Al-Hilal overcome Al-Ittihad to blow Saudi Pro League title race wide open

 Al-Hilal overcome Al-Ittihad to blow Saudi Pro League title race wide open
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Al-Hilal’s Michael celebrates scoring his team’s third goal. (Twitter: @Alhilal_FC)
 Al-Hilal overcome Al-Ittihad to blow Saudi Pro League title race wide open
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Al-Hilal’s Salem Al-Dawsari celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the first half. (Twitter: @Alhilal_FC)
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Updated 24 May 2022

Al-Hilal overcome Al-Ittihad to blow Saudi Pro League title race wide open

 Al-Hilal overcome Al-Ittihad to blow Saudi Pro League title race wide open
  • The 3-1 victory in Jeddah means the Saudi and Asian champions are only three points behind the leaders with three games left

Al-Hilal defeated Al-Ittihad 3-1 on Monday evening to keep the Saudi Professional League title race well and truly alive.

Two goals from Michael and a Salem Al-Dawsari stunner gave the visitors a come-from-behind victory in this crucial Saudi El Clasico, reducing Al-Ittihad’s lead at the top to just three points with three games of the season remaining.

It was truly a champions’ performance from the title-holders, who lost the King’s Cup final to Al-Fayha in a penalty shootout at the same venue, King Abdullah Sport City Stadium, just four days ago.

Despite the disappointment of that setback, and the fatigue, they managed to prevent the Tigers from claiming a victory that would have all but guaranteed a first league title since 2009. Now, for the first time in this run-in, the pressure is really on Al-Ittihad and it is coming from Al-Hilal.

Played out in front of a packed and passionate crowd — and featuring a pre-match tiger tifo from the home fans that was truly world class — the game was a fantastic, breathless advert for Saudi Arabian football, featuring two top teams both desperate to win. Al-Hilal needed victory to remain in the title chase while Al-Ittihad had a chance to go nine points clear with three games to go.

The first half was a tale of two penalty claims, one of which was denied after a video assistant referee intervention and one that was not. The game started at a breakneck pace to the delight of an appreciative crowd that provided the perfect atmosphere for such a big game. Every touch by a man in blue was greeted by jeers, with the cheers reserved for the heroes in yellow and black.

The roof was almost blown off in anger when the referee pointed to the spot after 12 minutes when Al-Hilal’s Michael was hacked down by Abdulrahman Al-Obud on the edge of the area. There was no doubt at all that it was a foul but the home players protested that it had happened outside the area. The VAR agreed and the free-kick came to nothing.

There was controversy at the other end after 28 minutes when a shot from Igor Coronado hit Jang Hyun-soo’s arm and the referee awarded a penalty. This time there was no intervention by the VAR, though the official did take a good long look at replays on the monitor. Up stepped Romarinho, who coolly sent Abdullah Al-Mayouf the wrong way to give his side the lead.

It was canceled out three minutes before the break. Al-Ittihad goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe came out to punch a cross clear but the ball fell on the edge of the area to Michael, who volleyed it through a crowded area and past the prone shot stopper, injured by a collision, to equalize.

(Twitter: @Alhilal_FC)

There was no let up in pace in the second half. Both teams continued to push forward but just could not find the final ball to create clear chances, with defenders making important interceptions.

The most crucial of these came just before the hour mark and kept Al-Hilal level. Al-Mayouf came out of his area to clear a long ball from the Al-Ittihad half but was beaten to it by Abderrazak Hamdallah. The Moroccan’s low shot was heading for the back of the net until Ali Al-Bulaihi somehow managed to slide in and clear it to keep the scoreline at 1-1.

It did not remain that way for much longer before the champions showed their class with a stunning goal. Salman Al-Faraj’s cross from the right was headed by Odion Ighalo from the six-yard box back to the edge of the area where the onrushing Al-Dawsari jumped into the air and directed the bouncing ball into the top corner. It was a world-class finish. There were a couple of minutes of uncertainty while the VAR checked to make sure that Ighalo had been onside. It turned out he was, just.

