Homeless Hilal shock Esperance in CAF Champions League

Homeless Hilal shock Esperance in CAF Champions League
Homeless Sudanese club Al Hilal shocked Tunisian giants Esperance 3-1 on Friday in a CAF Champions League second-round Group C match in Tanzania. (X/@AlHilalSC_)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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Homeless Hilal shock Esperance in CAF Champions League

Homeless Hilal shock Esperance in CAF Champions League
  • Hilal cannot play at home because of the armed conflict in Sudan
  • After playing a qualifier in Morocco, Hilal moved to Tanzania for the group phase

JOHANNESBURG: Homeless Sudanese club Al Hilal shocked Tunisian giants Esperance 3-1 on Friday in a CAF Champions League second-round Group C match in Tanzania.
After Yassine Meriah conceded an eighth-minute own goal, captain Mohamed Abdelrahman converted a 15th-minute penalty to give the Omdurman outfit a two-goal half-time lead.
Gambian Kebba Sowe halved the deficit in the Indian Ocean port city of Dar es Salaam on 59 minutes before Senegalese Pape N’Diaye restored the two-goal advantage 12 minutes from time.
Hilal cannot play at home because of the armed conflict in Sudan.
After playing a qualifier in Morocco, Hilal moved to Tanzania for the group phase, and their first match there delivered an unexpected success over four-time African champions Esperance.
Hilal are making a record 37th appearance in the premier African club competition and the closest they have come to lifting the trophy was finishing runners-up twice in the 1980s.
Hilal lost to Petro Luanda in Angola last weekend while Esperance won a Tunisian derby against Etoile Sahel, the only club to win all five current and past CAF competitions.
Etoile host Petro on Saturday near Tunis and should they win all four teams in the mini-league will have three points.
A Group D match also produced an upset as Medeama snatched a 2-1 victory in Ghana over Algerian visitors Chabab Belouizdad, quarter-finalists in the past three editions.
Mamudu Kamaradin scored in the fourth minute of added time in Kumasi for the home team, who came from behind to win.
Abdelraouf Benguit netted from a 39th-minute penalty and Daniel Lomotey equalized in the final minute of the opening half.
Success for Medeama came six days after a heavy loss at title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt while Belouizdad were comfortable first-round winners over Young Africans of Tanzania.
Medeama are Champions League debutants who surprised Remo Stars of Nigeria and Horoya of Guinea in qualifiers.
The other six second round matches are scheduled for Saturday, including Young Africans against Ahly.


Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup

Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup
Updated 27 February 2024
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Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup

Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup
  • Bavarian powerhouse said the 50-year-old Eberl signed a contract through June 2027 and will begin on Friday
  • Eberl will be charged with rejuvenating a team that has lost its aura of dominance

BERLIN: Stung by the prospect of a first season without a major trophy for 12 years, Bayern Munich appointed Max Eberl as their new sporting director to oversee a major shakeup.

The Bavarian powerhouse said on Monday the 50-year-old Eberl signed a contract through June 2027 and will begin on Friday. He was to appear at a press conference with club president Herbert Hainer and chief executive Jan-Christian Dreesen on Tuesday.

Eberl will be charged with rejuvenating a team that has lost its aura of dominance and no longer demonstrates the assured belief it used to as the best in Germany.

“Not only does he have decades of experience in football management, but he also started playing football at FC Bayern and became a professional here,” Hainer said. “We are convinced that he will successfully form and shape the future of this club.”

Eberl, a former right back, made only one Bundesliga appearance for Bayern in October 1991, when he was substituted off at halftime in a 3-2 loss at Stuttgart.

He went to Bochum in January 1994, played for Greuther Fürth for 3½ seasons, then joined Borussia Mönchengladbach to start a 23-year association with the club.

After finishing his playing career, Eberl enjoyed success as the sporting director at Gladbach from 2008 until he quit abruptly in January 2022, citing burnout. He started at Leipzig in the same role eight months later but was fired last September for “his failure to commit to the club.”

At Leipzig, Eberl led a rebuild that saw established players like Josko Gvardiol and Dominik Szoboszlai depart for big sums, while young talents like Loïs Openda and Paris Saint-Germain loanee Xavi Simons arrived to star this season.

Eberl’s alleged lack of commitment to Leipzig likely had to do with the speculation linking him with Bayern, where his work in a managerial capacity at Gladbach had long been admired.

Eberl was already a target for Bayern before it appointed Hasan Salihamidzic as sporting director in 2017.

Salihamidzic was fired hours after Bayern clinched the league title last season, along with chief executive Oliver Kahn. Both men paid the price for the problems that Eberl will be expected to address.

