Al-Hilal edge past Riyadh rivals Al-Shabab to reach King’s Cup final

Al-Hilal edge past Riyadh rivals Al-Shabab to reach King’s Cup final
Al-Hilal captain Salman Al-Faraj, 7, and a team mate celebrate after hitting an equalizer during the 73rd minute. (Twitter: @Alhilal_EN)
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Updated 04 April 2022

Al-Hilal edge past Riyadh rivals Al-Shabab to reach King’s Cup final

Al-Hilal edge past Riyadh rivals Al-Shabab to reach King’s Cup final
  • The reigning Saudi and Asian champions will now face the winner of the second semifinal between Al-Ittihad and Al-Feiha

Al-Hilal have reached the final of the King’s Cup after defeating Al-Shabab 2-1 in a tight contest that went into extra time at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium in Riyadh on Sunday night.

Al-Shabab opened the scoring through Argentine midfielder Ever Banega from a penalty kick in the 62nd minute, before Al-Hilal captain Salman Al-Faraj equalized after 73 minutes and Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo won it in the 105th minute.

In the final, Al-Hilal will meet the winner of second semifinal between Al-Ittihad and Al-Feiha, which takes place at Al-Majma’ah Sports City Stadium in Monday night.

Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz spoke of a lack of concentration in his side’s first-half showing.

“The match required focus and vitality, which we lacked in the first half,” the Argentine said. “The situation changed in the second half; we controlled the match and scored two goals.”

He also confirmed that star man Salem Al-Dawsari was absent due to COVID-19.

“Salem’s absence is influential because he is a great player, but the team was also affected by the fatigue of international players, whether local or foreign, and there were some errors that we will work to correct.”

“Whoever we will face in the final, it will be a difficult match and will require a redoubling of efforts,” Diaz said.

The loss extends an unwanted record for Al-Shabab who have not beaten their Riyadh rival now since 2014.


Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry

Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry
Updated 9 sec ago

Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry

Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry
  • The now 19-year-olds played together in multiple England youth teams growing up before Musiala opted to play senior international football for Germany

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich on Saturday with arguably the two sides’ most important players, Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala, boasting a combined age of only 38.

Recent meetings of Germany’s two most successful clubs have often been billed as clashes between since-departed strikers Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski.

Instead this weekend, Bellingham, who has captained Dortmund in their last two matches, will go up against good friend and former teammate Musiala at Signal Iduna Park.

The now 19-year-olds played together in multiple England youth teams growing up before Musiala opted to play senior international football for Germany, making his debut last year.

Musiala has nailed down a place in Bayern’s starting XI this season, repaying coach Julian Nagelsmann’s faith with team-leading tallies in the Bundesliga of five goals and three assists.

Bellingham’s rise, to the extent he has worn Dortmund’s captain’s armband, has maybe been even more impressive — and more crucial to his team.

The England international netted for a third straight Champions League match in midweek during a 4-1 thumping of Sevilla in Spain.

The youthful complexion of the teams goes beyond Bellingham and Musiala, however, with Dortmund’s Karim Adeyemi and Giovanni Reyna and Bayern pair Mathys Tel and Ryan Gravenberch also nominated for this year’s Golden Boy award, won two years ago by Haaland while he was at Dortmund.

On Thursday, Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl suggested 17-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko could start on Saturday ahead of the struggling Anthony Modeste.

“He was very agile, very energetic (and) very dedicated. He played a really good game,” Kehl said on Thursday of Moukoko’s performance against Sevilla.

The teams go into the game level on points, two points behind early leaders Union Berlin and Freiburg.

Questions were being asked about Bayern’s chances of winning an 11th straight Bundesliga title after a four-game winless run in the league.

But they bounced back with a 4-0 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen last weekend before putting five past Viktoria Plzen in Europe.

“It’s a special game in Germany and a special game for us,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.

“You all know what has happened in Germany in the last 10 years.”

Bayern coach Nagelsmann faces concerns about two of the most experienced players, with both Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich in COVID isolation.

Speaking on Tuesday, Nagelsmann said the duo were “basically doing well” and “should be there if their health doesn’t deteriorate.”

A decision on the pair’s availability will be made late on Friday.

The Suriname international has been a driving force behind Union’s surprise charge to the Bundesliga summit, scoring six goals in eight league appearances, having previously mustered only seven in 59 in the German top flight.

Becker also got off the mark in the Europa League on Thursday, scoring the winner as Union got their first points in Group D by beating Malmo 1-0 in a game which was marred by crowd trouble in Sweden.

Union will be hoping Becker can continue his red-hot streak at Stuttgart on Sunday, by when they could have been passed by Dortmund or Bayern and Freiburg in the table.

