Al-Hilal wrap up record 17th Saudi Pro League title after 1-0 win over Al-Taawoun

Al-Hilal wrap up record 17th Saudi Pro League title after 1-0 win over Al-Taawoun
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At the final whistle Al-Hilal’s players celebrated wildly with the hundreds of supporters in the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium. (Al-Hilal FC)
Al-Hilal wrap up record 17th Saudi Pro League title after 1-0 win over Al-Taawoun
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Al-Hilal's supporters celebrate a record 17th Saudi League title by the Riyadh giants. (Al-Hilal FC)
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Updated 24 May 2021

Al-Hilal wrap up record 17th Saudi Pro League title after 1-0 win over Al-Taawoun

Al-Hilal wrap up record 17th Saudi Pro League title after 1-0 win over Al-Taawoun
  • The club’s 62nd historic trophy was confirmed on the penultimate matchday of the season

Al-Hilal retained the Saudi Pro League title with a 1-0 win over Al-Taawoun, extending their own record of championships to 17 and leaving their fans celebrating across Riyadh into the early hours of Monday morning.

It was also a remarkable 62nd trophy in the club’s history.

The reigning champions started the day four points ahead of Al-Shabab with two matches left, and the narrow win ensured that they cannot be caught when the season concludes next week.

Al-Hilal took the lead through Frenchman  Bafétimbi Gomis after only five minutes, the the club’s leading marksman scoring with firm right-footed strike from inside the area.

Jose Morais’s players knew a clean sheet would mean another championship and despite a valiant effort by Al-Taawoun to prevent a procession, there would be no more goals for the rest of the match.

At the final whistle Al-Hilal’s players celebrated wildly with the hundreds of supporters who made their way to King Abdullah Sports City Stadium one week after fans were allowed back into the Kingdom’s football grounds.

Playing at the same time, nearest challengers Al-Shabab did their part to make sure that Al-Hilal could not relax on the night by winning 5-1 against Al-Faisaly at Al-Majmaa Sport City. But in the end it was not enough, and Al-Hilal’s coach, players, management and fans were left to play out a familiar scene; celebrating yet another Saudi league title.

 


Koeman sacked as Barcelona coach with Xavi the favorite to come in

Koeman sacked as Barcelona coach with Xavi the favorite to come in
Updated 28 October 2021

Koeman sacked as Barcelona coach with Xavi the favorite to come in

Koeman sacked as Barcelona coach with Xavi the favorite to come in
  • Koeman was dismissed after Barca was relegated to ninth place in La Liga after a loss to Rayo Vallecano
  • He spent six years at Barcelona as a player and is considered a club legend

MADRID: Ronald Koeman has been sacked as coach of Barcelona, the club announced on Wednesday, with former midfielder Xavi Hernandez the favorite to replace him.
Koeman was dismissed after a 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano left the team sitting ninth in La Liga.
Barca have won only two of their last seven league games under Koeman, a run that included losing to Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico at Camp Nou.
A poor start to the season has raised the possibility of the team failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which would have enormous consequences for the club’s already dire financial situation.
Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd, is considered Koeman’s most likely successor.
Barcelona B coach Sergi Barjuan could take charge of the first team on an interim basis, with games against Alaves, Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, and Celta Vigo to come before the next international break.
River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag have also been linked with Barcelona but might be reluctant to leave their respective posts mid-season.
A club statement released after midnight in Spain on Wednesday read: “FC Barcelona has relieved Ronald Koeman of his duties as first team coach.
“The president of the club, Joan Laporta, informed him of the decision after the defeat against Rayo Vallecano. Ronald Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva.
“FC Barcelona wishes to thank him for his service to the Club and wishes him all the best in his professional career.”
Koeman spent six years at Barcelona as a player and is considered a club legend after scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria.
He was appointed coach by Barca’s previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu in August 2020 and enjoyed some success in his first season, winning the Copa del Rey and bringing a disillusioned Lionel Messi back onside.
But a disappointing finish in La Liga and a convincing defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 cast doubt over Koeman’s ability to navigate the biggest games, a criticism that was aimed at him again last weekend following the loss to Real Madrid.

