The Newcastle United deal Eddie Howe wants to get done in January amid fresh injury concerns – five things
Braces in either half from Joelinton and Miguel Almiron plus a late fifth from young forward Dylan Stephenson saw Newcastle claim a convincing victory. Here are five things we learned from the match...
The Newcastle United deal Eddie Howe wants to get done in January
The friendly match at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh was the first chance to see goalkeeper Loris Karius playing for Newcastle. The former Liverpool man arrived at the club on a free transfer in September following an injury to Karl Darlow.
Karius remained on the bench with Nick Pope starring in goal before dropping out of the squad once Darlow returned to fitness. But with Darlow struggling with illness in Saudi Arabia, Karius was given an opportunity to impress.
An impress the 29-year-old did as he made a number of smart saves and looked assured between the sticks. And just before half-time he pulled off a stunning diving effort to tip Andre Carrillo’s effort past the right post.
After an impressive 45 minute showing, Karius was replaced by Mark Gillespie at half-time.
The German’s current deal at United is set to expire in January. But the noise coming out of Newcastle has suggested the club are keen to extend Karius’ contract.
After the match, that was confirmed by head coach Eddie Howe as he said: "He’s very popular in the changing room, the lads have really taken to him. He’s a positive influence, and that’s why I’d like him to stay.”
Newcastle United injury concerns
With Newcastle leading 1-0 after Joelinton headed in Jacob Murphy’s cross, they were hit by a blow in the build-up to half-time as Chris Wood was forced off with an injury. The 31-year-old was The Magpies’ only available striker with Callum Wilson with England at the World Cup and Alexander Isak still recovering from a thigh injury.
Wood hobbled off with a suspected back issue though Howe claimed that he didn’t think it was ‘too bad’. Wood will be assessed further to see if he will be available to feature in next Saturday’s friendly against Rayo Vallecano at St James’s Park.
Another player who could be a doubt is Joelinton. The Brazilian stole the show in the first half with two goals, a bullet header and a second on the stroke of half-time as he chased Joe Willock’s through ball and slipped it past Abdullah Al-Mayouf in the Al Hilal goal.
He was then withdrawn just before the hour mark after feeling tightness in his hamstring.
“I don’t think it’s a pull or anything,” Howe said afterwards. “Fingers crossed, they’re not too bad.”
Miguel Almiron is still on fire
A behind closed doors match against Middlesbrough aside, it has been the best part of a month since Newcastle played a game of football. The side had been in a fine run of form with 22 points out of a possible 24 before the World Cup break.
But with such a long gap between matches, the big question was whether it would stifle United’s momentum? And based on Thursday’s friendly showing, they picked up right where they left off as they caused the Asian confederation champions numerous issues.
United’s introduction of top scorer Miguel Almiron at half-time made the side significantly more threatening in attack. Within minutes, Almiron had already shown good footwork and crashed the ball off the crossbar from distance – it was a warning strike of what was to come for the Saudi side.
The Paraguayan has scored eight goals in 15 matches for Newcastle this season – his best ever goal scoring tally in the Premier League. And Almiron was on fire in front of goal once again as he made it 3-0 to Newcastle with a tenacious solo run and calm finish into the corner.
Shortly afterwards, it was 4-0 as Almiron executed a well-weighted volley from Sean Longstaff’s clipped ball into the box.
The 28-year-old was such a threat for Newcastle that by the end of the match the Al Hilal players had resorted to cynically fouling him as it seemed to be the only way they knew how to prevent him causing problems in the final third.
A night to remember for Newcastle’s teenage stars
While Newcastle started the match with a reasonably experienced side, they ended it with five teenagers on the pitch as Alex Murphy, Joe White, Dylan Stephenson, Jay Turner-Cooke and Lewis Miley were all introduced from the bench.
Youngster Elliot Anderson also came on along with fellow local lads Mark Gillespie, Sean Longstaff and Dan Burn.
It was a proud evening for Newcastle’s academy with 19-year-old forward Stephenson wrapping up the 5-0 scoreline late on with a tidy finish from Ryan Fraser’s cross.
Trophy hope shines through
Following Newcastle’s win there was a flashy trophy presentation as Jamaal Lascelles lifted the Diriyah Season Cup with almost tongue-in-cheek celebrations from the rest of the squad. It's been almost 54 years since The Magpies last lifted a major trophy so lifting a friendly trophy brought back memories of the Teresa Herrera Trophy and Trofeu Internacional de Futebol do Guadiana wins over Deportivo La Coruna and Braga respectively – not to mention the Intertoto Cup.
And boyhood Newcastle fan Jacob Murphy certainly made the most of the occasion as he held the trophy enthusiastically, and somewhat ironically, aloft in front of the travelling supporters.
But it also provided a reminder that the dream of silverware may not be too far away from becoming a reality for Newcastle at the moment as they prepare to return to competitive action. United’s next competitive fixture is a Carabao Cup last-16 tie against AFC Bournemouth at St James’s Park on December 21 (7:45pm kick-off). Howe’s side are the second highest ranked side left in the competition behind Manchester City, who host holders Liverpool.