Verstappen three-peat, Hamilton retirement and more things learned from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

An exciting season finale in Abu Dhabi saw Max Verstappen wrap up his stellar Formula One campaign with yet another race victory in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)
An exciting season finale in Abu Dhabi saw Max Verstappen wrap up his stellar Formula One campaign with yet another race victory in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 November 2022

Verstappen three-peat, Hamilton retirement and more things learned from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Verstappen three-peat, Hamilton retirement and more things learned from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
  • A sold-out Grand Prix saw scores of celebrities turn up to witness the action at Yas Marina Circuit

ABU DHABI: An exciting season finale in Abu Dhabi saw Max Verstappen wrap up his stellar Formula One campaign with yet another race victory.

A sold-out Grand Prix saw scores of celebrities turn up to witness the action at Yas Marina Circuit. From Pep Guardiola to Shaquille O’Neal to Usher to Usain Bolt… the race in the UAE capital was a star-studded affair.

Here’s what we learned from the F1 season-closer...

Max pulls off Abu Dhabi hattrick

World champion Max Verstappen picked up a third consecutive victory at Yas Marina Circuit, marking the first time he has pulled off a three-peat at the same race in his career.

The Red Bull man concluded the season with 15 victories from 22 races in 2022 and he can’t wait to try and do it all over again next year.

“It's been really enjoyable to work with the whole team and to be able to achieve something like this this year,” said Verstappen.

“I know it's going to be hard to replicate something like this. But it's also very good motivation to try and do well again next year.”

Strategy pays off for Ferrari

In the battle for the runner-up spot in the drivers’ championship, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc pipped Sergio Perez by placing second at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ahead of the Red Bull driver, who completed the podium in third.

A one-stop strategy from Ferrari for Leclerc made all the difference and it not only secured second place for the Monegasque driver, but also second place for the Italian marque in the constructors’ championship.

“I was 110 percent from the first lap to the last lap,” said Leclerc, who outscored Perez by just three points in the drivers’ standings.

“Honestly, we had the perfect race for us, there was not much more today. I knew that the only possibility for us to beat Checo (Perez) today was with a different strategy and playing with the tyre management, which we did really well today. And we managed to make the one-stop work. So really, really happy.”

Vettel hopes to leave lasting legacy

Sebastian Vettel’s F1 career ended with a 10th place finish in Abu Dhabi and featured some thrilling battles with Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo.

The four-time world champion enjoyed an emotional weekend filled with tributes from within the F1 paddock and beyond and he left the track with some lovely words about the legacy he hopes to leave behind in the sport.

“I feel a bit empty, to be honest, it's been a big weekend,” said the Aston Martin driver.

“I think the last two years have been very, maybe disappointing from a sporting point of view, but very, very useful and important to me in my life, a lot of things happened. A lot of things that I realized.

“I think it's a huge privilege being in the position that we are in and with that comes some responsibility. So I hope to pass on a little bit to the other drivers to carry on some of the good work.

“It's great to see that we have the power to inspire you with what we do and what we say. So I think there are far bigger and far more important things than racing in circles, but obviously it's what we love and through that if we can transfer some of the really important values that's big.

“And I think for that the last two years have been great for me.”

Hamilton’s streak is broken

Lewis Hamilton’s streak of 15 consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one race has come to an end after failing to top the podium at any Grand Prix throughout his 2022 campaign.

Since making his F1 debut in 2007, Hamilton had won a race in every single year he has competed in Formula One up until this season.

2022 is also the first season in Hamilton’s career in which he hasn't scored a pole position.

His year to forget ended with a car retirement at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with just three laps to go, and the seven-time world champion is grateful his season with Mercedes’ W13 car is finally over.

“I’m looking forward to the end of Tuesday because it’s the last time I will drive this car and I don’t ever plan to drive this one again,” Hamilton had said after qualifying on Saturday.

He joked on Sunday that he might “call in sick” so he doesn’t have to drive the car during the Pirelli test at Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesday.

“I always believed right until the last race that there was potentially a chance [to win],” Hamilton said after his DNF in the UAE capital.

