Manchester City beat Chelsea to close gap at top of Premier League

Manchester City beat Chelsea to close gap at top of Premier League
Manchester City's Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (L) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester City. (AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2023

Manchester City beat Chelsea to close gap at top of Premier League

Manchester City beat Chelsea to close gap at top of Premier League
  • Pep Guardiola’s men were well below par in the first half but were transformed after the break

LONDON: Defending champions Manchester City beat injury-hit Chelsea 1-0 on Thursday to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal to just five points.
Pep Guardiola’s men were well below par in the first half but were transformed after the break, with substitutes Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez combining for the only goal, scored by the Algerian in the 63rd minute.
Graham Potter’s Chelsea came into the game at Stamford Bridge languishing in 10th place in the table but they had the better of the opening 45 minutes.
However, it was a different story in the second half as the visitors found their attacking rhythm, with Guardiola admitting they were “miles better in every department” after the break.
“We struggled a lot in the first half — it was sloppy and slow and without rhythm,” the City boss told Sky Sports. “In the second half it was much, much better from minute one.
“The three points are important, definitely. The players know it. For a long time we were at the top. But we try, we have the FA Cup and Carabao (League) Cup and then Old Trafford. But it’s important for these games, a win today.”
Chelsea, already without a clutch of senior players including Mason Mount and Reece James, lost forward Raheem Sterling to an apparent hamstring injury in the opening minutes, replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The home side were first to threaten seriously but City defender John Stones came to the rescue in the 16th minute as Christian Pulisic bore down on goal, producing a perfectly timed sliding tackle to deny the US forward.
The American was injured in the challenge and was forced off minutes later, compounding Chelsea’s problems.
Teenager Carney Chukwuemeka, who came on for Pulisic, almost made an instant impact but his shot was blocked and Hakim Ziyech’s effort was saved by City goalkeeper Ederson.
Erling Haaland, who has 21 Premier League goals this season — one more than the entire Chelsea side — smashed a shot wide in the 38th minute on what proved to be a quiet evening for the Norwegian superstar.
But Chelsea continued to look the more dangerous side and came agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock when Chukwuemeka hit the post just before half-time.
Guardiola, unhappy with what he had witnessed, made a double substitution at the interval, bringing on Rico Lewis and Manuel Akanji for Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker in the search for more control.
The visitors immediately settled and began to dictate play, with Nathan Ake heading against the woodwork, but Chelsea responded well and were inches away from taking the lead when Thiago Silva flashed wide.
Guardiola, whose team drew 1-1 with Everton at the weekend, introduced Grealish and Mahrez on the hour mark to further freshen up his attack.
The decision paid dividends minutes later when Grealish produced an excellent pass from the left and Mahrez prodded home from close range.
Potter made changes of his own, bringing on England forward Conor Gallagher, but they were unable to find an equalizer despite some late pressure.
The result leaves City five points behind Arsenal, who dropped points in a 0-0 draw against high-flying Newcastle earlier in the week.
But Potter is under increasing pressure — Chelsea now have just one win in their past eight league games and remain 10 points off the top four.
Potter, whose Chelsea side face City again in the FA Cup third round at the Etihad on Sunday, said he was proud of his team’s performance, especially after losing Sterling and Pulisic so early.
“It’s tough at the moment I must admit and I feel for the boys,” he said.
“We have to stick together. It was disappointing to lose those guys but the players on the pitch and the ones that came in gave everything and that’s all you can ask for.”

Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League

Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League
Updated 10 December 2023

Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League

Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League
  • Leaders Al-Wasl drop valuable points while 9-man Al-Jazira thrashed at home

DUBAI: Champions Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club ominously smashed seven past sinking Emirates Club and Frank de Boer’s Al-Jazira suffered a consequential defeat in matchweek 10 of the ADNOC Pro League.

UAE prospect Harib Abdalla was one of three players to produce a brace for the holders when second-bottom Emirates – minus Spanish star player Andres Iniesta – endured a sixth-successive defeat, this time 7-0.

