Neymar gets off the mark in vital Al-Hilal victory in Tehran

Neymar opened his goalscoring account for Al-Hilal on Tuesday as the Saudi side defeated Nassaji Mazandaran 3-0 in their Asian Champions League clash in Tehran. (X/@AlHilal_FC)
Neymar opened his goalscoring account for Al-Hilal on Tuesday as the Saudi side defeated Nassaji Mazandaran 3-0 in their Asian Champions League clash in Tehran. (X/@AlHilal_FC)
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Updated 03 October 2023
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Neymar gets off the mark in vital Al-Hilal victory in Tehran

Neymar gets off the mark in vital Al-Hilal victory in Tehran
  • The Brazilian scored his first goal in five games since joining the Saudi side as they eased to a 3-0 away victory over Nassaji Mazandaran of Iran
  • Meanwhile, Al-Fayha made it three wins out of three for Saudi teams on matchday two, with a 2-0 victory over Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan

RIYADH: Neymar opened his goalscoring account for Al-Hilal on Tuesday as the Saudi side defeated Nassaji Mazandaran 3-0 in their Asian Champions League clash in Tehran. The goal came in the Brazilian’s fifth game since joining the Riyadh giants and it was worth the wait.

It has been a good few days for the team, who went top of the Roshn Saudi League at the weekend and are now looking good for a place in the knockout stages of the Asian tournament.

Tuesday’s game at the Azadi Stadium was a hard-fought, and sometimes bad-tempered, affair but it ended in a vital victory for the four-time ACL champions who, like their Iranian hosts, finished the game with 10 men.

After a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Navbahor in their opening game, Al-Hilal now sit top of Group D on four points, ahead of the Uzbeks on goal difference. Nassaji are close behind on three points, followed by Mumbai City, who lost their first two games.

Neymar was not first to hit the target on Tuesday; that honor belonged to Aleksandar Mitrovic, who opened the scoring after just 10 minutes. Salman Al-Faraj delivered the ball to the right wing, where a galloping Mohammed Al-Breik sent a looping cross toward Mitrovic, who got between two defenders on the edge of the six yard area to head home.

The main talking point of the first half came seven minutes before the break when both teams were reduced to 10 men. After Michael fouled fellow number 96 Mohammadreza Abbasi, the two sets of players confronted each other and, when the dust had settled on the general melee, Salman Al-Faraj and Amir Houshmand were singled out for red cards.

Nassaji goalkeeper Mohammed Rashid Mazaheri escorted Al-Faraj off the pitch to help protect the veteran midfielder from objects being hurled at him from the stand. Neymar, who started the game still looking for that elusive first goal since signing for Al-Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain in August, was also the target of cans and bottles thrown by home fans.

His revenge for this was sweet, however, and came two minutes before the hour mark. Nasser Al-Dawsari slipped the ball to him on the edge of the area and the former Barcelona star unleashed an unstoppable low, left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance. It was a perfect, world-class finish from the forward, who had missed a penalty against Al-Shabab last Friday.

Neymar almost grabbed a second four minutes later. Kalidou Koulibaly advanced powerfully into the Iranians’ half and then found Neymar on the left side of the area. The Brazilian fired a low shot that beat the goalkeeper but came back off the opposite post.

With 20 minutes remaining, Farshid Esmaeili also hit the woodwork but that was the closest that Nassaji, making their debut in the competition, would come.

It was Hilal’s night and there was still time for them to add a third. After a corner was cleared, Al-Dawsari fired toward goal from the edge of the area and the ball was turned into the net by Saleh Al-Shehri.

Meanwhile, Al-Fayha made it three wins out of three for Saudi teams on matchday two, with a 2-0 victory over Pakhtakor.

Abdelhamid Sabiri opened the scoring after 10 minutes and the Moroccan midfielder added a second with 19 minutes remaining to seal the win against the Uzbek side. It means that after an opening-game defeat to Ahal of Turkmenistan, the 2022 King’s Cup winners are back in the hunt.

Al-Nassr defeated Tajik side Istiklol 3-1 on Monday night, with Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing his first Asian Champions League goal in the process.

