Al-Ittihad ready for AFC Champions League challenge, coach says

Al-Ittihad coach Nuno Santo said a spate of injuries and a crowded fixture list would not prevent his team putting up a strong performance in the second round of the AFC Champions League. (X/@ittihad)
Al-Ittihad coach Nuno Santo said a spate of injuries and a crowded fixture list would not prevent his team putting up a strong performance in the second round of the AFC Champions League. (X/@ittihad)
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Updated 01 October 2023
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Al-Ittihad ready for AFC Champions League challenge, coach says

Al-Ittihad ready for AFC Champions League challenge, coach says
  • Pressure ‘will not be an obstacle to us delivering the expected performance,’ Nuno Santo says
  • Saudi team will play Iranian side Sepahan in Isfahan on Monday night

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad coach Nuno Santo said a spate of injuries and a crowded fixture list would not prevent his team putting up a strong performance in the second round of the AFC Champions League.

The Jeddah giants play Iranian side Sepahan in Isfahan on Monday night.

“We have a big match against a good and organized team, and I personally know their coach,” the Portuguese told a press conference.

“We are currently working on preparing the players through recovery due to the proximity of match dates. We are suffering from the continuous absence of players due to injuries and we are constantly working on finding solutions,” he said.

“We have exceptional players and the pressure of the matches will not be an obstacle to us delivering the expected performance.”

Santo made special reference to the quality of his goalkeepers.

“Goalkeeping at Al-Ittihad is exceptional, with the presence of two great goalkeepers and this year we acquired the experienced Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who has a great track record in this tournament.”


Afghanistan upset Australia to keep T20 World Cup campaign alive

Afghanistan upset Australia to keep T20 World Cup campaign alive
Updated 20 sec ago
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Afghanistan upset Australia to keep T20 World Cup campaign alive

Afghanistan upset Australia to keep T20 World Cup campaign alive
  • Afghanistan made 148-6 and then bowled out their opponents for 127 in 19.2 overs for their first ever victory over the Australians
ARNOS VALE, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Afghanistan stunned Australia with a 21-run victory on Saturday to keep their T20 World Cup semifinal hopes alive.
Afghanistan made 148-6 and then bowled out their opponents for 127 in 19.2 overs for their first ever victory over the Australians.

Tom Kim clings to a 1-shot lead over Scheffler and Bhatia in rain-delayed Travelers

Tom Kim clings to a 1-shot lead over Scheffler and Bhatia in rain-delayed Travelers
Updated 5 min 22 sec ago
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Tom Kim clings to a 1-shot lead over Scheffler and Bhatia in rain-delayed Travelers

Tom Kim clings to a 1-shot lead over Scheffler and Bhatia in rain-delayed Travelers
  • Kim was at 18-under 192 going into the final round in which 10 players were within five shots of the lead
  • Cameron Young shot 59, the 13th sub-60 round on the PGA Tour and first in nearly four years

CROMWELL, Connecticut: Tom Kim made enough birdies on a soft, vulnerable course to stay in front Saturday in the rain-delayed Travelers Championship, getting up-and-down for par on the last hole in near darkness for a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Scottie Scheffler and Akshay Bhatia.

The tone of this pitch-and-putt day at the TPC River Highlands was set long before thunderstorms halted play for nearly three hours. Cameron Young shot 59, the 13th sub-60 round on the PGA Tour and first in nearly four years.

And then the rain made it even softer, and the wind subsided late in the evening as Kim, Scheffler and Xander Schauffele raced to beat darkness.

Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player coming off a rare pedestrian performance at the US Open, was slowed by a pair of soft bogeys — his putter from fringe on No. 11, a bad drive into mangled weeds on No. 14 — and answered with four straight birdies.

“I was pretty frustrated after that bogey on 14, felt like I was putting myself out of the tournament,” Scheffler said. “So it was nice to bounce back and finish it the way I did.”

