Saudi fencers land in Tashkent for Olympic qualifiers

Saudi fencers land in Tashkent for Olympic qualifiers
Saudi fencer Ahmed Al-Qudaihi undertakes a COVID-19 test ahead of the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Tashkent. (Saudi Fencing Federation)
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Updated 25 April 2021

Saudi fencers land in Tashkent for Olympic qualifiers

Saudi fencers land in Tashkent for Olympic qualifiers
  • Ahmed Al-Qudaihi and Jawad Al-Dawood get green light for tournament after COVID-19 tests

Saudi fencers Ahmed Al-Qudaihi and Jawad Al-Dawood are set to take part in the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Tashkent on Sunday and Monday after passing their medicals, Arabic language daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

Upon their arrival in Uzbekistan on Saturday, the Saudi duo underwent tests for the COVID-19 virus, with both returning negative results.

The Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament is being organized by the Fencing Confederation of Asia and the Fencing Federation of Uzbekistan in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, which starts on July 23 and will run until Aug. 8.

The Saudi team’s training in Tashkent is led by Muhammad Fuad and he hopes that the fencers will be the latest athletes from the Kingdom to secure a place in the Olympics.

Al-Qudaihi and Al-Dawood will be aiming to join Saudi’s Under-23 footballers, who will face Brazil, Germany and Ivory Coast in Tokyo.

The Saudi table tennis player Ali Al-Khadrawi has also confirmed his place at the Olympics.


Newcastle ‘not dead and buried’ in Premier League battle: Howe

Newcastle ‘not dead and buried’ in Premier League battle: Howe
Updated 23 January 2022

Newcastle ‘not dead and buried’ in Premier League battle: Howe

Newcastle ‘not dead and buried’ in Premier League battle: Howe

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe believes Newcastle United have proven to the Premier League that they are not “dead and buried’ in their fight to avoid relegation.

The Magpies ran out deserved winners at Elland Road as a Jonjo Shelvey strike was enough to see Howe’s men claim a precious three points — only their second top-flight victory of the season.

Howe is of the belief that his players proved a point to those around them with the Leeds United win — and is hopeful the result can spark a late-season transformation.

“I think you always learn things about your players, win lose or draw,” said the United head coach.

“We showed there is resilience in the team, we are fighting for each other. They are fighting for the club. They have belief they are not dead and buried. There is more to come.

“I am so, so pleased for everyone connected with Newcastle that we won the game. Hopefully it can transform our season.”

One criticism levelled at United in recent weeks has been their inability to see out a football match.

In fairness, it is a stance backed up by the statistics. No other Premier League team has lost more points from winning positions — 21 — this campaign.

While they faltered at home to Watford seven days earlier, they were in no mood to do so in Yorkshire.

Howe added: “Everyone to a man contributed to that win. An incredible intensity to the game, but there always is when you play Leeds.

“We had to really be very good physically and we suffered some injuries. It was an heroic effort in the sense that we committed everything to the game. I thought the players were outstanding.

“I am massively impressed with the players. That was a big test after last week (1-1 draw with Watford). I think the pleasing thing was, we had a 1-0 lead and it wasn’t backs to the wall. We looked the most likely team to score.

“We counterattacked very, very well and I did think we looked a threat in the second half. We did not surrender possession in space, we kept looking to attack.”

Goalscorer Shelvey has also faced criticism from fans for his below-par performances in the St. James’ Park defeats to Cambridge United and the Hornets in recent weeks.

However, Howe thinks he answered his critics with his match-winning show at Leeds.

Howe said: “He is hugely important. He is the central player, the supplier in possession. He started a lot of our attacks and has a creative eye. He has a really good range of passes.

“Shelvey intercepted the ball a number of times and I think that is a really good marker. He stopped a lot of their attacks. I was really pleased with him. I’m sure if you ask him he will admit that’s the hardest part of his game.”


