Ronaldo double sinks Newcastle on Man Utd return, Arsenal ease Arteta pressure

Ronaldo double sinks Newcastle on Man Utd return, Arsenal ease Arteta pressure
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during Premier League match against Newcastle United at Old Trafford, Manchester on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 September 2021

Ronaldo double sinks Newcastle on Man Utd return, Arsenal ease Arteta pressure

Ronaldo double sinks Newcastle on Man Utd return, Arsenal ease Arteta pressure
  • Ronaldo's second debut for United was the headline act as the Premier League resumed after the international break
  • The 36-year-old insists he didn’t make his $27 million move from Juventus last month for a "vacation"

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a sensational return to Manchester United as his debut double inspired a 4-1 win against Newcastle.
Arsenal eased the pressure on Mikel Arteta with a 1-0 victory over Norwich on Saturday.
Ronaldo’s second debut for United was the headline act as the Premier League resumed after the international break and the Portugal superstar did not disappoint his adoring fans at Old Trafford.
The 36-year-old insists he did not make his £19.8 million ($27 million) move from Juventus last month for a “vacation.”
Ronaldo lived up to that boast, showing he remains as sharp as ever with a clinical brace either side of Javier Manquillo’s equalizer for Newcastle.
Ronaldo’s compatriot Bruno Fernandes netted with a long-range rocket 10 minutes from full-time before Jesse Lingard bagged the fourth.
A winner of three Premier League titles and one Champions League crown in six years with United before moving to Real Madrid, Ronaldo was making his first appearance for the club since 2009.
United hope the five-time Ballon d’Or winner can help end arch rivals Manchester City’s reign as champions and there was an electric air of anticipation around Old Trafford ahead of his return.
Thousands of fans gathered outside hours before kick-off to catch a glimpse of Ronaldo when he stepped off the United team bus.
Chants of “Viva Ronaldo” echoed around Old Trafford as supporters paraded in their idol’s famous number seven shirt.
Former United boss Alex Ferguson, whose phone call to Ronaldo played a key role in the Portugal striker choosing United over City, was watching from the stands.
There was also a rare visit from the club’s United States-based co-chairman Avram Glazer.
Ronaldo’s name was cheered to the rafters before kick-off and inevitably he was destined to break Newcastle’s resistance two minutes into first half stoppage-time.
Mason Greenwood’s shot was spilled by Newcastle keeper Freddie Woodman and Ronaldo reacted quickest to finish from virtually on the goal-line.
Running to the corner to perform his trademark ‘Sii’ celebration, Ronaldo soaked up the acclaim from 76,000 ecstatic fans.
Not everyone was happy with Ronaldo’s return as a feminist group flew a banner over the stadium in support of a woman who accused the striker of rape in Las Vegas.
In 2019, US prosecutors said Ronaldo, who denied the claims, would not face charges because they could not “be proven beyond reasonable doubt.”
Newcastle threatened to spoil Ronaldo’s day when Manquillo equalized in the 56th minute with a fine finish from Allan Saint-Maximin’s pass.
But Ronaldo had other ideas and he restored United’s lead in the 62nd minute.
Luke Shaw’s through-ball sent Ronaldo racing clear on goal and he drilled a low shot under Woodman to raise the roof again.
Surfing the feel-good factor generated by Ronaldo, unbeaten United sit top of the table after a third win from their first four matches.
At the Emirates Stadium, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave under-fire Arsenal manager Arteta some much-needed breathing space.
Gabon forward Aubameyang tapped home in the 66th minute, with a VAR check going in the Gunners’ favor as Norwich appealed in vain for offside.
After three successive defeats in the top-flight, Arsenal’s first league goal this season was enough to lift them off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation zone.
Despite Ronaldo’s snub, Bernardo Silva showed Manchester City can cope just fine with their array of talent as he fired the champions to a 1-0 win at Leicester.
Portugal playmaker Silva struck in the 62nd minute with a close-range finish after Caglar Soyuncu blocked Joao Cancelo’s drive.
Second placed City have now won their last three games.
South Korea forward Hwang Hee-chan scored his first Premier League goal for Wolves in their 2-0 win at Watford.
Wolves’ first league goal this season — an own goal by Watford’s Francisco Sierralta — was followed by Hwang’s 83rd minute tap-in in his debut appearance after joining from Leipzig last month.
Brighton won 1-0 at Brentford thanks to Leandro Trossard’s 90th minute strike, while West Ham striker Michail Antonio was sent off in their 0-0 draw at Southampton.


Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
Updated 15 sec ago

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
  • Club’s Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca feeling the heat after inconsistent start to season

Al-Shabab will be looking to break one of Saudi Arabian football’s longest jinxes when they attempt to beat league champions Al-Hilal for the first time in seven years at King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday night.

The club’s last league win over Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League was way back on Oct. 17, 2014 — a 1-0 triumph thanks to a stoppage-time goal by South Korean player Park Chu-young.

The results since then highlight Al-Hilal’s dominance, with nine wins from the 13 league matches between the two clubs, with the other four ending in draws.

Al-Shabab go into the match sitting in 11th place in the SPL with five points from one win, two draws and two losses, while Al-Hilal are in second spot with 10 points from four matches, having had their match against Al-Fayha postponed.

Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca took over at Al-Shabab at the start of the season but he is already feeling the heat after the inconsistent start, especially as the club finished second last season. A match against the champions might not be the fairest way to judge his team, but many predict that he could follow compatriot Mano Menezes — sacked by Al-Nassr earlier this week — out of the door if there is no immediate improvement.

There is some good news for Al-Shabab, however, with the return to fitness of several players. Chamusca will be able to call on Argentine playmaker Ever Banega, Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo, Senegalese defensive midfielder Alfred N’Diaye and Saudi keeper Fawaz Al-Qarni for the match against Al-Hilal.

Al-Hilal, meanwhile, will welcome back Salman Al-Faraj after his recent injury.


DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers
Updated 23 September 2021

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers
  • Winner of The Luckiest Ball on Earth competition will join professionals at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Nov. 16

DUBAI: The Luckiest Ball on Earth series is set to tee off with golfers throughout the UAE vying for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play alongside some of the game’s biggest names in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai Pro-Am.

The annual competition, which has proven a big hit with the UAE’s amateur golfers since the initiative was launched in 2011, is open to all players who hold an official club handicap recognized by the Emirates Golf Federation (maximum 28 for men and juniors, and 36 for women).

Qualifying tournaments will be held at 20 UAE golf clubs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 22, with the triumphant players booking their spot in the grand final at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Oct. 29.

Prizes worth more than 300,000 UAE dirhams ($82,000) are up for grabs including premium hospitality tickets and merchandise for the DP World Tour Championship. The overall male, female, and junior winner will receive a coveted place in the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am taking place on Nov. 16.

Tom Phillips, European Tour head of Middle East, said: “We are thrilled to announce the return of the Luckiest Ball on Earth competition, offering UAE golfers a unique opportunity to mix with some of the world’s best players.

“We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of the Emirates Golf Federation and the 20 qualifying clubs, which makes this wonderful local golf initiative possible. We urge golfers across the region to get down to their local qualifier, you never know when it might be your day.”

The DP World Tour Championship will see the top 50 players on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai compete for a prize fund of $9 million. This year’s tournament will take place from Nov. 18 to 21 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.


Al-Ahli and Besnik Hasi in crisis mode as wins become distant memory

Al-Ahli's players gather in a huddle ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Al-Duhail on April 18, 2021, at the King Abdullah Sport City stadium. (AFP/File Photo)
Al-Ahli's players gather in a huddle ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Al-Duhail on April 18, 2021, at the King Abdullah Sport City stadium. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 23 September 2021

Al-Ahli and Besnik Hasi in crisis mode as wins become distant memory

Al-Ahli's players gather in a huddle ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Al-Duhail on April 18, 2021, at the King Abdullah Sport City stadium. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Jeddah club’s last victory in any competition came in April making Thursday’s clash with Al-Fayah a must-win match

JEDDAH: This season was supposed to be different to the last, but after just five games in the Saudi Professional League, Al-Ahli are in crisis mode.

Management at the four-time champions must have been thankful that at least Al-Nassr’s dismissal of Mano Menezes last weekend took the bulk of the attention, but now the focus is very much moving westwards towards Jeddah. 

There are must-win games and then there are must-win games and Thursday’s league meeting with Al-Fayha is crucial for the club and especially the boss.

Al-Ahli have drawn seven matches in a row in all competitions, and their last win came in April against Iraq’s Al-Shorta in the AFC Champions League group stages.

