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.

Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

Updated 23 April 2019

Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

  • The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H

SHANGHAI: “Fantastic” journeyman forward Adam le Fondre pounced to earn Sydney FC a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.

The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H with two rounds of matches to play after table-toppers Ulsan were held 2-2 at Kawasaki Frontale.

Chinese champions SIPG, for whom Brazilian forward Hulk was a constant menace, came back from a goal down to lead 2-1.

But the 32-year-old le Fondre displayed his enduring predatory instincts to grab a classy leveller on 62 minutes.

The striker, who is at his ninth club and has had spells at Cardiff City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, popped up with a bullet header on the six-yard box.

“He’s a fantastic person, first and foremost, and a fantastic player,” said Sydney coach Steve Corica, who knows his team will almost certainly need to win their last two matches to progress to the knock-out rounds.

Corica, formerly a player at Leicester City and Wolves, was full of praise for the evergreen le Fondre, who moved to Australia from Bolton in August 2018.

“He’s played in England, played in the Premier League, scored goals wherever he’s gone,” said Corica.

“He works extremely hard for our team and in the A-League has scored 16 goals (this season), and he’s scored in the Champions League.

“He’s been fantastic for our club and the way he’s played this year.”

Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale gave themselves a qualification lifeline as they fought back from a goal down at home with nine minutes remaining to draw 2-2 with South Korea’s Ulsan.

Leandro Damiao fired home an 81st-minute equalizer to revive Frontale’s fading hopes of progress to the last 16.

Star striker Yu Kobayashi opened the scoring for the home side, but the Koreans struck back twice before half-time through Park Yang-woo and Junior Negrao.

Kawasaki piled on the pressure toward the end with Kobayashi guilty of the miss of the match in the second minute of stoppage time when he found himself unmarked with the goal gaping, but somehow hit the post.

Ulsan top a tight Group H on eight points, with SIPG on five, Kawasaki on four and Sydney still just about alive on three points.

Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by an under-strength Melbourne Victory.

The former two-time Asian champions dropped to second in Group F after Huang Bowen’s 24th-minute strike was canceled out by Jai Ingham’s goal two minutes later. Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima took advantage of the Chinese giants’ slip-up to go top on nine points with a 1-0 win at Daegu FC in South Korea, courtesy of Hayato Araki’s 34th-minute winner. With Daegu just a point behind Guangzhou, Cannavaro’s men now face a pivotal clash in Hiroshima in two weeks before the group finale against the Koreans on May 22.