Man City ease into Club World Cup final

Man City ease into Club World Cup final
Manchester City's Matheus Nunes takes a shot in front of Urawa Reds' Marius Hoibraten during their FIFA Club World Cup semifinal match at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah on Dec. 19, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 19 December 2023
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Man City ease into Club World Cup final

Man City ease into Club World Cup final
  • Mateo Kovacic and Bernardo Silva struck after Marius Hoibraten’s own goal opened the scoring
  • City set up a clash with South American champions Fluminense in Friday’s final in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Manchester City shrugged off their sluggish Premier League form to cruise into the Club World Cup final, 3-0 over Urawa Reds on Tuesday, despite missing the presence of Erling Haaland.
Mateo Kovacic and Bernardo Silva struck after Marius Hoibraten’s own goal opened the scoring as City set up a clash with South American champions Fluminense in Friday’s final in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
City have won only one of their last six Premier League matches and fallen behind Arsenal and Liverpool in the title race.
But they were never troubled as an unblemished record for European sides against Asian teams at the Club World Cup was extended to 14 games.
Haaland sat out a third consecutive game due to a foot injury, with the Norwegian facing a race against time to be fit for the final.
However, Haaland still provoked the biggest cheer of the night from the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium when he offered the crowd a wave as he appeared on the big screens during the first half.
Kevin De Bruyne was also absent from the City squad despite making his return to training on Monday from a four-month layoff due to a hamstring injury.
Without their biggest goal threat and creative hub, City lacked penetration and punch for the first 45 minutes despite enjoying over 80 percent of possession against the Asian champions.
Urawa had lost six of their previous 10 games but largely kept the European champions at bay before a self-inflicted blow opened the game up for City on the stroke of half-time.
Guardiola made the surprise call to leave Julian Alvarez on the bench, leaving City without a natural striker in their starting 11.
It took the Champions League winners 30 minutes to even create a clear sight of goal as Matheus Nunes cut inside and blasted a shot goalwards that Shusaku Nishikawa tipped over.
City were slowing building momentum toward the break as Phil Foden was next to test Nishikawa from outside the box.
But they needed a slice of fortune to break the deadlock in first-half stoppage time.
Nunes fired a low cross into the box that Hoibraten turned into his own net under little pressure.
As Urawa tired from chasing the ball in the heat, City were then able to cut loose in the second half.
Kovacic drilled in his first City goal after racing onto Kyle Walker’s pass that cut the Japanese defense wide open.
Both Kovacic and Nunes have struggled to make a meaningful impact since arriving at the treble winners in the summer transfer window.
Nunes should have followed the Croatian’s lead by netting his first goal for the club when he headed a glorious chance wide from Jack Grealish’s cross.
A third goal for City did not take long to arrive as Hoibraten’s bad luck continued when Silva’s shot deflected in off the Norwegian defender.
Silva warned of the heightened risk of injury put upon players by a “crazy” schedule after FIFA confirmed that the Club World Cup will expand to 32 teams and a month-long competition in 2025.
A hugely one-sided contest did little to whet the appetite for many more matches between Europe’s elite clubs and the rest of the world as the financial gulf between the two continues to grow.
European teams are now unbeaten in 21 Club World Cup matches stretching back to 2012.
But a comfortable evening did at least offer Guardiola the chance to rest Silva, Foden, Manuel Akanji, Rodri and John Stones for the closing stages.


Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten

Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten
Updated 28 May 2024
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Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten

Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten
  • New champions beat A-Wehda 2-1 on the final day of the 2023-24 season

RIYADH: Al-Hilal’s coach, Jorge Jesus, on Monday night expressed his joy after his title-winning team beat Al-Wehda 2-1 to end the 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season without a loss.

Jesus said he is enjoying the best days of his career with the Riyadh giants.

Mohammed Kanno gave Al-Hilal a 19th-minute lead, with the home team equalizing in the 77th minute through fellow Saudi international Yahya Al-Najei. But Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in stoppage time to ensure a final-day win for the “Invincibles.”

“We were keen to end our last match in the league with a victory to preserve this exceptional league season, during which we broke records after gaining 96 points, achieved the largest victory in a single match, and we also finished the league without a loss,” Jesus said.

“I experienced many happy moments during my career with the clubs I coached, but my happiness with Al-Hilal is more than wonderful, especially in this exceptional season,” he concluded.


Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs

Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs
Updated 29 May 2024
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Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs

Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs
  • Al-Hilal FC, Al-Nassr, Ittihad and Ahli are leading the push in corporate social responsibility

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced this month the launch of its first Corporate Social Responsibility Awards 2024, marking a new age of sustainable development and community involvement in the Kingdom.

The CSR initiative recognizes and inspires private-sector firms corresponding to Saudi Vision 2030’s social responsibility objectives. It promotes local initiatives to implement international standards, encourage competition, and set exemplary corporate practices.
Saudi Arabia’s sports clubs, traditionally focused on sports, entertainment, and culture, are now expanding to include community-building programs. The CSR Awards 2024 will focus on these efforts, recognizing initiatives that promote social development and local progress outside of sports.
Teams including Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Ittihad and Ahli are leading the push in CSR. They are making significant progress in youth development, health promotion, and environmental sustainability. From grassroots football programs for poor children to scholarships for promising young players from disadvantaged backgrounds, these efforts are consistent with Vision 2030’s emphasis on economic diversification and social transformation.
Furthermore, European and Asian examples demonstrate how sports clubs advocate sustainability programs with broad reach and impact. Forest Green Rovers of England is the world’s first UN-certified carbon-neutral football team. Their environmentally friendly methods, such as an organic pitch and solar-powered facilities, have spurred others to pursue greener strategies.

FC Bayern Munich in Germany exemplifies how clubs may incorporate sustainability into their operations, with efforts such as the Allianz Arena’s energy-efficient architecture and recycling programs setting a high bar for environmental care.
Japan’s Kashima Antlers have introduced innovative sustainability techniques, such as rainwater harvesting and LED lighting systems, to reduce their environmental imprint in Asia.

Also, China’s Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC has conducted large tree-planting projects to help with reforestation and ecological conservation.
The ministry hopes to develop a culture in which social impact is synonymous with financial success, resulting in a more socially responsible economic landscape in Saudi Arabia.
The award criteria include community engagement, environmental sustainability, and ethical governance, emphasizing the organizational benefit of CSR activities. Sports clubs, as role models for other businesses, have a unique power to promote social ideals and effect constructive change.
Furthermore, communication and social media are essential in promoting CSR efforts, raising awareness, and mobilizing support. Platforms such as X, Instagram, and Facebook let clubs promote their sustainability efforts, communicate with followers, and increase their impact, resulting in a more inclusive and sustainable future.
With good communication, CSR programs in sports teams can indirectly enhance profitability by improving brand recognition, increasing fan engagement, attracting sponsorship, and lowering costs through energy efficiency and regulatory compliance.

All while offering access to funds and grants, these additional financial resources can help the club’s operations and allow for more investment in CSR efforts, promoting long-term sustainability.
Embracing Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s sports clubs are helping to reshape the country and pave the road for a more socially responsible and sustainable society.

These clubs demonstrate sports’ transformative ability to generate positive social change through their persistent dedication to CSR activities. As they continue on this journey, they will inspire others and set new standards for CSR excellence, paving the way for future generations.


‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final

‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final
Updated 28 May 2024
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‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final

‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final
  • Two goals in 4-2 win over Ittihad takes Al-Nassr captain to 35 league goals for the season
  • It is the sixth time in Ronaldo’s career that he has finished a league campaign as top scorer

RIYADH: Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday night notched a brace in the 4-2 win over Al-Ittihad in Riyadh to close out the 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season with 35 goals and clinch the top scorer award.

Ronaldo opened the scoring is stoppage time of the first half and doubled the lead in the 69th minute. Al-Nassr’s other goals came from Abdulrahman Ghareeb (penalty, 79) and Meshari Al-Nemer (95), while Al-Ittihad’s goals came from Farhah Al-Shamrani (88) and Fabinho (92).

 

 

Ronaldo’s final tally broke the previous record held by Abderrazak Hamdallah, who scored 34 for Al-Nassr in 2018-19, and was also the sixth time in the Portuguese legend’s career that he has finished a domestic league season as top scorer.

Before joining the Yellows in January 2023, Ronaldo had finished top scorer in league campaigns for Sporting Lisbon in his native Portugal, Manchester United in the English Premier League, three times for Real Madrid in Spain and once with Juventus in Italy.

