Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah head for world rally title showdown in Abu Dhabi

Yazeed Al-Rajhi won on his last visit to the UAE. (Supplied/Total Communications)
Yazeed Al-Rajhi won on his last visit to the UAE. (Supplied/Total Communications)
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Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah head for world rally title showdown in Abu Dhabi

Yazeed Al-Rajhi won on his last visit to the UAE. (Supplied/Total Communications)
  • Al-Attiyah leads the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies championship standings from Al-Rajhi, with Argentinian Lucio Alvarez and Russian Denis Krotov also in the hunt

ABU DHABI: The battle for the drivers’ title in the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies reaches a critical point in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with the top four contenders heading for a showdown in the penultimate round of the series.

Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, on 61 points, leads the championship standings from Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi (44 points), with Argentinian Lucio Alvarez (42 points) and Russian Denis Krotov (37.5 points) also in the hunt and contesting the 30th anniversary event in the UAE from Nov. 6-11.

Partnered by Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, Al-Attiyah knows that a third Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge career victory following his win in last month’s Rally of Morocco could be enough to clinch the crown.

Al-Rajhi and Irish co-driver Michael Orr, in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, have other ideas, and will take confidence from the fact that their last visit to the UAE in February produced victory in the Dubai International Baja.

A World Cup first round win in Kazakhstan, meanwhile, underlined the credentials of Alvarez and Spanish navigator Armand Monleón in another Toyota Hilux, and a big performance among the Al-Dhafra dunes could boost their title hopes, with the final event to follow in Saudi next month.

Driving a MINI John Cooper Works Rally, Krotov certainly cannot be discounted, particularly as he is co-driven by compatriot Konstantin Zhiltsov, who has twice guided Vladimir Vasilyev to wins in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

As the cars, buggies, bikes and quads sweep across the Al-Dhafra dunes, Abu Dhabi Aviation helicopters will provide potentially life-saving aerial search and rescue support for the medical crews on permanent standby to be taken to the aid of competitors in trouble.

Nader Ahmed Al-Hammadi, chairman of Abu Dhabi Aviation, said: “Abu Dhabi Aviation seeks to secure elements of strength and safety for the success of this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge by providing air support for the global event (with) three advanced helicopters (Bell 412 and 212) used for logistical support and air ambulance purposes, in addition to search and rescue operations.

“This makes the participation of the Abu Dhabi Aviation’s aircraft vital in giving contestants and observers a sense of safety,” he added. “Our presence is considered a key element of the rally’s success given the harsh environmental conditions represented by the desert, especially (as) the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the longest desert rally in the Middle East,”

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the EMSO and FIA vice president for sport, said: “We’re indebted to Abu Dhabi Aviation for the vital role they play, year after year, in ensuring the safety of competitors in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. This is a major factor behind the event’s long running success.”

Taking place under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the ruler’s representative in Al-Dhafra region, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is also the final round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

The rally is supported by the ruler’s representative, the UAE Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Yas Island, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Al-Dhafra Region Municipality, Al-Ain Water and Tadweer.


Tottenham stages latest-ever comeback to win an EPL game

Tottenham stages latest-ever comeback to win an EPL game
Updated 20 January 2022

Tottenham stages latest-ever comeback to win an EPL game

Tottenham stages latest-ever comeback to win an EPL game
  • As an extra reward for Tottenham, the victory took the team above fierce rival Arsenal and into fifth place in the league

LEICESTER, Britain: Tottenham staged the latest-ever comeback to win a Premier League game on Wednesday.
Manchester United’s second-half turnaround was quite the surprise, too.
On a dramatic night in England’s top flight, Tottenham was losing to Leicester after 94 minutes and 52 seconds. Within two minutes, Steven Bergwijn had scored two goals to seal a 3-2 win pretty much out of nowhere.
As an extra reward for Tottenham, the victory took the team above fierce rival Arsenal and into fifth place in the league — only one point off the Champions League positions with games in hand.
“My team showed they don’t want to give up and until the end we have to fight,” said Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, whose unbeaten league record at the London club was preserved.
The previous latest comeback came in arguably the Premier League’s most famous game, when Manchester City scored in the 92nd and 94th minutes to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and clinch the title in May 2012.
As for Man United, Ralf Rangnick’s under-pressure team put in a wretched first-half display at Brentford and was lucky to be 0-0 at halftime, only for Anthony Elanga — with his first Premier League goal — Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford to score after the break in a 3-1 win. Ivan Toney pulled a late goal back for Brentford.
United stayed seventh but is one point behind Tottenham having played two games more.