Gladbach in crisis after 2-1 loss to Union, Dortmund wins

Gladbach in crisis after 2-1 loss to Union, Dortmund wins
Updated 22 January 2022

Gladbach in crisis after 2-1 loss to Union, Dortmund wins

Gladbach in crisis after 2-1 loss to Union, Dortmund wins
  • It was Gladbach’s 4th straight league loss at home, just days after their German Cup exit
  • Borussia Dortmund bounced back after their German Cup exit to second-division St. Pauli with a clinical display in Sinsheim

BERLIN: Max Kruse scored twice for Union Berlin to leave Borussia Mönchengladbach in crisis on Saturday after a 2-1 defeat in the Bundesliga.
It was Gladbach’s fourth straight league loss at home, just days after their German Cup exit to second-division Hannover. The latest defeat piles the pressure on coach Adi Hütter, who was already under scrutiny after losing six of the last eight games across all competitions.
“Union scored with their only chances," Hütter said. “There's no way we deserved to lose.”
Gladbach are only three points above the relegation zone and Hütter said before Union's visit that his team will be “several weeks” without captain Lars Stindl, who injured his knee in training on Friday.
Union, which were only promoted to the Bundesliga in 2019, moved fourth, the last qualification place for the Champions League.
“Today we had a bit of luck, but it can't be just luck that we have 34 points after 20 rounds. It's hard work that's paying off,” Kruse said. “For that you have to compliment the whole club for what we've delivered in the last years.”
Kruse opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a penalty awarded through VAR for a hand ball from Denis Zakaria on his comeback. Zakaria’s arm was high as Andreas Voglsammer’s cross grazed his hand.
Gladbach struck back five minutes before the break, when Breel Embolo played the ball between Robin Knoche’s legs and then found Jonas Hofmann, who waited before playing the ball in to Kouadio Koné. The French midfielder let fly inside the right post for his first Bundesliga goal.
Luca Netz had Gladbach's best chance for a winner, but fired over from close range.
Kruse made no mistake with Union’s only chance of the second half, squeezing the ball inside the far post in the 84th after Niko Gießelmann played him in.
DORTMUND RELIEF
Borussia Dortmund bounced back after their German Cup exit to second-division St. Pauli with a clinical display in Sinsheim, where the visitors scored three goals with two shots on target.
Donyell Malen set up the three as his team edged Hoffenheim 3-2 and cut the gap on Bayern Munich to three points. Bayern visits struggling Hertha Berlin on Sunday.
Erling Haaland, who scored the opening goal for Dortmund, went off in the second half with an apparent groin injury.
Haaland got the visitors off to a great start in the sixth minute after a fine one-touch move from his teammates. Raphaël Guerreiro played the ball back with his heel for Malen, who had a one-two with Jude Bellingham before crossing for Haaland to score his 16th goal of the season.
But Dortmund failed to press their advantage. American defender Chris Richards hit the crossbar and Hoffenheim missed several other chances before Andrej Kramarić scored a deserved equalizer before the break.
Malen set up Marco Reus to score with Dortmund’s second shot on goal in the 58th. Hoffenheim had had 11 goal efforts by then.
Malen set up Dortmund's next goal, too. The Dutch winger crossed for Davin Raum to turn the ball inside his own net in the 67th.
Hoffenheim’s Munas Dabbur set up Georginio Rutter in the 77th for an exciting finale, but Dortmund held on.
LEVERKUSEN FLYING
The 18-year-old Florian Wirtz starred, and Moussa Diaby scored a hat trick, as Bayer Leverkusen routed Augsburg 5-1 to consolidate third place.
Freiburg moved fifth with a 2-0 win over relegation candidate Stuttgart, and last-place Greuther Fürth claimed their second win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Mainz.
Midfielder Takuma Asano salvaged a 2-2 draw for Bochum against visiting Cologne in the late game.


