Raphinha header helps 10-man Barca to nervy Valencia win

Raphinha header helps 10-man Barca to nervy Valencia win
Barcelona's Raphinha celebrates scoring his side's opening goal during Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 5, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 06 March 2023

Raphinha header helps 10-man Barca to nervy Valencia win

Raphinha header helps 10-man Barca to nervy Valencia win
  • The Brazilian winger nodded the Catalans in front in the 16th minute

BARCELONA: Barcelona clung on with 10 men to beat Valencia 1-0 and move 10 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday, thanks to Raphinha’s early header.
The Brazilian winger nodded the Catalans in front in the 16th minute. But after Ferran Torres missed a penalty and Ronald Araujo was sent off, the hosts were left fighting tooth and nail for the three points.
“The important thing is we keep adding points and we have three more,” Raphinha told Movistar.
“It’s hard to play with one less man, we did what we needed to, moved deeper and we pulled out the win.”
Barca retreated in the final half hour following Araujo’s 59th minute red card but survived to beat Ruben Baraja’s Valencia, who are 19th and two points from safety.
Barcelona’s 1-0 Copa del Rey semifinal first-leg triumph over Real Madrid on Thursday followed two consecutive defeats, and this narrow victory felt like a significant step toward a first league title since 2019.
Madrid can cut the gap back to seven points later on at Real Betis, but were hoping a depleted Barcelona would stumble at Camp Nou.
Without top scorer Robert Lewandowski, midfield maestros Pedri and Gavi and winger Ousmane Dembele, the Catalans were unable to play their best football, but did just enough to win.
Along with Barcelona’s playing absentees, coach Xavi Hernandez was suspended too, watching from a box, with his brother and assistant Oscar in the dugout.
Valencia resisted early Barcelona pressure but came undone when Sergio Busquets lofted a pass into the area for Raphinha to meet with a cunning run and a header over Giorgi Mamardashvili.
It was Raphinha’s fifth league goal of the season and similar to his header against Osasuna which snatched Barcelona a vital win before the World Cup break.
Although the forward has not consistently shone since his move from Leeds United last summer, his goals in recent weeks have helped Barca cope with Dembele’s absence.
Raphinha fired a free-kick into the wall and curled another effort wide after a fine Alejandro Balde run as Barcelona looked to build on their strong start.
Remaining at the heart of the action, the Brazilian whipped in a cross for Ansu Fati who headed into the ground and off target when he should have tested Mamardashvili.
Valencia might have equalized when Samuel Lino slashed an effort wildly over the bar, with Barcelona’s defense caught out for the first time.
Former Barcelona youth player Ilaix Moriba stabbed an effort wide toward the end of the first half, as Los Che finally began to earn a foothold in the game.
Early in the second half, Barcelona should have moved two ahead when Hugo Guillamon was penalized for handball.
Torres grabbed the ball to take the penalty, although Fati also wanted it and the pair exchanged words, increasing the pressure on the Spaniard, who hit the post.
“Before the game we talked about who will take the penalties,” added Raphinha.
“Ansu wanted to, I understand that, it’s normal. He asked for it, but sometimes your team-mate lets you and sometimes he doesn’t. It happens in a lot of teams.”
Fati struck the near post himself moments later, before a mistake from Jules Kounde left Barcelona with 10 men.
The French defender’s ill-advised header back toward Marc-Andre ter Stegen sent Hugo Duro through on goal. Ronald Araujo dragged down the striker and saw red.
Valencia put pressure on Barcelona without troubling Ter Stegen, who kept his 18th La Liga clean sheet of the season.
The visitors might have been awarded a late penalty when Kessie tangled with Fran Perez, but the referee waved away their desperate — and not unfounded — appeals.
“I have the feeling we could have taken something more from here,” Guillamon told Movistar.
“I thought the referee was going to blow for (the penalty), he steps on him and there’s contact.”

