Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon

Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
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The Pyramids Half Marathon returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on December 10. (The TriFactory)
Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
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The Pyramids Half Marathon returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on December 10. (The TriFactory)
Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
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The Pyramids Half Marathon returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on December 10. (The TriFactory)
Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
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The Pyramids Half Marathon returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on December 10. (The TriFactory)
Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
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The Pyramids Half Marathon returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on December 10. (The TriFactory)
Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
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The Pyramids Half Marathon returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on December 10. (The TriFactory)
Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
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The Pyramids Half Marathon returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on December 10. (The TriFactory)
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Updated 26 November 2022

Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon

Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon

Over the years, several sports events have had the privilege of being staged at the resplendent pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

From squash to tennis to most recently a 3x3 basketball tournament, a few athletes have enjoyed the rare opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.

The running community in Egypt — and beyond — has been afforded that golden chance since 2019, thanks to the introduction of the TriFactory’s Pyramids Half Marathon, which returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on Dec. 10.

Some 4,000 runners from more than 80 countries took part in the inaugural staging of the race three years ago, held across a trio of distances: full marathon, half marathon and 10km. The marathon was won by Greg Billington, an American Olympian who competed in the triathlon in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and won Paralympic gold as a guide for Brad Snyder in the visually impaired category of the paratriathlon event in Tokyo 2020.

 

 

Despite its incredible landscape, scenic coasts and great weather, Egypt is not necessarily a destination for runners from across the globe but the people behind The TriFactory are one of the main driving forces looking to change that.

Ayman Hakky, the co-founder of The TriFactory, a sports events management company specializing in endurance sports, staged Egypt’s first commercial triathlon back in 2014 in the Red Sea resort town of El Gouna.

Originally a water polo player and a footballer, a knee injury steered Hakky away from his chosen sports and pushed him toward endurance races. He fell in love with triathlon and began participating in events worldwide, in the process forming a team of amateurs who trained together in Cairo for various races. The team was fittingly called Train for Aim.

From Trinidad and Tobago to Morocco, from Portugal to the UAE, Hakky flew everywhere to participate in races, and his team eventually completed a full Ironman.

“It became very costly to do all that traveling, and I started to wonder why don’t we have this kind of quality here in Egypt?” Hakky told Arab News in an interview in Cairo.

A first step

Using the knowledge he gathered from attending proper races abroad, but without any practical experience as an organizer, Hakky staged his very first event, the Gouna Triathlon. He had no expectations and thought only the 20 or 30 people he trains with at Gezira Club would show up. Instead, 200 participants signed up from various running communities across Cairo.

“All of a sudden, it was a major start for us, and I had no intention of doing this as a business,” said Hakky. “I just made a few calls so they can close a street for us in El Gouna, and it wasn’t at a professional standard of organization at all.

“But I realized the business potential from this event. We finished this one-off event and people were already asking me, ‘What’s next?’ I realized a community has been created and these 200 people all posted on social media, and each one of them had two or three friends that wanted to come to our next event.

“So, our next event was at least double in size. Three months later, we held an event in Sahl Hasheesh and 400 people took part. Things kept doubling in size, spiraling, until we gained lots of experience.”

The TriFactory was founded in 2015 by Hakky and Mahmoud Abdelhakim, and soon they were organizing triathlons and marathons all over Egypt, from Aswan to Alexandria to Sharm El-Sheikh.

 

 

‘Major turning point’

It was Abdelhakim who first got the idea to stage a marathon by the pyramids, knowing it was the natural next step for him and his partners.

Hakky was worried about the logistics of it all, the permits they would need from the government and the hassle of trying to organize something big at such an iconic location.

But they went for it, and gave it the slogan “Race through history,” reminding the runners they would be getting such a historic landmark for a backdrop. In February 2019, the Pyramids Marathon came to life, and it survived a terrible sandstorm that threatened the success of the event.

“The Pyramids Marathon was a major turning point for us. Four thousand people took part across three distances and so many different nationalities turned up. It was a great start, but it was a very difficult day for us,” reflected Hakky.

The tough weather conditions were overwhelming for Hakky and his partners, but overall, they knew they had started something special, and the participants felt it too.