With only five points this season, the club now sits 10th in the Saudi pro League table.

If the five-time champions do not return from Al Majma’ah with three points, then coach Besnik Hasi is in line to become coaching casualty number five this season. With the Jeddah Derby against league leaders Al-Ittihad looming eight days later, it is likely the bullet will be fired if there is no victory. Al-Ahli and Hasi know well that after Al-Ittihad fired their coach with just one league game played, they have won every game since.

Al-Ahli finished eighth last season, just four points above the relegation zone, in a season dominated by reports of problems in the team and salaries that came late. Whatever happened off the pitch, what happened on it — the club’s worst finish since 2008 — was not good enough for a genuine Saudi Arabian giant.

Hasi was not the biggest name coach available, but boasts a solid European CV in charge of Anderlecht, Legia Warsaw and Olympiacos. He impressed in the Saudi Professional League with Al-Raed. It was no surprise then that the management felt in June that the 49-year-old was the right man to build something more substantial. 

His recruitment seemed decent. The addition of Ezgjan Alioski from Leeds United was a solid move. Star striker Omar Al-Somah, who often cut a forlorn figure last season, seemed happier. After former Barcelona star and Brazilian international Paulinho arrived, the signs were promising.

But after five games, Al-Ahli have just five points from five draws, their second-worst start to the season ever. There looks to be a distinct lack of leadership on the pitch. There has been major possession in most of those games but the team have been guilty of not taking their chances and switching off at the back. This is something that Hasi knows needs to stop against Al-Fayha who have said that they will let fans in for free in a bid to create that all-important 12th man. 

To make matters worse for Al-Ahli, on paper it has been a fairly gentle start and they have yet to play one of the big boys. The pressure is well and truly on — and now Paulinho has gone. The star player departed suddenly last weekend and Al-Ahli have been trying this week to show that the 33-year-old leaving had nothing to do with any issue at the club or anything related to football at all. The player said that it was due to “emergency circumstances” and the official line is the same.

“Paulinho showed us a picture of his family house two weeks ago,” said an Al-Ahli board member. “We met with him and confirmed that he needed to return home and we offered him the chance to have leave but he insisted that he needed to stay a long time. The player was happy here and had ambition and his departure was down to family circumstances only and nothing else.”

The football family in Brazil expects that he will be playing back in South America before too long. “It's up to Paulinho whether he wants to play for Corinthians or not,” said former Corinthians president Andres Sanchez. “He knows everything about Corinthians and how much he can be paid, it is up to him.” That is no longer an issue for Hasi, who may turn to powerful Saudi international midfielder Ali Al-Asmari to play the Paulinho role. 

The European coach is not the only manager under pressure.

Al-Shabab finished second last season but have been struggling so far this year under new boss Pericles Chamusca. Like Al-Ahli, Shabab have five points, though a win and a draw in the last two games has kept the Brazilian in the Riyadh hotseat so far. Defeat against Al-Hilal — the champions are not the team you want to face in such a situation — on Thursday could see Shabab drop into the relegation zone and Chamusca drop out of a job.

Al-Nassr have just fired Menezes and know that a failure to defeat Al-Batin will increase pressure on the board. Assistant Marcelo, also a Brazilian, will take temporary charge of the Riyadh club. That coaching change in Riyadh was not the first this season and will not be the last, but Besnik Hasi needs a result to avoid being the next.


Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season
Updated 22 September 2021

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season
  • De Ligt scored the winner in the 72nd minute to complete a comeback after Juventus fell behind four minutes after the break
  • Juventus moved up to 12th place, eight points behind leader Inter Milan

