Saudi’s leading television sports network to broadcast Extreme E rally live

Saudi’s leading television sports network to broadcast Extreme E rally live
KSA Sports will broadcast live all five races from Extreme E's debut season. (Extreme E)
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Updated 21 March 2021

Saudi’s leading television sports network to broadcast Extreme E rally live

Saudi’s leading television sports network to broadcast Extreme E rally live
  • KSA Sports adds the new electric SUV series to F1, the Dakar Rally and Formula E

DUBAI: KSA Sports, Saudi Arabia’s leading TV sports network, on Sunday confirmed that it  has added the rights to the debut season of Extreme E, the electric-SUV-only rally which will launch in the Saudi Arabian desert next month.

The network will broadcast live all five of the new FIA-endorsed rallies as they take place around the world in places that have been impacted by climate conditions.

The first of those is the Desert X race in Saudi Arabia’s own AlUla, which will be Extreme E’s debut rally when it takes place from April 3 to 4.

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, which is co-organizing next month’s debut race, said: “The support given by KSA Sports has been the driving force in allowing us to grow motorsports across the Kingdom to this point.

“It is to our immense delight that they have chosen to continue to back our events with the agreement to broadcast next month’s AlUla Extreme E X-Prix and the season thereafter, which itself marks a new dawn for motorsports on a global scale.”

Over the year, further races from Senegal, Greenland, Brazil, and Argentina will follow. They will host big name male and female drivers including former F1 drivers Jenson Button, Dakar Rally legend Carlos Sainz, W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, and Australian Rally champion Molly Taylor.

“We are very pleased to welcome KSA Sports, Saudi Arabia’s leading TV sports network, to the Extreme E family,” Ali Russell, chief marketing officer at Extreme E, said. “As we prepare to go racing for the first time in the stunning setting of AlUla, there is no better channel for us to reach our Saudi Arabian fans.

“Extreme E is a truly innovative and exciting new electric racing format, with world-class male and female drivers, which not only seeks to entertain but also educate its audience on important environmental stories at the same time.”

Extreme E becomes the latest motorsport event to be broadcast by KSA Sports, and follows in the footsteps of F1, the Dakar Rally and Formula E.

Pakistan and India renew cricket rivalry in T20 World Cup blockbuster

Pakistan and India renew cricket rivalry in T20 World Cup blockbuster
Updated 24 October 2021

Pakistan and India renew cricket rivalry in T20 World Cup blockbuster

Pakistan and India renew cricket rivalry in T20 World Cup blockbuster
  • Virat Kohli’s India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups

DUBAI: India and Pakistan renew their high-profile but one-sided cricket rivalry on Sunday in a T20 World Cup blockbuster watched by hundreds of millions of fans across the globe.
Virat Kohli’s India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups.
Pakistan, however, go into the contest with 10 wins in a row in the United Arab Emirates, their home away from home for most of the last decade.
It will be the first time the two nations have clashed since the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
Of the 12 World Cup losses for Pakistan, five have been at the T20 tournament.
Two were at the inaugural event in 2007 — a tied group game decided by a ‘bowl-out’ and a five-run loss in the final.
“To be honest, what has passed is beyond us,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam on Saturday. “Records are meant to be broken.”
The tickets for the match in Dubai were sold out within hours after the UAE government allowed a 70 percent crowd for World Cup matches in a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
The South Asian nuclear rivals have only played in multi-national events like World Cups and the Champions Trophy as strained relations have stalled bilateral cricket since 2007.
Pakistan did tour India in 2012 for five limited-over matches but ties were not fully resumed as the two nations continued to be at loggerheads over multiple issues, with the disputed region of Kashmir and terrorism heading the list.
“The matches between Pakistan and India are always full of intensity so we need to perform well in all three departments of the game,” said Babar, who has two T20 International centuries to his name in 2021.
Kohli, who steps down as India T20 skipper at the end of the World Cup, described Pakistan as being “very strong.”
He also shrugged off the significance of his side’s dominance.
“These things create distractions. What matters is how we prepare and execute on any particular day, regardless of the opposition,” he said.
“You have to play your best cricket against them, because they have lots of talent and players who can change the game.”
Expatriate fans of both Pakistan and India gathered at the Dubai International Stadium desperate to witness what has become a rare sporting clash.
“We should play each other more often. It is such a treat to see these two teams on the cricket field,” Mohammad Ashraf, a Pakistan national working in the United Arab Emirates, told AFP.
Pankhuri Raj Mehta, an Indian who has worked in Abu Dhabi since 2017, added: “I brought a ticket for the game as soon as it went online. I mean you look forward to these contests, especially when you are far away from home.”
Babar, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman will be key to Pakistan’s batting hopes while quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali lead a potent bowling attack.
India, who bowed out of the semifinals in the previous edition in 2016, outplayed England and Australia in their two warm-up matches in Dubai with top batsmen KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma scoring half-centuries.
The pace attack led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah is a danger to all sides.
Premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Australia’s David Warner and Mitchell Marsh off successive deliveries in their last warm-up game.
Kohli backed his team’s match winners including Hardik Pandya to come good in the tournament despite the all-rounder struggling with his bowling.
“He is getting better in terms of getting prepared to bowl two overs for us,” said Kohli.
India and 2009 champions Pakistan are placed in Group 2 of the Super 12 stage of the tournament along with New Zealand, Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia.
The top two in each of the two pools progress to the semifinals.
Despite the anticipation ahead of the game, the political soundtrack is also playing in the background.
During the week, there were protests in India with calls to boycott the match in the wake of recent killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Before India took on Pakistan, the World Cup schedule on Sunday got underway with another all-South Asian clash with 2014 champions Sri Lanka facing Bangladesh.


5 talking points after UAE Pro League returned to action after month-long break

5 talking points after UAE Pro League returned to action after month-long break
Updated 24 October 2021

5 talking points after UAE Pro League returned to action after month-long break

5 talking points after UAE Pro League returned to action after month-long break
  • Al-Ain cruise past Al-Wasl to top the table, Shabab Al-Ahli beat champions Al-Jazira to go second

The UAE Pro League returned over the weekend after a month-long hiatus that saw disappointments for the national team in its 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and for Al-Wahda in the AFC Champions League quarter-final.

But continental frustrations were forgotten for a while as matchday 7 produced some thrilling encounters, including two head-to-head clashes between teams in the top five, while the competition’s most successful sides, Al-Ain and Al-Wasl, also locked horns.

1. Contrasting fortunes for Lima and Caio as Al-Ain cruise past Al-Wasl

Under the watchful eye of their former boss Rodolfo Arruabarrena, who was present in the stands at Zabeel Stadium, Brazilian-born UAE internationals Fabio Lima and Caio Canedo faced off as Al-Wasl went down 2-0 to Al-Ain.

Two years after the Argentine’s departure from Al-Wasl, the club looked a shadow of the side that finished second in 2016-17 and third the season after, when it also reached the President’s Cup final. Since then, the Cheetahs have finished ninth for two consecutive seasons.

On the night of his return to his old stomping ground, Caio’s curled effort into the top corner 12 minutes from time sealed the victory for Al-Ain, after Ivorian defender Kouame Autonne had put them in front just after the half-hour mark. The former Al-Wasl man refused to celebrate and was met with a roaring standing ovation from the home crowd, even as he sent them down to that dreaded ninth place.

While Lima remains a fan favorite and club captain at Al-Wasl, he must have been left wondering “what if” as his former strike partner headed back east to Al-Ain with the three points and top spot in the UAE Pro League secured.

2. Mendes masterclass consigns former boss Al-Anbari to the sack

Another man downing his former club this weekend was former Sharjah winger Ryan Mendes — and the consequences of his Al-Nasr side’s 3-0 triumph at Sharjah Stadium were dire for the man who had first brought Mendes to the UAE Pro League.

