Al-Hilal beat Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr to clinch King’s Cup and unique treble

Al-Hilal beat Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr to clinch King’s Cup and unique treble
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Al-Hilal added the 2019-20 King’s Cup to their growing list of trophies after overcoming Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr 2-1 in the delayed final at King Fahd International Stadium in the Saudi capital on Saturday. (SPA)
Al-Hilal beat Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr to clinch King’s Cup and unique treble
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A penalty just before half-time from Bafetimbi Gomis gave Al-Hilal a 2-0 lead in the final. (Twitter: @Alhilal_EN)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Al-Hilal beat Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr to clinch King’s Cup and unique treble

Al-Hilal beat Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr to clinch King’s Cup and unique treble
  • Răzvan Lucescu’s team are now in possession of AFC Champions League, Saudi Professional League and the King’s Cup

DUBAI: Al-Hilal added the 2019-20 King’s Cup to their growing list of trophies after overcoming Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr 2-1 in the delayed final at King Fahd International Stadium in the Saudi capital on Saturday. 

The triumph was Al-Hilal’s ninth in the competition and means that the club is now in possession of the AFC Champions League, Saudi Professional League and the King’s Cup. 

Due to the disruptions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, last season’s final had been held over from May, and the rescheduled match happened to fall only a week after Al-Hilal had beaten the same opposition 2-0 in their 2020-21 SPL clash at King Saud University Stadium.

Al-Nassr looked to be clearly fired up from the first whistle, no doubt in an attempt to banish the dismal form that has seen them suffer their worst ever start to a Saudi Professional League campaign.

Sultan Al-Ghanam, one of their standout players in the 2-0 loss last week was booked after only three minutes, which would have consequences for him later on in the match.

But it was Răzvan Lucescu’s team who took the lead from their first real chance on 10 minutes, Sebastian Giovinco’s corner headed in by Jang Huyn-soo past Al-Nassr goalkeeper Brad Jones.

Buoyed by the early goal, Al-Hilal were briefly on the front foot and Yasser Al Shahrani could have doubled their lead five minutes later but, after a fine run down the right channel, had his shot blocked and Jones was able to collect comfortably.

At the other end Nordin Amrabat and Pity Martinez were getting some joy down the right wing but their final pass was often lacking, and Nassr danger man Abderrazak Hamdallah remained isolated for long periods.

On 29 minutes, Martinez should have squared the match after another fine run from the left flank but his close-range shot struck Habib Al-Wotayan’s near post and went out for a goal kick.

Al Nassr continued to be the better team and Amrabat’s trickery after 33 minutes drew Gustavo Cuellar into a rash challenge which earned the Colombian midfielder a yellow card. But an equalizer remained elusive and they would soon regret not taking advantage of their period of dominance.

With five minutes of the first half left, Carillo’s wonderful pass found Salem Al-Dawsari inside Al-Nassr’s penalty area but Sultan Al-Ghanam’s tackle looked to have averted the danger. However, after consulting VAR the referee awarded a penalty.

Bafetimbi Gomis sent Jones the wrong way to give Al-Hilal a comfortable 2-0 lead at half-time. 

Al-Nassr coach Rui Vitoria attempted to shake things up at the break by introducing Ali Lajami and Ayman Yahya for Al-Ghanam and Abdulmajeed Al-Sulayhem, but the substitutions did little to turn the tide after the restart.

In fact it was Al-Hilal who looked to be the more energised of the teams and 10 minutes into the second half Al-Dawsari’s brilliant run almost led to a third goal but his cross was cleared by the desperate Al-Nassr defense.

With 20 minutes left, the substitute Yahya breathed life into the final with an excellent left-footed finish to half the deficit. Mohamed Kanno immediately replaced Andrea Carillo to bolster Al-Hilal’s defence as Al-Nassr threw everything they had at their tiring opponents.

The late onslaught almost paid off, but with 13 minutes left Al-Wotayan pulled off a spectacular save from Hamdallah’s superbly-struck volley to preserve Al-Hilal’s lead.

Al-Hilal themselves could have ended the contest on 90 minutes but Al-Dawsari’s scuffed shot was saved by Jones and they had to endure six more tense minutes of stoppage time. But despite penning their opponents back, Al-Nassr couldn’t find a late equalizer. 

After receiving the trophy, Al-Hilal captain Salman Al-Faraj responded to recent concerns over the team’s performances by saying that winning three trophies in less than a year speaks for itself, and that despite inevitable drops in standards in certain matches, there was not much more players can do.

“I repeat that this is an exceptional season for Al-Hilal, we dedicate this to all our fans who we continue to miss inside the stadiums,” he said. “We promised them that we’ll win the Asian Champions League, the league and the King’s Cup. We always said the same thing among ourselves and we kept our promise. Today we were not great but in matches like this you just need to win the cup, you don’t need a performance. Al-Nassr were better in the second half, but we were better in the details, and we took advantage of that.”

He added that the coach had instructed them to stay calm and not be influenced by the recent win over their opponents.

“Al-Nassr have not had a good start to the season, and we beat them a few days ago in the league,” Al-Faraj said. “We knew they would come back strongly so we had to be the team that keeps their cool and keep control of our rhythm.”

Al-Hilal’s Italian playmaker Giovinco celebrated the win and insisted that the unconvincing performance in the final was of little consequence.

“It was a difficult game actually but in a final you don’t need to play well, you just need to win,” he said. “Especially this one, it was important because we closed a year in which we made a treble. It was difficult but at the end we deserve it.”

Meanwhile Carrillo promised the fans that there will be more to come from him and the team.

“I’m happy with the third trophy, the most important thing is that the whole group is performing very well,” said the Peruvian. “This is my third year at the club and things have gone very smoothly, the football here is of a high standard. I have a lot more to give in the future.”


Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League
Updated 15 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League
  • The 2019 winners’ players are worth $71.76m, while Riyadh neighbors Al-Nassr’s are valued at $71.33m

It is no surprise that Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, the latter despite their managerial change last week, are two of the favorites to lift the AFC Champions League trophy on Nov. 23 — and not just because the final will be held in their home city of Riyadh.

If you follow the money, these rivals should be there or thereabouts. Of the eight teams left in Asia’s premier club competition, the two Saudi Arabian representatives have the most valuable squads. That is according to Transfermarkt, the website used around the world to track and rank such things.

Al-Hilal have the most expensive assets of all, worth a collective $71.76 million, just slightly more than Al-Nassr’s $71.33 million.

The 2019 Asian champions, who defeated Esteghlal 2-0 in the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League last week, have two players whose worth can be measured only by using eight figures. Moussa Marega, who arrived this year from FC Porto, has a value of $11.74 million, but the player worth the most is, unsurprisingly, Matheus Pereira at $17.60 million.

The Riyadh giants beat a number of clubs from the English Premier League and elsewhere to sign the Brazilian from West Bromwich Albion in August. The playmaker showed his worth against Esteghlal with a fine assist for the opening goal. His pass was converted by Bafetimbi Gomis, whose relatively low valuation of $1.88 million is influenced by his 36 years and short contract. The highest-rated local player in the squad is the talismanic Salem Al-Dawsari at $3.76 million. Next is central midfielder Mohammed Kanno at $3.05 million.

Al-Nassr have plenty of gems of their own after a busy 12 months or so in the transfer market. Injury-hit Argentine Pity Martinez has a $14.08 million valuation, which is not that much below the $17.60 million or so the nine-time Saudi champions paid out for the playmaker in 2020. This is something of a surprise given his inactivity in recent months. The club has so far had better luck with its more recent additions, with Talisca valued at $11.74 million, the same as Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar. The highest-rated Saudi player is the excellent full-back Sultan Al-Ghanam at $3.17 million, $821,500 above midfielder Abdulfattah Asiri.

In terms of the AFC Champions League, none of the other six clubs can boast such expensive assets. Persepolis have reached two of the last three finals, but the Tehran giants have only one player worth seven figures. Mehdi Torabi headed the only goal against Istiklol of Tajikistan in the last minute of their second-round match and that can only add to his current valuation of $1.17 million. There is still talent in the squad, however. If Jalal Hosseini was a little younger than 39, then the center-back, who has made more than 100 appearances for Iran, would be worth his weight in gold.

Al-Wahda complete the West Asian quartet after their penalty shootout win in the all-UAE clash with Sharjah. According to Transfermarkt, Sharjah’s squad is valued at $36.44 million — almost three times more than Al-Wahda’s. If so, then coach Henk ten Cate has done well to take the Abu Dhabi club so far. Their two most valuable assets are Joao Pedro of Brazil and Syrian striker Omar Khribin, worth $3.52 million and $2.11 million, respectively. Again, if Ismail Matar was 28 instead of 38 then the winger would be one of the hottest and most expensive properties in Asian football. One also wonders how much more than $176,000 20-year-old midfielder Abdullah Hamad will be worth in the years to come.

Should Al-Nassr or Al-Hilal make it all the way to the final, then they will meet East Asian opposition and there is a good chance that the team will be from South Korea. The third most-valuable squad left in the competition belongs to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at an estimated $25.56 million. The two-time Asian champions have the usual sprinkling of foreign players, with Russian striker Stanislav Iljutcenko worth $2.35 million and Gambian winger Modou Barrow just $352,000 less. There are also plenty of local players worth $1 million or more, signifying the strength in depth that Jeonbuk possess. There are current or former Korean internationals such as attackers Song Min-kyu, Han Kyo-won and Lee Seung-ki. At the back, former FC Augsburg center-back Hong Jeong-ho marshals the defense.

Jeonbuk’s rivals for the Korean title and defending Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai have players with valuations that reflect the talent at the club. There are no huge stars, with Georgian midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili the highest valued at $1.88 million. There are two local players who are worth almost as much, with talented midfielder Yoon Bit-garam and goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, who starred for Korea at the 2018 World Cup, valued at $1.76 million. Then there are young players such as Lee Dong-jun and Lee Dong-gyeong, who seem a little undervalued.

Pohang Steelers are one of two teams, along with Al-Hilal, with three Asian club championships under their belt. Despite having 39 players in their squad — one of the biggest in the entire 40-team tournament — the Steelers’ entire roster is worth only $12.65 million, about a sixth of those of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr. No player is estimated to be worth even $1 million. Left-back Kang Sang-woo is the highest valued at $997,500.

Japan has one club left compared to Korea’s three. Nagoya Grampus’ most expensive player, for any club looking to buy, is Jakub Swierczok. The Polish striker scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Daegu FC last week. There are some other talented strikers at the club, such as Yoichiro Kakitani and Mu Kanazaki, but they are valued lower as they are the wrong side of 30. The most expensive domestic player is 25-year-old center-back Shinnosuke Nakatani.

Fans in Saudi Arabia will get a chance to check out some of these talents in the coming weeks, allowing them to judge just how accurate such valuations are and whether they will increase or decrease.


Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah

Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah
Updated 26 min 20 sec ago

Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah

Over 100 Saudi athletes compete in 2nd Women’s Karate Championships in Jeddah
  • Saudi Karate Federation President Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri praises tournament which hosted 10 clubs at the Asian Arts Center

RIYADH: Women’s sport in Saudi Arabia continued its rapid rise with the hosting of the 2nd Women’s Karate Championship at the Asian Arts Center in Jeddah this week.

The tournament was attended by Saudi Karate Federation President Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri, who praised the standard of the competition, the organization of the event and the large number of participants, saying all are an indication of the sport’s rising popularity in the Kingdom.

The winners were crowned by Dr. Nouf Al-Hammad, women’s sports officer at the federation, and Dr. Iman Al-Husseini at the end of the tournament in which more than 100 athletes from 10 centers from across the nation took part.

In the individual kata competitions, Lama Abdelaziz from the Heroes’ Steps Center came first , ahead of Sabah Yamen from the Expressions Fitness Center in second and Malak Al-Khalidi from the Heroes’ Steps Center in third.

In the group kata competitions, the Heroes’ Steps Center took first place, with the Asian Arts Center and the Sartieh Center second and third, respectively.

In the fighting disciplines, Malak Al-Khalidi from the Steps of Champions Center won the under 50kg category, while Noura Al-Rashed from the same club won the under 55kg competition.

Dana Mansour from the Asian Arts Center won the under 61kg category  and Rana Viad from the Bagdo Sports Center claimed top spot in the under 68kg.

Al-Shehri also presented the Shield of the Federation to the Asian Center for Martial Arts in appreciation of their hosting of the tournament.


Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore
Updated 21 September 2021

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli crushed in 200th IPL match for Bangalore
  • It remained an unforgettable evening for Kohli who fell for five in his 200th IPL match

DUBAI: Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore suffered a crushing nine-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday hours after he announced to step down as captain at the end of this Indian Premier League.
It remained an unforgettable evening for Kohli who fell for five in his 200th IPL match and Bangalore were skittled out for 92 with Kolkata spinner Varun Chakravarthy returning figures of 3-13 in Abu Dhabi.
The 32-year-old Kohli, who put out a video message of his captaincy exit on the opening day of the revived IPL on Sunday, is still searching for Bangalore’s first title win in the Twenty20 tournament.
“Sometimes it can take you a game, I hope not two, to get into the tournament, you have to stay with the eight-ball, if you’re not, the other teams will be all over you,” Kohli said after his team’s first match of the UAE leg.
Kohli, who last week announced his decision also to quit India’s T20 captaincy at the end of the T20 World Cup in October-November, has been under close scrutiny as a leader in recent months.
Kohli was made Bangalore’s captain in 2013, but despite his superstar status, the team’s best finish was losing in the 2016 final.
His record without a title is often compared to India’s vice-captain Rohit Sharma who has secured five IPL crowns for holders Mumbai Indians.
RCB were at the receiving end of an inspired Kolkata bowling performance with Chakravarthy and Andre Russell taking three wickets each to flatten the opposition batting.
Seam bowler Prasidh Krishna took down Kohli, trapped lbw after the skipper opened the batting with Devdutt Padikkal who top-scored with 22.
Bangalore lost regular wickets to Chakravarthy’s mystery spin that got key batsman including Australia’s Glenn Maxwell for 10 and Sri Lankan import Wanindu Hasaranga for nought.
“Pretty good from Varun, he’s going to be a key factor when he plays for India,” Kohli said of the spinner who is included in India’s World Cup squad.
“It’s great guys who’ve got the opportunity to play at the international level. He’s someone who is going to play in the near future for India, it’s a great sign.”
Shubman Gill, who made 48, and debutant Venkatesh Iyer, who hit an unbeaten 41 off 27 balls, then put on 82 for the first wicket as Kolkata chased down their target in just 10 overs.
The Eoin Morgan-led side need to win five of their remaining six matches to stay in the race for a play-off spot.
The tournament resumed Sunday after it was halted in May because of a devastating surge in pandemic deaths in India, prompting foreign players to rush home.
Many have not come back including England’s Ben Stokes (Rajasthan Royals) and Pat Cummins (Kolkata) of Australia.


World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York
Updated 20 September 2021

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York
  • The tournament is one of the European Tour championships, with prizes amounting to $1 million
  • It will be held on Oct. 14-16 at the Glen Oaks Club course

JEDDAH: World No. 1 golfer and Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda and her sister, Jessica, have joined the list of top female golfers for the third Saudi Aramco Team Series tournament in New York.
The tournament, one of the European Tour championships, with prizes amounting to $1 million, will be held on Oct. 14-16 at the Glen Oaks Club course. The female golf professionals competing include five of the top 20 players in the world.
The organizing committee had previously confirmed the participation of American Solheim Cup stars Lizette Salas and Lexi Thompson, in addition to Anna Nordqvist, who plays for the Ladies European Tour and has won three major championships, including the 2021 Women’s British Open.
“The Solheim Cup was the best example of how much the players and fans liked the team system, so when I learned about the Saudi Aramco Teams Series championship I decided to be a part of it, and I’m really excited to have it on my calendar this year,” Saudi Press Agency cited Nelly Korda as saying.
Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said that the list of names participating in New York will be the strongest yet.
The Aramco Team Series system is a new concept in golf, where the players compete in teams, which is unusual in this individual sport. The prize for each championship in the series is $1 million and teams compete for a prize of $800,000, plus $200,000 for the best singles score over the weekend.


FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar
Updated 20 September 2021

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar
  • World football's governing body wants to launch a "new consultation phase" for the international women's and men's calendar
  • UEFA president is fiercely opposed to the proposal and threatened that European nations would boycott a biennial World Cup

PARIS: FIFA has invited football’s national federations to an online summit on September 30 to discuss the international calendar, in its push to hold the World Cup every two years instead of four.
World football’s governing body wants to launch a “new consultation phase” for the international women’s and men’s calendar, set to expire at the end of 2023 and 2024 respectively.
“There is a broad consensus within the game that the international match calendar should be reformed and improved,” FIFA said in a statement Monday.
“Following invitations to stakeholders, including all confederations, at the beginning of September, discussions are being organized in the coming weeks.
“FIFA also invited its member associations to a first online summit on 30 September 2021. This is one of several opportunities to establish a constructive and open debate, at a global and regional level, over the coming months.”
The proposal for a biennial World Cup was revived in March by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now head of global football development at FIFA.
The idea would be to have an international tournament each year from 2025-2026, alternating World Cups and continental tournaments like the European Championship and Copa America.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is fiercely opposed to the proposal and threatened that European nations would boycott a biennial World Cup.
South American confederation CONMEBOL said the project had “no sporting justification.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised decisions on staging a World Cup every two years would be made by the end of the year.
Last week FIFA published an online poll that claimed a majority of football fans support the idea of a “more frequent” World Cup.
The results of the survey came in stark contrast to the opposition of numerous national supporters groups worldwide.
Global players’ union FIFPro has denounced “the absence of a real dialogue” on the subject, pointing out the “natural physiological limits” of footballers.
“Without the agreement of the players, who bring all competitions to life on the pitch, no such reforms will have the required legitimacy,” said FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.