Al-Shabab manager Igor Biscan all business as former Liverpool teammate comes to town

Al-Shabab manager Igor Biscan all business as former Liverpool teammate comes to town
Steven Gerrard will be facing former Liverpool teammate Igor Biscan when Al-Ettifaq take on Al-Shabab. (X/@SPL_EN)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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Al-Shabab manager Igor Biscan all business as former Liverpool teammate comes to town

Al-Shabab manager Igor Biscan all business as former Liverpool teammate comes to town
  • The Roshn Saudi League battle of the former Reds takes place on Dec. 7
  • Igor Biscan: We’re not really in a position to think about anything else apart from getting as many points as we can as soon as we can

RIYADH: Igor Biscan says it will be strictly business when he faces former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard in a fascinating clash in the Roshn Saudi League.

Biscan, appointed Al-Shabab manager in mid-October, goes head-to-head in a home game against Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq on Thursday night. The two played together at Anfield for five years, helping the English club to a memorable Champions League triumph in 2005.

Al-Shabab, currently 12th in the table, go into Thursday’s game after three matches without a win. Al-Ettifaq, five places above them, are four league games without victory.

Biscan said: “It’s a big, important game for us because of the points, first and foremost. The other things are always interesting — seeing a former teammate, somebody like Steven — but we will not have too much time to enjoy ourselves.

“We’re not really in a position to think about anything else apart from getting as many points as we can as soon as we can. They have many more points than us in the table, but they are also not in a great period — in the last few games they have lost or didn’t win.”

Biscan was critical of his team following a 2-1 home loss to Al-Taawoun last weekend. Al-Shabab led 1-0 at the interval through a cheeky Panenka penalty by Yannick Carrasco that clipped the underside of the bar. But “a different team came out of the dressing room for the second half,” and Al-Taawoun came back strongly to run out deserved winners.

Speaking about Al-Ettifaq, Biscan added: “They’re a tough team to play against and we need to prepare ourselves not only for one half, but for 90-plus minutes. That’s the only way we can win any game in the future.”

Gerrard also criticized his side after their recent loss. Al-Ettifaq went down 1-0 at Al-Okhdood, who climbed to 15th in the 18-team league.

Gerrard said: “I apologize to our fans. The performance was far from what we intended.”

Al-Shabab versus Al-Ettifaq kicks off on Thursday at 9 p.m. Saudi time at Al-Shabab’s stadium in Riyadh.


‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd

‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd
Updated 04 March 2024
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‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd

‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd
MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola said Phil Foden has become a “world class” talent capable of deciding big games after the 23-year-old scored twice in Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday.
Marcus Rashford’s wonder strike had fired United into a shock lead at the Etihad.
Erling Haaland was then guilty of a miss that will go down in Premier League folklore when he fired over an open goal just before half-time.
But Foden ensured City ceded no ground in the title race as he blasted into the top corner to level and then produced a composed finish 10 minutes from time.
Haaland atoned for his earlier miss in added time as City moved to within one point of Liverpool ahead of a top-of-the-table clash between the two next Sunday.
“I always had the feeling he would score goals and now he is winning games. To become a world class-player at that age you have to win games,” said Guardiola.
“He lives to play football. That’s why with 18, 19 years old he proved things but now he’s more mature.
“He always scored goals but now scores goals that win games and when you do this, you reach another level as a player.”
An 11th league defeat of the season for United leaves Erik ten Hag’s men 11 points adrift of the top four with 11 games remaining.
United could have few complaints after being outplayed and having just one shot on target, even if it was a spectacular one.
Rashford rounded on his critics this week as he hit back at questions of his commitment.
The England international has been a pale imitation of the forward who scored 30 goals last season for most of this campaign, but showed a glimpse of the quality by smashing in off the crossbar from long range.
Guardiola’s men dominated from that moment on, but were kept at bay for nearly an hour by wayward finishing and some fine goalkeeping by Andre Onana.
Twice the Cameroonian foiled Foden when clean through, while Rodri was also denied by a smart stop low to his left.
United’s lead remained intact until half-time but only thanks to a moment that will be replayed for years.
City finally cut the visitors’ massed defense to shreds as Rodri’s cross was headed back across goal by Foden, inviting the finishing touch from Haaland.
However, he incredibly turned the ball over with the goal gaping from point-blank range.
The rearguard action from the Red Devils was finally undone as Foden produced a strike to match Rashford’s in the first half.
Ten Hag was furious that a foul had not been awarded to Rashford at the other end, but he appeared to go to ground too easily under contact from Kyle Walker.
Rodri picked out Foden, who cut inside and arrowed a blistering shot into the top corner.
A slick one-two between Foden and Julian Alvarez opened up the United defense for the decisive goal as the England international fired in his 18th of the season.
“That’s my aim, to turn up in the big games,” said Foden, who has now scored six goals in nine Premier League games against United.
“That’s what I want to do. I think this season I’m proving that.
“I understand what it means to the fans. It means everything to me. To score is even better, but it was all about the win today.”
Haaland’s redemption rounded off a fine afternoon for the English champions.
Rodri dispossessed Sofyan Amrabat and teed up the Norwegian to curl beyond Onana for his 28th goal of the season.

IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference

IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference
Updated 03 March 2024
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IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference

IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference
  • The firm said its new Riyadh HQ and center of excellence would also help support Saudi Arabia’s development

LONDON: Global information technology services firm Atos announced on Sunday its plans to open a sports technology center in the second quarter of 2024 as part of its new MENA (Middle East and North Africa) headquarters in Riyadh.

Announced at the LEAP 2024 conference, an Atos statement said the center would enable the firm to continue providing “best-in-class IT services and solutions to global sporting events” and “develop cutting-edge technology applications to benefit athletes, fans and the sports sector in Saudi Arabia.”

Marc Veelenturf, CEO for the Middle East and Turkiye at Atos, said: “Through the Sports Technology Center of Excellence, Atos will empower organizations in Saudi Arabia with the technologies needed to thrive in the Kingdom’s digital economy. Drawing upon our best-in-class digital tools and IT solutions, the center will become the epicenter for major events technology and digital innovation in the region.” 

The firm said its new Riyadh HQ and center of excellence would also help support Saudi Arabia’s public sector initiatives, transformation projects and various giga-projects and smart destinations such as Expo 2030 and Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo.

Mutaz Salem, general manager at Atos, said: “Atos will enable Saudi’s major projects to become pioneering, future-proof smart destinations rooted in tradition, sport and culture with strong expertise and experience.”

Javier Escudero, commercial director at the firm’s Major Events arm, said: “The center of excellence will be located in the heart of Riyadh to provide major events with seamless technology, orchestrating flawless operations and secure data flow.

“Our unique track record in sport includes over 25 Asian projects such as the Olympic Games, and Asian, Arab and Gulf Games. Atos’ innovative solutions will serve as the backbone, enabling organizers to captivate audiences worldwide while ensuring reliability and precision behind the scenes.”


Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash

Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash
Updated 03 March 2024
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Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash

Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash
  • Usman Khan played a brilliant innings of 106 runs not out to build momentum for Multan
  • Chasing 190 runs to win, Karachi Kings could barely reach 169 runs at the end of 20th over

ISLAMABAD: Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeated Karachi Kings by 20 runs in their Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition match at the National Stadium in Karachi.

Multan decided to bat first after they won the toss. Usman Khan played a brilliant innings of 106 runs not out to build momentum for his side.

Along with Khan, Mohammad Rizwan scored a half century to power Multan to 189 runs. In response, Karachi could only score 169 runs from their 20 overs.

“Sultans Supremacy in Karachi,” the PSL commented on X after the match. “Multan keep their place at the top of the standings after achieving a commanding win over Karachi.”

Blessing Muzarabani took two wickets for 32 runs, while Hasan Ali dismissed one for 34 runs.

Chasing 190 runs to win, Shoaib Malik and Shan Masood scored 38 (28) and 36 (29) respectively. Mohammad Nawaz chipped in with 27 runs not out as Karachi reached 169 at the end of 20th over.

Usama Mir dismissed two for 29, while Khushdil Shah and David Willey took one wicket each.

This was Multan’s sixth win from their seven matches, while Karachi have won only two of their six games this season.


Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion

Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion
Updated 03 March 2024
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Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion

Joaquin Niemann crowned LIV Golf Jeddah champion
  • Crushers GC team to beat after stunning performances at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club

JEDDAH: Joaquin Niemann once again proved he is the hottest golfer on the planet right now and Crushers GC showed they are the most dominant team in the LIV Golf League with stunning performances at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

The Chilean golfer, captain of Torque GC, won the individual title by four shots with birdies on his last two holes. A four-under par 66 took him to 17-under par, four clear of Stingers captain Louis Oosthuizen (67) and his compatriot Charl Schwartzel (68).

Niemann’s win, his second of the season in three starts after LIV Golf Mayakoba, was remarkable, but it was the performance of the Bryson DeChambeau-led Crushers (-38) that became the talk of the golf course. They staged a magnificent charge on the final day, coming back from 11 shots behind and beating overnight leaders Stingers (-34) by four shots.

