Late heartache for Saudi Arabia in ‘crucial’ Asian Games handball draw with Japan

The Saudi Arabian handball team conceded twice in the final 96 seconds against Japan on Monday night to tie. (Courtesy of Asian Games)
Updated 20 August 2018
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Late heartache for Saudi Arabia in ‘crucial’ Asian Games handball draw with Japan

  • Saudi Arabia are drawn with Japan, Iraq and reigning champions Qatar
  • With only the top two progressing to the semifinals, the result of the opening match with Japan was vital

JAKARTA: The Saudi Arabian handball team conceded twice in the final 96 seconds against Japan on Monday night to tie a match that coach Muhanna Al-Qamous had billed as crucial to their hopes of progressing to the Asian Games semifinals. Downcast, he said afterwards it felt more like a defeat.
Saudi Arabia, having coasted through the preliminary group stage, were drawn with Japan, Iraq and reigning champions Qatar in the secondary group stage.
With only the top two progressing to the semifinals, the result of the opening match with Japan was vital ahead of Wednesday’s clash with neighbors Qatar.
After an hour of play inside the GOR Popki Cibubur sports complex, it should have ended with Saudi smiles. Instead, with the final whistle blown at 26-26, there were shaking heads and disappointment.
“For us, we lost,” Al-Qamous told Arab News. “We led for the majority of the game, but we made some mistakes and paid the price. This is handball, these things happen and we still have a valuable point, but we are disappointed. We should have won. Our route to the semifinals now requires more work.”
Saudi trailed narrowly until the 18th minute, when left-wing Abdullah Alabbas scored from the 7-meter penalty line to draw his side level at 9-9. From that moment on, it only looked like there would be one winner, with Alabbas giving his side a three-point lead even after Hassan Al-Janabi had been dismissed. They finished the opening period with a 15-11 advantage.
“As I said before, this was the most important match for both sides,” said Al-Qamous. “We played very, very well during the match and were fighting all the time. We deserved to win, but some players got ahead of themselves, took risks in the hope of killing the game off, and it didn’t work. What can we do?”
The second period was equally as balanced, with both sides taking points in succession and the gap never growing greater than five.
Yet with just 15 minutes left and Saudi leading 21-16, Japan rallied, pulling it back quickly with three points in the space of three minutes. Center-back Yuto Agarie, pivotal in his side getting within two of a tie at 21-19, was instrumental again as his side eventually stole a 24-23 lead with just six minutes remaining.
Saudi soon regained their composure and took what appeared to be an unassailable 26-24 lead with a little under two minutes left on the clock. However 11 seconds later, and following a Japanese time-out, Agarie pulled one back before Testsuya Kadoyama converted a fast break opportunity to tie the game with 38 seconds left to play.
“The way we fought and led will stand us in good stead going forward,’ said Al-Qamous, who watched Qatar beat Iraq earlier in the day, although not by as comfortable a margin as many had predicted. They triumphed 26-20 to take control of the group.
“A place in the semifinals is still in our hands,” added Al-Qamous, who will lead Saudi at the World Championships next January in Germany and Denmark. “Iraq only lost to Qatar by six, so we know they are a good team. Maybe they will draw with Japan; that would definitely be the best result for us. But in this life, you must fight your own battles, not rely on others. That is what we will do, starting against Qatar.”


RESULTS
Group 1
Qatar 26-20 Iraq
Saudi Arabia 26-26 Japan

Group 2
Bahrain 29-23 Iran
Hong Kong 15-40 South Korea


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.