Aleksandar Mitrovic

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Brazil hammer Japan; Serbia, South Korea win

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There are plenty of friendlies taking place across the globe this week as teams step up their 2018 World Cup preparations.

Five teams who have already booked their spot at the tournament in Russia next summer were in action early on Friday with Brazil, Serbia and South Korea all grabbing wins.

Below is a roundup of the games which took place, with plenty of other international friendlies to come in the next few days.


Japan 1-3 Brazil

The Seleceao were purring in Lille, France as Neymar scored from the penalty spot early on (with the help of VAR giving a decision against Southampton and Japan defender Maya Yoshida) but the PSG star then missed a second spot kick in the first half. Not to worry as Marcelo smashed home to make it 2-0 and and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus finished off a flowing team move to make it 3-0 before half time. Japan pulled a goal back in the second half through Tomoaki Makino but Brazil dominated as they now face England at Wembley next Tuesday. Japan face Belgium in Brugge on Tuesday.

South Korea 2-1 Colombia

Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son scored twice for South Korea as they beat much-fancied Colombia in Suwon. Cristian Zapata pulled a goal back for a strong Los Cafeteros side who had James Rodriguez and Davinson Sanchez in the starting lineup, plus Carlos Bacca and Edwin Cardona jumped off the bench with Juan Cuadrado an unused sub. Colombia travel to Chongqing to face China on Tuesday.

China 0-2 Serbia

Torino’s Adem Ljajic opened the scoring for managerless Serbia in Guangzhou and Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic made it 2-0 in the second half. Serbia play against South Korea in Ulsan on Tuesday. Good preparations for Serbia ahead of their first appearance at a World Cup since 2010.

PL Sunday preview: Newcastle shoot for top-4 place at Brighton

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures offers up a meeting of two newly promoted sides in the only game of the day.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Goals galore on a wild Saturday ]

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Newcastle United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Newcastle’s return to the PL had all the makings of another spectacular flame-out and an immediate return to the Championship — owner Mike Ashley promised manager Rafa Benitez a busy summer of signings, but that never materialized; Benitez’s discontent was widely reported, some going so far as to say he had considered stepping down; the Magpies lost their first two games of the season, failing to score in either — until Jamaal Lascelles decided he was having no more of it.

Lascelles, Newcastle’s 23-year-old captain and star center back, has helped Benitez’s boys to three straight victories, in which they’ve conceded just one goal (in last week’s 2-1 victory over Stoke City), has united a group of players which seemed headed for self-destruction just four short weeks ago. The key, according to Lascelles, is accountability evenly shared by every player in the dressing room.

[ MORE: Pochettino — “I am in love with Harry Kane” ]

“A couple of seasons back, we’d go a goal down or concede a goal and heads would drop,” Lascelles said. “We’d be looking at each other like, ‘who’s going to step up?’ But everyone steps up, the 11 of us. This group of boys are excellent, we just keep going.”

Three points on Sunday would see Newcastle leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, two sides level on 11 points and presently fighting over fourth place, to finish the weekend in the PL’s final Champions League place (after six of 38 games, of course).

[ MORE: Mourinho bewildered by sending-off; Man United beat Southampton ]

As for Brighton, returning home to Falmer Stadium is a welcome development after losing twice at Bournemouth (first in the PL, then in the League Cup) in the span of four days. In charge of Brighton is another former Newcastle manager, Chris Hughton, who guided his new club to promotion from the Championship last season (just as he did for Newcastle in 2010). Brighton held the league lead heading into the season’s final days before the Seagulls faltered and Newcastle pounced, but Hughton says there isn’t any ill will onto which to be held.

“There shouldn’t be, because they deserved it,” Hughton said. “We had opportunities in the last three games to clinch the title and we weren’t good enough at that particular moment to do that. All credit goes to Newcastle for doing it and certainly there’s no revenge. We are up against a good team that’s in good form at the moment.”

INJURIES: Brighton — OUT: Steve Sidwell (back), Sam Baldock (calf), Beram Kayal (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Izzy Brown (hamstring) | Newcastle — OUT: Aleksandar Mitrovic (suspended), Paul Dummett (hamstring), Florian Lejeune (ankle), Karl Darlow (ankle)

PL Sunday preview: Palace seek 1st point; Swansea vs. Newcastle

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures feature four sides currently sitting in the bottom half of the league table, a combined three wins and 11 points between them. To say points are precious to these sides would be a massive understatement.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Premier League’s big boys score big on Saturday ]

Burnley vs. Crystal Palace — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Frank De Boer could have never foreseen himself fighting for his job just three games into his Palace tenure, but ahead of Sunday’s visit to Burnley’s Turf Moor, that’s precisely the Dutchman’s reality after dropping all nine points to start the season, and doing so without scoring a single goal and conceding six. After losing his job at Inter Milan after just 14 games last season, De Boer’s reputation (and future employment prospects) could very well be on the line.

“We know it takes time and it is a long-term project we have here,” de Boer said at his Friday press conference. “I have a positive feeling from what I have seen in training this week. I want to start seeing the performances I am expecting and once we start getting results it will give us all the confidence we need.”

