Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch
Incidents broke out during the pre-match protocol Saint-Etienne/Angers of the 11th day of Ligue 1, caused by the ultras groups of the club stéphanois, and the kickoff of the game scheduled for 21:00 has been delayed. (AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2021

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch
  • The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm kick off
  • Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.

SAINT-ETIENNE, France: The kick off in the Ligue 1 match between Saint Etienne and visiting Angers was delayed for an hour by protests from home fans angry at their team’s dire form.
The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm (1900 GMT) kick off.
Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.
Fans unfurled banners attacking coach Claude Puel, club leadership and the players.
“We’ve had enough talk, you’re making us crack” said one visible through the smoke.
“Puel resign,” “management resign” and “we want a team worthy of its fans” chanted the fans.
The players left the field and kick off was put back as municipal workers repaired the nets at the city-owned Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
Saint-Etienne are last in Ligue 1, winless after 11 matches.
On Thursday, fans hung a banner on the gates of the training center which said: “Puel, you have 24 hours to resign.”
The latest incidents come just two days after the league disciplinary committee imposed a two-match suspended closure of the stadium’s south stand after incidents during the derby against Lyon on October 3.
A season of angry fans in France opened with a match between Nice and Marseille abandoned on August 22.
That was followed by a string of incidents in September.
The northern derby between Lens and Lille was overshadowed by a pitch invasion that delayed the start of the second half.
The next weekend, supporters invaded the pitch at the game between Angers and Marseille, while stones were thrown at a bus taking Bordeaux fans to their match in Montpellier, with 16 suffering minor injuries.
Nice were deducted a point. Lens were ordered to play home matches behind closed doors.


Anthony Martial close to sealing move away from Man United

Anthony Martial close to sealing move away from Man United
Updated 25 January 2022

Anthony Martial close to sealing move away from Man United

Anthony Martial close to sealing move away from Man United
  • Martial is set to be loaned to Spanish team Sevilla until the end of the season

MANCHESTER: Anthony Martial is close to securing a move away from Manchester United.
The France forward is set to be loaned to Spanish team Sevilla until the end of the season. There will be no fee involved or option to buy.
United manager Ralf Rangnick said last month that the 26-year-old Martial wanted to leave after falling down the list of forward at the club, behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood.
Martial became the world’s most expensive teenage player when United signed him from Monaco in September 2015 for 36 million pounds (then $55.1 million) that could potentially rise to 58 million pounds ($78 million).


Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Updated 25 January 2022

Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
  • Five returning champions will take part in the tournament next month

DUBAI: Nine of the world’s top 10 — and 17 of the top 20 — women players will compete for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy next month, with no less than five Dubai winners seeking to lift the trophy once again.

Following a week of women’s action, the tournament will then celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ATP Tour event, featuring many more star names.

“We are immensely proud to have hosted so many of the very best players in the world at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and every year the tournament has witnessed fantastic entertainment and great drama,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Competition has always been fierce and this year will be no different with the world’s best women’s players returning to Dubai once again. We are also looking forward to an equally exciting 30th anniversary year of the men’s tournament in which competition is certain to be as strong as ever.”

In the women’s tournament, reigning champion Garbine Muguruza, two-time winners Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina, 2013 champion Petra Kvitova and 2019 winner Belinda Bencic will all be hoping to repeat their success, but they face a formidable challenge against one of the strongest fields assembled outside of the four Grand Slams.

Among the top contenders bidding for their first Dubai title will be 2021 Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka, who after winning in Doha in 2020 and Abu Dhabi in 2021 will be hoping to claim a Middle East treble. Another top challenger will be Barbora Krejcikova, who won the WTA Most Improved Player of The Year award after her run to the 2021 Dubai final inspired her to win her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open and further titles in Strasbourg and Prague, before she continued her success in 2022 with a recent appearance in the Sydney final.

Former Dubai runner-up Karolina Pliskova went all the way to the Wimbledon, Rome and Montreal finals in 2021, and she will clearly be someone to watch. Eyes will also be on Paula Badosa, who will be making her Dubai debut after winning Indian Wells and Belgrade and reaching the semi-finals of the WTA Finals, and she already has a 2022 title to her name after she won in Sydney.

