficult moments because a player just wants to play, be fit and express themselves in a positive way.

“Joe has had that limitation placed upon him with his body and it’s been very difficult for him. I think he has handled himself really well. I think we’ve seen him mature in the last few months where he’s had to show a different side of his character to come through this period and I think as long as he comes back full pelt, we’ll see a better Joe Willock for that experience.”

On Isak, Howe says he will be careful, especially with the player repeatedly missing so much football this campaign due to a groin problem.

“With Alex again, a really important player, he’s trained well so we’re happy with both players. We’ll have to wait and see, we’ve got one more training session but I’ve been pleased with their progress.

“We’ll only play him if we feel he is fit to play. We won’t take any risks. We’re in the hands, really, of Alex and the medical team and we’ll make the right decision for both the short and long term.

“I hope the best is yet to come (from Isak). It’s a difficult one. People will talk about his injuries but he’s still contributed massively. He’s an incredible player, there’s nobody else like him in the Premier League in my opinion. He has talents that can transform our team and I’d love to see him stay fit and get the goals he’d love to score for us.”

Meanwhile, Howe was asked about the situation in relation to the club’s soon-to-depart sporting director, Dan Ashworth.

This week, newly rubber-stamped Manchester United shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe described any talk of Newcastle not allowing Ashworth to switch to Old Trafford in a timely manner as “silly” and batted away suggestions he would sanction the Red Devils paying a huge fee to cut short any waiting period.

Ashworth was this week placed on gardening leave by the Magpies after an official approach by Manchester United. However, it is understood that period of leave extends to 2026, as well as his contract containing a substantial compensation fee. Newcastle could be tempted to cut that short, if Ratcliffe coughs up yet more cash to free Ashworth up — although, that is very much at the Magpies’ discretion.

When asked if the Ashworth talk has been unsettling or disruptive this week, Howe said: “The day-to-day running of the football club, not at all. It’s something that has happened away from the players and training ground. It’s been business as usual for us. A normal week.

“Certainly the events this week have given that certainty. I said in my press conference last week is what we needed as a football club. We’ve got that now and look forward to the future.”

When asked about Ratcliffe’s comments on Newcastle’s demands being “silly” and “absurd,” Howe responded: “I don’t think I can respond to that. I don’t think that’s for me. I’m not involved in those discussions and I’ll stay well away.

“In these situations it’s about Newcastle from our perspective. But that is for other people to make those decisions, I’m not involved in that in any way, shape or form. I’m preparing the team to play Arsenal.”

Newcastle’s move to recruit Ashworth’s successor is already underway, with talk of the likes of Monaco’s Paul Mitchell in the frame.

Howe does not expect to be consulted on the process, even if he does have a clear opinion about what should happen next.

He said: “I don’t think I’ll be involved in the decision-making process but I think we will have discussions on the role and how I see that. But again I don’t think that will be definitive, it’ll be the club’s decision and rightly so. But of course it won’t just be my opinion that they will listen to, they’ll be listening to lots of different opinions from lots of different people.

“Hopefully at the end we just come to the right solution for the football club because hopefully the next person that comes in will be at the club for many years and will be able to take the club in the direction everyone wants it to.”



Saudi Arabia to face Uzbekistan in AFC U23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

Updated 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to face Uzbekistan in AFC U23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

  • The tournament ends on May 3 and is also a qualifying route to the 2024 Olympic Games

DOHA: Reigning champions Saudi Arabia will play Uzbekistan on Friday in the 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup quarterfinals after the group stages concluded on Tuesday.

Uzbekistan beat Vietnam 3-0 at Khalifa International Stadium to secure the top spot in Group D. Both teams had already secured their progress to the next round. Meanwhile, Kuwait beat Malaysia 3-1 at Al-Janoub Stadium to take third place in the group.

Qatar take on Japan on Thursday, with the victors meeting either Iraq or Vietnam, who play on Friday, in the semifinals. Saudi or Uzbekistan will face the winner of Wednesday’s match between South Korea and Indonesia.

The tournament, which will end on May 3, is a route to this year’s Olympic Games which will take place in Paris this summer. The sixteen teams are split into four groups of four, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals.

The winners of both semifinals secure automatic qualification, while the two losing semifinalists contest third place with the victors booking their spot in Paris. The fourth-place finishers have one final chance to qualify for the Games through a play-off against an African qualifier.

