Local favorite Shelbayh upsets Mickelsen at Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah

Local favorite Shelbayh upsets Mickelsen at Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah
Abdullah Shelbayh of Jordan during his win over Alex Michelsen at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah. (ATP Tour)
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Updated 30 November 2023
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Local favorite Shelbayh upsets Mickelsen at Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah

Local favorite Shelbayh upsets Mickelsen at Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah
  • ‘The crowd was one of the main reasons I won today’: 20-year-old Jordanian
  • Saudi Arabia’s 1st pro tennis event taking place at King Abdullah Sports City

JEDDAH: Jordan’s Abdullah Shelbayh captured the headlines on day two of the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM with a victory against Alex Michelsen in front of a supportive crowd in Jeddah.

The top seed Arthur Fils and Hamad Medjedovic remain unbeaten to hold the lead position in the green and red groups, while Dominic Stricker righted his loss yesterday with a dominant performance.

Shelbayh thrilled the crowd at King Abdullah Sports City with his shot making, showcasing his immense potential on Wednesday night. The 20-year-old downed Michelsen 4-2, 1-4, 4-0, 4-0 to pick up his fourth Top 100 win.

After the match, he said: “Having the opportunity to play here now to finish the year, I couldn’t ask for a better end to the year.

“I appreciate all the support throughout the week that I’ve been receiving already, of course throughout the year, and from the Arab world especially.”

Dominic Stricker soared to victory in the fastest match in tournament history. After a disappointing start to his Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM campaign, Stricker wasted little time bouncing back on Wednesday in Jeddah. The third-seeded Swiss player eased past Italian Luca Nardi 4-1, 4-1, 4-2 with a clean-hitting performance in only 54 minutes.

In an on-court interview, Stricker said: “We had a long discussion yesterday evening about how to do it today. I think it was really good that we talked a lot after what maybe wasn’t my best performance.

“Now to come out today like that, I think nobody expected that. I’m just happy that I did it and now I’m going to try my best to recover for the third group match.”

Frenchman Fils continued to demonstrate his top-seed credentials when he overcame Flavio Cobolli 4-1, 4-2, 4-2 in 59 minutes. He came out firing in his first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with the Italian, out-maneuvering Cobolli to improve to 2-0 in Green Group play.

Fils said: “I played very nice today. I served very good, and I was moving well on the court, so I am very happy about it. Tomorrow, I have a good match against a great opponent. He already beat me once this year, so let’s what I can do.”

In the final match of the day, Medjedovic overcame the Red Group top seed Luca Van Assche in four sets, 4-2, 2-4, 4-3, 4-1. The Serbian will now face fan favorite Shelbayh in the final match of the group stage.


Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla

Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla
Updated 26 February 2024
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Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla

Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla
  • Madrid’s victory kept them eight points above Barcelona and nine clear of Girona, who play Rayo on Monday
  • Darwin Machis’ goal deep in injury time snatched Cadiz a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo in a meeting of two teams in danger of relegation

BARCELONA: Luka Modric leapt atop the advertising board, pumped his arms and joined the collective roar of the Santiago Bernabeu.

The veteran Real Madrid star, who has seen his minutes shrink this season, had just become the hero for the Spanish league leaders with a scorching winner after coming off the bench in a 1-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday.

The normally calm Croat was possibly shouting for more than joy as he celebrated just his second goal of the season. Perhaps there was a bit of vindication, of showing everyone — Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti included — that he could still decide games even in an increasingly young Madrid squad.

The 38-year-old Modric collected a deflection with one touch before unleashing a powerful strike from outside the area that grazed the post before finding the net in the 81st minute. Modric had gone on just six minutes before with the leaders stymied in attack without injured top scorer Jude Bellingham.

“It is what always happens. We never give up. We have shown it many times, that this is a part of Real Madrid’s DNA,” Modric said about his goal. “We knew that today it was important not to let points get away because Barcelona would have closed the gap and we couldn’t allow that. Our insistence throughout all the game bore its fruit.”

