Hamdallah outshines Benzema as Al-Ittihad win

Hamdallah outshines Benzema as Al-Ittihad win
The win keeps the Tigers in fifth, a point behind Al-Taawoun in fourth and six behind local rivals Al-Ahli in third. (X:@ittihad)
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Updated 19 February 2024
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Hamdallah outshines Benzema as Al-Ittihad win

Hamdallah outshines Benzema as Al-Ittihad win

Superstar Karim Benzema may have returned to action for Al-Ittihad on Sunday, but it was Abderrazak Hamdallah who grabbed the goals and the headlines in a 2-0 win over Al-Riyadh in Jeddah.

The Moroccan marksman, who ended up as the top scorer in the Roshn Saudi League last season, struck in each half to give the defending champions a second successive win that was much-needed after three league defeats in a row. 

The win keeps the Tigers in fifth, a point behind Al-Taawoun in fourth and six behind local rivals Al-Ahli in third.

It was a top-class showcase of striking ability from Hamdallah. He opened the scoring in fine fashion after just 12 minutes, after being found in the corner of the area by Madallah Al-Olayan. 

There was still much to do for the 33-year-old, who then curled home a beauty that struck the inside of the far post and ended up in the back of the net. It was the kind of goal scored by a striker full of confidence.

Benzema came close midway through the first half with a fierce shot from just inside the area that was pushed away by Riyadh’s Uruguayan goalkeeper Martin Campana.

Hamdallah came even closer just after the half hour, volleying over from close range following a perfectly lifted pass into the box from Fabinho. 

Al-Riyadh, who stay in 15th after the loss and just a point above the relegation zone, offered little threat in the first half and almost fell further behind before the break as Benzema’s free kick looked to be creeping in at the bottom corner before Campana clawed it away.

In the second-half, Al-Ittihad continued to have the better chances, but slowly the visitors from the capital started to look more threatening and came close to an equalizer with 12 minutes remaining from a free kick that was headed just over the bar. 

Al-Riyadh almost snatched a point in the 90th minute as Knowledge Musona headed Mohammed Al-Aqel’s cross just wide.

Hamdallah settled the game as a contest in the 97th minute with a fine goal. With Campana in the Al-Ittihad half from a corner, the striker lobbed the ball into an empty net from the halfway line and that was that.

Al-Ittihad are next in action on Thursday against Navbahor in the Asian Champions League. After a 0-0 draw last week in Uzbekistan in the round of 16 clash, any victory will send the Tigers into the quarterfinals.


Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards

Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards
Updated 1 min 1 sec ago
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Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards

Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards
  • ‘I want to work hard to keep my name in history of football — there’s lots still to do; I’m far from what I want to achieve,’ says Mbappe
  • The awards recognize European football excellence, both on and off the field

