5 talking points from Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Palestine

Saudi Arabia comprehensively beat Palestine 5-0 in Riyadh on Tuesday. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
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Updated 01 April 2021

5 talking points from Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Palestine

5 talking points from Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Palestine
  • Herve Renard’s team moves to top of group with victory in Riyadh in front of returning fans

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia comprehensively beat Palestine 5-0 in Riyadh on Tuesday to move into pole position in Group D of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

Yasser Al-Shahrani opened the scoring for Herve Renard’s team eight minutes before the break with a well-placed header and Fahad Al-Muwallad made it two shortly after. Two smart finishes early in the second half from Saleh Al-Shehri sealed the win and captain Salem Al-Dawsari added a late fifth from the spot.

With five games played and three remaining, the Green Falcons have 11 points, two ahead of Uzbekistan and four clear of Singapore. With only the eight group winners in the second round, along with the four best second-placed teams, progressing to the third round, there is still much to play for when the remaining fixtures take place in Saudi Arabia in June.

Here are five things we learned from the match:

1. It was a perfect evening and the third round beckons

In Tuesday’s only other World Cup qualifier, Japan thrashed Mongolia 14-0 but the feeling ahead of the game in Riyadh was that just a single goal would be enough to settle the affair.

From the start, Palestine got plenty of men behind the ball and when not in possession, which was most of the time, reverted to a 6-3-1 formation. Before the game, the whispers coming out of the visitors’ camp was that they would keep it tight and look to hit what they felt was a weak Saudi central defense in the hope of a goal.

It did not happen and while Saudi Arabia took time to get going, they ran out easy winners to take control of Group D. Apart from the occasional moment, the defense looked solid, the midfield was full of energy and running, and the forwards looked dangerous every time they attacked.

Saudi Arabia’s three remaining games are on home soil and assuming that Yemen and Singapore are defeated, a draw against Uzbekistan on June 15 will be enough to progress.

2. Goalkeeping errors on both sides a turning point

The game turned on three goalkeeping mistakes. The first was from Saudi Arabia shot-stopper Mohammed Al-Owais which was not punished. The 29-year-old has plenty of international experience (at least compared to the other three ’keepers named in the squad, none of which had a single cap between them).

But he did not have a great deal to do in the game which is why concentration is paramount. Just 10 minutes before the break, the Al-Ahli No. 1 spilled a simple looking cross from Mahmoud Abu Warda and Saleh Chihadeh almost put Palestine in front.

Just minutes after, Al-Owais’ opposite number Tawfiq Ali made two mistakes, and both were punished. And that was the game. In the 1-0 win over Kuwait last week, Saudi Arabia had lots of chances but did not make the most of them. We warned that the Green Falcons would have to be more clinical against Palestine and they were.

3. Palestine’s World Cup dreams all but over

There was some controversy in Palestine with a number of experienced players not being selected for the trip in what was a crucial game. In truth, the team were always unlikely to get to Qatar next year or even progress to the third stage of qualification, but they will be disappointed at how it ended.

After spending the first half-hour getting a foothold in the game, as soon as the deadlock was broken, there was only one team going to win.

It means that Palestine are bottom of the group with just four points from six games. In theory, a second-placed finish is not impossible but in reality, it is not going to happen, and Palestine are now going to have to focus on not finishing bottom of the group below Yemen and Singapore and keeping their hopes of qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup alive.

4. Likes of Al-Ghanam and Al-Shehri give Renard welcome selection headaches

While Palestine did not present either Al-Shahrani or Sultan Al-Ghanam with too many defensive headaches, the full-backs did what they needed to do at the back and got forward well.

Neither started against Kuwait but both impressed here. Al-Shahrani opened the scoring with a finish that any striker would be proud of while Al-Ghanam was lively going forward and created the third with vision and skill. It was well-finished by Al-Shehri who staked his claim to be back in attack for June’s games. There is much for the coach to think about.

5. It is great to see fans back

The King Saud International Stadium was sparsely populated but there were some fans present, extremely socially distanced of course. It did not feel quite like a real game, but it was a welcome return to something approaching normality.

The players were not the only ones making the noise. It was not just about the goals but the surge of excitement when a player beat another, the ripple of anticipation when the team moved to within sight of goal, the appreciation of a good save or strong tackle was there. If more fans are allowed in for June’s qualifiers, then so much the better.

