Asian Games put Saudi team on track ahead of Paris Olympics

Asian Games put Saudi team on track ahead of Paris Olympics
Saudi athlete and gold medalist Yousef Ahmed Masrahi participates in the men's 400 m event during the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 30. (AN photo)
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Updated 08 October 2023
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Asian Games put Saudi team on track ahead of Paris Olympics

Asian Games put Saudi team on track ahead of Paris Olympics
  • Saudi Arabia has gained most of its medals in athletics so far
  • Saudi team’s performance at the 19th Asian Games is already their best since 2014

HANGZHOU: The performance of young Saudi athletes at this year’s Asian Games so far has shown the world the support they receive from their country and sparked expectations of even better performances in upcoming international events. 

Saudi participants in the 19th Asian Games in China have so far won 10 medals, including four golds — the country’s best performance in the Games since 2014. 

Most of the medals were won in track and field, traditionally the Kingdom’s strongest area in the Asian Games. 

Saudi Arabia’s medal tally at this year’s Games is already nearly double its total at the last edition of the event in Indonesia in 2018. 

On Sept. 30, Yousef Ahmed Masrahi won Saudi Arabia’s first gold in the men’s 400m event with a time of 45.55 seconds, just 0.02 seconds ahead of Japan’s Sato Kentaro, who won the Asian Championship a few months ago.  

The 35-year-old Masrahi had the fastest reaction time in the finals, proving age is just a number for him. 

Martial artist Abdulmalik Al-Murdhi won Saudi Arabia’s first-ever medal in ju-jitsu on Wednesday, picking up bronze in the under-62kg category.  

The 21-year-old runner Essa Kzwani won the Kingdom’s second gold in the men’s 800m on Tuesday. While the other finalists struggled to better their timing from the heats, Kzwani finished in 1:48.05, nearly a second faster than his time in heat one. 

Niranjan Rajbanshi, treasurer of the Asian wing of the International Sports Press Association, was particularly struck by Kzwani’s performance. 

“I remember there used to be very little Saudi Arabian participation in track events, but now they’re competing for gold medals. In fact, to see a 21-year-old Saudi win the medal against all odds is a good message for Asian athletics too. Other nations should learn from this,” he told Arab News. 

Another two Saudi golds came from the equestrian team, along with silvers in the men’s 200m and men’s shot, and three further bronzes, in pole vaulting, the men’s jiu-jitsu under-85kg category, and the men’s karate over-84kg category. 

Abdullah Akbar Mohammed, who picked up silver in the men’s 200m final, said the pressure took a toll on him as he missed out on gold by a whisker, finishing 0.03 seconds behind Japan’s Koki Ueyama (20.60 seconds).  

“Honestly, I aimed for the gold, but the pressure of the race caused the loss,” he told reporters. “But I’m grateful for winning a silver medal. Thank God for the win. Hopefully, next time I’ll do better.” 

“Next time” could be the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. Rajbanshi, for one, believes Saudi athletes have reason to be optimistic. 

“There are talents, and with the support that Saudi Arabia’s government is giving, this is a good message for the Asian contingent as a whole,” he said. “We saw experienced Masrahi making a comeback, and a few days later the youngster Kzwani winning gold, too. We can expect good things to follow at the Olympics next year.”


Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 11 sec ago
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Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • Uzbekistan beat Malaysia 2-0 in the same group as the first round of matches concludes

DOHA: Vietnam defeated Kuwait 3-1 in the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup as Group D games got underway in Qatar on Wednesday night.

The result meant Vietnam took the early lead in the fourth and final group of the 16-team tournament, with Uzbekistan, who beat Malaysia 2-0, sitting second in the table on goal difference. Kuwait and Malaysia, with zero points, are third and fourth respectively. 

The second round of matches kick off in Group A on Thursday (April 18), with hosts Qatar taking on Jordan and Indonesia facing Australia.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will return to action against Thailand on Friday before facing Iraq in their final Group C match on Monday (April 22).

The 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The competition also serves as a route to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, with the winners of the two semifinals both securing automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.


