Gakpo on target but Dutch disappoint in World Cup draw with Ecuador

Gakpo on target but Dutch disappoint in World Cup draw with Ecuador
Ecuador’s Enner Valencia in action with Netherlands’ Cody Gakpo during their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 November 2022

Gakpo on target but Dutch disappoint in World Cup draw with Ecuador

Gakpo on target but Dutch disappoint in World Cup draw with Ecuador
  • Gakpo put the Netherlands ahead with a superb strike in the sixth minute
  • Ecuador fought back with such ferocity that the Dutch were rattled, and they deserved the equaliser when it came through Enner Valencia

DOHA: Cody Gakpo scored again at the World Cup but the Netherlands missed the chance to secure a place in the last 16 on Friday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by battling Ecuador, a result which eliminated host nation Qatar.
Gakpo, the gangly PSV Eindhoven forward who has been strongly linked with Manchester United, put the Netherlands ahead with a superb strike in the sixth minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Yet, with a large and vociferous support behind them, Ecuador fought back with such ferocity that the Dutch were rattled, and they deserved the equalizer when it came through Enner Valencia four minutes after half-time.
It was Ecuador captain Valencia’s third goal of the World Cup already after his brace in his country’s opening win over Qatar.
And one consequence of this result is that the host nation, already beaten twice, are the first team to be eliminated from their own World Cup.
Three-time beaten finalists the Netherlands are not quite through to the next round, with one point separating them, Ecuador and Senegal, who defeated Qatar 3-1 earlier.
“We have everything in our own hands. We have to be ready for Qatar and show a very good performance there and hopefully win the game,” said captain Virgil van Dijk.
“Today the second half wasn’t good but sometimes you play a bad half even if you try to avoid it.
“But we are at the start of the tournament. We will improve.”
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side meet the hosts in the last round of Group A games knowing a draw will make certain of their place in the knockout phase, with Ecuador and Senegal facing each other next Tuesday.
“Sometimes you deserve to win but don’t get the result for different reasons,” said Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro.
“But I told the players I wasn’t interested in the result tonight. It was the last of my worries.
“The Netherlands are a team who are here to win the World Cup.”
Much of the talk before this game had been about Memphis Depay, with the Barcelona forward having impressed as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 win over Senegal in his first game in two months after a thigh injury.
While he once again started on the bench, it was the 23-year-old Gakpo who again starred in front of goal.
Scorer of the late headed opener against Senegal, he got an early breakthrough on this occasion, lashing a left-foot shot between the despairing dive of Hernan Galindez and the post after being set up by Davy Klaassen.
That, remarkably, was to be the Netherlands’ only shot on target as they were pushed back by Ecuador for much of the rest of the game.
Giant Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert had to get down to his right to keep out a shot from Valencia, who had been a pre-match fitness doubt.
Then Ecuador thought they had equalized in first-half stoppage time when Pervis Estupinan diverted an Angelo Preciado shot into the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside against Jackson Porozo.
Depay then replaced Steven Bergwijn at the start of the second half but Ecuador soon got their equalizer.
Estupinan was again involved as the Brighton and Hove Albion wing-back’s shot was saved by Noppert but Valencia followed in to convert the loose ball.
They might even have won it, with Gonzalo Plata crashing a shot off the crossbar just before the hour mark.
An encouraging evening for Ecuador was marred when Valencia came off on a stretcher. He sat with ice around his right knee on the sidelines, and the South Americans will hope their all-time top scorer can recover quickly.
They will need him for a nerve-jangling showdown with Senegal with a place in the last 16 on the line — they have only reached that stage once before, when they were beaten 1-0 by England in 2006.


Prince Khaled launches skating world championships in Sharjah

Prince Khaled launches skating world championships in Sharjah
Updated 10 sec ago

Prince Khaled launches skating world championships in Sharjah

Prince Khaled launches skating world championships in Sharjah
  • The street and park events taking place at Aljada Skate Park act as qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
  • 450 skaters from around the world are participating, including 12 medalists from the Tokyo Olympics

SHARJAH: The Street World Championship 2022 today kicks off at Aljada Skate Park in Sharjah after the opening ceremony on Saturday night was attended by some of the world’s best skaters and Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal, vice chairman of Arada, developers of the competition’s spectacular new venue.