Al-Ittihad’s game against Sepahan in Iran on Monday was called off at the last minute, after the Saudi side refused to leave the dressing room because a monument to an assassinated Iranian general had been placed beside the pitch.


Bumrah leads India to 47-run win over Afghanistan in Super Eight at T20 World Cup

Bumrah leads India to 47-run win over Afghanistan in Super Eight at T20 World Cup
Updated 5 sec ago
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Bumrah leads India to 47-run win over Afghanistan in Super Eight at T20 World Cup

Bumrah leads India to 47-run win over Afghanistan in Super Eight at T20 World Cup
Bumrah’s four-over spell was aided by Arshdeep Singh, who finished with 3-36
Spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2-32) and Axar Patel (1-15) shared three wickets as Afghanistan were bowled out for 134 runs

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah picked three wickets for just seven runs as India beat Afghanistan by 47 runs in their Super Eight clash at the Twenty20 World Cup on Thursday.
Bumrah’s four-over spell was aided by Arshdeep Singh, who finished with 3-36. Spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2-32) and Axar Patel (1-15) shared three wickets as Afghanistan were bowled out for 134 runs.
Earlier, Suryakumar Yadav scored 53 off 28 balls — his fifth T20 World Cup half-century — as India reached 181-8 in 20 overs after opting to bat.
Yadav hit three sixes and five fours, while Hardik Pandya scored 32 off 24 balls, including two sixes.
India’s next Super Eight game is on Saturday, against Bangladesh in Antigua. Afghanistan will play Australia in St. Vincent, also on Saturday.
Yadav was named player of the match.
“I am clear in my mind how I want to bat,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work, process and routine involved in it. You just need to know your game plan and just play accordingly. When Hardik (Pandya) came in to bat, we discussed about batting with (aggressive) intent. In the end, we were happy with 180.”
On a slow-paced Barbados wicket, India had made a sluggish start. Skipper Rohit Sharma was out caught for eight, while star batter Virat Kohli only managed run-a-ball 24.
Rishabh Pant, batting at three, provided some acceleration — he scored 20 off 11 balls with four fours.
Afghanistan skipper and wrist spinner Rashid Khan did damage to India’s top order, dismissing both Kohli and Pant, the latter out lbw. It was the first time Khan picked up wickets against India in T20s.
India were down to 62-3 in 8.3 overs, when Yadav played a rescuing hand. He added 28 of 14 balls with Shivam Dube (10) and then the match-turning 60 runs with Pandya.
Yadav’s stand with Pandya came off only 37 balls as India scored 102 runs off the final 10 overs.
Rashid Khan finished with 3-26 in four overs.
Afghanistan’s chase got off to a poor start against Bumrah — he sent back both openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (11) and Haratullah Zazai (2) cheaply.
In between, Axar Patel struck in the fourth over as Ibrahim Zadran was out for eight, and Afghanistan slipped to 23-3 in 4.1 overs.
Gulbadin Naib and Azatullah Omarzai added 44 off 38 balls for the fourth wicket. Thereafter, India’s spinners struck at regular intervals to restrict their opponents.
Ravindra Jadeja picked 1-20 in three overs. Afghanistan lost their last five wickets for 32 runs across 28 deliveries as India crossed the finish line with ease.

Lacklustre England held by Denmark at Euro 2024

Lacklustre England held by Denmark at Euro 2024
Updated 54 min 7 sec ago
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Lacklustre England held by Denmark at Euro 2024

Lacklustre England held by Denmark at Euro 2024
  • Harry Kane had given the Three Lions an early lead as England pounced on a Danish defensive error
  • Hjulmand’s rocket from outside the box levelled before half-time and Denmark were left to rue missing late chances to secure a famous victory