ROME: Critics had been demanding that Juventus use its younger players more during a horrendous start to Serie A.
They had to be appeased after Moise Kean, Federico Chiesa and Matthijs De Ligt each scored in a 3-2 win at Spezia for the Bianconeri’s first Italian league win of the season on Wednesday.
De Ligt scored the winner in the 72nd minute to complete a comeback after Juventus fell behind four minutes after the break.
Playing in place of Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini, the 22-year-old De Ligt coolly redirected in a loose ball that was being knocked around following a corner.
The 23-year-old Chiesa had equalized six minutes earlier with a typical goal for the Italy winger: he darted straight to the goal by dribbling through the legs of a defender then just barely got his shot off as he was sliding toward the ball.
The 21-year-old Kean — like coach Massimiliano Allegri in his second stint at Juventus — had given the visitors an early lead with a long shot after Adrien Rabiot knocked down a ball over the top from Leonardo Bonucci.
Spezia had struck back with goals both sides of halftime, the first coming with a solo effort from Emmanuel Gyasi, who dribbled by Danilo on the left flank and looped a long shot into the far corner.
Gyasi celebrated like Cristiano Ronaldo, his idol and the recently departed Juventus player, by leaping into the air and pumping his arms down toward his body.
Janis Antiste, a 19-year-old French forward, put Spezia ahead by beating De Ligt on a counterattack with the help of his shot being deflected by Bonucci.
Spezia nearly made it 3-1 but another effort minutes later was cleared off the line by Manuel Locatelli.
Juventus moved up to 12th place, eight points behind leader Inter Milan.
Hellas Verona has four points from two matches since hiring Igor Tudor to replace Eusebio Di Francesco as coach after three straight losses to open the season.
Nikola Kalinic scored twice in a 2-2 draw at promoted Salernitana three days after Verona handed Jose Mourinho his first defeat as Roma coach.
Mamadou Coulibaly equalized midway through the second half for Salernitana.


Europeans aim to ‘make it count’ in Ryder Cup defense

Europeans aim to ‘make it count’ in Ryder Cup defense
Updated 22 September 2021

Europeans aim to ‘make it count’ in Ryder Cup defense

Europeans aim to ‘make it count’ in Ryder Cup defense
  • Garcia will be playing in a 10th Ryder Cup when Europe launches its defense on Friday on the Wisconsin course hugging the shore of Lake Michigan

KOHLER: Europeans aim to 'make it count' in Ryder Cup defense AFP Kohler Padraig Harrington is hammering home the idea of European exceptionalism as his players prepare to defend golf's Ryder Cup in hostile territory against a star-laden US team.

Upon arriving at Whistling Straits, Europe's players learned where they line up in the history of just 164 players who have represented the continent.

Despite their wealth of experience and depth of enthusiasm for the biennial match play showdown, Europe's players were clearly moved to learn what rare company they're in.

"It was very powerful," Spain's Sergio Garcia said of the video that featured such past Ryder Cup greats as Jose Maria Olazabal and Tony Jacklin.

Every player to represent Europe — Great Britain and Ireland before the format changed in 1979 — was assigned a number, right through the members of this year's team of 12, who were urged to "make it count."

Garcia will be playing in a 10th Ryder Cup when Europe launches its defense on Friday on the Wisconsin course hugging the shore of Lake Michigan.

England's Lee Westwood will be playing in his 11th — but he too was struck by the video that contrasted the 164 to the 5,780 people who have climbed Mount Everest, 570 people who have been in outer space and 225 men who have won a major golf championship.

"You have a far greater chance of going into space or climbing Mount Everest than you have representing Europe in the Ryder Cup," Westwood said.

"It's something to be proud of, being able to pull on the clothing with the European team crest on it."

European teams have won nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups, thrashing the United States 17.5-10.5 in France in 2018. That includes three of the past six held on US soil.

In harkening to history, Harrington boosted the spirit of camaraderie that Europe must have to maintain its dominance against a US team that features eight of the world's top 10 players - the highest number for either team since the inception of the world rankings in 1986.

US captain Steve Stricker, aiming to make the most of all that talent, capitalized on the United States' home advantage by convening his team for an early weekend of practice at Whistling Straits, before the hoopla of Ryder Cup week was in full swing.

Jordan Spieth, heading into his fourth Ryder Cup, wasn't sure how helpful the days of light practice would be, but said Tuesday they had been beneficial.

"I thought the commitment of guys to get up here was cool," Spieth said.

"We were messing around. We were hitting shots. We weren't really like chipping and putting to all the pins.

It was more let's have some fun and play a match with each other and just kind of see — get our feet on the ground, see the grandstands, see the setting ahead of time so that when we arrive today, you're not kind of taken aback."

That could be especially useful for a US side featuring six Ryder Cup rookies, and it plays into Stricker's goal of "out-preparing" Europe.

"Certainly I think things can adjust, but as far as how prepared you can be on Tuesday for a Friday start, I would say it's probably the most that I've seen in the four Cups," Spieth said.