Bayern won the Bundesliga last season only because Borussia Dortmund squandered their chance on the final day. The decision to axe Kahn and Salihamidzic was taken earlier, after a season in which the team’s decline had been plain to see.

Former chief financial officer Jan-Christian Dreesen took over as CEO and Bayern hired former Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund to take over from Salihamidzic, though he didn’t start officially until Sept. 1, and wasn’t involved in the summer transfer business.

Eberl and Freund will be expected to work together, with a priority being the hiring of a new coach following Bayern’s decision not to continue with Thomas Tuchel next season after the team lost three games in a row.

Tuchel said on Friday he wasn’t the “only problem” at Bayern and his employers were unable to contradict him over the weekend.

“If FC Bayern loses three times in a row, then we all have to question ourselves; the team, the coach, we in management, we do it as well, it’s not in question at all,” Hainer said Saturday. “But you will see, we will draw the right analysis and conclusions and do the right thing.”

Asked why Bayern had worked their way through three highly regarded German coaches in Tuchel, Julian Nagelsmann and Hansi Flick since 2021, Hainer replied that the demands at Bayern were very high and there was constant pressure to do well.

“But I believe that at the end of the day, the formula for success at FC Bayern is that we are never satisfied with where we are, and then we continue to move forward,” Hainer said.

Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso – a former Bayern player – is the favorite as Tuchel’s replacement, though former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane and Stuttgart’s Sebastian Hoeneß have also been linked. The latter is the nephew of Bayern honorary president Uli Hoeneß and has led Stuttgart to third place in the Bundesliga after saving it from relegation last season.

Hainer placed the onus on the new coach for success by saying the Bayern squad is “not un-coachable.”

Eberl will be under pressure from the start.


Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more

Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more
Updated 27 February 2024
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Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more

Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more
  • References to Klopp’s last dance have started to trend on social media, likening his Liverpool farewell to Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998, when they won the NBA championship
  • The League Cup was his eighth trophy, among them a full set of major trophies including the Premier League and Champions League

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp’s last dance at Liverpool is off to the perfect start.

Klopp steps down as manager at the end of the season but he and Liverpool have locked up the first trophy of a possible four.

After a heavily depleted team defied the odds to win the English League Cup final by beating Chelsea 1-0 in extra time, Klopp is determined to win more silverware and the players are determined to help him.

“We just want to give our all for him. We always did,” defender Joe Gomez said. “But now when the finishing line is in sight it adds that extra emphasis. It’s special and hopefully it’s the first (trophy) of a few we can get.”

References to Klopp’s last dance have started to trend on social media, likening his Liverpool farewell to Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998, when they won the NBA championship. The season was documented in the Netflix series, “The Last Dance.”

Since Klopp was hired in 2015, he has transformed a sleeping giant into a force again. The League Cup was his eighth trophy, among them a full set of major trophies including the Premier League and Champions League.

And Liverpool might not be finished. They lead the Premier League, and are still in the FA Cup and Europa League.

“I couldn’t care less about my legacy. I’m not here to create one,” Klopp said on Sunday. “As a manager of a football club, you are there to do the job actually.”

But the League Cup final showed Klopp will leave the club in good shape. Seven of his players on the day were aged 21 or under. When Virgil van Dijk headed in the winner in the 118th minute, he had three academy players beside him.

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but we are in every competition and we are going to try to win every game,” Gomez said. “That’s the target and we will go again.”

Beside the players, Liverpool fans are savoring their final moments with Klopp.

Supporters carried flags and banners with messages of thanks to their outgoing manager as they made the short walk from Wembley Park subway station to Wembley Stadium. Singing loudly, it was a party atmosphere long before kickoff and they are hoping for one long party before finally saying goodbye.

“It has been a bit sad for everyone, but I think everyone now thinks we’re going to push on and do even better than we would have done (this season),” Liverpool fan Nick Knight told The Associated Press.

His father, Andrew, added: “I think he means everything (to Liverpool). Within a few weeks or months of him arriving it was obvious they were a perfect fit and the type of football he played — high energy, playing to the final whistle — it was everything as a Liverpool fan you wanted to see.”

The fans showed their appreciation long after the final whistle as they serenaded Klopp and his players on the field.

“It’s not a problem if the manager leaves or whatever, (but) if these people would leave — our supporters — that would be a problem,” Klopp said. “But as long as they are the way they are, Liverpool Football Club will be fine and that’s the most important thing.”


