Fahad Al-Muwallad hopes AFC Champions League win proves to be a springboard to safety for Al-Ittihad

Updated 05 March 2019
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Fahad Al-Muwallad hopes AFC Champions League win proves to be a springboard to safety for Al-Ittihad

  • Jeddah giants in relegation zone but thrashed Al-Rayyan 5-1 in AFC Champions League opener.
  • Star man Al-Muwalad hopeful victory can be a springboard to safety in the league.

LONDON: It may have been just one match, but Al-Ittihad star Fahad Al-Muwallad insisted their 5-1 win against Al-Rayyan in the AFC Champions League will be the trigger for the Jeddah giants to salvage their season. 

This current campaign has not gone according to plan for Al-Ittihad. Amid much fanfare they hired former Croatia and West Ham coach Slaven Bilic to replace Ramon Diaz in the dugout after just two matches and lead their charge at what they hoped would be domestic and continental glory.

Added to that they splashed the cash with big moves in the transfer market, buying Serbian striker Aleksandar Pesic and Australian international Matthew Jurman.

But the team did not gel and after just 15 matches at the helm Bilic suffered the same fate as Diaz and was sacked with the side in the Saudi Pro League relegation zone. As if to underline the turmoil at the club, Pesic has already been loaned out to FC Seoul in South Korea on a one-and-a-half-year contract.

But with Luis Sierra now in charge — Al-Ittihad’s third coach this season — the Tigers got their AFC Champions League 2019 campaign off to a storming start, thrashing the Qatar outfit at the King Abdullah Sports City.

And for the team’s talisman Al-Muwallad the hope is that the victory acts as a springboard to safety in the Saudi Pro League and success on the continent.

“We have been through extreme pressure in the past few months,” the Saudi Arabia international said. “(But) we are capable of overcoming all challenges.

“We wished our fans had attended the match and shared the joy of victory with us. We promise them that we will achieve better results,” he added.

It was the side’s first appearance in the competition since 2016, an illustration of the hard times the Jeddah side has endured having lifted the trophy in 2004 and 2005. But they showed few nerves at home as they put their faltering form behind them, displaying resolve having gone a goal behind in the 23rd minute. 

After Gonzalo Viera had put Al-Rayyan ahead, Al-Ittihad struck back through Al-Muwallad and Abdulaziz Al-Aryani before goals from Ziyad Al-Sahafi, Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi and Al-Muwallad sealed a convincing victory.

For the new coach there were a lot of positives to take into the battle to get out of the Pro League relegation zone. “Tactically speaking, the match was wonderful and the players showed a great performance,”
Sierra said.

“We controlled the match after the other team scored, we created better opportunities. The result made us happy about the performance of the players.

“This is just the beginning. Starting tomorrow we will only focus on the upcoming match against Al-Fayha.”

“Everyone is aware of our difficult situation in the league; we need all players to (step up).”

The result sent Al-Ittihad top of Group B ahead of Lokomotiv Tashkent, who were also victorious after beating Al-Wahda 1-0 at the Lokomotiv Stadium.

 


Australia crush England to reach World Cup semifinals

Updated 25 June 2019
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Australia crush England to reach World Cup semifinals

  • Finch made exactly 100 in a total of 285-7 before England slumped to 221 all out with 32 balls left
  • The recalled Behrendorff took 5-44, while Starc became the leading bowler at the tournament with 19 scalps thanks to a haul of 4-43

LONDON: Australia captain Aaron Finch hit a hundred before left-arm quicks Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc shared nine wickets as the reigning champions thumped England by 64 runs at Lord’s on Tuesday to book their place in the semifinals of the World Cup.
Finch made exactly 100 in a total of 285-7 before England slumped to 221 all out with 32 balls left.
The recalled Behrendorff took 5-44 — his first five-wicket haul in a one-day international — while Starc became the leading bowler at the tournament with 19 scalps thanks to a haul of 4-43.
For England, who entered the showpiece event as the top-ranked side in ODI cricket, this was a second straight defeat after their shock 20-run loss to Sri Lanka.
The host nation, bidding to win a first World Cup title, can still qualify for the semifinals but they are likely to need to beat at least one of India and New Zealand in their remaining two group games.
“There are teams that you have confidence playing against but I have had plenty of low scores against England as well,” said man-of-the-match Finch.
“It was nipping around first thing. We were as tight as we could be and then took advantage of any width.”
England’s reply saw them lose a wicket off just the second ball of their chase, with the struggling James Vince — only playing because Jason Roy was out with a hamstring injury — bowled by a Behrendorff inswinger.
Starc then took two wickets in nine balls.
Test skipper Joe Root was plumb lbw to an inswinger for eight before England captain Eoin Morgan (four) fell into a hooking trap when a top-edge was held safely by Pat Cummins at fine leg.
Australia, who had lost 10 of their previous 11 ODIS against England, were in complete charge with the hosts now 26-3.
England have surged to the top of the ODI rankings on the back of aggressive run-scoring but the worry for Morgan’s men is that too many of their top-order appear to know only one way to bat. Jonny Bairstow, for example, fell next to a careless hook off Behrendorff before Stokes and Jos Buttler (25) repaired some of the damage with a fifth-wicket stand of 71.
Buttler was well caught by Usman Khawaja, running round and staying just inside the deep square leg boundary off Marcus Stoinis.
Stokes defiantly hit Glenn Maxwell for two sixes in three balls but, shortly before completing his fifty, the all-rounder pulled up with a calf injury.
Starc was brought back to take a key wicket and duly obliged with a thunderbolt yorker, his 18th wicket of the tournament, that ended Stokes’s 115-ball innings of 89, including eight fours and two sixes.
Stokes’s dismissal left England 177-6 in the 37th over and effectively ended the contest. Starc ended the match when he dismissed Adil Rashid.
Earlier Finch, dropped on 15, and fellow opener David Warner (53) came through some testing early overs to share a stand of 123 as too many of England’s pacemen, with the exception of Chris Woakes, dropped short.
The skipper’s exit sparked a late flurry of wickets but Australia had enough runs on the board.
Both Warner, the World Cup’s leading run-scorer, and Steve Smith were booed as they entered and exited the field following their recent return from year-long bans for ball-tampering.
Finch went to his century thanks to a misfield by Woakes but next ball he miscued a hook off Jofra Archer and Woakes held the catch at fine leg.
The skipper faced 116 balls, with 11 fours and two sixes in his second century of this World Cup following his 153 against Sri Lanka.