The Cape Verdean winger combined with Dia Saba to devastating effect as the Blues cruised to a 3-0 away victory. Mendes set up the opener in added time at the end of the first half and then rifled into the top corner with 20 minutes to go. His apologies to his former fan base would have meant little for Sharjah boss Abdulaziz Al-Anbari, who was axed in the aftermath of the defeat.

Four years after his appointment at the club he captained for the best part of a decade, Al-Anbari was dismissed with the club sitting fifth in the table, following a run of one win in their last seven games in all competitions, including elimination from the AFC Champions League round of 16 at the hands of Al-Wahda and the League Cup at the hands of Ittihad Kalba.

Al-Anbari, however, leaves with his head held high, having transformed a side that was languishing in the relegation zone when he took over halfway through the 2016-17 season. He led them to the league title in 2018-19 — their first championship since 1995-96, when Al-Anbari himself was a rising star in the club’s midfield — before adding the 2019 Super Cup and finishing fourth last term.

3. Turkish referee Cakir on the spot as Shabab Al-Ahli down Al-Jazira

In what was a heated top-four clash between reigning champions Al-Jazira and their hosts Shabab Al-Ahli, all eyes were on a new import to the league. Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir became the first foreigner to officiate a UAE Pro League match since the UAE Football Association announced a controversial change to the rule that required all domestic competitions to be officiated by Emirati referees.

The 2015 UEFA Champions League final referee made a strong case for foreign referees on his debut as Shabab Al-Ahli beat Al-Jazira 2-1 in Dubai.

Abdullah Ramadan found the net at Rashid Stadium for the second season running after a sublime through pass from poacher-turned-creator Ali Mabkhout.

Having been denied an opener due to an offside decision — the first major call by Cakir and his team of officials — Brazilian youngster Yuri Cesar brought Shabab Al-Ahli level before the break, driving in at the far post after an Azizjon Ganiev corner.

The pick of the goals arrived after 72 minutes, with Iranian international Ahmad Nourollahi settling the game with a fine strike into the top corner after a solo run from midfield, ensuring his side overtook Al-Jazira in second place.

4. Four-star Al-Wahda send pointless Emirates Club closer to unwanted record

Fresh off their AFC Champions League quarter-final elimination at the hands of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr, Al-Wahda put on an emphatic attacking display to thrash newly promoted Emirates Club 4-1 at Al-Nahyan Stadium — a win that could be seen from two contrasting angles.

Coach Henk ten Cate’s men extended their unbeaten run since the start of the league season to seven games, but they remain in mid-table. The reason? The victory on Saturday night was their first since beating the other promoted side, Al-Urooba, 4-0 on the opening weekend. Since then, Al-Wahda have drawn each of their five games, so questions remain as to whether the Abu Dhabi side can replicate their attacking displays against teams of higher quality.

Emirates may have already been down to 10 men when Al-Wahda’s Khalil Al-Hammadi canceled out Joseph Gnadou’s opener early in the second half, but Ten Cate will without a doubt be encouraged by the fact that all of his front four got on the scoresheet, with Joao Pedro heading in the second, Fabio Martins applying a composed finish to make it three and Omar Kharbin rounding off the scoring with a brilliant free-kick under the wall.

For the Ras Al-Khaimah-based side, a swift return to the First Division seems inevitable but, even worse, coach Tarik Sektioui’s men run the risk of becoming the worst performers in the competition’s history. Emirates Club are yet to collect a single point, a quarter of the way through the season. They will need at least nine points to better the unwanted record of Ajman Club, who went down in 2009-10 with just eight.

5. Centenarian Diop breaks Gyan’s record

Back where it all started a decade ago, 34-year-old Al-Dhafra forward Makhete Diop rolled back the years as he bagged a brace against Ajman to become the UAE Pro League’s all-time top foreign scorer with 101 goals, breaking the 100-goal record set by Ghanaian legend Asamoah Gyan in Al-Ain and Shabab Al-Ahli’s colors.

After arriving from Syrian side Al-Karamah in the summer of 2011, Diop established himself as Al-Dhafra’s finest scorer of all time, striking up a deadly partnership with current Al-Wahda forward Kharbin over five years.

