Team Abu Dhabi primed for 2 UAE powerboat challenges

Team Abu Dhabi primed for 2 UAE powerboat challenges
Thani Al-Qemzi of Team Abu Dhabi. (Team Abu Dhabi)
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Updated 29 November 2023
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Team Abu Dhabi primed for 2 UAE powerboat challenges

Team Abu Dhabi primed for 2 UAE powerboat challenges
  • As F1H2O season reaches climax in Sharjah, new Class 3 series gets underway in Khor Fakkan

ABU DHABI: Team Abu Dhabi are primed for a big challenge on two powerboat racing stages as one season begins and another reaches its conclusion in the UAE next week.

The experienced pairings of Faleh Al-Mansoori with Shaun Torrente and Rashed Al-Tayer alongside Majed Al-Mansoori are lined up for the opening round of the new UAE Class-3 Offshore Powerboat Championship getting underway in Khor Fakkan on Dec. 7.

Three days later, triple world champion Torrente will join forces with cousins Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi as Team Abu Dhabi look for a winning climax to the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship at the season’s final round in Sharjah.

While Sweden’s Jonas Andersson has already secured this year’s F1H2O individual drivers’ crown, Torrente in particular is highly motivated as he returns to action in the series, which saw him clinch the title on Sharjah’s Khalid Lagoon last year, as well as in 2018 and 2019.

Although Andersson and teammate Kalle Viippo hold an 11-point lead in the team championship, fourth-placed Team Abu Dhabi have not given up hope of adding to the six titles they have amassed in the last seven seasons.

For that to happen, they will need to dominate the Grand Prix of Sharjah podium, and rely on misfortunes for the Swedes, and second-placed Team Sharjah combination of Sami Selio and Ferdinand Zandbergen.

Sharjah has produced many dramatic finishes to the F1H2O World Championship, none more so than 12 months ago when Torrente thought his title ambitions had been destroyed when a crash put him out of the race after just eight laps.

Leading after a flying start, Andersson looked set to retain his world title before technical problems on the 28th lap forced his retirement, giving the championship to Torrente, so the Swede will be taking nothing for granted this time.

Torrente said: “I love the event they put on in Sharjah. I love the ambience, and racing in the city on Khalid Lagoon. Unfortunately, this year I won’t be getting another world title, but we’ll still be trying for the win.”

Team Abu Dhabi’s veteran Emirati driver Thani Al-Qemzi, who finished third in the championship last season for the sixth time in his distinguished career, would like nothing better than a first victory in Sharjah to lift him from his current fifth place in the standings.

Meanwhile, for his cousin Rashed, the Grand Prix of Sharjah offers another chance to shine at the top level after he secured his fourth UIM F2 World Championship title this season with one round to spare.


Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’
Updated 28 sec ago
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Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’
  • Irishman has won record 4 Dubai Desert Classic titles at Emirates Golf Club

DUBAI: Following his latest triumph in the UAE, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy had nothing but praise for the region’s longest-standing golf event, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament he said allowed him to “reminisce” about his career.

The Northern Irishman etched his name in Dubai history after he became the first four-time champion at Emirates Golf Club to cap off the event’s milestone 35th anniversary celebrations in January.

McIlroy, who added to his previous victory tally on the Majlis course in 2009, 2015, and 2023, provided a thrilling weekend for fans as the reigning champion pulled back a 10-shot lead held by Cameron Young to secure his fourth Dallah trophy.

On his personal journey, alongside the city’s growth on the world stage, the 34-year-old player said: “The arc of my career and Dubai as a city have tracked each other pretty consistently along the way.

“I remember my first Dubai Desert Classic as an amateur back in 2006, when we were staying 10 minutes away in what was almost like being out in the desert, and it’s so built up now compared to then.”

In his first visit as a golfing enthusiast, McIlroy would follow his heroes around the Majlis course, with the Emirates Golf Club providing a unique full-circle moment in his career.

“For my first year at the event, I took a media pass and walked inside the ropes to follow Tiger (Woods), Ernie Els, and Thomas Bjorn and then I think about even the arc of that. Thomas is my Ryder Cup captain, I ended up buying Ernie Els’ house, and I’ve become really good friends with Tiger.

