Manchester United get Europa League group with Silva’s Sociedad

Manchester United get Europa League group with Silva’s Sociedad
Karl-Heinz Korbel draws Real Sociedad during the Europa League Group Stage draw at Halic Congress Center, Istanbul on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 August 2022

Manchester United get Europa League group with Silva’s Sociedad

Manchester United get Europa League group with Silva’s Sociedad
  • Man United entered the second-tier competition by placing just sixth in the Premier League last season
  • Arsenal’s fifth Europa League campaign in six seasons will be in a group with PSV Eindhoven, Bodø/Glimt and Zürich

GENEVA: Manchester United will start another season in the Europa League in a group with Real Sociedad, Sheriff and Omonoia after the draw was made Friday.
United, who won the Europa League in 2017 and were the beaten finalists two years ago, entered the second-tier competition by placing just sixth in the Premier League last season.
It was unclear Friday if Cristiano Ronaldo will still be at the club for the first round of games on Sept. 8 with more speculation linking him to a move from Old Trafford, this time with Napoli which are in the Champions League. On Thursday, Napoli were drawn in the same group as Liverpool.
The draw brings United face-to-face again with long-time Manchester City favorite David Silva, who returned to Spain to play for Sociedad, and involves two of the longest journeys to away games in the draw – to Moldova and Cyprus.
The Russian war on Ukraine has affected United’s trip to face Sheriff, who have been playing European home games in Chisinau instead of their home city Tiraspol. Tiraspol is in the Russian-supporting breakaway region of Transnistria which borders Ukraine.
UEFA decided in June to block Sheriff playing in Tiraspol citing “the large-scale military escalation resulting in the invasion of the Ukrainian territory by the Russian army.” Russian teams are also currently banned from all UEFA competitions.
Dynamo Kyiv of Ukraine – who will play their home games in neighboring Poland – will face Rennes, Fenerbahçe and AEK Larnaca.
Arsenal’s fifth Europa League campaign in six seasons will be in a group with PSV Eindhoven — coached by former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy — Bodø/Glimt and Zürich.
Roma coach Jose Mourinho is back in the competition he won with United five years ago. The Europa Conference League title holders were drawn in a group with Ludogorets, Real Betis and HJK Helsinki.
The group-stage draw in the third-tier Europa Conference League was being made later Friday at the same venue in Istanbul, which also staged the Champions League draw Thursday.
Lazio were among the top-seeded teams and were grouped with Feyenoord, Midtjylland and Sturm Graz.
The Europa League starts early this season on Sept. 8 and ends more than one month sooner than usual on Nov. 3. That is because of the World Cup in Qatar, which starts Nov. 20.
The six rounds of group-stage games span just eight full weeks before a midwinter break until the knockout playoffs round starts Feb. 16.
Group winners advance direct to the round of 16 in March and runners-up go to the knockout playoffs with the eight teams switching across from the Champions League after finishing third in a group there.
The Europa League final is on May 31 at the 65,000-capacity Puskás Aréna in Budapest, Hungary.
Third-place teams in Europa League groups in November move to the knockout playoffs in the third-tier Europa Conference League.
Europa League teams share about €465 million ($466 million) in UEFA prize money.
Each team gets a basic fee of €3.63 million, plus €630,000 per win and €210,000 for each draw in the group stage. Payments increase for advancing through each knockout round.
A team starting in the Europa group stage and eventually winning the title can earn about €40 million euros in UEFA prize money. That’s about one-third of expected earnings in Champions League prize money.


Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships

Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships
Updated 08 February 2023

Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships

Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships
  • For second successive year, 3-time Grand Slam champion returns to the ATP 500 event, set to run from Feb. 26 to March 4 at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium

DUBAI: British tennis legend Andy Murray has confirmed his participation at this month’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, accepting a second-consecutive wildcard and adding yet more quality to a men’s field that already features eight of the world’s top 20 male players.

The annual two-week championships, which starts with the yearly WTA event, is scheduled to run from Feb. 19 to March 4.

While capturing three Grand Slam titles is a huge part of Murray’s successful tennis career, the Scot reached world No. 1 in 2016 and made history at that year’s Olympic Games when he became the only player to win back-to-back gold medals in tennis singles.

A two-time finalist in Dubai, Murray defeated Fernando Verdasco in 2017 to lift the trophy, before a series of injuries saw him slip down the world rankings.

Murray — who at the 2012 US Open became the first British male in 77 years to win a Grand Slam — accepted a wildcard to return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium last year. Making his first appearance at the ATP 500 event since his triumph five years earlier, he reached the Round of 16 and will be looking to improve on that this time around after some encouraging performances at last month’s Australian Open.

