‘The club has to be at the top,’ Al-Hilal legend Nawaf Al-Temyat tells team ahead of AFC Champions League final

‘The club has to be at the top,’ Al-Hilal legend Nawaf Al-Temyat tells team ahead of AFC Champions League final
Al-Hilal are no stranger to playing under pressure and winning. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 23 November 2021

‘The club has to be at the top,’ Al-Hilal legend Nawaf Al-Temyat tells team ahead of AFC Champions League final

‘The club has to be at the top,’ Al-Hilal legend Nawaf Al-Temyat tells team ahead of AFC Champions League final
  • Leonard Jardim’s team take on South Korea’s Pohang Steelers in Riyadh with the winners becoming record-holders of four titles

“Al-Hilal is not just a club, Al-Hilal is a culture.”

That’s the view of one of the club’s greatest players, Nawaf Al-Temyat, who played almost 500 games for the team across his glittering 16-year career.

Having won all there was on offer in Al-Hilal’s famous blue kit, including five league titles, three Crown Prince Cups, two Asian Cup Winners’ Cups, along with one each of the AFC Champions League (then known as the Asian Club Championship) and Asian Super Cup, Al-Temyat knows a thing or two about what it means to play for Al-Hilal and play under pressure.

As Leonardo Jardim’s team prepare for another AFC Champions League final on Tuesday night, their fourth in the past eight years, Al-Temyat offered some timely advice to the modern generation of players about what it means to play for Al-Hilal.

“The club has to be at the top, always,” the 45-year-old, who retired in 2008, told Arab News, “to meet our fans’ hopes, to win the most trophies.

“Any player who can’t play under pressure won’t be a superstar,” he added. “Playing under pressure is a key factor to show the real personality of the player. This is what the young players must learn.”

While it may be 13 years since he has had the honor of donning the club’s iconic blue strip, once Al-Hilal gets into your soul – he said - it can never be removed, and his passion for the club is just as strong today as it was during his playing career.

With the Crescent on the brink of becoming Asia’s most successful club, with the winner of this week’s clash between Al-Hilal and South Korea’s Pohang Steelers becoming the first to win four Asian club championships, Al-Temyat said he is proud of the current generation for restoring the pride to the club.

“I believe that the glory from the past will continue through the generations,” he said.

“This is why I am proud of this generation, because they have put the club in the place it deserves – as the club of the century in Asia.”

Al-Temyat is one of Saudi Arabia’s and Al-Hilal’s most decorated footballers, with an honor roll to match the very best.

A classy midfielder, Al-Temyat debuted for Al-Hilal in 1993 at just 17-years-old, and played for the Green Falcons at the 1998, 2002, and 2006 FIFA World Cups, an achievement he says he cannot put into words.

Crowned the AFC Player of the Year in 2000, a year of immense personal success, guiding Al-Hilal to the Asian Club Championship and Saudi Arabia to the final of the AFC Asian Cup, he rates golden goal against regional rivals Kuwait in the quarter final as the best goal he scored in his career – and he scored a few.

“The most beautiful goal,” Al-Temyat said of his effort, “because it was a Golden Goal and also I scored two goals in the same match. The moment was crazy and captivating for the national team.”

While Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be successful in winning the title, losing to Japan in the final in Lebanon, Al-Temyat came out on the right side of the ledger earlier that year when Al-Hilal defeated the J.League’s juggernaut team of that era, Jubilo Iwata, to win the Asian Club Championship.

As was the case this year, the semi-finals and finals were held in a centralized hub in Riyadh, with that home ground advantage paying off for Al-Hilal when they defeated South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings 1-0 in a tight and tense semi-final.

Jubilo Iwata presented an even greater challenge in the final.

Having opened the scoring in just the third minute courtesy of Brazilian striker Ricardo, a veteran of Gulf football, Al-Hilal were stunned by two goals in two minutes midway through the first half, that saw Jubilo Iwata take a 2-1 lead.

As the seconds ticked down towards full time, Iwata looked like they would spoil the party for the 40,000-strong crowd, but with just one minute remaining Ricardo popped up again to level the scores and send the match into extra time.

In extra time it was Ricardo again that proved to be the ultimate hero for Al-Hilal, netting his hattrick in the 102nd minute with a Golden Goal that sent the crowd, and the Al-Hilal players into a frenzy.

