Saudi giants Al-Ittihad to take on English minnows Atherton Collieries in friendly

The eight-time champions of Saudi Arabia and two-time Asian champions will take to the field at the 2,500-capacity Alder House as part of their tour of the north-west of England. (Photo: Atherton Collieries)
Updated 24 July 2019

Saudi giants Al-Ittihad to take on English minnows Atherton Collieries in friendly

  • Al-Ittihad have been based in the town of Bolton where they have played friendlies against Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United and Bury
  • Atherton Collieries play in the seventh tier of English football

LONDON: Saudi Arabian giants Al-Ittihad are in unchartered territory on Wednesday night as they take on English non-league side Atherton Collieries, who play in the seventh tier of the football pyramid in England.
The eight-time champions of Saudi Arabia and two-time Asian champions will take to the field at the 2,500-capacity Alder House as part of their tour of the north-west of England.
Al-Ittihad have been based in the town of Bolton where they have played friendlies against local side Bolton Wanderers as well as Leeds United and Bury. New West Bromwich Albion boss Slaven Bilic managed the club in the last 12 months.
It is far removed from their 62,000-capacity home at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, but the Saudi club wanted to play one more match before returning to the Kingdom, according to a BBC report.
The report also highlighted the gulf in social media following between the two clubs, with the Jeddah giants boasting 3.7 million Twitter followers compared to ACFC’s more modest 7,300.
Club official Carl McGuire told Arab News: "The interest in our club has been unprecedented, this is the first time I think the BBC have written about us in our more than 100-year history.
“Feedback from the local community and football family has been overwhelming.
“We are very honored that a club that is run by volunteers is to host such a prestigious club. We have made every effort to be as welcoming as possible.
“We don’t know what crowd to anticipate at all, Al-Ittihad supporters making the trip here will be able to see their heroes closer than ever. Our junior teams will be leading out the teams, a day they and their families will never forget.
“It is a day that will go down in our history,” he added.
“Something like this doesn’t come around often,” ACFC secretary Emil Anderson told BBC Sport.
“It’s like the unknown for us and it will probably be the unknown for them as well. It’s going to be a memorable night for the club.”
It has been a month of interesting friendlies in England, with Marlow Town hosting the Kuwait national team in a friendly and third-tier Accrington Stanley beating nine-time French champions and 1993 European champions Marseille.


Iniesta fires Japan’s Vissel Kobe into last 16

Updated 26 November 2020

Iniesta fires Japan’s Vissel Kobe into last 16

  • They are now five points ahead of Guangzhou and Suwon Samsung Bluewings

DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro's Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday.

The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th minute to help the Japanese side consolidate their position at the top of their group with two wins from as many matches.

They are now five points ahead of Guangzhou and Suwon Samsung Bluewings and assured of a spot in the knockout phase after the group was reduced to three teams following Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim's withdrawal from the tournament.

In another match on Wednesday, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors pipped Sydney FC 1-0 in Group H with Na Sung-eun scoring in the 44th minute.

It was the Australian side's third defeat in four matches while Jeonbuk revived their hopes with their first victory.

Iniesta, who was declared MVP of the match, had been an influential presence for Vissel Kobe throughout the encounter with his quick thinking and crisp passing, and that reflected in their first goal in the 44th minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The Spanish veteran dashed his way up on the left flank to control a long diagonal pass and after advancing further turned around near the goalline to tap the ball onto the path of the advancing Kyogo Furuhashi who struck with a clean, low shot from close range.

Furuhashi's personal joy at scoring lasted only 10 minutes as the forward first conceded a corner and then watched in horror as his attempted clearance from the resultant kick found his own net to give Guangzhou the equalizer.

Cannavaro made three substitutions in a desperate bid for victory after having drawn their opening game against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. But although the two-time champions enjoyed a couple of brief purple patches during which they had the Kobe defence under pressure, the goal they were looking for never materialized.

Vissel Kobe regained the lead in the 74th minute when Douglas, who had just come in five minutes prior, took advantage of a great back-heel from Daigo Nishi and blasted the ball home.

Brazil-born Elekson, now known as Ai Kesen, had a goal disallowed for off-side on eight minutes and when Iniesta struck two minutes later, it extended Cannavaro's misery in Doha.

"The result is bad. We tried but I know that something in my team is not clear. I don't know if they are afraid to play or they are not confident anymore," the Italian complained after the match.

"I need to try and do my best to give them the confidence to play. This is my job. I know they are very good players, and we can do much, much, much better."

Vissel Kobe had landed in Doha after a string of disappointing results back home, conceding a whopping 58 goals in 33 league matches and losing five games in a row.

But their coach Atsuhiro Miura was basking in joy on Wednesday, saying he was ready with a game plan against a side packed with several Brazilians.

"Guangzhou is a very strong side, they have several good Brazilian players but we analysed how they play and how to prevent them from playing to their strengths," said Miura.

"We did everything well and everything went how we wanted it to. That's why we got this result."