Al-Ittihad were still recovering from that setback when they suddenly found themselves 3-1 down. It was another fabulous goal: Al-Dawsari’s pass from the right side split the defense but there was still plenty left for Michael to do. The Brazilian picked up the ball on the left edge of the area, cut inside and, despite the close attention of defenders in yellow and black, fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

(Twitter: @Alhilal_FC)

That really knocked the stuffing out of the hosts and from then, of the two teams it was Al-Hilal who looked much more likely to score. With eight minutes left, Michael, who was having his best game since joining the club, again came close.

The visitors returned to Riyadh with three priceless points and, perhaps, a new-found belief in themselves that the title race is far from over.

Gamers8 and Spotify team up for Saudi Arabia’s first live international esports season

Gamers8 and Spotify team up for Saudi Arabia’s first live international esports season
Updated 15 sec ago

Gamers8 and Spotify team up for Saudi Arabia’s first live international esports season

Gamers8 and Spotify team up for Saudi Arabia’s first live international esports season
  • The world’s most popular audio streaming platform will be exclusive partner for the $15m event
  • Highly anticipated anthem by DJ and producer R3HAB, featuring Kingdom’s pop artist Meteb Alshalan, set for release

RIYADH: Gamers8 have unveiled an exclusive partnership with streaming giant Spotify, who will become the official audio streaming partner for the all-new major esports and gaming season taking place live in Riyadh this summer.

Spotify boasts a community of more than 422 million monthly active listeners, including 182 million subscribers, across 183 markets. Under this partnership, gamers and their fans can enjoy specially curated audio inspired by the esports community.

Gamers8, from the creators of Gamers Without Borders, will be held in the Saudi capital from July 14 to Sept. 8, with a total prize pool of $15 million.

Omar Batterjee, head of marketing, communications, and partnerships at the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “Music and audio are an essential part of esports. We are thrilled to partner with Spotify to provide our fans with a one-stop destination where they can enjoy the ultimate curated content and iconic experiences. Together with Spotify, we can collectively combine esports, technology, entertainment, and music to inspire the gaming community, as well as the next generation of gamers and fans.”

Gamers8 will have an official co-curated playlist by Spotify’s music team as well as lists by gaming professionals and celebrities. In addition, Spotify and Gamers8 will create and launch a podcast dedicated to the season in partnership with Rising Giants Network. The eight-episode series will be the go-to place for gaming enthusiasts to hear about the top players through game highlights and one-on-one interviews.

The partnership will also see the release of the highly anticipated Gamers8 anthem produced by DJ and producer R3HAB, featuring Saudi pop artist Meteb Alshalan.

Commenting on the partnership, Nicole Aoun, Spotify’s marketing and partnership lead in Saudi Arabia, said: “While at Spotify, we continue to be laser-focused on growing the creators’ community, we are equally as passionate about creating memorable experiences for the Saudi youth, demonstrating our commitment to the local community.

“The Saudi Esports Federation shares our vision of providing world-class entertainment for the gaming community, and we are thrilled to embark on this journey together, making Saudi gamers and fans connect meaningfully through music and podcasts.”

LIV Golf unveils 12 teams for LIV Golf Invitational Portland

LIV Golf unveils 12 teams for LIV Golf Invitational Portland
Stinger GC, captained by Louis Oosthuizen, third left, will be looking to defend their team title. (File/AFP)
Updated 58 min 47 sec ago

LIV Golf unveils 12 teams for LIV Golf Invitational Portland

LIV Golf unveils 12 teams for LIV Golf Invitational Portland
  • All-South African Stinger GC, captained by Louis Oosthuizen, look to defend team title
  • World leading 48-player field also features individuals competing for millions in prize money

JEDDAH: The Saudi-backed LIV Golf company on Wednesday revealed the 12 teams from the 48-player field competing in the LIV Golf Invitational Portland, the tour’s second event of the season taking place from June 30 to July 2 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series features teams of four where players compete as individuals and teams for both points and prize money. Captains and teams are finalized the week of each event, as each tournament may showcase a different field.

In the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational London at Centurion Club, Stinger GC, with captain Louis Oosthuizen and fellow South Africans Charl Schwartzel, Hennie du Plessis and Branden Grace, took first place with a total score of 20-under par. The four players will again compete together to defend the first-ever team title against a field that showcases a variety of new team captains and rosters, as well as major champions and rising stars making their debut.

