Newcastle 1-0 Fulham: Finally, goal to Newcastle (Video)

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It took a long time. Most of the match wasn’t pretty. In fact, Newcastle supporters looked to be in utter agony as they watched their players send in shot after shot, few of which actually came close to goal. But by the end of the 90 minutes, Newcastle not only had recorded their first goal of the season, but also notched their first win, bringing relief to those frustrated fans at St. James’ Park.

The most that can be said for Newcastle during the first half is that they managed to get in eight shots — that’s six more than the Magpies had had in their first two matches. However, only two of those shots were on target. Oh, and we should probably mention the fact that the most promising of those shots, from Fabricio Coloccini, was blocked by his own teammate. As the whistle blew for the break, it was clear that everyone at St. James’ Park was thinking the same thing: were Newcastle ever going to score this season?

But to be fair to Newcastle, Fulham were actually upstaging the home side in the “who can make this game even less interesting?” challenge. The visitors had a mere one shot in the first half, with Darren Bent setting up Brian Ruiz, but the ball went so high that Tim Krul didn’t bother waking up from his nap. Or, at that point, it may have been more properly described as a coma.

In fact, the Newcastle goalkeeper was permitted to sleep until the 68th minute, when Yohan Cabaye fouled Alexander Kacaniklic. Ruiz took the resulting free kick, putting his shot on target to force a save from the sleepy Dutchman. Then Fulham settled down and Krul was permitted to catch up on his rest once again.

The Magpies, however, continued to press for their first goal of the season, peppering David Stockdale’s goal again and again. A header from Yoan Gouffran forced the Fulham keeper into an impressive save. Soon after, Papiss Cissé hit the bar, and with Stockdale’s ears still ringing,  the keeper blocked a shot from Hatem Ben Arfa with his foot.

Ben Arfa found his revenge minutes later. Loïc Remy, on in the 74th minute, sent in the cross, which Ben Arfa neatly chested down before taking on two Fulham defenders. Rather than go through the red and white shirts, Ben Arfa dinked the ball up and over their heads, with Stockdale unable to do anything but watch. It may have taken 86 minutes, but Newcastle finally had their first goal of the season — and their first win to go with it.

Celebrate, Newcastle fans. You’ve earned this one.


Newcastle: Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Ben Arfa, Anita (Cabaye 65), Sissoko, Marveaux (Remy 74); Shola Ameobi, Cissé

Subs not used: Gosling, Dummett, Elliot, Ameobi

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether (Briggs 73), Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Kacaniklic, Sidwell (Rodallega 89), Parker, Ruiz; Berbatov, Bent (Taarabt 82)

Subs not used: Duff, Boateng, Karagounis, Etheridge

Griezmann sets pre-World Cup deadline for transfer future

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French striker Antoine Griezmann is no stranger to seeing his name in the transfer rumor mill, but that familiarity doesn’t make it any more enjoyable for the Atletico Madrid attacker (who celebrates his 27th birthday on Wednesday).

Long-tipped for a move to either Barcelona or Manchester United, Griezmann knows one thing: He wants his future sorted before the World Cup.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“I want to travel to Russia without this concern,” he told L’Equipe. “It’s not about knowing where I’ll play, but about having the peace of mind if I’m still in one place or another.

“It may be boring, but I have told my sister that, whether I stay or not, this will have to be resolved beforehand. What bothers me the most is that everyone asks me about this issue.”

That’s both honest and reasonable, and we can imagine it’s not a blast to answer questions on your future every day. He also has a contract through 2021-22, which won’t make any transfer a simple one.

Griezmann has 23 goals and 13 assists in all competitions for Atleti this season, as La Liga’s second place side remains alive in the UEFA Europa League. He’s scored 106 goals for Atleti since arriving from Real Sociedad.

NYCFC signs second Homegrown Player in history

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Four years, two Homegrowns.

That’s the decent track record for New York City FC, which has spotted a second youngster from amongst its ranks in 15-year-old Joe Scally.

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Scally joins United States youth international James Sands as Homegrown Players from NYCFC. Here’s USMNT legend and NYCFC technical director Claudio Reyna:

“Joe has been one of the top performers in the Academy for the past few seasons and represented US Soccer at U-15 and U-17 level.”

“He has all of the attributes we look for in a right-back: he’s strong in defense and can support in attack to help create chances from wide areas.”

Sands was signed last summer, and played 23 minutes for NYCFC against Colorado in his lone senior appearance.

Allow England defender Alfie Mawson to charm you

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Swansea City’s Alfie Mawson is at England national team camp, and the young man is conducting himself in downright adorable fashion.

It seems the 24-year-old London defender cannot quite believe Gareth Southgate called his name for the Three Lions.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“A lot of people wouldn’t have even heard my name until this call up,” Mawson told the BBC. “You know it’s down to performing well at certain times, it’s down to doing the right things and sometimes it’s down to being a nice person.”

Mawson has played every minute for Swans this season, picking up two goals and an assist. More importantly, he’s won 3.3 aerial battles per game and 6.3 clearances.

While this won’t necessarily serve him well against the Netherlands and Italy in this week’s friendlies — they don’t put a lot of hopeful balls into aerial or clearing positions — it’s kept Mawson on the England radar for this summer’s World Cup.

Mawson is two seasons removed from playing in the Championship, and was loaned to lower league clubs like Maidenhead United and Welling United. At the time, he was going to “car boot sales with my girlfriend” which from my limited Googling seems the English equivalent of a yard sale and flea market combined.

“We are in a good position now where we don’t really have to do the car boots unless she wants a bit of excitement on a Sunday morning.”

Pretty good position, yeah.

FIFA urges Russia to hasten work on delayed World Cup arena

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) FIFA has urged Russia to speed up World Cup preparations at a stadium which needs “a huge amount of work” to be ready on time.

With less than three months to go until the World Cup, the 45,000-seat Samara Arena is the only one of 12 stadiums which doesn’t yet have a pitch installed.

The stadium in the Volga River city of Samara was already badly delayed due to a complex roof design, but now cold weather in the Russian spring is causing further problems. The pitch can’t be installed until the weather warms up.

“Obviously we would expect further progress than this,” FIFA’s chief competitions official Colin Smith said on a visit to the arena Wednesday. “We don’t yet have a pitch, and obviously we need to wait for some warmer weather conditions in order to get this pitch installed.”

As of Tuesday, instead of a field, there was an area covered with tarpaulins and snow. Temperatures are forecast to stay slightly below freezing for the rest of the week.

“There’s a huge amount of work still to be done,” Smith added. “From the information we’ve received there’s nothing stopping all these areas being completed on time. It just requires commitment and more manpower to get it done on time, and when we talk about on time, we’re talking about the commissioning date of the end of April.”

If that date passes, it could restrict FIFA’s ability to test the stadium with Russian league games and install World Cup equipment. Outside the arena, deep snowdrifts cover much of an area that is due to be landscaped for the tournament and will host some facilities for fans.

Alexander Fetisov, deputy governor of the Samara region, said the stadium will be ready.

“I’d like to avoid unnecessary dramatization of the situation,” he said. “Everything is being done so that the stadium is commissioned in the time required.”

Samara isn’t the only World Cup field which has drawn attention in recent weeks. The stadium in Kazan has been widely criticized by Russian fans after a brown, muddy surface was used for league games after the winter break.

Smith said FIFA was offering Russia help to get its fields ready, adding, “We’re doing everything possible and we’re convinced that we’re going to have a very, very high standard of pitches at this tournament.”