Matthews’ second century powers West Indies Women to convincing 88-run victory over Pakistan

Updated 24 April 2024

Matthews’ second century powers West Indies Women to convincing 88-run victory over Pakistan

  • The victory in the third ODI helps West Indies sweep the ICC Women’s Championship fixer by 3-0
  • The two teams are now scheduled to play five Twenty20 cricket matches in Karachi from Friday

ISLAMABAD: West Indies Women’s captain Hayley Matthews scored her second century of the series to help her team convincingly beat Pakistan Women by 88 runs in the third One-Day International (ODI) in Karachi and sweep the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Women’s Championship 2022-25 fixture by 3-0.

Matthews, who scored 140 not out in the series opener five days ago, made an excellent 141 to steer her side to 278 for six in 50 overs. Pakistan Women, in their run-chase, faltered to 190 all-out in 47.5 overs.

Matthews faced 149 balls and struck 19 fours in her career-best innings in 83 matches. She put on 93 runs in 110 balls for the second wicket with Shemaine Campbelle and 111 runs for the third wicket in 124 balls with Stafanie Taylor. She was the fifth batter to be dismissed at the score of 250 in the 46th over.

“West Indies win the third and final ODI of the series by 88 runs,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced in a social media post.

Campbelle contributed a 58-ball 38 with two fours, while Taylor followed up on her 73 in the previous match with a 62-ball 47 including four fours. Later in the order, Aaliyah Alleyne struck three fours in a 12-ball 20 not out to put West Indies Women in a position of strength.

For Pakistan Women, Nashra Sandhu was the most successful bowler with three wickets for 54 runs, while Fatima Sana snapped up two wickets for 67 runs.

In their run-chase, Pakistan Women were formally out of contention after losing half their side for 95 runs in 27.2 overs. Aaliya Riaz (36) and Fatima Sana (23) delayed the inevitable by adding 41 runs in 63 balls for the sixth wicket, before the home side were sent packing for 190 with 13 deliveries of their quota remaining.

Muneeba Ali top-scored with 38, while Bismah Maroof contributed 19 as the two batters added 45 runs for the third wicket.

For the West Indies Women, Aaliyah Alleyne grabbed two wickets for 10 runs, Hayley Matthews picked up two wickets for 26 runs, and Stafanie Taylor bagged two wickets for 29 runs.

After seven rounds of the ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25, Pakistan have remained in fifth position on 16 points with eight wins and 13 losses. In contrast, the West Indies have moved ahead of Bangladesh and joined Sri Lanka in seventh position on 14 points (six wins, seven losses) after five rounds.

The top five teams in the 10-team ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25, along with hosts India, will directly qualify for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2025. The bottom four teams of the ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25 and the top two teams from the ICC ODI rankings will progress to a Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament.

The two sides will now go toe to toe in the five-T20I series, which will be played at the National Bank Stadium on 26 April, 28 April, 30 April, 2 May, and 3 May. The matches will commence at 7.30 pm.

Doncic shines as Mavs sink Clippers; Timberwolves down Suns

Updated 24 April 2024

Doncic shines as Mavs sink Clippers; Timberwolves down Suns

  • Jaden McDaniels scored 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves dominated the Phoenix Suns 105-93 to take a 2-0 series lead
  • Pascal Siakam poured in 37 points to guide the Pacers to an impressive series-leveling win over the Bucks

LOS ANGELES: Luka Doncic scored 32 points as the Dallas Mavericks battled to a series-tying 96-93 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday in a tense NBA Western Conference playoff duel.

Slovenian star Doncic combined with Kyrie Irving for 55 points to ensure that Dallas will head back to Texas with honors even at 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Doncic and Irving formed a sublime double act in a hard-fought fourth quarter, orchestrating a crucial 14-0 run that effectively took the game away from the Clippers, who had downed Dallas in a 109-97 win in Game 1 on Sunday.

After trailing for most of the game, the Clippers threatened to snaffle another precious home victory after opening up a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

But the Doncic-Irving axis helped the Mavs regain control to set up a deserved win.

Doncic finished with 32 points, nine assists and six rebounds while Irving contributed 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“We had to make some noise in the second game, you know, first game wasn’t our best game,” Doncic said.

“So we had to come out here and prove that we can play with them,” Doncic added, before saluting the contribution of Irving.

“It’s amazing having him on our team,” Doncic said. “It just helps me a lot. A great guy and just happy that he’s here.”

James Harden and Paul George led the Clippers scoring with 22 points each.

In other playoff action, Jaden McDaniels scored 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves dominated the Phoenix Suns 105-93 to take a 2-0 series lead. Indiana roared back to beat Milwaukee 125-108 and square their best-of-seven duel at 1-1.

