Icardi sparks Inter’s late comeback to stun Spurs

Inter Milan’s Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino celebrates after a last minute winning header during the UEFA Champions League match between Inter Milan and Tottenham at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018

Icardi sparks Inter’s late comeback to stun Spurs

  • Christian Eriksen’s deflected strike gave Spurs a 53rd-minute lead at the San Siro
  • Matias Vecino took advantage of some slack Tottenham defending at a corner to nod in a dramatic injury-time winner

MILAN: A stunning Mauro Icardi volley sparked a thrilling late Inter Milan comeback as the Italian side beat Tottenham 2-1 on their return to the Champions League after a seven-year absence on Tuesday.
Christian Eriksen’s deflected strike gave Spurs a 53rd-minute lead at the San Siro, and the visitors looked comfortable for much of the second half.
But Argentinian striker Icardi hammered home a magnificent volley in the 86th minute to draw Inter level, and Matias Vecino took advantage of some slack Tottenham defending at a corner to nod in a dramatic injury-time winner.
“This is exactly what the fans want to see,” said Inter coach Luciano Spalletti.
“Icardi scored a magnificent goal. The team had a great game and really went for it in the end.”
The win leaves Inter second in the early Group B table, behind Barcelona on goal difference after the Catalan giants thrashed PSV Eindhoven 4-0 with a Lionel Messi hat-trick.
The late drama was greeted with deafening applause from the 66,000 crowd in the San Siro who minutes earlier had feared that Inter’s disastrous start to the Serie A season would carry over into Europe.
“We came into this game with quite a few problems,” continued Spalletti, whose side are struggling in Serie A.
“I think that winning in the last minute after turning around the result gives you a lot of enthusiasm and self-belief.
“It means that we can believe in our potential for the future. The reaction is a sign we are on the right path.”
Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino lamented his side’s failure to kill off a game.
Star striker Harry Kane missed an early opportunity to add to his Champions League tally after being served up a clever chipped cross from Eriksen on 38 minutes.
“If he had scored maybe we are talking about a different game,” said Pochettino. “We are suffering a little bit but that’s not an excuse.”
Kane, the top scorer at the World Cup with six goals, arrived in Italy having scored nine goals in ten Champions League games.
But with only Samir Handanovic to beat the England striker rounded the Inter goalkeeper before losing his way as the ball rolled behind for a goal kick.
After Eriksen struck with a deflected shot that looped over Handanovic, the Londoners looked in control.
But the hosts turned things around with Icardi scoring his first Champions League goal in his first appearance in the competition, to add to his 110 goals in Serie A.
Inter Milan, who last won the trophy in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, were returning to Europe’s elite event for the first time since 2011-12, with Tottenham eliminated last season in the knockout rounds by Juventus.
Both teams are faltering in the league with Inter Milan on four points from four games and Tottenham sixth after suffering consecutive defeats.
Pochettino made five changes to the Tottenham side that lost to Liverpool at the weekend with Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Harry Winks and Lucas Moura all dropping out.
“It’s easy to talk about the players who aren’t here,” snapped Pochettino of his tactical choices.
“Against Watford and Liverpool they were on the pitch.
“That is football. After 46 years loving this game, I understand that some tough periods can arrive.
“After the Manchester United win (in August) I said: ‘be careful, be careful the tough period can arrive’ and here it is.
“The important thing is to work harder and to be strong. We have the quality but for different reasons we’re a little late in our preparation.
“Today I started to see good signals that the team is coming back again.
“We showed great personality, playing in the San Siro is a very difficult place and we showed character and personality.”

KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

Updated 19 March 2019

KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

  • Young Saudi triumphant at Open International Tournament despite just two years of training
  • Zahra Al-Qurashi took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi

JEDDAH: Zahra Al-Qurashi never expected to be where she is today: A gold medal winner in full contact kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs aged just 21. What started out as a gym class two years ago soon turned into a passion, leading to her victory in Amman on Sunday.

“I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym. I found the class and gave it a try, and decided to keep attending the classes,” she said. “A year ago, I joined Flagboxing Gym, and started training with my coach Grethe (Kraugerud). With her help, I developed my style and I am improving every day.”

Full contact is a discipline of kickboxing where punches and kicks must be delivered to legal areas of the body. According to the World Association for Kickboxing Organizations’ rules, it is legal to attack the front of the head and front and side of the torso, using “ankle-level foot sweeps.” It is prohibited to attack the throat, lower abdomen, back, legs, joints, back of the head and top of the shoulders.

A medal at her first international competition, then, speaks volumes about Al-Qurashi’s tenacity. She took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi.

“As soon as I entered the ring, everything went blank, I couldn’t hear or see anyone but my opponent, so I don’t really recall hearing my name even,” said Al-Qurashi. “I got a couple of really good kicks and punches, but she was a good opponent. I was in my own zone though, following every move and made sure I didn’t make mistakes.”

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photos)

Hala Al-Hamrani, the owner of Flagboxing Gym in Jeddah, said: “I am over the moon. I have dreamt about this happening for 16 years, ever since I started coaching. My goal was to eventually provide the ladies of this country with an opportunity to compete.”

For approximately two months, Kraugerud, from Norway, oversaw Al-Qurashi’s workouts, adding more sparring, interval training and intense ring practice.

“I’ve had Zahra spar with men, who are bigger and stronger than her, to give her a sense of what to expect in the ring, to give her more confidence and make her mentally prepared,” said Kraugerud. “I was very proud of her as she entered the ring, you could see the respect for the sport reflected in her. We did a really good job at Flag, we really pushed for this together as a team. She’s young, but she’s talented and she will go far.”

Al-Hamrani, a member of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Federation, added: “We got her ready by providing her with the right practice and training. It’s a dream come true and it’s very overwhelming because it was such a long process for something like this to happen. Zahra is an up-and-coming athlete who hopefully has a long future and I’m extremely excited to see what that future holds.”

Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors, and thanked Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority, for the support he had given to the team.

Upon returning to her hometown of Jeddah, Al-Qurashi was greeted by her mother. “I was hugging her and crying and mom, being mom, asked if I was crying because I got hit,” she laughed. “That was her way of saying: I’m proud of you.”