Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad clash in first Classico of the Roshn Saudi League season

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad clash in first Classico of the Roshn Saudi League season
Al-Nassr will host Al-Ittihad at a sold-out Mrsool Park. (Twitter: @AlNassrFC_EN)
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Updated 01 October 2022

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad clash in first Classico of the Roshn Saudi League season

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad clash in first Classico of the Roshn Saudi League season
  • he match is too early in the season to decide matters, but coaches Rudi Garcia and Nuno Santo will be under scrutiny in their new roles

As with most domestic competitions around the world, this has been a stop-and-start season for the Roshn Saudi League, but the action moves up a level with Sunday’s Classico as Al-Nassr host Al-Ittihad at a sold-out Mrsool Park.

It is the first clash between two of the Kingdom’s giants in this campaign so far, and while it will not decide anything, it will be a fascinating meeting on many levels.

After four games so far, the top four from last season are in the top four positions at the moment. Al-Shabab and Al-Hilal both have a maximum of 12 points (and their meeting a week later will be something to witness). Ittihad are third with 10, and like the top two have yet to concede a goal, and then come Al-Nassr with nine points. Assuming that the top two both extend their winning streak on Sunday then either Al-Ittihad or Al-Nassr are going to find themselves already with some ground to make up if they end up losing.

Yet it is still early days, with two coaches who are still getting two grips with football in Saudi Arabia ahead of their first big test. And it is those coaches who provide many of the talking points and should ensure that there are plenty of observers around the world.

Nuno Santo moved to Jeddah in the summer, following in the footsteps of Rudi Garcia who arrived to take charge of Al-Nassr a few weeks earlier. Together, these two have managed some big clubs in Europe including Valencia, Porto, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Tottenham Hotspur, Roma, Marseille and Lyon. The Portuguese and the Frenchman may have different styles and philosophies but the remit is very much the same — to bring the league trophy back.

For Garcia, there is a little less pressure in that regard as it was only 2019 since Al-Nassr were last champions but he has brought in some big stars and bosses will be expecting a return. It could be an issue this weekend with some serious air miles needed to get those players back to Riyadh after representing their homelands in far-flung locations.

Goalkeeper David Ospina was in the US as Colombia beat Guatemala 4-1 in New Jersey and then headed to California to play in the 3-2 win over Mexico. It is a long way back and the former Arsenal and Napoli star only reported for training on Friday along with full-back Ghislain Konan, who played in France as the Ivory Coast defeated Togo and Guinea. Then there is Vincent Aboubakar. The striker was in action for Cameroon in South Korea after taking on Uzbekistan earlier, and picked up a knock. It remains to be seen if this year’s AFCON top scorer can start on Sunday.

Al-Nassr will need all their firepower including Talisca, who has recently released a rap album. The Brazilian played in the past two games in which the Yellows have looked more threatening in attack, with the most recent outing a 4-0 win over Al-Batin. It was a fluid display with the attacking midfielder getting forward well to support Aboubakar. With Al-Ittihad defensively solid under Santo — with four clean sheets out of four — it could well be that chances are at a premium in this Classico.

The Portuguese boss is perhaps under a bit more pressure than his counterpart as Al-Ittihad were last champions in 2009 and last year threw away the title after having a double-digit lead at the top of the table.

In the short-term, there are some worries. Brazilian attacker Romarinho may miss the game through injury and there are also questions about Portuguese winger Helder Costa. Both face late fitness tests. Neither have scored yet this season with half of their six goals coming from defenders, and there is better news in that regard. Center-back Ahmed Hegazy has declared himself fit. There were worries when the former West Bromwich Albion star left the pitch after an hour of Egypt’s 3-0 win over Liberia on Tuesday, but he is set to start.

Compatriot Tarek Hamed has added even more solidity to the midfield and returns from Egyptian duty fit and ready for action. It will be up to these two to keep an eye on Aboubakar and Talisca.

Then there is Abderrazak Hamdallah, who was released by Al-Nassr late last year and then ended up signing for Al-Ittihad. There is still plenty of bad feeling around the whole deal but he is now back in the team and looking to become a late bolter for Morocco at the World Cup. To have a chance of persuading new coach of the Atlas Lions Walid Regragui, who is looking to strengthen his front line, Hamdallah is going to need to start banging in the goals in the next few weeks.