The competition runs until Feb. 5 and will immediately be followed by the Park World Championship 2022 from Feb. 5-12. Both act as qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“Over the next two weeks, Aljada Skate Park will be hosting the biggest-ever international skateboarding event that has been organized by the sport’s governing body, World Skate,” said Prince Khaled, a long-time supporter of the development of the sport in the Arab world. “Over 460 elite athletes from 63 countries are coming to Sharjah to showcase their skills in one of the planet’s fastest-growing sports.”

Prince Khaled highlighted the caliber of the 450-strong field that includes the likes of Momiji Nishiya, who won the first-ever gold medal in the women’s street skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics aged just 13; and Rayssa Leal, the 15-year-old Brazilian skateboarder with 6.4 million Instagram followers who won silver in the women’s street skateboarding also at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Taking place over 12 days, these two back-to-back events are an important part of the qualifying process for the 2024 Paris Olympics, which is why all 12 medal winners from the most recent Olympic Games in Tokyo have flown into the UAE to take part,” Prince Khaled said.

The ceremony was also attended by Sabatino Aracu, president of World Skate, and was presented by journalist Maya Hojeij to the backdrop of traditional Emirati performances.

“A huge amount of preparation has gone into this event, and it’s great to be here on the ground today and watch the world’s top skaters in action,” Prince Khaled added.

Quarterfinals for the park event will take place on Friday, Feb. 3, with the semifinals on Feb. 4 and the final the following day. Quarterfinals for the street event will take place on Friday, Feb. 10, followed by the semifinals on Feb. 11, and the final on Sunday. Qualifiers for each event will take place during the week.

The two competitions in Sharjah represent the first time skateboarding events of this size and importance have been held anywhere in the Middle East.

“The events have the biggest prize pot of any world skate event so far, with $500,000 to be shared between the winning skaters,” said Prince Khaled.

“This is also one of the few locations in the world where both disciplines, street and park, can be held in the same place, which is why the events are being held back-to-back between Jan. 29 and Feb. 12 in Aljada, Sharjah.”

Hosting tournaments of this stature, Prince Khaled says, should also benefit skaters from the region and other nations where the sport is still nascent.

“The fact that Sharjah is playing host to this event means more opportunities for skaters from countries where the sport is not so established to take part. We’re seeing great representation from the Middle East, with skaters from Bahrain, Oman and Morocco all taking part, and it’s also the first time that athletes from Zambia and Mozambique compete at this level.”

Since its opening, Aljada Skate Park has already become a major attraction for hundreds of skateboarding enthusiasts from the UAE who participate in weekly local competitions. It is a central feature in Madar, the Aljada community’s entertainment district, which has been designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

“Aljada Skate Park is not just the biggest park in the Middle East, more importantly, it’s the most creative and best-designed,” said Prince Khaled. “The whole complex is located on a 90,000 square foot area, spread over six separate parks, including Olympic-standard street and park sections.

“These include a whole range of features taken from some of the most famous parks in the world, from the US to Australia, and including the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo where the Olympic Games were held,” he added. “In short, there’s something for every skater, with beginner…and intermediate sections as well as the prophase of the park.”

“It’s the ideal place for skaters of all ages to have the freedom to enjoy and express themselves in a safe, purpose-built environment. This approach is in line with Arada’s overarching aim, which is to deliver communities that have truly world-class facilities that inspire both residents and visitors.”


Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime

Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime
Updated 12 min 7 sec ago

Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime

Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime
  • Embiid, who also missed out on selection as an All-Star Game starter this week, downplayed the idea of a personal rivalry with Jokic

LOS ANGELES: Philadelphia 76ers big-man Joel Embiid outdueled Denver’s two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the Boston Celtics edged the Los Angeles Lakers 125-121 in overtime as rivalries took center stage in the NBA on Saturday.

Embiid, who finished runner-up to Jokic in voting for Most Valuable Player honors the past two seasons, poured in 47 points to lead the 76ers to a 126-119 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Cameroon’s Embiid also grabbed 18 rebounds to help the Sixers erase a 15-point halftime deficit on the way to a seventh straight victory.

Embiid, who also missed out on selection as an All-Star Game starter this week, downplayed the idea of a personal rivalry with Jokic, saying the contest was about the 76ers testing themselves against the Western Conference’s top team.

“I love the big fella,” he told broadcaster ABC of Jokic. “I’m a big fan.”

“I think he’s more of a motivation to go out and try to win the whole thing,” Embiid said. “I guess that’s the only way I’m probably going to get that respect.”

