Barca crash out of cup after extra-time defeat by Athletic Bilbao

Barca crash out of cup after extra-time defeat by Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona's Pedri, center, is challenged by Athletic Bilbao's Mikel Vesga, right and Athletic Bilbao's Inigo Martinez during the Spanish Copa del Rey Cup round of 16 soccer match at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao, Friday. (AP)
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Updated 21 January 2022

Barca crash out of cup after extra-time defeat by Athletic Bilbao

Barca crash out of cup after extra-time defeat by Athletic Bilbao
  • Barca won the Copa del Rey last season and defending their title was probably their best chance of silverware this term

MADRID: Barcelona were dumped out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday as Ferran Torres’ first goal for the club failed to prevent a dramatic 3-2 defeat after extra-time by Athletic Bilbao.
Disappointment for Barca was compounded by the sight of a visibly upset Ansu Fati going off injured in the second half of normal time at San Mames.
Fati only returned earlier this month after two months out with a hamstring problem, having also come back in September following 10 months out with a knee injury.
Another spell on the sidelines for Fati would be a huge blow to Barca’s hopes of making La Liga’s top four. Pedri also asked to go off in extra-time.
Real Madrid needed an extra 30 minutes as well to defeat Elche 2-1, with Eden Hazard scoring the winner after Marcelo’s red card forced La Liga’s leaders to come from behind with 10 men.
Barca were hoping to join them in the last eight but instead it is Athletic who advance, joining Madrid, Real Sociedad, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano, Cadiz, Valencia and Real Betis in Friday’s draw for the last eight.
Madrid will be firm favorites, particularly after Sevilla crashed out at the hands of Real Betis, who are now perhaps the greatest threat to Carlo Ancelotti’s side winning their first Copa del Rey since 2014, during Ancelotti’s first tenure as coach.
Barca won the Copa del Rey last season and defending their title was probably their best chance of silverware this term.
They are out of sight in La Liga and were beaten by Madrid in last week’s Spanish Super Cup, with the Europa League now their only realistic remaining route to a trophy.
Only 102 seconds had passed when Iker Muniain sent San Mames apoplectic by collecting Nico Williams’ cross at the back post, before turning and bending into the far corner.
But Barcelona were level in the 20th minute, and from a similar angle, as Torres shifted right, inside Oscar De Marcos, and whipped a stunning shot into the net.
Inaki Williams hit the bar with a long-range effort late on but the real drama was still to come. Athletic thought they had won it in the 86th minute when Inigo Martinez prodded in at the back post ahead of the sliding Gerard Pique.
Barcelona, though, found a way back in the 93rd, as Dani Alves bicycle-kicked Jordi Alba’s cross back into the area and Pedri’s hit on the stretch was too powerful for Julen Agirrezabala’s right hand.
Barca celebrated like it was the winner but there was extra-time to come and injuries. Fati went off and then Pedri asked to depart.
Then in the 103rd minute, a sliding Alba stopped Nico Williams’ cross with his right arm and after consulting the replay, Jose Munuera pointed to the spot. Ter Stegen dived right, Muniain shot left.


More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games

More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games
Updated 17 May 2022

More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games

More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games
  • Day of action resulted in podium finishes in athletics, swimming and shooting

The second day of the GCC Games taking place in Kuwait proved fruitful for the Saudi contingent with several more podium finishes in the athletics, swimming and shooting categories.

Saudi sprinter Mohammed Al-Maawi took silver medal in the 400 meter hurdles competition with a time of 50.6 seconds, while his colleague Moadh Al-Saad came in third place with a time of 53.34 seconds to secure the bronze.

On another day of fine results for Saudi’s athletes, Hassan Doshi claimed a gold medal in the triple jump competition with a distance of 16 meters, while teammate Mohammed Al-Yami came in fourth place with a distance of 14.61 meters.

Meanwhile, Osama Al-Aqili won the bronze medal in the discus with a throw of 51.97 meters.

The Saudi women’s 4×100 relay team missed out on a medal after finishing fourth in the final with a time of 53.52 seconds.

In the 10 meter Air Pistol competition, Saudi’s Atallah Al-Anzi snatched the gold medal at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Olympic Shooting Complex, and that was followed with silver for Abdul Aziz Al-Anzi in the 50 meter Rifle category.

In the men’s swimming competitions, Ahmed Al-Hashem took bronze in the 1500 meter freestyle, while the Saudi team came third place in the 4x100m medley relay race, securing bronze medals for Al-Hashem, Mohammed Al-Muhr, Youssef Buarish and Ali Al-Issa.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Saudi Arabian men’s basketball team went down 67-63 to the United Arab Emirates.


Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past

Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past
Updated 17 May 2022

Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past

Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past
  • A remarkable second half of the season saw the Magpies coach lead the club to safety after the team had failed to win any of the opening 14 matches
  • Eddie Howe: I have an idea of what I want to do and where I want to take the team and the changes we need to make

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe hopes this season is the last Newcastle United fans will have to worry about Premier League safety.

The Magpies secured their top flight status with two games of the campaign left, having failed to win any of their first 14 top matches. A 2-0 victory over Champions League-chasing Arsenal was the icing on the cake on what has been a remarkable season in many ways.

And while that season-opening run and the subsequent recovery set Newcastle Premier League records, Howe does not want to walk that same road again, with his eyes fixed firmly on progress and ambition at St James’ Park.

Howe, whose side plays Burnley on the final day of the season on Sunday, said: “There are no guarantees in football and that’s what makes the game so beautiful because you never know what’s around the corner.

“We have ambitions to improve, so I hope we’re not in this position again of fighting through the season. The Premier League is so difficult, it examines you in so many different ways. The competition is fierce, everyone will have different aims and dreams.

“All I can pledge is I will do everything in my power to make sure we come back a stronger team but there are no guarantees.”

While Howe is playing it coy with his future predictions, the ambitions of the ownership model at Newcastle is clear — they want regular success and silverware on Tyneside before the decade is out.

“They care. They care deeply,” said Howe of the club’s owners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.

“They care about the players and staff, they want to be involved and be actively helping. They were that way right from the start.

“After (the defeat to) Cambridge, they (Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Yasir Al-Rumayyan) came to see me and the staff, of course at that moment, we were low. It meant a lot to see them come in and support us and say ‘come on, we go again.’ The week after was Watford and they supported us again.

“When you look back after a successful period, those moments are so important. A big thank you to them.”

Lots of public talk of reduced budgets and Financial Fair Play concerns have been raised by Newcastle sources in recent weeks, leading some to conclude it will be a frugal summer on Tyneside.

However, a hard-and-fast rule in business is not to tell potential sellers just how much cash you’re operating with.

The club’s accounts for the period ended Jun. 30, 2021, prior to Mike Ashley’s majority sale to PIF, show the football club made a loss of around $15 million.

Under the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability rules, club’s can operate a $131 million loss over three seasons.

The 34 pages posted to the club’s filing history on Companies House also show that since acquisition, the club’s owners have pumped $209,500 into the company, which, although not stated, is likely to have covered operating costs, infrastructural upgrades and January transfers as well as the hiring of Howe and the sacking of Steve Bruce.

So is Howe expecting a tough summer, or one another record-breaking spend?

“It’s very difficult to plan a summer transfer window because as I’ve said before, of the unpredictability of the market,” he said.

“Of course, I have an idea of what I want to do and where I want to take the team and the changes we need to make. That’s one thing having that idea in your head but the other is executing it. We’ll see what happens.”


Footballer Fahad Al-Muwallad banned for 18 months by Saudi Arabian Anti-Doping Committee

Footballer Fahad Al-Muwallad banned for 18 months by Saudi Arabian Anti-Doping Committee
Updated 17 May 2022

Footballer Fahad Al-Muwallad banned for 18 months by Saudi Arabian Anti-Doping Committee

Footballer Fahad Al-Muwallad banned for 18 months by Saudi Arabian Anti-Doping Committee
  • Al-Ittihad, Saudi national team star tested positive for banned substance before King’s Cup semi-final against Al-Feiha in April

RIYADH: Al-Ittihad and Saudi Arabia star Fahad Al-Muwallad has been suspended from all football activities for 18 months after testing positive for a banned substance.

The Saudi Arabian Anti-Doping Committee confirmed the news on Monday, according to Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah.

The committee clarified that the player waived his right to open the B sample at the hearing during which all the supporting documents for the case were reviewed.

Al-Muwallad was tested before Al-Ittihad’s King’s Cup semi-final against Al-Feiha on April 4, a match the Saudi Pro League leaders lost 1-0 to exit the tournament.

In a statement, the SAADC said: “The period of suspension of Fahad Al-Muwallad from participating in all internal and external sporting competitions begins from the temporary suspension period on March 28 of this year.”

While the player has been banned from taking part in any competitions, the statement added that he could return to training in the last two months of the suspension period.

Al-Muwallad was previously suspended in 2019 for testing positive for a banned substance after a Saudi Pro League match against Al-Nassr.


Saudi gaming champ Musaed Al-Dossary ready for FIFA 22 Champions Cup in Doha

Saudi gaming champ Musaed Al-Dossary ready for FIFA 22 Champions Cup in Doha
Updated 17 May 2022

Saudi gaming champ Musaed Al-Dossary ready for FIFA 22 Champions Cup in Doha

Saudi gaming champ Musaed Al-Dossary ready for FIFA 22 Champions Cup in Doha
  • Tournament will this month see top 16 Arab gamers compete for $50,000 total prize pot

RIYADH: Saudi gaming superstar Musaed Al-Dossary was optimistic ahead of taking part in the FIFA 22 Champions Cup powered by Ooredoo Nation later this month.

