Elkeson double on debut as China thrash Maldives

Myanmar's Thu Aung in action with Japan's Kento Hashimoto (top) during their Group A match. (Reuters )
Updated 11 September 2019

Elkeson double on debut as China thrash Maldives

  • Saudi Arabia, Yemen play out 2-2 draw; Japan, Philippines score first wins

DOHA: Brazil-born striker Elkeson struck twice on his debut to give China a crushing 5-0 win over Maldives in a World Cup qualifier in Male on Tuesday.

Chinese football authorities included the 30-year-old in the national side last month in a bid to improve their chances of qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Qatar and Elkeson lived up to expectations by netting two penalties late in the Group A match at the Rasmee Dhandu Stadium.

Despite its clout as a global sporting and financial power China have qualified for the World Cup only once, leading to a change in policy that now allows naturalized foreign-born players to play for the national team.

“We want to go to Qatar (2022 World Cup),” Chen Xuyuan, new president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), was quoted as saying by state media last month.

“Naturalized players can be helpful in order to achieve the national team’s short-term goals.

“Up to now, clubs have registered nine naturalized players with or without Chinese heritage at the CFA in total, some of them are still going through the naturalization process.”

China dominated the game and were 2-0 up at half time with Wu Xi and Wu Lei finding the net in the 34th and 45th minute, respectively.

They then won three straight penalties, with Yang Xu first scoring from the spot in the 65th minute before Elkeson made his mark with seven minutes remaining and claimed his double in stoppage time to complete the rout.

Meanwhile, Asian champions and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar were held to a stunning goalless draw by India in Doha.

They thrashed Afghanistan in their opening Group E qualifier 6-0 but were thwarted by a spirited Indian defense led by goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu who brought off a string of saves at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.

The visitors, who led Oman in their first match last week only to concede two late goals to go down 2-1, were without their talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri.

Earlier, Hong Kong fans booed their own national anthem and sang in protest against Beijing’s rule as months of political unrest spilled onto the football pitch in a 2-0 defeat to Iran.

The ear-splitting disgruntlement all but drowned out “March of the Volunteers,” the anthem the semi-autonomous territory shares with mainland China, at what was Hong Kong’s first home game after a summer of upheaval.

In Riffa, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia  and Yemen settled for a 2-2 draw.

Mohsen Mohamed put Yemen ahead in the eighth minute, but Saudi Arabia hit back through Hattan Bahebri in the 23rd to restore parity.

An Omar Al-Dahi strike in the 37th minute gave Yemen the lead once again but the Saudis equalized through Salem Al-Dawsari three minutes into the second half to clinch a draw.

Elsewhere, Australia thrashed Kuwait 3-0 with Mathew Leckie scoring twice, South Korea beat Turkmenistan 2-0, Thailand smashed Indonesia 3-0 and the UAE edged past Malaysia 2-1.

Earlier, the Philippines brushed aside Pacific islanders Guam 4-1 for their first win of the qualifiers, Tajikistan beat Mongolia 1-0 and Singapore were 2-1 winners over Palestine.

In Yangon, Porto midfielder Shoya Nakajima and Salzburg’s Takumi Minamino were on target as Japan began their qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win over Myanmar.


Tiger Woods cautious about return ahead of Memorial

Updated 15 July 2020

Tiger Woods cautious about return ahead of Memorial

  • PGA Tour officials confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-2020 season would take place without fans

WASHINGTON: Tiger Woods admitted Tuesday that concern over the coronavirus delayed his return to the PGA Tour as he prepares to play his first event since February at this week's Memorial Tournament in Ohio.

The former world No. 1 has not played since appearing in the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles in February but will tee off at Muirfield on Thursday chasing a sixth victory in the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event.

The 44-year-old 15-time major winner said Tuesday he had contemplated returning to the tour earlier but had wanted to see how the first few events of the post-coronavirus shutdown fared before coming back.

"I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe," Woods said Tuesday.

"I'm used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family, and just been at home practicing and social distancing and being away from a lot of people.

"Coming back and playing the tour, in my case over the 20-some-odd years I've been out here, that's really hard to say, that I'm used to having so many people around me or even touch me, going from green to tee.

"That's something that I looked at and said, well, I'm really not quite comfortable with that, that whole idea."

Memorial organizers had initially planned to allow fans on the course at this week's tournament, but abandoned that idea as COVID-19 cases across the US began to skyrocket.

On Monday, PGA Tour officials confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-2020 season would take place without fans.

It means Woods will tee off on Thursday alongside world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka without the customary horde of spectators that usually follows him around a course.

"It's going to be different, there's no doubt about it," Woods said.

"For most of my career, pretty much almost every competitive playing round that I've been involved in, I've had people around me, spectators yelling, a lot of movement inside the gallery with camera crews and media."

Woods, who is making only his fourth tournament appearance of the season this week, said he has improved his health during the long layoff.

A stiff back hampered his performance at the Genesis in February, but Woods said he had not been troubled since.

"I feel so much better than I did then," Woods said.

"I've been able to train and concentrate on getting back up to speed and back up to tournament speed.

During Woods' layoff, the US was convulsed by nationwide protests against racism following the death of unarmed African-American man George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis on May 25.

Woods said he applauded efforts of Black Lives Matter activists to bring about change.

"I think change is fantastic as long as we make changes without hurting the innocent, and unfortunately that has happened. 

Hopefully it doesn't happen in the future, but a movement and change is fantastic," Woods said.

"That's how society develops. That's how we grow. That's how we move forward. That's how we have fairness."