5 things we learned from Al-Feiha’s stunning defeat of Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final

5 things we learned from Al-Feiha’s stunning defeat of Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final
There was no doubt that Al-Hilal’s big names are feeling the effects of a long season and multiple competitions, but they have no rest before the huge title decider on Monday against Al-Ittihad. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 May 2022

5 things we learned from Al-Feiha’s stunning defeat of Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final

5 things we learned from Al-Feiha’s stunning defeat of Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final
  • Despite falling behind in the first half, the underdogs’ spirit and organization ensured they came back to make history by defeating the Saudi and Asian champions on penalties

The King’s Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Feiha on Thursday was a dramatic and tense encounter. After 90 minutes it was 1-1, with Salem Al-Dawsari putting Al-Hilal ahead on the stroke of halftime and Ramon Lopes equalising midway through the second half. The scoreline remained the same after extra time and Al-Feiha triumphed in the penalty shootout. There were plenty of talking points and here are just five:

1. Hard-working Al-Feiha make history

Al-Feiha had to fight for everything and were rewarded with a first major trophy in their history. They were second best in terms of possession and chances, but were always in the game and made it hard going for the league champions. Perhaps the game started more openly than coach Vuk Rasovic would have liked with Al-Hilal having chances early but then Al-Feiha settled and kept it tight for most of the two hours.

Despite falling behind, the men from Al Majma’ah kept calm, got back on level terms and then defended as if their lives depended on it. It remains to be seen whether this marks the start of a new era for the victorious team, but whatever happens, it is a night that will go down in Al-Feiha’s history.

This was a real team performance achieved through hard work, organization and fierce defending. Rasovic obviously knows how to play against Al-Hilal and his players followed his instructions to the letter, at least after the opening 10 minutes when the Riyadh giants had some good chances.

From then, it became a battle. Al-Feiha have played Al-Hilal three times this season and have conceded just one goal. Despite the loss, the champions will be happy that they will not have to face this opponent for a while.

 
2. Al-Ittihad will be delighted

While this game was always going to define the season for Al-Feiha, that was never going to be the case for Al-Hilal, who lifted a record fourth Asian title last November. Casting a shadow over the encounter was next Monday’s Classico against Al-Ittihad, which will go a long way to deciding where the Saudi Pro League title ends up. And this was the perfect situation for the Tigers, who were able to sit back and watch their closest challengers have a tough match and then go into extra time. 

Al-Hilal’s squad may be the best in Asia, but it was already stretched due to injuries and suspensions. Now there is an extra layer of fatigue that has been added and you could see the demands of a long season taking its toll.

As befits the King’s Cup final, the team from Riyadh picked their strongest possible team and it is a team now more tired than ever. At some point on Monday, it is quite possible that the Al-Hilal players will start to feel the effects of Thursday. Al-Ittihad in contrast have had more than two weeks in which to rest. Perhaps the best sight of the night for the league leaders was Salem Al-Dawsari going down with cramp in the second period of extra time. The smiles must have been very wide all over Jeddah.

 

3. Al-Feiha were right about Al-Hilal’s weakness

Before the game, Al-Feiha boss Rasovic rightly spoke at some length about the attacking talent that Al-Hilal have at their disposal and how it was going to be the toughest of games. The Serbian did, however, point to what he saw as the champions’ vulnerability: A problem dealing with crosses from wide. That was certainly the case for the equalising goal when a simple low ball into the area from the right side caused panic in Al-Hilal’s defence. Ali Al-Bulaihi fell over and Jang Hyun-soo was slow to react, which gave Ramon Lopes the second he needed to get a shot off.

Even so, the Brazilian’s effort was straight at Abdullah Al-Mayouf and, it seemed, at catchable height. However, the goalkeeper could only push the ball up and into the net. The Blues continued to look uncomfortable whenever the ball was sent into the area. It would not be a surprise to see Al-Ittihad doing something similar on Monday.

 

4. Al-Hilal’s tired stars have to dust themselves down

There was no doubt that Al-Hilal’s big names are feeling the effects of a long season and multiple competitions, but they have no rest before the huge title decider on Monday against Al-Ittihad. The likes of Matheus Pereira looked a little flat.

There was plenty of fanfare last summer when Al-Hilal beat a host of European clubs to the signature of the Brazilian playmaker, but while he has had his moments, he has yet to really take a big game by the scruff of the neck, and against such a determined and organised opponent, the final was crying out for a touch of class.

Moussa Marega worked hard, but neither he nor Ighalo could find a breakthrough. Abdullah Otayf was taken off early in the second half as coach Ramon Diaz tried to find a way through. It just did not happen in the end, but there is no time to dwell on the defeat as the big games keep on coming. Now Al-Hilal have to find a way to bounce back and take on their rivals in a title decider.

 

5. Al-Feiha continue positive trend

From 1986 to 2018, only five clubs lifted the King’s Cup: Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad, Al-Shabab, Al-Nassr and Al-Ahli. Yet, the domination of the big clubs, which is also the case elsewhere such as in England, has started to erode of late. Al-Taawoun won in 2019, Al-Faisaly lifted the trophy in 2021 and now it is the turn of Al-Feiha. It shows that the so-called smaller teams are improving, and while they still may struggle to live with the big boys over the course of a long season, in one-off encounters they have what it takes to win.

