Luton gains promotion to Premier League after beating Coventry in penalty shootout

Luton gains promotion to Premier League after beating Coventry in penalty shootout
Luton Town’s Sonny Bradley lifts the trophy with teammates after winning their Championship Play-Off Final against Coventry City at Wembley Stadium, London on May 27, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 May 2023
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Luton gains promotion to Premier League after beating Coventry in penalty shootout

Luton gains promotion to Premier League after beating Coventry in penalty shootout
  • Coventry's Fankaty Dabo sent his spot kick high and wide to give Luton a 6-5 win in the shootout following a 1-1 draw
  • It marks Luton's first return to England's top division since 1991-92 — the year before it was rebranded as the Premier League

LONDON: Luton will play in the Premier League for the first time next season after beating Coventry following a penalty shootout in the Championship playoff final at Wembley on Saturday.
Coventry’s Fankaty Dabo sent his spot kick high and wide to give Luton a 6-5 win in the shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time in what is usually dubbed the most lucrative match in world soccer. The winner is expected to get in excess of $200 million in future earnings for gaining promotion to the Premier League, the richest league in world soccer.
It marks Luton’s first return to England’s top division since 1991-92 — the year before it was rebranded as the Premier League.
Coventry were trying to return for the first time since being relegated in 2001 following a 34-year stint in the first division.
Luton had a scary start to the game as captain Tom Lockyer fell to the ground untouched and then remained down for several minutes while he received medical attention. Lockyear was carried off on a stretcher and taken to a hospital for further medical checks, with Luton saying he was conscious and responsive.
Despite that setback, Luton largely dominated the first half and took the lead in the 23rd minute through Jordan Clark, who received a cutback from Elijah Adebayo and took one touch to go past a defender and rifle home a left-foot shot high into the net.
Luton also had two goals disallowed before the break, but Coventry were much improved in the second half and got back into the game in the 66th.
Viktor Gyokeres ran down the left flank and teed up Gustavo Hamer, who slotted in a low shot from the edge of the area to send the sky-blue half of Wembley into a frenzy.
Luton substitute Joe Taylor thought he had scored the winner 25 minutes into extra time but it was ruled out by VAR as he handled the ball after robbing defender Jonathan Panzo of possession.
In the shootout, the first 11 penalty takers all scored their spot kicks before Dabo sent his off target.


CR7 nets his 1st goal in AFC Champions League

CR7 nets his 1st goal in AFC Champions League
Updated 03 October 2023
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CR7 nets his 1st goal in AFC Champions League

CR7 nets his 1st goal in AFC Champions League
  • CR7 nets his 1st goal in AFC Champions League
  • ‘Good game for everyone on team’: Portuguese player’s post on X

RIAYDH: Portuguese footballing star and Al-Nassr captain Crisitano Ronaldo on Monday took to social media to express joy at scoring his first AFC Champions League goal in the Riyadh club’s 3-1 defeat of Tajikistan’s Istiklol.
In a post on X, the 38-year-old player said: “Good game for everyone on the team.”
Ronaldo had drawn a blank in front of goal during Al-Nassr’s first two games in the competition against Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai, and Persepolis, of Iran.
“Happy to have scored my first #ACL champions league goal. We keep winning,” he added.

 

 

Al-Nassr were 1-0 down when Ronaldo found the back of the net on 66 minutes. His side then went on to record a 3-1 victory with two strikes from Brazilian teammate Talisca.
Ronaldo became the UEFA Champions League’s all-time top scorer with 140 goals and currently tops the scoring list in the Saudi Pro League with 10 conversions, four goals ahead of nearest rival Aleksandar Mitrovic of Al-Hilal and five other players on six, after just eight games.


Newcastle United sponsor Sela stages drone show above St. James’ Park to celebrate European football returning to city

Front-of-shirt sponsor celebrates return of European nights by lighting up the skies. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Front-of-shirt sponsor celebrates return of European nights by lighting up the skies. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Updated 03 October 2023
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Newcastle United sponsor Sela stages drone show above St. James’ Park to celebrate European football returning to city

Front-of-shirt sponsor celebrates return of European nights by lighting up the skies. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
  • The drone show is part of Sela’s promise to create special experiences for Newcastle United fans and the wider community through its partnership with the club

Sela, the front-of-shirt sponsor of Newcastle United, lit up the sky above Newcastle upon Tyne on Tuesday night with a spectacular football-themed drone show to celebrate the return of top-level European football to St. James’ Park after a 20-year break.

Newcastle United will play French champions Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday night, and live events and entertainment company Sela wanted to give fans a surprise as part of the build-up to the game.

The eight-minute drone show saw Newcastle United’s iconic mascot — the magpie — soar across the skies before transitioning into the famous black and white team shirts adorned with the names of England defender Kieran Trippier, Brazilian international Bruno Guimaraes and Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali.

After recreating the club emblem in the night sky, the drones formed to make a statement about Newcastle’s return to the biggest stage in club football, following their top-four finish in the Premier League: “We’re Back.” The show ended with Sela’s “spectacular everyday” tagline that is seen around St. James’ Park on matchdays.

