Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Fayha in King’s Cup final

Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Fayha in King’s Cup final
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Updated 20 May 2022

Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Fayha in King’s Cup final

Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Fayha in King’s Cup final
  • Saudi, Asian champions expected to add to 9 cup wins but recent exertions in 3 competitions may open door for underdogs

RIYADH: It is no surprise that Al-Hilal are favorites to defeat Al-Fayha in Thursday night’s King’s Cup final.

It is a team with more than 60 titles and trophies to its name, taking on an opponent that has none. Yet the nine-time winners — only Al-Ahli with 13 have won more — will not have it all their own way at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.

This is the biggest game in the history of underdogs Al-Fayha, and it is going to be a right royal battle, one fitting of this tournament. Al-Hilal have had plenty of big games this season and have a few more to come but there is something special about Saudi Arabia’s premier cup competition.

If years and decades of history are against Al-Feiha then past weeks and months are not. After all, they have taken four points from Al-Hilal already this season, more than most. There was a hard-fought 0-0 draw in December in Riyadh and then, on May 3, a famous 1-0 victory for the Orange at home to delight their fans.

Such results have helped to take Vuk Rasovic’s men into a comfortable sixth place in the table which means that they can fully focus on the final. It has already been a great season for the club, but it could get a great deal better.

The Serbian boss, who led Al-Faisaly to the 2018 final where they lost to Al-Ittihad, is ready.

Rasovic said: “We know our opponents well and we know that they are the best team in Asia. We also know that we deserve to be here, and we will be ready both physically and technically. I can say however that while we know that we have to be at our best defensively against Al-Hilal, we will be playing to win.”

The odds may be against Al-Fayha, but they have in their line-up Aleksandar Trajkovski, the attacker who caused a sensation in March when he scored the goal for North Macedonia that ended the hopes of Italy, European champions, of appearing at the 2022 World Cup. Few know better that anything can happen on the pitch. His exploits were well-noted in Europe as is the fact that the team have a Serbian coach and a Serbian goalkeeper in Vladimir Stojkovic. The former Red Star Belgrade and Nottingham Forest No. 1 has had an excellent season between the posts and the club’s decision to sign the veteran star in 2021 has been vindicated.

“You can imagine I am sure that, a year ago, it was not easy to convince the administration to sign a 38-year-old goalkeeper, but I did it as I know him well, know his quality, and how he is very professional and works very hard in training,” added Rasovic, who took Partizan Belgrade to the 2013 Serbian league championship.

Just a few days before came another example of how Al-Fayha can mix it with the best as they defeated league leaders Al-Ittihad 1-0 in the semi-final. Both games showed that they can take their chances and can keep the best attackers in Saudi Arabia, probably the best attackers in Asia, at bay.

“Of course, it is not easy to play against those two teams but if you analyze what we have done this season, you can see that we are a stubborn opponent when we play against the big teams,” Rasovic said.

That is borne out by the fact that Al-Feiha have conceded just 22 goals in the league this season, fewer than any other team.

Such defensive strength means that it could be a frustrating night for the league champions. When the two teams met earlier this month, Al-Hilal were kept at bay while Sami Al-Khaibari volleyed home a corner after 33 minutes to score the only goal of the game. Al-Fayha believe that their opponents are vulnerable to crosses into the box.

With that in mind, at least opposite number Ramon Diaz will be delighted that central defender Ali Al-Bulaihi has had an extra few days to recover from injury following the postponement of the last round of league games at the weekend. That meant the huge top of the table Classico against Al-Ittihad will have to wait until Monday but did buy a tired team some time.

Full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani should also be fit. There are still some absences but with attacking players such as Odion Ighalo, Moussa Marega, and Matheus Pereira fit and raring to go, Al-Hilal should have the firepower to test the miserly opposition defense to win another major trophy.

“I am very happy for the rest we got before playing this final,” Diaz said, adding that there were no such things as weak teams when it comes to a final. “The game will be decided by what happens on the pitch and not with expectations.”