Every team has a LIV Golf-appointed team captain who selects his squad. All members of the four-player teams, including the captain, compete in the three-day tournament. The player with the lowest 54-hole stroke play total is the individual winner. In the team competition, the best two stroke play scores in the first two rounds will count for each team. For the third and final round, the best three scores will count. The lowest overall team score after 54 holes is the team winner.

Below are the team profiles for the LIV Golf Invitational Portland:

STINGER GC: All four players were born in South Africa. Stinger GC won the inaugural team competition at the LIV Golf Invitational London. Stinger members also took the top three spots on the individual leaderboard (1-Charl Schwartzel, 2-Hennie du Plessis, 3-Branden Grace).

CRUSHERS GC: New LIV Golf member Bryson DeChambeau takes over as captain. DeChambeau replaces Peter Uihlein, who led the team to a runner-up finish in London. Uihlein, fourth individually in London, remains on the team. Newcomers include South Africans Shaun Norris (formerly of 4 Aces) and Justin Harding (formerly of Hy Flyers).

MAJESTICKS GC: Lee Westwood takes over for Ian Poulter as captain of the all-English team. Poulter remains on the team, as does Laurie Canter and Sam Horsfield. Majesticks GC finished third in London and Horsfield was the top Majesticks player, finishing fifth individually. Combined, the players have made more than 1,600 starts professionally.

TORQUE GC: This team has an entirely new lineup consisting of four players born in Japan. Hideto Tanihara (formerly of Iron Heads GC) takes over for Talor Gooch as captain. Other new players include Ryosuke Kinoshita (formerly of Punch GC), Jinichiro Kozuma (formerly of Smash GC) and Yuki Inamori (making his LIV Golf debut). Combined, they’ve made nearly 1,000 starts professionally.

4 ACES GC: Captain Dustin Johnson is the only carryover from London. His new team now includes three fellow Americans — Patrick Reed, Pat Perez and Talor Gooch. Reed and Perez are making their LIV Golf debuts and Gooch was formerly the Torque GC captain. Reed (2018) and Johnson (2020) have won two of the last five Masters. Combined, the four players have made more than 1,350 worldwide starts in professional events.

CLEEKS GC: Martin Kaymer remains captain and Ian Snyman is also a carryover from London. New team members include Scott Vincent (formerly of Smash GC) and Turk Pettit (formerly of Niblicks GC). Snyman and Vincent were among six players who qualified for the LIV Golf Invitational London through the International Series. The four teammates are from different countries — Germany (Kaymer), South Africa (Snyman), Vincent (Zimbabwe) and Pettit (US).

PUNCH GC: Wade Ormsby (captain), Matt Jones and Blake Windred are carryovers from London. Jediah Morgan (formerly of Fireballs GC) joins the now all-Australian team. Punch loses its top performer from London, Ryosuke Kinoshita (T-13th individually).

NIBLICKS GC: Captain Graeme McDowell is the only carryover from London. His new roster consists of Travis Smyth (formerly of Crushers GC), Hudson Swafford (formerly of Torque GC) and James Piot (formerly of Fireballs GC). McDowell was his team’s top performer in London, finishing T-10 individually.

SMASH GC: New LIV Golf member Brooks Koepka takes over as captain of a team with an entirely new roster of players. His younger brother Chase Koepka (formerly of Hy Flyers GC) joins the team, as does Richard Bland (formerly of Crushers GC) and Adrian Otaegui (formerly of Torque GC). Otaegui finished T-6 individually in London.

HY FLYERS GC: Captain Phil Mickelson gets three new members with Matthew Wolff making his LIV Golf debut. Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (former of Niblicks GC) and Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat (formerly of Smash GC) join the two Americans. Mickelson and Wolff are former NCAA Division I men’s golf champions.

FIREBALLS GC: Sergio Garcia is the lone carryover. The Spaniard remains captain of a team that includes three players making their LIV Golf debuts and all four players are from Spanish-speaking countries. Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz are from Mexico, and Eugenio Chacarra is from Spain. Chacarra, the number-two ranked amateur making his pro debut in Portland, considers Garcia a mentor. Ancer and Ortiz competed in the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021, while Garcia competed in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

IRON HEADS GC: Kevin Na (captain) and Sadom Kaewkanjana are carryovers from London. Newcomers include Sihwan Kim (formerly Smash GC captain) and Phachara Khongwatmai (formerly of Crushers GC). Na and Kim were born in Seoul, South Korea, and each moved to California at a young age. Khongwatmai and Kaewkanjana are from Thailand.

