Liverpool’s title hopes fade after Spurs stalemate

Liverpool’s title hopes fade after Spurs stalemate
English champions can now afford to draw one of their remaining four games and still retain their title. (AFP)
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Updated 08 May 2022

Liverpool’s title hopes fade after Spurs stalemate

Liverpool’s title hopes fade after Spurs stalemate
  • Klopp’s side edged ahead of City on goal difference after dropping points at Anfield for the first time since February

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool cannot give up hope in the Premier League title race after a 1-1 draw against Tottenham despite admitting he cannot see Manchester City slipping up.
Klopp’s side edged ahead of City on goal difference after dropping points at Anfield for the first time since February.
But the English champions can now afford to draw one of their remaining four games and still retain their title.
Pep Guardiola’s men can retake top spot and open up a three-point lead when they host Newcastle on Sunday.
“It is an important point but we all know the situation,” said Klopp.
“We are now top of the table and if we and City lose all the rest of our games then great, but we all know that will not happen.
“I would love to sit here and say yes City will drop points, the problem is I can’t see it.”
A share of the spoils took Tottenham to within a point of fourth-placed Arsenal, but their chance of a top-four finish now also rely on the Gunners dropping points in two of their final four games.
Son Heung-min rounded off a brilliant team move to put Spurs in front on 56 minutes.
Luis Diaz’s deflected shot levelled 16 minutes from time, but Liverpool failed to find a winner.
“It is not easy to play in this moment against an amazing team in an amazing atmosphere,” said Tottenham boss Antonio Conte.
“The have a lot of energy despite playing every three days, it is incredible. They are deserving of everything they are reaching this season.
“To have a good result is positive but we have to be disappointed because we had the chances to win the game.”
Twenty-one points separate the sides, but Spurs have made a habit of saving their best for the big occasion.
Conte’s men are unbeaten in all four meetings with City and Liverpool this season.
Liverpool did not start like a side fatigued by reaching the Champions League final in their 57th game of the season against Villarreal in midweek, as the intense press from the home side penned Tottenham in.
But their best effort came from a corner as Virgil van Dijk hit the crossbar.
Spurs also hit the woodwork in the first-half when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg took aim from long range.
The second-half followed the same pattern, with Liverpool camped in the Tottenham half, but this time Spurs did pick them off on the counter-attack.
Harry Kane was given time to assess his options and played in Ryan Sessegnon who slid the ball across the box for Son to tap in his 20th Premier League goal of the season to move within two of Mohamed Salah.
It was the first time Liverpool have trailed at Anfield in a league match since February. Spurs could have doubled their lead had Son controlled another Sessegnon cross moments later.
Salah did his best to extend his advantage in the race for the Golden Boot and rescue the Reds’ title challenge only to be denied by a brilliant block from Ben Davies.
Diaz swung the match and the tie in midweek as Klopp’s men came from 2-0 down on the night to win 3-2 against Villarreal and reach a third Champions League final in five seasons.
The Colombian has been a sensational signing since arriving in January and made another contribution with a slice of fortune.
Diaz’s shot from outside the box took a huge deflection off Rodrigo Bentancur to wrong-foot Hugo Lloris.
But Liverpool will have to settle for a shot at cup glory unless City stumble as Tottenham held firm in the closing stages.
Klopp’s men, who have already lifted the League Cup, face Chelsea in the FA Cup final next weekend and then Real Madrid for the European Cup in Paris on May 28.


World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest
Updated 8 sec ago

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest
  • Categories for teens, youth and master grapplers from Oct. 1-2
  • Preparation for world and professional tourneys to come

ABU DHABI: The latest edition of the AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is set to take place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena, Zayed Sports City from Oct. 1 to 2, featuring some of the world’s best grapplers.

Organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in partnership with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro, the competition will see hundreds of athletes from various clubs and academies take to the mat over the course of two days for prize money and points in the annual AJP ranking.

Open to all nationalities, the championship features some of world’s top-ranked players in the kids, youth, amateur, professional and master divisions, ahead of the upcoming Jiu-Jitsu World Championship and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

“The AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is in line with our vision to stage a range of international competitions that bring the top jiu-jitsu athletes to Abu Dhabi, the global jiu-jitsu capital,” said Mubarak Al-Menhali, technical director of the UAEJJF.

“We are just a few weeks away from the start of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship and the participants are keen to sharpen the technical prowess that qualifies them to compete at the highest levels. The two-day event on the weekend is an ideal platform for them to train and will take them a step closer to achieving their goals.”

