Al-Attiyah seals 11th FIA MERC title with 9th victory in Jordan

Updated 17 October 2015
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Al-Attiyah seals 11th FIA MERC title with 9th victory in Jordan

DEAD SEA, Jordan: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah confirmed his 11th FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) title in 13 years with an emphatic start-to-finish victory in the Jordan Rally, round six of the series, which finished with the stunning backdrop of the Dead Sea on Saturday.
The Qatari and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel won 18 of the 21 gravel special stages that are some of the most beautiful and demanding in the world. His ninth victory in Jordan also marked a 59th career MERC win to put him just one success away from equalling the 60 victories achieved by Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Sulayem between 1984 and 2002. The winning margin for his fourth successive victory in the Hashemite Kingdom was a massive 29min 31sec.
It was also MERC win No.8 for Matthieu Baumel, who duly overtook Jordan’s Khaled Zakaria to become the fifth most successful regional co-driver in history.
“I was happy because Yazeed (Al-Rajhi), Abdulaziz (Al-Kuwari) and Khalid (Al-Suwaidi) were back and pushing today,” said Al-Attiyah. “I did what I had to do. Today, in the morning, I won all five stages. I was driving on the same pace as yesterday. No slowing and no risks.
“Yesterday I chose soft tires for the first five stages and today I used harder tires on the front and soft on the rear. The problem with the soft is a lot of movement and it does not suit the stages especially on the later stages. But this is another fantastic win for me and another Middle East Championship title. I am very happy.”
The Qatari, who clinched the FIA World Cup in Morocco last week and could add the WRC 2 title to his trophy cabinet in Spain next Sunday, was in a class of his own. But a fierce battle waged over the closing stages for the runner-up spot.
Despite losing over 23 minutes on Friday with a broken wheel, Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and British navigator Marshall Clarke began a sterling fight back through the field. They started the final day in fourth and overhauled the Jordanian duo of Husam Salem and Khaled Juma to snatch second place.
“It was important to me to finish in at least the top three for the sponsors,” said Al-Kuwari. “I was not happy with my performance here, especially with the older tires I have been using. But it’s a good finish after the problems I faced.”
It was fitting that an all-Jordanian team was on the podium and a delighted Husam Salem and co-driver Nancy Al-Majali held on to confirm a second successive victory in Group N and take third overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. It was the first podium finish for an all-Jordanian crew since Ameer Al-Najjar and Nicola Fanous finished third in 2008.
Khaled Juma has already confirmed the Jordanian national rally title in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII and he and Faris Al-Tal finished the international in fourth and second in Group N. Ihab Al-Shorafa and Rakan Khair were fifth.
Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Al-Attiyah’s former co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini began the second leg under Rally2 after Friday’s problems and looked set for a sixth-placed finish until late technical issues sidelined their Ford Fiesta RRC.
Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr also restarted under Rally2 and overhauled the Fiat Stilo of Asem Aref and Moad Arja to finish in sixth position.
Al-Rajhi said: “I thought I would get Rally2 after the super special and not at the end of the leg. So I took 100 minutes of penalties. I did not think the first stage would be included in leg one. This should be taken into consideration in the future. The championship needs every competitor when the numbers are low. You have no chance to come back with these penalties. If I did not go to Spain from here, I would not have continued today.”
Lina Hadadi and Barkev Shadian finished as the highest crew running in a secondary rally behind the FIA event. They fended off a challenge from the fellow all-Subaru Impreza crew of Basheer Azar and Bilal Majdalawe.

2015 Jordan Rally – positions after SS21 (unofficial @ 17.00hrs):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC 3hr 07min 51.2sec

2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC 3hr 37min 22.2sec

3. Husam Salem (JOR)/Nancy Al-Majali (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3hr 41min 37.6sec

4. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Faris Al-Tal (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII 3hr 43min 30.6sec

5. Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)/Rakan Khair (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 4hr 06min 11.4sec

6. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC 4hr 58min 20.6sec

7. Asem Aref (JOR)/Moad Arja (JOR) Fiat Stilo 5hr 21min 27.8sec


England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.