Former Man United player Jesse Lingard training with Saudi Arabian club

Former Man United player Jesse Lingard training with Saudi Arabian club
Updated 57 min 43 sec ago

Former Man United player Jesse Lingard training with Saudi Arabian club

Former Man United player Jesse Lingard training with Saudi Arabian club
  • The Saudi league has embarked on a spectacular spending spree this year by luring some of soccer’s biggest stars to the kingdom
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane have made the move from Europe’s biggest leagues

MANCHESTER: Former Manchester United player Jesse Lingard could be the next Premier League star to join the Saudi Arabian league.
The England international, who is a free agent, is training with Saudi club Al-Ettifaq after leaving Nottingham Forest at the end of the last season.
Al-Ettifaq is coached by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard and signed England midfielder Jordan Henderson in the offseason.
“I’ve watched him for many years so I’m aware of the talent,” Gerrard told Al Arabiya’s sports program FilMarma. “Jesse is out of a club at the moment, he is not contracted, so he’s free to train with anyone else. So he’s coming to use our facilities, he’s coming to train with our players, to maintain his fitness.
“Jesse knows there’s an opportunity for him to try to convince us to come to the club.”
The Saudi league has embarked on a spectacular spending spree this year by luring some of soccer’s biggest stars to the oil-rich kingdom.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane have made the move from Europe’s biggest leagues, and a slew of other top players have followed suit.
The 30-year-old Lingard graduated from United’s academy and left the club in 2022. He signed a one-year contract with Forest and has been a free agent since that deal expired.
Lingard has also trained with West Ham this season. He had a successful loan spell at the London club in 2021.

Saudi Arabia hosts men’s handball Super Globe 2023 in November

International Handball Federation’s men’s Super Globe Championship. supplied
International Handball Federation’s men’s Super Globe Championship. supplied
Updated 28 September 2023

Saudi Arabia hosts men’s handball Super Globe 2023 in November

International Handball Federation’s men’s Super Globe Championship. supplied
  • 16th edition of the championship will see the participation of 12 teams from 10 countries

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the International Handball Federation’s men’s Super Globe Championship for the fourth consecutive time, from Nov. 7 to 12.

The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Arabian Handball Federation made the announcement on Thursday.

The event will take place in Dammam and is a key component of the Kingdom’s Quality of Life Program.

The 16th edition of the championship will see the participation of 12 teams from 10 countries.

The Kingdom’s Al-Khaleej and Al-Noor teams are participating for the second time. Al-Noor participated in the 2021 championship in Jeddah, while Al-Khaleej competed in last year’s tournament in Dammam, securing a commendable sixth-place finish.

The following clubs will participate: Saudi champions Al-Khaleej and runner-up Al-Noor; Germany’s SC Magdeburg, the reigning champions; Poland’s Kielce, the European champions; Bahrain’s Al-Najma, the Asian champions; Egypt’s Al-Ahly, the African champions; Argentina’s San Fernando, the south and central America champions; San Francisco CalHeat, the champions of North America and the Caribbean; University of Queensland, Oceana champions; and Kuwait, the Arab region’s champions.

There are two IHF-nominated teams, namely Barcelona from Spain and Fuchse Berlin from Germany.

Inclusivity at forefront as Saudi women athletes participate in Asian Games 

Inclusivity at forefront as Saudi women athletes participate in Asian Games 
Updated 28 September 2023

Inclusivity at forefront as Saudi women athletes participate in Asian Games 

Inclusivity at forefront as Saudi women athletes participate in Asian Games 
  • 19 women are representing the Kingdom in 11 disciplines at this year’s Asian Games
  • Vision 2030 has been pivotal in the rapid development of women’s sports in Saudi Arabia

HANGZHOU: When the Olympic Council of Asia asked countries participating in the 19th Asian Games to nominate a female and male athlete to carry their national flag during the opening ceremony, it aimed to promote gender equality in sports. 

As the games opened at the Olympic stadium in the Chinese city of Hangzhou last week, the Saudi team took the request to the next level, making sure that not only a woman flag carrier was in the forefront during the march pass, but the whole female delegation. 