Tariq Al-Bahri, general manager at the AJP, said: “The Asia Continental Pro is part of a series of championships AJP organizes across multiple locations in the world. This year we have planned five AJP Tour events in the UAE attracting the top-ranked players. We have experienced an increased demand from the players for the Asia Continental Pro Championship as the winners could win 1,400 ranking points.”

The competitions for the teens (grey, yellow, orange and green belts), youth (white, blue and purple), and men’s master’s (blue, purple, brown and black) categories will take place on the first day of the championship. The amateur (blue) and professional (purple, brown and black) categories for both men and women will compete on the second day.


Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League
Updated 30 September 2022

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League
  • All-new competition will see the world’s best players at inaugural event from Dec. 19-24
  • Lineup includes Nick Kyrgios and Elena Rybakina at the Coca Cola Arena

DUBAI: Some of the world’s top stars, including Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, are heading to Dubai for the inaugural World Tennis League set to take place at the Coca Cola Arena from Dec. 19 to 24.

The new competition will feature many of the best men and women players in the world, as well as offer a novel format featuring two-set battles across both singles and mixed doubles matches, with a 10-point tie-breaker set to decide the final outcome if needed.

After play each evening, ticket holders for what is being billed as “The Greatest Show on Court” can attend concerts featuring artists including Dutch DJ superstars Tiësto and Armin Van Buuren.

Rajesh Banga, chairman of the competition, said: “The World Tennis League will be an event like no other. It brings a unique and engaging new format to the game of tennis, offering a spectacular mix of sport and entertainment together. We can’t wait to welcome fans from around the globe for this momentous event that hails a new era for tennis.”

Djokovic heads the men’s field with world No. 1 Swiatek leading the women’s entry list.

The Serbian former world No. 1 has 21 Grand Slam titles including nine Australian Opens, two French Opens, seven Wimbledons and three US Opens to his name, in addition to five ATP Tour Finals titles. Swiatek, a WTA fan favorite, comes to Dubai following her Grand Slam victories at the French Open and US Open in 2022.

“This new event is exciting, there’s no doubt about it,” said Djokovic. I absolutely love playing in Dubai, I’ve had a lot of success there over the years and really enjoy the fans. This is something different, and it’s going to be great being a part of it.”

Swiatek added: “I like it most when tennis connects people and when it’s true entertainment. When it’s combined with a great show and music, it’s even better, so that’s the reason why I’m excited to join this year’s World Tennis League. I’m happy that together with other top players we’ll introduce tennis as fun to new audiences. I can’t wait.”

Joining the men’s field are Alexander Zverev, a rising star who reached a ranking of two in the world this year, and the resurgent Nick Kyrgios, one of the most colorful characters on the ATP Tour. For the women’s field, former world No. 1 Simona Halep and current Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina will also join the lineup.

A player lottery will be held on Nov. 1, where the 16-player lineup will be split into four teams of four players each, and a round robin format for matches across the tournament. The top two teams will then face off in a final day of matches to determine the overall winner of the World Tennis League in Dubai.

The organizers have confirmed that additional award-winning international artists will be announced for the post-match concerts over the coming weeks.


UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league
Updated 30 September 2022

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league
  • Kostas Manolas, Adel Taarabt and Allan latest high-profile players to move from Europe

This has been a week like no other in the ADNOC Pro League.

A flurry of big-name additions has turned an unforeseeably strong transfer window into an utterly astonishing one.

Al-Ain’s early summer capture of Ukraine maestro Andriy Yarmolenko, plus Sharjah’s double swoop for Barcelona alumni Paco Alcacer and Miralem Pjanic, surpassed wildest hopes. Yet, these elite deals were just a starting point.

A bravura weekend witnessed the King’s remarkable business continue with esteemed Olympiacos and Greece center-back Kostas Manolas. He of “Romantada” fame and regular extravagantly priced Premier League links.

This would be swiftly followed by Al-Nasr tying up flamboyant Benfica and Morocco midfielder Adel Taarabt, with Al-Wahda emphatically reacting to the new season’s unbearably slow start by securing Everton’s Brazil warrior Allan. The 31-year-old should line up alongside the previously procured Pizzi, a former Benfica skipper and Portugal midfielder.

There was more to come.

Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club made, arguably, Asia’s leading deal of the market with Jason Denayer, the coveted 27-year-old ex-Lyon center-back, holding genuine pretensions about making Belgium’s World Cup 2022 roster.

