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
1 / 2
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
2 / 2
Al-Hilal’s Salem Al-Dawsari celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the first half. (Twitter: @Alhilal_FC)
Short Url
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.


Denmark coach says ‘emotions high’ for must-win World Cup clash

Denmark coach says ‘emotions high’ for must-win World Cup clash
Denmark's coach Kasper Hjulmand speaks during a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 9 sec ago

Denmark coach says ‘emotions high’ for must-win World Cup clash

Denmark coach says ‘emotions high’ for must-win World Cup clash
  • “It is a World Cup so emotions are very, very high and football is wonderful — with football you can multiply your feelings by 10, the fear of losing is (also) very, very much involved," said Denmark coach

DOHA: Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand admitted on Tuesday that “emotions are very, very high” for their must-win World Cup clash against a dogged Australia.
With holders France already qualified for the last 16 from Group D, Australia are in pole position to join them in the knockout rounds with three points from two games.
Going into the final round of Group D games on Wednesday, Denmark are third and Tunisia fourth, both with one point.
Euro 2020 semifinalists Denmark must beat Australia and hope Tunisia do not do likewise against France if they are to extend their stay in Qatar.
Hjulmand said “everyone is ready” and he has no fitness concerns, but he conceded the pressure is on for a team who had been expected prior to the tournament to progress along with France.
“It is a World Cup so emotions are very, very high and football is wonderful — with football you can multiply your feelings by 10, the fear of losing is (also) very, very much involved.
“How can we best handle that? These considerations you have to make.”
Denmark were held 0-0 by Tunisia in their opener and then lost 2-1 to a Kylian-Mbappe inspired France to leave them in deep trouble.
Hjulmand knows that the pressure is on, but he backed his players to handle it.
“Of course there is pressure,” said the 50-year-old.
“(But) these players are very, very used to big games and the more experience you have of these kinds of events, from maybe feeling the pressure, you feel pride.
“It is a dream since you were a kid and now you are actually in a position where you can go out and play football for something.
“It is privilege.”


Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah
Updated 29 November 2022

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah
  • Final phase of facility at megaproject Aljada was designed by Australia’s Keegan Palmer, the sport’s first-ever gold medalist

SHARJAH: Aljada Skate Park, the largest facility of its kind in the Middle East, has opened in Sharjah.

Located in the Madar family entertainment district of the Aljada community, the facility was opened by Australia’s Keegan Palmer, the skateboarding Olympic gold medalist, who designed its third phase.

Launched by developers Arada and spread over a 90,000 square foot (8,361 square meter) area, Aljada Skate Park contains sections for every level, from beginner to professional.

The pro-level phase of the facility contains design elements inspired by famous skate parks from around the world, including Bondi Beach and Salt Lake City, where Palmer has competed. This includes a large vert wall that can also be found at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, where he won the gold medal in 2021.

“This is not only the largest but also the most challenging and creative skate park anywhere in the region,” said Palmer. “Aljada Skate Park is now a focal point for the growing skate community here in the UAE, and I’m very excited about the future plans that we have for this amazing facility.”

Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, group CEO of Arada, said: “Our strategy has always been to deliver world-class facilities to inspire residents and visitors to our communities, and Aljada Skate Park is no exception. We’re delighted to support this rapidly growing sport here in the UAE and will shortly be sharing our plans to put Sharjah on the map as a global destination for professional skateboarding.”

Among those who joined Palmer and Alkhoshaibi at the park’s launch on Nov. 26 were Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, vice chairman of Arada, and Sabatino Aracu, president of World Skate, the global governing body.

Over the course of the weekend, skaters from across the UAE and beyond heard Keegan talk about his Olympic and Aljada journeys, as well as the chance to learn tricks at special clinics. In addition, another of the world’s top skaters, Pedro Barros, who won silver at Tokyo in 2021, also impressed the crowd with his skills.

On Saturday, skaters were able to show their skills and compete to win prizes during the Skate & Chill event hosted by California shoe brand Vans. The organizers gave away prizes for the best tricks performed over six sections of Aljada Skate Park, with visitors also treated to a festival atmosphere along with giveaways, a DJ, food and the opportunity to customize the brand’s shoes.

Special guests from the Gabriel Can Foundation, which aims to teach children diagnosed with autism to skate, were given a warm welcome with an hour-long event designed for them.

Spread over a 24 million square foot (2.2 million square meter) area and with 25,000 homes, Aljada is Sharjah’s largest-ever project. Since opening in early 2020, the Madar at Aljada entertainment district has welcomed over three million visitors.

The first phase of Madar contains the Aljada Discovery Center, the Zad food truck district, a free-to-enter drive-in cinema, a children’s adventure playground, an indoor events space, and an outdoor amphitheater. Scheduled to open next year, the second phase of Madar will contain a Wellfit gym — Sharjah’s largest fitness space — and a BOUNCE trampoline park.


Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round
Updated 29 November 2022

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round
  • Chelsea will head to Manchester when the big guns enter the competition over the weekend of Jan. 6-9

LONDON: To reach a fourth consecutive FA Cup final, Chelsea will have to go through Manchester City in the third round.
Chelsea will head to Manchester when the big guns enter the competition over the weekend of Jan. 6-9.
The Blues have made it to Wembley in each of the last three years, but have ultimately gone down to Arsenal, Leicester and Liverpool respectively.
Liverpool, which beat Chelsea on penalties last season to lift the trophy for the eighth time, launches its defense at Anfield against English Premier League struggler Wolverhampton.
Erik ten Hag will get his first taste of world football’s oldest club competition when Manchester United hosts Everton. West Ham makes the short trip to Brentford, and Southampton travels to Crystal Palace.
Premier League leader Arsenal and high-flying Newcastle drew away games at League One sides Oxford and Sheffield Wednesday.
Tottenham hosts League One’s Portsmouth, and Brighton travels to Middlesbrough in FA Cup winner Michael Carrick’s first taste of the competition as Boro boss. Championship rivals Cardiff host Leeds, and Burnley go to Bournemouth.
Nottingham Forest and Fulham both face second-tier opposition on the road in the shape of Blackpool and Hull respectively.
Aston Villa welcome fourth-tier Stevenage, and Leicester face either fifth-tier Dagenham & Redbridge or League Two’s Gillingham.


New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin
Updated 29 November 2022

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin
  • World’s best electric race car arrives for pre-season testing in Valencia next month
  • India, South Africa and Brazil to host races for the first time, as Maserati and McLaren debut in Mexico City on Jan. 14

LONDON: Formula E has unveiled a fresh new look ahead of season nine of the ABB FIA World Championship, with the debut of the Gen3 car accompanied by new races, cities, teams and sporting formats.

The Gen3 — the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built — will make its competitive debut in round one in Mexico City on Jan. 14, following pre-season testing next month in Valencia.

The championship will continue with three new cities hosting Formula E races for the first time: Hyderabad, India (round four on Feb. 11); Cape Town, South Africa (round five on Feb. 25) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (round six on March 25).

McLaren and Maserati are new to the Formula E grid next season. They will join some of the biggest names in motorsport including Jaguar, Porsche and Nissan among the 11 teams and 22 drivers competing for world titles.

Sporting regulation updates include a return to racing over laps; rookie drivers taking a seat for teams in FP1 sessions; and a plan to introduce a 30-second 4 kilowatt-hours “Attack Charge” boost at select races, made possible through the development of the most advanced EV battery in the world today.


Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 
Updated 29 November 2022

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 
  • Group G game between Switzerland and Serbia has been one to keep an eye on
  • It's not just because of the talented players on both teams, but because of the political tensions they brought on the field

DOHA: Switzerland’s loss made their upcoming World Cup rematch all the more enticing, and with a lot more on the line.

Ever since the match schedule was made in April, the Group G game between Switzerland and Serbia has been one to keep an eye on. Not just because of the talented players on both teams, but because of the political tensions they brought on the field when they met at the last World Cup.

Four years ago in Russia, Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka celebrated his goal against Serbia by making a double-headed eagle with his hands — thumbs representing the heads of the two eagles, fingers fanned to look like feathers. The figure is considered to be an Albanian nationalist symbol.

Xherdan Shaqiri added another goal in the final minute of the game, and did the same thing with his hands as the Swiss won 2-1 in the second of the three group matches.

Xhaka and Shaqiri both have ethnic Albanian heritage and family ties to Kosovo. They were teenagers growing up in Switzerland when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, something the Serbs still don’t recognize 14 years later.

Both players were fined by FIFA during the tournament, and the government of Albania opened a bank account for people to contribute toward paying the 10,000 Swiss franc ($10,500) penalties.

On Friday, only one of the two teams will be able to advance to the round of 16 in Qatar. Brazil, who beat the Swiss 1-0 on Monday and defeated Serbia 2-0 last Thursday, have already assured themselves of a spot in the knockout round.

The Swiss likely need only a draw at Stadium 974, and Shaqiri should be available to play after sitting out the match against Brazil with a muscle injury.

Xhaka, now 30 and a mature leader for his country, brushed aside the controversial match from four years ago.

“(There’s) nothing in the history behind these two games,” the Arsenal midfielder said. “We are Switzerland, they are Serbia, that’s it. We are here to play football — them, us as well.”

Still, the Serbian delegation at this year’s World Cup has already made the politics of Kosovo an issue.

Serbia’s locker room ahead of their opening game against Brazil displayed a national flag with territory that included Kosovo and the slogan “No Surrender.” FIFA opened a disciplinary case against the Serbian soccer federation on Saturday.

The Kosovo Soccer Federation formally complained to FIFA after a photograph circulated and the country’s sports minister, Hajjrulla Ceku, described the image as using the World Cup to promote “hateful, xenophobic and genocidal messages.”

The Swiss advanced to the round of 16 in 2018 after a draw with Costa Rica in their final group match, while the Serbs were eliminated after losing to Brazil. This time, the teams go head-to-head in their final group game.

“Of course, the history is the history,” said Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who also played against Serbia four years ago in Kaliningrad. “But in this moment it will be the game that is important.

“We know this game already,” Sommer added. “We had it in Russia.”