The Argentine boss was understandably keen to dismiss the league results between the two teams this season.

“We lacked focus in that meeting but now we want to win the cup for our fans. In the final you either win or you get nothing, and we have to be at our best and focus more and reduce mistakes made.”

In what is likely to be a tight game, the team that makes the fewest mistakes may just end up with their hands on the trophy. Al-Hilal have dozens of those but Al-Fayha are looking for a first King’s Cup.


Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
Updated 03 July 2022

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
  • Antonio Felix da Costa finished in second place, with Mitch Evans third
  • ROKiT Venturi Racing driver Mortara tops podium for the third time this season with victory in Marrakesh, and takes lead in drivers’ championship

MARRAKESH: Edoardo Mortara hit the top of the Drivers’ World Championship with victory in the Marrakesh E-Prix round 10 as the ROKiT Venturi Racing driver fended off pressure from DS TECHEETAH teammates Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne throughout.

Da Costa started on pole position and, after falling behind Mortara during the early stages, he clung to the back of the Swiss driver’s car as the race reached its climax. But the Season 6 champion couldn’t make it past the Venturi driver who remained unflustered on the way to the top step and his third win of the season, as well as the standings lead.

“I must admit after Free Practice 2, we had a lot of issues and I was not thinking we could turn this thing around, but I have an incredible team behind me and they managed to do an incredible job already in quali,” said Mortara. “Then during the race, they had a plan, they had a strategy, we executed it and it was perfect.”

“You have the guys putting you under a lot of pressure. I was trying to be intelligent, trying to manage,” he said. “There was a lot to manage today — tires obviously, but also battery temperatures, energy. It was very difficult. I had some issues with the car today, I was a little bit by myself, let’s say, but we did that and I’m extremely happy.”

Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne was top of the Drivers’ World Championship going into the race but a braking glitch in qualifying left him down in 20th on the grid. He recovered to finish eighth but with just four points on the day, Mortara stands tall at the end of Round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Vergne had found himself in second heading into the closing stages with 2 percent of usable energy available before he slipped back behind da Costa to an eventual fourth position. Fellow title challenger Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) fought from sixth on the grid to the podium with a final lap lunge on Vergne for silverware and a handful of extra, crucial World Championship points.

In the searing 33-degree heat, drivers and engineers elected to jump early for their two mandatory Attack Mode boosts with the school of thought being that it would be more efficient and effective in the long run to ply that extra 30kW through the batteries and powertrain. In the mix was Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing), who battled to fifth and vital points for the Monegasque team.

Reigning World Champion Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ) clambered to sixth and Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) would have to settle for seventh. Vandoorne did make up an impressive 12 spots to finish eighth in the end after his qualifying disappointment. Sam Bird wound up ninth for Jaguar TCS Racing, and Oliver Rowland — who ran as high as second spot early on — rounded out the points-paying positions in 10th.

All that saw Mortara jump to an 11-point Drivers’ World Championship lead, with Vergne second and Vandoorne now third, having led heading into this Marrakesh E-Prix race weekend. Evans finds himself just 15 points shy of Mortara, with the top four breaking well clear of the chasing pack to set up a four-driver shootout over the final six races.

Next time out is the New York City E-Prix on July 16 to July 17 for rounds 11 and 12 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. The much-anticipated double-header takes place on the streets of the Red Hook district of Brooklyn against the spectacular backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. 

Two more double-headers close out Season 8, with the London E-Prix weekend on July 30 to July 31 before the championship climaxes with a first visit to Korea and the Seoul E-Prix weekend on Aug. 13 to Aug. 14.


Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year
Updated 03 July 2022

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year
  • The showpiece match between Italy’s league and cup winners was last held in Saudi Arabia in 2019

The Italian Super Cup match between league champions AC Milan and cup winners Inter is set to take place in Riyadh on Jan. 18, 2023, Italy’s national professional league, Serie A, has confirmed.

No stadium has yet been assigned for the return of the showpiece match to Saudi Arabia.

