Hatem Ben Arfa

Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Newcastle adds mercurial Saint-Maximin, Dutch back Willems

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Newcastle has now filled three needs in the transfer market window, taking on combustible wizard Allan Saint-Maximin from Nice and loaning Dutch international leftback Jetro Willems from Eintracht Frankfurt.

[ MORE: Maguire, meet expectations ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, is known for his many tricks and adventurous dribbles, and will be expected to fill the void left by Ayoze Perez. The fee is expected to climb above $22 million, and the player is comparable to former Newcastle fan favorite Hatem Ben Arfa in both skill and attitude, having had some issues with Patrick Vieira at Nice last season.

The young right wing has 11 goals and 14 assists in 74 appearances for the Ligue 1 outfit, and was Nice’s second-best rated player last season according to WhoScored.com. His 4.2 successful dribbles per game ranked second in Ligue 1, behind only… Ben Arfa.

Watch him go:

Newcastle has a loan-to-buy deal when it comes to Willems, who leaves much-changed Eintracht with 22 Netherlands caps, a German Cup, and a decent trophy case from his time with PSV Eindhoven.

At 25, Willems is a candidate for Newcastle to buy after the season and also would give Steve Bruce some flexibility going to a back four, as Paul Dummett has been a decent left center back in a 3-5-2 but not so good at out-and-out LB.

Here’s how the Magpies could line up in both a 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1 next season if no more players arrive at St. James’ Park.

3-4-3

Dubravka

Lascelles — Schar — Dummett

Ritchie — Shelvey — Longstaff — Willems

Saint-Maximin — Joelinton — Almiron

4-2-3-1

Dubravka

Yedlin — Lascelles — Schar — Willems

Shelvey — Longstaff

Saint-Maximin —¬† Almiron — Muto

Joelinton

Stade Rennes beats Arsenal in first leg (video)

AP Photo / David Vincent
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  • Iwobi scores within three minutes
  • Sokratis sent off after second yellow
  • Bourigeaud scores terrific equalizer
  • Monreal own goal puts Rennes in front

Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr scored and Arsenal conceded an own goal in a soft 3-1 loss to Stade Rennes at Rhazoan Park in the first leg of the Europa League’s Round of 16 on Thursday.

Alex Iwobi scored what could be a critical away goal should Arsenal regroup for Thursday’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It started so well, with Iwobi’s mishit cross skipping off the post and into the goal following a 1-2 with Nacho Monreal in the 4th minute.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos then saw yellow for a foul on the edge of the area, a precursor to his sending off under 10 minutes later.

Hatem Ben Arfa sent Ismaila Sarr toward Sokratis, and the Greek defender took down the young Senegalese striker for his second yellow.

That’s when Rennes struck, with Bourigeaud collecting a free kick rebound off the wall and sending a beauty past Petr Cech.

Beauty may be an understatement.

Monreal turned a Mehdi Zeffane cross into his own goal to give Rennes its first lead of the afternoon.

James Lea Siliki completed the scoring with a cross that Sarr turned beyond Cech with a strong header.

Europa League: Inter wins, Betis equalizes late, Benfica tops Galatasaray

Associated Press
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In the shadow of the start of Champions League knockout stage play, the Europa League has also begun the elimination stage of its competition, and it’s already provided plenty of fireworks.

In Round of 32 action, Premier League sides struggled on the road, as 10-man Arsenal fell 1-0 at BATE Borisov and Chelsea squeaked past Malmo despite being troubled at the back often.

[ RECAP: Arsenal fails to score in loss to BATE Borisov ]

[RECAP: Chelsea tops Malmo ]

Elsewhere, Inter clung to an early lead and topped Rapid Vienna 1-0 behind a 39th minute penalty from 21-year-old Lautaro Martínez. The Italian club was without main striker Mauro Icardi amid uncertainty surrounding the stripping of his captaincy. In his place, his fellow Argentinian was a problem for Vienna the whole match, earning four fouls, including the penalty that led to his goal.

Dynamo Kiev picked up a solid road result, earning a 2-2 draw with Olympiakos in Greece on a goal by Benjamin Verbic in the 89th minute to secure the level scoreline. Ahmed Hassan opened the scoring for the hosts inside the first 10 minutes with a left-footed strike after strong hold-up play from Konstantinos Fortounis, while Vitaliy Buyalskiy leveled for Dynamo before the half-hour mark on a sliding cross by Tomasz Kedziora. Before the halftime break, Gil Dias delivered maybe the goal of the day with an unbelievable volley from at least 27 yards out, chesting the ball down and letting it bounce once before unleashing an stunning left-footed blast. The home fans enjoyed that until the very end when Viktor Tsygankov headed down a lofted delivery to the middle of the box for Verbic to bounce into the back of the net.

Real Betis picked up a similar result, pulling out a late 3-3 draw at French club Stade Rennais that sets the La Liga side up well for the return leg in Spain. Stade Rennais scored twice inside the opening 10 minutes and were up 3-1 at the halftime break on a penalty from Hatem Ben Arfa just before the whistle, but the visitors fought back and in the 90th minute, 18-year-old Mexican international Diego Lainez somehow tucked a low strike inside the far post despite at a ridiculously awkward body angle.

