Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress
Saudi Arabia's defender Saud Abdulhamid (L) and Palestine's midfielder Tamer Seyam vie for a header during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 group C football match. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 December 2021

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress
  • A 1-1 draw leaves Green Falcons needing a win in last match against Morocco to have chance of reaching the quarterfinals

Abdullah Al-Hamdan’s late goal earned Saudi Arabia a 1-1 draw with Palestine on Saturday and kept alive their hopes of progressing into the quarterfinals of the Arab Cup. 

A first-half stunner from Mohammed Rashid in Qatar’s Education City looked to have condemned the young Green Falcons to a second successive defeat, three days after losing 1-0 to Jordan, but an equalizer with eight minutes remaining from the Al-Hilal striker earned the men in white a vital point.

The draw leaves Saudi Arabia in third in Group C with one point from two games and above Palestine on goal difference. Jordan have three points, while Morocco, the next opponents for Laurent Bonadei’s men, are already assured of a place in the last eight after winning both games so far 4-0. Only the top two teams progress.

With Saudi Arabia, who made eight changes from the Jordan game, fielding an inexperienced U-23 team, it was always going to be a difficult test and so it proved.

The first half was cagey, though Palestine started a little livelier, with both teams lacking quality in delivering the final ball. The first sight of goal for Saudi Arabia came with a free-kick after 14 minutes. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, the Al-Hilal teenager making his first start for the national team, curled a shot over the Palestine bar.

Palestine came close in the 37th minute. Tamer Seyam, the best player on the pitch in the first half, beat two men and his cross from the byline was heading for Khaled Salam, but Saudi goalkeeper Zaid Al-Bawardi managed to palm the ball away from the forward’s foot.

Then, in added time before the break, Palestine took the lead in some style. Rashid received the ball in the middle of the Saudi Arabia half, took two touches and then let loose an unstoppable shot that flew into the roof of the net to give the Indonesia-based defender his first international goal.

Saudi Arabia began the second half with purpose, moving the ball around quickly. Soon after the restart, Abdullah Radif forced a save from Amr Kaddura, the Palestine goalkeeper’s first real stop of the game. Moments later, Al-Qahtani’s low shot went just wide of the left post.

With 18 minutes remaining, Ayman Yahya’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide. On more than one occasion, there was frustration from the Saudi players waiting in the area at the quality of the final ball.

There was always a danger from Palestine counterattacks, which became more frequent the more Saudi Arabia pushed forward. Seyam, perhaps, should have scored and almost certainly sealed the win with a quarter of an hour remaining, but instead blasted the ball over.

Palestine rued that miss after 82 minutes when Saudi Arabia scored their first goal of the tournament. A long ball out of defense found Haitham Asiri on the right and his low pass was coolly slotted home by Al-Hamdan.

It was no less than this rookie Saudi Arabia team deserved, and they could even have won had Waleed Al-Ahmad not headed wide in injury time.

Next comes Morocco — the form team of the tournament so far — on Wednesday. The Atlas Lions have won both games, against Palestine and Jordan 4-0, and were impressive. 

Morocco are already through to the last eight and may rest a few players, but regardless, for Saudi Arabia, a win is needed and then it depends on what happens during the showdown between Palestine and Jordan.


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 4 sec ago

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 1 min 37 sec ago

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.


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 19 January 2022

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.