Pakistan kick off T20 World Cup 2024 preparations with New Zealand series today

Pakistan kick off T20 World Cup 2024 preparations with New Zealand series today
Updated 18 April 2024
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Pakistan kick off T20 World Cup 2024 preparations with New Zealand series today

Pakistan kick off T20 World Cup 2024 preparations with New Zealand series today
  • Today’s match to see return of Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim and Naseem Shah to Pakistan’s national squad
  • Pakistan’s white-ball captain Babar Azam says team eager to express themselves as a unit in today’s match 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan cricket team will kick off their preparations for the ICC World Cup 2024 by taking on New Zealand in the first match of the T20I series against the Black Caps in Rawalpindi today, Thursday. 

Led by experienced all-rounder Michael Bracewell, New Zealand’s cricket team arrived in Pakistan last week to play the five-match T20I series from April 14-28. Rawalpindi will also host matches on Saturday and Sunday, while Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium will be the stage for the remaining two matches next week on Thursday and Saturday.

This will be the third five-match series between the two sides inside a 12-month period. Last year, Pakistan and New Zealand drew the series at two-all in Pakistan, while New Zealand clinched the series 4-1 earlier at their home. 

“This five-match T20I series holds a lot of importance for us as we look forward to preparing for the all-important mega-event,” Pakistan’s white-ball captain Babar Azam said during a news conference on Wednesday. 

“We had a great fitness camp in Kakul and are looking forward to express ourselves as a unit.”

Pakistan have named uncapped Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Irfan Khan and Usman Khan in the 17-player squad. Pacer Mohammad Amir and all-rounder Imad Wasim, who came back from retirement last month. are also back in the national squad. 

The series will also mark fast bowler Naseem Shah’s return to the national squad, who last played for Pakistan in Asia Cup 2023 before suffering a shoulder injury. The injury proved to be a fatal blow for Pakistan, sidelining Shah from the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 and tours of Australia and New Zealand.

Bracewell said he was excited to lead New Zealand on the Pakistan tour, adding that his team was raring to play good cricket against the hosts.

“Pakistan are formidable side at home and we’ll look to put challenges in their backyard,” he said. 

The match is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time. 

Squads:

Pakistan — Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usama Mir, Usman Khan and Zaman Khan

New Zealand — Michael Bracewell (captain), Tom Blundell, Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Jacob Duffy, Dean Foxcroft, Ben Lister, Cole McConchie, Jimmy Neesham, Will O’Rourke, Tim Robinson, Ben Sears, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi and Zak Foulkes.


Nadal loses to De Minaur in second round at Barcelona

Nadal loses to De Minaur in second round at Barcelona
Updated 18 April 2024
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Nadal loses to De Minaur in second round at Barcelona

Nadal loses to De Minaur in second round at Barcelona
  • Nadal again looked injury-free on Wednesday but was never in control against the in-form De Minaur, who picked up his second career win over Nadal
  • Roberto Bautista Agut rallied to defeat Andrea Vavassori 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to earn his 400th tour-level victory

BARCELONA, Spain: Rafael Nadal’s first tournament since January lasted only two matches with the Spaniard losing 7-5, 6-1 to Alex de Minaur at the clay-court Barcelona Open on Wednesday.

Nadal, back from an injury layoff, looked like his old self for brief moments in the second-round match but couldn’t keep up with the 11th-ranked De Minaur.

“The moment I lost the first set, the match was over,” Nadal said. “I can’t play a three-hour match right now. This wasn’t the place for me to give everything I have. We’ll see what happens in Paris. I want to be competitive there, that’s where I have to give it all.”

Nadal is a 14-time winner at the French Open, which begins next month. He said he will try to play at the Madrid Open next week but didn’t fully commit.

“I didn’t want to take any risks,” Nadal said. “The important thing here was to play and I played. To be on the court is great news.”

The 22-time Grand Slam champion had comfortably defeated 62nd-ranked Flavio Cobolli in straight sets in the first round on Tuesday in what was his first competitive match in more than three months.