“Coming back to Dubai brings with it a lot of good memories, not least 2017 and the final with Fernando,” said two-time Wimbledon champion Murray, who also reached the final in Dubai in 2012. My form is improving and my game is getting better, so the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships provides another great opportunity for me to continue to climb back up the rankings.”

Murray joins a stellar field that includes new world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is chasing a sixth Dubai title, last year’s champion Andrey Rublev, 2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, and world No. 7 Felix Auger-Aliassime, among others.

“We are delighted to welcome Andy back to Dubai,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Everybody knows how important a figure he is in British tennis and, as we have seen in the seven previous times he has competed at our event, he always attracts a strong and passionate support base. He accepted our wildcard last year and was a credit to the tournament and we are very happy he has accepted our invite once again.”


We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid

We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid
Updated 08 February 2023

We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid

We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid
  • Egyptian giants will face European champions Real Madrid in the second semifinal on Wednesday night in Rabat
  • Al-Hilal stunned Brazil’s Flamengo 3-2 to become first Saudi team to reach the competitions final

Al-Hilal left-back Saud Abdulhamid has insisted that the Saudi team will treat whoever they meet in the FIFA Club World Cup final with equal respect, even if he has slight preference for fellow Arab club Al-Ahly over European champions Real Madrid.

“We deserved to beat Flamengo, and such matches show the personality of the big teams, and are decided on small details, and we were able to defeat Flamengo with these details,” he said.

Egyptian giants Al-Ahly will face Real Madrid on Wednesday night in Rabat for the right to meet Al-Hilal in Saturday’s final.

“We always hope for a win for us as Arabs, but we will honor whoever comes,” Abdulhamid said.

Al-Hilal’s win avenged defeat in the semifinal of the 2019 edition of the competition against the same opponents. It was also the first time that a Saudi team has reached the final of the Club World Cup and the first victory by an Asian team over a Brazilian club.


Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics
Updated 08 February 2023

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics
  • The Saudi and Asian champions overcame the Brazilian giants 3-2 to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup on Feb. 11

Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz has expressed delight at reaching the FIFA Club World Cup 2022 final, after his team defeated Brazilian giants Flamengo 3-2 in their semifinal at Tangiers Stadium in Morocco.

“We are all happy because Al-Hilal is the largest club in Saudi Arabia, and we are proud to represent it and of the successes that we are achieving,” the Argentine said during the press conference after the match.

Salem Al-Dawsari gave Al-Hilal a fourth-minute lead from the penalty spot before Pedro equalized on 20 minutes. In stoppage time of the first half, Al-Dawsari scored his second spot-kick of the match to give the Saudi team the lead at the break.

Luciano Vietto extended Al-Hilal’s lead on 70 minutes, before Pedro scored a consolation goal for the Brazilians in stoppage time.

Asked whether tension in the Flamengo team helped Al-Hilal record their famous victory, he said: “Perhaps they were surprised by the players’ skills and our way of playing. In the first half, they only created one attack, and it was a very intense tactical match.”

Diaz highlighted the contribution of fellow Argentine Vietto, who won both penalties during the match. “Vietto was the playmaker and excels at perpetrating the opposition team. He is developing a lot and is very important to us.”

Flamengo were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Gerson was sent off after giving away the second penalty of the night. The Brazilian club’s coach complained about the refereeing in the match, but Diaz dismissed that as the reason for his side’s win.

“We should not focus on the refereeing, we should focus on the way we played,” he said. “We saw a strong team that could not reach our goal often, and this is evidence of the quality of our team’s tactics and players. We were playing one against one instead of three against three, and we played a great match and dominated for majority of its course.”


LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record

LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record
Updated 08 February 2023

LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record

LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record
  • The Los Angeles Lakers star passed Abdul-Jabbar’s longstanding total of 38,387 points after nailing a 21-foot shot late in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City
  • Abdul-Jabbar, sitting courtside, was among the first to congratulate James as play was interrupted to salute an iconic moment in NBA history

LOS ANGELES: LeBron James finally eclipsed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the most prolific scorer in NBA history on Tuesday, breaking a 39-year record that many throughout basketball believed would never be beaten.

The Los Angeles Lakers star, playing in his 20th season in the NBA, passed Abdul-Jabbar’s longstanding total of 38,387 points after nailing a 21-foot shot late in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

James flung his arms aloft in relief as the Crypto.com Arena erupted in wild celebration at his new record of 38,388 points.

Abdul-Jabbar, sitting courtside, was among the first to congratulate James as play was interrupted to salute an iconic moment in NBA history.

“To be able to be in the presence of a legend and great as Kareem it means so much to me,” James told the crowd before thanking family, friends and fans.

“Everybody that’s ever been part of this run with me these last 20 years, I just want to say I thank you so much because I wouldn’t be me without all your help, all your passion and all your sacrifices to help me get to this point.”