“I think it’s important to hold onto hope and just keep working. I gave it everything and the last race was almost like the whole season; it summed up the whole year. Glad it’s done.”

Wolff focused on giving drivers a competitive car

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said on Saturday the W13 provided a necessary learning experience for them and joked that it will “not be forgotten as the car that dominated the Brazilian Grand Prix”.

“I think this car will always have a special place in our collection, very far back. But I think that hopefully the next years will do her justice. Because the learning curve with that car was enormous. Our fundamental understanding of aerodynamic, vehicle dynamics correlation has gone through a step change of learning.”

Wolff believes Hamilton will not be too disheartened by seeing his streak of annual victories snapped and says the most important thing is to get both his drivers in a competitive car in 2023.

“Lewis says that the one victory a year isn’t really a record that bothers him,” said Wolff.

“And if I’m trying to put myself in his shoes, where I was before Brazil, it didn’t particularly bother me whether we could win a race this season because all our eyes are already on next year.

“But then having won one (George Russell’s triumph in Brazil), it felt pretty good, certainly nobody can say, ‘Well they didn’t win a race that year’.

“So I don’t think that this particular record is an important one for him. But we need to provide him with a car next year that he can fight for victories and the championship, that’s most important and he knows that.”

Alpine secure deserved fourth

Esteban Ocon can breathe a huge sigh of relief as his stressful weekend in Abu Dhabi ended with him placing seventh in the race, which helped his Alpine team lock down fourth place in the constructors’ championship, ahead of McLaren.

With his teammate Fernando Alonso unable to complete the race due to a suspected water leak in his car, Ocon carried the burden alone at Yas Marina Circuit and the Frenchman certainly delivered.

“I’m very, very pleased with the result that we got today. Obviously one more lap and we could have probably got Lando (Norris). It was very, very close race the whole way but that doesn’t matter; all the targets that we set ourselves are accomplished,” said Ocon.

“We finished fourth in the constructors’ championship, thank God for that, I lost two and a half kilos this weekend of stress and being too focused. It is also my best season in Formula One in terms of points. So I’m very pleased with that. A good job by the whole team to develop the car so much over the year and hopefully we can close even more the gap for next year.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris finished sixth in Abu Dhabi – and set the fastest lap – to end his campaign in seventh place in the drivers’ championship, just one spot off his position from last year.

“It’s where we deserve to be, P5,” said Norris of McLaren’s place in the constructors’ championship.

“I guess you feel very disappointed when there’s a shot at P4 and you could have had it. But we’ve had bad weekend of reliability. Alpine have had four, five. They’ve been the quicker car the majority of the year.

“I think to have kept in the fight with them for so long proves how good of a job we’ve done with a worse package honestly. And therefore that’s why I’m quite happy. We’re P5 but there are a lot of good things about the job that we’re doing. It’s just you need a good car and we just started too far behind in the beginning of the season.”

Ricciardo looks to ‘rebuild’ himself

Daniel Ricciardo has no idea if Abu Dhabi was his last-ever race in Formula One, but the Australian is entering the unknown with a solid perspective on how he can use his time away from the cockpit to his advantage.

McLaren ended Ricciardo’s contract early and he will be without a seat for next year. He is likely to sign a deal as a reserve driver for his former team, Red Bull, but assures he would only be around for “at most a dozen” races in 2023.

“The role I’ll have will not be 24 races. If I was there 24 races then I’ll probably be on the grid racing. I wanted to make that clear that, look, I want to still be involved, but personally for me, for my own headspace, I need some time away from the travel and everything,” explained Ricciardo.

A fan favorite and popular figure in the paddock, Ricciardo finished ninth in Abu Dhabi, despite a three-grid place penalty for his crash with Kevin Magnussen in Brazil the previous week.

“I’m relieved that the season finished like this and not like the race in Brazil. To see the chequered flag, to finish in the points, just makes me a little more at peace with how this year has ended,” said Ricciardo.

Asked about how it might feel next season being at a Grand Prix without being able to race, he said: “That’s honestly a feeling which in a way, I hope, makes me a little bit agitated, makes me hungry, makes me a little bit edgy.