On a difficult, windy day, captain DeChambeau led from the front with the day’s lowest round of eight-under 62, which helped him finish fourth in the individual standings, while Charles Howell III contributed a 64 and Anirban Lahiri 65 (both tied sixth). They beat the previous record of the biggest comeback by a team in LIV history by four shots (4Aces in Adelaide last year).

Niemann now has three wins (Australian Open in December and two LIV wins), a third, a fourth, and a fifth position in his last six starts worldwide.

He started the final round two ahead and immediately increased that margin with a birdie on his opening hole. Thereafter, he continued to hit one good shot after another, with the only bogey of the day on the 13th hole, which also happened to be only his second bogey of the tournament. He closed with birdies on the 17th and 18th, which came after a huge drive of 410 yards.

The 25-year-old from Santiago, who has received a special invitational to play this year’s Masters and also qualified for the Open Championship following his win in Australia, said: “It feels amazing. It’s a super special moment. It’s always nice when you win, but I’m more proud of how I’m playing right now and the way I played out there today. It was a tough day. It was windy.

“I think this is the most confident I have ever felt on a golf course, the best I’ve ever played. I just want it to keep going in the same direction. There is a lot more to improve, and I think I just need to be curious about that and see how much I can learn.”

Niemann won $4 million and 40 points, which takes him to the top of the individual standings after three tournaments at 80 points.

Crushers were off to a solid start, but the real momentum boost was provided by DeChambeau, when he eagled the par-5 18th hole with a 20-feet putt, and then almost willed in a 15-feet birdie putt on his next hole to take his team level with Stingers. Howell and Lahiri kept adding birdies and it turned out to be a romp for the team.

On whether he thought a win was possible at the start of the day, DeChambeau said: “No, but I knew that our team is good enough to do it any day, especially with four scores counting. I can count on these guys to play really well.

“The top priority for us was to play our best, and it obviously showed today. Especially in these conditions, when it’s really windy, we do pretty well. We just hold our heads high.”

Lahiri said: “Bryson’s low round was the key. That was unbelievable golf. I was playing so well given the conditions that I thought I might be one of the lowest scores of the day, and if that gets beaten by two of my own teammates, it just shows how well we played as a team.”

Crushers are the reigning Team Championship winners and have moved to the top of the team standings. With a second place in Mayakoba, they now have 68 points, 18 ahead of second-placed Smash GC.


UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl maintain 8-point lead over Al-Ain at top of table

Al-Wasl have an 8-point lead over Al-Ain at the top of the ADNOC Pro League. (@AlWaslSC)
Al-Wasl have an 8-point lead over Al-Ain at the top of the ADNOC Pro League. (@AlWaslSC)
Updated 03 March 2024
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UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl maintain 8-point lead over Al-Ain at top of table

Al-Wasl have an 8-point lead over Al-Ain at the top of the ADNOC Pro League. (@AlWaslSC)
  • Walter Zenga’s Emirates endure another defeat, look set for drop

DUBAI: Relentless leaders Al-Wasl heaped pressure on Cosmin Olaroiu’s underperforming Sharjah, Spain icon Andres Iniesta’s sinking Emirates Club looked doomed, and Farhad Majidi’s inconsistent Ittihad Kalba-reign was brought to an ignominious end during ADNOC Pro League’s matchweek 15.

Friday’s grandstand clash in Dubai witnessed goals from Abdulrahman Saleh and outstanding UAE attacker Ali Saleh to maintain Al-Wasl’s grip on their first title since 2006-07 with a 2-0 triumph, while pushing star-studded Sharjah 13 points off the pace.

On the same evening, Tunisia playmaker Haykeul Chikhaoui’s ferocious opener sent improving Ajman on their way to a 2-0 win which moved them nine points away from danger and pushed Walter Zenga’s bottom-placed Emirates – enduring a 10-match losing streak – eight points from safety.

Fellow promoted outfit Hatta showed fight in a 5-3 reversal at AFC Champions League quarter-finalists Al-Ain and third-placed holders Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club required an instant brace by substitute Yuri Cesar in an eventual 3-0 victory at 10-man Khor Fakkan.

Shambolic defending caused 13th-placed Kalba’s 2-1 loss to Al-Bataeh and was followed by the exit of former Iran under-23 and Esteghlal boss Majidi after almost two years at the helm. Ex-Brazil and Napoli defensive midfielder Allan netted an unlikely pair to hand Al-Wahda the Abu Dhabi Derby spoils in a pulsating 3-2 defeat for Mirel Radoi’s unconvincing Al-Jazira, while Alfred Schreuder’s flourishing Al-Nasr rose to sixth with a 1-0 triumph versus Baniyas – their fourth in five top-flight fixtures.

