Outrageous 5-5 draw between Damac and Al-Fateh shows star quality extends beyond Saudi Pro League’s elite

Outrageous 5-5 draw between Damac and Al-Fateh shows star quality extends beyond Saudi Pro League’s elite
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Updated 27 November 2021

Outrageous 5-5 draw between Damac and Al-Fateh shows star quality extends beyond Saudi Pro League’s elite

Outrageous 5-5 draw between Damac and Al-Fateh shows star quality extends beyond Saudi Pro League’s elite
  • Two days after Al-Hilal’s AFC Champions League triumph, the highest scoring match in SPL history played out between two of its less successful teams

Al-Hilal defeated Pohang Steelers 2-0 on Tuesday to win the AFC Champions League. It was a record fourth title for the Riyadh club and a feather in the cap of Saudi Arabian football, which is going through something of a purple patch at the moment in both club and international football. It was a comfortable win without the drama of some past continental finals.

Only a day later, however, two Saudi teams played to a match that left those who saw it rubbing their eyes in disbelief?

Alex Ferguson was famously exasperated after Manchester United scored twice in the dying moments of the 1999 UEFA Champions League final to come from behind to defeat Barcelona 2-1. He stunned the reporters with his direct quip.

But what would the Scot have said if he’d seen the breathtaking 5-5 draw between Damac and Al-Fateh on Thursday? Not only was it the highest scoring match in the history of the Saudi Professional League, but it arguably must be ranked among one of the best too. What is for certain is that it is the most exciting match of the season so far.

OK, some of the defending may not be studied in the upper echelons of world football anytime soon, even if the backlines were better than you may expect from looking at the scoreline, but it was a game that showed the strength in depth in the top tier of Saudi Arabian football. It also revealed the range of entertainment on offer in the league. Some of the attacking play was thrilling, plenty of the goals were out of the top drawer.

As a spectacle, it was astonishing. Al-Fateh were a team that had lost the previous three games and were sitting firmly in the bottom half of the table and concerned with not getting sucked into a relegation battle. They came up against a team in second but one that was only in their third ever season in the top tier with the first two being battles against relegation.

But first, let’s look at the game, though this may take some time with all the goals. In just the third minute, Carlos Cueva was given the freedom of the Damac area after a fantastic run and pass from right-back Nawaf Boushal and the Peruvian forward stabbed home the opener for Al-Fateh. Just 13 minutes later, the visitors were ahead thanks to two goals from Hillel Soudani. The Algerian cut in from the right, twisted and turned defenders on the edge of the area and then fired a precise left-footed shot into the corner. Soon after, he shot home a rebound with more power and Damac were ahead.

Within moments however, the hosts had equalised thanks to Ali Al-Zaqan. The initial goal had been ruled offside but VAR rightly overturned the decision. On the stroke of half-time, Damac struck again to go in at the break with a 3-2 advantage. It was another impressive strike. The ball fell to Felipe Augusto about 30 meters away from goal and the Brazilian’s low shot was fired into the bottom corner. Both teams continued to have excellent chances but when Mijo Caktas extended Damac’s lead just after the hour, it looked as if that was that. The Croatian skipped past a challenge outside the area and scored with another long-range shot that perhaps the goalkeeper, who was partially unsighted, should have kept out.

Al-Fateh had always looked dangerous however and pulled a goal back after 69 minutes after another Croatian made the scoresheet. Ivan Santini knew little about his strike as the goalkeeper’s save bounced off his chest and in. With 15 minutes remaining it was 4-4. A Damac hand in the box gave Al-Fateh a penalty and Cueva got his second.

Within seconds, amazingly, Al-Fateh were ahead thanks to Firas Al-Buraikan. The Saudi Arabian international could not miss from close range after a perfect cross from Murad Batna and so the hosts had come back from 4-2 down to be 5-4 ahead. This was surely one of the greatest comebacks and games in the league’s history.

But Damac were not finished. With 11 minutes still on the clock it was 5-5 as Emilio Zelaya scored another goal from outside the area.

“It was a very strange game,” said Al-Fateh president Saad Al-Afaliq. “We even could have won it late on had Firas Al-Buraikan had scored late in the game. We have had a few injuries but are now getting up to the right levels of fitness and condition.”

The point initially put Damac on top of the league but just two hours later, Al-Shabab defeated Al-Raed 3-0 to go into pole position. A first half goal from Moteb Al-Harbi was added to in the second half by Ever Banega and Carlos Carvalho. It is quite a turnaround for a club that won just one of their first six games of the season and were rumored to be thinking about firing coach Pericles Chamusca.

Now they are top and the title race is going to be something special. Al-Ittihad can return to the summit on Sunday and then Al-Hilal have several games in hand but are in fourth place. The season is shaping up to be an exciting one, but whatever happens, there won’t be a more exciting game than the 10-goal thriller witnessed on Thursday.