“What I generally like about this event is that the course is really nice, the vibe, the people…Conditions were tough in the first one and the weather made things quite chaotic, yet everyone loved it because it was the first time we got the opportunity to run by the pyramids,” said Nayera Helmy, an amateur runner who has been an active member of the running and triathlon community in Egypt since 2013.

Helmy did not sign up for the 2020 edition of the event but returned last year and is currently getting ready for her third outing in Giza.

“When I took part in 2021, I saw how the organization massively improved. Everything that needed tweaking was taken care of,” she said.

“The course got much closer to the pyramids. Instead of having this massive uphill during the race, they reversed the direction of the route so it was more downhill for us. Everyone was cheering, a lot of participants, a lot of international runners…When you’re running, you can see the look on the faces of international runners who cannot believe they are running by the pyramids. It was so nice to see.”

 

 

Presidential backing

From the second year, organizers made the strategic decision of scaling back the event to a half marathon, which requires fewer hours of road closures and is far easier to manage.

The demand for a full marathon in Egypt was also not very high, so since 2020, the event has comprised three distances: a half marathon, a 10km and a 5km, which opened up participation for people who were keen to run or walk a shorter distance.

“This is our fourth year. We’ve gone from strength to strength and this year, we are under the auspices of the Egyptian presidency, which is huge,” said Hakky.

With the support of the presidency and the Ministry of Sports behind them, The TriFactory has high hopes of expanding the race in the future, knowing that no major city can host a proper marathon without the backing of crucial governmental entities.

“We’re very excited about this step because we’re ambitious about the possibility of bringing it back to a full marathon in the future. We can start to aggressively promote the event abroad, so we can reach the numbers we see in events around the world,” said Hakky.

“The 4,000 participants we get is nothing compared to global numbers. Even the Beirut Marathon, which is a role model for me, attracts 50,000 participants. And Lebanon as a country has some tough circumstances.

“But the entire country is behind the event. All institutions — the military, the presidency, the tourism board — get behind it, and they lock Beirut down for a half day and they stage the marathon.”

Message from Bolt

The TriFactory prides itself on following international standards when it comes to staging its events, and that level of professionalism is what attracted so many people to sign up and brought several sponsors to knock on its doors.

Puma, its platinum sponsor this year, got its superstar ambassador Usain Bolt to post a video message wishing the Pyramids Half Marathon runners good luck and giving them some advice for race day.

“Now we are dreaming that maybe Puma can attract him to attend the event. There’s actually talk of him possibly coming,” said a hopeful Hakky.

While eight-time Olympic gold medalist Bolt might not be a shoo-in, there will be an Olympic silver medalist lining up at the pyramids this December, with Egyptian pentathlete Ahmed Elgendy, who was a runner-up in Tokyo 2020, confirming his participation.

Registered for the 10km but with the possibility of moving up to the half marathon if he feels up for it, Elgendy does not need to train over long distances in his main sport, the modern pentathlon, but says he is a runner at heart and has been keen to take part in the Pyramids Half Marathon.

“The first TriFactory event I attended was their recent Soma Bay Endurance Festival and I was really impressed by how well organized it was. I really liked the energy of the people behind TriFactory and could tell they really want to do something special,” Elgendy told Arab News.

“I’ve seen events here in Cairo where people are running between cars, which is not safe. But they’re not like that. They know what they’re doing and are trying hard to match international standards in everything. In the process, I feel they’re also educating the local community about how an event like this should be run.”

The appeal of running by the pyramids is not exclusive to visitors from abroad; it is a special occasion for locals as well.

“I haven’t even visited the pyramids since I was like 6 years old. So this is a great opportunity for me, to visit the pyramids and run there,” added Elgendy, who is not setting a specific target for himself this race but just doing it for fun.

 

 

‘Running at home is special’

Helmy is an experienced runner who has done both the Paris and New York marathons in the past. While taking part in such iconic long-standing events around the world has been incredible, she admits that running at home, in Egypt, has a special feeling to it.

She remembers the early days when the endurance sports scene in Cairo was in its infancy stages, where participants would complete the race and then rush back to set up water stations for those who had not finished yet. Things have massively improved since then.

“We now have a lot of opportunities to run in Egypt. It’s very nice to run with your own community. Running in international marathons abroad is very nice, but ultimately, you’re running with strangers, or just two or three people who have made the trip with you,” said Helmy.

