Al-Ahli players pick up SR10,000 win bonus after AFC Champions League win

Al-Ahli's Abdulfattah Asiri fights for the ball with Tractor Sazi's Reza Sharbati (L) and Mohammed Naderi during their Asian Champions League match at the Al-Seeb stadium in Muscat. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Al-Ahli players pick up SR10,000 win bonus after AFC Champions League win

LONDON: The players of Al-Ahli are 10,000 riyals richer after they won their opening AFC Champions League game against Tractor Sazi.
The players of Al-Ahli and Al-Hilal were offered the incentive by Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of the General Sports Authority, for the opening round of matches in the continental competition but while Al-Ahli beat Iran’s Tractor Sazi to land the bonus, with Mohanad Aseri netting the only goal of the match in the 67th minute, last season’s runners-up Al-Hilal could only manage a goalless draw with Al-Ain.
Al-Ahli’s game was played in Oman due to the ongoing political tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Group D matches between Iran’s Esteghlal and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal will also be staged at neutral venues.
Saudi Arabia had not wanted its teams to play in Iran and despite a plea from the Iranian FA to FIFA president Gianni Infantino last week to intervene so they could host the matches, the AFC ordered the games to be played at neutral venues.
In Group A, UAE champions Al-Jazira edged out Qatar’s Al Gharafa 3-2 in Abu Dhabi in a game played out amid a political backdrop.
It was the first time that a club from Qatar had played in the UAE since Qatar was diplomatically and economically isolated by Gulf rivals in June 2017. The game drew 5,000 spectators to the Mohammed ben Zayed Stadium and was played in a relaxed atmosphere.
Romarinho, who previously played for Qatar’s El-Jaish, put Al-Jazira ahead in the 10th minute, but new signing Mehdi Taremi equalized a minute later for Al Gharafa.
UAE star Ali Mabkhout restored the home lead in the 27th minute and Ahmed Al-Attas consolidated it on 69 minutes.
A 71st-minute strike by former Dutch star Wesley Sneijder gave Al Gharafa hope but Al Jazira held on to grab three points.


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

Updated 20 January 2019
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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

HUDDERSFIELD: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was far from satisfied despite a 3-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday that saw his side cut Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
Liverpool’s compelling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday heaped huge pressure back onto reigning champions City but they were rarely troubled by a Town side that look a certain bet for relegation this season.
City’s first goal, a deflected strike for Danilo in the 18th minute, brought up their 100th goal of the season in all competitions before Raheem Sterling scored a diving header from Leroy Sane’s cross in the 54th minute and Sane himself made it 3-0 with a calm finish just two minutes later.
For Guardiola, it should have been an afternoon of enjoyment as his side again proved their willingness to push Liverpool all the way this season.
The City manager, however, has forged a footballing reputation based on sublime performances as well as ruthless goalscoring and, on that basis, his team’s showing in West Yorkshire was not a success as the visitors never really clicked into gear on a day against a Huddersfield side who had parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday.
“During the season you have these kind of games,” Guardiola said. “It is important to win. We have scored many goals in all competitions.
“(But) the way we played, we didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future.
“We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult.
“Today we are happy we have won but after immediately we have to analyze. During the season you have games when maybe you are not in the top level and it is important to win these games.”
Although City’s fans were happier than their manager following this result, Guardiola could at least take some heart from the fact his side again refused to blink first in the race for the title.
For the second consecutive week, City kicked off knowing Liverpool had already won their weekend fixture and that, consequently, the onus was back on his players to secure three points as well.
Once again, Guardiola’s side managed to do that following up the 3-0 victory over Wolves with this showing and the City manager was more than happy to remind everybody that silverware is not handed out for another four months.
“One team has been better but we’re in January and there’s many more games to play,” he added.
“You don’t win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win.”
This match was a baptism of fire for Huddersfield’s caretaker boss Mark Hudson and while the Terriers showed impressive fight to inspire some hope this season, this defeat still left them 10 points adrift of safety.
If, as expected, the Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach Jan Siewert is appointed as Wagner’s permanent replacement, nobody would blame him if he spent his first day in the job preparing for a return to the second-tier Championship next season.
“It’s been a long week,” admitted Hudson.