His wedge on the 18th rolled back within an inch of the cup, which he tapped in for 64. He played with Bhatia, who has two PGA Tour titles in the last 12 months. He poured in a 25-foot birdie putt to match Scheffler at 64.

Schauffele played bogey-free until the final hole when his 3-foot par putt horseshoed around the cup and left him with a 64. He was two shots back along with Sungjae Im, who made a birdie putt from some 40 feet on the final hole.

Kim, who turned 22 on Friday, is still leading a large cast of All-Stars. He was at 18-under 192 going into the final round in which 10 players were within five shots of the lead.

“It’s a stacked leaderboard,” Kim said. “Out here, a five-, six-shot lead is not safe at all. So I’ve got to go out tomorrow and do the same game plan and execute.”

The group within five shots includes Young, who was tied for 43rd when he arrived at the course in the morning. He was 5 under through four holes — he holed out with a wedge from 142 yards on No. 3 — made another eagle on the 280-yard 15th hole with a 3-iron to 4 feet and got to 11 under with a 5-foot birdie on the 17th.

He was tied when he walked off the course and still in the mix when the round finally ended. Young didn’t see this kind of round coming.

“Did exactly what I do every day coming to the golf course — get a coffee, ate, saw the physio, and went out there, warmed up,” he said. “Didn’t feel particularly awesome. I chunked a few less on the range than I did yesterday. Then, yeah, came out and just was very comfortable and things just started coming down close to the hole.”

Tee times for Sunday have been moved forward because of more storms in the forecast, meaning the course isn’t likely to get any tougher. Preferred lies were in effect for the second consecutive round.

“Feels like more than ever you’re going to have to keep your head down,” Schauffele said. “It’s kind of been my motto — ‘Stay in my lane’ — for quite some time, and I think tomorrow it’s going to hold pretty true. You can get on a run at any point on this golf course.

“(You) definitely have to earn your birdies,” he said. “But I think they’re going to be coming in bunches tomorrow.”

Five players had at least a share of the lead at some point, some of that made possible by Kim’s lone mistake. He three-putted from 10 feet on the fourth hole, his 3-foot par putt not even touching the hole. But he bounced back with three birdies on the par 3s and a tough chip across the 15th green to set up an easy birdie.

He went from the fairway bunker to short of the 18th green, and his pitched rolled out to a short range for his final par to stay in front.

The final signature event of the PGA Tour season certainly looks like one with quality of players chasing — from Scheffler and Schauffele, down to Collin Morikawa, Shane Lowry, Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas.

“You’re not going to separate yourself. Someone is going to play one shot better than anyone else,” Bhatia said. “We’ll see what tomorrow entails. It’s just going to be a good challenge.”


Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories

Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories
Updated 16 min 6 sec ago
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Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories

Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories
  • Dressel wrapped up his emotional return to the US trials, following up his 50m freestyle victory with another win after his lengthy break from the sport
  • In Paris Ledecky will be the favorite to become the first woman in any sport to win Olympic gold in the same event four times

LOS ANGELES: Caeleb Dressel powered to victory in the 100m butterfly at the US Olympic swimming trials to line up another title defense in Paris, where Katie Ledecky will go for a historic fourth straight 800m freestyle gold.

Dressel wrapped up his emotional return to the US trials on Saturday, following up his 50m free victory on Friday with another win after his lengthy break from the sport.

Dressel seized control with his trademark explosive start, led at the wall and won in 50.19sec, with 17-year-old Thomas Heilman second in 50.80.

Heilman had already won the 200m butterfly to become the youngest US male swimmer to book an Olympic berth since 15-year-old Michael Phelps and 17-year-old Aaron Piersol competed at the 2000 Sydney Games.

He flew home in the outside lane one to edge 21-year-old Dare Rose by four-hundredths of a second.

“This is truly the hardest part,” Dressel said of the pressure-cooker US trials, where only the top two finishers in each event can secure an individual Olympic berth.