McDaniels led a balanced Minnesota offensive effort that saw all five starters finish in double digits as the Western Conference third seeds moved to within two wins of a series victory.

But it was the Timberwolves’ defense who turned the game in the home side’s favor, shutting down Phoenix in the second half to frustrate Suns stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

A torrid night for Phoenix ended with Booker fouling out in the fourth quarter while the Suns also were handed an injury scare, with Grayson Allen hobbling off in the third quarter after rolling an ankle.

The Timberwolves will go into Friday’s game three brimming with confidence after restricting Phoenix’s offense to 42 second-half points.

Minnesota scored 31 points off 20 Phoenix turnovers while the Suns took just two points from the Wolves’ 14 turnovers throughout the game.

“We’ve had issues with that throughout the course of the year, taking care of the basketball and it reared its head again tonight,” Phoenix coach Frank Vogel said.

McDaniels led the home side’s scoring with 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists while Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley added 18 apiece.

Anthony Edwards finished with 15 points, eight assists and three rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 12 points.

“We got a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “We’re really making the right plays right now.”

In Milwaukee, Pascal Siakam poured in 37 points to guide the Pacers to an impressive series-leveling win over the Bucks.

Siakam finished with 11 rebounds and six assists while Myles Turner added 22 and Andrew Nembhard 20 as the Pacers claimed a deserved win.

“He just doesn’t get rattled,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said of Siakam. “He plays the game at his pace. He was excellent tonight.

“He’s a unique player. His experience shows and he had a lot of big, big plays for us tonight... his experience in the playoffs is invaluable.”

Milwaukee started brightly, with Damian Lillard once again taking on the lion’s share of the scoring duties in the absence of the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But Lillard’s 34 points were not enough to keep the Pacers at arm’s length. Indiana took the lead just before half-time and finally pulled away in the fourth quarter, leading by 23 points at one stage.

“Give them credit, their pressure forced us into taking tough shots,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said.

“They pushed us around. I thought they were the more physical team tonight.”

Game 3 in the series takes place in Indianapolis on Friday.

Sinner plays down Djokovic, Alcaraz comparisons

Updated 24 April 2024

Sinner plays down Djokovic, Alcaraz comparisons

  • The Italian world No. 2 can come within touching distance of the top-ranked Djokovic in the standings should he triumph in Madrid this fortnight and he arrives in the Spanish capital brimming with confidence
  • In the absence of Djokovic, who has pulled out of the tournament, Sinner is the top seed in Madrid

MADRID: Jannik Sinner on Tuesday dismissed the idea that he is the best player in the world right now, saying he should not be compared to his fellow top-three rivals, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.

The Italian world No. 2 can come within touching distance of the top-ranked Djokovic in the standings should he triumph in Madrid this fortnight and he arrives in the Spanish capital brimming with confidence and carrying an impressive 25-2 win-loss record for the season.

The reigning Australian Open champion, who owns a tour-leading three titles in 2024, is ranked No.1 in the ATP’s Race to Turin, and is 1,650 points ahead of second-placed Daniil Medvedev.

“I think it’s a tough question to answer. We always see only this moment and I think that sometimes it’s good but also not good,” the 22-year-old Sinner told reporters in Madrid.

“I still believe that you cannot compare myself with Novak with all that he has done. And the same goes for Carlos. Also Carlos won more than me.

“I have a lot of respect for both of them. I just try to play my game, trying to understand what works best for me and then we see what I can achieve.”

Sinner has never made it past the third round in either of his previous two appearances at the Caja Magica and will be looking to change that this time around.

In the absence of Djokovic, who has pulled out of the tournament, Sinner is the top seed in Madrid, where he faces Richard Gasquet or Lorenzo Sonego in the second round.

“I used to struggle quite a lot in the previous years, finding my level here, so it’s going to be interesting to see how I’m going to play this year,” he added.

Meanwhile, Alcaraz had no qualms describing Sinner as the game’s best and the Spanish world No. 3 acknowledges it will be tough trying to stop his good friend and rival from taking over the top spot in the rankings.

“He’s dangerous, he’s really dangerous. He’s the best player in the world right now,” said Alcaraz, who is the two-time defending champion in Madrid.

“Probably everybody thinks that his tennis doesn’t suit very much clay but he makes good results on clay as well, he can win every tournament he goes to, and I’m fighting with him, with Novak, to be in the first spot and I’m trying not to let them stay there.

“Honestly it’s going to be difficult. They deserve to be there and let’s see what’s going to happen the next tournaments.”

