Will Alexander Isak fire Newcastle into the Champions League? – Premier League hits and misses | Football News
Will returning Isak fire Newcastle to the Champions League?
One wonders how much higher up the table Newcastle United would be right now had Alexander Isak been fit for the whole season?
The Sweden striker, bought for £63m from Real Sociedad last summer, scored on his debut at Liverpool in August, only to then suffer a serious hamstring tear just as he was settling in at St James’ Park.
That injury sidelined Isak for the rest of 2022, with the forward missing 16 games in total, before he finally returned in January.
However, since regaining full fitness, the 23-year-old has begun to show the type of form we were seeing from him before his layoff, and after Friday’s night double at the City Ground, he has four goals in his last two matches for the club.
His manager Eddie Howe now seems to have decided to go with Isak ahead of trusted frontman Callum Wilson for the run-in, and you can see why given his impressive scoring rate for the Magpies.
Isak has now scored six Premier League goals in just 10 appearances for the club this season at an impressive rate of a goal every 115 minutes.
Leicester show their quality in second-half turnaround
The writing seemed to be on the wall for the visitors in west London. Leicester’s first-half performance had exhibited their recent issues: a lack of cutting edge in attack and uncertainty at the back.
But a wonderful team goal for the equaliser early in the second half was a reminder of the quality in this squad. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was brilliant in midfield, holding off challenges, James Maddison did what he does best in the pocket, feeding a through pass into the box, and Harvey Barnes was dynamic and then deadly with his finish.
Brendan Rodgers threw both arms up into the sky in delight and in relief. It was the kind of move he relishes.
The goal breathed confidence back into his team and, while there was no winner, which would have substantially boosted their standing in the relegation fight, they denied Brentford a shot on target in the second half to secure the result. This will go down as a positive step for a side surely too good to go down.
Brentford have raised expectations
Brentford have gone unbeaten in 10 Premier League home games in a row. They are level on points with seventh-placed Brighton in the race for Europe. Yet the feeling at full-time in their draw with Leicester was one of frustration. That’s a mark of how Thomas Frank has raised the standards for this side.
Brentford have not won a game they have had more possession in this season and again on Saturday they were unable to turn their extra time on the ball into victory. Frank admitted afterwards his forward players had failed to fire and perhaps that leads onto questions about the creativity behind them.
But in the first half they caused chaos in the Leicester box with their direct play and perhaps the second-half drop-off can be attributed in part to the exertions in midweek.
Frank looked tired in his post-match press conference and maybe the international break has come at a good time for Brentford, providing the chance to refresh their minds and bodies for the final 11-game push, where they will hope to at least consolidate their high league position.
“Yes and no, because I know what this group of players are capable of,” said Frank when asked if his team were exceeding expectations. He and his team are ambitions but in the bigger perspective, Brentford’s tremendous season needs to be appreciated.
Bournemouth’s soft underbelly exposed
Confidence would have been high among the Bournemouth squad after impressive performances against Arsenal and Liverpool. They are still very much in with a chance of surviving relegation – but defeat at Aston Villa will be bruising.
They were undone by a slow start to the game – Douglas Luiz scoring inside seven minutes – and a lack of concentration in the final quarter of an hour as Jacob Ramsey and Emi Buendia wrapped things up for Villa.
But for the bits in between, Bournemouth often matched an Aston Villa side looking up rather than down. The home defence needed to be sharp and made some crucial interceptions, while Emi Martinez’s superb save from Philip Billing’s free-kick served a timely reminder of his World Cup-winning pedigree.
Aston Villa simply looked like a high quality, slicker team and they punished Bournemouth for their errors. The Cherries’ defending from set-pieces in particularly certainly left a lot to be desired at times.
While the big results and wins are crucial – as well as core memories for fans – it is the weekly grind of trips to teams like Aston Villa or Brentford, for example, that can make or break a season. You have to perform in each of them to have any chance of survival.
While Bournemouth’s soft underbelly was certainly exposed at Villa Park, they showed they do have the quality to stay up. They must now put those positives to good use.
Gnonto back in the team and having an impact
Wilfried Gnonto was dropped to the bench for the games against Chelsea and Brighton but having been restored to the starting line-up he was a difference maker for Leeds in their 4-2 win against Wolves. It was Gnonto who set up the opening goal for Jack Harrison.
His cross made Harrison’s task fairly straightforward and it was the third time that the winger had troubled Wolves despite the goal coming in only the sixth minute of the match. Allowed to isolate his marker, the Italy international is a real weapon for Leeds.
That freedom has not always been there for Gnonto. It had become so obvious that the team were reliant on him to create that he was receiving a lot of attention. Perhaps those two games out of the team helped because Wolves were not ready to deal with him.
Wolves must focus on their own mistakes
Julen Lopetegui pointed to the decision not to award Wolves a penalty for a foul by Junio Firpo on Nelson Semedo that even injured the right-back and was left just as baffled that the referee did not overturn Leeds’ fourth goal despite being asked to go to the monitor.
The shirt tug on Adama Traore was clear and with this frustration coming so soon after the non-award of a penalty for Nick Pope’s foul on Raul Jimenez at Newcastle, Lopetegui probably has a fair claim when he says that the margins are going against his side.
However, it is their own failings rather than those of the officials that should be a bigger concern for the Spaniard. Wolves had enough openings against Leeds to get something from this game despite conceding four at the other end but still lack a cutting edge.
They scored two, a 41-yard lob and a deflected shot, but it was the misses that will linger – Raul Jimenez failing to find the net from inside the six-yard box, Pablo Sarabia passing wide with the goal gaping. It has been going on too long now to expect it to turn.
