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.


Russian GP likely to be season’s first racing with fans

Updated 11 July 2020

Russian GP likely to be season’s first racing with fans

SPIELBERG, Austria: The first Tuscan Grand Prix in Mugello will be held on Sept. 13, and the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi two weeks later could be the first Formula One race this season with fans.

The F1 season started last weekend in Austria with no fans at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said he hopes spectators can attend the race in Sochi later this year.

“Russia is ready to receive the Formula 1 teams and spectators. The government will provide all the assistance required during the preparation and delivery of the competition,” Chernyshenko said Friday. “It will be an important event for Russian sport.”

It was not immediately clear how many fans Russian authorities hope to allow inside the 55,000-capacity Sochi Autodrom.

“This will be an incredible festival for the widest audience possible,” said Alexey Titov, the CEO of state-backed race promoter Rosgonki. “We are confident that the difficulties of this year will not become a special obstacle for motorsport fans. We are meticulously preparing to receive spectators safely and looking forward to seeing everyone.”

Both races were added to the calendar by F1 organizers on Friday, taking the number of scheduled races so far this season to 10 — all of them in Europe.

“Everybody has done an extraordinary job to bring back racing. To hear that more races have been put on the calendar is great news,” Williams team principal Claire Williams said. “Mugello is an unknown. We used to go testing there many, many moons ago. It will give the engineers a test.”

It will be the first time since 2006 that two races will be held in Italy.

F1 still hopes to have 15-18 races and to finish the season in December with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

“We had great start to our season in Austria last weekend and we are increasingly confident in our plans to race throughout the remainder of 2020,” F1 chairman Chase Carey said. “We are equally excited to see Formula 1 race for the first time at Mugello, an occasion that will mark Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix.”

Mugello is about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Florence. It has never staged an F1 race but has hosted F2 and MotoGP races, as well as previously being a Ferrari test track.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel did a test drive there last month.