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

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.

Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

‘I’m very happy to have won my first title with Juventus,’ Cristiano Ronaldo said. (Photo/General Sports Authority)
Updated 17 January 2019

Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

  • Ronaldo’s glancing header sinks AC Milan 1-0 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium

JEDDAH: A historic Wednesday evening at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium saw Italian champions Juventus beat AC Milan in the final of the 31st annual Supercoppa Italiana.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal as Juventus lifted the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time since 2015 with a 1-0 victory in front of a sold-out 61,235-capacity crowd.

As only one should expect when two of the most successful Italian clubs go head to head, a tactical and elegant, albeit very physical, display of football was at hand. 

Cheerful roars from the Jeddah crowd resonated throughout the night, in the kind of buzzing atmosphere that only a cup final brings.

Juventus, the Serie A champions, began brightly and were the first side to settle into the game, threatening with frequent sweeping moves.

Juventus and Portuguese international Joao Cancelo could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute after being played through on goal, but the defender’s zooming effort lacked the necessary precision and whisked past the far post with the Milan keeper rooted in his spot.

A maddening crescendo of noise erupted when Juventus and French international Blaise Matuidi thought he had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after being played through by Costa before being flagged offside. 

Juventus did not have too much longer for another opportunity though, with Ronaldo’s acrobatic half volley from just outside the six-yard box bouncing and nestling agonizingly just over the bar and sparing Donnarumma’s blushes in the process.

Christiano Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his last seven finals. (Reuters)

Milan, who qualified for the final as runners-up to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia, had struggled throughout the first half to settle into the game. They gradually grew into their own though, and nearly broke the deadlock at the stroke of halftime with a stinging drive from Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu.

After a slew of opportunities had Juventus failing to build a halftime lead, Milan nearly made them pay for their squandered chances by starting the second half like bats out of hell. 

Milan’s confident pressing start to the half was almost rewarded in the 47th minute when a Ronaldo tackle inadvertently set up Cutrone with a clear sight on goal.  The striker turned and blasted an effort that rattled off the crossbar — the closest either team had come thus far.

And just when the tide seemed to have turned for Milan in the second half, their confidence building with every minute, a perfectly floating cross from Pjanic found Ronaldo with yards of space, and he made no mistake directing a swift header into the back of the net in the 61st minute and sending Juve supporters into a frenzy.

• AS IT HAPPENED: Cristiano Ronaldo's goal gives Juventus Supercoppa Italiana victory over AC Milan in Jeddah >>

• Arab News Matchday gallery >>

Things went from bad to worse for Milan in the 73rd minute. Franck Kessie came rushing in with a recklessly timed tackle, crunching his studs into the shins of Emre Can, which resulted in him seeing a straight red and leaving Milan with 10 men and a subsequent insurmountable uphill battle.

The final whistle came soon after, and with it brought Juventus a record eighth Supercoppa. It goes without saying that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a cup final, but this was a historic and monumental occasion for Jeddah. 

The first major European cup final match being held in Saudi Arabia is now in the books, and with it brought an added sense of passion and excitement. 

Thousands of men, women and children showed up enthusiastically, were highly supportive of both teams, and were thoroughly entertained. It was a successful and memorable night that will surely pave the way for many more.

Addressing a prematch press conference on Tuesday night, Juventus Captain Giorgio Chiellini had defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.

“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.”

Juventus had been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they had lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals. 

Chiellini, however, firmly believed that his team would change the trend and the team did make their captain proud. 

Juventus now holds the outright record of most Italian Super Cups with eight titles. (Arab News photo by Ali Khamg)