8 — Successive victories over Dortmund for Bayern.

27 — The number of goals Robert Lewandowski scored for Bayern against Dortmund before leaving for Barcelona.

60 years — New Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso took Real Sociedad B to the Spanish second division in 2021-22 for the first time in six decades.

4 — Dortmund have won 1-0 four times in eight Bundesliga matches this season. They only won by that scoreline twice in the league last term.

 

Fixtures (1330 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen (1830)

Saturday

Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke, Bochum vs. Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz vs. RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich (1630)

Sunday

Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Cologne, Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg (1530), Stuttgart vs. Union Berlin (1730)


Brazil coach Tite will stick to attack at World Cup

Brazil coach Tite will stick to attack at World Cup
Updated 13 min 4 sec ago

Brazil coach Tite will stick to attack at World Cup

Brazil coach Tite will stick to attack at World Cup
  • The Selecao may need plenty of goals in Qatar as Tite doesn’t have nearly as many options in defense

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil coach Tite has so many attacking options for the World Cup that he can hardly fit half of them into his team.

He promises to use as many of his forward as he can in Qatar, though, no matter the opponent.

“There will be opportunities for all (Brazil’s forward),” Tite said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Whoever is in will be deciding the match, all have to be prepared. Every match might require a different characteristic.”

Tite and his coaching assistants Cleber Xavier and Cesar Sampaio spoke to the AP for about one hour at the headquarters of the Brazilian soccer confederation on Thursday, taking a break from their heated private discussions about how to put the final touches on their squad for the tournament. Their final team announcement is scheduled for Nov. 7.

The only Brazil forward who may be sure of a starting place in Qatar is Neymar, while the list of Tite’s other options includes the likes of Vinicius Jr., Raphinha, Richarlison, Antony and Gabriel Jesus.

In the team’s most recent games, two friendly wins over African teams Ghana and Tunisia in September, Tite fielded lineups that were so attack-minded that critics back home wondered if that would be a realistic strategy against some of the other title contenders at the World Cup, which starts next month.

Tite, who is leaving his job after the tournament, insisted he won’t shy away from his aggressive playing style in Qatar, regardless of who Brazil is playing. Brazil is in Group G at the World Cup with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon.

“We will make adjustments, we will not change our game plan,” Tite said. “We will impose our way of playing.”

The Selecao may need plenty of goals in Qatar as Tite doesn’t have nearly as many options in defense. Brazil has few top-class fullbacks at the moment, while starting centerback Thiago Silva is 38 years old. Defensive midfielder Casemiro also has yet to fully adjust to his new surroundings at Manchester United after leaving Real Madrid.

Tite doesn’t think his defense will be a problem, though, as long as his players do one thing.

“Play your best at your club,” said Tite, adding he doesn’t pay much attention to criticism his players receive. “We listen very little to any noise coming from outside. What is outside remains outside.”

Neymar, like Argentina’s Lionel Messi, is facing huge pressure to deliver his first World Cup title — especially after being criticized for sub-par performances at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Tite thinks the 30-year-old Neymar has matured both as a player and a person since then, and the striker has been in top form this season with Paris Saint-Germain.

“When Neymar says that at a given time he made a mistake it is beautiful. What an example. He is no superman, he is telling kids that at some moment they will also make mistakes, feel weak, have a stomachache, a headache. It is only human,” Tite said. “Some people know how to grow and evolve. And they are brave to say it when they make mistakes. That’s his maturity.”

The coach tried to shield his star player from the pressure by downplaying comparisons to Pelé, as Neymar approaches the Brazil great’s record of 77 goals for the national team.

“He must leave that noise for others to speak about. There is no comparison. It is unreal, inhuman to compare different generations,” Tite said. “You can’t compare Pelé to any other. We can argue about who was the second best.”

Tite’s assistant coaches have spent plenty of time over the last few years studying what the last three World Cup winners — France, Germany and Spain — did to prepare for the tournament. Many view Brazil and Argentina among the biggest favorites this time, as France is struggling with injuries while Germany and Spain are going through a rebuilding phase.

But Xavier said Brazil can’t worry too much about their rivals.

“We are spending most of our energy on our work, our process,” Xavier said. “We know Argentina has a somewhat finalized team, and Brazil too. We see England, France, Germany and Spain with some changes. We will only know for sure what those look like after the World Cup’s group stage.”

As the World Cup nears and reports pile up on his desk, Tite’s schedule is dominated by meetings with assistants while media requests come by the minute. The 61-year-old coach is doing his best to carry on without much anticipation, as if these were just normal working days.

