Mighty Mitrovic continues fine scoring form as Al-Hilal win again

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s two goals sent Al-Hilal on their way tAleksandar Mitrovic’s two goals sent Al-Hilal on their way to a 3-1 win over Al-Raed on Sunday, restoring the side’s seven-point lead at the top of the Roshn Saudi League above local rivals Al-Nassr. (X/@AlHilal_FC)o a 3-1 win over Al-Raed on Sunday, restoring the side’s seven-point lead at the top of the Roshn Saudi League above local rivals Al-Nassr. (X/@AlHilalFC)
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s two goals sent Al-Hilal on their way to a 3-1 win over Al-Raed on Sunday, restoring the side’s seven-point lead at the top of the Roshn Saudi League above local rivals Al-Nassr. (X/@AlHilal_FC)
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Updated 18 February 2024
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Mighty Mitrovic continues fine scoring form as Al-Hilal win again

Mighty Mitrovic continues fine scoring form as Al-Hilal win again
  • Win also extended Al-Hilal’s winning streak to amazing 21 games in all competitions

RIYADH: Aleksandar Mitrovic’s two goals sent Al-Hilal on their way to a 3-1 win over Al-Raed on Sunday, restoring the side’s seven-point lead at the top of the Roshn Saudi League above local rivals Al-Nassr.

The win also extended Al-Hilal’s winning streak to an amazing 21 games in all competitions.

Less than 24 hours after Cristiano Ronaldo gave Al-Nassr the lead against Al-Fateh for his 21st league goal of the season, Mitrovic, second in the goalscoring standings, scored his 18th after just two minutes. It signaled the start of a dominant performance from the Riyadh giants.

The Serbian striker was on hand at the near post as Salem Al-Dawsari galloped down the left, skipping past defenders, only for the ball to spill to Mitrovic to hook from close range. It was the first official goal to be scored at the newly built Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, the stadium that is now Al-Hilal’s new home.

Al-Dawsari certainly looked comfortable already in these state-of-the-art surroundings and continued to cause all kinds of problems down that side with his direct running and tricky football. He tried to set up Mitrovic more than once to no success but the next clear chance came after 19 minutes when the Asian Player of the Year found Malcom in the middle but the Brazilian fired just over the bar.

The second goal was not far away. After 27 minutes, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was brought down in the area by Mohammed Al-Dossary and Mitrovic stepped up to find the back of the net for the 19th time this season.

There seemed to be little chance of the visitors, who had won their last two league games, taking anything back to Buraidah as they barely threatened to get on the scoresheet. Any possibility was officially extinguished seven minutes after the restart. Ruben Neves floated over a free-kick from the right for Kalidou Koulibaly to head into the bottom corner for the Senegalese defender’s second goal since arriving from Chelsea last summer.

The points were then all but sealed, leading to a drop in intensity. Al-Raed, who stay in 14th, got their consolation in added time. Julio Tavares broke free and then, as he arrived in the area, slipped a pass to his right for Amir Sayoud to lift over goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

It did not dampen the spirits of the Al-Hilal fans. The team are next in action on Thursday when they can book a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League if they avoid a two-goal defeat at home to Sepahan of Iran.


US, Canada squads at the Twenty20 World Cup are a melting pot of nationalities

US, Canada squads at the Twenty20 World Cup are a melting pot of nationalities
Updated 7 sec ago
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US, Canada squads at the Twenty20 World Cup are a melting pot of nationalities

US, Canada squads at the Twenty20 World Cup are a melting pot of nationalities
  • The team provides a snapshot of US cricket at this formative stage, as Major League Cricket jostles for its place in a crowded sporting market
  • Canada will be led by the veteran left-armer spinner Saad bin Zafar, who was born in Pakistan
  • The US meet Canada in the tournament opener on June 1 and then there’ll be a step up for both teams in Group A

NEW YORK: The US cricket team which will co-host the Twenty20 World Cup may be a fitting cross-section of its country as a roster of migrants, a melting pot of nationalities and cultures.

The 15-man squad includes players born in India, Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa. Home-grown players include vice-captain Aaron Jones, who was born in Queens, and allrounder Steven Taylor, of Hialeah, Florida.

The team provides a snapshot of US cricket at this formative stage, as Major League Cricket jostles for its place in a crowded sporting market. The squad includes foreign players drawn to America by the MLC and local players given the chance to play cricket at a professional level in the United States

The home team’s most recognized member is the former New Zealand allrounder Corey Anderson. The 33-year-old Anderson played 13 Tests, 49 one-day internationals and 31 T20 internationals for New Zealand between 2013 and 2018 in a career limited by injuries.