There were contrasting emotions at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium when nine-men Al-Jazira were downed 5-1 by fast-improving Ajman, with an immediate board restructure being announced by the seventh-placed side.

Leaders Al-Wasl were pegged back from 2-0 up to a 2-2 draw by Al-Wahda, Hernan Crespo’s Al-Ain salvaged a heated 2-2 stalemate at Al-Ittihad Kalba in a contest played out with 10 men apiece for the entire second half, and Sharjah recovered from a dispiriting AFC Champions League elimination with a 4-1 beating of bottom-placed Hatta, highlighted by two-goal Guinean youngster Ousmane Camara’s bicycle kick.

Dark-horses Al-Bataeh returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory against Baniyas, while Alfred Schreuder’s sleeping giants Al-Nasr failed to win again, suffering a 3-1 defeat at Khor Fakkan.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from the latest action.

Player of the week: Omar Khrbin (Al-Wahda)

Some players are destined not to receive their dues.

This may feel incongruous when discussing Omar Khrbin, a maverick forward previously bestowed the 2017 AFC Player of the Year gong.

When the ADNOC Pro League’s leading lights are debated, Al-Wahda’s premier attacker is usually absent. Emirati internationals Ali Mabkhout and Fabio De Lima will be included and so, too, the likes of Al-Ain’s Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba, Sharjah’s Miralem Pjanic, and Shabab Al-Ahli’s Fede Cartabia.

But not the Syria international who has consistently delivered top performances since an unheralded acquisition by Al-Dhafra back in 2016.

The latest came with a brace in Friday’s draw against first-placed Al-Wasl, delivering a penalty kick and instinctive close-range effort to take something from a clash in which his current employers found themselves two goals in arrears, on home soil, by 19 minutes.

Khrbin’s recent career arc speaks volumes. The enigmatic forward has bounced between Al-Wahda and Shabab Al-Ahli since returning to the UAE from a similarly undulating stint at Saudi Arabia heavyweights Al-Hilal.

Yet, a creditable 54 goals and 25 assists have been produced in 91 ADNOC Pro League runouts. Only Laba (eight) has netted more often than Khrbin (seven) this season.

The tally is given further credit because the 29-year-old is not a traditional center forward – his expansive game is more nuanced than that.

Fifth-place Al-Wahda can look to him in confidence during their ADIB Cup quarter-final decider versus Al-Jazira and typically tempestuous derby with Al-Ain.

Goal of the week: Harib Abdalla (Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club)

Strikes of grander quality than Abdalla’s appeared through Camara’s acrobatics for Sharjah and Al-Ain winger Soufiane Rahimi’s rocket-fuelled free-kick leveller.

No goal, however, contained richer promise than Abdalla’s first against Emirates. For club, or country.

Shabab Al-Ahli had already let loose by the time their emergent 21-year-old phenomenon got involved in the scoring.

Goal No. 6 for Marko Nikolic’s holders came via Yahya Al-Ghassani’s burst of acceleration and adroit cutback to his UAE colleague. Abdalla did the business with a low shot from just inside the area.

There is a palpable sense that if this wing duo ignite in Qatar in the imminent Asian Cup, a third-consecutive semi-final run becomes tangible for Paulo Bento’s ascendant side.

The same also applies domestically for a Shabab Al-Ahli who emphatically rebounded from a potentially damaging 3-0 defeat to rivals Al-Ain.

Coach of the week: Daniel Isaila (Ajman)

Ajman are reaping the rewards of swift course correction.

The summer departure of history-making head coach Goran Tufegdzic to Al-Nasr was followed by the curious capture of Caio Zanardi, a Brazilian previously undertaking brief stints in charge of the aforementioned Blue Wave, Khor Fakkan, and Al-Bataeh.

Last term’s sixth-place finishers devolved into relegation contenders. That was, however, before October’s decisive hire of Daniel Isaila.