“I only get anxious when people ask me how many days are still left for our first match,” Tite said. “That happens every day.”


Potential NBA top draft pick Wembanyama dazzles in two-game Las Vegas exhibition 

Potential NBA top draft pick Wembanyama dazzles in two-game Las Vegas exhibition 
Updated 07 October 2022

Potential NBA top draft pick Wembanyama dazzles in two-game Las Vegas exhibition 

Potential NBA top draft pick Wembanyama dazzles in two-game Las Vegas exhibition 
  • The reviews are in from this two-game Vegas residency for Wembanyama, who stands 7-foot-3 in bare feet, and they were of the raving variety

HENDERSON, Nevada: Victor Wembanyama blocked a shot Thursday afternoon, ran to the other end of the court, went airborne from just inside the foul line, corralled an alley-oop pass with one hand and slammed home a dunk.

The entire sequence lasted eight seconds.

It may have been the signature moment — and there were a lot of candidates — from Wembanyama’s two-game trip to the US, which ended Thursday with the French phenom’s Metropolitans 92 team rallying from 16 points down to top the G League Ignite 112-106. He led the way, of course, with 36 points and 11 rebounds.

“As a first impression of the American game, that was really great,” Wembanyama said.

So was he.

His final numbers from two exhibitions: 73 points on 22-for-44 shooting, nine 3-pointers, 15 rebounds and nine blocked shots. He flies back to France on Saturday, and the next time he plays in the US there likely will be an NBA logo on his jersey, presumably after he becomes the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

“It’s very, very special for France,” Metropolitans 92 coach Vincent Collet said. “Not only for France. He has huge potential. He’s a huge talent.”

The reviews are in from this two-game Vegas residency for Wembanyama, who stands 7-foot-3 in bare feet, and they were of the raving variety. The best of the bunch may have come from Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, who suggested that calling Wembanyama a unicorn might not fully indicate how unique he is.

Instead, James went with an out-of-this-world comparison.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, but he’s more like an alien,” James said. “No one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor ... He’s, for sure, a generational talent.”

Added Golden State guard Stephen Curry: “He’s like the (NBA) 2K create-a-player, every point guard that wants to be 7-foot. Cheat-code type vibes, man. He’s a solid talent. It’s great to watch.”

Sure enough, when Wembanyama’s around, a viral moment can happen at any time. It might be a dunk. It might be a block. It might be a fadeaway 3-pointer from the corner while his momentum has him drifting toward the baseline. It might be a 28-foot 3-pointer from the wing. It might be him kicking a ball into a monitor and narrowly missing fellow French center Rudy Gobert.

Yes, all those things happened.

The scene: Gobert and fellow Minnesota Timberwolves standout D’Angelo Russell, in town to play the Lakers in a preseason game later Thursday, decided to postpone their afternoon nap — a staple of the NBA gameday routine — and make the 20-minute ride from Las Vegas to watch the game, arriving at halftime.

Gobert made a quick appearance on the game’s televised broadcast. Wembanyama, standing nearby, stuck one of his massive feet into the path of a pass by Ignite center Eric Mika. The ball ricocheted into the monitor near Gobert’s seat, knocking it over.

Gobert laughed. Wembanyama raised his hand to apologize.

“Hey, he played soccer too,” Gobert said.

Gobert raves about Wembanyama, who almost certainly will be the first top-five draft pick from France. And he doesn’t think there’s any real comparison: Gobert said Wembanyama’s defensive instincts remind him of himself, while his ballhandling and shooting remind him of Kevin Durant.

“What strikes me the most about him is his maturity,” Gobert said. “Obviously, he’s a very unique talent and he has a very unique physique. But his maturity and his confidence ... he’s very unique.”

Thursday’s game had a bit of a scare, and the other top NBA draft headliner in this showcase got the worst of that moment.

Scoot Henderson, the guard whose 28 points led the Ignite to a 122-115 victory on Tuesday night in the exhibition opener, left Thursday’s game after less than five minutes. The reason: He banged knees with Wembanyama.

Henderson switched onto Wembanyama, who was dribbling on the wing. Wembanyama made a move, collided into Henderson and tumbled to the court, looking initially like he got the worst of that exchange. But Henderson, who was called for a foul on the play, wound up limping off for evaluation and the Ignite quickly said he wouldn’t be returning.

“Scoot’s fine,” G League coach Jason Hart said. “It was precautionary.”

There are 31 games left on Metropolitans’ 34-game schedule in the French league, and the plan — as of now — is for Wembanyama to finish his season, which is slated to go through mid-May. The NBA Draft is June 22.

