Al-Hilal remain confident they can complete star signing of Omar Abdulrahman

Pointing the way to Riyadh? Al-Hilal certainly hope so as they look to sign UAE star Omar Abdulrahman. (AFP)
Updated 08 August 2018
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Al-Hilal remain confident they can complete star signing of Omar Abdulrahman

  • Riyadh giants are hopeful UAE playmaker will in in their side for next season.
  • Al-Nassr also fancy signing 26-year-old Al-Ain star.

Despite a late hijack attempt from Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal are confident of landing regional superstar Omar Abdulrahman on a season-long loan sooner rather than later.
The United Arab Emirates playmaker is the hottest property in West Asian football and Al-Hilal are close to making a deal with the 26-year-old who was born in Riyadh and a boyhood supporter of the traditional giants of Saudi Arabian football.
With his contract at Al-Ain at an end, the player is free to go where he wants and despite links with clubs in Spain, France and the Netherlands, looks set to start the coming Saudi Professional League season with Al-Hilal before returning to Al-Ain next summer.
The Saudi champions had hoped to announce the deal on Aug. 6 but the late entry of Al-Nassr into the equation has turned a long-running transfer story into something more dramatic and expensive.
“We have been talking to the player and while it has taken time, everything has progressed smoothly,” an official at Al-Hilal told Arab News.
“We are operating against time as the transfer window in Saudi Arabia closes on Aug. 23 but we should get the deal done much before then.”
Al-Hilal are aware of the interest from their Riyadh rivals.
“We know that other clubs want the player, he is a very good player, but we are sure that Al-Hilal are the only club in Saudi Arabia that he would think about playing for. He would be a fine addition to our squad.”
It may have been easier for Al-Hilal had Al-Ain chairman Ghanem Al-Hajjeri not publicly spoken on the matter last week.
“There are many serious offers to Omar Abdurahman, and the club that convinces him and offers a lucrative offer will win the deal,” Al-Hajjiri said.
That encouraged Al-Nassr who, like Al-Hilal with Sami Al-Jaber, have a new, energetic and ambitious club president in Saud Al-Swailam. The club were not prepared to comment on Abdulrahman, who has been the subject of speculation ever since making an international name for himself at the 2012 London Olympics, however.
According to reports, Al-Hilal were initially ready to pay  around $5.9 million in total in order to secure the services of “Amoory” for a year before his return to Al-Ain, currently the only club he has ever played for. Al-Nassr, however, have indicated their willingness to pay more than $8 million. Al-Hilal have subsequently increased their offer but refused to say by how much.
“A player of that quality does not come cheap,” said the Al-Hilal official. “But he is worth the money. He will not need any time to settle or adapt. He has lots of experience in the Champions League in Asia and will create lots of chances for our players.”
It is not the first time this summer that the Riyadh giants have clashed in the transfer market. According to reports in Portugal, the homeland of Al-Hilal’s new coach Jorge Jesus, the defending champions were close to a deal with Benfica’s free-scoring Brazilian Jonas Goncalves but Al-Nassr have been trying to persuade the 34-year-old to change his mind.
Whatever happens with Abdulrahman and Goncalves, both clubs have already been busy in the transfer market ahead of the new season that kicks off later this month.
Al-Hilal have signed Spanish defender Alberto Botia and Peruvian international Andre Carrillo.
Al-Nassr, third in the league last season, made headlines last week with the capture of Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Premier League club Leicester City, and former Liverpool and Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones. The club has also recruited, among others, Peru center-back Christian Ramos and Moroccan international Nordin Amrabat. The 2018-19 Saudi Pro League season kicks off on Aug 30.