“In Egypt, the nice thing is that you’re encouraging other runners from the community to run with you. So during a run, you can spot people whom you have personally helped get into the sport, or encouraged to participate. That’s a nice feeling to be part of that.




Nayera Helmy, an amateur runner who has been an active member of the running and triathlon community in Egypt since 2013.

“Plus, it’s fun to run with people you know. So running in Egypt is always special, and it gives us a chance to run in places we don’t regularly visit (here).”

For Hakky and his partners, the goal is to establish the Pyramids Half Marathon as a staple on the international running calendar and to hit 10,000 participants (the roads around the pyramids are quite narrow and cannot handle much more than that).

Hakky dreams of a scenario in which Cairo streets can shut down for half a day so that runners can start elsewhere in the city and make their way toward a finish line at the pyramids, which would be the ultimate reward at the end of a full marathon.

“The advancements made in transportation and the underground system in Cairo (are) allowing us to dream of a scenario like that,” he added.

He also explained that “Race through history” is not just a slogan. The idea is to hold a series of running events at different historical sites across Egypt. The concept has already started to take shape as The TriFactory staged a 5km at the Saqqara Pyramid earlier this year, introducing runners to the unique Step Pyramid of Djoser.

In total, The TriFactory holds between 10 to 15 events annually, with lots of room for growth. But the heart of the business definitely lies on the Giza Plateau.

“The Pyramids Half Marathon has become our biggest event for sure in terms of size and exposure and everything. So long-term, we want to invest more effort in this event because it has become our flagship event,” he concluded.

The deadline for registration for the Pyramids Half Marathon is Nov. 30. You can sign up for the event here.


Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup
Updated 29 January 2023

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup
  • The Brazil international struck twice in four second-half minutes as United won against second-division Reading 3-1

MANCHESTER, England: Casemiro was a serial winner with Real Madrid and on Saturday he kept Manchester United’s trophy hunt going strong in the FA Cup.

The Brazil international struck twice in four second-half minutes as United won against second-division Reading 3-1 and progressed to the fifth round.

On Wednesday, Erik ten Hag’s improving team put a foot in the League Cup final by beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

There is growing belief among United fans that a six-year wait for a trophy will come to an end this season, with the club also still in the Europa League where a much-anticipated clash with Barcelona is coming next month.

If Ten Hag is to lift silverware in his first season as manager, Casemiro will be pivotal to that success.

The midfielder won five Champions Leagues and three Spanish titles with Madrid but left last summer for a new challenge in England.

Ten Hag wanted to add his winning mentality to a team that had seen Manchester City and Liverpool dominate the Premier League in recent years. His influence was evident against a Reading team that withstood United’s dominance until the 54th minute.

It was a performance that underlined how much Casemiro was missed when he was suspended for the 3-2 loss to Arsenal last week, which left United 11 points behind the league leader.

With Casemiro in the starting lineup, United have lost only two of 21 games in all competitions, compared to four of 11 without him.

While he is better known as a midfield enforcer, he has showcased his other attributes in his short time at Old Trafford, including his impressive range of passing.

Against Reading, it was his clinical finishing that broke the visitor’s resistance.

First came a delicate chip to lift the ball over goalkeeper Joe Lumley after racing onto Antony’s pass into the box. Then, in the 58th, he let fly from around 25 meters to double United’s lead.

His mastery was evident when Reading forward Andy Carroll’s frustration boiled over and he was sent off for a second yellow card after a wild challenge on Casemiro in the 65th.

Another Brazilian, Fred, came off the bench to add a third for United with a backheel a minute later.

Amadou Mbengue scored a consolation for Reading, but there was never any danger of a comeback.

While they are fighting for survival in the league, Leeds, Leicester and Southampton are advancing in the cup.

Securing top-flight status remains the priority for all three, but the cup is providing welcome relief from their battles against relegation.

Leeds won against third-tier Accrington Stanley 3-1, Leicester overcame fourth-tier Walsall 1-0, and bottom-of-the-league Southampton won against second-division Blackpool 2-1 on Saturday.

Goals from Leeds’ Jack Harrison, Junior Firpo and Luis Sinisterra ended any chance of a miracle for Accrington in front of its home fans at Wham Stadium. Leslie Adekoya, however, gave them something to cheer with a late consolation goal.

