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.


Almulla and Salhab give thumbs-up for inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship

Saudi Arabia will hold its first-ever women’s professional golf tournament in March when the Saudi Ladies Championship tees off at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
Updated 25 January 2020

Almulla and Salhab give thumbs-up for inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship

  • Record prize money of $19.87 million for the LET 2020 season offered

JEDDAH: Saudi golfers Othman Almulla and Faisal Salhab have said they cannot wait for the Saudi Ladies Championship to happen in the Kingdom, after a UK newspaper confirmed the tournament was one of three new events added to the Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule.

The Daily Telegraph said the Ladies European Tour would offer record prize money of £15.2 million ($19.87 million) for the 2020 season, an increase of almost £4 million on last year. The cash injection comes in part due to having three new events, all offering prize money of at least $1 million, including the inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship to be held in March.
The exclusive report said there would be 24 events on the LET this year, an increase of four from last year. In addition to the Saudi tournament and the Scandinavian Mixed event, the third event to have a prize pot of over $1 million will be a new event to be held in the UK in August, ahead of the Ladies Scottish Open and the Women’s Open.
Almulla and Faisal will both tee off alongside the biggest names in golf in the Saudi International, which starts next Thursday at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).
Almulla, who turned professional during the inaugural staging of the Saudi International last year, is playing on a pro invite while the 23-year-old Riyadh-based Faisal qualified following his victory in the 5th Saudi Open at the Riyadh Golf Course in November last year.  
Saud Alsharif, from the Eastern Province like Almulla, completes the Saudi trio in action in the Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 European Tour event. Alsharif earned his second straight stint in the tournament by virtue of his top ranking.
Almulla, a decorated amateur golfer and the youngest to qualify for the Dubai Desert Classic before another Saudi, Khaled Attieh, broke his record, told Arab News: “I think it’s a wonderful time for the sport of golf in Saudi Arabia, with the big developments the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi have put in place.”
“We already see the rewards of their ambitious plans with the first-ever female participation in an international event at the Pan Arab and GCC Championships in Egypt and Oman this year.
“And now with the first-ever ladies professional golf championship happening in Saudi Arabia, this will further motivate and inspire the next generation of golfers to continue improving,” Almulla added.
Salhab, who just ended a training camp with Alsharif and coach Jamie McConnell, director of instruction at the Claude Harmon Golf Academy in Dubai, said: “It’s great to have a Ladies European Tour event in Saudi Arabia. It emphasizes how the game is growing.
“It’s unreal to have such big events for men and women hosted in the Kingdom and hopefully inspire the next generation of golfers to pick up the sport.
“By having an event like this one take place in our backyard will hopefully expose many women to learn about the beautiful game,” Salhab added.
The Saudi Ladies Championship, professional golf’s newest high-profile tournament being hosted by the country, will take place March 19 to 22 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club under the aegis of the LET and the Saudi Golf Federation.
Golf Saudi announced last month that it was working with several LET stars to promote golf to local audiences, and to enhance the visibility of its Saudi golf development program and the country’s golf tourism. The UK’s Carly Booth, Amy Boulden and Rachel Drummond, and Swedish pair Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert, will each wear the Golf Saudi logo as ambassadors of the program.