Kante sees red as Al-Hilal take a step toward Asian Champions League semi-finals

Kante sees red as Al-Hilal take a step toward Asian Champions League semi-finals
Hilal’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ittihad’s N’Golo Kante contest possession in the first leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-final, Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Mar. 5, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 March 2024
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Kante sees red as Al-Hilal take a step toward Asian Champions League semi-finals

Kante sees red as Al-Hilal take a step toward Asian Champions League semi-finals
  • Riyadh side defeat Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Ittihad 2-0 in the first leg of the tie thanks to first-half goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Salem Al-Dawsari
  • Hugely difficult task of finding a way back into the game became almost impossible for the visitors from Jeddah when Kante was sent off midway through the second half

Salem Al-Dawsari was the star of the show and N’Golo Kante was sent off as Al-Hilal defeated Al-Ittihad 2-0 in the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, moving them a step closer to a fifth continental title.

Two goals in the final few minutes of the first half did all the damage in this “Saudi Classico” at the Kingdom Arena. Aleksandar Mitrovic opened the scoring from the penalty spot and two minutes later, Al-Dawsari added a second.

The hugely difficult task of finding a way back into the game became almost impossible for the visitors from Jeddah when Kante was sent off midway through the second half for a dangerous tackle on former Chelsea colleague Kalidou Koulibaly. The Tigers did end strongly, however, to perhaps give themselves a little hope for the second leg next week.

“It was a difficult game today, Ittihad are a good team,” said Koulibaly. “We got two goals in the first half and then we tried to control the game but it was difficult with their counterattack. But to win 2-0 at home is a good result and we will wait until the second game.”

This Champions League clash came just four days after Al-Hilal defeated Al-Ittihad 3-1 at home to go nine points clear of closest rivals Al-Nassr at the top of the Roshn Saudi League. It was their 25th straight win in all competitions and Tuesday’s result, similarly comfortable, extended the run to an incredible 26 games.

Al-Dawsari was a constant threat. After just seven minutes, the Asian Player of the Year lifted the ball over Saad Al-Mosa on the edge of the area but shot just wide.

Al-Ittihad had their chances, too. Eight minutes later, for example, the lively Abderrazak Hamdallah cut in from the left and skipped past two defenders, but his low shot from a tight angle was saved by Mohammed Al-Owais, all of whom’s appearances this season have been in the continental competition. From the resultant corner, Ahmed Hegazi blasted the ball over the bar.

Eight minutes before the break, Mitrovic went down in the area under a challenge from Madallah Al-Olayan. The penalty was given and the Serbian strolled up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Minutes later, the lead was extended. Malcom broke free down the right and squared the ball across to the penalty spot, where Al-Dawsari was waiting to sweep it home and then perform the celebratory somersault Al-Hilal fans know so well.

The visitors were shell-shocked and knew that conceding a third goal could doom their dreams of a third Asian Champions League triumph, and their first since 2005. They tried to get back into the game but struggled to do so, and things became worse shortly after the hour mark when Kante received his marching orders for his challenge on Koulibaly while stretching for the ball.

From that point on, it seemed like a case of damage limitation for Al-Ittihad. Indeed, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who has been in fine form of late, had a chance to make it three when he tried his luck with a bouncing half-volley from outside the box, to no avail.

Overall however, when Al-Hilal had the chance to put the tie beyond the reach of their Jeddah rivals they failed to make the most of their one-man advantage.

Indeed, the game could have ended very differently indeed. With seven minutes remaining, the visitors had perhaps their best chance of the match. Marwan Al-Sahafi sent over over a cross from the right that found Hegazi unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, but the Egyptian defender could not quite find the power or direction he needed and his header was comfortably saved by Al-Owais.

The Tigers went even closer just before the end of regulation time. First Al-Sahafi fed Hamdallah in the area and Moroccan marksman’s first touch took him past Koulibaly. His second touch was a shot that seemed destined for the bottom corner of the net, only for Al-Owais to get down quickly and make a fine save.

These late scares were perhaps a warning for the hosts that the tie is not over yet. But given Al-Hilal’s incredible form, it is hard to imagine that they might slip up and fail to reach the final four, where they would face either Al-Ain of the UAE or Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr, who lost the first leg of their tie 1-0, away from home, on Monday.


Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title
Updated 11 sec ago
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Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title
  • Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14
  • Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91

CHENNAI: Mitchell Starc bowled a sensational opening spell to fire Kolkata Knight Riders to their third Indian Premier League title with a eight-wicket thrashing of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Sunday final.
Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14 to live up to his top billing in the world’s most lucrative T20 tournament.
Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction and ended the IPL with two stellar performances, including a match-winning 3-34 in the first play-off to hammer the same opponent.
Kolkata’s batsmen had it easy and despite Sunil Narine’s early departure, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who made 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, on 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91.
Iyer, a left-handed batsman, reached his 50 in 24 balls and hit the winning runs to trigger celebrations for Kolkata, who remained the most dominant team after they ended top of the table with 20 points in the league phase.
Skipper Shreyas Iyer was unbeaten on six, and at the other end, when Kolkata players came rushing on to the pitch and the stadium fireworks went off.
“My mom is watching from home,” said Afghanistan’s Gurbaz, who left the tournament midway through to be with his ailing mother back home and returned for the play-offs.
“She is feeling good now. I asked mom before the match if she wanted anything. She said just the win,” added the wicket-keeper-batsman.
“This win is for the fans who turned up year after year and waited for ten years,” Venkatesh said on his team’s first title win since 2014.
Kolkata’s co-owner and Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan was in attendance and congratulated his champion players after he suffered from a heat-related illness in the first qualifier in Ahmedabad.
It was Kolkata’s second title triumph at the venue, after they won their first trophy in 2012, and a near-capacity crowd at the 36,000-seater stadium cheered on.
Apart from the big signing of Starc, they got Gautam Gambhir as mentor after the former India batsman led the team to two titles.
Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat first and go with his team’s strength of scoring big, after they racked up IPL record totals of 277 and 287 in this year’s edition.
Hyderabad took Cummins for $2.5 million in the same auction and made him captain after he led Australia to two titles, including the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year.
But Starc took the limelight as he struck in his first over when he bowled in-form Indian batsman Abhishek Sharma, for two, on a delivery that pitched in the middle and caught the top of off stump.
Travis Head followed his fellow left-hand opener Abhishek to the dug-out, caught behind for his second duck in three matches off fast bowler Vaibhav Arora.
Starc struck again and the opposition top-order was in disarray at 47-4 inside seven overs.
Andre Russell took down Aiden Markram for 20 and wickets kept tumbling as fellow South African Heinrich Klaasen fell for 16.
Cummins, who was dropped on 10 by Starc, took the team past 100 before falling for 24 off Russell, who ended with figures of 3-19.


WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah

WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah
Updated 28 min 6 sec ago
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WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah

WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah
  • WWE makes history with double-header in Red Sea city
  • Superdome filled as 20,000 people cheered for their favorite WWE stars

JEDDAH: WWE made a historic return to Saudi Arabia with the double-header of “SmackDown” and “King and Queen of the Ring” this weekend at Jeddah’s Superdome.

Superstars such as Sami Zayn, Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Logan Paul performed in front of thousands of fans at the Jeddah venue.

The historic double-header showcased WWE’s commitment to its partnership with the General Entertainment Authority, with this being the tenth event of the partnership.

In total, 20,000 passionate fans flooded the arena, marking a historic moment in WWE’s legacy in the Kingdom.

Gunther, a WWE Superstar, who defeated Randy Orton and became the King Of The Ring on Saturday evening told Arab News that Saudi fans always display an immense level of passion and enthusiasm whenever WWE visits the Kingdom.

Syrian Canadian WWE SuperStar Sami Zayn, who is much loved in Saudi Arabia because of his Arab background, told Arab News: “It’s always good to be back in Jeddah. Especially after last year (“The Night of Champions”), which was amazing, it was my first time back here in a few years. I'm just always excited to perform in front of these fans because they’re very, very excited fans, and they have been particularly nice to me.”

He continued: “I plan on successfully defending the Intercontinental Championship in front of my people.”

Sami won the title match and defended his title against both Chad Gable and Bronson Reed in a Triple Threat Match.

It was a festive feel for fans, as they enjoyed the complete WWE fan experience.

Aziz, who is a Saudi pro wrestler and owner of Future Federation Wrestling, said: “We are pumped, we are hyped to be here tonight, my favorite wrestler is the ‘American Nightmare,’ undisputed champion, Cody Rhodes — I want to thank GEA for making tonight special.”