It was only Leeds’ second win since Nov. 5, both of them coming in the FA Cup.

Leicester — cup winner in 2021 — needed a late goal from Kelechi Iheanacho to end Walsall’s resistance in a match that also saw Youri Tielemans miss a penalty.

Leicester’s only other win since Dec. 20 was in the previous round of the cup.

Romain Perraud scored twice in Southampton’s win. Charlie Patino pulled one back for Blackpool.

Sunderland 15-year-old substitute Christopher Rigg thought he scored a famous winner against the Premier League’s Fulham, only to see his effort ruled out for offside.

Rigg struck in time added on at Craven Cottage, but the second division team’s celebrations were soon cut short.

Sunderland took an early lead through Jack Clarke, and Tom Cairney equalized for Fulham to set up a replay.

There will also be replays for Sheffield Wednesday and Fleetwood (1-1), Ipswich and Burnley (0-0), Luton and Grimsby (2-2) and Blackburn and Birmingham (2-2).

Second division Bristol City was through to fifth round after beating West Brom 3-0.

New Tottenham signing Arnaut Danjuma scored on his debut as Spurs beat Preston 3-0.

Danjuma, who has joined on loan from Villarreal, struck late on after going on as a substitute.

Heung-Min Son had already set Tottenham on course for the next round with two second-half goals.


Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees

Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees
Updated 29 January 2023

Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees

Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees
  • Atletico had Stefan Savic sent off in extra time in the 3-1 defeat but were angry that Ceballos was not shown a second yellow card in the second half of the regulation 90 minutes

MADRID: Atletico Madrid CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin complained that Real Madrid’s “huge influence” exerts pressure on Spanish referees after his side’s Copa del Rey defeat, a suggestion dismissed by the victors.

Los Blancos beat Atletico in the cup quarterfinal derby clash on Thursday night and Atletico were convinced that Dani Ceballos should have been sent off at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“I have full respect for all the officials and I am convinced they always have the best of intentions, but anyone looking in from the outside can see that for decades the same thing almost always happens,” said Gil Marin in a statement. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise anybody anymore, it isn’t news. It’s very clear and you just have to look back at history.

“Madrid are a club with a huge influence, with a lot of interests around them. They create so much pressure that it’s normal that it affects the people who have to take decisions.”

The officials are “aware of what awaits them if they harm them with a mistake, or even if they get something right. We often see a campaign against whoever they believe has hurt them,” Gil Marin added

The Atletico boss said his club cannot change the “system” alone and that the color of a team’s shirt should not have an impact on fair decision-making.

Atletico had Stefan Savic sent off in extra time in the 3-1 defeat but were angry that Ceballos was not shown a second yellow card in the second half of the regulation 90 minutes.

“The second yellow was obvious, undoubtable,” Marin insisted.

“But at 1-0 down in the 71st minute, playing for the semis of the cup in their own stadium, it would be a big thing to leave Madrid with 10 players.”

Atletico, out of the Champions League and the Spanish Cup are languishing in fourth, 13 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, having played an extra game.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti dismissed Atletico’s concerns in a news conference on Saturday.

“It was a hard-fought, even game, I think for our part we deserved to win,” said the Italian.

“The rest is topics I won’t speak about. The only ‘system’ I know is the one that I will use tomorrow.”

Real Madrid, second in La Liga, face third place Real Sociedad on Sunday night.


Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal

Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal
Updated 28 January 2023

Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal

Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal
  • The result was Bayern's third consecutive 1-1 draw, with the reigning German champions still looking for their first win of 2023
  • Union Berlin's 2-0 derby win over city rivals Hertha earlier on Saturday meant Bayern's three-point cushion on top of the table had been erased by kick-off

