5 things we learned from Al-Nassr’s win over Tractor in AFC Champions League

5 things we learned from Al-Nassr’s win over Tractor in AFC Champions League
The only goal of the game came after 11 minutes, when Vincent Aboubakar slotted home from inside the area. (Twitter: @AlNassrFC_EN)
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Updated 15 September 2021

5 things we learned from Al-Nassr’s win over Tractor in AFC Champions League

5 things we learned from Al-Nassr’s win over Tractor in AFC Champions League
  • Mano Menezes’ team join Al-Hilal in last eight after narrow 1-0 over their Iranian opponents

Just 24 hours after Al-Hilal defeated Esteghlal 2-0 to head into the last eight of the AFC Champions League, Al-Nassr on Tuesday beat Tractor 1-0 to make it two wins out of two for Saudi Arabian clubs against Iranian opposition. 

The only goal of the game came after 11 minutes, when Vincent Aboubakar slotted home from inside the area.

Here are five things we learned from the game in Doha. 

Pressure off Menezes — for now

While the scoreline was only 1-0, it was as comfortable a 1-0 win that you will ever see in the knockout stages of a major club competition. There had been a lot of talk in the past couple of weeks that a bad result in Asia would be bad news for coach Mano Menezes. There has been some disquiet over what has been seen as erratic domestic form by the team this season, which seems a little harsh, as the nine-time champions have won two out of their first three games, even if their performances have not been the slickest.

Tuesday’s was a competent performance and a case of job done. Al-Nassr were dominant in the first half and should have sealed the deal earlier. It was only in the last few minutes that the Iranian team caused a few problems for the Riyadh club. When the shots did start to head toward the Saudi net, Waleed Abdullah, who had not had much to do for most of the match, was alert to any danger. 

Menezes has saved some of his best moments so far in Saudi Arabia — admittedly the former Brazil boss has not been here too long — for the Champions League. As his team are now in the quarter-finals, there will be growing excitement. 

Talisca and Aboubakar linking well

While Tractor were missing a number of their stars, Al-Nassr had three suspended players of their own, including star striker Abderrazak Hamdallah. The Moroccan is always missed, but this was a good game for him to serve his suspension heading into the last eight. There are not many teams in Asia that could be without such a gifted goal-getter and still have a talent like Aboubakar on the pitch, along with a creator like Talisca behind.

The Cameroonian striker was found inside the area by the Brazilian and, with just the goalkeeper to beat, it seemed inevitable that the net was going to bulge and so it did. It was reminiscent of the Al-Hilal opener from the previous day: A simple but perfect pass from a Brazilian and a simple but perfect finish by the forward.

Aboubakar should have had another but his movement and the timing of his runs meant that he was a constant threat to the Iranian defense. 

It was always going to be tough for Tractor

The Iranians started brightly but struggled to really get into the game until late on. Given their circumstances, it was always going to be a tough task. A number of injuries and COVID-19 sufferers meant that there had even been a request to postpone the game. This was obviously not granted by the Asian Football Confederation and so it was that an understrength and younger than usual team made the journey to Doha.

Tractor, who finished fourth and well off the pace in the recently finished Iranian season, competed for the whole match but Al-Nassr just had that little bit of extra class. A full team, two legs and 90 minutes in front of their passionate home crowd and it may have been a different story, but the odds were stacked against them even before they arrived in Qatar.

Super September for Saudi Arabia in Asia

The first week of this month saw the national team win their first two qualifiers in the final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup to put themselves in a strong position in Group B. And the second week has been just as good, with Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr both winning their Champions League round of 16 clashes to move into the quarter-finals. 

Having two teams in the last eight means there is a real chance of another Saudi Arabian triumph in Asia, as both have what it takes to lift the trophy in November. Don’t forget that the rest of the games in the western zone will be held in the Kingdom, including the final. There may never be a better chance for one of the two Riyadh clubs to take the continental title.

Al-Nassr have to use this as a springboard going forward

When you are a team competing on multiple fronts the action never stops and Al-Nassr on Saturday have a huge Saudi Professional League game against the current league leaders Al-Ittihad. Defeat against the resurgent Jeddah club would leave Al-Nassr six points off the pace early in the season and put the pressure back on the shoulders of Menezes.

A decent result would be welcome as there are then three very winnable games against teams in the bottom half of the table before the next international break and then the quarter-finals. These next few weeks could determine just how serious Al-Nassr are about challenging for the league title. If they take their eyes off the domestic ball, then they may find there is suddenly too much to do.


Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team

Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team
Updated 26 September 2021

Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team

Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team
  • Al-Yamamah Club player is part of the squad participating in training camp in Croatia

Noura Abdulmohsen Al-Brahim of Al-Yamamah Club in Riyadh has revealed her pride in representing her country after joining the Saudi women’s futsal team in the training camp with Croatia.