“It’s tough to make the team here, and that’s how it should be,” said Dressel, who won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics to confirm his superstar status but abruptly stepped away from the sport in 2022.

“I think I’ve felt every emotion that I’m capable of,” Dressel said of the rollercoaster nine-day trials, held this year in the stunning, potentially intimidating atmosphere of Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

“It’s tough. So really the motto is one stroke at a time. You’ve got to turn the dial on, then turn it off and just when you can go to bed. So I’m happy to be done,” said Dressel, who has been cheered on this week by his wife, Meghan, with their four-month-old son, August, along for the ride.

Ledecky’s fourth victory of the week, in the 800m freestyle, takes her back to where her Olympic journey began, with an upset triumph at the age of 15 in the 2012 London Games.

Ledecky, the world record-holder who owns the top 16 times ever in the event, clocked 8min 14.12sec. As in the 400m free, Paige Madden was second to Ledecky, shattering her personal best with a time of 8:20.71.

In Paris Ledecky will be the favorite to become the first woman in any sport to win Olympic gold in the same event four times.

Michael Phelps the only swimmer to win the same event at four straight Games, the 200m individual medley in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Kate Douglass added an impressive victory in the 200m individual medley in 2min 06.79sec to her 100m free and 200m breaststroke wins this week.

Alex Walsh was second in 2:07.86 and the pair head to Paris aiming to improve on their performances at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games, where Walsh took silver and Douglass earned bronze behind Japanese gold medallist Yui Ohashi.

“I feel like the goal coming into this meet was to try and win all three events, but you know, I didn’t really think I was going to be able to achieve that,” Douglass said. “So I’m really happy I did.”

Walsh finally secured her Paris berth on the penultimate night of the trials, joining her sister Gretchen who clocked a world record in the semifinals on the way to winning the 100m fly.

“I didn’t know if I was going to make it to Paris after she made it,” said Alex Walsh, who competed in Tokyo as Gretchen missed out. “This is a dream we’ve been dreaming for so long.”


Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup

Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup
Updated 33 min 54 sec ago
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Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup

Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup
  • Saturday’s mauling was Bangladesh’s second defeat in the Super Eights after an opening loss to Australia
  • Bangladesh stumbled to 146-8 in their 20 overs against India with skipper Najmul Hossain Shanto top scoring with 40

North Sound, Antigua and Barbuda: Veteran Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan hit out at the Tigers’ lack of “fight” after a 50-run rout by India effectively ended their T20 World Cup dreams.
Saturday’s mauling was Bangladesh’s second defeat in the Super Eights after an opening loss to Australia.
“We were always thinking that we came to do something good and we will do it,” said former skipper Shakib who was playing in his 128th T20 international.
“But if you look at the result or the performance on the ground, actually we couldn’t show any fight in that way. It’s disappointing.”
Chasing 197 to win, Bangladesh stumbled to 146-8 in their 20 overs against India with skipper Najmul Hossain Shanto top scoring with 40.
Making runs has been a problem for Bangladesh throughout the tournament with Towhid Hridoy their top run-getter with a modest 139 across six innings.
Shakib was the only player to make a 50 when he hit an undefeated 64 in the first round victory against the Netherlands.
“I don’t know how long it will take,” said the 37-year-old Shakib when asked to put a timeframe on Bangladesh winning a world title.
“When we played with two big teams, who were maybe the closest contenders for the World Cup, our gap with them was clearly visible.
“So, it is disappointing to me that we still have such huge gaps.”
Shakib made his international debut in 2006 and has also played in 67 Tests and 247 one-dayers. He has amassed more than 19,500 runs and taken over 700 wickets.
However, he will not make any hasty decisions on whether he will call time on his Bangladesh career.
“If the team think that they need me, and if I think that I need the team and I am feeling desired in that way then it is a matter of playing for the team,” he said.
“Otherwise, if I am not enjoying then of course, I will not play. When it’s time everyone will come to know about it.”


Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’

Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’
Updated 23 June 2024
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Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’

Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’
  • Whittaker took down the Russian fighter in just 1:46 minutes of the first round
  • Volkov defeated Russian compatriot Pavlovich by unanimous decision

RIYADH: Australian mixed martial arts star Robert Whittaker knocked out Ikram Sabirovich Aliskerov in under 2 minutes of the first round of the middleweight main event of the inaugural UFC "Fight Night" in Riyadh late on Saturday.

Aliskerov was pulled from Saturday’s UFC event in Las Vegas as a last-minute replacement for his compatriot Khamzat Chimaev, who withdrew from the fight due to illness.

Aliskerov was tagged by UFC's CEO and President Dana White as a "legit contender," having been on a seven-game winning streak, and having lost only one of his 16 bouts. His only loss was against Chimaev.

Whittaker started the fight using precision striking to keep Aliskerov at a distance, while Aliskerov countered with powerful takedowns and effective ground control, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

But Whittaker, nicknamed "The Reaper" for sending many opponents down with his famous 1-2-high kick combination, was just too much for him, securing a victory by knockout at 1:49 in the first round, solidifying his status as a leading contender in the division.

"I'm the most dangerous middleweight on the planet. Everyone knows that," Whittaker declared in a press conference after his victory.

In the heavyweight co-main event, Alexander Volkov defeated Russian compatriot Sergei Pavlovich by unanimous decision.

Results of the UFC Saudi Arabia "Fight Night" matches.

Earlier, Kelvin Gastelum beat American compatriot Daniel Rodriguez by unanimous decision in their middle weight division match.

Pavlovich came out aggressively, landing significant strikes early in the fight. However, Volkov showcased impressive endurance and striking accuracy, gradually turning the tide.

In a dramatic third round, Volkov landed a decisive head kick, followed by a series of punches that led to his victory. The crowd erupted in applause, appreciating the skill and tenacity displayed by both fighters.

The undercard featured several emerging talents who seized the opportunity to shine. Felipe Lima, a promising featherweight prospect, delivered a standout performance with a third-round submission victory (rear-naked choke) over Muhammad Naimov. Lima's seamless transition from striking to grappling highlighted his potential as a future star in the division.

In the bantamweight bout, Muin Gafurov impressed the audience with their striking precision and footwork, earning a unanimous decision win against Kyung Ho Kang. The technical mastery displayed by both fighters was a testament to the high level of competition in the UFC.

The fight night witnessed two other knockouts: Shara Magomedov defeated Antonio Trocoli at 2:27 of round three, and Volkan Oezdemir knocked out Johnny Walker at 2:28 of the first round.

The success of UFC Fight Night in Riyadh confirms the growing interest in MMA in the region and sets the stage for future events. UFC President Dana White expressed his excitement about the evening's success and discussed more events to come in the Middle East. "The energy and passion of the fans here in Riyadh have been incredible. We’re thrilled with tonight's success and look forward to bringing more world-class UFC events to this part of the world," White said.

“We sold over 12,000 seats. It’s been good, it was fun coming to this market. I love how passionate Turki AlAsheikh is about the sport,” White said. “In this region now, you see a lot of talents coming from here (Saudi Arabia and the Middle East).”

UFC Fight Night at Kingdom Arena was not just about the fights; it was a celebration of MMA's global reach and cultural significance. The event drew a diverse crowd, including local fans, international visitors, and celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds. The atmosphere inside Kingdom Arena was electric, with enthusiastic fans cheering for their favorite fighters and savoring each moment of the action-packed night.

The success of UFC Fight Night in Riyadh highlights the growing interest in MMA in the region and sets the stage for future events.

With thrilling fights, standout performances, and an unforgettable atmosphere, the night will be remembered as a significant milestone in UFC history and a testament to the sport's popularity.