Rangnick savours ‘best’ win as Rashford takes Man Utd into top four

Rangnick savours ‘best’ win as Rashford takes Man Utd into top four
Updated 22 January 2022

Rangnick savours ‘best’ win as Rashford takes Man Utd into top four

Rangnick savours ‘best’ win as Rashford takes Man Utd into top four
  • Victory lifts United a point above the Hammers and sees the Red Devils leapfrog Tottenham and Arsenal
  • A drone hovering above the field, suspended the Brentford and Wolverhampton match for 20 minutes

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Marcus Rashford struck with virtually the last kick of the game to take Manchester United into the Premier League top four at West Ham’s expense with what Ralf Rangnick described as a “massive” 1-0 win on Saturday.
United were insipid as an attacking force for 93 minutes at Old Trafford, but found the breakthrough at the death as all three of Rangnick’s substitutes combined when Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani teed up Rashford for a tap in at the back post.
“The atmosphere (in the dressing room) is amazing. Quite rightly the boys were celebrating, they know what a massive win this was,” said Rangnick. “Those are the best kind of wins when the other team has no time to come back.”
Victory lifts United a point above the Hammers and sees the Red Devils leapfrog Tottenham and Arsenal in the battle for Champions League football next season.
The winner was also a huge moment for Rashford, who has looked devoid of confidence in recent months.
The England international scored for the first time since October in a 3-1 win at Brentford on Wednesday and was in the right place at the right time for what could be a decisive moment in United’s desperation not to miss out on the riches and prestige of Champions League football next season.
Rashford was again left out of Rangnick’s starting line-up in favor of 19-year-old Anthony Elanga.
However, he was the first of three changes made by the German after the break, who all played a part in the winning goal.
Rangnick claimed that Martial had refused to be part of his squad for last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Aston Villa as he looks for a move away from the club for more game time.
The Frenchman publicly denied that accusation and was given his first minutes under the interim boss when he was introduced along with Cavani in the final 10 minutes.
Martial played in Cavani on the left of the box and the Uruguayan’s cross just required a touch from Rashford at the back post.
The wild celebrations survived a VAR check against Cavani for offside and there was barely time for West Ham to kick-off in what could be a fatal blow to their outside hopes of reaching the Champions League for the first time.
“We had to take some risks in the last 15 minutes but in the end I wanted to show the players it is about winning this game and I’m more than happy we scored the goal in the last minute,” added Rangnick.
“I am very pleased the three subs prepared the goal and scored the goal.”
Rangnick has lost just one of his 10 games since taking temporary charge till the end of the season, but once again the result was more impressive than the performance from United.
Alphonse Areola was drafted in to the West Ham goal in the absence of Lukasz Fabianski due to a positive test for coronavirus, but the Frenchman was forced into just one serious save when he turned Fred’s driven shot behind early in the second half.
West Ham also did little to test David de Gea, bar a late long-range effort from Declan Rice that nearly caught the Spaniard napping.
But David Moyes still believed his side had done more than enough to earn at least a point.
“It’s not easy when you lose a goal in the last second. It was certainly avoidable,” said Moyes.
“A draw would have been a good result as we hadn’t played well enough to score goals, but we certainly kept Man Utd out enough to get the draw.”
Meanwhile, play was suspended for nearly 20 minutes in the first half of a Premier League match between Brentford and Wolverhampton on Saturday because a drone was hovering above the field.
The referee instructed players to leave the field in the 34th minute at Brentford Community Stadium in west London.
The teams re-emerged and briefly warmed up before play resumed with 19 minutes remaining in the first half, which ended scoreless and 71 minutes after the match had started.
There had already been a long stoppage in play following a sickening clash of heads between Brentford teammates Mathias Jensen and Rico Henry, which left both bleeding heavily. They were both replaced by concussion substitutes.
Wolves went on to win 2-1.


Newcastle United beat Leeds for second win of Premier League season

Newcastle United's English midfielder Jonjo Shelvey (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Newcastle United at Elland Road. (AFP)
Newcastle United's English midfielder Jonjo Shelvey (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Newcastle United at Elland Road. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2022

Newcastle United beat Leeds for second win of Premier League season

Newcastle United's English midfielder Jonjo Shelvey (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Newcastle United at Elland Road. (AFP)

NEWCASTLE: Lift off Newcastle United! Eddie Howe's Magpies warmed up for their mid-season trip to Saudi Arabia by recording just their second win of the Premier League campaign against Leeds United.Jonjo Shelvey's second half strike - a low, curling free-kick - was enough for United to claim all three points at Elland Road, and close the gap to safety to just one point.

