Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League

Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League
Chelsea's Mason Mount in action with Watford's Kiko Femenia during their match. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 December 2021

Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League

Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League
  • Chelsea remained a point ahead of Manchester City and two clear of Liverpool on a night when all three teams won

WATFORD: Chelsea stayed top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Watford on Wednesday in a match that was halted for 32 minutes in the first half after a spectator suffered cardiac arrest.
Substitute Hakim Ziyech grabbed the winner for the leaders in the 72nd minute, converting a cross from Mason Mount — the England midfielder who had put Chelsea in front in the 29th.
By then, the teams had been taken off by the referee because of the medical emergency in the stands that happened after about 13 minutes. The incident happened on the side of the field where Chelsea left back Marcos Alonso was stationed and he appeared to alert the referee and the medical staff on the touchline.
The spectator was stabilized and taken away on a stretcher to applause from the crowd.
Emmanuel Dennis equalized for Watford in the 43rd after Ruben Loftus-Cheek — one of a number of fringe players handed a start by Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel because of injuries — was dispossessed in the center circle by Moussa Sissoko, who drove forward and set up his teammate to score.
Chelsea remained a point ahead of Manchester City and two clear of Liverpool on a night when all three teams won.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said his weakened team was “lucky” to come away with all three points
“That’s not us. We were absolutely not ready today for this match," said Tuchel, who was without Reece James, N'Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell, Mateo Kovacic because of injury while Timo Werner and Jorginho started on the bench because they needed a rest.
“I missed maybe to find the right approach to make my team ready. We had the break due to very sad circumstances – hopefully the person is better — but even this break after the first (13) minutes did not change our approach. We did not cope with the pressure, with the first ball, second ball.”
Tuchel said all his team did was “hang in there.”
“I see this totally as an exception from the rule," he said. “I will not insist too long on this match because it’s so unusual for us to play like this.”
Tuchel said he was concerned about an injury sustained by defender Trevoh Chalobah in the second half.
“The doctor was on the pitch 20 times today it felt like,” he said. “It’s a big loss, Trev. I’m a bit worried.”


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 34 sec ago

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.


Arteta vows to defend Arsenal with ‘teeth and nails’ after Covid postponement

Arteta vows to defend Arsenal with ‘teeth and nails’ after Covid postponement
Updated 33 min 3 sec ago

Arteta vows to defend Arsenal with ‘teeth and nails’ after Covid postponement

Arteta vows to defend Arsenal with ‘teeth and nails’ after Covid postponement
  • The Gunners asked for last Sunday's game to be rescheduled
  • "We will defend our club with teeth and nails. We will not let anybody damage our name or try to lie about things," the former Arsenal captain said

LONDON: Mikel Arteta vowed to defend Arsenal’s reputation with “teeth and nails” after criticism of the club’s successful request to postpone the north London derby against Tottenham.
The Gunners asked for last Sunday’s game to be rescheduled, with a significant number of players unavailable due to a mixture of international duty, injuries, suspension and coronavirus cases.
“We didn’t have the players necessary to put a squad out to compete in a Premier League match, that is 100 percent,” Arsenal boss Arteta said on Wednesday.
“This is a no-win situation. When we play the first three games of the season when other games were off, we were killed and called naive. Now we postpone a match for all the right reasons, believe me, and we get these reactions?“
Arsenal lost their opening three Premier League fixtures after Covid-19 outbreak at the club.
Spurs had reacted angrily to the Premier League’s decision to call off the visit of their London rivals.
“It’s the first time in my life — and I’ve had a bit of experience in football — to see postponed games because of injuries,” said Tottenham manager Antonio Conte.
But, speaking ahead of Thursday’s League Cup semifinal second leg against Liverpool, Arteta insisted the criticism was wide of the mark and said Arsenal did not have the numbers to put a squad together.
“We will defend our club with teeth and nails. We will not let anybody damage our name or try to lie about things,” the former Arsenal captain said.
“When a team have come to us and said ‘we cannot play, these are the reasons’ and the game has been postponed, we have never ever publicly questioned any of that.”
The Arsenal v Liverpool match at the Emirates Stadium should have been the first leg of the League Cup semifinal two weeks ago, before a coronavirus outbreak within the Liverpool camp led to its postponement.
Arsenal held Liverpool to a goalless draw in the first leg at Anfield last week despite playing more than an hour with 10 men after the dismissal of Granit Xhaka.
Arteta also told reporters that forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, was back in London to undergo medical tests after Gabon sent him home from the Africa Nations Cup.
“He is in London and now is going through some examinations because we haven’t had any clarity from the Gabon national team over the reasons why he came back,” said the Arsenal boss.
In his own press conference, Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders said he had no complaints over recent Covid postponements both in the Premier League and the League Cup.
“It’s really difficult to judge from outside,” said Lijnders, who himself tested positive earlier this month during an outbreak at Liverpool.
“We saw this with our own situation. I fully respect the submissions because I trust 100 percent the medical departments of each Premier League club. I think this is the most important thing, full trust in these decisions.”


Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices
Updated 19 January 2022

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

DOHA: Qatar World Cup ticket sales were launched at reduced prices on Wednesday with residents and migrant workers able to attend games for just $11 as concerns persist over Covid-19.
Authorities have not yet announced how many fans will be allowed into stadiums for the first World Cup in an Arab country, which runs from November 21 until December 18.
Football’s world governing body FIFA opened a draw which offers individual match tickets for as little as $69 for international fans — about one third less than at Russia 2018 — but a ticket for the final could cost up to $1,607.
Qatari residents, including migrant laborers whose treatment has been a source of controversy for the organizers, will be able to get tickets for as little as $11.
Fans who apply now for the different packages — for individual games or following a team, or for special stadium tickets — will go into a draw after the first deadline on February 8. FIFA said fans who are successful in a random draw will be told by March 8.


Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
Updated 19 January 2022

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
  • Shock exit of 2010 World Cup semi-finalists warning for Egypt ahead of vital clash against Sudan

RIYADH: The result of the 2021 African Cup of Nations so far is Comoros 3, Ghana 2. It has to be one of the greatest results in the history of Arab football.

Back in 2010, Ghana were a Luis Suarez handball and then a penalty away from reaching the semi-final of the World Cup. That ended up as a hugely painful defeat for the Black Stars, but Tuesday night brought another loss that will haunt them for years to come.

It will also serve as a useful warning to Egypt ahead of their crucial Nile Valley derby against Sudan on Wednesday evening.

Going into the final game of Group C, few gave Comoros, a country with a population of less than 1 million, any hope, and understandably so. Ranked 132 in the world with no previous appearances in Africa’s top tournament and no goals in the two games before this, the Coelacanths were facing the four-time champions ranked 80 places higher. In short, they were playing for pride heading for defeat and heading home.

That was not what happened on a warm evening in the northern Cameroon city of Garoua.

It was fitting that Comoros’ first ever goal at this level came from veteran striker El Fardou Ben Nabouhane after four minutes and it was equally fitting that it was a beauty, a shot rifled into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

A red card midway through the first half for Ghana captain Andre Ayew may have been harsh but really gave the minnows hope and then just after the hour, Comoros were in dreamland as Ahmed Mogni made it 2-0.

Then the game really took off with Ghana, throwing caution to the wind, pushing forward to be rewarded by two goals from corners in quick succession. But, with just five minutes remaining, Mogni scored his second and his team’s third. Ghana were out.

It was a breathless finish and the results and the celebrations in the dressing room after the game made headlines around the world. The Africa Cup of Nations has taken time to get going with the first round of games short of goals, drama, and talking points. Not anymore.

There were also doubts expressed about the format of the first stage which sees just eight teams from 24 banished. This often means that the big boys can afford a slip up or two but get through in the end. Not this time.

Ghana may not be the same team that reached the last eight at the 2010 World Cup, but nobody expected a fourth-place finish and instant elimination.

Nobody in the Comoros capital Moroni will care as their heroes gave all a night to remember. There may be more. Comoros are assured of third place. If Equatorial Guinea defeat Sierra Leone and then Guinea-Bissau do not defeat Nigeria in the final games of their respective groups, then Comoros will go on to the second round as one of the four best-performing third-placed teams.

Yet their victory has not only lit up the tournament but serves as a warning to others and Comoros, a team that have never appeared in Africa’s biggest event before, can help the continent’s most successful side. Egypt have lifted the trophy on no less than a record seven occasions and what happened to Ghana could happen to them against Sudan on Wednesday.

Compared to Ghana, the Pharaohs are in a better position with three points from their first two games, a loss to Nigeria and then a narrow win over Guinea-Bissau. They still need a point to be certain of a place in the knockout stage as defeat could spell the end. Such an outcome is not impossible. Sudan may have lost to Nigeria, but the Super Eagles have been perhaps the best team of the tournament so far along with the hosts and they were impressed with the Secretary Birds.