Laporta was re-elected as president in March and while he allowed Koeman to continue as coach this season, there was never much trust between the pair.
Laporta told Koeman in the summer he wanted two weeks to look for a replacement while Koeman reacted badly last month to Laporta suggesting coaches do not have all the power.
“He spoke too much,” Koeman said.
No replacement was found or could be persuaded to take over, perhaps in part because of Barcelona’s perilous financial problems.
The club is 1.35 billion euros in debt and had to watch Messi join PSG in August after failing to renew the Argentinian’s contract.
Other key players like Antoine Griezmann also departed without being adequately replaced as Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay both arrived on free transfers and Luuk de Jong came from Sevilla on loan.
“The team has lost balance in the squad, lost very effective players, which shows,” said Koeman after his last game in charge against Rayo. “In recent years other clubs have strengthened every season and we haven’t, which also shows.”
Koeman’s honest approach was largely accepted and even appreciated last season but his downbeat assessment of his squad this term was seen by many as counter-productive and not befitting of a Barcelona coach.
Youngsters like Pedri, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, Sergino Dest and Ronald Araujo have all benefitted from Koeman’s faith but more established players have suffered a drop in form.
Frenkie de Jong, who knew Koeman from his time in charge of the Dutch national team, has endured a particularly disappointing few weeks.
There was criticism of Koeman’s style of play, which became increasingly direct, while the board were reportedly irritated by his straying from the club’s traditions of playing 4-3-3.
But results were the key factor, as consecutive 3-0 defeats by Bayern Munich and Benfica in the Champions League were followed by losses against both Atletico and Real Madrid in the league.
Laporta said before the international break Koeman “deserved the benefit of the doubt,” moving to end speculation that he would lose his job after the defeat by Atletico.
But faced with an early exit in the Champions League and the possibility of failing to make the top four in La Liga, Laporta, who was at Vallecas on Wednesday night, decided to act.


Falcao rolls back the years to pile on misery for Barcelona

Falcao rolls back the years to pile on misery for Barcelona
Updated 27 October 2021

Falcao rolls back the years to pile on misery for Barcelona

Falcao rolls back the years to pile on misery for Barcelona
  • Memphis Depay missed a penalty in the second half at a bouncing Vallecas
  • Falcao continues to roll back the years at Rayo, this his fourth goal in six games for his new club

VALLECAS, Spain: Radamel Falcao’s remarkable return to La Liga took its most dramatic twist yet on Wednesday as the 35-year-old fired Rayo Vallecano to a surprise 1-0 victory over Barcelona in La Liga.
Memphis Depay missed a penalty in the second half at a bouncing Vallecas as Barca’s miserable start to the season under Ronald Koeman took another turn for the worse.
Falcao continues to roll back the years at Rayo, this his fourth goal in six games for his new club and surely the sweetest, coming against Barca, whom he last scored against in 2013.
After losing the Clasico at home to Real Madrid on Sunday, Barcelona now sit ninth in La Liga, six points off the top and, most concerningly for the board, the gap growing between them and the top four.
Barca president Joan Laporta was squeezed in among the home crowd and cannot have been impressed by another limp display that hardly suggested this team’s form is about to improve.
Rayo stay above Barca, and only two points off fourth, maintaining their perfect record at home this term with a fifth win out of five.
Falcao joined on a free transfer in the summer and after shirts with his name on the back sold out, he has so far lived up to the hype.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have better goals per game ratios in La Liga than Falcao, who replaced Sergio Aguero at Atletico Madrid in 2011 after the Argentinian left for Manchester City and now faced him again.
The last time Aguero and Falcao were on the same pitch together they scored two goals each in a 5-3 win for Manchester City against Monaco, but this was Falcao’s night.
At 35 years and 220 days, he is the oldest player to score four or more goals in his first six games for the same club in La Liga this century.
Aguero was making his first start for Barca on the back of his first goal for the club against Madrid and he was sent through early on by Nico Gonzalez, only to topple over without enough contact for a penalty.
Falcao went closest for Rayo too in the 19th minute as a deflected shot from the edge of the area dipped just wide of the post but the Colombian was more precise for the opener.
Sergio Busquets was at fault for the goal, robbed of the ball in midfield and giving Oscar Trejo the opportunity to free Falcao, who looked to have let the moment pass, only to twist past Gerard Pique and finish into the far corner.
Barcelona had been sloppy, with Philippe Coutinho and Depay particularly wasteful in possession, but they should have levelled when Depay’s cross found Sergino Dest six yards out but he ballooned over.
Dest missed a similar chance in the Clasico on Sunday.
Rayo came under pressure in the second half. Nico fired wide and then Aguero blasted just past the post. Coutinho skewed a close-range finish after some quick footwork from Busquets.
With 20 minutes to go, it looked like Barca finally had the breakthrough as Depay had the back of his leg clipped by Oscar Valentin.
Depay put the ball under his arm, despite interest from Aguero, but Marko Dmitrovic dived the right way and pushed away the shot.
Barca squandered more chances late on.
Aguero missed after being allowed to stroll through when the Rayo defense thought the flag had gone up.
Luuk de Jong miscued an attempted lob and Gavi mishit a simple finish in injury-time.