LIV Golf is owned and operated by LIV Golf Investments whose vision and mission are centered around making holistic and sustainable investments to enhance the global golf ecosystem and unlock the sport’s untapped worldwide potential.

Newcastle set to sign Dutch rising star Sven Botman

Newcastle set to sign Dutch rising star Sven Botman
Updated 29 June 2022

Newcastle set to sign Dutch rising star Sven Botman

Newcastle set to sign Dutch rising star Sven Botman
  • Defender for Lille and national youth side could be Magpies’ third summer signing
  • Deal of about $36m may take United’s summer spending to around $62m

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United have confirmed they’ve agreed a deal in principle to sign Lille’s and the Netherlands’ youth international defender Sven Botman.

Botman is now on the verge of becoming the Magpies’ third first-team signing of the summer so far, following on from the permanent capture of Matt Targett from Aston Villa and England international goalkeeper Nick Pope from recently relegated Burnley.

While the deal is yet to be 100 percent confirmed, United released a statement outlining their agreement with the Ligue 1 outfit for the 22-year-old, who has been a long-time target of the Magpies.

The fee for the player is understood to be in the region of $36 million plus performance-related add-ons, taking United’s summer spending to around $62 million.

Confirming the news, a United statement read: “Newcastle United have agreed a deal in principle with LOSC Lille to sign Dutch defender Sven Botman for an undisclosed fee, holding off competition from a host of European sides to secure the highly rated center-back.

“Botman has completed his medical on Tyneside and agreed the terms of a five-year contract.

“The formalities of the transfer are set to be concluded this week, following which the 22-year-old will officially become a Newcastle United player.”

The deal, once concluded, will end a near nine-month-long chase for the player, who was earmarked as the Magpies’ number-one transfer target post-takeover.

The Magpies saw two offers rejected for the player in the January transfer window, but were not deterred in their pursuit, with the player and his representatives making it clear they would be keen to sign for the club.

And while AC Milan appeared confident they would beat Newcastle to the former Ajax academy graduate’s signature, United’s bid won out to deliver the central defender that head coach Eddie Howe wanted to spearhead his defensive rebuild on Tyneside.

Arab News understands the reason the deal has not been completely rubber-stamped is due to paperwork delays from the French side, with all formalities from a United perspective signed and sealed. Despite this, there are no fears that it will not be green-lighted this week.

Taking to social media, Botman expressed his delight at putting pen to paper on his new five-year deal.

Via his Instagram, Botman posted: “Official. Happy to be part of the Magpies family!”

His post was accompanied by three photos, one of him holding up the new home shirt, and two others with his family and representatives pitchside at St James’ Park.

As is very much their style, two of the Newcastle United ownership group also took to Twitter to welcome the new arrival.

PCP Capital Partners’ Mehrdad Ghodoussi tweeted: “Welcome to the family Sven.”

While Jamie Reuben, of RB Sports & Media, said: “Welcome to the best club in the world.”

Trilogy: Canelo aims to finish Golovkin rivalry with a KO

Trilogy: Canelo aims to finish Golovkin rivalry with a KO
Updated 29 June 2022

Trilogy: Canelo aims to finish Golovkin rivalry with a KO

Trilogy: Canelo aims to finish Golovkin rivalry with a KO
  • For Alvarez, this fight is “personal” for him because Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) kept dismissing him while seeking a third matchup after their September 2018 bout

NEW YORK: A split draw in the first fight and then a majority decision in favor of Canelo Alvarez in the second.

So, how about a knockout in the third chapter to settle once and for all the fierce rivalry between the Mexican superstar and Gennady Golovkin?

“From the first round I’m gonna go for the knockout. I know I’m gonna risk a lot,” Álvarez said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I have to. I aim at greatness.”

Golovkin bets on Alvarez being vulnerable as they complete their trilogy on Sept. 17 in Las Vegas.

“Prefer not to think about knockdowns. That’s not the right approach,” he told the AP. “Boxing is a dangerous sport. Defend yourself properly,“

Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) is coming off his first loss in nearly nine years, a lopsided defeat when he moved up in weight to challenge light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol in May.

