Al-Hilal advance into AFC Champions League semifinals

Al-Hilal midfielder Salem Al-Dawsari vies for the ball with Al-Ittihad defender Saud Abdulhamid, left, during their AFC Champions League quarterfinals match. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2019

Al-Hilal advance into AFC Champions League semifinals

  • Riyadh-based team beat Al-Ittihad of Jeddah in the all-Saudi final eight showdown

JEDDAH: Al-Hilal battled from one goal down early to beat Al-Ittihad in the all-Saudi quarterfinal and advance to the AFC Champions League semifinals at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.

After a goalless draw in the first leg in Jeddah, Ittihad looked to have the advantage of  the away goals rule after scoring in the 10th minute courtesy of Ziyad Al-Sahafi.

But the Riyadh-based Hilal regrouped and tallied three unanswered goals to qualify for the final four on 3-1 agregate victory in the two-leg final eight contest. Hilal meet Qatar’s Al-Sadd in the semifinals.

Andre Carrillo equalized for Hilal with a goal in the 44th minute. Salem Al-Dawsari  and Italian import Sebastian Giovinco then put Hilal on the way to victory with goals in minutes 48 and 78.

Earlier in Japan, captain fantastic Shinzo Koroki's powerful first-half header via crossbar and goalkeeper proved enough to squeeze Urawa Red Diamonds into the semifinals  at the expense of Shanghai SIPG on the away goals rule Tuesday.

Wang Shenchao equalized for the visitors with a cool volley on the hour, but the Japanese side comfortably held on for a 1-1 draw and a semifinal place courtesy of the goals scored by Tomoaki Makino and Koroki three weeks ago when the first leg was drawn 2-2 in Shanghai.

The prolific Koroki was, however, officially denied his seventh strike of the campaign on a technicality.

Gloveman Yan Junling was credited with an own goal after palming Koroki's 39th-minute header from Takahiro Sekine's cross onto the woodwork and watching helplessly as it cannoned back into his outstretched arm and over the line.

That was harsh on Yan, who had kept his toothless side — packed with expensive imports — in the tie with a string of saves as Urawa pressed for the cushion of a second goal on a sultry night in Saitama.

It was a poor performance by Vitor Pereira's SIPG side, who were devoid of penetration up front without suspended 55 million euro Brazilian striker Hulk, who had scored both first leg goals from the penalty spot as they came from 2-0 down.

Instead they started with Marko Arnautovic at centre forward, the big Austrian having been signed from English Premier League West Ham last month for 25 million euros.

But with playmaker Oscar — who cost 60 million euros from Chelsea — having an off night, chances remained few and far between.

SIPG had little fluency in the attacking third, a familiar trait that has seen them exit with a curious unbeaten streak of seven draws and one win in their last eight matches in this year's Champions League.

Arnautovic's best efforts were a wasteful header over from six yards out, which would not have counted anyway as the referee had blown for a push, and a tame shot easily deflected for a corner eight minutes from time.

After Shenchao's equalizer SIPG still needed another goal but it was Urawa who seconds later came closest, Daiki Hashioka thumping a shot against the crossbar and Tsuyoshi Otsuki's side continued to carry the more serious threat on the counter attack.

Urawa, the 2007 and 2017 AFC Champions League winners, progress to their fourth semi-final appearance where they will face either defending champions Kashima Antlers or Guangzhou Evergrande, who play Wednesday. Their first leg in China ended 0-0.


Sarfaraz removed as Pakistan T20 and test captain

Updated 18 October 2019

Sarfaraz removed as Pakistan T20 and test captain

  • The change in captaincy comes after Pakistan was beaten 3-0 by Sri Lanka last week in a Twenty20 series in Lahore
  • Pakistan is due to leave for Australia next week to play three Twenty20s and two test matches

ISLAMABAD: Babar Azam has replaced Sarfaraz Ahmed as Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain until next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, and Azhar Ali has been appointed test captain for the 2019-20 season.
The change in captaincy comes after Pakistan was beaten 3-0 by Sri Lanka last week in a Twenty20 series in Lahore.
In the T20 series, Sarfaraz had scores of 24, 26 and 17 against a second-string Sri Lanka as Pakistan failed to chase in all three matches.
“His (Sarfaraz) loss in form and confidence is visible and in the best interest of the team it has been decided to leave him out and provide him the opportunity to reflect and regroup himself and try to reclaim his form away from international cricket,” Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani said in a statement on Friday.
Pakistan is due to leave for Australia next week to play three Twenty20s and two test matches and the PCB said the squads for both series will be announced on Monday.
Babar was the vice-captain during the T20 series against Sri Lanka and is presently leading Central Punjab in the National T20 Cup, where he scored a 59-ball 102 against Sindh.
Babar previously led Pakistan in the Under-19 World Cup in 2012. However, he has no experience leading the national team in big time international cricket.
But the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 batsman said he was ready for the challenge.
“To be named captain of the No. 1-ranked side in the world is the biggest thing that has happened to my career to date,” Babar said. “I am ready for this challenge and also willing to learn more in the process. I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities.”
Pakistan, ranked No. 7 in test cricket, had an unimpressive record since Sarfaraz took over from now-head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq three years ago. Pakistan won only four test matches and lost eight during that period.
“These are exciting times in Pakistan cricket with a new team management,” Azhar said. “As a captain, I feel comfortable that there will be number of knowledgeable people in the hut who I can rely on for advice and guidance.”
The 34-year-old Azhar has played 73 test matches and scored 5,669 runs with 15 centuries.
The PCB also said it will name the ODI captain at a later date because Pakistan’s next international assignment is against the Netherlands in July.