Nadal again looked injury-free on Wednesday but was never in control against the in-form De Minaur, who picked up his second career win over Nadal.

It was only his fifth defeat at the Barcelona Open, a tournament he has won a record 12 times.

“It’s natural that this was probably my last match here,” Nadal said. “I really enjoyed playing here. It was unimaginable to win it 12 times.”

Nadal is returning from yet another injury layoff and hadn’t played since an exhibition match against Carlos Alcaraz in March. Before this week, he had played only three competitive matches this year — all in Brisbane in January — before skipping the Australian Open.

Nadal also withdrew from Monte Carlo, saying he his body wasn’t ready.

The 37-year old Nadal had hip surgery last summer and said 2024 will probably be his last year playing on tour.

BAUTISTA AGUT’S 400TH

Roberto Bautista Agut rallied to defeat Andrea Vavassori 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to earn his 400th tour-level victory.

The 35-year-old Spaniard is the 13th active player with at least 400 ATP Tour wins.

“To me it’s just a number,” Bautista Agut said. “The important thing is that I’ve done great work over these years, that I’ve had a very consistent career, a career that I can feel proud of.”

OTHER RESULTS

Third-seeded Casper Ruud advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Alexandre Muller, while sixth-seeded Ugo Humbert lost 6-4, 6-4 to Dusan Lajovic.

Ninth-seeded Nicolas Jarry lost 7-6 (5), 6-3 to qualifier Marco Trungelliti, and 14th-seeded Jordan Thompson got past Jaume Munar 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.


Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four

Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four
Updated 18 April 2024
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Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four

Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four
  • Bayern kept alive their hopes of finishing the season with a trophy three days after Bayer Leverkusen ended Bayern’s 11-year reign as German champion
  • Arsenal’s Champions League exit follows a heavy blow to its Premier League title ambitions in a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday

MUNICH: Bayern Munich could yet crown a disappointing season with the Champions League title. Arsenal face the prospect of ending a promising season with no trophy.

Joshua Kimmich’s header powered Bayern to a 1-0 win over Arsenal on Wednesday to reach the Champions League semifinals with a 3-2 victory on aggregate.

With the score at 2-2 from the first leg in London, Kimmich’s header off Raphael Guerreiro’s pinpoint cross put Bayern ahead in the 63rd minute as Bayern largely neutralized the English team’s attack.

Arsenal’s players were “gutted,” manager Mikel Arteta told broadcaster TNT Sports. “I cannot find the right words to lift them.”

Bayern kept alive their hopes of finishing the season with a trophy three days after Bayer Leverkusen ended Bayern’s 11-year reign as German champion. Striker Harry Kane — who spoke Tuesday of being motivated by his release from Arsenal as a youth player — takes a step closer to what would be the first trophy of his career.

Tuchel said it meant “really a lot” to beat Arsenal. “The semifinals are an important step, the last four, that was fun,” he told broadcaster DAZN.

Bayern and Arsenal have been drawn together five times in the knockout stages of the Champions League since 2005 and the German team has eliminated Arsenal on each occasion.

Arsenal’s Champions League exit follows a heavy blow to its Premier League title ambitions in a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday. Defeat also rules Arsenal out of next year’s Club World Cup in the US, in favor of Austrian team Salzburg.

Arsenal were left to rue the defensive errors that cost the team in the first leg.

“We gave them two goals, a big advantage to give away, and today you could see it was margin of error zero, we made a mistake defending the goal and we conceded,” Arteta said.

“Then it was difficult. We tried in many different ways but it’s difficult. It is the moment to stay next to the players, give them support, because they are the ones who have taken us on this journey.”

Tuchel — who is leaving at the end of the season — becomes a Champions League semifinalist as coach of three different teams, having led Paris Saint-Germain to the 2020 final before winning the competition with Chelsea a year later.

After a first half full of inconclusive midfield battles — Tuchel called it “a chess game” — the contest came to life after the break when Bayern hit the frame of the goal twice in a matter of seconds. Leon Goretzka sent a header against the bar and Guerreiro followed up with a shot that was deflected onto the post.