Embiid was everywhere in the second half, his step-back jumper knotting the score at 110-110 with 5:48 remaining.

After his block on Jamal Murray, Embiid scored on the fastbreak to put the 76ers up for good, and he drained a step-back three-pointer over Jokic that pushed Philadelphia’s lead to 125-117 with 30.1 seconds to play.

Jokic led the Nuggets with 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.

The 76ers improved to 32-16, and they were two and a half games behind the league-leading Celtics after Boston rallied to beat the Lakers in a game that featured 19 lead changes.

The Lakers led by seven midway through the fourth quarter, but Jaylen Brown converted a three-point play to tie it up at 105-105 with 4.1 seconds left.

He went on to score 11 points in the extra session after LeBron James’s drive to the basket at the end of regulation ended in a miss, with James and the Lakers pleading for a foul call after Jayson Tatum appeared to brush his arm.

The call didn’t come and Boston prevailed, withstanding a 41-point performance from James to end a three-game skid.

“The best player on Earth can’t get a call – it’s amazing,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham, who spoke of the “agony” of losing such a huge game.

“I don’t understand it,” James said, adding that he didn’t think it was the first time a non-call proved costly to the Lakers this season.

Brown preferred to focus not on officiating or the rivalry but on Boston’s quest to remain the dominant team in the East.

“It was a much-needed win,” he said. “We lost the last three, so we wanted to come out and get a win today.”

Ham noted that any game between the Celtics and Lakers — who have faced each other a record 12 times in the NBA Finals — is “always hotly contested.”

Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said that “generational” rivalry made his team’s crosstown rivalry with the New York Knicks look puny — an impression that only increased when the Nets notched a ninth straight win over the Knicks, 122-115.

With superstar Kevin Durant and teammate Ben Simmons sidelined by injury, Kyrie Irving scored 32 points, coming alive with 21 fourth-quarter points as the Nets held on, even after the Knicks — who trailed by as many as 19 — cut the deficit to three points with 3:07 to play.

Irving posted his sixth straight game of 30 or more points.

Elsewhere, Chris Paul scored 31 points and Mikal Bridges added 25 as the Phoenix Suns spoiled San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s 74th birthday with a 128-118 overtime victory over the Spurs.

Phoenix never trailed, but the Spurs forced overtime with a late surge in regulation before Bridges and Paul scored eight points apiece in the extra session and the Suns escaped.

In Atlanta, Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points and Paul George added 23 to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a fifth straight victory, 120-113 over the Hawks.


Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead

Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead
Updated 29 January 2023

Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead

Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead
  • German wins both night races, battling from back on the grid

DIRIYAH: Pascal Wehrlein of TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team steered his 99X Electric GEN3 car to a second win in as many days at the 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix.

Wehrlein once again piped Avalanche Andretti Formula E Team driver Jake Dennis to the line, while Rene Rast secured a first podium for NEOM McLaren in Formula E.

Qualifying in fifth rather than Saturday’s ninth, Wehrlein made things easier on himself ahead of round three under the magical lights of Diriyah. More than 35,000 fans attended the race weekend events and saw the Middle Eastern debut of the all-new GEN3 car — the world’s fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race vehicle.

From fifth the German always looked a threat to those ahead. Mitch Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing had taken the lead from polesitter Jake Hughes of NEOM McLaren through the first corner on the opening lap, before Hughes and Rast managed to pass the Jaguar driver during ATTACK MODE.

Rast then briefly took the lead through his first round of 50 kW boosts before Wehrlein stepped up a gear, having bided his time behind the lead trio and managing his energy. Passes on Hughes then Evans just a lap apart, each down at turn 16, put him right with race leader Rast before Wehrlein undercut the McLaren driver through ATTACK MODE and skipped into a two-second lead.

Dennis and Bird were making moves of their own as Wehrlein clambered into the lead. The Avalanche Andretti driver took fifth from Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) on lap 21, while Bird following suit thanks to an audacious trademark maneuver at the final corner.

Just a lap later, pre-race standings leader Dennis sliced by Hughes for fourth and in quick succession saw off Evans and made it three on the spin by taking second from Rast, with the Jaguar of Bird matching Dennis up to take third.

Wehrlein had by then drawn out a lead and looked peerless. A late-race safety car could have thrown a spanner in the works but there were no such problems for the Porsche driver who stretched his legs again to win by a margin of just over a second and become only the fifth driver to win both races of a Formula E double-header.