Equestrian Ahmed Adnan H. Sharbatly and taekwondo athlete Dunya Ali Abutaleb, holding the Kingdom’s flag, were followed by a group of female athletes and officials, with male delegates walking only behind them. 

For both onlookers and athletes, it was a display of how inclusive Saudi Arabia’s sports approach has been in recent years. 

“It’s such a great time to be part of the change in Saudi Arabia. And we, as Saudi females, are making history and marking our presence,” Abrar Medhat Bukhari, member of the Saudi taekwondo representation, told Arab News. 

“Right now, we are more empowered and ambitious. Every day, we are given better opportunities.” 

The Saudi Vision 2030 transformation strategy has been pivotal in the rapid development of sports in the region. With the Kingdom already acquiring rights to host the 2034 edition of the Asian Games along with bids to other top sporting events, female athletes are guaranteed more platforms. 

Bukhari believes that with time and more exposure, success is inevitable for Saudi women. 

“Saudi Arabia has so much passion and ambition. With the Vision 2030, we are accelerating in performance and development. We have more support than ever, which is helping talent rise every day,” she said. 

“We will surely succeed and become one of the great countries in sports. All we need is more time and more exposure, as we are just starting.” 

In the previous edition of the games, held in Indonesia in 2018, Saudi Arabia included female athletes for the first time. 

In the current games, 19 women are representing the Kingdom in archery, boxing, equestrian sports, fencing, weightlifting, ju-jitsu, karate, kurash, rowing, taekwondo, and tennis. 

Abdulaziz Al-Baqous, media attache to the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee for the 19th Asian Games, has also emphasized the importance of women athletes in the Kingdom’s sports development efforts. 

“In a short period of investment into female athletes, we have started to see results … We already have more than 10 women’s national teams,” he told Arab News. 

“Not only this. In terms of representation in the federation, there is a rule of having at least 30 percent female (representatives) in the leadership among sports associations. Our female athletes are delivering results. And hopefully, in the future, they will do more.” 

Full low-down on Makhachev vs Oliveira 2 at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi

Full low-down on Makhachev vs Oliveira 2 at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi
Islam Makhachev defeated Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 in Abu Dhbai last year. (UFC)
Updated 28 September 2023

Full low-down on Makhachev vs Oliveira 2 at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi

Full low-down on Makhachev vs Oliveira 2 at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi
  • Fighters met in UAE capital at UFC 280, will renew rivalry on Oct. 21 at Etihad Arena

ABU DHABI: When mixed martial arts fighters Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira stand opposite each other in the Octagon on Oct. 21 there will be a real sense of deja vu for audiences around the world.

Twelve months ago, at Ultimate Fighting Championship 280, the two men met at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for the vacant UFC lightweight title.

On that night it was Makhachev who emerged the victor, stopping his Brazilian opponent in the second round and sending a partisan crowd into raptures.

Now they meet once more, again for the UFC lightweight title, and here is the story of their rivalry.

What happened last time?

Makhachev had long been seen as the ultimate successor of his mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov and arrived in Abu Dhabi carrying a 10-fight win streak having built a fearsome reputation in the 155 pounds division.

His grappling and wrestling are standout with many of his victims struggling to deal with his strength on the ground.

Oliveira was sporting an unbeaten record one better than his opponent and had tasted title success, having claimed the crown in 2021 defeating Michael Chandler, and defending it later that year against Dustin Poirier.

He would then go on to defeat Justin Gaethje but was forced to vacate the title on the eve of that fight having missed weight.

And now to Abu Dhabi with a vacant title, and two fighters determined to make it their own.

Oliveira holds records in the UFC for most finishes and submission wins – credentials that would give Makhachev his sternest test to date. On the night, however, the man from Dagestan was simply unstoppable – winning via arm-triangle in the second round.

What has happened since?

Since that night in Abu Dhabi both men have fought once. Makhachev moved his record to 24-1 when he defended the lightweight title in a champion versus champion clash against Alexander Volkanovski, the UFC’s featherweight king.