Jason Roy praises bowlers for England’s second T20 World Cup win, Namibia cruise past Scotland

England's captain Eoin Morgan, left, congratulates teammate Liam Livingstone after taking the wicket of Bangladesh's captain Mohammad Mahmudullah during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between England and Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi. (AP)
England's captain Eoin Morgan, left, congratulates teammate Liam Livingstone after taking the wicket of Bangladesh's captain Mohammad Mahmudullah during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between England and Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi. (AP)
Updated 27 October 2021

Jason Roy praises bowlers for England’s second T20 World Cup win, Namibia cruise past Scotland

England's captain Eoin Morgan, left, congratulates teammate Liam Livingstone after taking the wicket of Bangladesh's captain Mohammad Mahmudullah during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between England and Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi. (AP)

ABU DHABI: Opening batsman Jason Roy on Wednesday credited the England bowlers for helping set up a second successive victory at the Twenty20 World Cup with an eight-wicket drubbing of Bangladesh.
Roy smashed 61 off 38 balls as England romped to their victory target of 125 in 14.1 overs in the Super 12 clash in Abu Dhabi.
He reached his seventh T20 half-century with a straight six in his 50th match during a partnership of 73 with Dawid Malan, who made an unbeaten 28.
“We bowled extremely well. Take nothing away from the bowlers,” Roy told reporters after his man of the match performance.
“We took our catches and fielded and bowled really well. We got off to a great start with the bats and then just capitalized on a lower total.”
England left-arm quick Tymal Mills took three wickets and combined with spinners Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone to restrict Bangladesh to 124-9 in the two nations’ first ever meeting in the format.
Eoin Morgan’s England, the world’s number one-ranked T20 team, top Group 1 with two big wins after a six-wicket thrashing of holders West Indies in their tournament opener.
Roy said England’s loss to Bangladesh in the 2015 50-over World Cup knocked them out of that tournament but helped build a strong bond between the players and change their brand of cricket.
“Our camp has been together since 2015 like,” he said. “We’ve created bonds outside of cricket and on the field, which I think plays a huge part in traveling the world and playing good cricket.”
“We understand our roles in the team as individuals and as teammates.”
Bangladesh, who lost their opening Super 12 match to Sri Lanka, lost regular wickets after electing to bat first.
After giving away 10 runs in the opening over, Moeen hit back and was on a hat-trick in his second over, only to be denied by Mushfiqur Rahim, who top-scored with 29.
Moeen, an off-spinner, had Liton Das caught at deep square leg for nine and then sent Mohammad Naim trudging back to the pavilion for five.
Bangladesh found themselves in trouble at 26-3 when Chris Woakes claimed Shakib Al Hasan’s key scalp with Adil Rashid taking a good catch running backwards. Shakib fell for four.
Mushfiqur and skipper Mahmudullah Riyad, who made 19, tried to repair the damage in a 37-run partnership before Livingstone broke through.
Livingstone trapped Mushfiqur lbw, but England had to use the umpire referral after the onfield official ruled it not out.
Bangladesh kept faltering as a run-out cost Afif Hossain his wicket for five and Mahmudullah departed, for 19, soon after as Livingstone’s second wicket.
“Definitely, we were disappointed with the batting, it was a good wicket but we didn’t start well and didn’t have any partnerships in the middle either,” said Mahmudullah.
“We are more skilled hitters than power hitters, we don’t want to change that because we believe we can post good totals. We need to reassess and come up with a good plan.”
Bangladesh’s batting effort was well below par and the England batsmen having little trouble in their batting reply despite losing Jos Buttler for 18.
Roy smashed five fours and three sixes in an attacking knock that took the steam out of the Bangladesh bowling.
Malan, who did not bat in the first match, got useful batting time
Both team stook the knee before the start of the game with much focus on the anti-racism gesture after South Africa’s Quinton de Kock pulled out of a match against West Indies on Tuesday because he refused to obey the national cricket board’s orders.
Roy said, “Our team is extremely diverse with people from all over the world. It’s only right that we support that and we support what they are going through.”

---------

JJ Smit stood unbeaten on 32 as Namibia beat Scotland by four wickets in their first ever Super 12 match of the Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday.
Left-arm quick Ruben Trumpelmann returned figures of 3-17 in Abu Dhabi to help restrict Scotland to 109-8.
Smit and David Wiese, who made 16, put on a key partnership of 35 to guide the team home with five balls to spare, handing Scotland their second loss of the group stage.

