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.


Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

The first stage of Rally Qassim began in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170km. Several drivers are keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020. (SPA)
Updated 18 October 2019

Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

  • French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Dakar Rally drivers are gearing up for a “thrilling and exciting” challenge when the world-famous desert race is staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time next year.
The Kingdom will host the event from Jan. 5 to 17, 2020 with top racers from around the globe traveling thousands of kilometers through inhospitable terrain in cars, trucks and on quad bikes and motorcycles.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and follow a tough route through desert, sand dunes and mountainous areas taking in NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.
French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia.
“However, after doing some research, I realized that Saudi Arabia was a very wonderful and suitable country for the rally. It has different terrain types, and I expect us to have a perfect track. The vast desert gives me hope that the 2020 Saudi Dakar Rally will be more thrilling and exciting than Africa,” he said.
Five-time Dakar Rally winner and fellow French driver, Cyril Despres, said that racing in Saudi Arabia would be a new adventure that could only be experienced by those who lived up to its challenges.
“When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world,” he added.

Positive move
British rally raid motorcycle rider, Sam Sunderland, who won his category in the 2017 Dakar Rally, said he was delighted to be participating in the Saudi race. “I believe that this change is good, as I have lived in Dubai for 10 years, having adapted well to the Middle East’s atmosphere.

When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African Continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world.

Cyril Despres, French driver

“Exploring a new area is a positive move for the Dakar Rally, and I am certain that everyone who practices this sport is excited to explore a new ground for racing,” Sunderland added.
ED Racing Team driver, Issa Al-Dossari, said the main reason he had taken part in Rally Qassim was to prepare for the Dakar challenge.
“We will be using two cars in the rally. We look forward to raising the level of preparedness for many coming global events. But this does not mean that we will not compete for the top places.”
Al-Dossari invited sports fans to visit the team’s headquarters at Date City to see equipment and meet its members.
The team must participate in two different cars, the first driven by Al-Dossari with his French navigator Sébastien Delaunay, and the second with Emirati Abdallah Al-Huraiz behind the wheel and Ali Hassan navigating.
The first stage of Rally Qassim began on Friday in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170 km, with stage two raced over 200 km.
Meanwhile, entry registrations for the Dakar Rally are still open in all categories at https://www.dakar.com/en/the-competitors/register.