Hamdallah the savior for Al-Ittihad once again

Ittihad's Moroccan forward #99 Abderrazak Hamdallah. (AFP file photo)
Ittihad's Moroccan forward #99 Abderrazak Hamdallah. (AFP file photo)
Updated 26 February 2024
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Hamdallah the savior for Al-Ittihad once again

Ittihad's Moroccan forward #99 Abderrazak Hamdallah. (AFP file photo)
  • After playing a key role in his team’s Asian Champions League victory win last week, he scores both goals in a dramatic late victory against Al-Wehda in the Saudi Pro League
  • It helps save the blushes of strike partner Karim Benzema, who earlier missed a penalty and had two goals disallowed

JEDDAH: For the second time in a week, Abderrazak Hamdallah saved the blushes of an unfortunate Karim Benzema on Monday, this time stepping up to give Al-Ittihad a last-gasp 2-1 win at home to Al-Wehda.

Four days previously, Hamdallah intervened to equalize after Benzema scored an own goal, helping the Jeddah giants to a 2-1 win over Navbahor of Uzbekistan in the Asian Champions League Round of 16. Back in domestic action in the Roshn Saudi League, this time Hamdallah scored both of his side’s goals after the Frenchman missed a first-half penalty and had two goals disallowed.

The result keeps the team in the race for a top-three finish, six points behind third-placed Al-Ahli, and the atmosphere in the stadium at the end was particularly jubilant given that it looked, just a few minutes from time, as if the visitors were about snatch a famous victory.

Earlier, Benzema had the ball in the back of the net on the half-hour mark but his goal from just inside the area was ruled out due to a Fabinho foul in the build-up.

Five minutes later, Al-Wehda took the lead through Odion Ighalo. A well-worked free-kick found Craig Goodwin on the left side of the area and the Australian’s low cross was poked home by Ighalo for his 10th league goal of the season.

Deep into first-half stoppage time, 11 minutes no less, Benzema had a chance to equalize when Al-Ittihad were awarded a penalty after Hamdallah went down in the box. Benzema stepped up but his low effort was well saved by the diving Munir Mohamedi.

Al-Ittihad continued to push forward after the break and were finally rewarded for their efforts seven minutes from the end. This time it was the turn of Hamdallah to attempt a penalty, after Ahmed Hegazi went down in the area. The Moroccan marksman made no mistake as he coolly chipped the ball into the middle of the goal.

This spurred the hosts on to try to snatch a winner but their hopes looked to have been dashed when Saad Al-Mosa was shown a red card in the 90th minute. Time seemed to be running out but Hamdallah was not ready to give up, and four minutes into added time he grabbed the winner.

Benzema, who earlier had a goal disallowed for a second time, for handling the ball from a headed knockdown by his strike partner, this time turned provider. He twisted and turned at the near post to take two defenders out of the picture and then pulled the ball back for Hamdallah to score from close range. The fans went crazy, the players went crazy, the coaching staff went crazy.

Al-Ittihad next face Al-Hilal away from home on Friday and will need to be ready to make the most of all their chances if they are going to take anything from the league leaders, who are sitting 22 points ahead of them.

 


Eddie Howe sets ambitious Newcastle United target with Joelinton deal top of priority list

Eddie Howe sets ambitious Newcastle United target with Joelinton deal top of priority list
Updated 26 February 2024
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Eddie Howe sets ambitious Newcastle United target with Joelinton deal top of priority list

Eddie Howe sets ambitious Newcastle United target with Joelinton deal top of priority list
  • “That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long term. I see that as hugely important,” Howe said of Joelinton, whose current Magpies’ deal runs out in the summer of 2025

NEWCASTLE: Persuading key man Joelinton to pen a new Newcastle United deal is a “priority” for Eddie Howe, even with chief negotiator Dan Ashworth out of the Magpies’ exit door.

The Brazilian has been a huge miss in the Newcastle midfield since he suffered a thigh injury in the FA Cup third-round win over local rivals Sunderland. Joelinton went under the knife on Jan. 23 to rectify the issue, and is not expected back until May.

On the eve of Newcastle’s fifth-round tie at Championship Blackburn Rovers — who, like Howe’s men, have won the trophy six times — the team’s head coach has been discussing his desire to see the Brazilian stay on Tyneside, even with sporting director Ashworth on gardening leave, with Manchester United his desired destination.

“That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long term. I see that as hugely important,” Howe said of Joelinton, whose current Magpies’ deal runs out in the summer of 2025.

“I think we’ve missed Joe’s qualities, especially physically, his robustness, his abilities in duels, set-plays for and against. We’re very lucky to have a midfielder that’s as big as he is and as competitive as he is and whenever you lose those qualities, you notice when they’re not there.

“He’s a very unusual midfielder, really, a prototype. You don’t get many like him and it’s certainly been missed, what he can bring.”

