Jorge Jesus hails ‘showcase for Saudi football’ after Al-Hilal derby win

Jorge Jesus hails ‘showcase for Saudi football’ after Al-Hilal derby win
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Updated 02 December 2023
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Jorge Jesus hails ‘showcase for Saudi football’ after Al-Hilal derby win

Jorge Jesus hails ‘showcase for Saudi football’ after Al-Hilal derby win

Al-Hilal coach Jorge Jesus believes his side’s 3-0 victory over Al-Nassr in the Riyadh derby on Friday was a perfect advert for the new-look Saudi Pro League.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic opened the scoring for Al-Hilal in the second half before a late brace from Aleksandar Mitrovic put the result beyond doubt in an often-fiery encounter at King Fahd Stadium.
“I want to pass a message to the fans that this game was a very good spectacle for the Roshn Saudi League,” Jesus said.
“It was broadcast all over the world and was a great showcase for Saudi football. It was a high-quality game with high-quality players. The game, until right at the end, was of the highest competitive level between the two teams.”
It appeared that Cristiano Ronaldo had grabbed an equalizer for Al-Nassr with a smart back-post finish, but it was ruled out for offside, leading to vociferous protestations from the visitors’ players and coaching staff. Al-Nassr coach Luis Castro was particularly irate, something Jesus feels is to be expected.
“It’s natural that Luis look at the game differently because he ended up losing 3-0,” Jesus added. “I wouldn’t like to comment on the referee’s decisions and on any of his criticisms of the referee’s decisions.
“We won 3-0 because we were the better team individually and collectively. In the first 30 minutes, we could already have been two or three goals up.
“In the second half, we positioned ourselves a little differently on the field while still transitioning well between defense and attack. At the end, we were better and could’ve won by more.”
Jesus praised the continued resilience of his players in the face of Neymar’s season-ending injury, with the Portuguese coach suggesting that Al-Hilal will deregister their star forward to free up a spot in their squad.
“We’re used to playing without him … The whole team has grown stronger together,” Jesus said. “I wouldn’t like to imagine Al-Nassr without Cristiano, Al-Ahli without Mahrez or Al-Ittihad without Benzema — how would they be with the loss of those influential players?
“We lost a player that today we could say would’ve made us much stronger with the presence of Neymar. Without him, we’re still doing well as a group.
“January we’ll add, and a player is going to replace Neymar. Neymar is going to go out and for sure a player is going to come. He should be replaced. It’s not a reinforcement, more an adjustment.”
Al-Hilal are now seven points clear at the top of the Saudi Pro League table, though Jesus insists his leaders are taking nothing for granted.
“In my experience, seven points doesn’t guarantee anything. Yes we’ve had a good season, but there are no guarantees in football.
“We have to prepare ourselves for difficult moments to come because the league is very competitive.
“I’m happy with the three points today, but I want to say to the fans that nothing has been achieved yet.”
Losing Al-Nassr coach Castro admitted that the seven-point deficit will be tough to make up, saying: “It’ll be difficult. For every team in the championship, it’ll be difficult. But we push and we keep going.
“We keep applying pressure because it’s still a long way to go in the championship. We’re going to compete.”


Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL
Updated 18 sec ago
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Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL
LAHORE: Usama Mir became the first spinner in Pakistan Super League history to grab a six-wicket haul as Multan Sultans beat Lahore Qalandars by 60 runs Tuesday, handing the two-time champions their sixth straight loss.
Leg-spinner Mir picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs.
Table-topper Multan posted this season’s highest score of 214-4 despite resting overseas players Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan and David Willey.
Usman Khan of the United Arab Emirates filled Malan’s shoes with a blistering knock of 96 off 55 balls and Iftikhar Ahmed provided a perfect finish by smashing unbeaten 40 off 18 balls.
Multan captain Mohammad Rizwan fell without scoring for the second time in the last three games when Shaheen Shah Afridi clean bowled him with a delivery that perfectly shaped into the batter in the first over.
But Usman kept counterattacking and hit 11 fours and two sixes as he capped his half-century stands with Reeza Hendricks (40), Tayyab Tahir (21) with a 60-run partnership with Ahmed off just 28 balls in the death overs.
Usman, who was dropped by Carlos Brathwaite on 89 at point, holed out to deep square leg in the last over to give Afridi (2-39) his second wicket.
Mir ran through Lahore’s middle-order in quick time when he had Rassie van der Dussen (30) caught in the deep, found the outside edge of George Linde’s bat and then bowled Jahandad Khan off a full pitched delivery in one over.
Mir claimed the last two wickets in his final over as Multan moved to the top of the table with five wins in six games.

Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title

Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title
Updated 18 min 1 sec ago
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Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title

Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title
  • Under new coach Montse Tome, Spain comfortably topped their Nations League group ahead of Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, and then defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in Seville in last Friday’s semifinal

SEVILLE, Spain: Reigning world champions Spain can claim another title on Wednesday when they face France in the final of the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League, while the Netherlands and Germany meet to decide who will join them in qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

Spain’s World Cup triumph in Sydney last August ended up being somewhat overshadowed by Spanish football federation boss Luis Rubiales’s forced kiss on midfielder Jenni Hermoso after the final against England.