Man United beats Brentford 3-1 after 2nd-half turnaround

Man United beats Brentford 3-1 after 2nd-half turnaround
Updated 20 January 2022

Man United beats Brentford 3-1 after 2nd-half turnaround

Man United beats Brentford 3-1 after 2nd-half turnaround
  • United stayed in seventh place, but is only two points behind fourth-place West Ham in the race for Champions League qualification

LONDON: Manchester United staged a second-half turnaround as goals from Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford earned a 3-1 win at Brentford to boost the team’s top-four ambitions in the Premier League on Wednesday.
It was another less-than-convincing display from United, though, with Cristiano Ronaldo ostensibly far from impressed at being substituted with 20 minutes left.
Elanga, a 19-year-old winger starting only his fourth Premier League match, broke the deadlock in the 55th minute after Brentford had wasted a host of chances to take the lead in the first half.
Greenwood then notched his first Premier League goal since October, tapping in from Bruno Fernandes’ pass, to make it 2-0 in the 62nd and Rashford climbed off the bench to add the third in the 77th for a first league win of 2022.
It was a tough blow for Brentford, which had dominated the first league meeting between these sides since 1946 but only had Ivan Toney’s late consolation to show for it.
United stayed in seventh place, but is only two points behind fourth-place West Ham in the race for Champions League qualification.


Egypt make Cup of Nations last 16 as Cape Verde, Malawi advance

Egypt make Cup of Nations last 16 as Cape Verde, Malawi advance
Updated 20 January 2022

Egypt make Cup of Nations last 16 as Cape Verde, Malawi advance

Egypt make Cup of Nations last 16 as Cape Verde, Malawi advance
  • Egypt defeated neighbors Sudan 1-0 — a result which sent Cape Verde and Malawi through
  • Nigeria finished Group D with a third successive win as they beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0

YAOUNDÉ: Seven-time champions Egypt clinched a place in the Africa Cup of Nations last 16 on Wednesday by defeating neighbors Sudan 1-0, a result which sent Cape Verde and Malawi through as well.
Nigeria finished Group D with a third successive win as they beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0, leaving Egypt to face the winners of Group E in the next round, and a potential clash with Ivory Coast in Douala.
Mohamed Abdelmonem headed home the winner at a corner 10 minutes before half-time in Yaounde to send the Pharaohs through and eliminate Sudan.
Egypt’s victory guaranteed Cape Verde and Malawi will qualify as two of the four best third-placed sides. It is the first time Malawi have reached the knockout rounds of the tournament.
Three-time former winners Nigeria continued their fine start to the competition by sweeping aside Guinea-Bissau courtesy of second-half goals from Umar Sadiq and captain William Troost-Ekong.
The Super Eagles will stay in Garoua to play a third-placed team in the last 16 on Sunday.
Cape Verde will take on Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Bafoussam on January 25, while Morocco await Malawi on the same day in Yaounde.


Tunisia hit by 12 Covid cases at Cup of Nations: federation

Tunisia hit by 12 Covid cases at Cup of Nations: federation
Updated 20 January 2022

Tunisia hit by 12 Covid cases at Cup of Nations: federation

Tunisia hit by 12 Covid cases at Cup of Nations: federation
  • 12 players in the 28-man squad contracted Covid-19, Tunisian football federation said on Facebook
  • Key player Wahbi Khazri is among the players to test positive