The Senegalese striker then departed to Shabab Al-Ahli for two successful seasons, before short stints in China with Beijing Renhe and Saudi Arabia with Al-Shabab. Al-Dhafra came calling again in January and Diop was back doing what he does best: Scoring goals for fun in the league he knows so well. His latest two were classic well-taken finishes from inside the box to cement his legacy as one of the most-feared forwards in the history of the UAE Pro League.

Abu Dhabi Showdown Week underway ahead of Jan Blachowicz’s bout with Glover Teixeira at UFC 267

Abu Dhabi Showdown Week underway ahead of Jan Blachowicz’s bout with Glover Teixeira at UFC 267
Updated 24 October 2021

Abu Dhabi Showdown Week underway ahead of Jan Blachowicz’s bout with Glover Teixeira at UFC 267

Abu Dhabi Showdown Week underway ahead of Jan Blachowicz’s bout with Glover Teixeira at UFC 267
  • Fatima Saeed Al-Baloushi, deputy director, Abu Dhabi Events Bureau, tells Arab News about the activities leading up to Saturday’s main event at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island

Abu Dhabi Showdown Week is underway with MMA fans invited to take part in a series of interactive events and classes that will culminate with UFC 267 on Saturday night, when Jan Blachowicz will defend his light-heavyweight title against the division’s No.1 contender Glover Teixeira.

Fatima Saeed Al-Baloushi, deputy director, Abu Dhabi Events Bureau, said that the success of previous UFC events in the UAE capital in the wake of the pandemic had paved the way for holding the week-long festival in the presence of fans again.

“In January, Abu Dhabi took a major step forward with the return of live events and over a period of seven days, we made it possible for fans to return to live events, not once but three times,” Al-Baloushi said. “UFC Fight Island Triple Header was a momentous achievement for the capital and raised the bar for all live events amid the ongoing global situation.”

Being one of the first live events open to the public, stringent health and safety protocols were put in place as crowds of up to 2,000 were allowed into the newly opened Etihad Arena on yas Island.

“We organized a dedicated ‘safe spectator journey’ to ensure all fans could enjoy three nights of top-class Octagon action,” she said. “Learning from all the previous events, Abu Dhabi Showdown Week will be another one for the history books. It’s definitely not to be missed.”

The First Fight Island at Yas Island took place behind closed doors in July of 2020, and its success led to high praise from UFC President Dana White, paving its return in September and January, when limited crowds were allowed back.

“We showed during the three editions of Fight Island that we were capable of giving global fighters a platform to come together and fight when much of the world was still closed,” Al-Baloushi said. “That really resonated with the athletes and the fact they could come here and just focus on their job, and enjoy some downtime.”

“We always strive to bring the best fighters to Abu Dhabi, fighters we know will appeal to our fervent fanbase. They appreciate the level of support they get here.”

Abu Dhabi Showdown Week is now underway with a series of city-wide activities, including fan events and fitness showcases. The week-long festival of MMA and lifestyle events will culminate in UFC 267 on Oct. 30.

Throughout the week fans can take part in open workouts as well as “Escape & Evolve,” an immersive experience at the W Abu Dhabi. Guests who attend this event get access to UFC 267, an overnight stay at W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island as well as mixed martial arts training sessions with Firas Zahabi, head coach of Tristar Gym. In addition, there will be be fitness workshops with the likes of Tunisian UFC fighter Mounir Lazzez.

“We are always keen to bring the best fighters to Abu Dhabi, and that was shown in the previous UFC events on Fight Island, which included Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Israel Adesanya, Kamaru Usman,” Al-Baloushi said.

On Saturday night, Jan Blachowicz’s bout with Glover Teixeira will top the card, with the co-main event seeing former bantamweight belt-holder Petr Yan taking on Cory Sandhagen in an interim title fight.

Blachowicz in particular has become an Abu Dhabi fan favorite following his impressive victory over then-champion Dominick Reyes to claim the light-heavyweight title on UFC Fight Island last September, becoming Poland’s first UFC champion in the process.