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Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022
Updated 24 sec ago

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022
  • The northern emirate will once again welcome leading international athletes, regional participants and residents to the world’s fastest half marathon

RAS AL-KHAIMAH: The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is set to return to the northern Emirate on Feb. 18, 2022.

Returning for its 15th edition, the race will welcome back elite athletes, running enthusiasts and amateurs from across the globe, to participate in what is billed as the world’s fastest half marathon.

“Aligned with the continued recovery of the Emirate, we are delighted to welcome back an incredible line-up of elite athletes, as well as residents and visitors from across the globe, to the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in February 2022,” said Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.

“We are extremely proud to have hosted this prestigious race for 15 editions, making the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon one of the most anticipated events on the global sporting calendar, adding to an expansive portfolio of world-class sporting events hosted in the Emirate,” he added. “We look forward to showcasing our stunning landscape and renowned hospitality to participants and spectators as they enjoy the world’s fastest half marathon.”

Taking place on Marjan Island, the event will include four established categories: Half marathon, a half marathon relay for teams of two, a 5km and a 1km fun run. The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is open to runners of all abilities and ages.

“We are delighted to announce the new 2022 date for the hugely popular Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon.” said Michele Napoli, CEO of race partners RCS Sports and Events. “Once again, it is an honour to support Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority as this fantastic race returns to Marjan Island on Feb. 18 2022.

“The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon has undoubtedly grown from strength to strength, with each edition gaining traction on both a regional and international scale, and we cannot wait for participants to experience the highly anticipated 2022 edition.

“We look forward to announcing our all-new offers for runners shortly, and to welcoming an incredible line-up of elite athletes,” he said. “The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience for everyone.’’


Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements
Updated 57 min 48 sec ago

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements
  • The SFA is commemorating the occasion with a series of events aimed at getting people active

RIYADH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation is marking Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day with an online campaign that will allow residents from the Kingdom to share their sporting stories and achievements.

The federation’s activities leading up to National Day will be highlighted under a hashtag that translates into English as “Saudi sporting society” and which will serve as the banner for people from all walks of life to share their daily lifestyles and how they stay active throughout the day.

“The Sports for All Federation joins you all in congratulating the nation on the occasion of Saudi’s 91st National Day,” said SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal. “The federation, in step with the nation’s leadership, is consistently working towards a health-first mindset across all our communities.

“We congratulate His Majesty, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, and HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the incredible accomplishments that have ignited the pride of our people all over the country. A healthy and active population is a prosperous one; we’ll be alongside you celebrating through our various activities that promote physical and mental well-being.”

Prince Khaled further highlighted that the support of the Quality of Life Program and a unified purpose under Vision 2030 continued to propel the SFA team to innovate programs and activities to meet the country’s wellness targets.

The federation is hosting several events to mark Saudi National Day. For example, Step Together, which organizes virtual walking and running challenges for communities throughout Saudi Arabia, is holding a special National Day challenge from Sept. 20 to 29. Participants completing the challenge will receive a medal to commemorate their achievement, along with a certificate of completion.

The SFA’s hosting of walking events and campaigns at Arabian Center malls across Saudi Arabia will also commemorate National Day. The walking track installed at Al-Nakheel Mall in Riyadh will host a National Day challenge, asking visitors to walk 2030 steps through the SFA app for a chance to win prizes. This initiative builds on the SFA’s goal of marking the nation’s progress through inclusive sporting events that bring people together irrespective of their age, ability, background or gender.

A special cycling event is also being held on Thursday in collaboration with the Saudi Cycling Federation and the MiSK Foundation. Cyclists in Riyadh, Jeddah and Khobar have signed up to cycle 15 km to mark the occasion.

The 91st Saudi National Day campaigns highlight the SFA’s support for the goals of the Quality of Life Program as mandated in the Saudi Vision 2030, which calls for increasing the number of people undertaking regular physical activity in the Kingdom to 40 percent by 2030.


Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL

Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL
Updated 22 September 2021

Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL

Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL
  • Punjab needed only four runs off the last over, with plenty of wickets left

DUBAI, UAE: Fast bowler Kartik Tyagi conceded just one run and took two wickets in the last over of the game as Rajasthan Royals snatched a dramatic two-run victory against Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League on Tuesday.
Punjab needed only four runs off the last over, with plenty of wickets left, but Tyagi (2-29) had Nicholas Pooran (32) and Deepak Hooda both caught behind and managed to frustrate Fabian Allen (0 not out) off the last ball as Punjab finished at 183-4.
Earlier, Rajasthan slumped to 185 all out in 20 overs after being put in to bat. Punjab claimed seven wickets in the last six overs with fast bowler Arshdeep Singh ending up with 5-32.
“Tyagi was confident with his yorkers and executed them well against the new batters,” Rajasthan skipper Sanju Samson said. “We were happy with our score. On this wicket that was a good score.”
Punjab was heading for a big win after Rajasthan dropped Punjab captain K.L. Rahul three times. Mayank Agarwal (67) and Rahul (49) pounced on the sloppy fielding and provided their team a commanding start of 120 runs off 71 balls before both fell in successive overs.
Tyagi, who had earlier dropped Rahul on 31, finally grabbed one at short third man as Rahul tried to cut Chetan Sakariya in the 12th over. Agarwal, who hit seven fours and two sixes, tried to play one too many and sliced a catch at deep point against spinner Rahul Tewatia.
However, Pooran and South Africa’s Aiden Markram (26 not out) seemed to have the match in their hands before Tyagi delivered his sensational last over, which Punjab started on 182-2.
Earlier, Rajasthan looked set for a 200-plus total after opener Evin Lewis (36 off 21 balls) contributed to an opening stand of 54 by smashing seven fours and a six before he was out in the sixth over. But once fellow opener and top scorer Yashasvi Jaiswal fell for 49 in the 15th over, Rajasthan lost its way despite Mahipal Lomror (43) and Liam Livingstone (25) playing cameos.
Mohammed Shami also bowled well for his 3-21 that included the wickets of Tewatia and Chris Morris in his last over.
Rajasthan has eight points from eight games and is tied for fourth with defending champions Mumbai Indians. Punjab is in danger of missing out on the playoffs with only six points from nine games.
“Tough one to swallow,” Rahul said. “We need to see how we can handle pressure better. It’s happened to the best in the game.”


Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships

Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships
Updated 22 September 2021

Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships

Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships
  • Saudi Olympic Committee official congratulates athletes on winning individual and team medals

The Saudi Arabian national shooting team was greeted by Princess Reham bint Seif Al-Islam, Saudi Olympic Committee’s executive director of protocol and events, on its return from a successful participation at the 14th Asian Air Gun Championships 2021 in Kazakhstan.

After landing at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on Monday, the squad was congratulated on winning several team and individual medals in the tournament, which was held at Shymkent Shooting Plaza from Sept. 9-20.

The Saudi participation at the championship ended with Safar Mohammed Al-Dossari winning silver in the individual 10m air pistol competition.

Earlier in the competition Al-Dossari, Atallah Nidaa Al-Anazi and Aqil Abdulhadi Al-Badrani came second to the host nation in the team 10m air pistol event.

Hussein Al-Harbi, Misfir Al-Ammari and Fayez Al-Anzi won bronze in the team 10m air rifle category.


Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai
Updated 22 September 2021

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai
  • National coach Mounir Afkir picks 21 athletes for the November tournament

The Saudi Arabian national karate team, led by Tokyo 2020 silver medal hero Tarek Hamdi, has begun preparations for the 2021 World Karate Championships to be held in Dubai from Nov. 16-21.

Coach of the Saudi national team Mounir Afkir selected 21 players for the squad heading to the UAE: Hamdi, Fahd Al-Khathami, Imad Al-Maliki, Badr Al-Otaibi, Faraj Al-Nashiri, Omar Al-Azmi, Yasser Al-Barqi, Mazen Al-Duqail, Majed Al-Khalifa, Sultan Al-Zahrani and Al-Hussein Al-Sharif, Khaled Al-Sheikhi, Abd Al-Rahman Hafs, Ali Barnawi, Muhammad Al-Thubaiti, Fahd Hakami, Muhammad Al-Maliki, Haitham Hafs, Misfir Al-Dossari, Abdullah Hakami and Abdullah Al-Nasir.

The Saudi karatekas will begin their preparation program with daily morning and evening training sessions at their Riyadh hotel.