Further star names include Iga Swiatek, who by winning the 2020 French Open became the youngest singles champion at the tournament since Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest women’s singles champion there since Monica Seles in 1992. Maria Sakkari has emerged as one of the world’s best by reaching the semi-finals of the French and US Opens and at the WTA Finals in 2021, and everyone will be wary of 2021 WTA Finals runner-up Anett Kontaveit, who last season celebrated victories over Dubai winners Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic.

Many local fans will cheer on Ons Jabeur, the highest-ranked Arab player in WTA and ATP Tour history. In 2021, she enjoyed victories over Dubai champions Garbine Muguruza and Venus Williams at Wimbledon and Elina Svitolina in Chicago. And many eyes will also be on rising star Cori Gauff, who last season not only reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and the semi-finals in Rome, but won the Emilia-Romagna Open in Palma, where she became the youngest player to win both the singles and doubles titles at an event since 2004 when Maria Sharapova won both titles in Birmingham.

“The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has once again attracted an incredible field of women players which is second to none,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Despite so many of the game’s very top names competing, success is never guaranteed and over the years many hopeful contenders have sprung a surprise and produced some stunning and unexpected upsets. With this year’s entries stronger than ever, we look forward to not only finding who will emerge as our winner from such a star-studded WTA field, but also seeing who will become our 30th year ATP champion.”


Golfer Paul Casey hits heights in UAE with victory in Rooftop Charity Challenge

Golfer Paul Casey hits heights in UAE with victory in Rooftop Charity Challenge
Updated 25 January 2022

Golfer Paul Casey hits heights in UAE with victory in Rooftop Charity Challenge

Golfer Paul Casey hits heights in UAE with victory in Rooftop Charity Challenge
  • Defending Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic champion lays down pre-tournament marker in front of 7 title rivals at JA Lake View Hotel by sealing AED15,000 donation to Al-Jalila Foundation

DUBAI: Reigning Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic champion Paul Casey warmed up for his title defense in style on Monday with a victory in the JA Lake View Hotel’s Rooftop Charity Challenge, ahead of this week’s Rolex Series event at Emirates Golf Club.

After edging out Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in the final of the friendly match-play competition at JA The Resort Dubai, Casey also delighted the watching crowd by raising 15,000 Emirati dirhams ($4,084) for the Al-Jalila Foundation charity.

With eight of this week’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic field playing from a purpose-built tee box at the hotel’s rooftop BIBE venue, the players scored points for landing chips closest to a pin 97 yards away and six stories down.

In a field containing three Major winners, Casey looked in great touch throughout the knockout format, recording the highest score of each round to rack up convincing victories over Scotland’s Grant Forrest and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello on his way to the final, where he saw off 2016 Open champion Stenson.

On the other side of the draw, Stenson beat US amateur Sam Bennett and defending rooftop challenge champion Adri Arnaus en route to the final, with former Masters champions Danny Willett and Charl Schwartzel both crashing out in the first round to Arnaus and Cabrera-Bello.

Stuart McMurdo, director of golf at JA Resorts and Hotels, said: “A huge congratulations to Paul on winning the JA Lake View Rooftop Charity Challenge and thanks to all the pros for participating. We hope to welcome them back to JA The Resort Dubai soon and wish them the best of luck in the upcoming Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic.”

After his final victory, Casey had one further challenge, a head-to-head, one-shot shootout against JA Resorts and Hotels teaching professional Amy Boulden. Casey planted his chip two feet from the pin to secure the charity donation for Al-Jalila Foundation.


Rafael Nadal moves into Australian Open semifinals

Rafael Nadal moves into Australian Open semifinals
Updated 25 January 2022

Rafael Nadal moves into Australian Open semifinals

Rafael Nadal moves into Australian Open semifinals
  • Nadal is tied for most major singles titles by a male player with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal has stayed on track for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title with a topsy-turvy 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 win over Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.
Nadal had several medical timeouts in the 4-hour match, appearing related to stomach issues.
Nadal is tied for most major singles titles by a male player with Roger Federer, who is not playing here due to continuing recovery from right knee surgery, and Novak Djokovic, who was deported before the tournament began over visa issues concerning his decision not to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Nadal will play the winner of Tuesday’s later quarterfinal between Gael Monfils and Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini. The men’s semifinals are set for Friday, so both winners on Tuesday will have an extra day to recover and prepare for their final-four showdown.
The men’s final is Sunday night.