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

Player of the week: Allan (Al-Wahda)

Al-Wahda supporters could have been tricked into thinking they had landed Kaka, instead of Allan.

Their skipper’s granite reputation was earned via winning countless midfield battles in Serie A and the Premier League, rather than through artfully dispatched doubles.

Saturday’s unexpected turn, however, made all the difference on home soil when they welcomed floundering near-neighbors Al-Jazira to Al-Nahyan Stadium.

It was quite the way to open his ADNOC Pro League account, after being recruited back in September 2022.

A deft dummied shot and incisive strike through numerous flailing Pride of Abu Dhabi-defenders made it 2-0 on 41 minutes. The 33-year-old had also clipped in the 17th-minute free-kick from which on-form Iran midfielder Ahmad Nourollahi eventually back-heel half-volleyed the opener.

Even better was to come past the hour mark. By that point, a frantic derby had swung back toward the Pride of Abu Dhabi after ex-Fulham player Neeskens Kebano struck twice to make it 2-2.

Allan’s stepover at pace on the edge of the penalty box sent retreating Moroccan youngster Mohammed Rabii off balance, prior to lashing into the roof of stranded UAE goalkeeper Ali Khaseif’s net. It was a fitting winner for a high-quality and high-drama clash.

For fourth-placed Al-Wahda, January’s call to draft in former Ajman miracle-worker Goran Tufegdzic has been rewarded with seven points from nine. Al-Jazira, meanwhile, are yet to ignite since snaffling ex-Romania boss Radoi from Bataeh and slipped to seventh.

Goal of the week: Ali Saleh (Al-Wasl)

Whatever challenge is put in front of Al-Wasl, they have got the firepower to overcome it.

Their ninth win from their last 10 top-flight outings was sealed by homegrown hero Saleh.

The 24-year-old collected UAE colleague Caio Canedo’s flicked header, composed himself and then curled past helpless Sharjah goalkeeper Adel Al-Hosani from 20 yards. It was a beautiful way to produce a seventh goal contribution in 14 matches.

Al-Wasl remain in control of their title destiny, eight-points ahead of Al-Ain with a game extra played. It also feels increasingly perplexing why Saleh was handed just 210 minutes on the way to the UAE’s dispiriting round-of-16 exit at 2023 Asian Cup.

Coach of the week: Daniel Isaila (Ajman)

A fine rescue job is being performed by Daniel Isaila at 11th-placed Ajman.

Last season’s dark horses in sixth spot had rapidly declined to relegation certainties under Caio Zanardi. Friday’s consummate win against Emirates featured 13 attempts on target to the visitors’ three, even with Iniesta starting in the league for the first time since Dec. 1.

Isaila has transformed horizons since October’s hire. The acumen which evolved outsiders Baniyas into shock 2020/21 runners-up has been transplanted at Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Stadium.

What to do with Olaroiu?

It is not unfair, or unkind, to expect far more from fifth-placed Sharjah.

Their third league loss of a befuddling campaign has kept The King far away from the crown. A points deficit counted in double digits with 11 matches still to play was not expected when the 2023-24 season kicked off.

It is an unbalanced team which is performing below the sum of their parts. Worryingly, serial trophy hoarder Olaroiu’s once-golden touch appears to be waning.

“I am not the one who makes the decisions regarding contracts with players,” was the Romanian’s pointed comment post-match, according to Dubai Sports.

What happens next is the glaring question.

Sharjah’s 11 at Zabeel Stadium contained ex-Barcelona and Juventus superstar Miralem Pjanic, ex-Porto and Al-Hilal attacker Moussa Marega, 184-goal UAE veteran Sebastian Tagliabue, and South Korea’s World Cup 2022 performer Cho Yu-min. They boasted more possession (55 percent/45 percent) and attempts (14/12), yet Al-Wasl’s greater desire proved crucial.

Last season’s disappointing seventh-place finish was forgiven, amid an unprecedented sweep of four domestic trophies. This term, however, has been stained by group-stage collapse in the AFC Champions League, quarter-final elimination in the ADIB Cup, a 6-2 humiliation to Shabab Al-Ahli in the UAE Super Cup, and failure to threaten in the ADNOC Pro League.

Schreuder’s ascendant Al-Nasr and Al-Ain await, either side of the international break. This could be a situation careering toward breaking point.