RIYADH: Sebastien Loeb recorded an impressive Dakar Rally stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme to keep alive his hopes of a first triumph at the event.
The nine-times World Rally Champion in the BRX Prodrive Hunter won the 402-km seventh stage from Riyadh to Al-Dawadimi by five minutes and 26 secs from Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah to reclaim second place overall.
Loeb, whose car’s spare wheel hatch flew open on the stage, said: “Only half of the rally is done but we tried to push even though we were a little unlucky towards the end of the stage with a problem when the car stopped. We were very slow at the end and could have gone even quicker.”
The result reduced Al-Attiyah’s outright lead to 44 mins 59 secs and, while the gap is still considerable, Loeb and Fabian Lurquin are a reminder that the battle for victory could go all the way to Friday’s finish in Jeddah, which is five stages and 1,567 km away.
The French duo notched up the third BRX win in seven stages, and their second of the rally, on a day when teammates Orlando Terranova and Dani Oliveras in another Prodrive Hunter set the 11th fastest time to rise again to sixth place in the standings.
Completing a rewarding day for BRX, Nani Roma and Alex Haro recorded the ninth best time on the stage as the 44th Dakar Rally resumed following a rest day in Riyadh.
Roma finished the stage to say: “Not a bad day at all, but what was difficult was passing one of the buggies, as then he passed us back and kicked up a load of dust with stones, cutting corners, driving all over the road. So for us the navigation was not easy at all.
“However it’s brilliant that there has been another victory for the team with Sebastien and Fabian to make win number three, so that’s great to see in the eyes of everyone at BRX when we arrived at the bivouac.”
Terranova, who started first after winning the previous stage, said: “I think that it was the hardest day for opening the stage. The piste and the tracks were not visible with stones and a lot of changes of directions so, in all, I think we did a good job but we need to work on improving finding our way again when we make a mistake. That’s a challenge for us.”
Leclerc completes ‘double top’ for Ferrari in Monaco practice
The 24-year-old Monegasque driver clocked a best lap in one minute and 12.656 seconds to outpace the Spaniard by just 0.044 seconds
After topping the times in the opening session, Leclerc was quickly back on the pace in his Ferrari, running on hard tyres
Updated 59 min 17 sec ago
MONTE CARLO, Monaco: Charles Leclerc completed a convincing ‘double top’ at his home Monaco Grand Prix on Friday, finishing second practice fastest ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz.
The 24-year-old Monegasque driver, who was also quickest in the opening session, clocked a best lap in one minute and 12.656 seconds to outpace the Spaniard by just 0.044 seconds, leaving the two Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and world champion Max Verstappen third and fourth, more than three-tenths adrift.
Lando Norris, still battling tonsilitis, was fifth for McLaren ahead of George Russell of Mercedes and Pierre Gasly, an impressive seventh for the Alpha Tauri team on a very warm afternoon in the Mediterranean principality.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso was eighth for Alpine ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and Yuki Tsunoda in the second Alpha Tauri.
This left a disgruntled Lewis Hamilton down in 12th, behind Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, in the second Mercedes, the seven-time champion struggling with continued bouncing as he sought a set-up that would be comfortable and fast.
The session was interrupted once by a red flag when Daniel Ricciardo crashed in the Swimming Pool complex, emerging unscathed from his damaged McLaren.
After topping the times in the opening session, Leclerc was quickly back on the pace in his Ferrari, running on hard tires, as he sought to become the first Monegasque to score points at home since Louis Chiron finished third in 1950 and regain the lead in this year’s drivers’ championship.
After his third consecutive win in Spain last Sunday, Dutchman Verstappen leads on 110 points, six ahead of Leclerc.
In a fast-switching contest between them, the Red Bulls and Ferraris were within two-tenths of a second of each other as Russell and the rest bumped in pursuit, Mercedes still searching for a successful set-up.
In opening practice, Hamilton had complained of continued serious bouncing described by team chief Toto Wolff as making their car ‘undriveable’.
He explained it was not the same ‘porpoising’ as seen earlier this year, but a ride height problem.
“Sometimes, it is a combination of aerodynamics and stiffness, but this is just due to the stiffness,” he said, adding that Hamilton had requested padding for his elbows for the second session.
“We’ll try to make it more enjoyable for them, but we want a fast car,” he said. “If it’s fast, we will make him all the pads he needs.”
Ricciardo delivered another example of the bumpy challenge the drivers faced after 14 minutes when he lost control of his McLaren and smacked into the barriers at the ‘swimming pool’ complex.