“The most beautiful memories (I have) are from 2000,” Al-Temyat explained.

“We won six trophies with an exceptional generation of players. Winning against Jubilo in the final made me win the best player in Asia as the first Hilal player (to do so). This personally made me so proud.

“These memories mesmerized because we wrote history.”

And now a new generation of Al-Hilal players get their chance to create their own history and add to the rich history and culture of one of Asia’s most storied football clubs.


Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row

Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row
Updated 8 sec ago

Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row

Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row
  • Thiem's quick departure was not the only noteworthy development on a cloudy, occasionally drizzly Day 1 at the year’s second major tennis tournament, which welcomed back pre-pandemic sights and sounds of full attendance and no masks in the stands

PARIS: It all used to come so easily for Dominic Thiem on a tennis court — his powerful forehand, his elegant backhand, his hit-which-shot-when calculations, all fine-tuned to the point of a title at the US Open and three other Grand Slam final appearances, including two at Roland Garros.

Nowadays, even though the pain from last year’s torn tendon in his right wrist is no longer there, the strokes and, most disconcertingly, the wherewithal, are not what they once were, to the extent that his first-round exit at the French Open on Sunday was his 10th consecutive loss.

The situation has become dire enough that Thiem, a 28-year-old Austrian once ranked No. 3 but now No. 194, acknowledged after being beaten 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 by Hugo Dellien that perhaps it’s time for him to head to the lower-level Challenger Tour to get a win and gain some confidence.

After lamenting his forehand, his backhand and a too-low first-serve percentage, Thiem got to the bigger issue: “Sometimes, I do really stupid decisions during the rally, drop shots or down-the-line (groundstrokes) at the wrong moment. (In) match match situations, I’m not playing well. ... Then, for example, there was one game today where I did four or five forehand return mistakes in a row, where I’m thinking, ‘What the heck is happening?’”

His quick departure was not the only noteworthy development on a cloudy, occasionally drizzly Day 1 at the year’s second major tennis tournament, which welcomed back pre-pandemic sights and sounds of full attendance and no masks in the stands.

Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old from Spain who is seeded No. 6 and a popular pick to win his first Grand Slam trophy, advanced just as cleanly and quickly as expected against “lucky loser” Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 in the day’s last match at Court Philippe Chatrier. Another teen, 18-year-old American Coco Gauff, also moved on, beating Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino 7-5, 6-0.

Given Thiem’s troubles — sure, he was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in Paris in 2018 and 2019, and to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in 2020, but his last victory came in May 2021 — there were other results that probably were more surprising.

Chiefly in that category would be No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur’s 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 loss to 56th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland.

Jabeur, a Tunisian who is the first Arab woman to win a WTA title and first to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, acknowledged: “I was expecting myself to go far in this tournament.”

As were others. That’s because Jabeur began the day with a tour-leading 17 wins on clay this season, including taking the title at the Madrid Open and reaching the final of the Italian Open.

Another top-10 women’s seed — and the 2016 champion at the place — was sent home when Garbiñe Muguruza was defeated 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 by 46th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. Muguruza beat Serena Williams in the final at Roland Garros six years ago and Venus Williams in the final at Wimbledon in 2017, but she now has lost her opening match in Paris two straight years.

Avoiding that sort of result was the men’s No. 9 seed, Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took care of two missing items on his resume in one afternoon: He picked up a French Open victory for the first time in three tries and he won a match after dropping the opening two sets.

The 20-year-old Canadian came back to eliminate Juan Pablo Varillas, a qualifier from Peru making his Grand Slam debut, by a score of 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.

Other winners included 2017 US Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens, No. 23 Jil Teichmann and No. 26 Sorana Cirstea among the women; No. 3 Alexander Zverev, No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 23 John Isner and No. 26 Botic Van de Zandschulp among the men.

Dellien, a Bolivian ranked 87th, entered his contest against Thiem with a 2-7 career record in Grand Slam matches. But from the get-go, he was able to hold his own in lengthy baseline exchanges.

On the very first point, which lasted 24 strokes, Thiem landed a backhand passing shot in the net and shook his head. On the next, he tried a drop shot that floated wide. Not really close at all. Again, a head shake. On the sixth point, a forehand return sailed well long. That initial set ended with Thiem putting a forehand into the net, followed by a backhand into the net.