“I’ll truly know then if my place is back on the grid. If I’m watching as a fan and not really caring too much, then I also have my answer that, okay then, my future looks different. I hope to get these feelings of course, I’m sure I will.

“But it also allows me some time off and some time to rebuild myself. Just to get a year of not so many highs and lows, just something a bit more balanced, also just for me personally I think will make me a little more consistent and a little happier.”

Adaptation key for Sainz in 2023

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz believes he may have to adjust his driving style to be as competitive as his teammate Leclerc next year but is pleased with the progress he has made in 2022.

The Spaniard finished fifth in the championship this year – just like in 2021 – and scored 62 fewer points than Leclerc.

Sainz says his relationship with his teammate is as strong as ever and was thrilled to see Leclerc secure second in Abu Dhabi.

“I think he absolutely deserves it,” said Sainz. “I think he deserves to finish second this year. He’s been super strong all season with this generation of cars. He’s been driving extremely well and I may have to adapt and change a bit my driving to try and be closer to him. But congrats because he did a great season.”

Sainz says Ferrari were “out-developed” by Red Bull and Mercedes in the second half of the season, which explains why they were unable to win any of the last 11 races of 2022.

“Very simply, Red Bull is the stronger package, together with Max and we need to catch up a bit and out-develop them next year,” added Sainz.

“We want to beat them. I think it’s fair, it’s our first year back in the fight for the championship, so there’s still things we need to learn, while Red Bull have been there with Merc the last two seasons. And we are a bit new for this. We’ll learn a lot from this.”

 

 


Inaugural Abu Dhabi Open kicks off incredible three-week WTA swing in the Arabian Gulf

Inaugural Abu Dhabi Open kicks off incredible three-week WTA swing in the Arabian Gulf
Updated 05 February 2023

Inaugural Abu Dhabi Open kicks off incredible three-week WTA swing in the Arabian Gulf

Inaugural Abu Dhabi Open kicks off incredible three-week WTA swing in the Arabian Gulf
  • No shortage of top talent throughout the Middle East swing beginning with Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Women’s professional tennis will take over the Gulf region this month with the world’s best players set to compete in tournaments in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai over the course of the next three weeks.

From world No.1 Iga Swiatek, to Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur, to the recently-crowned Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, there will be no shortage of top talent throughout this Middle East swing.

Here’s a look at some of the main storylines heading into this exciting three-week stretch.

Abu Dhabi enters the ring

While this isn’t the first time the UAE capital is hosting a WTA tournament, it’s the first time the emirate has been given a permanent slot on the women’s tennis calendar.

Abu Dhabi came to the rescue at the start of the 2021 season when the tour needed a place that could stage an event during the pandemic.

A one-year license was given to Abu Dhabi and the tournament was held behind closed doors.

Things are different this time around. The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open is meant to be a regular fixture on the WTA calendar and its introduction this season (from February 5-12) has made way for a three-week Middle East swing set to take place in February every year.

Jabeur was meant to be the main star attraction this week in the UAE capital, given her popularity in the region as the highest-ranked Arab player in history. The Tunisian was forced to withdraw though due to a knee injury but her name is still on the entry lists for Doha and Dubai.

A stellar week of tennis is still guaranteed in Abu Dhabi with three top-10 players – Daria Kasatkina, Belinda Bencic and Elena Rybakina – headlining a strong field at the inaugural WTA 500 event at Zayed Sports City.

Popcorn first rounds in the capital

The stacked draw in Abu Dhabi has resulted in some incredible match-ups from the get-go.

In a showdown between two ex-world No.1s, Spanish wildcard Garbine Muguruza will take on Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova in the opening round. The winner of this clash will square off against reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina.

Former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko will commence her campaign against 2022 Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins, while former world No.2 Paula Badosa kicks off her Abu Dhabi journey against Russian world No.19 Liudmila Samsonova.

Sabalenka on a streak

With an 11-0 win-loss record for the season, and two titles under her belt, including a maiden Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open, Sabalenka will have all eyes on her when she touches down in the Middle East to take part in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (begins February 19).

The Belarusian world No.2 has tasted success in the Gulf in the past, having lifted trophies in Abu Dhabi in 2021 and in Doha in 2020, but will be seeking a maiden triumph in Dubai.

