Late own goal saves Hungary from being frozen out

GIVEAWAY GOAL: Hungary's Laszlo Kleinheisler, rear celebrates as Iceland's Birkir Saevarsson, 2nd left, scores an own goal during the Euro 2016 Group F soccer match between Iceland and Hungary at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Saturday. (AP)
Updated 18 June 2016
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Late own goal saves Hungary from being frozen out

MARSEILLE: An own-goal by Iceland’s Birkir Savarsson in the dying seconds rescued a draw for Hungary in a frenetic Euro 2016 clash that keeps both team’s hopes alive of a second round berth.
A first-half penalty by Gylfi Sigurdsson put little Iceland on course for a fairytale win. But the European Championship newcomers succumbed to waves of late Hungarian pressure.
With 88 minutes gone, substitute Nemanja Nikolic sent a low ball into the area and in the thick of a goalmouth scramble, Savarsson touched the ball into his own net.
Prior to the tournament both teams viewed this Marseille tie as their best opportunity to get a win. But unfancied Hungary’s shock 2-0 victory against Austria on Tuesday meant a slot in the last-16 beckoned if they could beat the Scandinavians.
Hungary had more of the ball in the first-half, but, more used to playing a counterattacking game, they failed to craft clearcut openings against a physical Iceland defense.
Their midfield trio of Laszlo Kleinheisler, Balazs Dzsudzsak and Zoltan Stieber probed industriously. But the nearest they came to hitting the target in the first half was a Kleinheisler effort that raked across the goalmouth on 33 minutes.
In contrast, Iceland attacks carried more direct menace, with their best chance falling to Johann Gudmundsson on the half hour.
Having shouldered right-back Tamas Kadar off the ball, he found himself one-on-one against Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly but angled a weak shot straight at the 40-year-old, the oldest player ever to play at a European Championship final.
Approaching half-time Kiraly took center-stage in a horror show he will want to forget.
Six minutes before the break he fumbled a corner from Johann Gudmundsson, then tripped Ragnar Sigurdsson while grappling to recover the ball.
In the scramble that ensued referee Sergei Karasev pointed to the spot for a kick by Kadar on Gunnarsson.
He dived the wrong way for the penalty as Sigurdsson fired smartly to the left to give the Scandinavians the lead. Kiraly kicked the ball away in disgust.
After the break the Magyars resumed their pressure with Kleinheisler blasting over over twice in five minutes.
But it was Iceland who could have extended their lead on the hour, Sigthorsson heading wide from point-blank range after a pinpoint cross by Sigurdsson.
The goal-shy Magyars — who only scored 11 goals in 10 qualifying games — toiled anxiously for the leveller with Dzsudzsak twice sending free-kicks straight at Hannes Halldorsson.
As Hungary anxiously sought an equalizer Bernd Storck sent on Nikolic as an extra striker but they appeared to lack the final breakthrough touch.
Nikolics cross finally secured the equalizer to break Icelandic hearts.
Iceland, who nearly stole a winner with the final kick, a snapshot by subsitute former Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen, face Austria on Wednesday in their final group game.
The Nordic minnows need a win to seal a berth in the knockout stages. Hungary can progress by avoiding defeat against Portugal in Lyon the same day.


Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

‘I’m very happy to have won my first title with Juventus,’ Cristiano Ronaldo said. (Photo/General Sports Authority)
Updated 1 min 22 sec ago
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Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

  • Ronaldo’s glancing header sinks AC Milan 1-0 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium

JEDDAH: A historic Wednesday evening at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium saw Italian champions Juventus beat AC Milan in the final of the 31st annual Supercoppa Italiana.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal as Juventus lifted the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time since 2015 with a 1-0 victory in front of a sold-out 61,235-capacity crowd.

As only one should expect when two of the most successful Italian clubs go head to head, a tactical and elegant, albeit very physical, display of football was at hand. 

Cheerful roars from the Jeddah crowd resonated throughout the night, in the kind of buzzing atmosphere that only a cup final brings.

Juventus, the Serie A champions, began brightly and were the first side to settle into the game, threatening with frequent sweeping moves.

Juventus and Portuguese international Joao Cancelo could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute after being played through on goal, but the defender’s zooming effort lacked the necessary precision and whisked past the far post with the Milan keeper rooted in his spot.

A maddening crescendo of noise erupted when Juventus and French international Blaise Matuidi thought he had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after being played through by Costa before being flagged offside. 

Juventus did not have too much longer for another opportunity though, with Ronaldo’s acrobatic half volley from just outside the six-yard box bouncing and nestling agonizingly just over the bar and sparing Donnarumma’s blushes in the process.

Christiano Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his last seven finals. (Reuters)

Milan, who qualified for the final as runners-up to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia, had struggled throughout the first half to settle into the game. They gradually grew into their own though, and nearly broke the deadlock at the stroke of halftime with a stinging drive from Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu.

After a slew of opportunities had Juventus failing to build a halftime lead, Milan nearly made them pay for their squandered chances by starting the second half like bats out of hell. 

Milan’s confident pressing start to the half was almost rewarded in the 47th minute when a Ronaldo tackle inadvertently set up Cutrone with a clear sight on goal.  The striker turned and blasted an effort that rattled off the crossbar — the closest either team had come thus far.

And just when the tide seemed to have turned for Milan in the second half, their confidence building with every minute, a perfectly floating cross from Pjanic found Ronaldo with yards of space, and he made no mistake directing a swift header into the back of the net in the 61st minute and sending Juve supporters into a frenzy.


• AS IT HAPPENED: Cristiano Ronaldo's goal gives Juventus Supercoppa Italiana victory over AC Milan in Jeddah >>

• Arab News Matchday gallery >>


Things went from bad to worse for Milan in the 73rd minute. Franck Kessie came rushing in with a recklessly timed tackle, crunching his studs into the shins of Emre Can, which resulted in him seeing a straight red and leaving Milan with 10 men and a subsequent insurmountable uphill battle.

The final whistle came soon after, and with it brought Juventus a record eighth Supercoppa. It goes without saying that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a cup final, but this was a historic and monumental occasion for Jeddah. 

The first major European cup final match being held in Saudi Arabia is now in the books, and with it brought an added sense of passion and excitement. 

Thousands of men, women and children showed up enthusiastically, were highly supportive of both teams, and were thoroughly entertained. It was a successful and memorable night that will surely pave the way for many more.

Addressing a prematch press conference on Tuesday night, Juventus Captain Giorgio Chiellini had defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.

“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.”

Juventus had been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they had lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals. 

Chiellini, however, firmly believed that his team would change the trend and the team did make their captain proud. 

Juventus now holds the outright record of most Italian Super Cups with eight titles. (Arab News photo by Ali Khamg)