When asked who will fill Ashworth’s role in taking up the contract talks, Howe said: “I think it’ll be a mixture of Darren Eales and probably Amanda (Staveley) and Mehrdad (Ghodoussi).”

While attentions turn to the pursuit of silverware and the temporary distraction of the cup, Newcastle’s Premier League form has been starkly different to anything seen under Howe for 18 months. Long gone are the weeks of endless points, a firm backline and wins galore, a trend which had followed Newcastle from their avoidance of relegation in 2021/22 into their Champions League-qualifying campaign of 2022/23.

Mixing with Europe’s best, at this moment in time, feels like a lifetime ago, even though their last Champions League clash with giants AC Milan was only two months back. Since then, the Magpies’ form has dropped through the floor, mainly underpinned by an increasingly leaky backline and, of course, injury issues, which are thankfully starting to be less of a burden.

Howe’s team have the worst defensive record in England’s top flight in the calendar year. Across the season just the bottom three, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth have conceded more goals. It is something all associated with the club know needs to be addressed — and sharpish.

“We are still in the throes of deciding where this season ends up. Nothing is decided for or against us. I definitely want to squash that feeling that we are feeling sorry for ourselves because that has negative connotations,” said the head coach.

“We need the players excited and ambitious, thinking brightly about the future. I always have a positive outlook. I’ve been in football long enough that it changes very quickly both for and against.

“This season has been very challenging. When you start the season it could be one thing but there have been so many scenarios that have happened that have led us to this point. But I think we will be better for it. The squad will be better for it, we will be better for it and the thought we could have had another season where everything seemed to go for us again, that very rarely happens in football. It’s how you navigate the situation and come back better.”

When pushed specifically on Newcastle’s defensive record — they have conceded 45 goals in just 26 games in the Premier League — Howe said: “Yes, of course we’re looking for solutions to everything.

“There’d be sort of the outcome which is the goals, of course, but there’s a whole body of work that goes into how you defend. Whether that’s how you press, how you defend in the mid-third of the pitch, how you defend toward the goal. Certainly we need to do a better job.

“I think regardless of how you tactically set up, it’s individuals doing their jobs and making sure you don’t make individual errors. I think we’ve been guilty of a combination of a lot of those things in the last few weeks.

“We’ve proved we can defend, we’ve proved we can defend even recently and we’ve put in some really good performances. Certainly we’re capable but we just need to deliver it consistently.”

Newcastle will be backed by more than 7,000 supporters on Tuesday night in Lancashire, with a Geordie invasion of Ewood Park in store. The Magpies have not won the competition since 1955, but can put themselves just one game away from a Wembley semifinal with victory.

“It’s a huge game for us,” said Howe. “We’re absolutely committed to the FA Cup to do well and have been all season. We’ve had two difficult games away from home to get to this stage, and now another one. We’ve been looking forward to this game for a while so we know how important it is.

“There have been performances where we’ve not been at our best and you can understand — we were disjointed, had players out of position, no substitutes, relying on 11 players continually. Arsenal (a 4-1 loss on Saturday) was different. We just did not perform and we have to take responsibility for that.

“Qualifying for Europe is right at the top of our priorities. Of course, qualifying for the Champions League was unbelievable last year. But if you can’t make that again, then we have to look for the next best alternative. That’s what we’re trying to do, and for me, they’re (Europa League and Conference League) realistic objectives, and we’ll give everything we can to achieve it. I think, for the football club, to try to qualify regularly for Europe is an achievement in itself, and that’s something we’re looking to do.

“We don’t want to be easy to play against; we want to be very difficult to play against. We didn’t execute what we wanted to do against Arsenal well enough, that’s clear. That’s clear from the performance and I take responsibility for that.”

 


UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
Updated 26 February 2024
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UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
  • Reigning champions Shabab Al-Ahli return to winning ways, while Al-Ain stay in second with win over Baniyas

Al-Wasl’s searing pace at the top of the standings continued, champions Shabab Al-Ahli returned to winning ways and there was more misery for promoted clubs during the ADNOC Pro League’s matchweek 14.

A first full schedule since late December — a lengthy pause for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup was extended by multiple weather postponements — began with bottom-placed Emirates Club and second-bottom Hatta suffering 10th defeats of the season.

Goals for Raniel, on 10 seconds, and Uzbekistan midfielder Azizbek Amonov helped Khor Fakkan prevail 2-0 against the latter, while rampant Wasl breezed past the former via the same scoreline thanks to efforts from nine-goal UAE forward Fabio De Lima and prolific South Korea center-back Jung Seung-hyun. They now lead the table by eight points.