“To think about my first visit 18 years ago, and what it’s meant to come here and play in this event, having now won it four times, it’s always been a place I come back to and reminisce about my career as it’s where everything really started,” he added.

The 2024 tournament saw thousands of spectators in attendance with unique moments being enjoyed on and off the greens with the addition of a new-look fan experience.

Several major international certifications also added to the tournament’s legacy for advancing the sport in the region, having become the first golf event in the Middle East and first DP World Tour Rolex Series to achieve Golf Environmental Organization-certified tournament status in recent years.

The 36th edition of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic is set to return in January with a strong line-up again expected to take to the Majlis course as part of the season-opening event on the DP World Tour Rolex Series calendar.

Simon Corkill, executive tournament director of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The historic 2024 edition which just concluded, drew huge crowds across the four days of the tournament.

“Our preparations have already begun to make next year’s event even bigger and better. We are determined to raise the bar even higher for 2025 by not only attracting a stellar field of golf stars but also to ensure there’s a wider range of entertainment and activities for all ages.”


Hamdallah proves irreplaceable for Al-Ittihad despite influx of stars

Hamdallah proves irreplaceable for Al-Ittihad despite influx of stars
Updated 46 min 30 sec ago
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Hamdallah proves irreplaceable for Al-Ittihad despite influx of stars

Hamdallah proves irreplaceable for Al-Ittihad despite influx of stars
  • The Moroccan international was expected to exit the reigning SPL champions but has ended up being their most consistent forward this season

Al-Ittihad’s defense of the Saudi Pro League title has largely been one to forget.

Despite some early season promise that had them top for the first month, the wheels quickly fell off culminating in a disappointing showing in December’s FIFA Club World Cup and speculation that star signing Karim Benzema wanted out.

As recently as round seven they were still top of the table, but just 14 matches later they are now fifth and a whopping 22 points behind league leaders Al-Hilal. Any notion of going back-to-back has long since disappeared.

Their mission now is to simply try to close the gap on third-placed Al-Ahli, their crosstown Jeddah rivals, in the hope of securing what is still an unlikely spot in next season’s reformed AFC Champions League Elite competition.

Whereas last season they had one of the best defenses in the league — and one of the best on record in Saudi Pro League history — this season they have the equal worst of the top six.

Nuno Espirito Santo, meanwhile, who spearheaded that drought-breaking title triumph, has been moved on for hotshot Argentine manager Marcelo Gallardo.

But as bad as it has been, it could have been so much worse were it not for the goals of Moroccan international Abderrazak Hamdallah, who has 15 from 17 games this season.

The veteran striker has made a name for himself in the Kingdom since joining Al-Nassr after an equally fruitful stint in Qatar with El-Jaish and Al-Rayyan.

Scoring a league record 34 goals in his debut season with Al-Nassr, and 29 in his second season, he transferred to Al-Ittihad during the 2021-2022 season and has registered double digits in each of his five SPL seasons before the current campaign, making him one of the SPL’s all-time leading scorers.

It has also won him the hearts of Ittihad’s large and fervently faithful fanbase.

But after Al-Ittihad’s stunning capture of Benzema, regarded as one of the best strikers of the modern era, questions were naturally asked as to what the future held for the 33-year-old Hamdallah.

It seems inconceivable that the title-winning team would move on their leading striker who had just won the league’s golden boot, but that is what almost eventuated.

It is understood that the plan inside the walls of Al-Ittihad was to move the striker on — after all, they had Benzema now — only relenting after growing fan pressure against the move, giving the Moroccan a reprieve.

While running your recruitment based on the wishes of the fans is perhaps not the smartest strategy, it could be argued it was their best management decision of the summer.

Still only 33 and with plenty of years ahead of him, Hamdallah is what every team craves — a natural and reliable goalscorer. And as Al-Ittihad’s title defense has faltered, it is largely the goals from Hamdallah that is keeping their campaign alive.