He earned a place in cricket history for his 36-ball century in a one-day international between New Zealand and the West Indies on New Year’s Day, 2014. Anderson also has played in T20 leagues in Australia, India, the Caribbean and UAE before finding an MLC home at the San Francisco Unicorns.

Anderson made his first half-century for the US in their T20 win over Canada last month.

Mumbai-born Harmeet Singh, who played for India at two Under-19 World Cups, was the star for the 19th-ranked US team earlier this week in an upset win over Bangladesh. It the only the second win over a full ICC member for the US

He scored 33 from the 13 deliveries he faced and shared an unbeaten, match-winning 62-run partnership with Anderson, who was unbeaten on 34.

“It means a lot to us to put on a show against Bangladesh. We are no walkovers,” Harmeet told ESPNcricinfo. “I think our potential is immense.”

The US meet Canada in the tournament opener on June 1 and then there’ll be a step up for both teams in Group A, which also includes India and Pakistan, fierce cricket rivals with enormous support, and Ireland.

Among the other foreign-born players on the US squad coached by ex-Australia batter Stuart Law is right-arm fast bowler Ali Khan, who moved with his parents from Pakistan to the US when he was 18.

He first played for the US team in 2016 and has also has played in the Indian Premier League, Caribbean Premier League and Pakistan Premier League, in Global T20 Canada and the Afghanistan Premier League.

Captain Monank Patel, a wicketkeeper-batsman, was born in India and settled in New Jersey after moving permanently to the US in 2016. He played at a junior level for Gujarat in India and played the first of his 47 one-day internationals and 23 T20 internationals for the US in 2019.

Andries Gous, another wicketkeeper-batsmen, was born in Welkom, South Africa, played for South Africa at under-19 level and played 60 first-class matches before relocating to the US in 2021. He and Patel were the highest scorers for the US in the recent five-match series against Canada.

Allrounder Milind Kumar is another India-born player who accumulated nine centuries in 60 first-class appearances for Delhi before making his home in the US

The Canada team scheduled to meet the US in the opening match is also a team drawn from many places and shaped by the evolution of a professional league at home.

Canada will be led by the veteran left-armer spinner Saad bin Zafar, who was born in Pakistan. He moved to Canada to study and was first named in the Canadian T20 team in 2008. Now 37, he has played 38 T20 internationals and once took two wickets without conceding a run in four overs in a T20 against Panama.

Jamaica-born batter Aaron Johnson, Pakistan-born left-arm fast bowler Kaleem Sana and Guyana-born right-arm quick Dillon Heyliger reflect the international makeup of the team which is coached by former Sri Lanka international Pubudu Dassanayake.
 


Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries

Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries

Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries
  • They will collaborate on ways to achieve sustainable growth of the sport, enhance the standard of football, and facilitate exchange of expertise between players and coaches
  • The agreement also includes plans for talent-discovery networks, cultural-exchange events, and friendly matches between Japanese and Saudi clubs

RIYADH: The Saudi Pro League and Japan’s Professional Football League have signed an agreement to cooperate on ways to develop the sport in both countries.

To achieve this they will work with teams in both leagues and collaborate on ways to achieve sustainable growth of the sport, enhance the standard of football, facilitate the exchange of experiences and resources between players and coaches, and establish an effective system for communication about technical and administrative matters.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of a Saudi-Japanese business forum by the vice chair of the SPL’s board of directors, Saad Allazeez, and Yoshokaze Ninomura of the J.League.

Allazeez said the agreement reflects the SPL’s transformation strategy and added: “This partnership will open new horizons for exchanging experiences and promoting the continuous development in the field of football between the two countries.

“We look forward to working with our counterparts in Japan to raise the level of the game at all levels.”

The agreement also includes support for the continued growth and development of SPL and J.League through workshops and conferences to consider ideas for strengthening football infrastructure, cooperation in talent-discovery networks to help identify and nurture stars of the future, cultural-exchange events that celebrate the diverse cultures of the two countries and enhance the global appeal of football, and friendly matches between Japanese and Saudi clubs.


Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run

Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run
Updated 23 May 2024
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Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run

Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run
  • Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final since 1975 to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy

DUBLIN: Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick as Atalanta ended Bayer Leverkusen’s 51-match unbeaten run to win the Europa League final 3-0 on Wednesday and claim their first trophy for 61 years.
Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final since 1975 to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy.
“One of the best nights of my life. Amazing performance from the team,” said Lookman.
“We’ve got to celebrate, we made history tonight.”
The side from Bergamo have long lived in the shadow of nearby giants AC and Inter Milan.
However, they have enjoyed a golden era under Gian Piero Gasperini, reaching the Champions League on four occasions, and now have silverware to show for it.
Leverkusen have made a habit of late fightbacks in their remarkable run to winning a first ever Bundesliga title without tasting defeat.
But this time they failed to dig themselves out of a hole created by a slow start.
“It’s a shame that the time it didn’t work out for us was in a final,” said Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka.
“It’s bitter, definitely, we lost a final today but we go on and we’ll make up for it on Saturday (in the German Cup final).
Atalanta’s more purposeful play in the opening stages was rewarded after just 12 minutes.
Davide Zappacosta got to the by-line and Lookman caught Exequiel Palacios napping to fire into the top corner at the back post.
The Nigerian has at times endured a nomadic career, bouncing around the lower reaches of the Premier League on loan spells at Fulham and Leicester after being discarded by RB Leipzig.
But Lookman has found a home in Bergamo, where he will now forever be a hero.

The 26-year-old’s second goal was fit to win any final as he nutmegged Xhaka before curling a powerful shot into the far corner.
Leverkusen’s flying full-backs have been at the heart of their stunning season and should have got them back in the game either side of half-time.
Alex Grimaldo fired tamely into the arms of Juan Musso before Jeremie Frimpong blazed over with the goal gaping.
Leverkusen were also denied a lifeline when Gianluca Scamacca was lucky to escape with a yellow card for wild challenge on Florian Wirtz.
For the fourth time in seven Europa League knockout matches, Xabi Alonso’s men found themselves 2-0 down.
Alonso has enjoyed a rapid rise to become one of Europe’s hottest coaching properties.
The Spaniard has rejected the advances of former clubs Liverpool and Bayern Munich to remain at the BayArena next season.
However, Alonso’s decision to start without a recognized striker did not work and he threw on Victor Boniface at half-time to give his side a focal point up front.
The damage, though, was already done as the German champions looked a side drained by their record run across three competitions.
Atalanta were happy to soak up the Leverkusen pressure after the break and hit on the counter-attack.
The final blow was another fabulous finish from Lookman as he skipped past Edmond Tapsoba and this time blasted into the top corner on his weaker left foot.
Atalanta had lost all three of their previous finals under Gasperini, most recently in last week’s Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus.
But this time they were not to be denied their shot at history as they were roared across the finishing line by the thousands clad in blue and black that had made the trip from northern Italy to the Irish capital.
In doing so they became the first Italian side to win the competition since Parma lifted the UEFA Cup in 1999.


Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win

Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win
Updated 22 May 2024
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Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win

Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win
  • The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Djokovic as a cake with candles was brought out onto the court

GENEVA: Novak Djokovic celebrated his 37th birthday on Wednesday with a much-needed win as he gears up for his French Open title defense, progressing to the Geneva quarter-finals.
The world number one downed Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3 in the second round at the Parc des Eaux-Vives grounds.
Djokovic took a wild card to play in Geneva in a bid to rescue an alarming dip in form ahead of next week’s French Open, the second Grand Slam of the year.
The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Djokovic as a cake with candles was brought out onto the court following his win.
He lifted the cake and showed it off to the crowd, having a nibble before offering some to the ball boys and girls.


Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener

Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener
Updated 22 May 2024
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Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener

Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener
  • Match was supposed to be launchpad for England’s defense next month of T20 World Cup title
  • Both teams will now meet each other on Saturday at Edgbaston in second of four-match series 

Leeds, United Kingdom: Persistent rain saw the first Twenty20 international between England and Pakistan at Headingley on Wednesday abandoned without a ball being bowled.

The match was meant to be the launchpad for reigning champions England’s defense next month of their T20 World Cup title in the Caribbean and the United States.

But a heavy and lengthy downpour in Leeds led the umpires to call the game off approximately an hour before the scheduled 17:30 GMT start.

The four-match series against Pakistan, the team England beat to win the 2022 T20 World Cup final in Melbourne, will now continue at Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground on Saturday before games next week in Cardiff and at the Oval.

England were also the defending champions heading into last year’s 50-over World Cup in India but Jos Buttler’s men suffered a tame exit, losing six of their nine matches.

The Pakistan T20 series could see the return to international duty of England fast bowler Jofra Archer. Injuries have blighted the quick’s career, with elbow and back problems sidelining the 29-year-old from top-level cricket for 14 months.