James also paid tribute to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his predecessor, the late David Stern.

“Thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I’ve always dreamed about, and I would never ever in a million years have dreamt this even better than what it is tonight,” James added before signing off with an F-bomb.

After a dazzling season that has seen him average 30 points per game in a struggling Lakers outfit, James went into Tuesday’s clash with Oklahoma City needing just 36 points to surpass Abdul-Jabbar.

The 38-year-old took his time before surging toward his magic number, missing his first two attempts before finally nailing a three-pointer midway through the first quarter to get off the mark.

The four-time NBA champion would go on to score eight points in the opening quarter, leaving him 28 short as the second quarter got under way.

James upped the pace in the second quarter with 12 quick points before being subbed off with 5:34 left in the half, 16 points away from the record by half-time.

A pair of back-to-back three pointers midway through the third quarter left him just eight points away from the record, with 28 on the night, before a driving layup put him within six.

Two more layups left him two points away before he duly converted his long-range effort to seal the record.

James has been at pains to dampen anticipation surrounding his record chase this season, insisting that his priority remains helping the Lakers become a competitive outfit once more.

However, in recent days he has been more expansive when discussing the record, saying last week that beating Abdul-Jabbar’s mark was comparable to breaking baseball’s all-time home run record.

“I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports in general,” James said.

“I think it’s up there with the home run record in baseball. It’s one of those records that you just don’t ever see or think that would be broken.”

Many in the NBA agreed, believing that Abdul-Jabbar’s record was untouchable in the modern era.

“I think most of us back then thought that record would never be broken,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Abdul-Jabbar’s record last weekend.

“So to see LeBron do it over 20 years is pretty remarkable and a testament to not only his ability but his durability.

“He’s just a machine. He’s healthy and a physical force night after night.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached James to two of his four NBA championships in 2012 and 2013, said he had always assumed Abdul-Jabbar’s record would never be beaten.

“I thought that would be untouchable,” Spoelstra told NBA.com before James’s record-breaking performance on Tuesday.

Tyronn Lue, James’s former coach at the Cleveland Cavaliers, believes the scoring record is the crowning achievement of his glittering career.

“This has to be No. 1, seeing how long Kareem has held this record (since 1984). I know LeBron has his championships and MVPs. But to be the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, considering all the great players that have come through this game? That’s a big-time accomplishment,” Lue told NBA.com.


Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
Updated 08 February 2023

Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
  • Former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova advances into the last-16 after a straight-sets victory against Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure

ABU DHABI: Seeded players Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova both needed three sets to secure their places in the last-16 stage as the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council delivered another entertaining day of tennis.

On the third day of the inaugural WTA 500-level tournament at the International Tennis Center, the Brazilian was made to work in her 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory against Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova on Stadium Court.

After losing the first set, Haddad Maia, the World No. 14, showed her class, breaking Bouzkova’s serve at 5-3 to clinch the second set. Her confidence soared as the match went on and she dominated the decider, needing only 32 minutes to seal the third set 6-0.

Speaking after the match, she said: “Marie Bouzkova is a very competitive player and I had practiced hard over the last few days to be 100 percent ready, and I’m happy with how I played. I can only focus on the next game and along with my coach, I’ll watch videos of my next opponent to come up with the best strategy and improve my game.”

Meanwhile, eighth seed and World No. 19 Samsonova also recovered from a set down to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 against the US’s Claire Liu, who replaced Paula Badosa after the Spaniard withdrew from her first-round match due to a viral illness.

Speaking after the match, Samsonova said: “It was not easy to find my game and I was very nervous at the beginning. But in the second set, I started to play more aggressively and it worked. Playing at the start of the season is sometimes tough so getting as much game time as possible will help me for the rest of 2023.”

Due to personal reasons, two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza also withdrew from her highly anticipated match against Karolina Pliskova that would have seen the former World No. 1s go head-to-head.

She was replaced by Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure, but the Czech proved to be too strong as she breezed into the next round with a 6-1, 6-3 in a contest that lasted 47 minutes. She will next face third seed and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the last-16.

Meanwhile, in the only doubles match of the day, Belinda Bencic and Elize Mertens ran out 6-1, 6-1 winners over Alicja Rosolska and Erin Routliffe to advance to the last-eight.

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open will continue on Wednesday with second seed and World No. 9 Bencic headlining the day’s play in the last-16 stage.

The gold medallist will face Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk on a day that also features fourth seed Veronika Kudermetova’s clash against Belgium’s Mertens. Seventh seed Anett Kontaveit will go up against Shelby Rogers, who beat Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 7-6, 6-1. Jelena Ostapenko will open Stadium Court proceedings against China’s Qinwen Zheng, who returns to the court 24 hours after defeating Rebecca Marino of Canada in straight sets 6-3, 6-3.