His brace in their come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Al-Wehda on the weekend was further proof of his importance to Gallardo’s side.

Looking back, it seems incredulous that he could have been moved on. He will know how close he was and you get the sense he is playing with that chip on his shoulder, that every time he steps foot on the pitch, he has a point to prove.

And boy is he proving it.

His form this season also serves as a timely reminder that the SPL did not begin with the influx of headline signings in the most recent off-season.

Before the arrival of Benzema, Riyad Mahrez, Neymar and even before Cristiano Ronaldo, the SPL still attracted elite talent.

While Hamdallah may not possess the profile of those recent arrivals, his quality cannot be questioned. The same can be said for Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr teammate, Anderson Talisca.

After Ronaldo’s arrival in Riyadh there was speculation that the Brazilian would be moved on; deemed surplus to requirements at a club that had to shed a foreign player to make way for Ronaldo.

Talisca remained and this season he and Ronaldo have combined for 35 of Al-Nassr’s 60 goals.

Write these guys off at your peril.

As Al-Ittihad prepare for a season-defining fortnight, which will feature three Saudi Clasico’s against the high-flying Al-Hilal — one in the league and home-and-away ties in the AFC Champions League — they will do so grateful to have the Moroccan leading the line.

Having scored in eight consecutive league matches dating back to November, his form is imperious. His five goals in three games since the league resumed from its winter break make him the league’s most in-form striker.

While their title defense may be over, that does not mean they cannot impact where the silverware goes this season. Not to mention there is still silverware of their own to play for in the form of the AFC Champions League, where he has registered a further four goals.

Staring down this Al-Hilal side is a daunting prospect — their winning streak currently stands at 24 across all competitions (26 if you include friendly wins over Inter Miami and Al-Nassr). Their undefeated streak is now at 34 games.

And as good as his scoring record is, Hamdallah has only scored once against Al-Hilal since joining Al-Ittihad two years ago; that coming in their 4-3 loss earlier this season. It is a wrong he will be determined to right over the next fortnight.

In a season to forget for Al-Ittihad, Hamdallah could still deliver moments to remember and that starts with this week’s trip to Riyadh’s Kingdom Arena.


Eddie Howe reveals Newcastle shootout hero almost missed FA Cup win as Magpies eye Wembley return

Eddie Howe reveals Newcastle shootout hero almost missed FA Cup win as Magpies eye Wembley return
Updated 28 February 2024
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Eddie Howe reveals Newcastle shootout hero almost missed FA Cup win as Magpies eye Wembley return

Eddie Howe reveals Newcastle shootout hero almost missed FA Cup win as Magpies eye Wembley return
  • Keeper Martin Dubravka was ‘playing slightly ill,’ deserves ‘huge credit’
  • Coach is hoping tide is turning for the team as injured players return

BLACKBURN: Eddie Howe has revealed Newcastle United penalty shootout hero Martin Dubravka almost missed the Magpies’ FA Cup win through illness.

The Slovak keeper was Newcastle’s matchwinner, not only keeping the Magpies in the fifth-round encounter with some goal-saving stops in the 1-1 draw stretched across 120 minutes, but also with two spot-kick saves in the deciding shootout, which the visitors won 4-3.

Anthony Gordon had given Newcastle the lead in the second half before Sammie Szmodics popped up with a late equalizer to take the match to extra time, then eventually penalties. Fabian Schar, Bruno Guimaraes, Elliot Anderson and Gordon all netted in the shootout, with only Harvey Barnes seeing one saved. Dubravka pulled off two remarkable stops, from Szmodics and Blackburn Rovers’ skipper Dominic Hyam to seal a place in the last eight.

Dubravka missed the 4-1 loss at Arsenal at the weekend, with stand-in Loris Karius coming into the side — and Howe says his goalie was not 100 percent fit for the encounter, which makes his performance even more remarkable.

“It was (touch and go), it wasn’t clear. He was nowhere near fit for the weekend against Arsenal so he hasn’t been 100 percent for quite a long period of time and has been playing slightly ill and he deserves huge credit for doing that,” said Howe.