“The Sudanese side was more difficult than the Egyptians, but we expected it,” said Nigerian star Moses Simon.

To add extra tension and unpredictability to the situation is the fact that Sudan would love nothing more than to inflict a painful defeat on their northern neighbors.

Sudan defender Mazin Mohamedein said: “The Egypt match is special for us as Sudanese, as it is the Nile Valley derby. The Sudanese people are all looking forward to this match and we are looking forward to winning it and reaching the next round as this is the least we can do for our people.”

For Egypt, the game may determine whether they just started the tournament slowly and are getting into their stride in time for the knockout rounds or if there are bigger issues at play. Star forward Mohamed Salah scored the winner against Guinea-Bissau and believes it is the former.

The Liverpool player said: “We have to fight in this very difficult tournament. All the teams know how to play football and they have many players in Europe. We must believe in our abilities and our chances, fight as much as we can, and see where we go in the tournament.”

Egypt have to be careful however to ensure that they do not go the same way as Ghana.


Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
Updated 19 January 2022

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
  • Five-part series will lift sport’s profile across the nation, and build support for Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif ahead of the $5m Saudi International next month

RIYADH: A specially commissioned documentary series following two of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling golf stars is aiming to raise the game’s profile among the sport’s growing fan base in the Kingdom.

The Golf Saudi-backed #SeeItAll Series follows amateur golfers Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif as they prepare to go head to head with global stars of the game at next month’s PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

Shot over five episodes, the behind-the-scenes documentary follows the two golfers as they practice with their coaches, spend time on and off the golf course with their families, and put in the physical and mental training needed to ensure they go into February’s $5 million prize-pot tournament ready to compete at the highest level.

The first episode of the documentary is available on the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers’ social media channels.

“Both Saud and Faisal are incredible talents. We are proud to see them performing at an elite level internationally, and here within the Kingdom as representatives of Golf Saudi,” Majed Al-Sorour, CEO and deputy chairman of Golf Saudi, said.

Devised by Golf Saudi, the #SeeItAll Series aims to bring Saudi sports fans closer to both Salhab and Al-Sharif, expanding the golfers’ fan base for next month’s Asian Tour sanctioned event.

“We have watched them develop at an impressive rate over the last five years through our Elite Coaching Academy. The work has paid off, with both men claiming fantastic recent wins, including Saud’s victory in last year’s Jordan Open, and Faisal’s recent triumphs in both the Saudi Open and Pan Arab Championship in Egypt,” Al-Sorour said.

“These successes are testament to the hard work, talent and dedication of the pair, plus their strength of character,” he said.

“Their achievements are inspiring — something we want to bring to as many young Saudis as possible, with golf and sport generally continuing to grow exponentially in the Kingdom.”

Following their respective 2021 triumphs — a year that also saw Saudi Arabia’s national team convincingly clinch the title at the 40th edition of the Arab Golf Championship, beating more than 10 countries by a comfortable nine-shot margin — both Salhab and Al-Sharif head to Royal Greens for what will be their third appearance at the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

The pair will play alongside the Kingdom’s sole professional golfer, Othman Almulla.

Al-Sorour added: “With the #SeeItAll Series, we hope to inspire more Saudis to embrace and follow Faisal and Saud’s journey with golf.”

The two players will take their biggest step yet at next month’s tournament.

“They will test their talents against the very best in the world — the likes of Major-winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry,” Al-Sorour said.

“We hope by showing how committed Saud and Faisal are to the game of golf, it will inspire Saudis of all ages.”

Speaking earlier this year, 25-year-old Salhab said that rubbing shoulders with the world’s best golfers during the $5 million tournament is not something that he takes for granted.

“It means a lot to take part in the Saudi International once again, especially considering I received the invite after winning the Saudi Open,” he said.

“I will never forget the reaction when we first saw the names announced for the tournament this year. Some of the national team players and I started jumping up and down, we were so excited. It is incredible to think how far Saudi Arabia has come in world of golf and to now see these players compete in our country.”

He added: “I encourage all Saudis, whatever their level of interest in golf, to come out and support the players and the events that everyone in Golf Saudi works tirelessly to organize. The quality of the tournament is incredible. Seeing the world’s elite golfers compete in the Kingdom is something that every Saudi should cherish.”