BERLIN: Bayern Munich saw their lead in the Bundesliga cut to just one point on Saturday after Randal Kolo Muani’s equalizer held the German champions to a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.
The result was Bayern’s third consecutive 1-1 draw, with the reigning German champions still looking for their first win of 2023.
Union Berlin’s 2-0 derby win over city rivals Hertha earlier on Saturday meant Bayern’s three-point cushion on top of the table had been erased by kick-off.
Bayern lacked fluency early in a testy opening half, which saw both center-back Matthijs de Ligt and goalkeeper Yann Sommer pick up yellow cards.
With 34 minutes gone, former Man City forward Leroy Sane settled his team’s nerves by hammering a cross from veteran forward Thomas Mueller past the outstretched hand of Frankfurt ‘keeper Kevin Trapp.
After the goal, Bayern rekindled their early season form and produced their best spell of the match, with France defender Dayot Upamecano going close to doubling their lead just three minutes later.
Bayern continued to push for a second goal after the break but Frankfurt, who had only lost once in their previous 11 games in all competitions dating back to early October, looked dangerous on the break.
Eintracht coach Oliver Glasner brought on Japan international Daichi Kamada just past the hour and the change had an almost immediate impact, Kamada exchanging passes with Kolo Muani before the latter struck the ball past Sommer and into the net.
Earlier on Saturday, Union took the lead away to Hertha late in the first half through Dutch defender Danilho Doekhi, who headed in a free-kick from captain Christopher Trimmel.
Union doubled their lead halfway through the second half through midfielder Paul Seguin to run out victors over a spirited but toothless Hertha.
Visiting fans began singing “city champions” with 10 minutes remaining, celebrating their fifth consecutive derby win.
Union’s win deepened the woes of Hertha, who are second bottom having won just three games all season.
After the match, Union coach Urs Fischer sought to play down expectations, telling AFP’s sports subsidiary SID that his side “did not look like a top team.”
“It was a hard-fought derby. It was close over 90 minutes. In the end, we were lucky winners. We were efficient,” he said.
Elsewhere, Freiburg beat Augsburg 3-1 at home to move into fourth place.
First-half goals by towering Austrian striker Michael Gregoritsch and fellow forward Lucas Hoeler put Freiburg in the driving seat.
A 29th-minute penalty from Mergim Berisha gave the visitors hope, but Freiburg sealed their first win of 2023 through an 85th-minute strike from Philipp Lienhart.
In Bremen, Germany striker Niclas Fuellkrug scored both his side’s goals in a 2-1 win over Wolfsburg, overtaking RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku to top the Bundesliga scoring charts with 13 goals this season.
Promoted Bremen, who had lost six of their past eight matches came up against an in-form Wolfsburg who were unbeaten in 11 games under former Bayern coach Niko Kovac.
Borussia Moenchengladbach compounded Hoffenheim’s misery with a 4-1 away win.
Two first-half goals and a second-half assist for captain Lars Stindl from midfielder Jonas Hofmann, Gladbach’s only representative in Germany’s 2022 World Cup squad, gave the visitors a comfortable victory.
Hoffenheim suffered their sixth defeat in their last eight games, leaving them just three points clear of the relegation playoff spot.
Mainz overcame the disappointment of Wednesday’s last-gasp loss to Borussia Dortmund, thrashing Bochum 5-2 at home, their first win in seven league matches dating back to October.
A hat-trick from Austrian forward Karim Onisiwo, plus goals by Lee Jae-sung and Silvan Widmer lifted Mainz into 11th ahead of a midweek German Cup meeting at home with Bayern.


Pedri earns subdued Barca nervy derby win at Girona

Pedri earns subdued Barca nervy derby win at Girona
Updated 28 January 2023

Pedri earns subdued Barca nervy derby win at Girona

Pedri earns subdued Barca nervy derby win at Girona
  • Pedri netted the only goal from close range after an hour at an icy Montilivi on his 100th appearance for Barcelona
  • Despite the narrow margin of victory, Xavi believes his team is significantly stronger than when he took over in November 2021