Bird had looked to be in the box seat for third, but lost the position and could not gain it back after taking ATTACK MODE and not converting a late attempt to usurp Rast out of position.

Hughes could not quite capitalize from taking pole but yet again scored good points to maintain his consistent start to the campaign with fifth. Sebastien Buemi of Envision Racing needed no second invitation to steal sixth from Mitch Evans of Jaguar after the Kiwi scuppered a move on Hughes over the line —getting caught with the McLaren and allowing the Swiss to nip in.

Sacha Fenestraz produced the best drive of his rookie season with eighth for the Nissan Formula E Team, while Edoardo Mortara got points on the board with ninth — something to show for Maserati MSG Racing’s tireless efforts on a testing race weekend. Dan Ticktum brought home his NIO 333 in 10th for his first points of the season — well deserved given the squad’s pace over a lap in Diriyah.

The next race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is the 2023 Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix on Saturday Feb. 11.


Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes
Updated 29 January 2023

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes
  • Homa closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 13-under 275

SAN DIEGO: Southern California native Max Homa came from five shots off the lead to win the Farmers Insurance Open by two strokes over Keegan Bradley on Saturday at Torrey Pines, where Jon Rahm imploded early and missed a shot at winning his third straight start and moving to No. 1 in the world.

Homa reeled in Sam Ryder, who was trying for a wire-to-wire win, and then held off Bradley and Collin Morikawa for his sixth PGA Tour win and fourth in his home state. He took the Genesis at Riviera in 2021 and has won the Fortinet Championship in Nampa in consecutive years.

Homa closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 13-under 275. He made a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 and pumped his right fist before greeting wife Lacey and infant son Cam just off the green.

Bradley also shot a 66 on the South Course. Morikawa shot 69 and finished at 10 under. Ryder shot 75, his worst round of the week, and tied for fourth with Sahith Theegala (70) and Sungjae Im (70) at 9 under.

Rahm shot a 74, his worst round of the week, and tied for seventh at 8 under with Jason Day (68), a two-time Farmers winner. Rahm got his first PGA Tour win here in 2017 and then won the US Open in 2021 at the municipal course that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Rahm won The American Express at PGA West last weekend and at the Sentry Tournament of Champions three weekends ago at Kapalua.

Homa, playing in the group ahead of Ryder, Rahm and Tony Finau, took the lead at 12 under by curling in a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th after a 226-yard tee shot. Ryder, who wore magenta joggers, had a double-bogey 6 on the 15th to drop to 10 under.

Ryder, who eagled his first hole of the tournament, was in a three-way tie for first after the opening round and had sole possession of the lead after the second and third rounds.

After making an impressive run up the leaderboard on Friday to move into sole possession of second place, two shots behind Ryder, Rahm bogeyed No. 1 and missed a birdie putt by inches on No. 4 before his round fell apart on the par-4 No. 5.

Rahm drove into a fairway bunker and then flew the green into the thick rough. It took him three shots to chop his way out of the rough and by the time he sank a nine-foot putt, he had tumbled into a tie for fifth.

DIVOTS: San Diegan Phil Mickelson, a defector to the LIV Tour, took a shot at Ryder’s pants when he tweeted: “The Tour doesn’t allow shorts but does allow this week’s leader to wear joggers with ankle socks? Showing 4 inches of ankle? I’m no fashion guy, never will be, but there are some things I won’t ever understand.”


Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts
Updated 29 January 2023

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts
  • The Montreal-based Russian dropped Yarde with a right hand and the Londoner survived the 10-count in the second minute, but his corner threw in the towel

LONDON: Artur Beterbiev successfully held his WBC, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight belts when he stopped English challenger Anthony Yarde in the eighth round on Saturday.

Beterbiev improved his record to 19-0 with his 19th knockout after taking charge from the seventh round at Wembley Arena.

The Montreal-based Russian dropped Yarde with a right hand and the Londoner survived the 10-count in the second minute, but his corner threw in the towel.

Yarde impressed in the first three rounds while Berbetiev’s class was just beginning to emerge. Beterbiev pinned Yarde in the fourth but Yarde hung on with hooks and uppercuts while a cut developed under his left eye.

Yarde lost his second world title shot and dropped to 23-2.

Beterbiev has held the IBF title since 2017, the WBC title since 2019 and added the WBO version last June when he stopped Joe Smith at Madison Square Garden.