Swiatek back to defend Doha title

The Qatar Open was where Swiatek began her incredible 37-match winning streak last year and the top-ranked Pole will make a return to the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, searching for a first title of the season.

Swiatek’s banner 2022 saw her capture eight titles, including two Grand Slams, but her 2023 campaign has yet to gather steam as she lost with Poland in the United Cup semi-finals in Australia last month, before falling to Rybakina in the Australian Open fourth round.

Swiatek is also scheduled to compete in the WTA 1000 tournament in Dubai, where all members of the world’s top-10 – and 19 of the world’s top-20 – are down to take part.

Ostapenko searches for Dubai repeat

A stellar effort from Ostapenko saw her grab the title in Dubai last year with victory over Veronika Kudermetova in the final, a win that allowed the Latvian to return to the top-20 for the first time since October 2018.

Ostapenko defeated four fellow Grand Slam champions en route to the 2022 Dubai crown – Sofia Kenin, Swiatek, Petra Kvitova, and Simona Halep – and she came back from a set down in three of those encounters.

She will be looking to become the first back-to-back women’s champion in Dubai since Elina Svitolina pulled off a double in 2017 and 2018.

The fiery French Open winner has a positive start to her 2023, reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open last month.

Mirza all set for career finale

Indian tennis icon Sania Mirza will contest the last two tournaments of her professional career in Abu Dhabi, alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Dubai, alongside Madison Keys.

A former doubles world No.1, who peaked at 27 in the world in singles back in 2007, Mirza will bid farewell to the tour after a trailblazing 20-year professional career.

The 36-year-old initially intended to retire from tennis at the end of last season but an elbow injury ruled her out of the US Open and ended her 2022 prematurely.

A six-time major champion across doubles and mixed doubles, Mirza almost added a seventh Grand Slam trophy to her resume last month when she reached the mixed doubles final at the Australian Open alongside her compatriot Rohan Bopanna.

Mirza, who is a Dubai resident, will say her final goodbye at the DDF Tennis Championships, where thousands of her adoring fans will undoubtedly show up for her swan song.


Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup

Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup
Updated 04 February 2023

Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup

Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup
  • Afsha scored after coming on as a substitute in the 63rd
  • He lifted Al-Ahly into the semifinals for the third straight year

TANGIER, Morocco: Mohammed Afsha scored on a deflected shot in the 88th minute and sent Al-Ahly into the Club World Cup semifinals by beating the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on Saturday.
Afsha scored after coming on as a substitute in the 63rd. He lifted Al-Ahly into the semifinals for the third straight year, and brought an abrupt end to the first appearance by a team from the United States in the competition.
His initial shot from outside the penalty area hit the crossbar. Seattle were unable to clear the danger and Afsha’s second attempt deflected off defender Alex Roldan and bounded past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
It was the only shot on target by the Egyptian club as both sides played a heavily defensive game where chances at goal were limited.
Al-Ahly will face Real Madrid in the semifinals next Wednesday in Rabat. Al-Ahly have not lost a match in any competition since Aug. 27 in the Egyptian Premier League.
Al-Ahly have finished third in each of the past two Club World Cups but have never made the final.
Seattle were the first club from Major League Soccer to take part in the Club World Cup after winning the CONCACAF Champions League last May. The Sounders carried hopes of advancing through their first match and playing at least three matches at the event.
But while Seattle were excellent defensively, they lacked quality chances on attack. Seattle finished with just one shot on goal, a speculative attempt from defensive midfielder Josh Atencio early in the second half.
“I thought we were good. I thought we were evenly matched. A couple of chances. But the deflection on the goal, it’s unfortunate,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Seattle were playing their first competitive match in 3 ½ months while the rest of MLS was going through preseason preparations. The Sounders’ previous match was last October and the team gathered for MLS preseason camp in early January.
“They put everything into the game. They put everything into preseason,” Schmetzer said.


Ancer leading the charge to glory in PIF Saudi International

Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day
Updated 04 February 2023

Ancer leading the charge to glory in PIF Saudi International

Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day

JEDDAH: Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day after following up a 63 and 66 with a flawless third round 64, progressing to 17-under-par and two shots clear of Cameron Young, who sits third place at five shots back.