That may not be enough and similarly this latest Classico will not decide anything in terms of titles either. It will, however, give an indicator of where Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad are at this early stage under these two famous European coaches. It should be quite the clash.


LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
Updated 28 January 2023

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
  • Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for  Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against San Antonio Spurs

NEW YORK: A game-worn jersey of basketball superstar LeBron James sold for $3.7 million at auction Friday, five times more than the previous record for one of his shirts.

The sale comes with interest even higher than usual in the 38-year-old LA Lakers icon as he nears the NBA’s all-time scoring record.

Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for the Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against the San Antonio Spurs.

It smashed the previous record of $630,000 for a James All-Star jersey worn in 2020.

Game-worn sports memorabilia is big business.

Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million in September 2022, is currently the most valuable such item.

Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last year.

James needs just 178 points to eclipse Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tally of 38,387 points, one of the most coveted and longstanding records in basketball.

Sotheby’s also sold a dress worn by the late Princess Diana for $604,800 Friday.


Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
Updated 28 January 2023

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
  • Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th

LEIPZIG, Germany: Two sweetly hit shots from Dominik Szoboszlai lifted Leipzig to a 2-1 win over Stuttgart to close within a point of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Friday.

Szoboszlai had not scored in the league since September before the Hungarian midfielder gave his team the lead with a swerving, dipping free kick in the 25th minute that goalkeeper Florian Muller could only push into his own net.

Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th, using one touch to control a header from teammate Andre Silva on the edge of the penalty area before letting the ball drop and striking a half-volley that left Muller no chance.

Embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation, Stuttgart had plenty of chances to exploit defensive errors from Leipzig but couldn’t convert enough of them.

Shortly before Szoboszlai’s second goal, Stuttgart’s Niklas Nartey could have leveled the score when he was one-on-one with Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich, but his shot bobbled wide of the far post instead. Stuttgart finally scored when Chris Führich powered a penalty past Blaswich in the 68th after a handball by defender Joško Gvardiol. That ensured a tense finish for Leipzig but the hosts largely kept Stuttgart at bay in the closing stages.

Bayern has drawn both of its opening games of 2023, including one against Leipzig last week, as it adapts to life without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has a broken leg. Bayern can restore a four-point lead if it beats fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.


Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
Updated 28 January 2023

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
  • England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City issued a statement of intent by knocking out Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup on Friday.

Nathan Ake’s 64th-minute goal settled the fourth-round match at Etihad Stadium and the result may yet reverberate through the rest of the season.

Arsenal lead City by five points at the top of the English Premier League, but their seven-game unbeaten run was ended by City, who have three straight wins in all competitions.

England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. For now, City manager Pep Guardiola has gained an edge on his former assistant, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“I know how difficult it is to beat Arsenal. They lost one game in the Premier League, so I know how difficult it is,” Guardiola said.

Defender Ake was the unlikely match-winner after curling a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Arsenal had chances while enjoying the better of the first half. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard forced saves from City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, and Eddie Nketiah fired narrowly wide from close range.

The visitors were made to pay when City improved after the break and Ake produced the decisive strike.

“(I’m) really disappointed,” Arteta said. “We could have got much more out of the game. In the big moments in big matches you have to make the difference.”

While a place in the fifth round of the cup was at stake, it was impossible to ignore the wider context of a match between the teams who are the front-runners in the league race.

Arsenal have been in outstanding form, picking up 50 points after 19 games and playing with a confidence not seen since Arsene Wenger’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As if to underline the fact that the cup is neither team’s priority, Guardiola and Arteta left key players out of their lineups.

Guardiola benched Ederson, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.

Arteta left out Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arsenal’s new signing, Trossard, was given his first start since joining from Brighton last week.

Despite the changes, Arsenal created the better chances in the first half but could not make them count.

City began to control the game after the break without creating many clear-cut openings until Ake broke the deadlock.

Substitute Alvarez’s strike from outside the box beat Turner, but came back off the post. Jack Grealish picked up the rebound and laid off to Ake, who hit a first-time effort low into the corner.

Elimination gives Arsenal one less distraction in its bid for the title and Arteta hopes to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

The London club has been linked with a $74 million move for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but Arteta would not answer specific questions about the player.