He was unhurt but his car suffered severe front damage, ending his participation. A seven-minute delay for the day’s second red flag ensued before Valtteri Bottas, back in action after earlier gearbox problems, led the field back in his Alfa Romeo.
The pause offered all involved a chance to breathe and relax in the heat, with an air temperature of 30 degrees and the track at 53, before returning to an intense ‘qualifying rehearsal’ scrap.
Leclerc continued to look dominant, trimming his lap to 1:12.656, three-tenths clear of an improved Perez before Sainz climbed back to second, two-tenths off the pace.
At this point, with 20 minutes to go, Ferrari were on top of Red Bull’s challenge, while others scrambled and scraped. Russell clipped the barriers at Tabac, Norris did the same at Ste Devote and Hamilton locked up at Mirabeau — three Britons sliding in the heat before switching to longer high fuel-load running.
Leclerc was notable for his absence with 12 minutes remaining, but he returned for the final six to complete a solid day’s work by the ‘scarlet Scuderia’ who finished with a strong one-two.
UEFA chief Ceferin calls on La Liga to stop criticism of PSG
Tebas hit out at Mbappe's decision to snub the Spanish champions
Ceferin said: "There are too many insults anyway in football, and I think that every league should worry about their own situation"
Updated 27 May 2022
PARIS: UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on Friday encouraged leagues to “worry about their own situation” in response to remarks by La Liga chief Javier Tebas after Paris Saint-Germain persuaded Kylian Mbappe to stay in France rather than join Real Madrid.
Tebas hit out at Mbappe’s decision to snub the Spanish champions and sign a new three-year deal in Paris, calling the contract “an insult to football.”
Speaking to AFP in an interview in Paris ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, Ceferin said: “I absolutely don’t agree. There are too many insults anyway in football, and I think that every league should worry about their own situation.”
“I don’t think it is right that one league criticizes the other league. As much as I know, the offer from Real for Mbappe was similar to PSG’s offer,” Ceferin added.
French league president Vincent Labrune responded to Tebas in a letter sent on Thursday and seen by AFP, in which he voiced “disapproval, and also our incomprehension” at the “attacks” against PSG and Ligue 1.
In Tebas’ tweet attacking Ligue 1 he said PSG were had paid “large sums of money” to hold onto Mbappe “after posting losses of 700 million euros in recent seasons and having a wage bill of over 600 million euros.”
PSG suffered a 224.3-million-euro ($240m) loss in 2020/21, an increase of 80 percent on the previous year, the annual report from French football’s financial authority (DNCG) said earlier this month.
Liverpool’s Thiago, Fabinho fit for Champions League final
Thiago was brought off at half-time of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Wolves last weekend nursing an Achilles problem
Fabinho has not featured since sustaining a muscular injury in a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on May 10
Updated 27 May 2022
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s preparations for the Champions League final were boosted by the news that midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho will be fit to face Real Madrid after injury scares.
Thiago was brought off at half-time of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Wolves last weekend nursing an Achilles problem.
Fabinho has not featured since sustaining a muscular injury in a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on May 10.
However, the Brazilian took a full part in an open training session in front of the media on Wednesday.
“Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho will be included in Liverpool’s traveling squad for the Champions League final against Real Madrid,” Liverpool said in a statement.
“The pair will be among the players journeying to Paris for Saturday’s clash at Stade de France following injury concerns and are set to come into contention to return.”
Both players have been pivotal to Liverpool’s stunning season that has already seen them lift two trophies in the League Cup and FA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s men missed out on the Premier League title by a single point as Manchester City needed a stirring comeback from 2-0 down against Villa on Sunday to claim a fourth championship in five seasons.
However, the Reds can make amends by lifting a seventh European Cup against the most successful club in the competition on Saturday.
Salah and Mahrez at forefront of standout season for Arab footballers in Europe
Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny, Sevilla’s Yassine Bounou and Milan’s Ismail Bennacer also shone for their clubs
Updated 27 May 2022
The European season comes to an end on Saturday as Liverpool take on Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, and Mohamed Salah helping the English team to the continental title would be a perfect ending for millions of Arab football fans.
But whatever happens in Paris, it has already been a season to remember for players from this part of the world.
Salah has won the English Premier League golden boot for the third time, the 29-year-old also recording 13 assists, the most in the league. The Egyptian has been so consistently impressive for the Reds that his achievements have become almost commonplace, but they deserve celebrating. So does the fact that he has already won the League Cup and FA Cup in England and is close to a third trophy, the biggest of all.