This is a positive development for Saudi Arabian football. When there is a path to glory then there is incentive for everyone to aim as high as possible and this helps raise the standard all over the country. And then there is the Asian Champions League. Al-Faisaly and Al-Taawoun have enjoyed their experiences on the continent which can only stand them in good stead for the future. Next year it will be the turn of Al-Feiha to cross swords with international rivals. They have what it takes to shine in a tournament setting.


Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports
Updated 7 sec ago

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports
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.

Tsitsipas says Kyrgios has ‘evil side’ after fiery Wimbledon clash

Tsitsipas says Kyrgios has ‘evil side’ after fiery Wimbledon clash
Updated 03 July 2022

Tsitsipas says Kyrgios has ‘evil side’ after fiery Wimbledon clash

Tsitsipas says Kyrgios has ‘evil side’ after fiery Wimbledon clash

LONDON: Stefanos Tsitsipas said Nick Kyrgios has an “evil side” after a stormy clash at Wimbledon on Saturday in which the victorious Australian called for his Greek opponent to be kicked out of the tournament.
The bad-tempered match overshadowed the rest of the action on day six, which included the end of Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak and a routine victory for Rafael Nadal.
The mercurial Kyrgios prevailed 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9/7) in an incident-packed third-round match on Court One.
The contest descended into mayhem when a frustrated Tsitsipas hit the ball into the crowd after losing the second set.
Kyrgios told the umpire that Tsitsipas should be kicked out of Wimbledon, recalling the incident at the US Open in 2020 when Novak Djokovic was defaulted from the tournament after hitting a line judge with a ball.
“You can’t hit a ball into the crowd and hit someone and not get defaulted,” said the 27-year-old, who received an audible obscenity warning during the match.
He kept up his verbal jousting with the umpire, clearly unsettling Tsitsipas, who was warned over the incident and later handed a point penalty for hitting the ball in frustration toward the back of the court.
The bad feeling bubbled up again in post-match press conferences, with fourth seed Tsitsipas saying it felt like a “circus.”

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas emotes after losing to Australia's Nick Kyrgios on July 2, 2022.  (REUTERS)


“He bullies the opponents,” said the Greek, who admitted trying to hit the ball at Kyrgios.
“He was probably a bully at school himself. I don’t like bullies.
“I don’t like people that put other people down. He has some good traits in his character, as well but... he also has a very evil side to him, which if it’s exposed, it can really do a lot of harm and bad to the people around him.”
Tsitsipas said he wished players could “come together and put a rule in place” to curb Kyrgios’s behavior.
“There is no other player that does this,” he said. “There is no other player that is so upset and frustrated all the time with something. It triggers it so easy and so fast.”
But Kyrgios laughed off Tsitsipas’s accusations, describing his opponent as “soft.”
“We’re not cut from the same cloth,” he said. “I go up against guys who are true competitors.”
He added: “I’m good in the locker room. I’ve got many friends, just to let you know. I’m actually one of the most liked. I’m set. He’s not liked. Let’s just put that there.”

Earlier, French veteran Alize Cornet took advantage of an error-strewn performance from Polish women’s world number one Swiatek to triumph 6-4, 6-2.
Swiatek never looked comfortable in the third-round tie, losing her serve five times and making 33 unforced errors.
The 21-year-old had not lost a match since her defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in February in Dubai, winning her past six tournaments, including the French Open.
“I know I didn’t play good tennis,” said the top seed, who lost the last six games of the match. “I was pretty confused about my tactics.
“As a solid player, she used that pretty well. For sure, it wasn’t a good performance from me.”
Second seed Nadal, chasing a rare calendar Grand Slam, beat Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to set up a last-16 match against Dutch 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp.
Australian 19th seed Alex De Minaur beat British wild card Liam Broady in straight sets and will play Chile’s Cristian Garin in the last 16.
Harmony Tan, who knocked Serena Williams out in the first round, demolished British wild card Katie Boulter 6-1, 6-1 in just 51 minutes to reach the fourth round.
Tan will next play 20th seed Amanda Anisimova, who came from behind to beat French Open finalist Coco Gauff 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-1 in an all-American tie.
Simona Halep, the champion in 2019, eased through to the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Magdalena Frech.
The Romanian will next play fourth seed Paula Badosa, who defeated two-time champion Petra Kvitova 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).