“I am full of enthusiasm and desire to win and raise the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia high and to be the best possible representative for my country,” she told Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah.

Al-Brahim pointed out that the Women’s Football Department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation has continued to provide strong moral support to all players ahead of their coming commitments in the Gulf and Asian championships.

Noura Al-Brahim with Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal. (Arriyadiyah)

On being part of the Saudi squad at the Croatian training camp, she called her experience “special and exceptional,” adding: “I’ve learned many things about the game that are new to me. This trip also allowed me to learn about different cultures and learn about new ideas and ways to play football.”

Speaking about her ambitions, Al-Brahim that her goal is to be Saudi’s best player and help the national women’s team become a force on the international stage.

As part of the camp that will run until Sept. 28, the Saudi women’s team beat Serbian team ZFK Zemun 7-5 on Thursday and dedicated the victory to the nation’s 91st National Day.


Tokyo Olympic stars to feature as world basketball 3x3 championship returns to Abu Dhabi

Tokyo Olympic stars to feature as world basketball 3x3 championship returns to Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 September 2021

Tokyo Olympic stars to feature as world basketball 3x3 championship returns to Abu Dhabi

Tokyo Olympic stars to feature as world basketball 3x3 championship returns to Abu Dhabi
  • 12 teams will take part in the International Basketball Federation tournament in October

ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Masters World 3x3 Basketball, in cooperation with the International Basketball Federation, is set to take place in a custom-built arena at the UAE capital’s Marina Mall on Oct. 29-30.

The 3x3 world championships, part of the world tour, returns to the capital city for the first time in five years, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council announced.

This year’s championship brings together the world’s elite 3x3-basketball players as well as some of the stars that took part in the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The Abu Dhabi Masters will also welcome overseas spectators after the capital opened its borders to travelers who have had the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 3x3 format, which made its debut at the Tokyo Olympics, has seen a noticeable increase in popularity in recent years thanks to the simplicity of its rules and its fast pace.

“We are pleased to host the FIBA 3x3 Worlds once again in Abu Dhabi in cooperation with the International Basketball Federation,” said Aref Hamad Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

“The popularity of tri-basketball has increased after its first appearance at the Tokyo Olympics, and we are confident of the success that the tournament will achieve, especially in conjunction with the prosperity that the capital is experiencing with its agenda full of prestigious international sporting events for this season.”

The event will include 12 international teams, including four sides that are in the top five spots in the FIBA world tour.

Liman from Serbia, currently the No.1 ranked team on the world tour, will be looking to consolidate their position while the Latvian side Riga, the gold medallists in Tokyo, the Belgian team Antwerp and Dutch side Utrecht, ranked third and fourth respectively, will be challenging for the lead.

Ahead of the tournament, the ADSC will hold the Abu Dhabi Community Tri-Basketball Championship, with 24 teams in the fray from Oct. 8-15.

The winner of this qualifier will represent Abu Dhabi on Oct. 29-30.

However, it will be the top-12 ranked teams in the world tour who will travel to the Jeddah final in December.

This will be the first time the competition has been held in Abu Dhabi since two consecutive rounds were in 2015 and 2016.

Alex Sanchez, FIBA tri-basketball director, said: “The two world tri-basketball tournaments that were held in Abu Dhabi in 2015 and 2016 are still some of the most successful editions of the tournament ever, and this is exactly what prompted us to collaborate with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council once again to organize the world championship to take place in its second home.”

The Abu Dhabi 3x3 Worlds has a prize fund of $150,000 on offer. The winners will receive 40,000 while the second and third placed teams take away $30,000 and $20,000 respectively. 


Sheikh Mansoor crowns winners of 2021 Vice President’s Jiu-Jitsu League in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Mansoor crowns winners of 2021 Vice President’s Jiu-Jitsu League in Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 September 2021

Sheikh Mansoor crowns winners of 2021 Vice President’s Jiu-Jitsu League in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Mansoor crowns winners of 2021 Vice President’s Jiu-Jitsu League in Abu Dhabi
  • Chairman of Dubai Sports Council congratulated Al-Wahda, Al-Ain and Sharjah Self-Defense Club on their adults, U-18 and U-16 titles

ABU DHABI: The fifth and final round of the 2021 Vice President’s Jiu-Jitsu League concluded in Abu Dhabi on Saturday in the presence of Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al- Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Sports Council.

After crowning the winners at the UAE capital’s Jiu-Jitsu Arena, Sheikh Mansoor congratulated the players on their victories, praising the high level of performance displayed on the mat.