“Today, he wasn’t at his top level of the past, but I still needed to beat him,” Dellien said. “It’s an important step in my career.”


Barcelona finish with defeat by Villarreal, Granada relegated after goalless draw

Barcelona finish with defeat by Villarreal, Granada relegated after goalless draw
Updated 20 min 31 sec ago

Barcelona finish with defeat by Villarreal, Granada relegated after goalless draw

Barcelona finish with defeat by Villarreal, Granada relegated after goalless draw
  • Defeat by Villarreal means Barcelona lost four of their last nine games in all competitions while Real Madrid won La Liga at a canter

MADRID: Barcelona finished 13 points behind La Liga champions Real Madrid after ending their turbulent season with a whimper on Sunday by losing 2-0 at home to Villarreal.

Atletico Madrid secured third place by winning 2-1 away at Real Sociedad, retaining their one-point lead over Sevilla, who won 1-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao.

Athletic’s defeat, combined with Villarreal’s excellent victory at Camp Nou, means Villarreal beat Athletic into seventh and qualify for the Europa Conference League.

Villarreal’s season was lit up by their sensational run to the semifinals of the Champions League but Unai Emery’s team have suffered from inconsistency against the lower sides in La Liga and will be demoted to Europe’s third-tier competition next term.

Athletic finish eighth while Real Sociedad held onto sixth and Europa League qualification, despite their loss at home to Atletico Madrid.

At the other end of the table, Granada joined Alaves and Levante in being relegated.

Granada were held to a goalless draw by Espanyol, allowing Cadiz, who won 1-0 away at Alaves, to survive. Mallorca also stayed up by beating Osasuna 2-0.

Barca already had second place and a spot in the top four wrapped up but Xavi Hernandez will be concerned heading into the summer about how his team has faded.

“We feel a bit sad about today’s result,” Dani Alves told Barca TV. “We have to reflect, change our mentality next season and put more effort on the pitch because we are representing this great club and we cannot reach the end of the season again without competing for anything.”

Defeat by Villarreal means Barcelona lost four of their last nine games in all competitions while Real Madrid won La Liga at a canter.

After being appointed in November, with the team lying ninth, Xavi revived the team and achieved the most important objective of qualifying for the Champions League.

But going out to Frankfurt in the Europa League semifinals and Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey was disappointing while the drop-off during the run-in suggests there is still a lot of work to do.

Villarreal’s two goals came either side of half-time as Alfonso Pedraza scored in the 41st minute after latching onto a Dani Parejo through-ball before Moi Gomez made it two in the 55th.

Adama Traore was at fault, his attempted clearance across his own box falling straight to Gomez, who fired in, with Traore substituted immediately after.

Atletico’s victory over Real Sociedad came after Rodrigo de Paul and Angel Correa scored goals in the second half before Jon Guridi grabbed a consolation for the hosts late on.

Rafa Mir’s smart finish inside the post in the 68th minute proved enough for Sevilla to overcome Athletic Bilbao at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Cadiz began the day a point behind both Granada and Mallorca as the three clubs scrapped to avoid the final relegation spot, with Alaves and Levante already down.

Anthony Lozano proved the hero, his finish securing victory away at Alaves for Cadiz, while Granada were held to a stalemate at home to Espanyol.

Jorge Molina had the best chance to win it for Granada but sent his penalty agonizingly wide of the post in the 72nd minute, before Cadiz took the lead at Mendizorrotza in the 76th.

By then, Mallorca were already one up away at Osasuna after Angel Rodriguez had put them in front. Clement Grenier added another as Mallorca won 2-0 away at El Sadar to avoid the drop.