“I am very happy to end the season with a victory, as well as with my record, which I was not expecting, but it is very important in my career,” Ronaldo said after the win over the Tigers.

“We finished the league well, and now our goal is to win the King’s Cup, and I expect the team to give its best to achieve the title.”


Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten
Updated 28 May 2024
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Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: Cristiano Ronaldo finished the Saudi Pro League by setting the season goal-scoring record on Monday.
Ronaldo scored twice in Riyadh as Al-Nassr defeated Al-Ittihad 4-2 and lifted his league tally to 35, one more than the record in 2019 by Abderrazak Hamdallah.
In the final seconds of the first half, Ronaldo, who had already had two goals ruled out for offside, chested down a long pass from Mohammed Al-Fatil and opened the scoring with a low shot from the left side of the area.
With 21 minutes remaining, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner celebrated wildly after heading home a corner from Marcelo Brozovic. He was substituted off the field five minutes later to a standing ovation from the home fans.
It ended an action-packed season for Ronaldo, who scored four hat tricks and collected one red card. He was also suspended for an obscene gesture in February at Al-Shabab fans who had been chanting the name of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s longstanding soccer rival.
Al-Nassr finished second in the league, 14 points behind local rival Al-Hilal, which won the championship more than two weeks ago and completed the 34-round league unbeaten on Monday.
Al-Hilal was too strong even without Neymar, who joined the club in August from Paris Saint-Germain but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in October.
Aleksandar Mitrovic stepped in and ended the season with a goal in the final seconds to clinch a 2-1 win over Al-Wehda. The Serbian striker, signed from London club Fulham last summer, reached 27 league goals, second only to Ronaldo.
On its way to the title, Al-Hilal went on a 34-game winning streak in all competitions, a new world record for a top tier team.
“This season has been truly exceptional for the team, arguably our best ever,” coach Jorge Jesus said. “The credit goes to the immense talent within the squad and the incredible sense of unity that transcends both on and off-field interactions.”
Al-Ittihad’s defeat at Al-Nassr ended a disappointing season for the defending champion. Karim Benzema, signed from Real Madrid, struggled with injuries and even with N’Golo Kante and Fabinho in midfield, signed from Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, the team from Jeddah could manage only fifth place.
Poor results cost Nuno Santo his job as coach in November, and the Portuguese tactician returned to the English Premier League a month later to take over Nottingham Forest.
Al-Ahli, the fourth of the ‘Big Four’ clubs taken over by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund last June, finished third, 17 points behind Al-Nassr. Al-Ahli beat Al-Fayha 1-0 thanks to a late goal — his ninth of the season — from former Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino.
Ronaldo took the headlines, however, and the 39-year-old still had one more chance to end the season with a trophy when Al-Nassr meets Al-Hilal in the King’s Cup final on Friday.


‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony

 ‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony
Updated 26 May 2024
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‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony

 ‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony
  • Club can secure an invincible league season if they avoid defeat at Al-Wehda on Monday
  • Al-Hilal beat Al-Tai 3-1 on Thursday through Salem Al-Dawsari, Michael and Malcom goals

RIYADH: After newly crowned Roshn Saudi League champions Al-Hilal lifted the league trophy in a stunning ceremony at Kingdom Arena on Friday night, manager Jorge Jesus says the season may be the best ever in the 66-year history of the club.

Unbeaten domestically this season, Al-Hilal — who created world history by winning 34 matches in succession between September and April across all competitions — clinched the title with three games to spare. The champions are 14 points ahead of second-placed Al-Nassr.

An invincible league season will be secured for the Saudi Super Cup winners if they avoid defeat in their final match at Al-Wehda on Monday. The King’s Cup final against Al-Nassr concludes Al-Hilal’s campaign.

Jesus said: “This season has been truly exceptional for the team — arguably our best ever. The credit goes to the immense talent within the squad and the incredible sense of unity that transcends both on and off-field interactions. We’re currently vying for three local trophies this season. We’ve already secured two and are determined to win the last one.”

Al-Hilal’s latest victory saw them beat Al-Tai 3-1 on Thursday thanks to first-half goals from Salem Al-Dawsari and Michael, and a goal on the hour mark from Malcom. Andrei Cordea netted a consolation strike for Al-Tai.