Stepping into Volkanovski’s home territory of Australia in February, Makhachev once again put his grappling skills to the fore edging a close decision in the super-fight.

Oliveira returned to the Octagon in June when he took on Beneil Dariush.

It was a highly dangerous fight for Oliveira, as Dariush had forged an eight-fight win streak with his name very much in the title picture at the top of the division.

But Oliveira put in the performance of the night, stopping the man of Iranian decent inside the first round with a barrage of accurate strikes.

What is next?

Fans now get the chance to see the intriguing battle of styles once more. After last year’s victory, Makhachev will go in as favorite, but that is a position Oliveira will enjoy.

Questions heading into the fight will center around the grappling game. Can Oliveira keep the fight standing? Does he have the answers if it does go to the ground?

For Makhachev, can he make history repeat itself? What new weapons will he have to blunt Oliveira’s attack?

It is a mouth-watering prospect, and one that will be answered on Oct. 21.

The fight in numbers

20 – Charles Oliveira has the most finishes in UFC history

16 – His 16 submissions are also the most in UFC history

19 – He leads the way in all-time fight-night bonuses won

12 – Islam Makhachev’s current win streak is equal 8th all-time

11 – All bar one of Makhachev’s current win streak are in the lightweight division – a win in Abu Dhabi will put him joint first all-time in the 155-pound class

1.27 – The number of strikes per minute Islam absorbs – 7th best of all-time

The newcomer’s guide on who to support in the Saudi Pro League

The newcomer’s guide on who to support in the Saudi Pro League
Updated 28 September 2023

The newcomer’s guide on who to support in the Saudi Pro League

The newcomer’s guide on who to support in the Saudi Pro League
  • There is much more to the Roshn Saudi League than Cristiano Ronaldo and the other top stars, as this handy guide demonstrates

There has never been more global interest in the Saudi Pro League than right now. Since the current format was founded in 1976, the SPL — also known as the Roshn Saudi League — has consistently provided strong competition for professional footballers in the region. But now, the whole game has changed; there are more eyes on the league than ever.

For the uninitiated, picking a team can be pretty daunting, or simple, if you want to watch the best players like Karim Benzema, Neymar and Ronaldo. But here is a look at all 18 teams in the league, their star players and their current situation. Use the information to pick your favorite team to pour your stress and passion into.

Abha Club

Club colors: White and blue

Location: Abha

Abha Club are consistently and comfortable in the midtable. They were promoted to the first division in the 2018-19 season and have sat in the middle of the league ever since. They are more likely to fight against relegation than for a title right now, so be prepared for heartbreak if you decide to follow them. Goals seem to be the most complicated commodity to come by, with Eritrean Ahmed Abdu topping the goalscoring charts with two goals in seven games. However, record summer signing Karl Toko-Ekambi ($1.57 million) has already bagged a brace in his four games, so things could be on the up for the club.

Al-Ahli SFC

Club colors: Green and white

Location: Jeddah

Notable players: Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino, Allan Saint-Maximin

It has been seven long years since Al-Ahli won their last title. But this season the “Al-Raqi” (read: The Classy) have splashed the cash on a star-studded squad that is more than equipped for a title push. Ex-Liverpool legend Roberto Firmino leads the line as captain and is backed up by fellow summer signings Franck Kessie, Merih Demiral, Roger Ibanez, Edouard Mendy, Ezgjan Alioki and the coveted Gabri Veiga. They are one point off the top spot and are one of the favorites to win. If you are a glory hunter, this Al-Ahli is the best bandwagon to jump aboard.

Al-Ettifaq FC

Club colors: Green, white and red

Location: Dammam

Notable players: Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Ahmed Al-Ghamdi

The Merseyside connection is strong in Dammam. Ex-Reds Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum are the midfield engine room of Steven Gerrard’s team; while ex-Everton winger Demarai Gray also adds another sprinkle of “Scouse” to the Kingdom. Coincidentally, the last time Al-Ettifaq won a league title was during the 1986-87 season — the same year Everton last won a championship. Stevie G’s team were unfancied title contenders at the start of the season but are currently sitting pretty. Maybe this is the year they end decades of hurt?