Rubiales recently had a three-year ban from football upheld by FIFA and is also set to go in trial over the kiss, while the Spain team — led by Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati — have tried to keep the focus on football.

Under new coach Montse Tome, Spain comfortably topped their Nations League group ahead of Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, and then defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in Seville in last Friday’s semifinal.

Winning through to the final also allowed them to take one of two qualifying spots open to European nations for the women’s football tournament at the Olympics. It is the first time they have qualified for the Games.

However, star Barcelona midfielder Bonmati believes Spain’s World Cup success has not had the hoped-for impact on the women’s game in the country.

“Unfortunately I can’t say a lot of things have changed,” Bonmati said in an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe.

“We have the example of the English, when they won the Euro (in 2022). We saw a real change following their success at a nationwide level.

“It had repercussions, and there was more investment in the domestic league. The stadiums are full when England play. It makes me jealous because I can’t say the same thing has happened here.

“There are still so many things to do here and I have the impression that the World Cup has not served any purpose.”

She complained that the match against the Netherlands was moved at short notice from Cadiz to Seville, where the final will also be played.

“We were supposed to play in Cadiz and in the end we changed the venue to La Cartuja. That wouldn’t happen with the boys.”

France had already qualified for the Olympics automatically as the host country and Herve Renard’s team are now hoping to win a first international title in the Nations League to set them up for the Games.

The Netherlands entertain Germany in Heerenveen in the third-place play-off with the winner of that game also progressing to Paris 2024.

Germany lost 2-1 to France in Lyon in their semifinal last Friday and so must now overcome the Dutch if they are to go to the Olympics, in which they won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

After flopping at last year’s World Cup, in which they exited in the group stage, their form has improved under veteran interim coach Horst Hrubesch, who took Germany’s men to the final of the 2016 Olympics.

However, the Dutch — whose coach Andries Jonker used to manage Wolfsburg in the men’s German Bundesliga — are hoping to make the most of home advantage at the Abe Lenstra Stadion.

“We still have a chance,” of reaching the Olympics, said captain Sherida Spitse after the semifinal.

“We are very happy with that. We are playing at home with the crowd behind us.”


Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series
Updated 27 February 2024
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Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series
  • African side clocks up three wins from four games in Nepal
  • Next round of matches in UAE will feature hosts, Scotland, Canada

KATHMANDU: The opening series of matches in the new International Cricket Council World Cup League 2 cycle ended this week with a shock victory for Namibia in Nepal, as the tournament prepares to move on to the UAE, who will host Scotland and Canada.

Namibia won three out of their four matches in tough conditions, including a double over the hosts.

Nepal came back from the defeat in their second match to spring a shock of their own by beating perennial World Cup participants the Netherlands. It was a torrid tournament for the Dutch, who lost their first match to Namibia.

The series ended with Namibia on six points, the Netherlands on four and Nepal on two.

Namibia’s coach Pierre de Bruyn told Arab News he was “over the moon” with his team’s performance in the opening round.

“Last year we lost four games in Nepal and we learned a lot from that,” he said. “Winning six points in Nepal is incredible, beating them twice at home and taking points off them. It’s early days but we realized how important a point could be last time and that we should be ruthless in order to take points.”

Nepal, who only lost two home series in the entire 2019-23 League 2 campaign, had a series to forget this time round, with inconsistent batting from an ever-changing middle order.

Head coach Monty Desai said his team would now be doing all they could to win away from home.

“Losing at home hurts, but if you want to be known as the associate’s top team, away games are equally important,” he said. “We have been working very hard and need to bring maturity to it.”

Netherlands coach Ryan Cook rejected the notion that his team’s two defeats were a shock, despite their higher One Day International ranking.

“Shocking? Not at all. This is a very competitive league and it’s completely different game of cricket,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to adapt to those conditions. We are entering a new era in terms of the league.”

The next series of games feature the UAE, Scotland and Canada.

Canada’s coach Pubudu Dassanayake, who led Nepal in the 2019-23 League 2 cycle, said he was happy with his team’s performances in a series of warmup games played recently in Nepal.

“More than winning and losing, we were exposed in all three departments (of batting, bowling and fielding). More than just winning, I am happy we could find out our weaknesses. We expect to have our fast bowlers back to full fitness and perform in those conditions (in the UAE),” he said.

Oman and the US make up the eight teams that feature in the 2023-27 League 2 competition. Each side will play 36 matches — 12 at home, 12 away and 12 at a neutral ground — across nine triangular series. The top four will advance to the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier and the chance to secure a place in the tournament proper.