Sela, who became a primary partner of Newcastle United in June, is in the business of creating spectacular experiences. It has welcomed more than 40 million visitors to the range of sports, leisure, culture, retail, and hospitality events and destinations within its portfolio — from staging WWE in the Jeddah Superdome to operating the Via Riyadh luxury multipurpose venue.

The drone show is part of Sela’s promise to create special experiences for Newcastle United fans and the wider community through its partnership with the club.

“We wanted to create a little surprise for fans to celebrate the return of the biggest nights in European football to St. James’ Park,” said Ibrahim Mohtaseb, senior vice president of Sela.

“The fans, the club and the players deserve these special moments and I hope we’ve added to what will be an unforgettable occasion for everyone who loves Newcastle United and this city.

“Creating spectacular experiences is at the heart of what Sela does every day as a company and we’re looking forward to contributing to more memories over the course of this landmark season.”

Keith Gillespie, the former Newcastle United star, said: “There’s an incredible buzz around Newcastle right now, fueled by the club’s success last season and now the return of European football with a huge game against Paris Saint Germain.

“It’s all very reminiscent of the late 1990s and those unforgettable nights against giants like Barcelona that I was fortunate enough to be involved in,” he said.

“Sela’s spectacular drone show really adds to this electric atmosphere and I know the fans will be thrilled by what they witnessed in the skies above the stadium.” 


EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?

EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?
Updated 03 October 2023
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EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?

EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?
  • Arab News slides into latest football game from EA Sports to see how SPL represented

RIYADH: “EA FC 24” is the new name for EA Sports’ dominant football game. Once known as “FIFA,” the series developer and publisher recently split with world football’s governing body.

The move has ushered in a new era for fans who may be pleased to know that the on-pitch action is slicker while still providing a roller coaster of emotion, similar to the real thing.

One of the reasons EA Sports ended its 30-year association with FIFA was to explore new opportunities and partnerships that were once a conflict of interest.

The first instalment feels like a familiar pair of football boots – a safe addition with which players will instantly feel comfortable.

Dramatic changes are likely being kept in the locker room for future editions, as development is tight on annually released video games. So, what, if any, changes have appeared for the teams in the Saudi Pro League?

The good

All 18 SPL teams from the current 2023-24 season are included in “EA FC 24.” From title holders Al-Ittihad to newly promoted Al-Riyadh and all those in between.

The sudden influx of international stars that gave transfer expert Fabrizio Romano sleepless nights is up to date. The likes of Sadio Mane (Al-Nassr), Neymar (Al-Hilal), and Karim Benzema (Al-Ittihad) line up for their new sides and, in doing so, lift the overall star rating and playability of each side.

So, fans of the clubs that made big moves in the summer can play as their favorite team online without fear of being hammered each time.

It is also great to see the Roshn Saudi League idents for the TV-style coverage before, during, and after the games, creating another layer of authenticity.

Saudi football fans may also be pleased to note that many more people use SPL teams online this year. By setting the Seasons or Co-Op settings to fit a favorite club, a similar match-up can quickly be found.

Previously, in “FIFA,” players could sit in an online lobby for what felt like hours and would rarely find an equal matchup for Damac or similar. Opening up the restrictions would inevitably lead to one-sided games against Manchester City, PSG, and Real Madrid on repeat.

There is also a big matchday feel to local derbies, too. EA Sports has added a little more drama to the likes of Al-Nasser versus Al-Hilal with more background on the long-lasting rivalry that comes through the pre-game presentation and in-game commentary.

The not-so-good

There are only two official stadiums from the SPL in “EA FC 24” — the faithfully recreated King Abdullah Sports City and King Fahd Stadium.

The eagle-eyed will notice these are the same stadia featured in last year’s “FIFA 23.”

Although fans may be disappointed, the approach is not limited to the Saudi teams.

For example, the Dutch Eredivisie only has Ajax and PSV, and Portugal’s Liga comes with FC Porto and Benfica official stadiums. Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami stadium is not even in the game.

Inside the stadiums, as the cameras pan the crowds or pitchside crew and security, there is not much Arab representation. In fact, players will not find any traditional dress anywhere in the grounds. It may seem like a minor issue for a sports game, but it matters.

The game currently uses the same animated crowd as it does in every other stadium and switches the football shirts to match.

You can forgive EA Sports for using the likenesses of the licensed commentary and pundit teams they use in the game’s EA TV presentation, such as Stewart Robson and Derek Rae. But finding a fan in the stadium sporting a thobe or abaya is currently impossible and feels like a missed opportunity.

Stadium chants are also off-target. When Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Al-Nassr, the home crowd erupts into a baffling rendition of Manchester United fans’ “Viva Ronaldo.”

The development of “EA FC 24” probably did not leave much time for EA Sports to capture the atmosphere, but hopefully things will be more accurate for the Saudi matchday feel next season.

