Al-Hilal show AFC Champions League potential with victory over Al-Duhail

Gomis was once again in fine form for Al-Hilal. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019

Al-Hilal show AFC Champions League potential with victory over Al-Duhail

  • Riyadh giants make it two from two with victory over Qatar club.
  • Al-Hilal looking good to exit group stage having fallen at first hurdle last year.

RIYADH: Bafetimbi Gomis and Sebastian Giovinco starred as Riyadh giants Al-Hilal grabbed a 3-1 victory over Qatari champions Al-Duhail to take top spot in Group C of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
Al-Duhail’s new signing Shoya Nakajima’s 75th-minute strike had canceled out a first-half Carlos Eduardo goal, but Ali Al-Bulayhi put the hosts ahead again in the 77th minute, chesting the ball over the line from Italy international Giovinco’s corner at the King Saud University Stadium in Saudi Arabian capital.
Rui Faria’s men barely had time to regroup before former Lyon and Swansea City striker Gomis made it 3-1 in the 79th minute, rounding goalkeeper Amine Lecomte and firing into the roof of the net after a pass from Salem Al-Dawsari.
The win gave two-time champions Al-Hilal top spot in the group with six points, following their opening victory over the UAE’s Al-Ain 1-0 last week.
In Group D, Al-Sadd pipped Iran’s Persepolis 1-0 for their first victory with Baghdad Bounedjah scoring a dramatic winner five minutes into injury time.
Al-Sadd dominated proceedings but poor finishing let them down at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium before last year’s top scorer Bounedjah came to the hosts’ rescue.
The Algerian striker, who had a goal disallowed for offside earlier in the game, rose above the defense to nod home after Abdelkarim Hassan had headed the ball in his direction following a free-kick.
The victory helped 2011 champions Al-Sadd get back on track after they were beaten by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli 2-0 in the opening week.
Al-Ahli, meanwhile fell to a 1-0 defeat by Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in Tashkent, with Marat Bikmaev scoring the winner with a fine free-kick in the 62nd minute.
Pakhtakor took top spot in Group D with four points, having drawn their first match against Persepolis.
Iran’s Esteghlal and Al-Ain played out a 1-1 draw earlier on Tuesday.

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.”