Modric has helped Madrid win five Champions League titles and the player won the 2018 Ballon d’Or award. This season, with Bellingham replacing him in the starting 11, he has mostly been the subject of speculation about whether his playing days in Madrid’s all-white are nearing their end.

“It is very difficult to leave (Modric) on the bench, but every day he is an example for the entire squad,” Ancelotti said. “It is in Luka’s hands to decide what he does next season, and we are just waiting for his decision. It is difficult to manage (a situation like his) and I understand perfectly what Modric may be thinking when he does not play because I went through it as a player.”

Madrid was heading toward a second straight draw after being held 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano in the last round of games. Another stumble would have given Barcelona reason to hope that it might just be able to mount a challenge after it overtook Girona for second place on Saturday.

Madrid’s victory kept them eight points above Barcelona and nine clear of Girona, who play Rayo on Monday.

This was the third game that Bellingham, the league’s top scorer with 16 goals, has missed with a left ankle sprain.

NICO SENT OFF

Nico Williams was sent off with two quick yellow cards to leave Athletic Bilbao with 10 players just before halftime in their 3-1 loss at Real Betis.

The Spain winger got his first card for a foul and compounded that by earning a second booking for his apparently sarcastic applause of the referee.

The loss meant Athletic failed to take advantage of Atletico Madrid’s 2-2 draw at bottom side Almeria on Saturday. Athletic remained in fifth place at three points behind fourth-place Atletico. Betis moved into sixth, seven points behind Athletic.

Chimy Ávila scored his first goal for Betis since joining from Osasuna in the winter transfer window to take the 13th-minute lead. Yuri Berchiche added an own-goal before Williams was sent off in the 40th.

Gorka Guruzeta’s goal gave Athletic some hope in the 52nd, but Betis midfielder Johnny Cardoso added a third with a strike from the edge of the area in the 67th.

In the first half, an assistant referee had to leave the match after she ran into a television camera and cut her head.

LAST-GASP EQUALIZER

Darwin Machis’ goal deep in injury time snatched Cadiz a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo in a meeting of two teams in danger of relegation.

Iago Aspas and Williot Swedberg gave Celta a 2-0 advantage before Juanmi Jimenez pulled one back for the hosts in the 66th. Rafa Benitez’s side was still eyeing a victory until Machis curled a shot in from the corner of the area just before the final whistle.

Celta, in 17th, remained the last team clinging to safety while 18th-place Cadiz was in the drop zone at three points behind.

“You think you have it in the bag, you are up 2-0, and they score two goals on plays we could have stopped, so it is obvious we missed an opportunity,” Benítez said. “We didn’t know how to manage those final minutes.”


Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup

Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup
Updated 26 February 2024
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Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup

Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup
  • Klopp: It is in my more than 20 years, easily the most special trophy I ever won. It is absolutely exceptional
  • Van Dijk might have produced the decisive moment but it was the efforts of a string of young players that had Klopp so enthused

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp just couldn’t keep the smile from his face.

It was deep into extra time at Wembley on Sunday and the English League Cup final against Chelsea was locked at 0-0. A penalty shootout loomed.

Yet, with tensions running high, Klopp turned to the Liverpool fans, savored the moment and produced that trademark toothy grin.

Perhaps he knew what was coming. That Virgil van Dijk was about to score a 118th-minute winner to finally break down Chelsea’s resistance and secure a record-extending 10th League Cup trophy for Liverpool.

Perhaps not.

“That would be cool if I could see goals coming. That would relax a lot of moments in my life,” Klopp said afterward — his voice hoarse, likely from the wild celebrations that greeted his eighth trophy as Liverpool manager.

Klopp is stepping down at the end of the season and this may well be his last Wembley final with the club.

He said he was simply taking it all in and enjoying watching a new generation of Liverpool players that may turn out to be his lasting legacy after he goes.

“I loved it ... What I see today is so exceptional, we might never see it again. Not because I am on the sidelines but because these things don’t happen in football.

“It is in my more than 20 years, easily the most special trophy I ever won. It is absolutely exceptional.”