Algeria beats Nigeria, sets up final match with Senegal in African Cup

Updated 15 July 2019
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Algeria beats Nigeria, sets up final match with Senegal in African Cup

  • Algeria will play for a second African title and first in nearly 30 years in Friday’s final
  • Senegal goes for its first African Cup title after 54 years of trying

CAIRO: Riyad Mahrez scored from a free kick in the fifth minute of injury time as Algeria beat Nigeria 2-1 on Sunday and progressed to the African Cup of Nations final against Sadio Mane’s Senegal.
Mahrez thundered his left-footed match-winner into the net in effectively the last kick of the game to stunningly settle the semifinal at Cairo International Stadium.
Algeria will play for a second African title and first in nearly 30 years in Friday’s final. Senegal goes for its first African Cup title after 54 years of trying.
The teams met in the group stage at this tournament when Algeria won 1-0.
The final will also feature an intriguing Premier League subplot as Manchester City’s Mahrez comes up against Liverpool’s Mane.
Senegal went through after beating Tunisia 1-0 in an extra-time thriller at the 30 June Stadium across Cairo.
Both semifinals had dramatic VAR moments, with the referee video review system being used for the first time at the African Cup this year. The referees made good use of it in the semis, with two drawn-out decisions.
Algeria led Nigeria through a first-half own-goal by William Troost-Ekong. Mahrez’s cross deflected off another Nigerian defender, then hit Troost-Ekong in the midriff and went in.
Algeria was pegged back when Nigeria was given a penalty for handball after a long VAR referral by Gambian referee Bakary Gassama, who initially didn’t award the spot-kick. A shot by Oghenekaro Etebo hit his own teammate Odion Ighalo and the arm of Algeria defender Aissa Mandi at just about the same time. Gassama didn’t give it at first, then referred to the TV screen on the sidelines more than a minute later and went back for the penalty.
Nigeria took its opportunity — contentious as it was — to level at 1-1 from the spot through Ighalo.
But Algeria captain Mahrez won it at the very death, hammering his free kick into the net and sprinting half the length of the field to celebrate with teammates on the bench.
“This free kick arrived and, with the quality of a player like Mahrez, it’s a massive chance at a goal,” Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi said. “Thank God we made it.”
There were tense moments off the field at Cairo International also as Algerian fans and local Egyptian spectators began throwing plastic bottles at each other over a fence that separated them. Some of the Egyptians had started to cheer for Nigeria over Egypt’s North African rivals.
Lines of yellow vested security personnel were brought into the stands to stand between the supporters.
Senegal won the first semifinal with an own-goal in the 100th minute when Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen pushed a free kick onto the head of defender Dylan Bronn and the ball bounced back into the goal.
It was another game of high drama.
On a day when the sports world was treated to epic contests at the Wimbledon men’s tennis final and the Cricket World Cup final, the African Cup held up its end of the bargain.
Senegal and Tunisia both missed penalties within a few minutes of each other in regulation time.
Tunisia was then given another penalty late in extra time only for referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa to check the VAR TV screen on the sidelines and dramatically reverse his decision — to the dismay of the Tunisians.
Tunisia should have gone ahead after winning the first penalty in the 73rd, when Ferjani Sassi’s shot hit the upper arm of Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly as he threw himself in the way to block it.
Sassi took the penalty himself but Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis saved easily.
Senegal had its chance almost straight after, with Ismaila Sarr hacked down in the area.
Henri Saivet took the spot-kick instead of Mane, who missed two penalties earlier in the tournament. His penalty was low and hard to the bottom right corner, but Hassen dived full-stretch and brilliantly deflected it away with his left hand.
Hassen was responsible for deciding Tunisia’s fate, though.
In extra time, he went to punch away a free kick but only forced it onto Bronn’s head and it rebounded into the net.
The most contentious moment came right near the end after Senegal’s Idrissa Gueye was initially penalized for another handball in the area. The ball was headed down by a teammate and struck Gueye’s hand as he tried to pull it away at the side of his body.
Ethiopian referee Weyesa awarded the penalty, then decided to make the long run over to the sidelines to check with the VAR.
After another long delay, he ran back onto the field waving his arms to signal no penalty.
Senegal has made it to just one final before, in 2002. Current Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was a member of that 2002 team and he dropped to his knees with arms held aloft in celebration at the final whistle.