Lastly, “EA FC 24” does not have all the official kits. Again, this is not an issue solely aimed at the SPL, as other league teams can be seen playing in off-brand outfits. But users are unlikely to be happy if they were looking forward to playing with Al-Okhdood in their licensed shirts.

It is a bit of a mixed bag regarding SPL representation in “EA FC 24.”

It is great to see the teams have been given a statistics boost to reflect the 2023 summer transfers, and playing with them online is fun and a break from using the usual suspects.

EA Sports will build on the entire experience for next season. The explosion of the SPL popularity likely caught them off guard, as it did with most, which is why it currently feels slightly odd. But with the world’s gaze fixed on the league, it is hard to ignore it now.

More than anything, it would be nice to see some distinctive Arab representation around “EA FC 25.”


Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence

Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence
Updated 03 October 2023
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Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence

Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence
  • Liverpool and England legend wants major silverware with Al-Ettifaq
  • Education is critical for lifelong success, Gerrard tells fans during appearance at Riyadh Book Fair

Liverpool and England legend Steven Gerrard believes that the key to success in life is continuous learning — as he described his own journey in football from player to coach.

The coach of Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia made the remarks on Monday at the Riyadh Book Fair, where he attended a seminar titled “Sports and Cultural Exchange” — in front of adoring football fans.

Gerrard said that reading has always been an integral part of his life, at airports waiting for flights, and during rest periods at football camps.

He said football was not just a sport but also a form of cultural exchange.

“Saudi Arabia has been of interest to me since the football explosion, and I received a warm welcome from Saudi fans, making me feel special. I am grateful for that. After experiencing wearing the Saudi thobe, I designed another one for myself because I liked it and found it very comfortable. Sports are evolving in the Kingdom, and I wanted to be a part of this development. My presence in this league will bring me experience and benefit.”

He said he committed himself to further education to make the transition to management. “After retirement, I had the desire to continue in the field of football, specifically in coaching, and I read many books related to coaches. It is in my nature, and ever since I was in Liverpool, I loved challenges and taking first place, and this motivates me to give my all here.”

“The difference between being a coach and a former player is that coaching comes with a lot of pressure because you are leading a whole team. It was better for me to gradually progress in the field, starting as a player, then a team manager, and finally, a technical coach.”

He ended his speech by talking about the most beautiful strike in his football career. “The best goal I scored in my career was against Milan in the Champions League final in 2005.”

At the end of the seminar, Gerrard graciously stopped to interact with the fans and posed for photographs — which made it a memorable day for many at Riyadh’s iconic cultural event.


Fiorentina beat Cagliari 3-0 to move level with third-place Napoli in Serie A

Fiorentina beat Cagliari 3-0 to move level with third-place Napoli in Serie A
Updated 03 October 2023
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Fiorentina beat Cagliari 3-0 to move level with third-place Napoli in Serie A

Fiorentina beat Cagliari 3-0 to move level with third-place Napoli in Serie A
  • Nicolas Gonzalez netted his sixth goal of the season to set Fiorentina on the way to victory
  • Monza halted a four-match winless run with a 1-0 victory at in-form Sassuolo

MILAN: Fiorentina moved level with third-place Napoli in Serie A with a 3-0 win over bottom club Cagliari on Monday.

Nicolas Gonzalez netted his sixth goal of the season to set Fiorentina on the way to victory and see it join the defending champion and Juventus. They’re four points behind Serie A leaders AC Milan and Inter Milan.

It all got even bleaker for Cagliari and manager Claudio Ranieri even at this early stage of the season. The Sardinian team have just two points from their opening seven matches back in the top flight.

Fiorentina, who have lost just one match, got off to the perfect start as they took the lead with barely two minutes on the clock.

Cagliari goalkeeper Boris Radunovic misjudged Nikola Milenkovic’s free kick and could only flap at the ball, allowing Gonzalez to slot it into an empty net.

Fiorentina were dominating but needed another bit of fortune to double their lead in the 21st minute. Some great play from Michael Kayode saw the Fiorentina right back weave his way into the area and his cross was turned into the back of the net by Cagliari defender Alberto Dossena.

Cagliari improved in the second half and almost got back into the match but Andrea Petagna hit the crossbar, although he was probably offside in any case.

M’Bala Nzola extended Fiorentina’s lead in stoppage time when he raced onto a long ball from Rolando Mandragora and dinked it over Radunovic.

PAPU’S BACK

Monza halted a four-match winless run with a 1-0 victory at in-form Sassuolo.

Lorenzo Colombo scored a delightful solo goal in the 66th minute to give Monza their second win of the season. The young forward could have had another late on but it was ruled out for offside.

The match also saw the return of Papu Gomez to Italian soccer. The former Atalanta star joined Monza last week on a free transfer after ending his contract with Sevilla.

Sassuolo had beaten Juventus and Inter Milan in their past two matches.

Monza moved level on points with Sassuolo and Torino.

Torino drew 0-0 at home to Hellas Verona to remain a point above their opponent.

Verona started the season with two victories but have not won since and have failed to score in their past four matches.