Van Dijk, Liverpool’s 32-year-old captain, might have produced the decisive moment but it was the efforts of a string of young players, called upon to help ease Liverpool’s extensive injury list, that had Klopp so enthused.

Seven of his winning team were aged 21 or under.

Jayden Danns, aged 18, came on for only his second senior performance. Bobby Clark and James McConnell are both 19.

Their efforts meant that even without the injured Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold and more, Liverpool still triumphed.

“I got told outside there is an English phrase, ‘You don’t win trophies with kids,’” Klopp said. “I didn’t know that. Yeah right.

“Sometimes I’m asked if I am proud of this, proud of that. I don’t know. I wish I could feel pride more often. Tonight was an overwhelming feeling of ‘Oh my God, what is going on here?’ I was proud of everybody involved.”

Victory keeps Klopp on track for a quadruple of trophies in his final year with Liverpool as he looks determined to go out on a high.

His team is currently top of the Premier League and still in contention to win the FA Cup and Europa League. But even if Klopp cannot add those trophies to the full set he has already delivered, he provided Liverpool with another memorable day at Wembley.

Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, must wait for his first piece of silverware in English soccer after failing to lift trophies with Southampton and Tottenham before taking charge at Chelsea.

While he won three trophies including the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain, he is still to taste glory in England.

A first trophy at Chelsea would have eased the pressure after a troubled season in the league.

“If you ask the players how they feel, I feel the same. (It is) so disappointing, so painful,” Pochettino said. “I am a guy that (has) less time to win titles (than the players). They are younger than me, they have time. In football it is always about when you have the opportunity (you take it).

PREMIER LEAGUE

Sheffield United’s players showed the wrong kind of fight after suffering a 19th loss of the season to stay at the foot of the Premier League.

Pablo Sarabia’s 30th-minute header secured a 1-0 win for Wolves at Molineux in the league’s only game Sunday, but perhaps the most notable incident in the match was a clash between Sheffield United players Jack Robinson and Vinicius Souza.

The teammates pushed each other in a heated exchange that led to a VAR review.

Not that Blades manager Chris Wilder seemed too concerned.

“That happens at every club up and down the country, three or four times a year,” he said. “They were told about their responsibilities at halftime. We talked to the boys and they are fine and cool.”

Defeat left Sheffield United eight points off safety.

West Ham host Brentford on Monday.


Ronaldo and Talisca give Al-Nassr a narrow win at Al-Shabab

Ronaldo and Talisca give Al-Nassr a narrow win at Al-Shabab
Updated 26 February 2024
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Ronaldo and Talisca give Al-Nassr a narrow win at Al-Shabab

Ronaldo and Talisca give Al-Nassr a narrow win at Al-Shabab

RIYADH: It was the Ronaldo and Talisca show on Sunday as Al-Nassr moved to within four points of Al-Hilal at the top of the Roshn Saudi League with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Riyadh rivals Al-Shabab.

Three times Al-Nassr took the lead, once through Cristiano Ronaldo and twice through Anderson Talisca. Twice Al-Shabab — who will feel they did enough to earn at least a point — equalized, but they were unable to do so for a third time.

Al-Nassr started brightly with Al-Shabab goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Absi, in for the injured Kim Seung-gyu, having to push a Marcelo Brozovic shot over the bar in the sixth minute.

Al-Shabab’s new star signing Ivan Rakitic tried his luck from outside the area after 10 minutes, but Waleed Abdullah was equal to the attempt from the former Barcelona star.

Sadio Mane then netted before being adjudged to have been offside when making his run.

Abdullah then had to make a more difficult save, getting down quickly to stop a Yannick Carrasco effort that was creeping in at the near post.

Al-Nassr were then awarded a penalty. A corner resulted in Mane shooting from the edge of the area and it struck the hand of Romain Saiss. Up stepped Ronaldo and he made no mistake. The visiting fans paid tribute to their hero and the chant of “Cristiano Ronaldo” could be heard ringing around for some time.

Al-Shabab equalized with a penalty of their own after Carlos Junior was brought down in the area. Just as Ronaldo did, Carrasco converted and the two teams went in at the break on equal terms.