It was a result which sparked wild celebrations among the loud United faithful on the terraces and saw a relieved Howe let his emotions spill over, as he fist-pumped and screamed in joy at the travelling Magpies army.

The win and clean sheet, their first away from home this season, sees United climb to 18th in the top flight table, just below Norwich City, who climbed to 17th win their second successive win against Watford on Friday night.

Head coach Howe made just the one change to the side who let two points slip last time out against the Hornets, with Joe Willock making his first United start since mid-December in place of Sean Longstaff.

As expected from a Marcelo Bielsa side, the hosts burst out of the blocks and there was a pace and a purpose to their play, lacking from Newcastle's for so long.

Despite that, United did carve open the first opportunity of the game with form striker-turned-midfielder Joelinton scooping wide when well placed.

At the other end, the movement, speed of passing and obvious want to exploit the flanks began to cause the Magpies all kinds of problems.

Raphinha down the United left was a constant sense of annoyance for Paul Dummett and even Trippier found Jack Harrison down the other side a real headache.

It was the Brazilian who opened up space down that Leeds right for Dan James in the opening quarter, only for Martin Dubravka to pull off an excellent stop to deny the Welshman the opener.

Anything Dubravka can do, so can Illan Meslier.

A sharp left-footed volley from Jonjo threatened to break the deadlock only for the flying Frenchman to palm away the effort.

As good as Leeds were early doors, the game shifted in United's favour as the half wore on. Some consistent pressure, with Shelvey instrumental, saw the Magpies pin the hosts back, without really carving open anything of note. Even a groin issue which forced Joelinton off before the break didn't blunt United's improvement.

Having been a relatively tight, compact game of football in the opening 45, this one really opened up in the second - and that couldn't be explained away by an injection of quality.

Mistakes created spaces and opportunities for both sides as Raphinha and Allan Saint-Maximin began to come to prominence, the former more so than the latter, it must be said.

The spaces allowed United's midfield, given a tough time in recent weeks, to shine, with Willock, substitute Longstaff and Shelvey stamping their authority on an increasingly fading Leeds unit.

Another substitute Javier Manquillo, on for the injured Paul Dummett, saw his lung-busting run halted on the edge of the Whites' area and that allowed Shelvey, ushering away free-kick specialist Trippier, to deliver what proved to be the killer blow.

At the left corner of the area, the midfielder spun across a ball between keeper and onrushing attackers, at the perfect angle to unsight Meslier - and with the help of the keeper, the ball nestled in the back of the net.

Given confidence was so low, it would have been understandable to see United retreat into their shell, much like they did seven day previous. However, they did anything but. In fact, they looked more like scoring at 1-0 than they did with the scoreline goalless.

Longstaff went close with a fizzing shot wide, Fraser put past the post when it looked easier to score and Saint-Maximin was chopped down in the area but VAR was inexplicably not called for, despite his protestations, as Leeds eventually ran out of steam.

Willock had the chance to put the icing on the cake at the end but saw Meslier deny him with a quite brilliant save - and Howe's men had to settle for one goal.

In truth one goal was all they needed.

They'd have settled for a point before kick-off, so to take three is a welcome boost ahead of jetting off to Jeddah this weekend.

Can United pull themselves to safety? Well, for now, it's too early to say.

But, where doubt reigned supreme following the last two games, hope now springs eternal for United.

And, of course, there's still nine days to go in the transfer window, with United set to be the busiest team in the division between now and January 31.