GIRONA, Spain: Barcelona midfielder Pedri Gonzalez earned his side a tense 1-0 Catalan derby victory at Girona on Saturday, opening a six-point gap ahead of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
With Carlo Ancelotti’s side hosting high-flying Real Sociedad on Sunday, Barca put their rivals under pressure to get a result and keep up with them in the title race.
Pedri netted the only goal from close range after an hour at an icy Montilivi on his 100th appearance for Barcelona, after replacing the injured Ousmane Dembele.
The French forward limped off in the first half, pulling up after a sprint and asking to be replaced, a blow for Barcelona considering his superb recent form.
Barca coach Xavi Hernandez said the winger appeared to have a quadriceps injury.
Despite the narrow margin of victory, Xavi believes his team is significantly stronger than when he took over in November 2021.
“We have to be self-critical and improve in many ways, but we are happy, we have to look at where we came from,” Xavi told reporters.
“The change to the team and a lot of players is big, we have many things to improve on, but we’re on the right path.
“I think the (biggest difference) is the confidence of the players — when we arrived their confidence was on the floor.”
Defensively the Catalans have been strong, conceding just six league goals this season and winning their last three matches 1-0 — they are unbeaten in 13 consecutive matches across all competitions.
“I think at grounds like this you have to win, however you do it,” Barcelona defender Jules Kounde told DAZN.
“We can play better, but in these away games, against opponents playing well, winning is vital.
“I think keeping a clean sheet is key. The whole team works defensively, not just the back four. Everyone is working well.”


The league leaders were still without suspended Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, missing his final game after a three-match ban.
Girona created the first chance after just three minutes, Rodrigo Riquelme’s smooth through ball feeding Yan Couto, whose shot was blocked.
Dembele also had an effort deflected away at the other end after Ansu Fati won the ball from goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
The French winger, who fired Barcelona into the Copa del Rey semifinals against Real Sociedad midweek, was forced off injured after 25 minutes.
Dembele’s first years at Barcelona were hampered by injuries but since Xavi’s arrival, the forward had been able to stay fit and firing.
Xavi brought on Jordi Alba for Marcos Alonso at the break and it made the difference for Barcelona, who had been sluggish.
The left-back set up Pedri’s opener with a cross from the left, tapped in by the Spaniard at the back post at the end of the first incisive move Barcelona had put together all game.
Pedri, whom Xavi had intended to rest, reached a century of appearances for Barca at just 20 years old and celebrated with his 15th goal for the club.
“I know I have to improve in front of goal (but) right now they are going in for me,” Pedri told DAZN.
Ronald Araujo headed a cross off his own goal line under pressure as Girona pushed for an equalizer, throwing men forward.
Ivan Martin missed a fine chance in stoppage time for the hosts as Barcelona lost all control of the game but survived a nervy finale to earn the win.
Girona also appealed for a penalty as Eric Garcia tangled with Cristhian Stuani in the area.
“There are situations in the box in which these tangles are given and sometimes not,” said Girona coach Michel, who was sent off in stoppage time for complaining about a foul by Frenkie de Jong.
“Today, the final result is not due to the refereeing performance, I prefer to say these games are won by the players.”
Earlier Cadiz climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Real Mallorca.


Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
Updated 29 January 2023

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
  • Rybakina powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch
  • Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena

MELBOURNE: Elena Rybakina said she struggled with the “pressure” and aggression from Aryna Sabalenka in falling to defeat in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
The Russian-born Kazakh gave as good as she got over three pulsating sets at Melbourne Park before losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the face of some ferocious hitting from fifth seed Sabalenka.
Rybakina, who has one of the most potent serves in women’s tennis and some of the fiercest groundstrokes, powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch.
But Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena, the Belarusian juggernaut hitting back with 17 aces of her own and 51 winners, finally getting over the line on her fourth match point.
“I would say that not many girls can put me really under that sort of pressure,” Rybakina, 23, told reporters.
“She has a great serve and she plays really aggressive. Her ball is coming very heavy.

“I just knew that I had to serve well. It’s also pressure in the end, as soon as I have an opportunity, take it.
“Today I had some opportunities and didn’t take. The match didn’t go my way.”
Wimbledon champion Rybakina has now failed to beat Sabalenka in all of their four meetings and admitted she needs to improve if she is to break her duck.
“With Aryna now, the score is 0-4,” Rybakina said. “I would say the most challenging for me now is to play against Aryna again and get a win.
“Against a powerful player like her, I need to play more to improve.”
Rybakina will have the consolation of breaking into the top 10 for the first time, after reaching her second Grand Slam final in seven months.
She was awarded no ranking points for her Wimbledon win because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players there.
“I don’t think tomorrow I’m going to feel different just because of the ranking now,” said Rybakina, who is projected to rise to 10th from her current 25th on Monday when the new rankings are published.
“But, I mean, for sure it’s going to be different in the smaller tournaments. I’m going to be seeded and maybe in some tournaments I’m not going to play first round, so of course there is some benefits.”