Willian extends Chelsea run; Liverpool downs City

Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta in action with Stoke City's Bruno Martins during their Premier League match at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 31 December 2016
0

Willian extends Chelsea run; Liverpool downs City

LONDON: Willian scored twice as Chelsea claimed a record-equalling 13th consecutive Premier League victory by beating Stoke 4-2, while Liverpool kept in touch with the leaders after a 1-0 win over Manchester City.
Stoke twice hit back to level after falling behind at Stamford Bridge, but Willian’s second goal and a late Diego Costa strike saw Chelsea match Arsenal’s run of 13 wins within the same season from 2001-02.
Antonio Conte’s side remain six points clear of second-placed Liverpool heading into 2017.
“Congratulations go to my players. To win 13 games in a row in this league is very difficult,” Conte said.
“Now they are fantastic and we are proud, but we must concentrate on the second part of the season. Numbers are not important if you do not win the title.”
At Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp and City boss Pep Guardiola meeting for the first time in the Premier League, the clash of managerial heavyweights was a tense affair.
Third placed City had star striker Sergio Aguero back from suspension and they dominated possession for long periods.
But it was Klopp’s team who delivered the knockout blow when Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum headed home from Adam Lallana’s cross in the eighth minute to seal Liverpool’s fourth successive win.
Manchester United came perilously close to seeing their own winning streak end, only for late goals by Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba to secure a 2-1 home win over Middlesbrough.
It was sixth-place United’s fifth straight league win and took them to within a point of fourth-place Arsenal, who host Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“My players were phenomenal. We managed to do something I love — bring the fans to the pitch. The last 15 mins were 70,000 on the pitch against 11,” United manager Jose Mourinho said.
Chelsea welcomed back N’Golo Kante and Costa from suspension for the visit of Stoke and took a first-half lead when Gary Cahill headed in a corner from Cesc Fabregas.
Bruno Martins Indi equalized within seconds of kick-off in the second half, slotting in after Peter Crouch nodded down Charlie Adam’s free-kick.
After Willian had restored the hosts’ lead, lashing in from Eden Hazard’s lay-off, Crouch drew Stoke level again in the 64th minute when he tapped in Mame Biram Diouf’s cross.
But Willian put Chelsea back in front a minute later and Costa’s late strike sealed victory.
At Old Trafford United produced a comeback reminiscent of the glory years of the watching Alex Ferguson to continue their recent upturn.
But they had to do it the hard way, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic initially denied an 18th goal of the season in a contentious incident late in the first half.
Leaping to meet Martial’s left wing cross, the Swede jabbed the ball past goalkeeper Victor Valdes at the near post, only for referee Lee Mason to rule it out.
United’s players, and Mourinho, contested the decision, and there was worse to come when Grant Leadbitter drilled Boro in front from Alvaro Negredo’s knock-down in the 67th minute.
But Martial levelled in the 85th minute and barely a minute later Pogba headed in the winner from Juan Mata’s cross.
Champions Leicester City claimed a much-needed win, beating West Ham United 1-0 courtesy of Islam Slimani’s 20th-minute header to climb six points clear of the relegation zone.
Swansea City made a demoralizing start to life without sacked manager Bob Bradley, slumping to a 3-0 home defeat against Bournemouth that kept them at the foot of the table.
Andre Gray became the first Burnley player to score a Premier League hat trick as Sean Dyche’s men beat third-bottom Sunderland 4-1 to climb to 11th place.
Matt Phillips and Wales’s Euro 2016 star Hal-Robson Kanu scored as West Bromwich Albion came from behind to win 2-1 at Southampton, who had center-back Virgil van Dijk sent off.


KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

Updated 19 March 2019
0

KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

  • Young Saudi triumphant at Open International Tournament despite just two years of training
  • Zahra Al-Qurashi took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi

JEDDAH: Zahra Al-Qurashi never expected to be where she is today: A gold medal winner in full contact kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs aged just 21. What started out as a gym class two years ago soon turned into a passion, leading to her victory in Amman on Sunday.

“I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym. I found the class and gave it a try, and decided to keep attending the classes,” she said. “A year ago, I joined Flagboxing Gym, and started training with my coach Grethe (Kraugerud). With her help, I developed my style and I am improving every day.”

Full contact is a discipline of kickboxing where punches and kicks must be delivered to legal areas of the body. According to the World Association for Kickboxing Organizations’ rules, it is legal to attack the front of the head and front and side of the torso, using “ankle-level foot sweeps.” It is prohibited to attack the throat, lower abdomen, back, legs, joints, back of the head and top of the shoulders.

A medal at her first international competition, then, speaks volumes about Al-Qurashi’s tenacity. She took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi.

“As soon as I entered the ring, everything went blank, I couldn’t hear or see anyone but my opponent, so I don’t really recall hearing my name even,” said Al-Qurashi. “I got a couple of really good kicks and punches, but she was a good opponent. I was in my own zone though, following every move and made sure I didn’t make mistakes.”

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photos)

Hala Al-Hamrani, the owner of Flagboxing Gym in Jeddah, said: “I am over the moon. I have dreamt about this happening for 16 years, ever since I started coaching. My goal was to eventually provide the ladies of this country with an opportunity to compete.”

For approximately two months, Kraugerud, from Norway, oversaw Al-Qurashi’s workouts, adding more sparring, interval training and intense ring practice.

“I’ve had Zahra spar with men, who are bigger and stronger than her, to give her a sense of what to expect in the ring, to give her more confidence and make her mentally prepared,” said Kraugerud. “I was very proud of her as she entered the ring, you could see the respect for the sport reflected in her. We did a really good job at Flag, we really pushed for this together as a team. She’s young, but she’s talented and she will go far.”

Al-Hamrani, a member of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Federation, added: “We got her ready by providing her with the right practice and training. It’s a dream come true and it’s very overwhelming because it was such a long process for something like this to happen. Zahra is an up-and-coming athlete who hopefully has a long future and I’m extremely excited to see what that future holds.”

Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors, and thanked Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority, for the support he had given to the team.

Upon returning to her hometown of Jeddah, Al-Qurashi was greeted by her mother. “I was hugging her and crying and mom, being mom, asked if I was crying because I got hit,” she laughed. “That was her way of saying: I’m proud of you.”