The Romanian, who led Baniyas to a stunning second-place finish in the 2020 to 2021 season, has registered just one defeat in six league matches, with depleted Al-Jazira being put to the sword at the weekend.

Bahrain winger Ali Madan excelled via a goal and assist against nine men.

The Orange Brigade can now look up from 11th under Isaila, rather than disconcertingly looking over their shoulder under Zanardi.

Does ADNOC Pro League have a problem with promoted sides?

An interrupted ADNOC Pro League will not reach the halfway point until February, but alarm bells are already ringing at promoted outfits.

Bottom side Hatta’s sole victory came against Emirates Club in 13th, who last gained a point on Sept. 29. A four-point gap to Al-Nasr can, surely, only extend once ex-Ajax and Al-Ain supremo Schreuder gets further time to imprint his philosophy.

That is not a new story. Al-Urooba and Emirates received instant returns to the First Division League in the 2021 to 2022 campaign and only Al-Dhafra’s remarkably low 12 points kept Al-Bataeh from replicating doomed Dibba Al-Fujairah’s fate last season.

Emirates’ gamble on Barcelona alumni Iniesta and Paco Alcacer has yet to gain reward on the pitch, while Hatta’s revolving door policy on recruitment has not helped. Neither CVs of bosses Lluis Planaguma and Fabio Viviani inspire belief, either.

Baniyas’ sixth place in the 2018 to 2019 season was the last time a newbie competed with aplomb. It is a situation which requires reflection from UAE football, at large.

IOC president attends Saudi Games events

IOC president attends Saudi Games events
Updated 10 December 2023

IOC president attends Saudi Games events

IOC president attends Saudi Games events
  • Thomas Bach welcomes sporting ‘transformation’ taking place in the Kingdom
  • Growing role of women in Saudi sports movement wins praise from Olympics chief

With the Saudi Games set to conclude, the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach paid an official visit to the Kingdom, where he met Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, as well as leadership staff of the Saudi Olympic movement.

“The development of sport in Saudi Arabia is extremely impressive,” Bach said on Saturday during his two-day visit. “I don’t think I’ve seen such a transformation of sport in such a short period of time in any country.”

Bach praised the inclusion of more women in sports and also leading positions within the sporting movement.

“That’s why we are feeling close to home because, in our Olympic agenda, we are trying to drive the same transformation,” he said.

Prince Fahad bin Jalawi, vice president of the SOPC; Princess Dilayl bint Nahar, deputy director of the Saudi Games; and Abdulaziz Baashen, CEO and secretary-general of the SOPC, also attended the meetings.

During the meeting and tour visit, Prince Abdulaziz and Bach discussed the significant role that the Kingdom plays on the global sports stage, thanks to Vision 2030, and its plans to host major sporting events, such as the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2025, the Asian Winter Games in 2029, and the Asian Games in 2034.

Following the meeting, Bach attended several Saudi Games events, including the finals of beach volleyball and tennis, and also toured the “Fan Zone” area within the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex in Riyadh.

Bach’s visit to the Kingdom is his third since assuming the presidency of the IOC in 2013.

Australia claim overall lead on day 1 of Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix

Australia claim overall lead on day 1 of Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix
Updated 10 December 2023

Australia claim overall lead on day 1 of Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix

Australia claim overall lead on day 1 of Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix
  • Other race wins for Canada, home team Emirates Great Britain at Mina Rashid

DUBAI: Australia are once again in the perfect position to finally claim a first win of Season 4 after a stand-out opening day under new helm Jimmy Spithill at the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas.

Racing at Mina Rashid, Australia were one of three separate race winners, alongside Canada, and home team Emirates Great Britain, but were also the most consistent to take a healthy overall lead.

Spithill said: “It felt great. You can definitely see this is a benchmark team in the league. They are a very slick team. I am just trying to get in there and not make too many mistakes. It is a great group and a great atmosphere.

“I didn’t expect to be leading after how things went in practice. I had an absolute shocker and spent a fair bit of time last night going through and getting myself back up to speed again. I felt like we took some good steps today. Tomorrow will be a different day.”