Salah is already a legend on Merseyside and his status at Anfield is likely to endure even longer after he said on Wednesday that he is not about to leave anytime soon.
“I don’t want to talk about the contract. I’m staying next season for sure, let’s see after that,” said Salah at Liverpool’s pre-match media day. His deal, which is due to expire next summer, has been the subject of much debate in recent months, but his comments this week — though he did not give any details — will be welcome even if the long-term future is still unclear.
Despite scoring his 23rd goal on the final day of the season to help Liverpool to a 3-1 victory over Wolves, it wasn’t quite enough to win the title. That went to Manchester City.
Riyad Mahrez had another fine campaign under Pep Guardiola as he won a fourth Premier League championship, one with Leicester City and now three with his current club. The Algerian scored 11 league goals and managed seven more in the UEFA Champions League. That is an impressive haul by anyone’s standards and all would agree that the 31-year-old has established himself as one of the top players in the biggest league in the world.
Mohamed Elneny may not be an automatic starter in the Arsenal team but the Egyptian international, who has made 147 appearances for the Gunners, has just signed a new contract with the North London outfit, which finished fifth and just missed out on a Champions League place.
“Mo is a really important part of the team,” said Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. “He is loved by everyone. He’s an important player for us on and off the pitch, a real role model to our younger players, and I’m delighted he’s staying.”
Mahrez’s title is not the only big league championship that is being celebrated in Algeria. Ismail Bennacer has helped AC Milan win Serie A for the first time in 11 years. The central midfielder made 31 league appearances and played a major part in the success. At just 24, there is plenty of football left in the legs of the former Arsenal academy player and he has been linked with a move to England.
Amazingly, all the players mentioned will miss out on the World Cup. Egypt failed to qualify after losing a penalty shootout to Senegal with the place in Qatar at stake. It is hard to know if that was more or less heartbreaking than Algeria’s experience. The Desert Foxes seemed to have it in the bag but conceded a goal in the last minute of extra-time in the second leg against Cameroon.
That is not the case when it comes to Morocco, which is already preparing for the World Cup. Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was so good for Sevilla that he was awarded La Liga’s Zamora trophy, given to the shot-stopper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio. He conceded just 24 in 31 appearances to finish with 0.77, edging out Thibault Courtois of Real Madrid.
“I would like to congratulate Yassine Bounou. He’s a very good friend of mine. Congratulations to him for the Zamora trophy,” Courtois said in tribute to the North African.
Another player who now looks like he is going to the World Cup is Nasser Mazraoui, who has had a very interesting season. The right-back has starred as Ajax won the Eredivisie and it was his third title in the Netherlands. The 24-year-old has done all he can do in the country and, from next month, will move to Bayern Munich and there could be a chance of Champions League titles in the coming years.
Then there is the saga of the national team. Along with Hakim Ziyech, the defender had fallen out with Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic and was not called up for the African Cup of Nations in January, as the team lost to Egypt in the quarter-finals, as well as the World Cup play-off.
Earlier this week, however, Mazraoui was named in the squad for June’s friendly with the US and looks to be back in the fold. Ziyech has yet to return and it remains to be seen what happens.
There have been no such international issues with Achraf Hakimi. The right-back joined Paris Saint-Germain last July fresh after winning the Italian league with Inter Milan. He has shone in France and added the Ligue 1 title. It was only the relative failure in the UEFA Champions League that has cast a shadow over the campaign.
There will be another chance next season but it will have to be good to better this one with league titles, individual awards and perhaps even continental prizes at the highest levels of European football.
1981 cup hero Alan Kennedy urges Mohamed Salah to become an all-time Liverpool legend, stay at Anfield
Former left-back scored Liverpool’s winner in European Cup final against Real Madrid in Paris, believes Egyptian star should stop at club
Updated 27 May 2022
RIYADH: During his five years at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah has become revered and respected, but it will be longevity that makes him a legend at a club with such a storied history.
That is the belief of Alan Kennedy, no stranger to Anfield acclaim himself with match-winning goals that clinched two of their six European Cup victories.
Salah will try to help the Reds land a seventh title when they face Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday — redemption for the 2018 showpiece when the Egyptian forward left the field in tears, injured after a first-half challenge by Sergio Ramos, as the Spanish side triumphed 3-1.