Tsitsipas storms into Australian Open semifinal

Tsitsipas storms into Australian Open semifinal
Updated 26 January 2022

Tsitsipas storms into Australian Open semifinal

Tsitsipas storms into Australian Open semifinal
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas stormed into his third Australian Open semifinal against either Daniil Medvedev or Felix Auger-Aliassime

MELBOURNE: Stefanos Tsitsipas stormed into his third Australian Open semifinal with a blistering straight-sets victory over Jannik Sinner on Wednesday.
The Greek fourth seed played his best tennis yet in the year’s opening major to romp past the 11th-seeded Italian 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in 2hr 6min and into a semifinal against either Daniil Medvedev or Felix Auger-Aliassime.


29th Aramex Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race officially opens

29th Aramex Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race officially opens
Updated 26 January 2022

29th Aramex Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race officially opens

29th Aramex Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race officially opens
  • 20 teams are set to compete for up to five days at the region’s longest-running offshore race, a challenging 360 nautical mile course from Dubai to Muscat

DUBAI: Aramex and Dubai Offshore Sailing Club have announced the opening of the 29th Aramex Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race, which starts on Saturday, Feb. 5.

The Aramex D2M is the longest-running offshore race in the MENA region, covering more than 360 miles of challenging and adventurous sailing around the Musandam Peninsula.

Twenty teams of keelboats and multihulls are set to compete for five successive days, marking their start from Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. From there, the teams will sail across the Arabian Gulf to the deep waters of the Indian Ocean, passing through the famous Straits of Hormuz, with the final leg taking a southeastern route leading to Muscat, the capital city of Oman, before finishing at Marina Bandar Al-Rowdha, Muscat.

“This year’s Aramex Dubai to Muscat Offshore race marks its 29th edition, demonstrating the enduring appeal of competitive offshore racing among the region’s sailing community,” said David Worrall, head of the Aramex D2M race committee.

“With a challenging course over 360 miles and four days of continuous racing, the Aramex D2M offers a significant adventure challenge for all the sailors of all levels, from professionals and hardcore races to amateurs and more low-key cruisers.”

“Being a key event in the Asian Sailing Region race calendar, which stretches from Saudi Arabia to Japan, the Aramex D2M aims to contribute to the UAE’s ambitious vision to develop a sports community capable of achieving global success, in line with the proposed UAE Sports Sector Strategy 2032, and drive recognition of Dubai and the UAE as a world-class sailing destination,” Worrall said.

Organized by Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and the United Arab Emirates Sailing & Rowing Federation in association with the Oman Maritime Sports Committee, the event is recognized by the Asian Sailing Federation and Royal Ocean Sailing Club.

Andy Van der Velde, president at Aramex, said: “We are very pleased to be the title sponsor of one of the most prestigious sailing events in the sporting history of the UAE. At Aramex, we have high regard for discipline, collaboration and a strong drive to achieve excellence — core values that we will witness in action as the world’s top sailors compete in what is set to be one of the most challenging and enjoyable sailing races in the region. We look forward to welcoming sailors, their friends and families, sailing enthusiasts and visitors to this fantastic event.”


‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic

‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic
Updated 26 January 2022

‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic

‘Home’ hopes driving Montgomerie challenge at Dubai Desert Classic
  • Winner in 1996, the Scotsman is relishing being back among the world’s best players at Emirates Golf Club

Twenty-six years after lifting the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic’s famous Dallah Trophy, Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, the tournament’s 1996 champion, is relishing his latest shot at Dubai glory.

Two-and-a-half decades after famously playing a driver off the deck on the 18th fairway — a shot that effectively sealed his maiden Dubai title — Montgomerie is back in the emirate alongside a world-class field comprising multiple Masters, Open and Major winners, numerous Ryder Cup veterans, as well as serial DP World Tour and PGA Tour event winners.

With two of the event’s headline stars, Collin Morikawa, the world number two, and Viktor Hovland, the world number five, not even born when Montgomerie triumphed on the Majlis Course, the eight-time Order of Merit winner is keen to enjoy himself against a youthful Dubai field.

“I really enjoy it in Dubai,” Montgomerie said. “It’s a great honor to have my name above the door at a course not too far away from here, and it’s always nice to come to Emirates Golf Club as a past champion. I have one plaque in the world and it’s here on the 18th fairway, so it’s a very special place for me. I do enjoy coming back here and playing the golf course, it’s stood the test of time and I think I speak for all the players when I say we enjoy coming here.”

As a regular in Dubai since the 1980s, Montgomerie is in an ideal position to evaluate the ever-evolving landscape surrounding Emirates Golf Club.

“The city has sprung up around the course,” Montgomerie said. “They were ahead of the game and realized the potential out here — and I say here because in those days it was quite a way out.”