FRANKFURT: England failed to guarantee their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 after Morten Hjulmand’s spectacular strike earned Denmark a 1-1 draw on Thursday.
A point was the least the Danes deserved as England again flattered to deceive in Frankfurt after an underwhelming 1-0 win over Serbia to open their tournament.
Harry Kane had given the Three Lions an early lead as England pounced on a Danish defensive error.
Hjulmand’s rocket from outside the box levelled before half-time and Denmark were left to rue missing late chances to secure a famous victory.
England remain on top of Group C, two points clear of Slovenia, who they face in Cologne on Tuesday, and Denmark.
Serbia’s late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Slovenia earlier on Thursday also keeps their destiny in their own hands.
England boss Gareth Southgate said on Wednesday that he avoids media coverage during tournaments to escape negative stories.
But will be braced for more criticism after another flat display from one of the pre-tournament favorites.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel claimed on the eve of the game they would not be fueled by revenge for their Euro 2020 semifinal heartbreak to England three years ago.
However, the Danes were a different beast from the side that disappointed at the 2022 World Cup and in drawing against Slovenia to open their tournament in Germany.
Denmark had made the brighter start as both sides struggled to cope with a bobbly pitch in Frankfurt that cut up badly in just its second game of five at Euro 2024.
Yet, England capitalized on a howler from Hjulmand’s men to take the lead on 18 minutes.
Victor Kristiansen was caught unaware of Kyle Walker’s run down the right and his deflected low cross fell perfectly for Kane to roll in his 13th goal at major tournaments.
Failing to build on early 1-0 leads has been a consistent criticism of England under Southgate.
In the 2018 World Cup semifinal and final of Euro 2020, Croatia and Italy were able to wrestle away momentum from the Three Lions.
This time Denmark were not deterred by conceding, although it took a spectacular strike to bring them level.
Hjulmand was given far too much room by the England midfield to take aim but he took full advantage form long range with a blistering shot that clipped the inside of the post on its way in.
Southgate made no changes at the break, but the future of his experiment of playing Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in a midfield role is in doubt after he was hooked for Conor Gallagher on 55 minutes.
Phil Foden’s form for England had been a source of much debate after he again failed to shine at international level against Serbia.
The Manchester City playmaker looked much more like the man that won Premier League player of the year awards this season and was inches away from restoring England’s lead with a low drive that came crashing back off the post.
Southgate’s caution has been criticized in the past, but he was bold with his changes in the search for a winner as Kane, Foden and Bukayo Saka were sacrificed for Eberechi Eze, Ollie Watkins and Jarrod Bowen.
Watkins nearly made an immediate impact as he was denied by Schmeichel after a brilliant through ball from Jude Bellingham.
Yet, it was Denmark who had the better chances to take all three points in the closing stages.
Andreas Christensen spooned over when unmarked from a corner before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg curled inches wide.


Ukraine seek to bounce back against Slovakia after surprise opening loss

Ukraine seek to bounce back against Slovakia after surprise opening loss
Updated 20 June 2024
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Ukraine seek to bounce back against Slovakia after surprise opening loss

Ukraine seek to bounce back against Slovakia after surprise opening loss
  • Ukraine had a shock 3-0 loss to Romania that included costly errors from Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin
  • Another loss could mean elimination for Ukraine, which were a quarterfinalist in 2021

DUESSELDORF, Germany: Slovakia face Ukraine on Friday in Duesseldorf in their second Group E match at the European Championship.