Ben Ainslie of Emirates Great Britain described his day’s racing as “tricky.”

He said: “The results were up and down. You’ve got to get out of mark one in decent shape, which we struggled to do in the first two races. We managed it in the last one and got a win ‒ that saved our day.

“We need two good races now to get into the podium race, which is always the case on Super Sunday. It is going to be about teamwork in light airs and keeping the boat moving.”

The Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas concludes on Sunday.

After day one, Australia were first on 26 points, New Zealand second on 21 points, and Canada third, also on 21 points. Emirates GBR and France were fourth and fifth, respectively, both on 20 points, Switzerland sixth on 14 points, ROCKWOOL Denmark seventh with 14 points, Spain one point behind in eighth, Germany ninth on eight points, and the US tenth with seven points.

New York Strikers crowned new champions of Abu Dhabi T10

New York Strikers crowned new champions of Abu Dhabi T10
Updated 10 December 2023

New York Strikers crowned new champions of Abu Dhabi T10

New York Strikers crowned new champions of Abu Dhabi T10
  • Asif Ali, skipper Kieron Pollard put on unbeaten 56 runs partnership for 4th wicket in 29 balls

ABU DHABI: New York Strikers wiped away the pain of the last edition’s loss to Deccan Gladiators in the final to be crowned the new champions of the Abu Dhabi T10 in its seventh edition at the Zayed Cricket Stadium by recording a seven-wicket win.

Pakistan’s Asif Ali, known for his power-hitting skills, and skipper Kieron Pollard, put on an unbeaten 56 runs partnership for the fourth wicket in 29 balls.

Ali remained unbeaten on 48 off 25 balls with four sixes and two boundaries while Pollard scored an unconquered 21 off 13 balls with one boundary and a six to win the final with four balls to spare.

They lifted the trophy and received the prize money of $100,000.

It was an impressive show from New York Strikers, who had become part of the Abu Dhabi T10 only in the last edition and have reached the final in both the editions and now won the title too.

Gladiators, who were hoping to record a hat-trick of title triumphs having won the earlier two editions, received the runners-up prize money of $50,000.

Their plans to post a big total were squashed by Sunil Narine who bagged two wickets for six runs from his two overs and restricted Deccan Gladiators to 91 for five. It was the same total that New York Strikers were restricted to in the last edition’s final that Gladiators won by 37 runs.

The player of the match award went to Ali, while Akeal Hosein won the player and bowler of the tournament titles, Tom Kohler-Cadmore was named batter of the tournament, and UAE player of the tournament was awarded to Mohammed Jawadulah.

Ub Huishan win FIBA 3x3 World Tour title in Jeddah

Ub Huishan win FIBA 3x3 World Tour title in Jeddah
Updated 10 December 2023

Ub Huishan win FIBA 3x3 World Tour title in Jeddah

Ub Huishan win FIBA 3x3 World Tour title in Jeddah
  • The unbeaten Ub won all five of their games in the tournament

JEDDAH: Serbian basketball side Ub Huishan NE continued their dominance in the FIBA 3x3 World Tour final after clinching the championship title on Saturday night at the Jeddah Corniche Arena.

The unbeaten Ub, who won all five of their games in the tournament, including a hard-fought battle against Antwerp in the semi-final, defeated Amsterdam 21-15 in the final match.

Star player Strahinja Stojacic scooped the most valuable player award in Jeddah after leading his side to back-to-back World Tour victories.

Known as Dr. Strange, Stojacic led his side in scoring with 32 points, six of them coming in the final against Amsterdam which proved to be the difference.

He also came top in his side for player value with a score of 38.3 as his impact earned him the MVP honor.

Attendances on the last day of the final in Jeddah lived up to the expectations of organizers after the majority of seats at the Corniche Arena were filled.

Ghassan Tashkandi, president of Saudi Basketball Federation, congratulated Team Ub for their victory and praised the high level of skill displayed by all the teams participating in the tournament.