But only by staying longer at Liverpool and helping them to repeated success will he be elevated alongside — and perhaps even surpass — Kenny Dalglish, all-time top goalscorer Ian Rush, or Steven Gerrard as the club’s greatest player.
Out of contract at the end of next season, Salah has said he will be at Anfield for his final year but has not yet agreed a new long-term deal.
With 11 major trophies in eight years — including five league titles — after joining from Newcastle in 1978, Kennedy is better placed than most to discuss the club’s finest.
He said: “When you are saying if he is the best Liverpool player ever then, when you have played with Dalglish, Rush, and Graeme Souness, automatically then you think back to those days and think ‘what a player he was or what he did was incredible.’
“That was a great era for Liverpool. Dalglish was special, he did it every game and he played for 13 years. Every game he put in a shift, showed his quality, and so did Rush who had 15 years in total, so did Souness.
“I think what the players do today is sensational, but how long they do it for also matters,” Kennedy added.
“Sometimes people will say we don’t see it in every game from Salah or Sadio Mane, so it’s a difficult one to say who is the very best, especially with the difference in football to when I played.
“Mo Salah doesn’t give up, he’s very assured of himself, and has found the right way to play and the right team to play with — it’s perfect.”
Kennedy, however, believes he should stay at Anfield longer to be considered among the club’s greats.
He said: “That’s the important thing, to maintain standards and repeat the performances — and repeat the success. He is one of the best players Liverpool have ever had, but we need to know if he’s eventually going to stay or go because the uncertainty of it all means it affects his game as well.
“If he’s saying he wants to stay, then sign the contract and look forward.”
Kennedy, 67, would love for Salah to stay and be the hero against Real Madrid, and so end a proud 41-year record held by the left-back and his former team-mates.
Paris also played host when he drove home a left-footed finish in the 81st minute to seal their 1981 success, the last time 13-time winners Los Blancos lost a European Cup final.
Three years later, Kennedy hit the decisive penalty that sealed a tense shoot-out win over A.S. Roma after a 1-1 draw at the Italian side’s Stadio Olimpico home.
It was a glorious era for Liverpool, a side single-minded in their pursuit of honors and among the greatest to ever grace the game.
They won three successive English First Division titles between 1982 and 1984 — and only the FA Cup eluded them in 1984 when they claimed a treble of the league championship, League Cup, and European Cup under Joe Fagan.
Having lifted the League Cup and FA Cup this season, Liverpool’s bid for a historic quadruple was ended when Manchester City took the Premier League by a point.
But the valiant efforts of Jurgen Klopp’s men have now seen them lauded in a similar way to the heroes of yesteryear.
“Yes, they have that similarity. This current team has got a great mentality, that same belief and desire to win every game,” Kennedy told Arab News.
“They know they’re on a great run, have a great manager who can motivate players and you feel as though there is still more to come, and that’s why they could go on and achieve even more.
“Klopp also has that same aura of the great Liverpool managers. This team is certainly up there with the old teams, but do you give them the title of being the best?”
A win on Saturday would go a long way to answering that question.
Kennedy said: “If they win the Champions League and win three trophies in a season then that would put them right up there, of course, and would equal what we did in 1983-84.
“We got close to all four, failed in the FA Cup, but it was a great side and maybe we had a little bit more character in that 1983-84 season.
“It’s always hard to compare teams from different times because football has changed, but this current team should be looked upon possibly as Liverpool’s best ever.
“They are really strong throughout from the keeper, defense, to the attack, but it’s about the winning and getting the trophies, not about individuals or how close you got.
“There’s also one thing at Liverpool and that is the club comes before any player.
“If it was me scoring the winning goal, Phil Neal, or Kenny Dalglish, it didn’t matter. It was about winning for the team and as a team. That’s what these players are also doing now,” he added.
Kennedy said he was just “the lucky guy” to claim the winning goal against Real after overcoming a broken wrist to play, but Liverpool were a driven team totally focused on “trying to win everything” at that time.
It is an approach that resonates with Real Madrid, who are chasing a fifth Champions League in nine seasons.
Led by Karim Benzema, the La Liga champions overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Manchester City with stunning comebacks to reach this stage.
Kennedy added: “Real are an exceptional team and to beat Manchester City how they did with those late goals was just awesome.
“There aren’t too many weaknesses in their side, they are very controlled and don’t rely too much on Benzema like some people say. Liverpool should have enough in their locker to beat them, but this is against Real Madrid and that’s the thing, we all know what they are capable of.
“If you want to be remembered for being great then you have to show it — you can’t hide in cup finals.”