Al-Jazira decisively reacted to influential Serbia center-back Milos Kosanovic’s fibula surgery by bringing in Czech Republic and Fenerbahce utility defender Filip Novak.

Such revered names were meant to be a thing of the past in the UAE’s topflight. Memories had faded of a gilded age experienced at the previous decade’s midpoint with Ghana superstar Asamoah Gyan, Brazil striker Grafite and Montenegro hit man Mirko Vucinic.

World Cup winners Fabio Cannavaro, David Trezeguet and Luca Toni preceded this celebrated cohort, but with unsatisfactory returns.

The UAE Pro League had consigned itself to casting envious glances in the direction of the Roshn Saudi League and the Qatar Stars League, as stellar name after stellar name chose to disembark within their borders.

Emirati outfits, increasingly, failed to challenge in the AFC Champions League. Al-Ahli and Al-Ain were defeated in the 2015 and 2016 finals. And from 2018 until Wahda in 2021, none of their contingent made the last eight.

This status quo has been shattered. The question now is how markedly.

Change does not occur in isolation.

The UAE has emerged from the COVID-19 health crisis with a burgeoning economy, further bolstered amid 2022’s surging commodity prices.

Financial services giant Deloitte was consulted five years ago by the governing body, the then-named Pro League Committee, as an understandable drive toward self-sustainability was sought. The UAE Football Association would apply a salary cap for local players in the same period.

These aims remain. Increased resources now, though, are available.

Leadership is also key.

The ADNOC Pro League launched expanded English-language commentary for the 2019-20 season as it attempted to tap into wider communities and markets — a venture advanced by this month’s first live studio for Jazira’s epic 2-1 victory in the Capital Derby against champions Al-Ain. More will follow.

Clubs and organizers have also actively engaged with fans to drive numbers back into stands.

Even promoted Dibba Al-Fujairah now call an enviable AED100-million ($27 million) stadium home, while new boys Al-Bataeh are aggressively sweeping up impressive domestic buys and garnering attention.

Yarmolenko, Manolas, Pjanic and company, actualize the UAE’s “build it and they will come” mentality.

The innate strengths of Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s premier competitions are unquestionable. Both leagues, especially the Kingdom’s, recruited extensively this pre-season.

But a familiar face appears poised to re-join them at Asian football’s top table.

Now, a title race to savor in the UAE is the minimum expectation.

Holders Al-Ain’s surprise opening with four points from three matches is a sign of overall strength, not weakness. This is despite landing 2022 Golden Boy nominee Matias Palacios, retaining head coach Serhiy Rebrov and gifting him Yarmolenko’s signature.

The 2020-21 champions Al-Jazira are revitalized by the presence of Romania forward Florin Tanase and electric Morocco winger Achraf Bencharki. Ali Mabkhout, an icon for club and country, has responded with seven goal contributions in 305 minutes.

Sharjah’s spine could hardly be stronger with Manolas, Pjanic and Alcacer. That they possess, potentially, the continent’s outstanding tactician in Cosmin Olaroiu, plus numerous UAE talents, further strengthens last season’s runners-up.

Carlos Carvalhal will, surely, come good at Allan’s Wahda. Leonardo Jardim’s CV speaks for itself at Shabab Al-Ahli and so too Denayer’s and 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin’s.

Dark horses come in the guise of Ittihad Kalba, who welcome Galatasaray loanee Alexandru Cicaldau, and even Bataeh. Former Saudi Arabia boss Juan Antonio Pizzi has made an entertaining start at Al-Wasl, with legendary playmaker Omar Abdulrahman appearing rejuvenated after his fallow spell.

Taarabt has sprinkled stardust into the ranks of Bur Dubai rivals Al-Nasr. First impressions of manager Thorsten Fink are positive.

This glamorous cast has ensured the ADNOC Pro League will put on a show for 2022/23.

Euphoria about enlivening foreign captures was tempered by concurrent international matters.

Tuesday’s 4-0 friendly thrashing by Venezuela followed a 1-0 reversal to Paraguay. Both are within the bottom-three-ranked South American nations by FIFA.

These chastening results evidence how far the UAE game, as a whole, still has to go. No matter the monstrous size of steps being taken.

Defining characteristics of this influx’s lasting legacy cannot be confined to just social media engagements, ticket sales or entertainment value on the pitch, important as these markers are.

Hallowed progression to a second World Cup in 2026 represents real return on investment.

This outlay will be worth every dirham if invaluable lessons learned beside these established stars can transform slender AFC fourth-round qualification defeat for Qatar 2022 into jubilation for Canada, Mexico and the US.