SARDINIA: PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso and FC Barcelona star Lamine Yamal were among the winners at the inaugural King Abdullah Financial District Globe Soccer Awards Europe.
Tuesday’s ceremony at Hotel Cala di Volpe in Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, marked the first European edition of the awards, which have been held in Dubai for the past 14 years.
With shortlists for five of the 10-plus honors decided by a fan vote earlier this month, a star-studded jury of football luminaries selected the final winners. The awards recognize European football excellence, both on and off the field.
Industry representatives and players past and present attended this week’s event, including FC Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski, three-time Champions League winner Fernando Morientes, former England manager Fabio Capello and the coach of the current Italian national side, Luciano Spalletti.
Mbappe, whose contract with his Parisian club expires at the end of June, took to the stage amid loud applause to collect the KAFD Best Player award.
“It’s an honor to be here — I see some great players, managers, legends. It’s always great to see everybody recognize your game. I want to thank my club; I know my president is here,” said the French striker.
“It’s always a pleasure to be a part of this event. It is part of my journey. I want to work hard to keep my name in the history of football. There is a lot still to do and I am far away from what I want to achieve, but I will start this summer with the Euros.”
The star’s moment in the spotlight came minutes after Alonso, who led his Leverkusen side to an undefeated domestic double and the final of the Europa League, received Best Coach from Pedro Proenca, president of Liga Portugal.
“It has been a real pleasure to see old colleagues and friends here tonight in this beautiful setting,” said Alonso. “I’m proud to receive this award, not just for myself but for all Bayer Leverkusen. What we have lived this year has been phenomenal, a fantastic journey. It felt special since the beginning, all the connections we created with the fans, the players, the staff. We’ve been able to have a dream season.”
The Emerging Player award was won by FC Barcelona’s 16-year-old winger Yamal, who scored five goals and notched up eight assists in 37 La Liga appearances this season. Xavier Puig, the Barcelona director responsible for women’s football, collected the Best Women’s Club award on behalf of FC Barcelona Femeni. Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano received Best Men’s Club on behalf of the UK Premier League champions.
All five winners — Mbappe, Alonso, Yamal, FC Barcelona and Manchester City — also received a gold “Road to Dubai” medal from His Excellency Saeed Hareb, secretary general of Dubai Sports Council, confirming their qualification for the year-ending Dubai Globe Soccer Awards which will take place this winter in the UAE.
Other Globe Soccer winners included Atalanta, who received the Revelation Award after winning the Europa League and qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League, and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chairman of the European Clubs Association and president of PSG, who collected the Football Leadership Award. Cesc Fabregas accepted the Comeback Award on behalf of Como after his Lombardy side was promoted to Serie A for the first time in 21 years, and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta received Best Coach Premier League from former Gunner Fabregas after leading his swashbuckling side to within just two points of the title.
A host of career awards were also distributed during the evening, with Spalletti and Gianluigi Buffon both collecting a coach and player award respectively, while Karl-Heinz Rummenigge collected a Special Career Award recognizing his work with Bayern Munich, formerly as CEO and now as a member of the club’s supervisory board. A posthumous Special Career Award was also given to Italian striker Gigi Riva, who died earlier this year at the age of 79. It was collected by his son, Nicola.
“It has been a long journey to reach this point, but I am extremely proud to see the European football industry come out to recognize and celebrate the continent’s top-performing protagonists,” said Tommaso Bendoni, founder and CEO of Globe Soccer.
“When we created the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards 14 years ago, we had an ambitious vision that is now coming to fruition. It is testament to the growing reputation of the Globe Soccer brand that we have attracted so many of European football’s biggest names to join us for this historic event in Costa Smeralda.”
Shortly before the KAFD Globe Soccer Awards Europe, the first in-person, end-of-season La Liga Awards took place, with Spanish football celebrating a thrilling 2023-24 season.
Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham won Best Player after an incredible debut season in which the Englishman netted 19 goals and laid on six assists in only 28 games. Yamal won Best U23 Player and Jesus Areso of Osasuna won Best Goal for his strike from close to the corner flag against Getafe. Best Coach was won by Michel after he oversaw Girona climb from 10th to third in just 12 months.
KAFD Globe Soccer Awards Europe Edition 2024 winners:
Best Player: Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)
Best Coach: Xabi Alonso (Bayer Leverkusen)
Emerging Player: Lamine Yamal (FC Barcelona and Spain)
Best Men’s Club: Manchester City
Best Women’s Club: FC Barcelona
Best Coach Premier League: Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Revelation Award: Atalanta
Football Leadership Award: Nasser Al-Khelaifi (PSG and European Clubs Association)
Comeback Award: Cesc Fàbregas (Como)
Special Career Award: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Special Career Award: Gigi Riva
Coach Career Award: Luciano Spalletti
Player Career Award: Gianluigi Buffon
Sportsmanship Award: Gianluca Pessotto

Official La Liga Awards 2024:
La Liga EA SPORTS Champion: Real Madrid
Best U23 Player: Lamine Yamal (FC Barcelona)
Best Coach: Michel (Girona)
Best Goal: Jesus Areso (Osasuna)
Best Player: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)
Team of the Season: Unai Simon, Daniel Carvajal, Ronald Araujo, Antonio Rudiger, Miguel Gutierrez; Aleix Garcia, İlkay Gundogan, Federico Valverde, Isco, Jude Bellingham, Savio, Griezmann, Robert Lewandowski, Artem Dovbyk and Vini Jr.


Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents

Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents
Updated 29 May 2024
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Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents

Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents
  • This Dortmund team are different, though. They are built around older players making the most of second chances after career setbacks
  • “We have our own story,” coach Edin Terzic said

DORTMUND: Borussia Dortmund are world soccer’s finishing school no longer.
A club renowned for readying talented youngsters like Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland for the big stage are now on that stage itself, facing Real Madrid — and Bellingham — in the Champions League final Saturday.
This Dortmund team are different, though. They are built around older players making the most of second chances after career setbacks.
“We have our own story,” coach Edin Terzic said Wednesday. “We have the story of ups and downs of the last years. We are one of the teams that is selling players by the end of the season. We are a team that builds up to compete every year, but now we are there, and we are facing teams that are built to win the Champions League.”
And then there’s Jadon Sancho.
The former England national team forward has revived his career since rejoining Dortmund on loan in January from Manchester United, where he hadn’t played since August amid a rift with manager Erik ten Hag.
The final at Wembley will be the last game of Sancho’s loan, but Dortmund hope they will also start fresh talks on keeping him.
“We are so proud, we are so happy that he’s in our team at the moment and I can see his smile every day, I can see his performance on the pitch every day,” sporting director Sebastian Kehl said.
“So, I think he will be very important for us on Saturday. He will show the world that Jadon Sancho is really back.”
Kehl said Dortmund plan “discussions” about the 24-year-old Sancho’s future, but only after Saturday’s game. “He’s still under contract with Man United, so nobody knows what’s going on there,” Kehl added. “We’re going to have discussions, but after the final.”
Sancho isn’t the only Dortmund player who has been rejected elsewhere. Defender Mats Hummels and midfielder Emre Can were both left out of the German national team squad for their home European Championship, and Sancho wasn’t picked for England.
The Champions League gives them the chance to show they remain competitive at the top level — and maybe even earn a dramatic recall for Euro 2024.
The 30-year-old Can suggested he and Sancho could be inspired by that rejection when they play against Madrid.
“He’s not happy about it, of course. Me also, I’m not in the German squad, I’m not happy about it,” Can said. “Of course, it gives you maybe the extra motivation to show the coaches in national teams that we deserve to be there. That’s what we will try on Saturday.”
Only two Dortmund players made the Germany squad for Euro 2024, including striker Niclas Füllkrug, who spent much of his career in the second division before finally breaking through at 29 with Werder Bremen and making his national team debut in 2022.
Forward Sébastien Haller is in the Champions League final less than two years on from a diagnosis of testicular cancer which left him needing chemotherapy and surgery before he returned to action with Dortmund. He’s seeking his second trophy of the season after scoring the winning goal in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast in February.
Dortmund do have some promising young players, but winger Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and striker Youssoufa Moukoko, both 19-year-olds, have typically been on the bench in the Champions League this season and 21-year-old American Gio Reyna was loaned out to Nottingham Forest.
There isn’t an obvious successor to Bellingham, who was sold for up to 130 million euros ($139 million at the time) to Madrid last year, or Haaland, who earlier moved to Manchester City for 60 million euros ($63 million at the time) and won the Champions League last year.
Sporting director Kehl himself has unfinished business in the Champions League. Dortmund are in the final for the first time since 2013, when they lost 2-1 to Bayern Munich, also at Wembley. Kehl, then a midfielder, was on the bench in that game.
Dortmund are coming off their worst Bundesliga season in nine years with a fifth-place finish, but have shown in the Champions League that their grizzled, battle-scarred squad can peak in crucial games. There’s been a healthy dose of luck, too, after Dortmund survived Paris Saint-Germain repeatedly hitting the post and crossbar in the semifinals.
A year after dropping the Bundesliga title in the final minutes of the season, Dortmund are aiming to end this campaign on a triumph.
“There is one more game left and it’s the biggest game in European club competition,” Terzic said. “This is waiting for us, and we have to show that we are ready to go for it.”


Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre

Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre
Updated 29 May 2024
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Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre

Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre
  • Before May had run its course, Laporta sacked the former Barca midfield great and appointed German coach Hansi Flick in his stead
  • “You will suffer — this is a very complicated place to be,” Xavi warned his successor

BARCELONA: At the end of April, Barcelona president Joan Laporta, choking with emotion, said he was “proud” to have Xavi Hernandez staying on as coach for next season.
Before May had run its course, Laporta sacked the former Barca midfield great and appointed German coach Hansi Flick in his stead.
Since the president was re-elected for his second spell in charge in March 2021, Barcelona have been without a coherent plan, running purely on vibes. It can only get you so far.
Selling off areas of the club and compromising future income to raise immediate funds for heavy transfer investment, Laporta opted for a get-success-quick strategy, with limited results.
Barcelona won the 2022/23 La Liga title for the first time since 2019, but they have still struggled in Europe.
This season everything fell to pieces, with Real Madrid storming to La Liga glory and Barcelona finishing the campaign trophyless.
“It’s fantastic news that Xavi is staying — the team we have, which is growing with many young talents, needs this stability,” said Laporta, weeks before performing a spectacular u-turn.
Xavi for his part did not mince his words about the challenges that faced Flick.
“You will suffer — this is a very complicated place to be,” Xavi warned his successor.
Barcelona’s ‘entorno’ — everything swirling around the club that increases pressure, from the media to the fans, to loose-lipped directors and former players chipping in — will stay the same.
However in hiring Flick, the club’s direction has changed.
The majority of their coaches have played for Barcelona — Xavi, Ronald Koeman, Luis Enrique, Pep Guardiola among others.
Flick on the other hand, has never played or coached in Spain, let alone at the club itself.
The 59-year-old’s greatest success was leading Bayern Munich to a sextuple in 2020, including an 8-2 humiliation of Barcelona, but he struggled with the German national team, becoming their first coach ever to be sacked.
Barca’s sporting director Deco warned in February that Barcelona should move away from their traditional “tiki-taka” style.
“The president agrees with me on this, a deep change is needed — there is a method that is worn out,” he said.
Flick’s style is attacking but more direct than Barcelona usually attempt to play, with more crossing.
The coach will be happy to work with Ilkay Gundogan, whom he appointed Germany captain, and Robert Lewandowski, a key player in his triumphant Bayern Munich side.
He boasts coaching experience which Xavi lacked, having only worked at Al-Sadd in Qatar before taking the reins at Camp Nou.
Flick tends to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, rather than Barcelona’s 4-3-3, although they are not far removed.
The club’s financial difficulties will be a key factor in whether the German can improve Barcelona’s fortunes.
After pivot Sergio Busquets left, Barcelona failed to adequately replace him, unable to afford Xavi’s main target, Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi.
With new champions and rivals Real Madrid set to sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe, keeping up with Los Blancos will be a hard task for any coach.


Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes

Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes
Updated 29 May 2024
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Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes

Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes
  • Ancelotti: First there is the joy of being here, then the concerns will come and the fear will come
  • Madrid, who also won the Spanish league and the Spanish Super Cup, are trying to win their sixth European Cup in 10 seasons, matching a feat the club also achieved from 1955-65

MADRID: Carlo Ancelotti is going into his eighth Champions League final, having won all but one of them.

He is the most successful coach in the competition thanks to four titles. He also lifted two European trophies as a player.

There is no lack of experience for the veteran Italian manager. But there is still plenty of anxiety and fear for Ancelotti ahead of yet another big game.

“It’s the same as it was the first time,” the 64-year-old Ancelotti said as Real Madrid entered the final week of preparations ahead of Saturday’s final against Borussia Dortmund in London.

“First there is the joy of being here, then the concerns will come and the fear will come,” he said. “But before they come we have to enjoy this week and I’m going to enjoy it. The cold sweat will arrive Saturday afternoon, it’s normal, I’m already prepared for it. And this team gives me a lot of confidence, I see them focused on the match, they are in Champions (League) mode.”

Ancelotti won the Champions League with Madrid in 2022 and 2014, and with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007. He lost the 2005 edition with AC Milan in a final in a penalty shootout against Liverpool after squandering a 3-0 lead.

His European triumphs as a player came with Milan in 1989 and 1990. He was also in the squad with Roma when it reached the 1984 final but he sat out injured.

Ancelotti said he will stick to his routine before the final at Wembley Stadium.