Al-Fateh SC

Club colors: Blue

Location: Al-Ahsa

Notable players: Jason Denayer, Cristian Tello

Al-Fateh might not possess the star power of its league rivals, but the team still packs a punch. Best described as a sleeping giant, the club won a league title way back in 2012-13. Croatian legend Slaven Bilic is the man in the dugout who has overseen a modest start to the season as they are currently slap-bang in the middle of the table. It looks set to be a mixed bag of a season for Bilic and company. Fans of the club must be looking at their star-studded rivals with tears in their eyes.

Al-Fayha FC

Club colors: Orange and blue

Location: Al-Majmaah

Notable players: Fashion Sakala, Abdelhamid Sabiri

The Orange has had a very up and down track record in recent years. They won the First Division in 2016-17, were relegated three years later, promoted at the first time of asking and then won the King’s Cup in 2021-22. But reality has bitten hard this season as the big spending clubs around them have strengthened. A patchy start to proceedings sees Al-Fayha FC in midtable mediocrity, although they did hold championship contenders Al-Hilal to a 1-1 draw. Still, at least they have one of the best-looking kits in the league.

Al-Hazm FC

Club colors: Red, yellow and blue

Location: Al-Rass

Notable players: Toze

If relegation battles are your thing, then look no further than Al-Hazm. They gained promotion to the Saudi Pro League last season, but as all newly promoted sides find out, the competition here is unforgiving. They have yet to win a point from any of their seven games. Portuguese midfielder Toze is doing his best to drag them to victory, but the team is rooted to the foot of the table. There could yet be a great escape from the basement, but the current track record means fans will likely only have a win in the local derby against Al-Kholood to look forward to this term.

Al-Hilal SC

Club colors: Blue

Location: Riyadh

Notable players: Neymar, Salem Al-Dawsari, Ruben Neves

Ideal for those who love loads of trophies and a marquee signing or two every year. Al-Hilal is the new home of Brazilian legend Neymar, the club having pulled off the signing of the summer by recruiting the ex-Barca and PSG man. He was the icing on the cake that includes Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. They also have Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari in their ranks, who you may remember scored Saudi Arabia’s goals that downed Lionel Messi’s Argentina at the 2022 World Cup.

Al-Ittihad FC

Club colors: Yellow and black

Location: Jeddah

Notable players: Karim Benzema, Abderrazak Hamdallah, N’Golo Kante

Title winners: Yes

The reigning champions of the Saudi Pro League have strengthened their squad without the major surgery that their rivals have undertaken. Real Madrid and France legend Karim Benzema adds more firepower alongside top scorer Abderrazak Hamdallah. While The Tigers also plugged their midfield with serial winners N’Golo Kante and Fabinho, it is a team-focused approach, not dissimilar to Manchester City’s. And it works, as they currently occupy the top spot once again.

Al-Khaleej Club

Club colors: Yellow

Location: Saihat

Notable players: Fabio Martins, Mansour Hamzi

Al-Khaleej have not had a bad start to the season. Tenth place might not be anything for the players to tell their grandkids about, but considering this is likely as competitive as the SPL has been, they are holding their own. Their kit colors and crest are almost identical to Norwich City — the English side with more ups and downs between the two top leagues than a rollercoaster. In that respect, Al-Khaleej will be hoping Martins can maintain his goalscoring streak, or they will be knocking on the trapdoor soon.

Al-Nassr FC

Club colors: Yellow and blue

Location: Riyadh

Notable players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Aymeric Laporte

This is the first Saudi Arabia-based team to go global thanks to the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo last season. He blazed a trail for all the superstars that have since followed, such as his new teammates, Mane, Laporte and Marcelo Brozovic. CR7 has lit the fuse for the SPL to explode, and he is the reason that Al-Nassr shirts are draped across kids in far-flung places such as Burnley. Still, league top scorer Ronaldo is the main reason to love or hate the club — your gut will decide.