Khalid, a teenage fan from the Kingdom who attended with his family, said: “I am very excited to see my favorite wrestlers, I want to thank the GEA for organizing this event.”

As the final bell rang and the last fireworks faded in the world’s largest geodesic dome, fans left with lifetime memories of witnessing a historic double-header. For one magical evening, WWE had transported them to a world of excitement, drama, and pure adrenaline.

WWE is renowned globally for its larger-than-life production values, and Jeddah’s historic double-header of “Smackdown” and “King and Queen of the Ring” was no exception.

WWE is taking its sports entertainment offering worldwide and plans to visit more destinations in the Middle East and Europe. Recently the company announced an inaugural tour to Berlin with their upcoming “WWE Bash” event in August this year.


‘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.


Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix
Updated 26 May 2024
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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc wins first home F1 Monaco Grand Prix
  • McLaren’s Oscar Piastri followed the man from Monaco across the line with Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari in third

MONTE CARLO: Charles Leclerc finally broke his Monaco Grand Prix curse on Sunday as Red Bull had an off weekend with Max Verstappen sixth and Sergio Perez crashing out on the first lap.
Leclerc ended years of frustration at his home race by taking the jewel in the Formula One calendar from pole at his third attempt.
A tearful Leclerc said: “No words can explain this. It means a lot, it’s the race that made me dream of becoming a F1 driver.
“Tonight is going to be a big night!“
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri followed the man from Monaco across the line with Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari in third.
Leclerc had started at the front of the grid at the circuit he used to travel along on the bus to school as a kid in 2021 and 2022 only for misfortune to stop him winning on both occasions.
With Ferrari now a much smoother run ship under Fred Vasseur this was a far slicker Ferrari team than then, and Leclerc dictated the pace perfectly from the front, until the end of the first lap.
That was when the red flag had to come out to stop the race after a three car pile-up with Perez’s Red Bull ripped apart.
Perez spun after being hit hard from behind by Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
Nico Hulkenberg in the other Haas was a third innocent casualty.
The race on the narrow streets of the Principality was interrupted for around 30 minutes to allow debris to be cleared off the circuit.
All three crash victims were missing at the restart along with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who joined this unhappy group of onlookers after he was forced to retire following a tangle with his team-mate Pierre Gasly.
Leclerc escaped all the drama and led for the rest of the race to claim a hugely popular success.
With three-time world champion Verstappen only sixth, Leclerc moved to within 31 points of the Dutchman ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.


Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences

Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences
Updated 26 May 2024
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Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences

Countdown to glory: Riyadh Season’s ‘5 vs. 5’ boxing spectacle set to thrill global audiences
  • Russian powerhouse Dmitry Bivol leads the pack as fight world’s biggest names prepare for Kingdom Arena showdown

RIYADH: In a thrilling culmination of Riyadh Season festivities, boxing enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the “5 vs. 5” global showdown at the Kingdom Arena next Saturday. 

Featuring a stellar lineup of top boxers from around the world, the spectacle promises to deliver unparalleled excitement and fierce competition. 

Leading the pack is Russian powerhouse Dmitry Bivol, a dominant force in the ring and holder of the World Boxing Association super light-heavyweight title since 2017.

Joining him is British fighter Hamzah Sheeraz, the reigning Commonwealth and WBC Silver middleweight champion, alongside American prodigy Austin Williams, the top-ranked amateur boxer on the US team.

The roster boasts an array of international talent, including Libyan champion Malik Zinad, holder of the WBA Mediterranean continental championship, and Chinese fighter Zhilei Zhang, ranked among the world’s top heavyweights. 

Big names such as Deontay Wilder from the US, British pro Daniel Dubois, Filip Hrgovic from Croatia, Willie Hutchinson from Scotland, and British champions Craig Richards and Nick Ball round out the formidable lineup, promising a showcase of skill and athleticism that is sure to captivate audiences worldwide.

The high-profile fight showdown highlights Riyadh Season’s commitment to positioning the Saudi capital as a premier global destination. Drawing spectators from all corners of the globe, it affirms the capital’s growing prominence on the international stage, and reinforces the city’s reputation as a hub for world-class entertainment and sporting excellence.