“The two penalty saves were huge for us. In open play he (Dubravka) really performed well today and (we) needed him to because they had a few big moments.

“I thought the best save he probably made was in the build-up to their goal which I thought was a magnificent save to tip it onto the bar but unfortunately he scored the rebound.

“That was probably the most disappointing thing on the night because we worked so hard to lead but to let them back into the game was a kick at that time.”

Newcastle might have got back to winning ways but this was far from vintage for Howe’s men. The Magpies labored to beat a team that have won just one of their last 13 encounters in the championship, the second tier of English football.

“We got better as we got on. I don’t think the first half was particularly good, the second half was better and extra time was our best spell of the game by a long way and we shouldn’t have allowed it to go to penalties with the chances we had in extra time,” said Howe.

“I thought generally our attitude was much better. We were fighting, we were giving everything. We weren’t perfect in our performance but our spirit was there and our spirit has been there, since I’ve been here, bar two games and it has to be there in every game.

“We spoke honestly after the Arsenal game and our performance probably, there was a hangover (from the Arsenal game) whether that be a little dent in our confidence but hopefully that will be back for the next game.

“I can’t overanalyze things. I’m doing the job to the best of my ability, I’ll always do that for every second I’m here. As for the season, I don’t know what the future hold but what it does is keep us in a competition we’re desperate to do well in with the carrot of Wembley.”

One thing which has plagued the Magpies’ campaign to date has been the lack of squad options created by a lengthy injury list. Every time one player gets back fit, it seems another drops out injured. At times, Howe has been able to call on just 12 senior outfield players.

However, that tide appears to be turning now, with options off the bench to freshen things up, something which proved crucial in this encounter, with Tino Livramento and Miguel Almiron making significant contributions off the bench in open play, before Anderson struck one of the crucial spot-kicks.

“You need the tools to win games and without our bench today and without Elliot, he was a late decision today to take him with us and if we need to use him we can use him but I didn’t want to use him for more than 10 minutes,” said the head coach.

“Even having him available and I was always going to trust him with a penalty and, who knows, the importance of having him available and that’s through the squad. I was able to take Joe Willock off early because I had quality players to bring on and having to look after him and Alex (Isak) is crucial because we need them both to stay fit. They’re both getting their fitness and their sharpness in games which isn’t ideal but that’s where we’ve been all season.”


Strus nets monster buzzer-beater as Cavaliers sink Mavericks 121-119

Strus nets monster buzzer-beater as Cavaliers sink Mavericks 121-119
Updated 28 February 2024
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Strus nets monster buzzer-beater as Cavaliers sink Mavericks 121-119

Strus nets monster buzzer-beater as Cavaliers sink Mavericks 121-119
  • Strus’s miraculous effort was the final act of a thrilling fourth quarter rally by Cleveland, who trailed by 10 with under four minutes left after a superb 45-point performance from Mavs ace Luka Doncic

LOS ANGELES: Max Strus drained an astonishing 58-foot buzzer-beater as the Cleveland Cavaliers conjured a stunning late fightback to sink the Dallas Mavericks 121-119 on Tuesday.

In a remarkable finale in Cleveland, Strus unleashed a mammoth heave from inside his own half to snatch victory from Dallas, who had grabbed a 119-118 lead with just over two seconds remaining in the game.

Strus’s miraculous effort was the final act of a thrilling fourth quarter rally by Cleveland, who trailed by 10 with under four minutes left after a superb 45-point performance from Mavs ace Luka Doncic.

Strus was the catalyst for the Cavs turnaround, reeling off four straight three-pointers to allow Cleveland to get within one at 113-112 with 2min 35sec remaining.

Back-to-back threes from Donovan Mitchell put Cleveland 118-115 up but Dallas hit back to regain a one-point lead after a Kyrie Irving jump shot and a P.J. Washington layup.

That set the stage for Strus to unfurl his game-winning three-quarter-court effort to spark pandemonium among the home crowd in Cleveland.

“That was awesome,” Strus said afterwards. “Great win, we needed it. We’ve been struggling so it’s good to get one like that.