Golovkin, who will be fighting at 168 pounds for the first time, said he only watched the highlights from Bivol’s win, but believes Álvarez just wasn’t totally ready to fight at 175 pounds.

“I saw Canelo didn’t show the best of him,” Golovkin said. “Probably he didn’t take that fight seriously, didn’t prepare mentally for that fight. This one would be different.”

Alvarez acknowledges the loss “hurt me a lot.” He also he said his preparation was not ideal, but avoided getting into details of what tired him in the later rounds.

“I have to move forward. I’m more dangerous right now. I’m more angry and I will use it in my favor,” he said

And there’s all the animosity they keep since their first bout in September 2017.

It was on display during intense staredowns in Los Angeles and New York the past week — including one in Yankee Stadium, where they threw out ceremonial first pitches.

For Alvarez, this fight is “personal” for him because Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) kept dismissing him while seeking a third matchup after their September 2018 bout.

Golovkin also threw shade at Álvarez for his golf hobby, which some blamed for his defeat in May.

“When you lose, everybody starts making excuses,” Álvarez said. “It’s because of this or if I am golfing too much. I was golfing when I won the (super middleweight) title three years ago.”

Now, he wants to knock out the 40-year-old from Kazakhstan for the first time and send him into retirement.

“I’m gonna end his career,” he said.

Golovkin has reacted dismissively, saying Álvarez postures too much.

“It’s hard for me to say why he’s saying all that,” he said. “I don’t think about him, I forgot about him. He has lost track of reality.”

What motivates him is completing the trilogy, joining other ones such as Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier or Sugar Ray Leonard vs Roberto Duran.

“Even rematches are not happening all the time. It would be a historic event,” Golovkin said.

Accor recruiting 12,000 temporary workers to help accommodate Qatar’s World Cup fans

Accor recruiting 12,000 temporary workers to help accommodate Qatar’s World Cup fans
Updated 29 June 2022

Accor recruiting 12,000 temporary workers to help accommodate Qatar’s World Cup fans

Accor recruiting 12,000 temporary workers to help accommodate Qatar’s World Cup fans
  • Qatar hopes to attract 1.2 million visitors, nearly half of its population, during the 28-day tournament in November and December

DOHA: Hotel operator Accor is recruiting 12,000 temporary overseas employees to operate 65,000 empty rooms in apartments and homes in Qatar as temporary fan housing for the 2022 soccer World Cup, its chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin told Reuters.
Qatar is working to avoid an accommodation shortage during the tournament and has hired Accor, Europe’s largest hotel operator, to manage the temporary operation.
“65,000 rooms is like opening 600 hotels, so we committed to hire enough people to serve it,” Bazin said, adding that a drive is under way in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and South America to recruit housekeepers, front-desk staff, logistics experts and others.
“All that is going to be dismantled at the end of December,” he said.
Qatar’s official World Cup accommodation website has received around 25,000 bookings so far, and will offer more than 100,000 rooms, Omar Al Jaber, executive director of accommodation for tournament organizers the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy told reporters on Tuesday.
“We will be under pressure until the first match has started. This is normal and we are ready,” Al Jaber said.
Qatar hopes to attract 1.2 million visitors, nearly half of its population, during the 28-day tournament in November and December.
But the tiny Gulf Arab state has fewer than 30,000 hotel rooms, according estimates by Qatar Tourism, and 80 percent of those rooms have been block booked by world soccer’s governing body FIFA, for official guests, World Cup organizers said.
Qatar is also offering 4,000 rooms on two cruise ships moored at Doha Port, 1,000 Bedouin-style desert tents and rooms in pre-fabricated fan village cabins. Pre-booked accommodation is mandatory for ticketed fans who plan to stay overnight in Qatar during the World Cup, Al Jaber said. Without accommodation, most fans won’t be issued a mandatory fan ID, which doubles as a visa to Qatar.
To operate hotel-style rooms in homes and apartments will be a massive logistical challenge for Accor, Bazin said.
The hotel operator is shipping 500 containers from China, filled with furnishings, from sofas to silverware. Accor will redeploy its fleet of trucks, busses and cars from Makkah in neighboring Saudi Arabia to overcome an expected shortage of available vehicles in Qatar during the tournament, he said. It has also sourced a local company to launder the 150 tons of dirty linen the operation will generate each day.