Abderrazak Hamdallah’s move to Al-Ittihad adds spice to SPL title race with former club Al-Nassr

Abderrazak Hamdallah’s move to Al-Ittihad adds spice to SPL title race with former club Al-Nassr
Updated 25 January 2022

Abderrazak Hamdallah’s move to Al-Ittihad adds spice to SPL title race with former club Al-Nassr

Abderrazak Hamdallah’s move to Al-Ittihad adds spice to SPL title race with former club Al-Nassr
  • Moroccan forward recently joined league leaders in Jeddah after being released from his contract by Riyadh club

The Saudi Pro League has seen so many twists and turns already this season that it would be a brave person who predicts anything with confidence.

Al-Shabab turned a poor start into a championship challenge, usual relegation-battlers Damac led the standings for a while, and reigning champions Al-Hilal have hovered on the fringes of the title race without truly getting involved.

One thing that is certain however, is that the title battle between Al-Ittihad in first and Al-Nassr in second is going to be that bit spicier thanks to Abderrazak Hamdallah.

The two-time Saudi Pro League golden boot winner started the season in Riyadh, but after being released from his contract in November, made his debut — a goal-scoring one, naturally — for Al-Ittihad on Jan.14.

Hamdallah, who spent three-and-a-half years with Al-Nassr, can be a controversial figure. He had clearly not been happy for a while in the capital, and after starting his final game for the club in October, his departure became inevitable.

Last season Al-Nassr became exasperated by his behavior, and there were reports of the player feigning injury to miss games, going on unauthorized trips to Morocco and criticizing coaches. Whatever happened, there is little doubt that if Hamdallah goes on to play a part in the title race then fans back in Riyadh may find it hard to stomach. That is because he scored lots and lots of goals — 115 in 110 games — and no supporter can fail to love a striker who finds the target so regularly.

Al-Nassr initially protested against their former star going to Jeddah, but in the end could do little to stop the move and a begrudging acceptance was the only course to take.

The situation has been made easier thanks to the Yellows’ recent form, as wins remove worries, stress and all kinds of bad feelings. Few teams in Asia would be able to lose such a guarantor of goals and barely notice, but the nine-time champions, who started the season slowly, have won their past six games to move into second behind their Jeddah rivals.

The Riyadh faithful have new heroes now. The arrival of Anderson Talisca has been a huge plus for the team and hugely entertaining for the league. The Brazilian could not get inside China to play for Guangzhou FC due to the country’s travel restrictions which led to his departure, but he has had few problems opening up defenses in Saudi Arabia since making his debut last August.

It is not only his blond hair and ungainly running style that have caused the former Benfica star to stand out. Some of his goals have been spectacular, too. Last week, he was called the best player in the league by Pity Martinez who may be a teammate, but this season there have not been many better (though Talisca declared that such a title actually belongs to Al-Hilal maestro Salem Al-Dawsari) .

Martinez, almost the forgotten man of Saudi Arabia and South American football, is also playing a part. The Argentine arrived in 2020 amid a lot of fanfare, international headlines and with a transfer fee reported to be around SR67 million ($18 million).

The playmaker was expected to lead the team to Asian glory and never really got going before a serious injury kept him out of action for almost a year. Now returning to fitness, the 28-year-old is like a new signing and has been showing glimpses of the talent that had him named as the 2018 South American player of the year. The former River Plate star looks more settled in Saudi Arabia and also has a fellow Argentine as coach. Miguel Angel Rosso may have been seen as an underwhelming choice to take over early in December, but the former Boca Juniors boss has looked very comfortable.

The same is true of Al-Ittihad. The leaders have followed the perceived wisdom and strengthened when at their best, at the top of the league and winning games. Now Hamdallah has come in as the main striker. He has yet to really gel with his teammates, but as soon as talented Brazilians such as Bruno Henrique, Romarinho and the impressive Igor Coronado (when he returns from injury) start to create the chances, then the Moroccan will surely start banging them in. That is what he does.

Not too many, though, the neutrals will hope. With Al-Ittihad six points clear, they will want a title race and will be cheering on Al-Nassr as a team in great form and looking like the only obstacle between the Tigers and a first win title since 2009.

However, Al-Nassr, who will welcome in-form striker Vincent Aboubaker back from the African Nations Cup where he has been on hot scoring streak for hosts Cameroon, want more than to challenge — they want the big prize.

And if they can stop their former hotshot from lifting the trophy then it will make victory all the sweeter. Hamdallah could make the title race very interesting, indeed.