“I’m a bit superstitious but it’s very normal. I was told that it’s bad luck not to be superstitious,” he said. “I like to eat broccoli, salmon and pasta, and that’s what I’ll eat. Then I’ll have an hour’s nap, if I’m able to. And then I’ll start thinking about the match. Before the talk with the players, my heart will start to rise to 110 or 120 beats. It’ll stay up there until the start of the game, and when it starts it will go back to its normal rhythm.”

Ancelotti said some of his most memorable Champions League highlights are linked to his time with Madrid, including the incredible run in 2022, when it had to rally several times to make it to the final. He also mentioned the late comeback in the semifinal against Bayern Munich a few weeks ago, when Joselu scored in the 88th minute and in stoppage time.

Ancelotti said this season was especially difficult because of the long list of injuries to some of the team’s key players, including serious knee problems to Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militão and David Alaba. Also missing time because of injuries were Vinicius Junior, Jude Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.

“Attitude and commitment have been the key to overcoming all the problems we’ve had,” Ancelotti said. “That’s what allowed us to have a fantastic season.”

Madrid, who also won the Spanish league and the Spanish Super Cup, are trying to win their sixth European Cup in 10 seasons, matching a feat the club also achieved from 1955-65.

Ancelotti said he prides himself more about the way he has managed his locker rooms than his teams’ tactics over the years.

“Personal relationships are more important than professional relationships,” he said. “I’m not a psychologist but I’m experienced as I’ve worked for many years in locker rooms. I try to treat people with respect not only in tactical aspects but also in personal aspects. I’m in an environment with 50 people and I spend more time with them than with my wife and children. So if there are not good relationships and there is not a good atmosphere, then I’m not doing my job.”


FA doing ‘all we can’ to prevent repeat of Euro 2020 Wembley chaos in Champions League final

FA doing ‘all we can’ to prevent repeat of Euro 2020 Wembley chaos in Champions League final
Updated 28 May 2024
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FA doing ‘all we can’ to prevent repeat of Euro 2020 Wembley chaos in Champions League final

FA doing ‘all we can’ to prevent repeat of Euro 2020 Wembley chaos in Champions League final
  • There was also trouble at venues for the 2022 and 2023 Champions League finals, in Paris and Istanbul
  • The FA’s director of tournaments and events said: “We are doing all we can to ensure fans have a smooth arrival process and nice experience as they come to the stadium“

LONDON: England’s governing Football Association said Tuesday it had invested £5 million ($7 million) in improving safety and infrastructure at Wembley in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the violence that marred the climax of the Euro 2020 showpiece when the London ground stages this weekend’s Champions League final.
An independent review identified more than 20 “near-misses” that could have led to serious injury or death as a consequence of ticketless individuals trying to gain entry, and in some cases succeeding, for the England v Italy match in July 2021.
There was also trouble at venues for the 2022 and 2023 Champions League finals, in Paris and Istanbul.
Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and Spanish giants Real Madrid will meet in this season’s final at Wembley on Saturday, with officials promising they will have a “robust and comprehensive testing plan” in place for digital ticketing and safety checks.
Chris Bryant, the FA’s director of tournaments and events, said: “We are doing all we can to ensure fans have a smooth arrival process and nice experience as they come to the stadium.”
The FA, which has tested new methods at the League Cup and FA Cup finals, said fans would be able to enter Wembley four hours before Saturday’s kick-off, rather than two, with Transport for London running extra services to help manage the flow of fans to and from the ground.
Bryant accepted that, following the coronavirus pandemic, the supply of stewards was a major issue at the Euro 2020 final, insisting Saturday’s match would see “the highest ever stewarding deployment in Wembley Stadium history.”
“One thing in the Euros final was very much the supply of stewarding, which I can say was at a low point off the back of Covid,” he said. “We’re very confident the supply of stewarding which you’ve seen in the industry has bounced back.”
He added: “We’ve increased the strength of all the doors because at the Euros final people tried to rip the doors. Those doors are locked with a magnetic lock system and we’ve put a further lock system on every door around the stadium.
“We never foresaw events like that for the Euros final and I’m not sure we will again but we’ve learned lessons and additional measures have been implemented.”