India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers
Updated 30 September 2022

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers
  • Indian authorities hope the event will boost foreign investment

BURIRAM: India will stage a MotoGP race for the first time in 2023, organizers said on Friday, at the same track that once hosted Formula One.
The race is scheduled to take place at Buddh International Circuit in Uttar Pradesh, to the south of New Delhi.
The track has already played host to Formula One, staging three F1 grands prix between 2011 and 2013.
“We have a lot of fans in India and we’re excited to be able to bring the sport to them,” Carmelo Ezpeleta, chief executive of MotoGP organizers Dorna, said in a statement.
India represents a key market to expand the sport, organizers said, citing a population of 1.4 billion people and more than 200 million motorcycles.
“It’s a matter of great pride for Uttar Pradesh to host such a global event,” Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, said.
Indian authorities hope the event will boost foreign investment.


Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby

Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby
Updated 30 September 2022

Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby

Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby
  • While Tottenham’s rise underlines Conte’s managerial acumen, it is arguably Arteta who has done the more impressive work this term
  • Wenger, who led Arsenal to their most recent title in 2004, believes his former team should already be regarded as title contenders

LONDON: Arsenal and Tottenham will be fighting for much more than local bragging rights on Saturday as the north London rivals aim to prove they are serious contenders for the Premier League title.

As top-flight action returns following the international break, Arsenal sit top of the table after an unexpectedly strong start, while unbeaten Tottenham are just one point behind in third place.

With Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United still recovering their equilibrium after turbulent starts to the season, a path has opened up for the north London clubs to gatecrash the title race.

If a title challenger was expected to emerge from either end of the Seven Sisters Road, it was Tottenham who were the more likely candidates after snatching a top-four finish from their bitter rivals and neighbors in dramatic fashion last term.

Arsenal were in pole position to qualify for the Champions League when they moved four points clear of Tottenham with just three games left.

But Mikel Arteta’s side blew their chance as a disastrous 3-0 defeat at Tottenham was followed by a devastating loss against Newcastle, ruining their hopes of returning to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season.

Buoyed by pipping Arsenal, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy bowed to Antonio Conte’s demands, sanctioning a close-season spending spree that further enhanced the feelgood factor around the club.

With Conte refusing to let his players rest on their laurels, Tottenham have continued to progress in their second season under the demanding Italian.

Conte showed his ruthless side in Tottenham’s last game when he dropped Heung-min Son after his eight-match goalless run and was rewarded with a hat trick from the South Korean after sending him on as a substitute in the 6-2 rout of Leicester.

While Tottenham’s rise underlines Conte’s managerial acumen, it is arguably Arteta who has done the more impressive work this term.

Arsenal’s implosion in the final week of last season could have been a hammer blow to Arteta’s gradual rebuild of a club mired in mediocrity since well before the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign.

The eccentric side to Arteta’s personality was on display during the “All or Nothing” television documentary that captured the Spaniard’s fight to steer the club through troubled waters last season.

But Arteta’s quirks should not obscure the astute way he has infused Arsenal with energy and enthusiasm by promoting a group of talented youngsters, while also shipping out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang following disciplinary problems.

Revitalized by the recent signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, as well as the development of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal have enjoyed the benefits of a relatively benign fixture list so far.

Wenger, who led Arsenal to their most recent title in 2004, believes his former team should already be regarded as title contenders.

“I would say they have a good chance because I don’t see any super-dominating team,” Wenger told Sky Sports. “I believe it is a good opportunity to do it this season.”

However, Arsenal’s only match against a top-four rival this season ended in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United.

Arteta needs a statement victory to show there is substance to the surge that gave Arsenal their best start to a season since 2004, courtesy of a five-game winning run.

History is in Arsenal’s favor, with Tottenham on a run of 11 top-flight visits to the Emirates Stadium without a win since their last success in 2010.

Yet Arsenal, beaten only once in their past 29 home league games against Tottenham, must find a way to subdue long-time nemesis Harry Kane.

Tottenham striker Kane has scored a record 13 goals in 17 north London derby appearances, including two in their most recent meeting in May.

 

FIXTURES:

Saturday (1400 GMT unless stated)

Arsenal vs. Tottenham (1130), Bournemouth vs. Brentford, Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea, Fulham vs. Newcastle, Liverpool vs. Brighton, Southampton vs. Everton, West Ham vs. Wolves (1630)

Sunday

Manchester City vs. Manchester Utd (1300), Leeds vs. Aston Villa (1530)

Monday

Leicester vs. Nottingham Forest (1900)