“We have been pretty active in the market. We have some necessities,” he said. “If something else is available, the club is willing to try to do it when it is reasonable and hopefully he’s a player that can improve our squad.”


Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions

Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions
Updated 28 January 2023

Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions

Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions
  • SSL said in a Jan. 12 statement that it had become aware of fraudulent activity by a former employee and had referred the matter to law enforcement

KINGSTON: World 100 and 200 meters record holder Usain Bolt said on Friday that it was a “stressful situation” trying to recover more than $12.7 million that has disappeared from his account with a Jamaican investment firm.

The 36-year-old Bolt earlier this month was informed that his account balance at Kingston-based Stocks and Securities Ltd. (SSL) had inexplicably dwindled to just $12,000, lawyer Linton Gordon told Reuters on Jan. 17.

“It’s tough you know, but I think through the years I’ve competed it has helped me to understand and focus on what matters,” Bolt told reporters on Friday.

He was speaking at the Gibson McCook Relays launch in Kingston where he was unveiled as the ambassador of the athletics meet, now in its 50th year.

“I will leave the matter in my lawyer’s hands and focus on my family, try not to think too much about it because it’s a stressful situation,” the 11-time world champion added.

SSL said in a Jan. 12 statement that it had become aware of fraudulent activity by a former employee and had referred the matter to law enforcement, adding it had taken steps to secure assets and strengthen protocols.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force said its fraud and financial investigation teams were probing “alleged fraudulent activities at (SSL) which are said to have affected the accounts of Mr. Usain Bolt among other individuals.”

Bolt’s account was intended to serve as a pension for the eight-time Olympic champion and for his parents, Gordon said.

Bolt retired in 2017 after dominating global sprinting for a decade, reviving a sport plagued by doping scandals and becoming a household name like Brazilian soccer great Pele and American boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

 

 


Victory for Pascal Werhlein and Porsche on day one of Diriyah E-Prix

Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 28 January 2023

Victory for Pascal Werhlein and Porsche on day one of Diriyah E-Prix

Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
  • Wehrlein looked the quickest on the track as he picked his way through the points-paying positions to the front of the pack

DIRIYAH: Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix, with standings leader Jake Dennis of Avalanche Andretti Formula E following home in second after starting in 11th.

Wehrlein looked the quickest on the track as he picked his way through the points-paying positions to the front of the pack.

The move for the lead came on lap 30 at turn 16, with Sam Bird in the Jaguar TCS Racing car unable to hold back Wehrlein’s 99X Electric Gen3.

Both driver and car looked dominant for a second straight race. It was an emotional win for the 28-year-old, who once again credited his team with a monumental amount of work off-track to get things so right on it.

Jake Dennis in the Porsche-powered Avalanche Andretti took the fight all the way to the line with his factory Porsche counterpart from all the way back in 11th on the grid, but he couldn't find a way beyond Wehrlein — who sealed his second Formula E win on his 50th start.

 

 

The result was a reversal of the one-two we saw two weeks ago in the 2023 Hankook Mexico City E-Prix — and both TAG Heuer Porsche and Avalanche Andretti look to have thrown down the challenge to the rest of the field as the GEN3 development race continues at pace.

Sam Bird was overjoyed to make the podium for the first time since winning in New York City in Season 7 — calling it a "mini victory" for himself and Jaguar after a tough Season 8 for the Brit — the only season he has failed to claim Formula E silverware.

Sebastian Buemi started in pole position and finished in fourth, his best finish since the Season 6 finale in Berlin.

NEOM McLaren Formula E Team’s René Rast started fifth and ended fifth following a long battle in middle of the points-paying positions. He also sealed the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap.

Nick Cassidy made it two Envision Racing cars in the top six. Jean-Éric Vergne fought from 12th to the points for DS PENSKE, winding up just ahead of Jake Hughes in the sister McLaren. André Lotterer and Mitch Evans rounded out the top 10 - the latter slipping from sixth on the grid.

That leaves Dennis as standings leader at just a point over Werhlein — 44 to 43 points — while Avalanche Andretti retain their Teams' advantage over TAG Heuer Porsche, 58 to 49 points, with Envision Racing third.

Formula E’s return to Diriyah, a historical and cultural destination in Saudi Arabia, marks a groundbreaking move as it continues to prioritise sustainability and shift the paradigm in the sports industry.