The 20-year-old Alcaraz is coming off a right arm injury that forced him to skip the tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

He said he managed to increase the intensity of his training since his arrival in Madrid and is hoping to be 100 percent ready for his opener on Saturday against Arthur Rinderknech or Alexander Shevchenko.

On the eve of the tournament, Alcaraz attended the Laureus World Sports Awards and presented Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham with the Breakthrough of the Year award, giving an impressive speech, in English, in front of a marquee audience.

“I didn’t feel comfortable on the stage. I was so nervous. I practiced that speech during the week almost 50 times just to make sure it’s going to be perfect and I was shaking, my legs were shaking. I’m not used to giving a speech in front of legends of the sports and in front of that kind of people,” confessed Alcaraz.

Elsewhere, world No. 4 Medvedev is hoping to avoid another on-court tantrum if faced with questionable officiating after his fiery reaction to disputed calls in Monte Carlo made headlines.

While most big tournaments have adopted electronic line-calling, many clay events still use line judges, given the mark of the ball should be easy to see on the red dirt.

Monte Carlo witnessed numerous issues with officiating though, and Medvedev is aware he has to find a way to control his temper throughout the clay season.

“Mistakes can happen. I wish I hadn’t reacted like this, so let’s see if next time it happens, I cannot promise anything, but hopefully I can focus more on the match than on the mistake itself,” said the 28-year-old Russian.

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

Updated 24 April 2024

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

  • The destiny of the title remains in Man City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand

LONDON: Kai Havertz and Ben White scored twice as Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 5-0 on Tuesday to surge ahead in the Premier League title race and ramp up the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City.
Leandro Trossard was also on target in a record win over Chelsea for the Gunners, who move three points clear of Liverpool and four of Manchester City.
The destiny of the title remains in City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand.
Liverpool have also played one fewer game than Arsenal and are in action at Everton in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.
However, Mikel Arteta’s men’s goal difference advantage now looks unassailable should it become decisive in the title race.
“We have made our people very proud, it is a big derby for us and I know what it means,” said Arteta.
“We started the game really well but didn’t convert all our chances — we were a bit sloppy in certain areas of the pitch.
“In the second half we were much more disciplined and created chances and were ruthless in front of goal.”
Chelsea and Arsenal’s title rivals were dealt a huge blow before kick-off as the Blues’ danger man Cole Palmer was ruled out due to illness.
Palmer has scored or assisted nearly 50 percent of Chelsea’s Premier League goals this season and his presence was badly missed by the visitors.
Despite enduring a disappointing first season under Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea had been unbeaten in eight consecutive league games prior to their FA Cup semifinal defeat to Manchester City on Saturday.
But they were blown away by an Arsenal side keen to reaffirm their title credentials after losing their last home game to Aston Villa.
“So difficult (a) result and performance (to accept) because it is not nice to see your team playing like this from the beginning of the game,” said Pochettino.
“Today we didn’t compete against a team fighting for the Premier League. We need to be aware we need to compete in a different way.”
The hosts flew out of the blocks and were in front inside five minutes.
Trossard only ended up at the Emirates after Arsenal were gazumped by Chelsea in the battle to sign Mykhailo Mudryk in January 2023.
The Belgian has proved to be a far more productive signing and smashed in his 15th goal of the season at Djordje Petrovic’s near post.
Petrovic redeemed himself for a mistake at the opening goal with two brilliant saves to turn away Havertz’s low effort and a deflected shot by Trossard to keep his side in the game before half-time.
The Serbian briefly held Arsenal at bay early in the second period with saves from Declan Rice and Havertz.
However, the floodgates opened once White curled in Arsenal’s second after Chelsea failed to clear a corner on 52 minutes.
Havertz scored the winning goal in a Champions League final for Chelsea during his three years in west London, but he never performed consistently to the level he has found in recent months under Arteta.
Martin Odegaard’s stunning through ball was met with the finish it deserved as Havertz smashed high past Petrovic.
His next finish was more subtle as the German international fired in off the post from Bukayo Saka’s pass for his seventh goal in his last 14 club games.
A night for forget for Chelsea was summed up when White’s attempted cross flew into the top corner from another sensational Odegaard pass.
Defeat leaves Chelsea still in ninth, three points adrift of the European places.
Next up for Arsenal is what appears their toughest hurdle remaining away to Tottenham in Sunday’s north London derby.
Should Arteta’s side prevail at the home of their fiercest rivals, City will likely need to be perfect in their final six games to retain the title.