Salah and Son share Premier League Golden Boot

Salah and Son share Premier League Golden Boot
Updated 51 min 37 sec ago

Salah and Son share Premier League Golden Boot

Salah and Son share Premier League Golden Boot
  • South Korea’s Son netted twice in Tottenham’s 5-0 win at Norwich to move to 23 goals — one clear of Salah, but the Egypt forward struck late in Liverpool’s 3-1 win at home to Wolves

LONDON: Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min shared the Premier League Golden Boot on Sunday after both forward scored on the final day of the season.
South Korea’s Son netted twice in Tottenham’s 5-0 win at Norwich to move to 23 goals — one clear of Salah, but the Egypt forward struck late in Liverpool’s 3-1 win at home to Wolves.
Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo finished third with 18 goals in his first season back in the Premier League.
Salah’s goal was ultimately in vain as Jurgen Klopp’s team finished one point behind Manchester City, who scored three goals in five minutes to beat Aston Villa 3-2.
Tottenham’s win secured a fourth-place finish, meaning they qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Son, 29, said it was “incredible” to have the award.
“I can’t believe it,” he told the BBC. “I got really emotional. I dreamed of it as a child. Literally it’s my in hands. I can’t believe it.
“Until my goal I was really frustrated that I missed big chances. I told the players I missed the easiest chances and scored one of the toughest ones.
“I didn’t give up. I wanted to score today. The team helped me a lot at half-time. They wanted to help me, you could see it today.”
Spurs manager Antonio Conte was delighted to see club and individual ambitions realized with the rout of the Canaries at Carrow Road.
“This was our target,” he told the BBC.
“First to get in the Champions League but then when there was a chance to help Sonny reach the top scorer, we enjoyed it,” the Italian added.
“I have seen his team-mates try to help him. The award is for Son but it’s for the whole team. They helped him reach this big achievement.”


AC Milan win first Serie A title since 2011

AC Milan win first Serie A title since 2011
Updated 23 May 2022

AC Milan win first Serie A title since 2011

AC Milan win first Serie A title since 2011
  • Fans partied in Milan and poured onto the pitch in Reggio Emilia as the ‘Rossoneri’ returned to the top of the Italian game after years of poor teams and financial problems since their last league crown in 2011

MILAN: AC Milan won their first Serie A title in 11 years on Sunday after beating Sassuolo 3-0 in Reggio Emilia to snatch the crown from local rivals Inter Milan.
Needing just a point to claim the Scudetto Milan swept their hosts aside thanks to an Olivier Giroud brace and another from Franck Kessie in the first half in front of an army of away fans at the Mapei Stadium.
Stefano Pioli’s Milan finished two points ahead of Inter, who beat Sampdoria 3-0 at the San Siro.
Fans partied in Milan and poured onto the pitch in Reggio Emilia as the ‘Rossoneri’ returned to the top of the Italian game after years of poor teams and financial problems since their last league crown in 2011.
Milan were imperious in winning their sixth match on the bounce and securing a title which for long tracts of the season looked like Inter’s to lose.
They were helped by a hat-trick of assists from exciting winger Rafale Leao, who has come of age this season and is reportedly a summer target for Paris Saint-Germain.
Giroud has struck some of the most important goals of Milan’s charge to the title and again showed why he is the man for the big occasion in the 17th minute.
He was in the right place at the right time to sweep Leao’s low pass through Andrea Consigli’s legs and send the massed ranks of Milan fans wild.
Sassuolo immediately wilted in the face of a Milan onslaught and practically handed Giroud the chance to net an almost identical second just after the half-hour mark.
Leao was again the provider, this time robbing the ball from Gian Marco Ferrari before rolling another low pass over for Giroud, who lashed in his 11th of the season and made it party time in the stands.
And it was another poor mistake from a Sassuolo player four minutes later which allowed Milan to relax and enjoy the celebrations kicking off around them.
This time it was Maxime Lopez who was robbed by Rade Krunic, with Leao bursting this time down the right and cutting back for Kessie, who smashed in the third to sign off in perfect fashion ahead of his move to Barcelona as a free agent in the close season.
The second half was dedicated to the Milan celebrations and despite some spirited Sassuolo play it was only a matter of time before the away side sealed the title for a 19th time.
Inter fans packed the San Siro in the hope that their team would pounce on a Milan slip-up but it was they who had more problems breaking the deadlock against a Samp team with nothing to play for.
A bubbling atmosphere slowly dissipated as news of Milan’s goals came in and there was also frustration at Inter’s inability to make the most of their clear dominance.
As so often this season it was Ivan Perisic who took matters into his own hands, calmly finishing into the bottom corner with his left foot after being nicely set up by a rampaging Nicolo Barella.
From there Samp gave up the ghost and two goals in as many minutes from Joaquin Correa just before the hour ensured Inter would finish with a win.
Home fans applauded their team off the pitch despite what must have been a painful way to lose their Serie A crown, with the hardcore in the Curva Nord chanting coach Simone Inzaghi’s name in a show of faith which is likely to be shared by the club.
After the title was decided on the last day the relegation battle is also going down to the wire with Salernitana and Cagliari fighting to avoid playing in Serie B next season.
Salernitana sit just outside the drop zone, two points ahead of Cagliari, ahead of their respective matches with Udinese and Venezia.