The card will also see Islam Makhachev look to extend his winning streak to 10 fights when he faces contender Dan Hooker, himself coming off an impressive victory at UFC 266 in Las Vegas recently. Meanwhile Sweden’s Khamzat Chimes, who will fight Li Jingliang, returns to Abu Dhabi following his successful UFC debut at Fight Island in July 2020.

Al-Baloushi says that Yas Island is becoming a favored venue for many of the fighters such as Blachowicz.

“Khamzat is another of those fighters,” she said. “He made his UFC debut on Fight Island last year and impressed everybody with his victories, so is sure to have a lot of support when he steps into the Octagon again in Abu Dhabi.”

In the long term, Al-Baloushi is hoping that Abu Dhabi’s standing as a UFC hub will open the door for higher participation from the region.

“Yes, the sport is growing quite rapidly in the region,” she said. “Viewership has increased drastically over the past few years but even the number of youngsters chosen to follow the sport and immerse themselves in it has escalated.”

 “There are an increasing number of Arab fighters in UFC and as the sport continues to grow in the region, we are looking forward to seeing more and more Arab and Emirati representation in the sport,” Al-Baloushi said.

European Tour to swing by Al-Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al-Khaimah for first time next year

European Tour to swing by Al-Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al-Khaimah for first time next year
Updated 24 October 2021

European Tour to swing by Al-Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al-Khaimah for first time next year

European Tour to swing by Al-Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al-Khaimah for first time next year
  • Inaugural Ras Al-Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital to be played at Troon International venue in February

RAS AL-KHAIMAH: The inaugural Ras Al-Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital is set to take place at Al-Hamra Golf Club next year and will form part of a five-week “Middle East swing” during the early stages of the 2022 European Tour season.

Troon has confirmed that the European Tour will visit one of its UAE courses for the first time from Feb. 3 to 6, 2022.

Al-Hamra will host the third of five consecutive events in the region, with total prize money of $2m up for grabs. The tournament will take place after back-to-back Rolex Series events in the UAE: The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic.

“The Peter Harradine-designed course at Al-Hamra Golf Club will be a fitting challenge to those playing in the inaugural Ras Al-Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital,” said Troon International President Mark Chapleski. “Since coming under the management of Troon International in 2018, Al-Hamra has gone from strength to strength. The fact that we have been selected to host such a significant event underlines the impact our talented team has had on this facility. In addition, the international recognition that this tournament brings will deliver visibility to a broad audience and showcase the fantastic experience that Al-Hamra Golf Club provides.”

Based in the northernmost Emirate in the UAE, Al-Hamra Golf Club has risen to prominence thanks to the course’s renowned condition and welcoming winter climate, with the 18-hole championship course situated within a series of interlinked water features and set against a desert landscape.

“We are delighted to be working with all of the key stakeholders — the European Tour, Phoenix Capital, RAKTDA, Al-Hamra, and Marjan — to showcase the wonderful emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah,” said Al-Hamra Golf Club General Manager Paul Booth. “The long-term strategic goal is to make the Ras Al-Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital a steadfast tournament on an expanding Middle East swing. These are exciting times for Al-Hamra Golf Club and Ras Al-Khaimah.”

Al-Hamra previously hosted the European Challenge Tour over three consecutive years from 2016 to 2018. It was initially the venue for the Ras Al-Khaimah Golf Challenge in 2016 and 2017, before hosting the Ras Al-Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final as the final stop on the Road to Ras Al-Khaimah in 2018.

At the Ras Al-Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final, Spaniard Adri Arnaus finished one shot clear of France’s Victor Perez, with the pair ending the season in second and third position, respectively, on the 2018 Challenge Tour rankings behind Denmark’s Joachim B. Hansen. All three players are now firmly established on the European Tour.


Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches

Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches
Updated 24 October 2021

Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches

Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches
  • With Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr preoccupied with the AFC Champions League, this season is shaping up to be one of the most open in years

The Saudi Professional League resumed at the weekend and the latest round of games could turn out to be one of the most significant of the 2021-22 season. Here are five things we learned from the action as we approach the campaign’s one-third mark.

