Al-Nassr stumble again and fall out of title race

Special Al-Nassr stumble again and fall out of title race
Nassr’s Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo attempts a shot during the Saudi Pro League football match against Al-Raed, Al-Awal Park Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Mar. 7, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 08 March 2024
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Al-Nassr stumble again and fall out of title race

Al-Nassr stumble again and fall out of title race
  • Yellows pay heavy price for defensive lapses as home defeat to Al-Raed leaves Al-Hilal nine points clear at top of the table
  • With three minutes left Al-Nassr fell asleep at a short corner, giving Sayoud time to control the ball and stab home to close out the game

RIYADH: The title race is over after Al-Nassr were defeated 3-1 at home by Al-Raed on Thursday and all know the reason why. The team have not kept a clean sheet in the league in nine games and have conceded 33 goals already this season, the highest in the top eight and three times more than Al-Hilal, who are now nine points clear at the top with a game in hand.

The Yellows have conceded seven goals at home in their last two league games against teams in the bottom four. It is not, in short, the form of champions. Luis Castro’s men had plenty of chances, but were not able to get enough goals to overcome the problems at the other end.

Karim El-Berkaoui almost gave the visitors the lead in the 14th minute, running onto a through ball to force David Ospina to get down quickly at the near post to make the save.

It did not take the Moroccan long to find the back of the net, just four minutes, in fact. There was more poor defending, starting with Mohammed Al-Fatil as Julio Tavares went past him on the left as if he wasn’t there. The Cape Verdean forward drew Ospina out of his goal, pulled the ball back for Berkaoui, standing near the spot, to fire home his ninth league goal of the season into an unguarded net under a feeble challenge from Aymeric Laporte. 

As poor as the defending was, there is still attacking talent in the ranks of the Yellows. Six minutes later, Ronaldo almost grabbed a contender for the goal of the season. Marcelo Brozovic sent a curling cross from the right and Ronaldo, standing on the far edge of the six-yard box, sent a spectacular volley but had his hands on his head as it came back off the opposite post.  

The hands were instantly raised in celebration, however, as Yahya fired home the rebound to level the scoreline with his first league goal of the season. It was almost not for long as El-Berkaoui was soon given too much space to head just wide from the near post.

Eight minutes before the break Laporte steered a shot just wide after good work from Brozovic as the Riyadh club tried to get in front and then Ronaldo fired over a free-kick in added time. 

If it was a promising end to the first half, the second started in a nightmarish fashion. Amir Sayoud galloped down the right and his low ball along the 18-yard line found its way for Mohammed Fouzair, unmarked, to shoot high into the net.

Brozovic almost equalized soon after, with his curling shot bringing a diving save from Andre Moreira. Then Ronaldo stepped up, heading over from a good position at the far post and then twisting and turning on the left side to send a shot just wide of the opposite post. The hosts continued to go close, but just when it looked as if a goal was coming, the old defensive problems got in the way. 

With three minutes left Al-Nassr fell asleep at a short corner, giving Sayoud time to control the ball and then stab home. There were just enough minutes on the clock for Ronaldo to smack a free-kick against the bar. It was not his day or his team’s, and that was that, in the game and now the title race.

Earlier in the day, Al-Shabab lost 3-2 at home to Al-Feiha, thanks to a 98th-minute winner from Saud Zaydan, while Damac defeated Al-Wehda 1-0. Al-Hilal can extend their lead to 12 points on Friday if they defeat Al-Riyadh.


Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title

Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title
Updated 26 May 2024
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Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title

Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title
  • Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final
  • Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction

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.
“Great night for KKR. What a game, what a season,” player-of-the-match Starc said.
“Probably the two most exciting teams in the final. We have had a fantastic squad of bowlers and batters, our staff have been fantastic to get everyone peaking.”
On the pressure of his high price tag, 34-year-old Starc said: “There’s been jokes about the money. I am experienced, that’s helped with all the expectations.”
Players and national teams now move into the T20 World Cup starting June 1 in the West Indies and the United States.
Afghanistan’s Gurbaz, who left the tournament midway through to be with his ailing mother back home and returned for the play-offs, said: “My mom is watching from home.
“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.
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.
Narine, a left-hand batsman and a right-arm spinner, ended as the player of the series with 488 runs as an opener and 17 wickets.
Apart from the big signing of Starc, they got Gautam Gambhir as mentor after the former India batsman led the team to their first two titles, including in 2014.
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.
“So many (positives), the style with which the guys played especially with the bat. Lot of skills to get to 250 three times,” said Cummins.
“I loved how brave the guys were. It was a lot of fun, great season.”
But it was Starc who 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.


Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title
Updated 26 May 2024
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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 26 May 2024
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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.