Slovakia are second to Romania on goal difference, and Ukraine are last. Romania and Belgium play on Saturday.
Ukraine had a shock 3-0 loss to Romania that included costly errors from Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin. Another loss could mean elimination for Ukraine, which were a quarterfinalist in 2021.
Ukrainian players apologized to their fans for the Romania loss, and held a team meeting in the locker room after that game without coach Serhiy Rebrov present to work out what went wrong. That was “absolutely normal,” the coach said Thursday.
Slovakia are riding high after surprising Belgium 1-0 but needed two video reviews to overturn Belgium goals. One was deemed offside and a sensor in the ball detected a handball on the second.
The Slovakians know not to get too excited by an opening win. At the last European Championship they beat Poland but then lost to Sweden and Spain and didn’t advance. That meant there was only “a bit of euphoria for a few short hours” when Slovakia beat Belgium this time, coach Francesco Calzona said.
Ukraine coach Rebrov indicated he will make changes to the lineup which lost to Romania and said some unnamed players were carrying “micro-injuries.”
Defender Vitaliy Mykolenko sustained severe bruising in a pre-tournament friendly with Moldova and was an unused substitute against Romania but was expected to train with the team Thursday evening, Rebrov said.
One option for Rebrov could be to replace 34-year-old captain Taras Stepanenko with the 22-year-old Volodymyr Brazhko in defensive midfield. Brazhko debuted for the team only in March as Ukraine qualified for Euro 2024 through the playoffs.
Slovakia coach Calzona says his players are all available but he has yet to decide on his starting lineup.
The average age of Slovakia’s starting lineup in the win over Belgium was over 30 as the team relied on the experience of two 37-year-olds, defender Peter Pekarik and Juraj Kucka, and the 35-year-old goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. Ukraine’s players against Romania were on average four and a half years younger.
The teams have a fairly even record, with three wins for Slovakia, two for Ukraine and three draws. Slovakia won their last game 4-1 in 2018.
A second win would make history for Slovakia, which have never won more than one game in any tournament they’ve played as an independent nation. As part of Czechoslovakia, they did win the 1976 European Championship, though.
“We want to turn the page and concentrate 100 percent on the Slovakia game... (The Romania game) is a very painful result for us but we need to learn the lessons and get ready for tomorrow’s game,” said Ukraine left back Oleksandr Zinchenko.
“I think our greatest quality is humility. We know that we always need to give 110 percent because we’re a small nation and we always want to put a big smile on the faces of our fans and our people,” said Calzona.
Slovak defender David Hancko said: “Ukraine has wonderful, young, talented players. They have a good system, they’re strong on the ball. ... We must play to the best of our abilities to be able to beat them.”


France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024
Updated 20 June 2024
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France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024
  • “He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday,″ Deschamps said

LEIPZIG, Germany: France coach Didier Deschamps says his team are doing all “to ensure” Kylian Mbappé is available for the Euro 2024 clash against the Netherlands on Friday.
“Everything is going well, after the shock we had. He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday and that will be the same this evening″ Deschamps said Thursday. “We’ll do all we can to ensure that he’ll be available tomorrow.”
Mbappé broke his nose in France’s opening 1-0 win over Austria on Monday when his face collided with Austria defender Kevin Danso’s shoulder. Blood stained his white France jersey. If he plays, he’ll need to wear a mask. But it remains uncertain.
Mbappé returned to light training on Wednesday and was expected to continue preparations on Thursday.


Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix
Updated 20 June 2024
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Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix
  • Jaguar driver finished third in last season’s Formula E final standings
  • Mitch Evans: I need to have a good weekend if I want to have a really good shot at the drivers’ title

RIYADH: Jaguar driver Mitch Evans is under no illusions he needs to perform strongly at the upcoming Portland E-Prix races if he wants to become Formula E world champion this season.

The New Zealander goes into the double-header races in the US on June 29-30 on the back of his triumph at the Shanghai E-Prix opener, and sits 35 points adrift of team-mate and championship leader Pascal Wehrlein.

With four races to go, and with races in Portland next weekend and London at the end of July, Evans is acutely aware he needs to pick up points and build on his second victory of the campaign.

He said: “Portland is going to be a big weekend for a lot of things. Regardless of what happens to Nick or Pascal, I need to have a good weekend if I want to have a really good shot at the drivers’ title.

“With the teams, we have a healthy margin but there’s still a lot of opportunities for both teams to score well especially in Portland. Last year, the Porsche Powertrain really worked well there, and genuine pace-wise we were a little off so hopefully we have made some progress since then. London will be a good track for us so we just got to keep on doing what we have been doing.”

Meanwhile, Porsche’s Antonio Felix Da Costa, who won the second race in China, admits it will be difficult to mount a title bid but is determined to deliver strong results to help the team secure the constructors’ title.

He said: “With six races to go, there are still a lot of points up for grabs. We are a little far away from the leaders — it’s not totally impossible but it will be difficult. Pascal is up there and that is where the focus will likely be and also in the constructors — and important for both cars to score big points.”