England’s Casey confirms he’s joining LIV Golf

England’s Casey confirms he’s joining LIV Golf
Updated 03 July 2022

England’s Casey confirms he’s joining LIV Golf

England’s Casey confirms he’s joining LIV Golf
  • Casey, ranked 26th in the world, is the 22nd of the world’s top 100 golfers to join the new LIV circuit 

LOS ANGELES: England’s Paul Casey confirmed Saturday he’s making the jump to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series, but the 44-year-old hopes to play the Open Championship before his debut on the breakaway circuit.
Casey, 44, is ranked 26th in the world, giving the LIV circuit 22 of the world’s top 100 players.
“I’m so excited,” Casey said in an interview during the live stream of Saturday’s final round of the LIV Golf Invitational in Portland, Oregon.
A lingering back injury forced Casey out of the US Open, and he noted that he hadn’t played a tournament since March.
Casey said he planned to make his LIV debut later this month at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.
That will be the third of eight events in this inaugural LIV season.
First, however, Casey said he would “love to tee it off in the Open Championship in St. Andrews.
“I’ve already missed three majors so far this year ... and then you will see me at Bedminster.”
The R&A announced in June that players signed up to the LIV Golf series will be allowed to compete in the 150th Open Championship.
 


Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix

Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix
Updated 02 July 2022

Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix

Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix
  • Sainz set the fastest time late in the third qualifying session to edge Verstappen by just .072 seconds
  • First pole position, it's always special, and especially to do it in Silverstone in the wet,” Sainz said

SILVERSTONE, England: Carlos Sainz was fastest in the rain in Saturday qualifying for the British Grand Prix to earn his first career pole position in his 150th start.
He edged reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen, who was booed by some in the crowd at the end of the session.
“Maybe some of them don’t like me, but that’s fine,” Verstappen said. “I don’t care.”
Sainz set the fastest time late in the third qualifying session to edge Verstappen by just .072 seconds. It was the seventh pole in 10 races for Ferrari this season, though Sainz teammate Charles Leclerc had earned the first six poles prior to Sainz’s surprise run.
“First pole position, it’s always special, and especially to do it in Silverstone in the wet,” Sainz said. “Kept it cool through the session and toward the end I decided to push.”
Sainz narrowly missed out on what would have been his first career win at the last race in Canada, when he finished just behind Verstappen.
Leclerc will start third, ahead of Sergio Pérez in the second Red Bull.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth for his home race as Mercedes seemed to have made progress with its problems of bouncing at high speed. His teammate George Russell was eighth.
As Verstappen spoke trackside following qualifying the boos were audible for the Dutchman. Verstappen and Hamilton collided in last year’s race, with Verstappen hitting the wall while Hamilton overcame a penalty to win.
The incident further heightened their often-bitter rivalry in a title race ultimately won by Verstappen, and turned some British fans against Verstappen. He was taken to a hospital for observation following the crash and complained that Hamilton showed poor sportsmanship by celebrating the victory as Verstappen was being medically evaluated.
The build-up to this year’s race has been dominated by former champion Nelson Piquet’s use of a racial slur and homophobic language to describe Hamilton in an interview which was filmed last year after the crash at Silverstone. The interview did not receive wide attention until this week, ahead of the return to the track.
Hamilton and other drivers condemned Piquet. Verstappen, who is dating Piquet’s daughter, Kelly, said Piquet had used “very offensive” language but added that the Brazilian was also “a really nice and relaxed guy” who was not a racist.
Leclerc said he felt his Ferrari was “competitive” but a mistake prevented him for challenging for pole position.
“I knew it was the lap where I had to put everything together and I didn’t as a driver, so I didn’t deserve to be on pole,” he said.


French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon

French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon
Updated 02 July 2022

French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon

French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon
  • The unseeded Frenchwoman is making her debut at the All England Club
  • Tan’s debut at Wimbledon came on Day 2 of the tournament on Centre Court

WIMBLEDON, England: Whether her opponents are tournament favorites or crowd favorites, Harmony Tan keeps knocking them out of Wimbledon.
First there was Serena Williams, a seven-time champion at the All England Club. Then came 32nd-seeded Sara Sorribes Tormo. On Saturday, it was British player Katie Boulter.
“I think I like grass,” said Tan, who won three straight matches at a tournament for the first time in her career. “I really like to play with some slice, volley, everything with my game.”
The unseeded Frenchwoman is making her debut at the All England Club. She has played at the French Open four times, reaching the second round once. She also played at this year’s Australian Open and again reached the second round. At the US Open, she lost in the first round in 2018 in her only appearance at Flushing Meadows.
On Saturday, Tan beat Boulter 6-1, 6-1 on No. 2 Court. She never faced a break point in the match and converted five of the 10 she earned.
Tan’s debut at Wimbledon came on Day 2 of the tournament on Center Court, the biggest stadium on the grounds. That’s where she eliminated Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, in three sets.
“It was really emotional for the first round against Serena, and after it was just play match for match,” Tan said on court. “Today was really good tennis. I don’t know why, but ... it depends (on) the day.”
Tan will next face either Coco Gauff or Amanda Anisimova. The two Americans will face each other in Saturday’s first match on Center Court.
French Open champion Iga Swiatek was scheduled to face Alize Cornet on No. 1 Court. Swiatek is the top-seeded player at Wimbledon and has won 37 straight matches.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was scheduled to follow Gauff and Anisimova on Center Court. Then Rafael Nadal, another two-time champion at the All England Club, was to play Lorenzo Sonego in the main stadium after that.