Bouna Ndiaye, one of Wembanyama’s agents, said some NBA teams might not understand why he’s playing. The reason, he says, is because nobody can get Wembanyama out of the gym.

“He wants to live on the court,” Ndiaye said.

What these two games showed, in many ways, was just that the tapes of Wembanyama that have been coming out of Europe over the last few years weren’t lying. He needs to get stronger. There’s much he can still polish. He is, by all accounts, exceptional already.

“Just before we came in last Saturday, we had a meeting with our doctor and we are going to prepare to plan the next two months to increase what he is doing, besides the court, to strengthen the body,” Collet said. “We’re always careful also with how much time he is practicing, not to go too far. ... We plan so that we limit the risk.”

When Thursday was over, when the comeback was complete, Wembanyama briefly lifted his arms skyward in celebration, then shook a lot of hands, partook in a lot of hugs and posed for a lot of pictures.

With that, the draft hype continued on.

“I’m still excited and so happy about it,” Wembanyama said. “I know I’m so lucky to have this chance.”


Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus

Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus
Updated 06 October 2022

Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus

Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus
  • On a balmy night at Nicosia's 23,000 capacity GSP Stadium, United went a goal down in the first half
  • They fought back for a morale-boosting victory after being demolished 6-3 by cross-town rivals Manchester City

Nicosia — CYP
Nicosia, Oct 6, 2022 Agence France Presse: Manchester United came from behind to snatch a crucial 3-2 away win against Cypriot outfit Omonia in the Europa League on Thursday thanks to a second-half brace by Marcus Rashford.
Anthony Martial also scored while Karim Ansarifard and Nikolas Panagiotou netted for the home side as United claimed a narrow win on their first ever trip to play a Cypriot team.
On a balmy night at Nicosia’s 23,000 capacity GSP Stadium, United went a goal down in the first half but fought back for a morale-boosting victory after being demolished 6-3 by cross-town rivals Manchester City at the weekend.
Erik ten Hag named a strong line-up with Cristiano Ronaldo, starting just his fourth match of the season, leading the attack and Brazilian Casemiro anchoring the midfield, but it was the substitutes who saved the day.
“All the subs had a really good impact,” with (Luke) Shaw and Rashford strengthening the left side,” Dutch coach ten Hag told reporters afterwards.
“We played well, the only thing is we didn’t score a goal. After half-time I think we dealt with the setback.
“It was a bad 10 minutes after we conceded the goal (but) if you then are able to come back... that’s positive.”
United got off to a dominant start, largely controlling the opening period against a side managed by former Celtic boss Neil Lennon.
Antony nearly got the breakthrough in the 28th minute, cutting inside and unleashing a long-range shot that was parried away by Omonia goalkeeper Fabiano.
It looked like United were beginning to turn the screw when they were awarded a free-kick outside Omonia’s area in the 34th minute.
Christian Eriksen fired it in but Omonia managed to scramble it away. The ball fell to Tyrell Malacia who was then robbed by Omonia’s Brazilian forward Bruno.
Three Omonia players broke clear before Bruno tapped it across the face of goal for Iranian striker Ansarifard to tuck it away.


United came out stronger in the second half with Rashford coming on for the anonymous Jadon Sancho and Shaw replacing Malacia.
And it paid immediate dividends, with Bruno Fernandes getting a shot on goal before setting up Rashford to level the scores in the 53rd minute.
Ronaldo, who was left on the bench during the weekend rout by City, cut a frustrated figure up front, but United continued to drive forward, creating more chances as the second half progressed.
Ten minutes after levelling, United went ahead when the newly-introduced Martial tapped in with his second touch of the game, seizing on an assist from Rashford.
The home supporters jeered loudly when referee Joao Pinheiro of Portugal waved away an Omonia claim for handball, a decision confirmed by VAR.
Ronaldo’s woes continued, however, with the Portuguese star hitting the post from within the six-yard box with an open goal, one of a hatful of missed chances by the 37-year-old.
Minutes later Rashford latched onto a pass from Ronaldo to double his tally.
Omonia were not finished, though, Panagiotou getting a goal back in the 87th minute.
United created more chances, with Brazilian midfielder Fred forcing a save from Fabiano in the dying minutes.
Lennon praised his players for putting up a fight but said he saw signs that United were on the up.
“This is a team definitely building... I think they’re going in the right direction,” he said.
“Thankfully Cristiano didn’t have his shooting boots on tonight.”
hc-dv/dj/jc
CELTIC PLC
MANCHESTER UNITED


Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters
Updated 06 October 2022

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters
  • Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman
  • Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn't seriously threaten Djokovic

ASTANA, Kazakhstan: Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.
Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.
“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”
Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s US Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.
Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.