The tournament, being staged in the Qatari capital Doha from May 24 to 25 before concluding on May 28, will welcome the Arab world’s top 16 FIFA 22 gamers and more than 2,000 spectators.

A total prize pot of $50,000 will be up for grabs, with the winner taking $25,000, the runner-up $15,000, while third- and fourth-place finishers will receive $5,000 each.

The 2018 FIFAe World Champion, who plays under the moniker MS Dossary, told Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah: “I am happy with the return of live attendance competitions and championships, and taking part in the neighboring nation of Qatar is certainly of importance to me.

“I hope that the tournament will be of the desired level for e-sports lovers, and I am fully prepared to face other elite players and win the title,” he said.


Hammoud Al- Saiari becomes first-ever Saudi to coach in north Africa’s top-flight leagues

Hammoud Al- Saiari becomes first-ever Saudi to coach in north Africa’s top-flight leagues
Updated 17 May 2022

Hammoud Al- Saiari becomes first-ever Saudi to coach in north Africa’s top-flight leagues

Hammoud Al- Saiari becomes first-ever Saudi to coach in north Africa’s top-flight leagues
  • After stints with second-tier clubs in Kingdom, Al-Saiari appointed head coach of Tunisia’s AS Rejiche on short-term contract

RIYADH: For some time now, there have been calls for more Saudi Arabian players to head overseas.

Not only does this provide vital international experience for the country’s best talent to develop and then bring back to the national team and their colleagues it also gives opportunities for young players at home to step up to fill the gap.

It is also exciting to see how they perform. That is why the prospect of stars such as Salem Al-Dawsari heading overseas to play in Europe is an enticing one.

It has yet to really happen but then, all of a sudden, there is news of a Saudi coach taking over a foreign team at a high level.

On Sunday, it was announced that Hammoud Al-Saiari had been appointed as head coach of Tunisian top-flight club AS Rejiche. He is the first Saudi tactician to work in the north African country.

Al-Saiari, who has experience with second-tier teams at home such as Al-Ain, Al-Nahda, and Jeddah, replaces local boss Ferid Ben Belgacem.

“I have contracted with Rejiche and am proud to be the first Saudi coach to work in a strong league in a different country,” Al-Saiari said, thanking the president of his new club.

The east-coast team are not one of the powerhouses of Tunisian football and were promoted to the top tier in 2021. For them, the current league season is over after finishing fourth in Group B just outside the play-off places (the 16-team top tier is divided into two groups of eight with the top three from each progressing to the next stage).

The new man will be in charge for the Tunisian Cup which starts next month. If Al-Saiari can impress during the competition, then he is likely to be handed a lengthier contract to take control of the team for next season.

This is an encouraging and natural response to the situation at home. There are some fine coaches in the top tier of the Saudi Professional League, but they are all foreign. Opportunities for home-grown managers are few and far between and they are usually confined to short-term caretaker positions or second-tier jobs.

At Al-Ettifaq, Khaled Al-Alwi’s time in charge came to an end in October and so the league lost the last permanent local who was replaced by Vladan Milojevic. The Serbian was himself replaced in March by Patrice Carteron and the team are still deep in relegation trouble, so perhaps there is something to be said for sticking with Saudi talent.

In East Asian countries, there is usually more of a mix between foreign and domestic tacticians. Almost half in the Japanese top tier are foreign, with South Korea having just one international boss, a situation also not seen as ideal.

Foreign bosses bring new ideas, methods, and experience and those that are committed and enthusiastic can make a real difference to the league as well as individual players. It is also great for local coaches to pit their wits against counterparts from Brazil, Serbia, Argentina, and the Netherlands and to also learn from them.

However, in the absence of opportunity it is natural that coaches will seek pastures new, and it is a good sign. Al-Saiari’s move should be huge news in Saudi Arabia and fans and media in the country should get behind their export to Tunisia, a level that is decent in Africa and would rival most in Asia.

A big-name player such as Al-Dawsari going overseas is always going to grab the headlines but if Saudi Arabia can start exporting coaches, then it will be a huge benefit to the country and also show those budding tacticians starting out that there is a professional pathway in the game.

What should also happen is that if the likes of Al-Saiari and other Saudi bosses can have success abroad then they will be more attractive to clubs at home. It all helps to strengthen the domestic football scene.

All this is a lot of pressure to place on one coach who has a short-term contract with a mid-table Tunisian club but for the situation to change, there always has to be a first.

There should be a few more people interested in the Tunisian Cup next month and if AS Rejoice can show signs of improvement in the knockout competition, then next season could be fascinating indeed and also meaningful for the future.