Al-Nassr were back in front within two minutes of the restart. Otavio found Talisca on the edge of the area and, despite the close attention of defenders, the Brazilian made room for himself to find the bottom corner, though Al-Absi did manage to get a hand on it.

His opposite number Abdullah then had to get down to save an awkward shot from Nader Al-Sharari.

Just after the hour Brozovic should have given the visitors a welcome cushion. Freed by Otavio, the Croatian bore down on goal from a central position but, on the edge of the area, he shot tamely into the arms of Al-Absi with Talisca to his right screaming for the ball.

Al-Shabab then equalized for the second time. The goal had been coming and was deserved as Habib Diallo found space on the right of the area and sent over a perfect pass to the opposite post where Carlos Junior was on hand to score from close range.

Al-Shabab were on top and looked dangerous, but with three minutes remaining, Talisca won it for the visitors. A beautiful through ball from Abdullah Al-Khaibari released the Brazilian who slotted home from just inside the area to maintain Al-Nassr’s title challenge.

There was still time for Shabab’s Abdullah Radif to pick up two yellow cards and receive his marching orders to complete a frustrating afternoon for the hosts.

Earlier in the day, Al-Feiha defeated relegation strugglers Abha 3-2 to move above Al-Shabab into 10th. 


Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
Updated 26 February 2024
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Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
  • Now require favor from Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure Saudis progress

LONDON: Saudi Arabia fell to an agonizing defeat to Bermuda in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League play-off in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday as they lost by four runs.

The defeat is the second in a row for the Saudis and leaves their qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament hanging in the balance and out of their hands.

They now require a favor from their Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure the Saudis progress.

It was a crucial win that kept hopes alive for Bermuda — who had lost their opening group match by 157 runs to Italy — and ended their 16-game losing streak in the 50-over format.

Bermuda won the toss and scored 227 all out from 44.3 overs, with captain Delray Rawlins top-scoring with 75 runs from 95 balls.

He was ably supported by Dominic Sabir, who hit 51, including five fours and a six, off 45 balls.

The Saudi bowling attack was led by Usman Najeeb and Zain Ul-Abidin, who both claimed three wickets and finished the match with economy rates below five runs.

In reply, Saudi Arabia’s batsmen made their way to 223 for the loss of nine wickets, with captain Hisham Shaikh top-scoring with 45 and Waji Ul Hassan hitting 41 in the middle order.

Needing to score five runs off the final three balls for victory, Ishtiaq Ahmad was run out by Allan Douglas Junior as he attempted to come back for a second run with just two balls of the match remaining.

Sabir, whose exploits with the bat were backed up with three wickets for 33 runs with the ball, was awarded the player of the match.


Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
Updated 26 February 2024
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Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
  • Saim Ayub (88), Babar Azam (48) and Rovman Powell (46) guided Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs
  • In response, Rassie van der Dussen scores first century of season, but fails to guide Lahore to victory

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi defeated Lahore Qalandars by eight runs in a thrilling match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Sunday.

Lahore won the toss and decided to field first in the match. Saim Ayub played a brilliant innings of 88 runs from 55 deliveries, strengthening Peshawar’s position in the game.

Captain Babar Azam struck 48 and Rovman Powell hit 46 to take Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs at a loss of four wickets. In return, Lahore could only score 203 runs despite Rassie van der Dussen’s first century of the season.

“Another day, another thriller,” read a post on PSL official account on X. “Rassie van der Dussen’s spirited century goes in vain as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a hard-fought 8-run win.”

Shaheen Afridi dismissed three Peshawar batsmen for 33 runs.

Chasing a 212-run target, van der Dussen hit an unbeaten 104 runs from 52 deliveries, but could not lead his side to victory. Shai Hope and Ahsan Bhatti chipped in with 29 and 20 runs, respectively.

Naveen-ul-Haq dismissed two for 50 runs, while Salman Irshad and Paul Walter took one wicket each.

This was Lahore’s fifth consecutive loss of the season, while Peshawar have registered two back-to-back wins in their four matches.