Following its promotion to a Rolex Series Event this year, and a fresh look and feel around the Majlis Course on the back of title sponsor Slync onboard, Montgomerie is embracing the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic’s “new era.” 

Everything is moving forward in the right way. The prize money is $8 million, who can argue with any of this and in the January sunshine no less — let’s enjoy ourselves,” Montgomerie said.


Saudi Arabia launches ‘Sports Career Day’ to connect job seekers with sports sector

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport launches the ‘Sports Career Day’ initiative in Riyadh. (Ministry of Sport)
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport launches the ‘Sports Career Day’ initiative in Riyadh. (Ministry of Sport)
Updated 26 January 2022

Saudi Arabia launches ‘Sports Career Day’ to connect job seekers with sports sector

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport launches the ‘Sports Career Day’ initiative in Riyadh. (Ministry of Sport)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia launched the “Sports Career Day” initiative on Tuesday to connect qualified job seekers and sports institutions to achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
The three-day initiative, which is being organized by the Leaders Development Institute, was inaugurated by Deputy Sports Minister Badr Al-Qadi, on behalf of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the minister of sport, at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex in Riyadh.
The minister was briefed on the activities of the first day, which included several workshops, sports commentary trials, TV presenting, job fairs, and a number of personal interviews conducted by the participating sports organizations and bodies.
48 governmental, semi-governmental and private sports entities and various institutions are participating in the Sports Career Day, including the Ministry of Sports, the Quality of Life Program, the Leaders Development Institute, Sadu Company, and Sawaed, in addition to the Saudi Football Association, the Saudi Professional League, and the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee. A number of sports clubs are also taking part, most notably Al-Nasr, Damak and Al-Wahda, as well as sports federations and several parties participating virtually through the Saudi Athletes Network.
29 workshops will be held by 15 different entities over the three days, and the topics include sports entrepreneurship, professional fields in the sports sector, social responsibility, data science applications in sports, the Quality of Life and Future of Saudi Sports Program, management consultancy, sports marketing, and other subjects aimed at developing the sports sector.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Sports announced that it will exceptionally raise the capacity of attendance in the Saudi match against Oman to 100 percent, in an effort to support the national team’s important journey in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The match, which is the seventh in the final round of the Asian qualifiers, is set to be held on Thursday at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.
The decision came following approval from the concerned authorities following up on the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry said.
It added that only fans who have been fully vaccinated will be permitted to attend the match, and urged the public to fully adhere to the precautionary measures and staff to take necessary action if violations are detected, in order to preserve health and safety.


Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare

Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare
Updated 26 January 2022

Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare

Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare
  • Gabadinho Mhango gave outsiders Malawi, playing their first ever knockout game at the tournament
  • Hakimi drilled in the winner on 70 minutes to set up a meeting with Egypt or Ivory Coast in the last eight

YAOUNDE: Achraf Hakimi scored a brilliant free-kick to send Morocco through to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations after a 2-1 win over Malawi on Tuesday.
Gabadinho Mhango gave outsiders Malawi, playing their first ever knockout game at the tournament, a shock early lead with a stunning goal from 40 meters at Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium.
But Youssef En-Nesyri headed Morocco level in first-half stoppage time before Hakimi drilled in the winner on 70 minutes to set up a meeting with Egypt or Ivory Coast in the last eight.
That quarter-final was due to take place at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde but will be moved after a fatal crush outside the ground on Monday which killed eight people and injured 38.
As with the earlier match between Senegal and Cape Verde in Bafoussam, a minute’s silence was observed before kick-off and players of both teams wore black armbands.
Morocco, bidding for a second Cup of Nations title and first since 1976, fell behind on seven minutes when Mhango caught Yassine Bounou off his line with a superb long-range strike.
The Atlas Lions responded by creating a series of chances as Imran Louza stung the palms of Charles Thomu, who then did well to keep out Hakimi’s powerful free-kick and the follow-up from Louza.
Mhango dragged wide for Malawi after a terrific long ball from Micium Mhone, but the Flames found themselves under sustained pressure as Morocco captain Romain Saiss volleyed against the bar.
En-Nesyri prodded weakly at Thomu from close range before the Malawi goalkeeper tipped Hakimi’s low drive onto the post and then denied Sofiane Boufal with his legs.
Morocco were finally rewarded for their persistence on the stroke of half-time as En-Nesyri rose to power Selim Amallah’s deep cross past Thomu.
Hakimi appealed vociferously for a penalty in the second half when his cross struck the arm of Malawi defender Dennis Chembezi, but the Paris Saint-Germain star took matters into his own hands to secure victory.
His late equalizer against Gabon had secured top spot in the group stage, and Hakimi delivered again with another magnificent free-kick 20 minutes from time to end Malawi’s impressive run.