1. The title race is shaping up to be a classic

The focus of late has been on the national team and the AFC Champions League, but there is plenty going on for followers of the SPL. The title race is shaping up to be something special. It has all the elements of a classic. There is a surprise leader in the shape of Damac, who have just overtaken Al-Ittihad at the top.

There are other elements too. The two Riyadh giants, Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, are a few places back but have games in hand due to their AFC Champions League commitments and that adds an extra dimension. If they win those, then both could potentially go first, but a fixture pile-up may change everything. Al-Shabab have come from nowhere to challenge and on Friday defeated Al-Ittihad, who will now be keen to get back to winning ways.

There are currently five or six teams in the running. Long may that last.

2. Al-Ahli are doing Saudi Arabian football a service

The record books will show Al-Ahli won 2-1 at Al-Tai this matchday, but that does not tell the full story. In the middle of October, the talk was not about if coach Besnik Hasi was going to be fired, but when he would go and who should replace him. That was because the Jeddah giants had failed to win any of their first seven games and were in the bottom three.

The public votes of confidence kept coming and the expected dismissal did not. Now Al-Ahli have won their last two games and are suddenly looking up, not down. This does not mean that the pressure is off, but it does mean that another good result against Al-Hilal this week would really give the boss some breathing space.

Whatever happens, fans across the country (perhaps except for city rivals Al-Ittihad) should be cheering Al-Ahli on. For so long, the common reaction in the boardroom to a run of poor results has been a dismissal. We have seen this already this season. It would be really refreshing, however, if there could be an example of patience bringing success in Saudi Arabia. It would be great if a club was rewarded for not pulling the trigger.

3. Odion Ighalo is on fire

Al-Shabab’s celebrations after their fine 2-0 win over Al-Ittihad must have felt particularly sweet as it doesn’t seem long since they were near the bottom of the table and there was talk of coach Pericles Chamusca’s time in Riyadh being very short indeed. Yet here are last season’s runners-up right back in the title race, just three points behind first place.

When you have a striker in such a rich vein of form as Odion Ighalo, then you are always going to have a chance to win games, especially when there is a little more solidity and organization at the back. Compared to earlier this season, Al-Shabab have become harder to beat, while they have a sharp shooter in attack whose brace took him to the top of the goalscoring charts with eight.

Defeating league leaders Al-Ittihad was quite the statement. Ighalo got both and they were simple but classic. The first was just a well-timed run to side-foot home from close range. The second was a fine give-and-go and another side-foot finish from close range to seal the game. 

4. Damac need to wrap Zelaya in cotton wool

For the first time ever, Damac are at the top of the table thanks to a 1-0 win over Al-Hazem. This is no fluke. Since Croatian coach Kresimir Rezic took over at the start of 2021, they have lost just once in 18 games and have won 10. 

That is an impressive run and the latest victory put the team in uncharted territory. Defensively they are solid and only one team has conceded fewer goals.

And then there is Emilio Zelaya in attack. The 34-year-old has scored seven goals so far this season and, crucially, that magnificent haul has come in seven separate games.

The problem may come if the Argentine gets injured or fatigued, as Damac don’t have the strength in depth that many of the others at the top of the table can boast. But with a little luck and more solid performances from Algerian goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba, then there is no reason why Damac can’t finish much higher than last season’s 11th.

5. Al-Hilal need to tighten up

Champions Al-Hilal defeated Al-Raed 3-2 on Saturday, but it was a very tight game indeed. For the third time in seven matches this season, they needed an injury-time winner and, while the team’s commitment to keep going until the end is to be commended, the fact that the Riyadh giants have conceded seven goals in their last four games will concern coach Leonardo Jardim.

Al-Hilal were cruising at 2-0 with six minutes remaining, but then conceded two goals in quick succession. The first was a beauty from outside the area and the second a well-worked close-range effort, but on both occasions too much space and time were given. 

If they are to defend their title in what is shaping up to be a competitive season, Al-Hilal’s defense needs to stay switched on for the full 90 minutes, as the attack will not always be able to turn things around.