The Italian Super Cup, or Supercoppa Italiana, has often been played abroad and was last hosted outside of Italy in Riyadh in 2019, when Lazio beat Juventus 3-1 at the King Saud University Stadium.

The competition has for the last two years taken place on home soil due to COVID-19 restrictions, with Juventus beating Napoli 2-0 in Reggio Emilia in 2020 and Inter beating Juventus 2-1 last year at Milan’s San Siro Stadium.

 


Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship
Updated 03 July 2022

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship
  • The Saudi team has faced all three Group B opponents in previous competitions

The draw for the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship on Saturday placed Saudi Arabia’s handball national team in Group B alongside France, Slovenia and co-hosts Poland.

The tournament, organized by Sweden and Poland, will run from Jan. 12 to Jan. 29 in 2023.

The Saudi team has faced all three rivals in previous versions of the competition, having twice taken on Slovenia and Poland, while facing France once.

The first meeting against Slovenia was in 2001, ending in a 35-22 defeat for Saudi Arabia, while the second meeting in 2013 resulted in a 32-22 loss.

In 2003, Saudi Arabia faced France for the first time, in a match that ended in a 33-22 loss for the Green Falcons.

Poland, too, have won both of their encounters with Saudi Arabia — with a result of 28-14 in 2013, and 32-13 in 2015.

This will be the 10th time the Saudi national team has taken part in this competition, with the first of nine previous participations taking place in 1997, and the last in 2019. The team’s highest position was 10th in the 2003 competition played in Portugal.


UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off

UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off
Updated 03 July 2022

UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off

UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off
  • Commando Group took the top position on day one, with AFNT and Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club in second and third place

FUJAIRAH: The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Championship kicked off at Zayed Sports Complex on Saturday with stellar performances from Emirati fighters in the teens, youth, and men’s masters categories.

Commando Group came in first on the opening day of the championship while AFNT and Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club took second and third places respectively.

About 800 athletes from 50 countries are competing in the championship, which is organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in partnership with AJP. The first day’s competitions were held across seven mats with the top finisher in each category receiving 600 ranking points under the AJP-approved ranking.

The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Championship is the third event of the AJP Championships, which consists of five legs held in different regions of the country.  The opening day saw the UAE take first place in the country rankings, ahead of Colombia and Brazil.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, minister of state for foreign trade, was presented with two commemorative shields at the event by the UAEJJF and the Fujairah Martial Arts Club in appreciation of his support for jiu-jitsu and other martial arts competitions.

“The UAE continues to excel and solidify its position as a home for jiu-jitsu,” Al-Zeyoudi said. “The strongest evidence of our country’s excellence in hosting and managing the largest sporting events and championships is the fantastic performance we saw in the Zayed Sports Complex today and the great response by the public to the competitions.”

Mohammed Salem Al-Dhaheri, on behalf of the board of directors of the federation, extended his thanks to Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, crown prince of Fujairah, for his support for jiu-jitsu.

“The biggest assurance for the tournament’s success and achievements was his highness’ support,” he said. “The primary tenet of the nation’s leadership in this sport on a global scale is the support of our wise leadership.”


Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports
Updated 03 July 2022

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports
  • United’s international players are due to report for training in the coming days ahead of flying to Thailand on Friday

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave Manchester United this summer if the Premier League club receive an appropriate offer, according to multiple reports on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Portugal forward returned to Old Trafford from Juventus last summer but despite being United’s top scorer last season, and third in the Premier League, the campaign was overall disappointing.
United finished sixth in the Premier League, missing out on Champions League qualification, leaving the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has a year left on his contract plus an optional year, facing the prospect of playing in the Europa League for the first time.
Manchester United are adamant Ronaldo, who scored 24 goals in all competitions, is not for sale, according to reports, with new manager Erik ten Hag keen to work with him.
Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League during six trophy-laden years with United before leaving for Real Madrid in 2009 and Juventus in 2018, collecting more trophies at both clubs.
United’s international players are due to report for training in the coming days ahead of flying to Thailand on Friday for the start of their pre-season tour.