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

Al-Hilal coach Jorge Jesus said the club's 2023-24 SPL campaign could be the best in their 66-year-history. (Supplied/SPL)
Al-Hilal coach Jorge Jesus said the club's 2023-24 SPL campaign could be the best in their 66-year-history. (Supplied/SPL)
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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.


Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix
Updated 5 sec ago
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Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix
  • Jaguar driver finished third in last season’s Formula E final standings
  • Mitch Evans: I need to have a good weekend if I want to have a really good shot at the drivers’ title

RIYADH: Jaguar driver Mitch Evans is under no illusions he needs to perform strongly at the upcoming Portland E-Prix races if he wants to become Formula E world champion this season.

The New Zealander goes into the double-header races in the US on June 29-30 on the back of his triumph at the Shanghai E-Prix opener, and sits 35 points adrift of team-mate and championship leader Pascal Wehrlein.

With four races to go, and with races in Portland next weekend and London at the end of July, Evans is acutely aware he needs to pick up points and build on his second victory of the campaign.

He said: “Portland is going to be a big weekend for a lot of things. Regardless of what happens to Nick or Pascal, I need to have a good weekend if I want to have a really good shot at the drivers’ title.

“With the teams, we have a healthy margin but there’s still a lot of opportunities for both teams to score well especially in Portland. Last year, the Porsche Powertrain really worked well there, and genuine pace-wise we were a little off so hopefully we have made some progress since then. London will be a good track for us so we just got to keep on doing what we have been doing.”

Meanwhile, Porsche’s Antonio Felix Da Costa, who won the second race in China, admits it will be difficult to mount a title bid but is determined to deliver strong results to help the team secure the constructors’ title.

He said: “With six races to go, there are still a lot of points up for grabs. We are a little far away from the leaders — it’s not totally impossible but it will be difficult. Pascal is up there and that is where the focus will likely be and also in the constructors — and important for both cars to score big points.”


Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win

Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win
Updated 13 min 9 sec ago
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Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win

Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win
  • Žan Karničnik’s 69th-minute goal put Slovenia on the brink of a historic win until substitute Luka Jović levelled deep in stoppage time
  • The goal sent the Serbia fans into raucous joy but also saw them throw flares and other objects onto the field

MUNICH: A late strike denied Slovenia a first ever win in a European Championship as Serbia snatched a 1-1 draw on Thursday.
Žan Karničnik’s 69th-minute goal put Slovenia on the brink of a historic win until substitute Luka Jović levelled deep in stoppage time.
The goal sent the Serbia fans into raucous joy but also saw them throw flares and other objects onto the field.
The equalizer was virtually the last action as the referee blew fulltime immediately after the players restarted. The Slovenia players collapsed to the ground in disappointment.
It also would have been their first win in a major tournament since victory over Algeria in the 2010 World Cup.
Slovenia play England in their final group match on Tuesday, when Serbia face Denmark. Serbia lost to England in their opener.
With both teams needing a win to boost their chances of progressing, the match started at a fast pace and Serbia goalkeeper Predrag Rajković had to make two early saves.
Those two shots on target in the first eight minutes were as many as Slovenia had in total in their draw with Denmark.
Serbia withstood the waves of Slovenia attacks and had their first chance in the 27th minute but Dušan Vlahović’s header was straight at goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Serbia went even closer moments later when Dušan Tadić whipped in a fabulous corner to the far post but Aleksandar Mitrović — who scored in his previous two matches against Slovenia — couldn’t get a proper touch.
The best chance of the half fell to Slovenia in somewhat fortunate circumstances. Timi Elšnik tried to pass to a teammate, but the ball came off a Serbia defender and fell kindly back to him for a thunderous effort which crashed off the right post. Benjamin Šeško fired the rebound woefully over.
Serbia started the second half with three great chances to break the deadlock inside the first five minutes, including Slovenia defender Jake Bijol almost scoring an own goal.
This tournament has seen plenty of stunning long-range goals and there was almost another in the 58th but Rajković did well to push Šeško’s strike over the bar.
Slovenia eventually broke the deadlock with a move started and finished by Žan Karničnik. The defender won the ball deep inside his own half and ran some 40 yards before picking out Elšnik on the left and racing into the box to collect the cross and tap home at the back post.
Serbia almost levelled immediately but Elšnik hit the crossbar.
Serbia threw everything at Slovenia in the final stages. Even Rajković came up for the final corner but it was Jović who leapt highest to head it past Oblak in the fifth minute of added time.


Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants

Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants
Updated 20 June 2024
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Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants

Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants
  • “We will ask UEFA for sanctions, even at the cost of not continuing the competition,” Serbia Football Association general secretary Jovan Surbatovic said
  • The Serbia FA condemned the “shameful racist behavior” of the Albanian and Croatian fans and said the match should have been suspended

BELGRADE: Serbia soccer officials threatened to quit the European Championship after they were offended by fan chants reportedly heard during the Albania-Croatia match.
The game on Wednesday ended 2-2 in Hamburg.
Serbia started their second group match against Slovenia on Thursday afternoon in Munich.
“What happened is scandalous and we will ask UEFA for sanctions, even at the cost of not continuing the competition,” Serbia Football Association general secretary Jovan Surbatovic said.
“We will request UEFA to punish the federations of both teams. We don’t want to participate in that, but if UEFA doesn’t punish them, we will think about how to proceed.”
In a separate statement on Thursday, the Serbia FA condemned the “shameful racist behavior” of the Albanian and Croatian fans and said the match should have been suspended as soon as the chants started.
“Such insulting of a nation with cries that they should be killed has not been seen at sports events for a long time,” the statement added.
UEFA was yet to react.
The animosity between Croatian and Albanian fans toward the Serbs, and vice versa, dates to the 1990s wars in the Balkans.
Serbian fans are notorious for their chants against the Croats and Albanians as well as racist shouts and vocal support of convicted war criminals responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
UEFA fined the Albanian and Serbian federations 10,000 euros ($10,700) each after their first group matches for fans displaying banners with nationalist maps.
Each federation is responsible for the conduct of its fans, and UEFA charged Serbia and Albania with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event.”
Albania fans displayed a banner with a map of their country extending its borders into the territory of neighboring countries. It was shown on Saturday during the 2-1 loss against Italy in Dortmund.
A Serbia fans banner included the territory of Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008, and a slogan, “No Surrender,” in the 1-0 loss against England in Gelsenkirchen.
UEFA has also launched an investigation into claims of monkey chants aimed at England players during the clash.


Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup

Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup
Updated 20 June 2024
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Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup

Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup
  • Afghanistan inflicted 84-run hammering upon New Zealand earlier this month
  • India under skipper Rohit Sharma remain unbeaten in ongoing T20 World Cup 

Bridgetown, Barbados: India coach Rahul Dravid warned his side will “not take Afghanistan lightly” in their second-round opener of the T20 World Cup in Barbados on Thursday.

India were unbeaten in the initial pool phase as they advanced into Super Eights featuring two groups of four.

Afghanistan, however, have also justified their billing as potential semifinalists.

They had already qualified for the Super Eights before an emphatic 104-run defeat by a rampant West Indies in St. Lucia on Monday in a clash of previously unbeaten teams, with Nicholas Pooran smashing 98 for the tournament co-hosts.

But Afghanistan did inflict an 84-run hammering upon New Zealand earlier in the competition.

And with India having needed two Super Overs to see off Afghanistan in a T20 match in Bengaluru in January, Dravid is well aware of the challenge awaiting his players at the Kensington Oval.

“We know Afghanistan is a very dangerous team in this format of the game,” former India batsman Dravid, 51 told a pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “They have shown that by their performances in this World Cup.

“They might not have a lot of international experience in the other formats of the game, but a lot of their players do play in a lot of T20 leagues, more than in fact some of our players do.

“So, certainly in this format they are not a team to be taken lightly. They are deservedly in the Super Eights.”

Much of Afghanistan’s success has been built on superb spin bowling, with Rashid Khan — who took four wickets for 17 runs against New Zealand in Guyana — leading the way.

But that same match also saw left-arm quick Fazalhaq Farooqi take 4-17, with New Zealand dismissed for just 75.

“They have a good bowling attack all round,” said Dravid. “Even their two pacers are quite experienced. Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq have both played a lot of cricket, they both swing the ball as well.

“I think their bowlers are some of the most sought-after bowlers in this format across the world.
“We understand that is going to pose a challenge to us and we are going to have to play well to counter that.”

Meanwhile Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott insisted Pooran’s furious assault could yet benefit his side against India.

“Pooran played a great knock,” said the former England batsman. “But other sides are going to have players of that calibre, who on their day can win matches like Pooran did. So, I think it’s a good thing that it’s happened.

“We’ve learned lessons and we’re going to put that right starting tomorrow (Thursday).”

Trott added the advent of T20 franchise cricket, spearheaded by the Indian Premier League, had led to improved relations between players that were “obviously very different from when I played.”

But the 43-year-old said the knowledge gained “works both ways.”

“We had nine, 10 players at the IPL. They will be able to share their knowledge of Indian players, and they’ll be able to do the same with our players,” explained Trott. “That’s the current state of world cricket.

“I think it’s in a good position, and it’s very healthy. And we’re in the middle of a World Cup and we’re in Barbados, so the world’s pretty good.”


New Asian champions to earn $12 million in prize money in club competition revamp

New Asian champions to earn $12 million in prize money in club competition revamp
Updated 20 June 2024
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New Asian champions to earn $12 million in prize money in club competition revamp

New Asian champions to earn $12 million in prize money in club competition revamp

HONG KONG: The winners of the new Asian Champions League Elite will pocket a minimum of $12 million, the Asian Football Confederation said on Wednesday in a major boost to club football in the region.

The competition, which kicks off with a preliminary round in August, is at the heart of a major revamp of club football across the continent and involves 27 clubs from 12 nations including Japan, South Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia.