Nyck de Vries makes history by winning Diriyah E-Prix in first ever Formula E night race

Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
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Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
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Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
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Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
The first of a double-header of races taking place in Riyadh over, the weekend was also the first since Formula E was granted championship status by the FIA. (Supplied)
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The first of a double-header of races taking place in Riyadh over, the weekend was also the first since Formula E was granted championship status by the FIA. (Supplied)
The first of a double-header of races taking place in Riyadh over, the weekend was also the first since Formula E was granted championship status by the FIA. (Supplied)
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The first of a double-header of races taking place in Riyadh over, the weekend was also the first since Formula E was granted championship status by the FIA. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 February 2021

Nyck de Vries makes history by winning Diriyah E-Prix in first ever Formula E night race

Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
  • This was the third time that Riyadh has held a Formula E event, and the second time that it has been the season-opening race

DIRIYAH, Saudi Arabia: Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz EQ created Formula E history after winning the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix, the first time the electric-car series has ever taken place at night.

The first of a double-header of races taking place in Riyadh over, the weekend was also the first since Formula E was granted championship status by the FIA. It is the third time that event has taken place in Saudi Arabia, and the second that it has kicked off a new season.

 

 

“Thank you to everyone at the team, because I know it sounds like a cliche, but everyone honestly worked really hard to get here, so thank you,” de Vries said immediately after his win.

The delighted Dutchman was congratulated by the President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal, after receiving a winner’s trophy on the podium for the first time in his Formula E career.

Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing, racing in Diriyah for the third time, finished second, while Mitch Evans of Jaguar Racing was third and Rene Last of Audi Sport ABT SCHAEFFlER fourth.

“The race was a tough one to manage,” de Vries added. “It wasn’t exactly clear what pace we were going to burn, and that has a consequence on the energy distribution across the 45 minutes. There was lot of communication going on, quite a few safety cars to mange. I’m very pleased.”

 

 

Runner-up Mortara lauded what his team has been able to achieve against some of Formula E’s bigger names.

“It’s obviously good to be back here, to be back on the podium,” he said. “We had an okay (2019-20) season, I mean, for sure, the first seven races were actually quite okay. You have to remember that we are probably the smallest team in the Formula E paddock, it’s not easy for us to get good results when we are facing as a team big manufactures with lot more resources than us. I’m extremely happy, it’s been a really good day, super competitive and hopefully it’s going to be the same tomorrow.”

Mortara had pulled off one of the highlights of the race when he overtook Pascal Wehrlein of TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team on his way to finishing second.

“I think it was crucial to pass Pascal,” the Swiss driver said. “The vehicle seemed to be quite smooth after taking his first attack mode and… I got lucky, there was not one millimetre more of distance like between my car and his car and I just went for it and I have to say thank you also to Mitch because he let me drive through the gap and yeah, very happy with the second place and the overtaking manoeuvre.

De Vries had started in pole position and never once let go of his lead, despite disruptions that saw the introduction of the safety car on several occasions.

In the early laps he looked looked to put some distance between himself and the chasing pack, as in his rear-view mirror the narrow streets of the Diriyah track ensured the challengers remained bunched up with little chance of overtaking.

Sam Bird of Jaguar Racing made a move into sixth position, just behind team-mate Mitch Evans, on lap 8, signalling his intention to attack the field in front of him. But his progress did not last long.

On lap 17, Bird collided with Alex Lynn of Mahindra Racing, requiring the safety car to come out for the first time, but not the last, in the race. Lynn had to depart the race, while Bird returned when the race restarted.

 

 

A few laps later, Maximilian Günther of BMW i Andretti Motorsport slid off and slammed into the barriers, and again the safety car was called into actin.

But each time the race restarted, de Vries kept this composure and in the end managed to cross the finish line four seconds ahead of Mortara, to experince the joy of winning a Formula E race for the first time in his career.

It was disappointing race for champion Antonio Felix de Costa of DS Techeetah — winners of the  2019-20 Team Championship — who finished in 11th position.

The second race of the season will once again take place at night on the Diriyah track on Saturday.

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UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'

UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'
Updated 18 April 2021

UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'

UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway 'European Super League'

PARIS: UEFA and English, Spanish and Italian football authorities announced on Sunday that any clubs who take part in a so-called European Super League would be banned from all other domestic and continental competitions.
European football’s governing body said it had learned that some English, Spanish and Italian clubs might announce a breakaway competition.
“The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams,” UEFA said in a statement.
Media reports on Sunday suggested that an announcement on plans to create a Super League could be made later in the day.
Sky Sports reported that Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea were among six Premier League teams set to be part of the plans.
“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we — UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, La Liga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations — will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” read the statement.
UEFA is planning to announce its reforms to the Champions League on Monday, with an expansion to 36 teams from 32 and two ‘wildcard’ slots expected to be among the plans.
There have been no reports that French or German clubs would be part of the Super League.
“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this,” UEFA added.
“We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced.
“This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”
The New York Times reported that at least 12 clubs have signed up for the competition, including Juventus and seven-time European champions AC Milan, who have not played in the Champions League since 2014.


Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second

Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second
Updated 18 April 2021

Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second

Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton second
  • Red Bull driver Verstappen muscled past pole sitter Hamilton on the first corner
  • Lando Norris in a McLaren took third ahead of Charles Leclerc for Ferrari

IMOLA, Italy: Max Verstappen kept his cool to claim a chaotic rain-hit Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday as seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton recovered from a rare mistake to sneak in second.
Red Bull driver Verstappen muscled past pole sitter Hamilton on the first corner at Imola to set up his impressive first win of the season.
“I surprised myself. We worked really hard to make that better. In these tricky conditions we did a great job,” Verstappen said.
Lando Norris in a McLaren took third for the Briton’s second successive podium ahead of Charles Leclerc for Ferrari.
The outcome of a compelling second leg of the Formula One season confirmed Verstappen’s stature as a formidable obstacle to Hamilton’s quest for an unprecedented eighth drivers’ crown.
After winning the season-opener in Bahrain and putting in the fastest lap on Sunday Hamilton leads Verstappen by one point ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix next time out.
A high-speed crash involving Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and George Russell in a Williams forced the race to be suspended as debris was cleared off the Imola circuit.
The pair collided at over 300kmh on lap 34, both drivers shaken as their wrecked cars were lifted off the track.
The red flags appeared a lap after an uncharacteristic slip-up from Hamilton saw the Mercedes world champion hurtle off the circuit into a gravel pit when placed second on a tracherous rain-hit track.
Half an hour after the suspension, a rolling re-start saw Verstappen set off in front of Leclerc and Norris. Hamilton, his car repaired, had work to do from ninth.
As Verstappen calmly reeled in his 11th career victory, but first in Italy, Hamilton weaved his way up to sit third, and then second after passing Norris with three laps remaining.
“First time I’ve made a mistake in a long time, but I’m grateful I could bring he car home,” said a relieved Hamilton.


Gomis thanks Al-Hilal fans ahead of AFC Champions League clash with Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai

Gomis thanks Al-Hilal fans ahead of AFC Champions League clash with Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai
Updated 18 April 2021

Gomis thanks Al-Hilal fans ahead of AFC Champions League clash with Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai

Gomis thanks Al-Hilal fans ahead of AFC Champions League clash with Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai
  • The French striker and his teammates are looking for their first three points of the campaign after a 2-2 draw in Group A opener against AGMK

Ahead of Sunday night’s game against Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai, French striker Bafetimbi Gomis has vowed that Al-Hilal’s players will do all they can to improve their AFC Champions League Group A form.

Al-Hilal recovered from going a goal down to the Uzbek AGMK in their group opener to take the lead by the break, but they had to settle for 2-2 draw after a 70th-minute equalizer from Sanjar Shaakhmedov.

“The last match was really difficult, we were better in the first half and of course we wish to improve,” Gomis said, according to the AFC official website. “It will be the same for the next match, another hard one.”

Gomis played a major part in Al-Hilal’s third Asian title win in 2019, finishing as the competition’s top scorer with 11 goals.

Having failed to retain the title in the disruption of last year, Al-Hilal hope that Gomis will be at his best in Asia’s premier club competition, and the striker has hailed the club’s supporters for their relentless backing.

“I am a very ambitious person and am very lucky to play for a club like Al-Hilal, which always wants to win trophies,” Gomis said. “We have a lot of passionate fans, this year especially because they haven’t been to the stadium in a long time."

“They trust me, and sometimes it can be difficult for me because they love and criticize me. But I’m very lucky to have these fans,” he said. “So, my motivation is the same as when I played for the first time in the AFC Champions League with Al-Hilal, which is to win and to be the best team.”

“Last year we didn’t get to win the championship because of the coronavirus but we are lucky this year to be able to play in Riyadh. We disappointed our fans in the first game, but we are hoping to make them happy.”


Al-Nassr banish troubles with comprehensive AFC Champions League win over Al-Sadd

Al-Nassr banish troubles with comprehensive AFC Champions League win over Al-Sadd
Updated 18 April 2021

Al-Nassr banish troubles with comprehensive AFC Champions League win over Al-Sadd

Al-Nassr banish troubles with comprehensive AFC Champions League win over Al-Sadd
  • Fine 3-1 victory against Qatar champions leaves the Riyadh team top of Group D after two rounds

In a vital 3-1 win over Al-Sadd of Qatar in Group D of the 2021 AFC Champions League Al-Nassr produced the form that took the club to second place in last season’s Saudi Pro League after what has been a chaotic season on and off the pitch.

Both sides went into the tie in the King Saud University Stadium needing the three points after opening their campaigns with disappointing draws. The Riyadh team had only managed a stalemate against group stage debutants Al-Wehdat of Jordan, while Al-Sadd required an 89th minute equalizer against Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan for 1-1 finish.

The win boosts 2020 semi-finalists Al-Nassr’s hopes of advancing to the next stage, while Al-Sadd have it all to do if they are to salvage their campaign.

Both teams starting cautiously and there was little to suggest that A-Nassr, struggling domestically and having endured the upheaval of a new board of directors and the appointment of new coach Mano Menezes, would defeat the Qatari champions in such decisive manner.

Al-Sadd threatened first through Baghdad Bounedjah’s light-footed strike on 34 minutes. The Saudi club responded minutes later as Nordin Amrabat released Sami Al-Najei on the right wing and his cross-hit Al-Sadd captain Abdelkarim Hassan on the arm, leaving the referee no option but to award a penalty.

Abderazzak Hamdallah, last season’s top scorer in the competition, converted from the spot to give Al-Nassr the lead at the break.

Al-Sadd started the second half on the front foot with Mohammed Jade and Nam Tae-hee both missing presentable chances, before Spanish World Cup winner Santi Cazorla beat Brad Jones with a superb 59th minutes free kick.

Al-Nassr slowly regained the upper hand and with just over 10 minutes left Abdulmajeed Al-Sulayhim finished off a fine team move by putting the ball past Meshaal Barsham in Al-Sadd’s goal.

There was still time for Al-Nassr to make it a comprehensive win when Khalid Al-Ghannam struck a stoppage time third goal.

In Group D’s other fixture on Saturday, Foolad Khouzestan of Iran secured their first AFC Champions League group stage win in six years, beating Al-Wehdat 1-0 at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

The winner came a minute before the break from a Chimba penalty, the Brazilian scoring his fourth goal in eight days to extend a rich run of form which began with last Saturday’s playoff victory over the UAE’s Al-Ain.

Al-Nassr next face Foolad in a top-of-the-table clash on Tuesday while Al Sadd will look to get back on track against Al-Wehdat.


Sensational Messi scores twice as Barca beat Athletic to win Copa del Rey

Sensational Messi scores twice as Barca beat Athletic to win Copa del Rey
Updated 18 April 2021

Sensational Messi scores twice as Barca beat Athletic to win Copa del Rey

Sensational Messi scores twice as Barca beat Athletic to win Copa del Rey
  • Barca scored four times to clinch an emphatic 4-0 victory, with Messi at his devastating best
  • It remains to be seen if his seventh Copa del Rey triumph is the last trophy Messi lifts in Barcelona colors

MADRID: Lionel Messi scored twice, including a stunning solo goal, as Barcelona blew away Athletic Bilbao to win the Copa del Rey on Saturday, consigning their opponents to a second final defeat in two weeks.
The cup was won and lost in a whirlwind 12 minutes in Seville, which saw Barca score four times to clinch an emphatic 4-0 victory, with Messi at his devastating best.
It remains to be seen if his seventh Copa del Rey triumph is the last trophy Messi lifts in Barcelona colors but if this was to be a final flourish, the 33-year-old crafted a fitting farewell.
“It’s very special to be captain of this team where I have spent my whole life and very special to be able to lift this cup,” Messi said.
His first goal, and Barca’s third, started with the Argentinian in his own half before a charging run down the right and a surge forward into the penalty area gave him the chance for a simple finish.
With the club’s new president Joan Laporta in the crowd, Ronald Koeman’s first title as Barcelona coach should also significantly boost his chances of remaining in charge beyond the summer.
“To win a title is important for me,” Koeman admitted afterwards.
Yet Laporta was noticeably evasive when asked about Koeman’s future.
“He is doing well,” he said.
Koeman took over a team at rock bottom, humiliated by a historic loss to Bayern Munich and wounded by the attempts of Messi to leave the club for free.
But this 31st Copa del Rey success for the club is a testament to progress made and Koeman will hope it not only helps convince Messi to stay but gives Barca momentum now in a neck-and-neck title race in La Liga.
“Despite the changes at the club and the young players, at Barca you have to always fight for trophies,” Koeman said.
“We have the first one and now we are going to fight to the last game in La Liga.”
Gerard Pique said it felt like the club had been “reset.”
“Sometimes you fall down and you have to get up,” Pique said. “It has been a difficult year but the team has turned it around.”
Messi was sent off when Athletic Bilbao beat Barcelona, also at the La Cartuja, in January to win the Spanish Super Cup but they never looked like pulling off a repeat.
After Athletic lost to their Basque rivals Real Sociedad in last year’s postponed final only two weeks ago, lifting themselves for another showpiece in the same stadium and against a tougher opponent was always going to be a big ask.
“In both finals we played well below the level that we’re capable of,” said Athletic coach Marcelino Garcia Toral.
Barcelona were almost ahead after four minutes as Sergio Busquets played in Messi, who rolled back for Frenkie de Jong but his sidefooted finish came back off the far post.
Sergino Dest dragged wide while Inigo Martinez had Athletic’s best chance but as he stretched for the bouncing ball, he could only poke over.
Athletic seemed to have played their way into the match before half-time but Barcelona came out with renewed vigour, with Unai Simon making two brilliant saves to deny Antoine Griezmann and then Busquets, both from close range.
But when the resistance gave way, it became a collapse, with goals scored in the 60th, 63rd, 68th and 72nd minutes to leave Athletic’s hopes in tatters.
First, Messi slipped in Dest down the right and his cross was diverted in by Griezmann before the second came from the opposite flank, Jordi Alba curled in a cross for De Jong to nod in.
The third was a spectacular from Messi, who started the move in his own half, leaping over one challenge and dodging another.
He took the ball back from Dest and drove down the right wing, away from three opponents and inside.
Messi twice played off De Jong, the second time after motoring forward into the penalty area, where he darted between two last Athletic defenders and slid the finish into the far corner.
His second, and Barca’s fourth, was more straight-forward, Alba pulling a cross back for the Argentinian to tuck under a weak right hand from Simon and inside the post. For Athletic, there was no way back.