Such wastefulness means Wolves must be solid defensively to win matches – the majority of their wins this season have been 1-0. But once Craig Dawson was substituted, organisation at the back was lacking. Bad in both boxes. It is a combination that risks relegation.
Anthony Joshua says he will retire from boxing if he loses to Jermaine Franklin | ‘I’m not here to battle people’ | Boxing News
Anthony Joshua says he will retire from boxing if he loses against Jermaine Franklin on Saturday at the O2 Arena.
The two-time world champion is making his return to the ring this weekend to face the American heavyweight after successive defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua will be looking to win his first professional fight since December 2020 but has admitted he will step away from boxing if he loses a third successive bout.
“I will. I will retire if I lose. I’m not here to battle people. If people want me to retire I will retire,” he told MailOnline.
“I’m not going to fight if people don’t want me too. It’s not even about the money. It’s about the competitor in you. That’s what’s important.
“It [pressure] comes with the business and it comes with the territory, I know that.
“I know when I am retired, I am gonna be chilling. I’m gonna be thinking f**k everyone. I am done.
“You lot put so much pressure on me so when I am done, the chains are going to be gone. I am going to be laughing and loving life.”
Nelson expects Joshua to ‘get it done’
Former WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson expects Joshua to beat Franklin but thinks the 33-year-old should retire if he loses.
“I’d expect Anthony Joshua to get it done. But Jermaine Franklin is 29 years old, (has had) 22 fights, won 21, stopped 14 of his opponents and in his last fight against Dillian Whyte people say he should have won. But that’s questionable,” he said.
“My big question is this: Anthony Joshua, after losing two fights on the bounce, has had to relook at his confidence to think ‘who am I, do I belong here, do I want this?’
“For Anthony Joshua that’s everything. Because he’s had to go through a bit of turmoil, mentally, emotionally and come to terms with the fact that he’s no longer the best fighter, officially, in the world.
“He’s got to get in the queue again like everybody else. If Anthony Joshua loses, he jacks it in. If he doesn’t jack it, he should jack it. Because it’s a hard mountain to climb.
“Especially when you’ve had the success and the heights that he’s had. So he can’t afford to lose. That’s a must. Then from that, it’s confidence building.”
Hollie Doyle: Star flat jockey set for Friday return ahead of Lincoln meeting at Doncaster | Racing News
Leading flat jockey Hollie Doyle will make her return to riding on Friday at Newcastle ahead of this weekend’s Lincoln meeting at Doncaster, live on Sky Sports Racing.
The Group One-winning rider has been out of the saddle since January following an elbow injury sustained in a fall at Wolverhampton.
Doyle enjoyed another memorable season in 2022 with over 150 winners, partnering Nashwa to a first Classic victory as well as landing another Royal Ascot success on Bradsell and further glory on star stayer Trueshan.
She is set to make her return at Newcastle, taking the ride on Rhythm And Hooves in the 5:50pm race, ahead of Saturday’s opening flat turf meeting of the year at Doncaster.
Some of her rides include Richard Spencer’s Revich in the lucrative Lincoln Handicap, as well chances on Wilderness Girl in the Cammidge Trophy and the classy Tempus in the Doncaster Mile.
“It’s been a frustrating time on the sidelines, but it was great to receive the green light to return,” said the Sky Sports Racing ambassador.
“I’ve been back at Oaksey House this morning, and the team there have been fantastic right the way through my recovery.
“I’ll be riding out this week and am looking forward to getting back in the saddle at Newcastle on Friday and on Lincoln day at Doncaster and kicking on from there.”
Watch every race from the Lincoln meeting at Doncaster this Saturday, exclusively live on Sky Sports Racing.
England Women: Sarina Wiegman recalls goalkeeper Hannah Hampton and defender Esme Morgan | Football News
Sarina Wiegman has handed recalls to Hannah Hampton and Esme Morgan while uncapped Lucy Parker also returns to the fold as the Lionesses prepare for back-to-back fixtures against Brazil and World Cup co-hosts Australia in April.
Dropping out from February’s squad are the injured Emily Ramsey along with Lotte Wubben-Moy, Katie Zelem and Ebony Salmon.
Chelsea forward Fran Kirby continues to be absent as she recovers from a knee injury, while Bethany England also misses out despite scoring five goals in six appearances for new club Tottenham.
Wiegman said: “We are getting closer to the World Cup and I can’t think of two better games to assess our progress. After these games, there will be less than three months until we fly to the tournament and we must make every second on and off the pitch count.
“For us as a technical staff this will be the last chance to see the players within our England environment before we come together for the final preparation phase in June. And these two matches will be two real tests to see where we are at.”
The Lionesses have not faced Australia since October 2018 when Kirby scored in a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage.
The last meeting with Brazil was in October 2019 at the Riverside Stadium when Debinha scored twice for the visitors, before England’s late consolation in a 2-1 defeat.
England squad in full
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps, Sandy MacIver, Ellie Roebuck, Hannah Hampton
Defenders: Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze, Jess Carter, Niamh Charles, Alex Greenwood, Maya Le Tissier, Esme Morgan, Lucy Parker, Leah Williamson
Midfielders: Laura Coombs, Jordan Nobbs, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone, Keira Walsh
Forwards: Rachel Daly, Lauren Hemp, Lauren James, Chloe Kelly, Jess Park, Alessia Russo, Katie Robinson
April 6: England vs Brazil – kick-off 7.45pm, Women’s Finalissima (Wembley Stadium)
April 11: England vs Australia – kick-off 7.45pm, friendly (Gtech Stadium)
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