Medvedev wins over Aussie crowd in win over Dutch opponent

Medvedev wins over Aussie crowd in win over Dutch opponent
Updated 22 January 2022

Medvedev wins over Aussie crowd in win over Dutch opponent

Medvedev wins over Aussie crowd in win over Dutch opponent
  • Medvedev reached 4th round for the fourth straight year at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Botic van de Zandschulp
  • The 25-year-old Russian was a conspicuous fan favorite on Margaret Court Arena

MELBOURNE, Australia: As Daniil Medvedev sat courtside trying to re-hydrate during a changeover, an image of nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic flashed up in the stadium behind him.
It was in the third set Saturday, and it was like the absent No. 1 was looking over the shoulder of the player who is effectively the No. 1 seed at the year's first Grand Slam tournament.
Medvedev, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic but avenged that with a victory over the Serb for the U.S. Open title, reached the fourth round for the fourth straight year at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Botic van de Zandschulp.
The 25-year-old Russian was a conspicuous fan favorite on Margaret Court Arena, too, two days after being unsettled by the boos and jeers of a parochial crowd on Rod Laver Arena when he ended the run of mercurial Aussie Nick Kyrgios.
He was critical of a lack of respect in that match — mostly about the noise between first and second serves — and this time offered some relationship advice to the crowd.
“Every good relationship must have its ups and downs," he said in his on-court TV interview, explaining that he planned to be back on court quite often. "I hope it’s going to be more good times than bad times, otherwise it doesn’t work.”
Medvedev later clarified that he didn't have a problem with the Australian crowds and had been fully expecting to have them against him when he played Kyrgios — just not while he was in his service motion.
“The other night I was playing against an Australian player, very electric Australian player,” he said. “After the match, I think it was, yeah, straightaway pretty actually fun for everybody. That's how I felt.” Medvedev avoided a showdown with Djokovic after the world's top-ranked player was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia's strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria.
He also avoided another match against an Australian in the fourth round when wildcard entry Chris O'Connell lost to Maxime Cressy 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2.
Cressy's win means there's two 24-year-old Americans who'll be in the fourth round of a major for their first time.
No. 70-ranked Cressy is in his fourth Grand Slam tournament. No. 20-ranked Taylor Fritz finally made it in his 22nd attempt, with a 6-0, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, and said it “means a ton.”
“I was almost close to like tearing up a bit,” Fritz said. “It seems stupid, because so many people have made the second week of Slams but it’s just, like, eluded me for so long.
“I never doubted it would happen, but I definitely was getting sick of playing, you know, Top 4 player for the opportunity every time."
Fritz next plays French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, who fended off Benoit Paire 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (2), 6-4.
No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime progressed with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 24 Dan Evans, winning 14 of the last 16 games, and will next face 33-year-old Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion and a runner-up in Australia in 2018.
Cilic upset fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev 7-5, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 just before midnight in the last singles match completed on Day 6.
On the women's side, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep is into Week 2 at Melbourne Park for the fifth consecutive year after a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Danka Kovinic.
She'll be joined by second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who advanced 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 over No. 31 Marketa Vondrousova.
A contender for the No. 1 ranking — Sabalenka can potentially overtake Ash Barty depending on results here — the 23-year-old from Belarus admits her serve is still a work in progress.
The match started ominously, when Sabalenka had two double-faults and was broken in the first game.
But unlike the previous round, when she had nine double-faults in her first two service games and 19 in the match, Sabalenka managed to almost halve that glaring statistic.
“I’m really happy right now," Sabalenka said, laughing, in her on-court TV interview. “Mostly I’m happy I made only 10 double-faults.”
She'll work on that ahead of her showdown against No. 115-ranked Kaia Kanepi, who has reached the quarterfinals six times at Grand Slam events — but only once since 2013 and never in Australia.
In other third-round matches, 27th-seeded Danielle Collins of the U.S. rallied from a set and a break down to beat 19-year-old Clara Tauson 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. She'll next meet No. 19 Elise Mertens, who advanced 6-2, 6-2 over Zhang Shuai.
No. 7 Iga Swaitek beat No. 25 Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-3. The 2020 French Open champion will next play Sorana Cirstea, who had a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win over 10th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the French Open final last year and has been an Australian Open quarterfinalist in three of the last six years.
None of the other players remaining the women’s draw has won as many tour-level titles as Halep’s 23.
Halep’s next opponent will be Alize Cornet, who is playing in her 60th consecutive major and celebrated her 32nd birthday with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over 2021 French Open semifinalist Tamara Zidansek.
Cornet followed up her upset of No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza by reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time since 2009.