Benfica picked up a 2-1 road victory at Turkish side Galatasaray on a beautiful 64th minute goal by Haris Seferovic. The Swiss international latched onto a brilliant long-ball by 21-year-old Ruben Dias and used his strength to beat the defender and bag a fabulous finish past Fernando Muslera.

Sevilla grabbed an early 1-0 lead on a flowing counter-attack finished off by Wissam Ben Yedder, and the Spanish side held on for a key road victory over Lazio in Italy. There were only three total shots on target between the two sides in the entire match, with Sevilla holding Lazio to just a single one.

Napoli eased past FC Zurich 3-1 in Switzerland behind early goals by Arkadiusz Milik Jose Callejon, with Pitor Zielinski finishing off the scoreline 13 minutes from time. The visitors could have had more as Kalidou Koulibaly and Zielinski both missed first-half chances, with Milik coming close after the break.

Celtic fell at home to Valencia 2-0, with Denis Cheryshev and Ruben Sobrino bracketing halftime with goals. Cheryshev has struggled in front of net for much of the season after his big World Cup, but his goalscoring form has picked up of late, with three goals in his last five matches across all competitions. Celtic brought USMNT youngster Timothy Weah on in the 59th minute, but the home side was unable to get on the scoresheet.

Shakhtar Donetsk held on for a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Ukraine despite falling a man down just 11 minutes into the match. Shakhtar took the lead nine minutes in as Marlos slotted home a penalty, but Taras Stepanenko picked up his second yellow card in the early going, leaving the home side with a man disadvantage.

A third-minute goal was all Villareal needed to skate by 10-man Sporting CP in Portugal. Alfonso Pedraza charged down a loose ball just outside the box and blasted it into the back of the net for the early lead, one which the home side could never chase down.

Club Brugge grabbed an important late 2-1 win over Red Bull Salzburg as 22-year-old Brazilian striker Wesley scored nine minutes from the final whistle. The Belgian side trailed 1-0 at home after a 17th minute away goal from Austrian international Zlatko Junuzovic, but charged back to slide into the advantage heading into the second leg in Salzburg.

All Europa League results:

BATE Borisov 1-0 Arsenal
Malmo 1-2 Chelsea
Lazio 0-1 Sevilla
Galatasaray 1-2 Benfica
Rapid Vienna 0-1 Internazionale
Stade Rennais 3-3 Real Betis
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Sporting CP 0-1 Valencia
Olympiakos 2-2 Dynamo Kiev
Celtic 0-2 Valencia
FC Zurich 1-3 Napoli
Club Brugge 2-1 RB Salzburg
Viktoria Plzen 2-1 Dinamo Zagreb
Krasnodar 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Slavia Prague 0-0 Racing Genk

Monaco keeper scores penalty winner in Coupe de la Ligue quarters

AS Monaco official Twitter
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It took 22 penalties to finally find a winner, but find a winner they did as Monaco advanced past fellow Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais in Coupe de la Ligue action.

The two sides had drawn 1-1 on goals from Monaco’s Rony Lopes and Rennais’¬†Benjamin Bourigeaud, with the visitors at Stade Louis striking first on the half-hour mark and Thierry Henry’s squad equalizing nine minutes after the break.

In the penalty shootout, each side missed twice in the original five-man pod, with Belgian youngster Youri Tielemans and Swiss international Kamil Glick missing for Monaco, while former Newcastle attacker Hatem Ben Arfa and Algerian international Mehdi Zeffane failing to score for Stade Rennais.

Everyone in spots 7-10 made their penalties, before Stade Rennais goalkeeper Tomas Koubek. That left 20-year-old Monaco goalkeeper Loic Badiashile to bag the winner, which he did.

Monaco did not win a single match under Thierry Henry until November 24, but they have won two in league play since then along with Wednesday’s Coupe de la Ligue victory, moving them into the semifinals of the competition. They still remain five points from safety in the Ligue 1 table, currently 19th with 13 points on the campaign.

Report: Remi Garde would welcome Hatem Ben Arfa to MLS

Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
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Hatem Ben Arfa has authored some of the finest goals in European football, but has found himself out of favor at Paris Saint-Germain.

Unable to get any playing time, he’s been linked with a number of different spots.

Several of them come in Major League Soccer, and one of its current managers has some experience with Ben Arfa dating back to shared time at Lyon.

[ RECAPS: Juve-Real | Sevilla-Bayern ]

Montreal Impact boss Remi Garde was quizzed on the mercurial talent who’s now washed out of several spots including Newcastle United, and indicated his happiness at the idea of Ben Arfa joining him in Quebec.

Garde says the pair “know each other well” and that “if Hatem wants to come to MLS, he’d be welcome here.”

Whether or not he washes out of the league long-term almost feels irrelevant short-term, at least to neutrals, because he’d provide electricity from the jump. There are few players in the world like HBA and at 31, he could still bring plenty of fire to the field.