 

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Football’s five-substitutes option to be made permanent

Football’s five-substitutes option to be made permanent
Updated 27 October 2021

Football’s five-substitutes option to be made permanent

Football’s five-substitutes option to be made permanent
  • The decision to permanently amend football's laws came at a virtual FIFA-chaired IFAB meeting
  • The option of using 5 replacements was introduced in May 2020 to alleviate the strain on players

LONDON: Football competitions can decide to make the originally temporary five-substitutes rule permanent, the sport’s rule-making body IFAB recommended on Wednesday.
“FAP-TAP (football and technical advisory panels) today recommended that competitions should be able to decide on increasing the number of substitutes according to the needs of their football environment,” read an IFAB statement.
The decision to permanently amend football’s laws came at a virtual FIFA-chaired IFAB meeting following requests from different confederations, associations and leagues.
The option of using five replacements was introduced in May 2020 to alleviate the strain on players as the coronavirus pandemic upended sporting calendars and congested fixture lists, raising fears for player welfare.
Only three substitutes were previously allowed but coaches argued the more onerous physical demands on players competing in condensed competition formats or time periods justified the change.
Earlier this year IFAB’s board of directors extended the temporary amendment to football’s laws allowing domestic and international competitions to use five substitutes to December 31, 2022.
Teams can make five substitutes in UEFA competitions like the Champions League but England’s Premier League rejected the innovation being reintroduced last season.
Critics had said making the change permanent would disproportionately benefit wealthier clubs with larger squads.


’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen

’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen
Updated 27 October 2021

’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen

’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen
  • Opposition has been so widespread from leagues, players and supporters groups that the chances of a biennial World Cup actually happening appear remote
  • "There has been a lot of pushback. They have realised that," FIFPro's general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told AFP about FIFA's proposals

BRUSSELS: The head of global footballers’ union FIFPro is confident a plan to hold the men’s World Cup every two years is “dead in its tracks” and insists FIFA should do more to promote the women’s version instead.
FIFA will hold a summit in December with president Gianni Infantino still hoping to find consensus on plans to stage the men’s tournament more often than the current four-year cycle.
However, opposition has been so widespread from leagues, players and supporters groups that the chances of a biennial World Cup actually happening appear remote.
“There has been a lot of pushback. They have realized that,” FIFPro’s general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told AFP about FIFA’s proposals.
“It is quite clear that if you try to push this through against the interests of all these other stakeholders, and without their agreement, it is probably dead in its tracks.”
FIFPro, comprised of national member associations from 64 countries, is one of several organizations within football that has expressed unhappiness at a lack of consultation on the issue.
The proposals were put forward by Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of global development.
Baer-Hoffmann questioned whether holding more frequent World Cups would be sustainable economically, but said there is already a solution in place.
“When we met with FIFA for the first time, we asked them for the economic analysis, we haven’t seen that yet. I don’t think a second World Cup would just mean the current revenue times two. It’s not like you just double the value in sponsorship etcetera.
“The truth is also that there are two World Cups in every four-year cycle already. We should make the women’s one more of a priority. That is your second World Cup.”
The World Cup is expanding regardless in another way — the men’s version to 48 teams from 2026 and the women’s to 32 teams from 2023.
Other competitions like the UEFA Champions League are also expanding to feature more games, but FIFPro is concerned that footballers beyond the men’s elite do not play enough.
“If you are playing in a market that doesn’t have the economic means like the big European markets then of course you are looking at innovation in competitions, club or country, that puts more meaningful and economically viable games in your schedule,” said Baer-Hoffmann.
“We do need reforms, no question. If we just carry on like this football in many parts of the world will not evolve.”
In Brussels FIFPro announced a joint manifesto with the European Leagues organization, which represents over one thousand clubs from 30 countries.
It called for greater influence over decisions affecting the future of the sport, especially important in the wake of the failed breakaway Super League project.
That project may only be lying dormant. Three of the 12 rebel clubs — Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus — remain attached to it.
UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the remaining clubs but backed down after a commercial court in Madrid ruled any punishment would represent an infringement of European free trade laws.
The ruling was referred to the European Court of Justice.
“The factors that motivated this attempt to break away have not actually drastically changed,” Baer-Hoffmann said.
The plan was torpedoed in April following widespread opposition.
“But I think we have to be realistic. This is not dead, and I think this will come back, and football had better get ready to confront it again.”