TUNIS: Tunisia’s preparations for their final Africa Cup of Nations group match against Gambia were thrown into disarray after 12 players in the 28-man squad contracted Covid-19, the country’s football federation said Wednesday.
Key player Wahbi Khazri is among the players to test positive.
“This evening (Wednesday) the players took part in a training session with 16 players present and the rest absent due to Covid-19 contamination,” the federation said on its Facebook page.
The federation also said: “Tuesday, the tests revealed the contamination of Ali Maaloul, Aymen Dahmen, Ghailene Chaalali, Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Wahbi Khazri, Ali Jemal and Mohamed Amine Ben Hmida who have been isolated from the group.”
Right-back Mohamed Drager has though recovered from the virus and Tunisia are hoping that five other players, positive since the start of the tournament, will test negative before Thursday’s game.
Tunisia, the 2004 winners, need to at least draw their final Group F match to be sure of qualification for the last 16.
The Carthage Eagles bounced back from their controversial opening 1-0 loss to Mali, when the referee blew the final whistle early, by thrashing Mauritania 4-0 in their second game.


Expectations high for Godolphin in week 2 of Dubai World Cup Carnival

Week two and seven more races at the Dubai World Cup Carnival sees horses from 10 countries clash at Meydan Racecourse. (AFP/File Photo)
Week two and seven more races at the Dubai World Cup Carnival sees horses from 10 countries clash at Meydan Racecourse. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 19 January 2022

Expectations high for Godolphin in week 2 of Dubai World Cup Carnival

Week two and seven more races at the Dubai World Cup Carnival sees horses from 10 countries clash at Meydan Racecourse. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Meydan Racecourse’s 7 races will see runners from 10 countries including Greece, France, UK and Sweden

 

DUBAI: Remember how in last week’s column I mentioned how international the Dubai World Cup Carnival is? Well, that certainly proved to be the case on opening night, when we had wins for horses based in Uruguay (Bet Law, you read it here first, by the way) and France, with Pevensey Bay.

Now we are on to week two and seven more races, in which horses from 10 countries are set to clash at Meydan Racecourse. We welcome back the lesser-known racing nation of Greece with one runner, Revamp, for trainer Christos Theodorakis, while trainer Mohamed Saeed brings runners from Bahrain for the first time. There is also a strong contingent from Sweden, the UK and France.

Despite this welcome international flavor, this will be a good week for Godolphin. The excellent card has three Group races, including the Group 2 Al-Fahidi Fort which has gone to the “boys in blue” in each of the last four seasons. In 2021, it went to Land Of Legends, who will defend his title for Saeed Bin Suroor, although Charlie Appleby also holds a strong hand, with Naval Crown and La Barrosa. Naval Crown, a winner here last season, is the pick of stable jockey William Buick and will be hard to beat.

Godolphin might also be able to land the Group 2 Al-Rashidiya, race four, although a certain grey gelding will have something to say about that. The popular Lord Glitters, trained in the UK by David O’Meara, is two from five at Meydan, with both of those wins coming last year in the Group 2 Singspiel Stakes and the Group 1 Jebel Hatta. He won a strong edition of the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy when we last saw him in November, and he will not be far away again. His main rival looks to be Art Du Val, who returns to the Carnival for a fourth time.

The Group 3 Dubawi Stakes, race six, will not go to Godolphin, because they do not have a runner. It might well go to Doug Watson, who has two, with Canvassed resuming off a 10-month break and Al-Tariq coming here off a Jebel Ali win in November. Both are capable of landing this, as is Freedom Fighter, a new recruit to Bhupat Seemar, who is Grade 2-placed in the US.

Perhaps the race most likely to go to the internationals is the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, race three, which has two runners from Uruguay: The unbeaten Kiefer and Quality Boone, a winner here in December. However, they must concede weight to Appleby’s Albahr, a Group 1 winner when last seen in September. If adapting to the dirt, he should give the South Americans most to think about. Steinar, two from two in Sweden, is also an interesting runner for dual Carnival-winning handler Susanne Berneklint.

The most Instagrammed runner on the night will be JJ Jumbo, who lines up in the Dubai Trophy. Trained in Ireland by Darren Bunyan, he is owned by TV presenter Sultan Harib and has become something of a social media star since arriving in Dubai. Watch out for him in the first race – you will not miss his big white face.