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Nahki Wells (ankle); PROBABLE: Jeff Hendrick (thigh) | Palace — OUT: Wilfried Zaha (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jairo Riedewald (groin), James Tomkins (groin); PROBABLE: Mamadou Sakho (ankle)

Swansea City vs. Newcastle United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The dark-cloud story at Newcastle remains the same in September as it was in March, April and May: Rafa Benitez might just up and walk away from the club any day now, due to his poor working relationship with club owner Mike Ashley. The Magpies started the season in poor form, losing to Tottenham Hotspur and Huddersfield Town, before trouncing a lifeless West Ham United side right before the international break. Recapturing that momentum will be vitally important against a Swansea side which is expected to figure in this season’s relegation battle, right alongside Newcastle.

To make matters worse, Benitez won’t be on the sideline for Sunday’s trip to the Liberty Stadium after Benitez underwent surgery for a hernia last week. Newcastle assistant Francisco de Miguel Moreno will take charge in Benitez’s absence.

INJURIES: Swansea — OUT: Ki Sung-Yueng (knee), Nathan Dyer (achilles), Kyle Bartley (knee) | Newcastle — OUT: Chancel Mbemba (groin), Aleksandar Mitrovic (suspension); QUESTIONABLE: DeAndre Yedlin (hamstring), Dwight Gayle (illness)

PL roundup: Man Utd stays red hot; City wins controversially

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Both sides of Manchester saw victories in Premier League play on Saturday, though one in much easier fashion than the other.

[ PL SUNDAY PREVIEW: Liverpool host Arsenal; Chelsea vs. Everton ]

Elsewhere, Huddersfield Town continued its unbeaten run to start life in the Premier League, while Newcastle United exploded for its first win of the season by keeping West Ham amongst the ranks of the pointless.

All that and more in our PL roundup.


Manchester United 2-0 Leicester CityRECAP

Jose Mourinho’s men failed to hang a third successive four-spot on the scoreboard, but looked as dominant as the first two wins of the Premier League season. Romelu Lukaku had a penalty stopped before substitutes Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini scored to lift United to a 3-0 record.

United’s Romelu Lukaku fails to score a penalty shot past Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, who remarkably became the first Schmeichel to make a PK stop at Old Trafford. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Bournemouth 1-2 Manchester CityRECAP

Few were left entirely satisfied with the end of this one, even after Manchester City nipped all three points through Raheem Sterling‘s winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

Bournemouth was angry with the foul that led up to the goal and Mike Dean’s time-keeping after five announced minutes of stoppage. Man City was furious after Sterling earned a second yellow card from Dean for celebrating with visiting fans.

And Sergio Aguero was dealing with an assault complaint from a steward, though City is reportedly “confident” there’s nothing to it.

Newcastle United 3-0 West Ham UnitedRECAP

Rafa Benitez‘s men got off the mat after an 0-2 start; Slaven Bilic‘s men are still laying on the ground, now 0-3.

That’s the verdict from Newcastle’s runaway with at St. James Park, as Joselu, Ciaran Clark, and Aleksandar Mitrovic scored to lead the Magpies to a much-needed three points.

[ BUNDESLIGA WRAP: Wood, Lewandowski, Pulisic star ]

Crystal Palace 0-2 Swansea CityRECAP

Frank De Boer‘s Eagles are now 0-2 after Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham and teammate Jordan Ayew buried goals for the visiting Welsh side.

Huddersfield Town 0-0 Southampton RECAP

Both sides remain unbeaten on the season, though Saints probably had the better of play at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Watford 0-0 Brighton and Hove Albion — RECAP

Miguel Britos’ vicious tackle of Anthony Knockaert sent Watford down a man for more than an hour, but Chris Hughton‘s men couldn’t get past Heurelho Gomes and the Hornets.

Still to come Sunday…
West Bromwich Albion vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET [STREAM
Chelsea vs. Everton — 8:30 a.m. ET [STREAM
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET [STREAM
Liverpool vs. Arsenal — 11 a.m. ET [STREAM

Newcastle’s Benitez after win: “I have some friends in the stands”

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Newcastle United supporters are elated with the club’s surprising 3-0 win over West Ham United at St. James Park. Count match-winning goal scorer and new arrival Joselu amongst that group.

“The team has been good with me – they were like family on the first day,” Joselu said said after nabbing the Magpies’ second goal.

“Today I had an opportunity and I tried to work hard for the club and the team.”

[ RECAP: Magpies 3-0 West Ham ]

Even Rafa Benitez, who’s been critical of the club’s hierarchy during the transfer window, is pretty pleased on the day but won’t back down from his belief that the Magpies need reinforcements before the window slams shut late Thursday.

The win helped the Spaniard became the fourth-fastest manager to 500 points in Premier League play, and slyly reminded the board and owner Mike Ashley that St. James Park supports his desires for more players.

“We won with everyone trying so hard. The fans were crucial last year and they have to be crucial this year – they are trying to help. I think I have some friends in the stands.

“We will try and bring in players that will give us something different. We know these players.”

Getting goals from a pair of big strikers in Joselu and Aleksandar Mitrovic is promising, but Benitez will be especially buoyed by a massive day from Matt Ritchie.

Newcastle has an interesting three-match run after the international break, with a visit from Stoke City sandwiched between trips to Swansea City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Then, a Rafa reunion with Liverpool.