“The values adopted by the sport of jiu-jitsu are in line with the identity we are keen to spread in the UAE society,” Sheikh Mansoor said. “We are witnessing the growth of the sport in the country represented by many national academies and clubs. This is aligned with our strategic vision of promoting a healthy lifestyle, with a focus on emerging talents who are key for the bright future of the country on a global level.”

“The UAE has become the focus of attention for jiu-jitsu enthusiasts from all over the world thanks to the great support received from the rulers of the UAE,” he said. “The conclusion of the Vice President’s Jiu-Jitsu League comes at an ideal time with our jiu-jitsu family preparing to welcome the world in the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championships, the two largest jiu-jitsu events on the global calendar, during which we look forward to following up on the strong performance that we are accustomed to from our national players.”

Sheikh Mansoor said that local events such as the Vice President’s League were key for discovering Emirati talent, and an important opportunity that allowed the stars of the UAE to experience the standards of international championships in local competitions.

“UAE champions are regularly raising our country’s flag on the podiums, and here we commend the continuous efforts made by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation to advance their sport until the UAE became the global capital of the sport,” Sheikh Mansoor said.

“The sports sector in the country is no longer just an entertaining one, but has become an important tributary of sustainable development on individual, social and economic levels, with the important role it plays in building individuals physically and psychologically. The UAE has a world-class infrastructure that enables it to host world-class international sporting events.”

Al-Wahda Club secured top spot to take the league title in the adults’ category, with Al-Ain in second and Al-Jazira in third. In the U-18 category, Al-Ain Club claimed victory ahead of Baniyas, with Al-Wahda in third place. The U-16 title went to Sharjah Self Defense Club, with Al-Ain second, and Al-Wahda in third place.

“With the strong performance from our female athletes in the final round of the Mother of the Nation League and the remarkable performance on the mats today, particularly in the U18 and U16 categories, we can say with confidence that the future of jiu-jitsu is bright in the country,” said Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, vice chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

In addition to winning the title and capturing medals, the winning clubs and academies were also presented with financial prizes totalling $196,000 (720,000 dirhams).


Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador

Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador

Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador
  • The former national captain joins Salman Al-Faraj for the “Impossible is Nothing” campaign

Saudi Arabian football legend Sami Al-Jaber has been announced as an ambassador for Adidas, becoming the latest addition to the growing list of local players from the Kingdom to have signed with the brand, including current Saudi national football team captain Salman Al-Faraj.

The announcement came as the nation celebrated its 91st National Day.

This partnership is part of the brand’s “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign and looks to empower and celebrate athletes and iconic sportspeople in the region, as well as ensure that regional and local sports communities are well represented and supported.

“It’s a feeling of immense pride and excitement to be joining the Adidas family,” Al-Jaber said. “Adidas’ brand attitude ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ is a message that really resonates with me both at a personal and professional level. Special thanks to Adidas for the continuous support to develop and engage local and regional communities through sport. Seeing possibilities in sport is key to achieving our purpose of changing lives.”

Al-Jaber is one of Saudi Arabia’s and the Middle East football’s greatest players, having scored 173 goals in 376 appearances for Al-Hilal, and 43 times in 163 matches for the national team. He also competed in four FIFA World Cups and scored three goals, more than any other Arab footballer.


Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals

Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals
Updated 26 September 2021

Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals

Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals
  • Delhi has 16 points from 10 games, two points more than second-placed Chennai Super Kings

ABU DHABI: Delhi Capitals returned to the top of the Indian Premier League with a 33-run victory over Rajasthan Royals on Saturday.
Delhi scored 154-6 after being asked to bat, its innings propelled by Shreyas Iyer’s 32-ball 43, captain Rishabh Pant’s run-a-ball 24 and Shimron Hetmyer’s 28 runs off 16 deliveries.
Rajasthan could only reach 121-6 in reply after collapsing to 6-2 in the second over and 48-4 in the 11th. Rajasthan captain Sanju Samson restored stability to the innings with a 53-ball 70 not out.
“I thought the total was chasable but we lost too many wickets and weren’t able to get any momentum,” Samson said.
Anrich Nortje returned figures of 2-18 from four overs.
Delhi has 16 points from 10 games, two points more than second-placed Chennai Super Kings which has played a game less. Rajasthan has eight points from nine games.
In the second game on Saturday, Punjab Kings beat last-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad by five runs at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Punjab moved to fifth place in the eight-team IPL after being put into bat and scoring 125-7, before containing Hyderabad to 120-7 in 20 overs.
Jason Holder was the biggest threat to Punjab, taking 3-19 with the ball and scoring 47 not out off 29 deliveries with the bat, including five sixes. But it wasn’t enough.
Hyderabad is out of playoff contention following its eighth defeat in nine games.