Shabab Al-Ahi, meanwhile, had a trio of Brazil-born scorers to thank when they ended a two-match winless streak in their comfortable 3-0 victory versus 12th-placed Ajman. Also, a 94th-minute tap-in from promising youngster Josna Epifani Loulendo kept the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League quarterfinalists Al-Ain in the hunt with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Baniyas.

There was drama in Abu Dhabi when Mirel Radoi’s league bow for Al-Jazira ended in a 3-2 defeat to Alfred Schreuder’s rapidly improving Al-Nasr, featuring iconic striker Ali Mabkhout’s 96th-minute saved penalty. Also, Caio netted when Sharjah beat Ittihad Kalba 1-0 and Al-Wahda came from behind to down Al-Bataeh 2-1.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from the latest action.

Player of the week: Igor Jesus (Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club)

It has been an eventful few weeks for Shabab Al-Ahli’s prodigiously talented, but injury impacted, youngster.

Months of speculation about a return to Brazil or a move to Europe’s major leagues looked to have been ended by this month’s announcement that Igor Jesus had gained Emirati citizenship. It has put the 22-year-old on a fast track to eventually represent the UAE senior side, which is a major boost following January’s disappointing round-of-16 exit at the Asian Cup.

On the pitch, the ex-Coritiba attacker has been rarely seen this term. Yet more knee problems had restricted him to just five league run-outs across 201 minutes, prior to Sunday’s visit of Ajman.

If anyone needed a reminder about Jesus’ residual ability, it came versus the Orange Brigade.

A precision-guided seventh-minute corner from UAE prospect Harib Abdalla was nodded home. Jesus would add an assist to his name in the second half when he played in Guilherme Bala, another naturalized Emirati/Brazilian, who did the rest with an adroit turn and impudent low finish.

The ice pack applied to Jesus’ leg showed caution when he was called off to the bench which included an instant debut for prominent Iran center midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi.

There is such youth and electricity among Shabab Al-Ahli’s attacking options. They must regularly spark to stand any chance of hauling back Wasl.

Goal of the week: Ahmad Nourollahi (Al-Wahda)

Ahmad Nourollahi’s garlanded career has contained many standout moments.

From representing his nation at the 2022 World Cup, to hoarding trophies with Persepolis and adding last season’s ADNOC Pro League crown to his resume at Shabab Al-Ahli.

Acrobatic scissor kicks, however, were not associated with him. That is, before, Sunday’s comeback triumph at Bataeh.

A hopeful cross from right-back Abdullah Al-Karbi was hung up towards the penalty box. There appeared little danger, at this point.

Nourollahi’s lethal combination of athleticism and imagination then sent the ball arrowing into the bottom corner, at the start of the second half. This would propel fifth-placed Wahda to victory, earned through impressive Uzbekistan winter recruit Khojimat Erkinov.

Coach of the week: Alfred Schreuder (Al-Nasr)

UAE football’s sleeping giant is showing signs of stirring.

Nasr have had the history, glamorous Dubai location and outstanding Al-Maktoum Stadium, plus a list of stellar previous players that includes Yohan Cabaye, Alvaro Negredo and Luca Toni. Yet even the hint of glory has eluded them for so long.

This might be changing under Schreuder. The former Ajax and Al-Ain tactician inspired a third win from their last five league run-outs at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

It came through a blend of ex-Benfica maestro Adel Taarabt, plus young stars Abdoulaye Toure and Moussa Ndiaye.

Nasr are now comfortably midtable in seventh, after flirting with relegation under Goran Tufegdzic.

It is now up to the club to provide Schreuder with the order required to create sustained success. With six permanent managers since October 2019, this is not guaranteed.

Assessing Al-Ain’s Asian outlook

Al-Ain are flying the flag for their nation in next month’s AFC Champions League quarterfinals.

No less than Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr await on March 4 and 11, in a West Asia side of the draw packed by three heavyweight Saudi Arabian challengers.

The task is a stern one if The Boss are to add to their 2002-2003 continental title. Certainly, it will require improvement from their last-gasp victory at Baniyas Stadium.

Those three points, however, came at a cost with leading 11-goal marksman Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba being removed through injury. There is no natural replacement for the Togo star within their ranks.

South Korea anchorman Park Yong-woo has gone deep into this tournament before at Ulsan Hyundai.

Steady progress under legendary ex-Argentine, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo has seen six wins accrued from their last seven matches in all competitions. The Boss are also second domestically, with a game in hand.

Crucially, Crespo must learn lessons from the February 2023 7-0 blitzing of his Al-Duhail side by holders Al-Hilal.