Jorge Jesus ready for a challenge at Al-Hilal

Jorge Jesus has been brought in as boss of the Riyadh giants to take them to the next level and win the AFC Champions League. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Jorge Jesus ready for a challenge at Al-Hilal

  • Portuguese boss pipped Al-Ahli to the title last season.
  • Jesus excited for the new season and ready to defend Saudi Pro League crown.

LONDON: Al-Hilal coach Jorge Jesus is looking forward to his first season in charge of the Saudi Arabia giants as the defending champions look to defend their league title in the forthcoming campaign that kicks off in two weeks’ time.
The 64-year-old joined the Riyadh club in June and is charged with leading the two-time continental champions into a new era under club president Sami Al-Jaber, appointed in April.
Working outside his native Portugal for the first time in a distinguished career, the former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss is happy to have made Al-Hilal his home away from home.
“I have come to a country that has a different culture in football and also in many aspects,” Jesus told Arab News ahead of last night’s Super Cup clash against Al-Ittihad in London.
“I have to get used to that culture and also the players. There were opportunities to go overseas before but this is the one that seemed most exciting and challenging and I am really looking forward to the season starting. I hope that I can do a great job and bring trophies to Al-Hilal. This is my job and this will also help the reputation of Portuguese coaches around the world.”
After time in charge of Benfica — where he won three Portuguese league titles — and Sporting Lisbon, Jesus understands that there is a similar expectation of success at the 15-time Saudi Arabia champions.
“I have worked at big clubs in my career and Al-Hilal are a big club,” Jesus said.
“This is a club with lots of fans and these are fans with a huge amount of passion and love for their team. I have seen this already whether it is waiting at the airport for new players in the middle of the night or greeting the players for the new season. They are special and it is my job to have a team that excites the fans and brings success.”
The Riyadh giants won the Saudi Pro League title in May, pipping Al-Ahli to the post thanks to victory on the final day of the season. Like a number of clubs in the country, the champions have been active in the international transfer market with each team now allowed to sign eight foreign players.
Refusing to rest on their laurels, the champions have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo — who is reunited with his former boss from Sporting Lisbon — former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia and, most dramatically last week, 2016 Asian Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman.
“In football you have to keep trying to strengthen and there is no better time to do so than when you are winning trophies. We should always be looking to improve,” Jesus said.
“We have brought in some good players and I think the fans will be excited to see them in action when the season starts. It is not only us. Other teams have also been strengthening. This is good for the league and it means that standards will be getting better for everyone.
“We have a few injury concerns but overall we are  feeling good,” added Jesus.
“We had a good time in pre-season training and I have come to know the players. They have a desire to improve and to be as good as they can be. We will try to win every competition that we enter. This is what being at a big club is all about. Now we are focused on the season. We are ready and want to get off to a good start.


India rout Pakistan by eight wickets in Asia Cup clash

Updated 30 min 15 sec ago
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India rout Pakistan by eight wickets in Asia Cup clash

  • Pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3-15) and part time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav (3-23) sent Pakistan collapsing
  • Both Pakistan and India had already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday

DUBAI: India crushed Pakistan by eight wickets in their long-awaited Asia Cup match which failed to live up to its hype in Dubai on Wednesday.
Pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3-15) and part time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav (3-23) sent Pakistan, who won the toss and batted, collapsing to just 162 all out in 43.1 overs at Dubai Stadium.
Skipper Rohit Sharma then struck three sixes and six boundaries in his 39-ball 52 while fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan hit a six and six fours in his 54-ball 46 as India romped home in 29 overs.
Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik both finished on 31 not out as India exacted some revenge for their humbling 180-run defeat against their arch-rivals in the final of the Champions Trophy in London last year -- the most recent match between the teams until Wednesday.
Both Pakistan and India had already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday.
Bangladesh and Afghanistan meet in Abu Dhabi in the last Group B match on Thursday, having already qualified for the second round after Sri Lanka crashed out.
The top two teams from the Super Fours will play the final in Dubai on September 28.
Once Pakistan's unpredictable batting crumbled, Wednesday's match turned into a damp squib for a near-capacity crowd comprising of Indian and Pakistani expats living in the United Arab Emirates.
Kumar ran through the top order by dismissing openers Imam-ul-Haq (two) and Fakhar Zaman (nought) inside five overs, before Babar Azam (47) and Shoaib Malik (43) rebuilt the innings during their 82-run stand for the third wicket.
But after Azam was dismissed in the 22nd over, bowled by left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav, Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 77 runs.
Azam hit six boundaries in his 62-ball knock while Malik, dropped on 26 by MS Dhoni off Hardik Pandya, cracked one six and one four in a vigilant innings which lasted 67 balls.
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (six) became Jadhav's first wicket, holing out to long-on where substitute fielder Maneesh Pandey completed a brilliant catch, throwing the ball back into the field to avoid running over the rope and completing the catch.
But it was Malik's run out which derailed Pakistan, sent back by Asif Ali after setting off for a quick single.
Paceman Jasprit Bumrah took 2-23 but India lost all-rounder Hardik Pandya to injury.
Bowling his fifth over, Pandya fell in his follow through and was stretchered off with a lower back injury, the extent of which was being assessed by the India team's medical staff.