Medvedev makes winning return after Australian Open final loss

Medvedev makes winning return after Australian Open final loss
Updated 27 February 2024
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Medvedev makes winning return after Australian Open final loss

Medvedev makes winning return after Australian Open final loss
  • He will meet either Lorenzo Sonego or wild card Sumit Nagal in the next round
  • In January, Medvedev reached his second Australian Open final

DUBAI: Daniil Medvedev returned to action for the first time since his Australian final defeat on Tuesday with a straight sets win over Alexander Shevchenko in Dubai.
The world number four got his title defense at the hardcourt ATP 500 event up and running, overcoming Shevchenko 6-3, 7-5.
The Russian shrugged off his month-long absence, breaking his Kazakh opponent in three consecutive return games in the first set before reeling off four games in a row from 3-5 in the second set to complete an 88-minute triumph.
He will meet either Lorenzo Sonego or wild card Sumit Nagal in the next round.
In January, Medvedev reached his second Australian Open final. He lost to Rafael Nadal in the Melbourne decider two years ago, and this time had to settle for second best in the season’s opening Grand Slam to Jannik Sinner.
He was forced to skip his title defense in Doha last week because he was dealing with a number of physical issues — with his foot, adductor, and shoulder — but said on the eve of Tuesday’s return he was ready to get back on court after spending the last seven days training in Dubai.
The 28-year-old has added French former world number six Gilles Simon to his team, to collaborate with his long-time coach Gilles Cervara.


Arab martial arts pioneer Osamah Almarwai chasing another title shot at ONE 166 in Qatar

Arab martial arts pioneer Osamah Almarwai chasing another title shot at ONE 166 in Qatar
Updated 27 February 2024
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Arab martial arts pioneer Osamah Almarwai chasing another title shot at ONE 166 in Qatar

Arab martial arts pioneer Osamah Almarwai chasing another title shot at ONE 166 in Qatar
  • A world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the 31-year-old is setting an example for other Arab fighters at the highest level of grappling
  • Almarwai trains at the famed ATOS Jiu-Jitsu academy alongside ONE Championship champions Kade and Tye Ruotolo

Osamah Almarwai was born and raised in Saudi Arabia to Yemeni parents and will compete in the Middle East for the first time since becoming a black belt when he takes on Cleber Sousa at ONE 166 on March 1 in Qatar.

“Osa” was the first athlete from the region to become an IBJJF world champion and is immensely proud to be blazing a trail for Arabic fighters at the highest level of grappling.

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu star moved to the US to study English when he was a teenager and is intent on achieving his dream of a ONE World Title and inspiring the next crop of youngsters to follow his path.

“It’s an honor for me to represent our region, make history and inspire future generations,” Almarwai told Arab News.

The 31-year-old trains at the famed ATOS Jiu-Jitsu academy alongside ONE Championship champions Kade and Tye Ruotolo, and under grappling legend Andre Galvao.

“Before ATOS, I was training in small academies, so I hope this can inspire a lot of young people that it can happen, you know, no matter where you train, as long as you put the work in,” Almarwai said, reflecting on his journey so far.

“A lot of fans message me videos of their kids doing jiu-jitsu, and I didn’t know that I had influence on people in the region, you know, so it’s a very big honor for me, and I hope I can keep inspiring them. Now that I’m on ONE Championship in the first event in the Middle East in Qatar, I cannot tell you how much that means to me,” he added.

Having garnered global attention from his world title win, Almarwai was called out by ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Champion Mikey Musumeci. “Darth Rigatoni” provided a baptism of fire for the ATOS star’s promotional debut and won via rear-naked choke submission at ONE Fight Night 10 last year.

In Sousa, Almarwai faces another formidable opponent but an opportunity to get back on the path to ONE Championship gold.

“I love it, man. I called him out a while ago, and now it’s happening. He’s a tough opponent, very explosive, and I’m very excited for this matchup. The fans should expect a very exciting match and hopefully the sub for me,” said the Jeddah-born fighter.

“Clandestino” will also be making his sophomore appearance for the organization and is also coming off of a loss to Musumeci on his debut.

“I believe I have better technique than him,” said Almarwai.

“He’s more explosive, probably, but in terms of strategy and so on, I feel I’m better than him at that aspect, but both of us will be pushing the pace, you know? If you can, if we see our matches, we’re always like pushing the pace and both of us are always going for submissions,” he added.

With this being ONE Championship’s first show in the Middle East, the card represents part of a massive boom for combat sports in MENA in recent years.

“I think the Middle East is going to take over the martial arts scene, especially with the financial capabilities,” the BJJ icon said.

“I think a lot of fighters are very interested and are coming over here. When I started competing in jiu-jitsu, that wasn’t the case. We didn’t have that much martial arts, but now I’ve seen it growing, and being part of it, and being part of that success, it means a lot to me, you know? I cannot wait to see how the martial arts scene in the Middle East is going to be in the next five or 10 years,” he added.

Aside from wanting to start his own academy to nurture the scene further, Almarwai dreams of feeling the weight of the ONE World Title on his shoulders.

“My goal is to win this match, make another match, and then get another shot at the title. I don’t know if it’s going be Mikey, but I really want to win that ONE Championship belt. I remember my previous match; I had the photo shoot where I had the belt on me, and that belt is so heavy. It feels good.”