Al-Okhdood Club 

Club colors: Sky blue

Location: Najran

Notable players: Leandre Tawamba, Alex Collado

You might want to look elsewhere if you are picking your new Saudi team based on shiny new Galactico signings. Collado — a loan signing from Real Betis — is about as exciting as it gets. That is not to say Al-Okhdood do not have talented players, but they are a hard sell to fair-weather fans who have grown up having FIFA as their main point of reference for players. Their football brand is not much more exciting either, with the club sitting just above the drop zone.

Al-Raed Club

Club colors: Red and black

Location: Buraidah

Notable players: Mohamed Fouzair, Mamadou Loum

Top scorer Mohamed Fouzair has been the bright spark in a miserable season for Al-Raed Club. His three goals in four games give fans something to cheer about until the cold wind of realization reminds them they are currently in the relegation spaces. They share a similar kit to AC Milan and Bournemouth but currently have the latter’s form. They do have a hotly contested derby against Al-Taawoun, with whom they share a stadium.

Al-Riyadh SC

Club colors:

Location: Riyadh

Notable players: Saleh Al-Abbas

Al-Riyadh were the beneficiaries of the expanded format of the Saudi Pro League. Having finished fourth in the first division, the expansion meant they made the cut to the big time. Unfortunately, their luck may have come at the wrong time. They have lost their last five games in a row and are relegation fodder. Al-Abbas has three goals in six games, which is a solid return, but you would only probably pick these to support if you believed in fairytales.

Al-Shabab FC

Club colors: White and orange

Location: Riyadh

Notable players: Romain Saiss, Ever Banega, Yannick Carrasco

Despite having a solid spine of international players, Al-Shabab are yet to kick into gear this season. You know you have problems around the pitch when a defensive midfielder (Banega) is your top scorer with two goals in seven games. They have a rich history and have won the league six times. They even finished fourth last term. But they have failed to build on their solid season and are sat in midtable right now. It could be a frustrating season for the fans.

Al-Taawoun FC

Club colors: Yellow and blue

Location: Buraidah

Notable players: Mateus Castro

The surprise package of the 2023-24 season so far. The Wolves find themselves in third place and mixing it with their big spending rivals. They are reminiscent of that audacious Leicester City title-winning team that were a well-oiled machine rather than a team of individuals. Castro has been a revelation and is currently pulling the strings regarding assists (seven) and goals (two). It would be hilarious if they won the league despite spending so little. They should definitely be a consideration for those who love an underdog.


Club colors: Grey and black

Location: Hail

Notable players: Bernard Mensah

It is probably the only professional club on the planet to have a silver home shirt and a grey away one. Fitting for the Knight of the North nickname, then. There are no distracting colors at Al-Tai, and few bright spots in general this season. They are closer to the relegation spots than the top of the table. Midfielder Bernard Mensah is a silver lining, mind. He has four goals in five appearances, but he alone will not be enough to save the Knights from being a blunt force.

Al-Wehda FC

Club colors: Red and white

Location: Makkah

Notable players: Odion Ighalo, Faycal Fajr

Ever picked a new team based on just their badge? No? Al-Wehda, the oldest club in Makkah, might change that for you. The Knights of Makkah have a flaming dragon on their crest that instantly catches the eye. It is more akin to an esports kit but in a good way. On the pitch, the dynamic duo of Ighalo and Fajr keeps Al-Wehda in title contention, a far cry from last season’s tilt, where they were almost relegated.

Damac Club

Club colors: Red and yellow

Location: Khamis Mushait

Notable players: Assan Ceesay, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou

Damac Club’s difficulty in scoring goals that plagued them last season is back in full effect in 2023. Summer signing Assan Ceesay has three goals, but they are in short supply elsewhere. Fans will be distraught to see they have got the third-worst goal difference in the league, too. Watching attacks against Damac — as a follower — will likely lead to stressful and nervy evenings unless they can turn it around.