Main Page

Quick Links

The Rest
   Club info
   Last Season
   Unlikely Lads
   A-Z Index
Season 2022-23
Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) (a) Friendly (Diriyah Season Cup)


Thursday 8th December 2022, 8pm

Prince Faisal Bin Fahad Bin Abdulaziz Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Conditions: around 20 degrees at kick-off

Admission: 25 Saudi Riyals (5.40) and upwards

Programme: none





0 - 5





7 mins Joelinton header from a right wing Jacob Murphy cross. 1-0

43 mins Joelinton shot following a Joe Willock through ball. 2-0

Half time: Royals 0 Magpies

76 mins Miguel Almiron netted via a post. 3-0

81 mins Sean Longstaff pass for Miguel Almiron to shoot home. 4-0

87 mins
Ryan Fraser teed up Dylan Stephenson to finish from close in.

Full time: Royals 0 Magpies 5

We Said

Eddie Howe said:

"Tough game, but they're the games you want.

"I know the scoreline looks comfortable, but it was a difficult game, especially in the first half. I thought we grew into the game after a difficult opening 10-15 minutes.

"There were some really good bits, some stuff to work on. There was a little bit of rustiness were still playing ourselves out of, but we'll be better for the game."

On how internal discussions over January transfer window activity are going:

"Very well. Its just conversations at this stage. The big thing is a lot can change between now and January.

"Weve talked and had discussions over what it may look like but there is such a long time before that window opens and were still very flexible over what were going to do.

On debutant Loris Karius:

"I think he did really well. We came under pressure in the first half and I thought he made some good saves.

"Since hes been with us, hes steadily improved. His distribution was very good, so a good night for him. Id like him to stay but obviously the two parties have got to agree, so fingers crossed.

"I think hes been a very calming influence. Hes a goalkeeper with a lot of experience. Hes trained well and is a very good character and very popular in the changing room: the lads have really taken to him.

"Hes a positive influence and thats why Id like him to stay. I think thats down to how hes trained because he hadnt trained a lot when he entered the club.

"We were in a difficult situation after the injury to Karl (Darlow) and, as I say, he was a calming influence. He brought stability behind the scenes.

"Steadily, with the amount of goalkeeping hes done now, hes improving all the time.

They Said


Ramon Diaz said:



There was a first outing in a Newcastle shirt for goalkeeper Loris Karius (wearing 18) while Lewis Miley, Jay Turner-Cooke and Alex Murphy all made their senior bows for the club. 

Turner-Cooke and Alex Murphy came from the U21 squad, while 16 year-old Lewis Miley has appeared for the U18s and U21s this season - his selection for Saudi ruling him out of FA Youth Cup service earlier in the week.

Fellow U21 squad players Joe White and Dylan Stephenson have both previously featured at senior team friendly matches.

Present in Riyadh but not involved in the game were Karl Darlow, Paul Dummett, Matt Targett, Matt Ritchie, Alexander Isak and Emil Krafth.

Isak was in attendance as part of his rehabilitation from injury but wasn't deemed available for selection. A similar situation saw long-term absentee Emil Krafth in the party as he continued to work with the medical staff.

Nick Pope, Callum Wilson, Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimaraes and Fabian Schar were all missing due to World Cup duty in nearby Qatar.

The Newcastle party were accommodated in the Four Seasons Hotel:





Thursday evening saw Newcastle kick off their preparations for the seasonal restart with an emphatic victory over Saudi Arabian opposition in Riyadh.

Goals from Joelinton (2) and Miguel Almiron (2) and Dylan Stephenson saw United collect the Diriyah Season Cup at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium.

The visitors lacked five players engaged at the World Cup finals, while none of Al-Hilal's 12 players in the Saudi Arabia squad were involved, with the squad for this game containing several fringe players.

Leading the home attack was 33 year-old Odion Ighalo once on the books of Watford and scoring three times against us back in the 2015/16 season.

What looked a mismatch on paper ended up being that, but the final score betrayed the charmed life Newcastle's goal enjoyed; saves by Loris Karius and Mark Gillespie and several kind deflections contributing to a clean sheet.

United themselves missed a myriad of chances: Almiron hitting the bar, Sven Botman heading powerfully at the goalkeeper, an offside flag denying Joe Willock and Elliot Anderson seeing his shot rebound off a post.

As a workout and positive experience this ticked all the boxes as United - clad in their Saudi coloured away kit - boosted their popularity in Saudi Arabia and rounded off what had been a successful flag-waving exercise.

Pleasingly, Almiron's form in front of goal looks to have survived the season break; his prowess presumably no surprise to Al-Hial boss Diaz, who gave the Paraguayan his first senior international cap back in September 2015.

Chris Wood and Joelinton were both withdrawn after picking up knocks in what at times was a fractious affair. Post-match concerns over their availability for the domestic season restart were however played down.

The failure of Matt Targett and Karl Darlow to get any pitch time here was reportedly due to illness, but given the positive comments from Eddie Howe regarding debutant Loris Karius, there seems to be fresh doubts over the position of understudy to Nick Pope.

The visit of Rayo Vallecano to Tyneside next weekend may provide further clues as to the fitness levels of various squad players, but a lack-lustre showing from Jamal Lewis raises fresh doubts about his future.

The failure of either Matt Ritchie or Paul Dummett to feature meanwhile strengthens thoughts that the final six months of their playing contracts will see them omitted from the revised 25 man squad.

This may have been a meaningless kickabout in footballing terms, but Magpies captain Jamaal Lascelles held the spectacular gold trophy aloft with an enthusiasm we hope to see repeated in the not-too distant future.

Fireworks, lasers and ticker tape heralded the trophy presentation, but the over-riding impression was that the visitors were always destined to win this trophy and the local side provided only notional opposition.

After playing twice in Saudi Arabia this year, future visits for Newcastle are inevitable, with the strong possibility of returning to defend their title. How that
impacts our fixture commitments in a "normal" season is less clear however, especially now the possibility of European involvement has.

It's all a far cry from previous warm-ups and we're not the first people to compare the plush coaches with NUFC livery ferrying the squad around in Riyadh to hired minibuses with printed window stickers at York in 2020.

The vision for the club that the current owners clearly have may well see the Diriyah Season Cup sit alongside the Japan Cup and that Intertoto plaque in a club museum at St.James' Park in due course.

For now though, we're bound to a project of unprecedented scope, with almost incalculable levels of investment and potential returns - all a far cry from the hapless misdeeds of a sandshoe salesman turning off the escalators to save money.

There's no reason to believe that the Saudis are anything but serious about their desire for global influence: the experience of this trip underlining the importance that they place on Newcastle United in helping to fulfil that.

Photo credits and thanks to: Paul English, RGR and the Desert Fox


Page last updated 12 December, 2022