Newcastle ease to final day win, sending Burnley down 

Newcastle ease to final day win, sending Burnley down 
Updated 22 May 2022

Newcastle ease to final day win, sending Burnley down 

Newcastle ease to final day win, sending Burnley down 
  • Callum Wilson double enough to claim three points despite second half rally from the Clarets
  • Magpies finish season outside top half on goal difference, having been bottom at Christmas

NEWCASTLE: With emotions high and Premier League survival, for some, at stake, Newcastle United’s game-changer Callum Wilson showed the coolest head at Turf Moor to consign Burnley to the Championship and continue the Magpies’ meteoric rise.

A double either side of half time took the United striker’s personal tally to eight goals for the season, and Newcastle’s points to 49, not bettered since 2011/12, when Alan Pardew’s side just missed out on Champions League qualification.

And it is up, rather than down, where Eddie Howe can look, as his team finished the campaign in 11th place, a remarkable feat given they were bottom when he was handed the reins by majority owners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

A second half rally by the Clarets threatened a survival bid as Maxwell Cornet netted, but it was not to be for the hosts, and the second tier awaits.

With so much at stake for so many on the final day, albeit bar a few million in prize money for the Magpies, head coach Howe could not be criticized for his pre-match selection at Turf Moor.

Fabian Schar was only able to make the bench following his head knock against Arsenal, after just two days out on the training pitches at Benton. In came club captain Jamaal Lascelles to cover.

Elsewhere, Kieran Trippier was handed a start, his first since February, in place of Emil Krafth, who himself was unfortunate to miss out after a fine run of form.

The atmosphere was electric, but the home side looked nervy — and it showed in their play, as United took absolute control from very early on.

Dan Burn and Lascelles repelled any direct balls from Burnley, their Premier League trademark, while Sean Longstaff showed his dominance in the middle.

United were forced into a first-half rejig as Joelinton went off with what looked like quite a nasty leg injury — and that might well put an end to any immediate Brazil national team call ups for Newcastle’s player of the season.

Nineteen minutes was all it took for Wilson to come to the party, albeit as survival hope wreckers.

Trippier’s expert set-piece delivery had the Burnley backline all at sea and, as Longstaff looked set to nod back into the danger area, Nathan Collins inexplicably stuck out a fist — in an act only a day like this can inspire — to punch away.

After a look at the VAR monitor, the referee pointed to the spot and Wilson, who did everything but score against Arsenal, made no mistake from the spot, sending Nick Pope the wrong way.

That strike popped a balloon at Burnley, one they would struggle to refill.

The loss of Joelinton had seen a slight adjustment from the usual 4-3-3, to a more unusual 4-2-3-1, and while Miguel Almiron dropped into impressive pockets of space, the home side did begin to get a foothold.

However, on the hour, their task, if difficult before, became a whole lot harder as Wilson and United made it two-nil.

A break down the left from the unusually quiet Allan Saint-Maximin, normally red hot against the Clarets, saw him cross for Wilson at the back post.

In total control, it would not be unlike United to leave the door open a touch for the opposition.

And just nine minutes later Cornet cracked home to reduce the deficit, after Martin Dubravka had parried his original effort.

Cue an onslaught, as Lascelles and Matt Targett were forced into goal line clearances.

Injuries and goals at Leeds, however, took this match away from Burnley, and so too it lessened the bite in their own game as United ended up seeing it out with minimal fuss.

With the three points, United ended the season just outside the Premier League top half on goal difference.

No one could have predicted this. A battle to beat the drop looked certain, a destiny already mapped out. But in the end it was not even close.

As one chapter ends, a new one begins, ready to be crafted by Howe and his players, who will no doubt be stronger in depth of quality come August, when the 2022/23 campaign kicks off.