New injury blow for Newcastle United as Loris Karius stars on debut
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Eddie Howe’s side beat the Saudi Pro League champions 5-0 in Riyadh thanks to two goals apiece from Joelinton and Miguel Almiron and a strike from Dylan Stephenson in front of a noisy, passionate crowd at the Prince at the Faisal bin Fahd Stadium.
Worryingly, however, Howe lost Chris Wood, his only fit and available senior striker, to a first-half back injury. Joelinton was also forced off in the second half after feeling his hamstring.
That’s a concern for Howe ahead of the post-World Cup restart with Alexander Isak, sidelined since September, not yet available, and Callum Wilson still away with England in Qatar.
A positive for Howe was the performance of Loris Karius on his debut. The goalkeeper was given the chance to make an belated impression at Newcastle – and he did just that.
Karius – who hasn't played a competitive game since February 28 last year – made a series of saves in a busy 45-minute stint in goal.
And the 29-year-old, on a short-term contract, did his chances of extending his stay at the club beyond January no harm with a strong performance between the posts.
The Prince at the Faisal bin Fahd Stadium was packed along one side with a noisy, passionate crowd of Saudi fans.
A sizeable number of Newcastle fans were tucked in one corner of the ground, though there were black and white shirts dotted around the 22,000-capacity stadium. United wore their Saudi-inspired white and green third strip.
Alexander Isak, yet to return to full training after recovering from a thigh injury, wasn’t involved, and neither were Karl Darlow and Matt Targett, who weren’t involved through sickness.
And Karius, signed as a free agent in September, was called upon to make an early save before Joelinton opened the scoring with a header from a Jacob Murphy cross.
Karius – who left Liverpool in the summer – was called upon again after Joelinton’s strike. Two more stops followed, one from former Watford striker Odion Ighalo, in a competitive half. Joelinton forced a save from Abdullah Almuaiouf at the other end of the pitch.
Wood went off injured late in the first half. The striker was replaced by midfielder Sean Longstaff.
Al Hilal had a penalty shout waved away before Joelinton made it 2-0 after a quick break forward from a Joe Willock pass. Joelinton’s shot went under Almuaiouf.
After a half-time break which saw the Blaydon Races played, Almiron and Mark Gillespie replaced Murphy and Karius respectively.
More changes followed during a second half, and Almiron wrapped up the scoring with two goals to continue his scoring streak. Almiron won the ball high up the pitch for his first goal, and netted with a side-footed volley from a Longstaff pass for his second strike.
Substitute Stephenson netted a late goal after a quick break forward.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Karius, Manquillo (L Miley, 87), Lascelles (Turner-Cooke, 87), Botman (Burn, 62), Lewis (A Murphy, 78), Shelvey (White, 65), Willock (Fraser, 62), Joelinton (Anderson, 56), Murphy (Almiron, 46), Saint-Maximin (Stephenson, 78), Wood (Longstaff, 37).