Arsenal struggled to make any headway against Bayern’s defense and sometimes looked disjointed at the back, especially when defender Takehiro Tomiyasu risked an own goal with a misjudged pass that went behind for a corner.

Kimmich darted into the box unmarked to score the only goal of the game after Guerreiro’s quick footwork on the touchline allowed him to cross past the onrushing Arsenal defender Ben White.

“I got a little lucky that no one seemed to really feel responsible for me,” Kimmich told DAZN.

Arsenal were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position with seconds of stoppage time left to play and opted to take it quickly. That approach yielded only a corner that was easily headed away as the final whistle blew and Bayern’s celebrations began.


Real Madrid exact revenge on Man City to reach Champions League semifinals

Real Madrid exact revenge on Man City to reach Champions League semifinals
Updated 18 April 2024
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Real Madrid exact revenge on Man City to reach Champions League semifinals

Real Madrid exact revenge on Man City to reach Champions League semifinals
  • City had not lost at home in the Champions League since 2018 but the holders were held at bay by a heroic defensive effort by the 14-time European champions
  • City’s defense of the competition came to an end after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic saw spot-kicks saved by Madrid’s unlikely hero Andriy Lunin

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Real Madrid exacted revenge on Manchester City to reach the Champions League semifinals 4-3 on penalties after withstanding a barrage at the Etihad on Wednesday.

Rodrygo gave the visitors an early lead before Kevin De Bruyne hit back for the holders to leave the match level at 1-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate.

However, City’s defense of the competition came to an end after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic saw spot-kicks saved by Madrid’s unlikely hero Andriy Lunin.

The Ukrainian, who has deputized this season for the injured Thibaut Courtois, had been at fault for City’s early opener in a thrilling first leg but more than made amends.

City had not lost at home in the Champions League since 2018 but the holders were held at bay by a heroic defensive effort by the 14-time European champions despite having 34 attempts on goal.

Madrid were blown away by an early City blitz in a 4-0 defeat at the Etihad 11 months ago as Pep Guardiola’s men went on to win the competition for the first time.

City also edged a semifinal first leg thriller 4-3 on home soil two years ago only to be stunned by a late Madrid fightback in the return leg.

This time Carlo Ancelotti’s men flipped the script with an assured start that was rewarded in the opening goal.

Jude Bellingham plucked the ball out of the sky with an immaculate touch to set Real roaming down the right.

Vinicius Junior picked out the unmarked Rodrygo and he tapped in the rebound after his first effort was parried by Brazilian international teammate Ederson.

If City were slow to warm to their task they quickly had Madrid penned against the ropes but failed to land a telling blow for 76 minutes.

Erling Haaland failed to score for a fourth consecutive clash between the sides but has rarely come up closer than when his looping header came back off the crossbar and left Bernardo Silva no time to adjust to turn in the rebound.

Lunin was forced to turn behind De Bruyne’s shot from outside the box and the tenacious Antonio Rudiger deflected Jack Grealish’s effort into the side-netting.

The Madrid goalkeeper saved two more from Grealish at the start of the second half before Guardiola sacrificed the England international for the extra pace of Jeremy Doku.

That proved an inspired change as Rudiger failed to deal with a Doku cross and presented the ball perfectly for De Bruyne to smash into the roof of the net 14 minutes from time.

De Bruyne should have turned the tie around single-handedly as he then blazed a glorious chance over.

However, City’s dominance of the ball and territory did serve to sap Madrid’s energy as their lethal counter-attack was largely subdued after the first half.

Guardiola made another big call as Julian Alvarez replaced Haaland for extra-time.

But the Argentine was no more effective at picking holes in the mass ranks of Madrid defense as it was Real who had the best chance of the extra 30 minutes.

Rudiger sliced over with a clear sight of goal after staying forward from a rare Madrid corner.

But the German defender was still to have the decisive say as he slotted in the final penalty of the shootout.