Ancer, bidding to be the first player to win the Saudi tournament wire to wire, looked unstoppable at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club as he posted another bogey-free round with six birdies spread equally across the front and back nine.

“Another very solid round. Happy with no dropped shots. That’s always my goal. On a golf course like this where it’s blowing pretty good, I’m really, really happy,” he said.

“My ball striking has definitely been on, and I’ve been rolling it really nice all week. Extremely happy. Not really focused on what everybody else is doing. Just trying to play the same game I’ve been playing the past three days,” he added.

Young has now posted three straight rounds of five-under-par 65’s, enough to take sole place of second, two shots back.

“I think I’ve played really solidly,” he said. “Obviously, Abe’s playing some really nice golf. So, I think tomorrow will be fun. If the wind is similar to today, it will probably take a 62, 63 or 64 because I don’t see Abraham shooting anything bad.”

Making his intentions clear, Young ended with “I’ll hit a lot of drivers and try to make a bunch of birdies.”

A fascinating two horse race is set for Sunday between a pair who have completely contrasting styles, which was so clearly evident on the par-five 18th today.

Ancer laid up to about 100 yards but nailed his approach to five feet and holed out, while Young airmailed the green with his second shot, using an iron, but was only able to make par.

Young is a further five shots ahead of third place, where American Matthew Wolff (63), Australian Lucas Herbert (67), and Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana (68) all sit.

American Matthew Wolff made the most of moving day matching Ancer’s tournament low from round one of a 7-under-par 63, set up by a front nine six-under-par 29.

Following the round, the 23-year-old said: “It felt easy. It felt like I'm finally starting to hit my driver the way I'm looking to. It's such a weapon on this golf course when I'm hitting it where I want to. I'm having short clubs in and I can kind of attack these flags. I felt really good with every part of my game.”

He continued: “But I think it was the putting. I made quite a few putts out there today and didn't the first couple of days. I think that was definitely the difference. It seemed like it all came together nicely for me today.”

Jason Kokrak sits a further shot back alone in sixth, followed by Mito Pererira, Paul Casey, and Marc Leishman.


Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form

Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form
Updated 04 February 2023

Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form

Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form
  • The Reds have taken just one point from their last four Premier League games to all
  • "Conceding early goals is not unfamiliar to us but the way we conceded them today was not acceptable," said Klopp

WOLVERHAMPTON, United Kingdom: Jurgen Klopp branded the goals Liverpool conceded in a 3-0 defeat to Wolves as “horrible” with the German admitting to being at a loss to explain his side’s disastrous form.
The Reds have taken just one point from their last four Premier League games to all but end any hope of catching the top four for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Klopp’s men trailed 2-0 inside 12 minutes at Molineux as Joel Matip’s own goal and Craig Dawson’s strike on his debut put Wolves on course to climb out of the relegation zone.
Ruben Neves added a third 19 minutes from time after Liverpool had dominated the early stages of the second half without reward.
“Conceding early goals is not unfamiliar to us but the way we conceded them today was not acceptable,” said Klopp.
“When you see the whole game, throughout the game in moments we played an outstanding game without scoring and a good away game without scoring.
“The third goal I don’t count because it was the first time they passed the halfway line in the second half. The other two goals, going into a game with all the things we said during the week and before the game, then this is the start, is horrible.”
Already out of both domestic cups, Liverpool sit 10th in the Premier League.
The Champions League appears to be their last chance of salvaging their season with a last 16 tie against Real Madrid to come later this month in a repeat of last season’s final.
Klopp’s side came close to winning an unprecedented quadruple of trophies last season.
But he appears incapable of stopping the rot as for the third consecutive away league game, Liverpool conceded three times.
“We better change it. That’s true, 100 percent. I have no words for it really, I’m sorry,” he added.
“You do yourself no favors in these moments, giving easy balls away.
“We were passive in the (first) two goals, everything we wanted to do was be compact and active but we were compact and passive. I can’t explain it. I think why would you do that? But they did it anyway.”