“We fought, and fought, and fought... we want to win every game and we want to keep winning.”

Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff praised Strus’s role in sparking the late rally when it looked as if the game had slipped away.

“The way that he plays the game with a determination, a never-give-in mentality and attitude — that inspires his team-mates every single day,” Bickerstaff said.

“He’s just relentless and that elevates his teammates. Everybody leads in their own way on our team; he leads and people follow.”

Mitchell led the Cleveland scoring with 31 points, with Strus finishing with 21. Jarrett Allen added 19 as the Cavaliers secured a win which leaves them second in the Eastern Conference with a 38-19 record.

Doncic, meanwhile, topped Dallas’s scorers with 45 points, adding 14 assists, nine rebounds and three steals. Irving finished with 30 points as Dallas dropped to 33-25, eighth in the Western Conference.

In other games on Tuesday, the league-leading Boston Celtics extended their winning streak to nine games after a 117-99 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Jaylen Brown (31 points), Jayson Tatum (29) and Kristaps Porzingis (23) led the way for Boston, who improved to 46-12 and lead second-placed Cleveland by 7.5 games.

Tyrese Maxey finished with 32 points for Philadelphia, who have lost eight of 12 games in NBA MVP Joel Embiid’s injury absence.

Philadelphia got to within two points early in the fourth quarter, but Boston responded with a 15-0 run to pull away and effectively ice the game.

“It’s all about how you respond,” Tatum said of the Celtics rally. “We’re learning from our mistakes from last year. We’ve done a really good job of going over those situations in practice.”

In Minnesota, Anthony Edwards’ 34-point total helped the Timberwolves to 114-105 win against the struggling San Antonio Spurs.

Minnesota lead the Western Conference standings 41-17.

In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 24 points while Damian Lillard added 23 as the Bucks romped to a 123-85 rout of the Charlotte Hornets.

Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers was pleased with his team’s improved display on defense — an area that has been a problem for the team all season.

“I thought we were very physical, our hands were very active — our deflections over the last four or five games have skyrocketed,” said Rivers, who was also encouraged by the link play of Antetokounmpo and Lillard.

“They’re starting to connect — they’re starting to see each other,” Rivers said. “Those are good signs for us moving forward.”

In other games Tuesday, Chris Paul made a winning return from injury for Golden State as the Warriors blew past the Washington Wizards 123-112 in the US capital.

Klay Thompson added another impressive display from the bench with 25 points to lead the Warriors scoring.


Second-seeded Holger Rune eases past American Michael Mmoh at Mexican Open

Second-seeded Holger Rune eases past American Michael Mmoh at Mexican Open
Updated 28 February 2024
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Second-seeded Holger Rune eases past American Michael Mmoh at Mexican Open

Second-seeded Holger Rune eases past American Michael Mmoh at Mexican Open
  • The 20-year-old Rune, from Denmark, reached the semifinals in Acapulco last year
  • Fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Roman Safiullin 6-3, 6-4 and moved on to the second round where he will face Flavio Cobolli

ACAPULCO, Mexico: Second-seeded Holger Rune eased past American Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday and advanced to the second round of the Mexican Open.

Rune, ranked seventh in the ATP, needed 92 minutes to dispatch Mmoh, who made his way into the main draw through the qualification tournament.

The 20-year-old Rune, from Denmark, reached the semifinals in Acapulco last year. He advanced to face the winner of the late match between Aleksandar Kovasevic and Jordan Thompson.

Earlier, fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Roman Safiullin 6-3, 6-4 and moved on to the second round where he will face Flavio Cobolli.

The 25-year-old Greek reached the semifinals last week in Los Cabos, Mexico, and is trying to win his first career 500 tournament.

Also Tuesday, Frances Tiafoe, seeded eighth, rallied to beat Max Purcell 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. He moved on to face Dominik Koepfer, who took care of Terence Atmane 6-4, 4— 6, 6-0.

Tiafoe is the highest-ranked American player in contention in the tournament after fourth-seeded Taylor Fritz and seventh-seeded Tommy Paul were knocked out on Monday.