Al-Hilal beat Wydad to reach FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals

Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better
Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better
Updated 04 February 2023

Al-Hilal beat Wydad to reach FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals

Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better
  • The 5-3 penalty shootout win after 1-1 draw means the Saudi giants will now face Brazil’s Flamengo on Tuesday

RABAT: The drums rang loud for Morocco's Wydad AC on a sunny and dramatic Saturday afternoon in Rabat at the FIFA Club World Cup, but they were ultimately silenced by Al-Hilal’s Musab Al-Juwayr.

The teenage midfielder scored the final kick to win a  penalty shootout 5-3 for the Saudi Arabian giants after the game had ended 1-1. The Asian champions go through at the expense of their African counterparts to the  semi-finals and a clash with Brazil’s Flamengo. It should be quite a match if this was anything to go by.

Two hours of action packed football ended 1-1 but there was much more to it than that. A header early in the second half from Wydad's Ayoub Emloud had fans in the North African country as excited as they were during the 2022 World Cup, when Morocco reached the semi-final and became the toast of Qatar.

Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better.

One of the few times the home crowd were silenced came in added time as Yahya Jabrane, captain of the African champions, was sent off for protesting at a penalty. Mohamed Kanno fired home the resultant spot kick to send the game into extra-time during which he was also dismissed by the referee.

It was then penalties and Al-Hilal scored all theirs, while Wydad missed one.

For a long time however, it look as if the 18-time Saudi champions were going home in a clash that kept the 45,000 capacity crowd at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium entertained. The arena may be in Rabat but it certainly felt and, more importantly, sounded like a home match in Casablanca for the Moroccan powerhouse. The red wall behind the goals rarely stopped bouncing and singing to roar the team in white forward.

It seemed to work as Wydad started brightly in the opening exchanges and looked dangerous especially from set pieces with Yahya Jabrane firing over from a free-kick. 

Indeed, the pressure seemed to have paid off after 19 minutes when they thought they had taken the lead as Jalal Daoudi swept the ball home from close range. The veteran midfielder was, however, correctly adjudged to have been offside from the assistant referee.

Al-Hilal’s first real attempt on goal came after 23 minutes but Nasser Al-Dawsari sent a free-kick from a dangerous position well over the bar.

As the half progressed, Al-Hilal got into the game more though the home team continued to have better chances such as the attempt on the stroke of half-time. Wydad’s new Cameroonian forward Didier Lamkel Ze sent over a fine cross from the left but Ayoub El-Amloud was unable to get enough on it and the defender’s glancing header went wide.

Al-Hilal came close right after the restart. A Salem Al-Dawsari corner from the right fell to Ali Al-Buhali and his snap shot from close range was cleared off the line by Lamkel Ze.

In the 51st minute, Wydad’s eighth corner kick made the difference as El-Amloud rose at the far post to send a powerful header past Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

The Asian champions sprung into action but struggled to turn pressure into chances, though they came close with 20 minutes remaining when Odion Ighalo’s shot from close range was well-saved by Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti and Salem Al-Dawsari’s follow-up was blocked on the line by Amine Farhane.

Al-Hilal, who have never progressed past the semi-finals at this tournament, pushed forward in search of an equaliser and the chance came at the end of normal time as they were awarded a penalty thanks to a handball in the area. Wydad’s captain Jabrane was booked twice in quick succession and was sent off.

Amid the furore, Kanno kept his cool to slot the ball straight down the middle and suddenly the impetus had swung in favor of the Asian champions and Luciano Vietto almost won the game in the eighth minute of injury time as the Argentine’s free-kick was pushed away by the goalkeeper. 

The Riyadh giants could not get the winner before extra-time and when the game restarted they were soon reduced to 10 men themselves as Kanno was given a second yellow card for a foul.

And then it was five penalties each. After Moussa Marega scored the opener for Al-Hilal, Yahia Attiyat Allah’s shot hit both posts but did not go in and Wydad were in trouble. Vietto,  Saleh Al-Shehri and then Abdullah Al-Hamdan scored for the Riyadh club to leave substitute Al-Jawary to deliver the glory and a ticket to the last four.