Morocco crash out to Benin on penalties in Africa Cup of Nations last 16

Morocco's Hakim Ziyach. left, and M'brak Boussoufa leave pitch dejected after the African Cup of Nations round of 16 soccer match against Benin in Cairo. (AP)
Updated 06 July 2019
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Morocco crash out to Benin on penalties in Africa Cup of Nations last 16

CAIRO: Hakim Ziyech’s missed stoppage-time spot-kick proved extremely costly as 10-man Benin stunned Africa Cup of Nations title contenders Morocco in a penalty shootout Friday to reach the quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw in Cairo.
Moise Adilehou forced home at a corner early in the second half to put Benin on course for a shock win but Youssef En-Nesyri equalized for Morocco before Ajax star Ziyech blew the chance to snatch victory by striking the post from the spot in the 96th minute.
Benin were forced to play most of extra time a man down after Khaled Adenon received a second yellow card for dissent, but they prevailed 4-1 in the shootout following misses by Sofiane Boufal and En-Nesyri to set up a clash with Senegal or Uganda on July 10 for a spot in the semifinals.
“It’s not the right time to talk about anything,” said Morocco boss Herve Renard, after possibly his final game in charge. “I’m a bit ashamed in front of the (fans).”
Morocco suffered a troubled build-up to the tie at Al Salam Stadium with captain and key defender Medhi Benatia lost to injury while Benin were without forward Steve Mounie due to suspension.
The Atlas Lions had been clinical, determined and efficient so far in Egypt, mirroring the beliefs of Renard, the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with two countries.
Benin, winless in 12 previous matches in the competition, only scraped through to the knockout rounds on the back of three draws after holding both Ghana and reigning champions Cameroon.
En-Nesyri and Ziyech both produced saves in a dreary first half from Saturnin Allagbe, who kept his place in the Benin goal after replacing Fabien Farnolle for the final group game.
Younes Belhanda skewed wide for Morocco shortly after the restart but it was Benin who grabbed a surprise lead when Adilehou broke clear of his marker to turn in a corner on 54 minutes, the Squirrels’ first goal since their opening game in Egypt.
Substitute Boufal nearly levelled with his first touch after coming off the bench on the hour, meeting Nordin Amrabat’s cross with a downward header that skipped off the grass and flashed just over the top.
A mistake from Jordan Adeoti presented Morocco with the equalizer on 75 minutes, as he was caught in possession on the edge of his area by Mbark Boussoufa who squared for En-Nesyri to stroke beyond Allagbe.
Ziyech stung the palms of Allagbe with a free-kick while Boussoufa, who scored a last-gasp winner in the 1-0 victory over South Africa, also saw his set-piece superbly clawed away by the Benin ‘keeper.
After a quiet start to the tournament Ziyech looked destined to finally deliver when Benin captain Stephane Sessegnon upended Achraf Hakimi deep into stoppage time, but the winger smacked his spot-kick against the base of the post.
Adenon’s bizarre dismissal, ostensibly for brushing the referee away as he attempted to tend to a cramping team-mate, gave Morocco the numerical advantage but Ziyech again squandered an opportunity to send his side through as he blazed over a cutback from Boussoufa.
Morocco were left to count the cost of those misses as Boufal blazed over Morocco’s second attempt in the shootout before Allagbe tipped En-Neysri’s effort onto the bar, leaving Mama Seibou to fire Benin into the last eight.


Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Updated 20 August 2019
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Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

  • Dalma Malhas ‘honored’ to be part of national team
  • Equestrian star began riding aged four

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star Dalma Malhas is counting down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by competing in a series of crucial qualifying events.

Malhas, who has been riding since the age of four, told Arab News that she was honored to be part of the Saudi national team after “years of work and dedication.”

Next month she and her fellow showjumpers head to Morocco to take part in a series of qualifying events.

The 10th edition of the Morocco Royal Tour takes place in three cities — Tetouan, Rabat, and Eljadida —  on three consecutive weekends. The top two teams, based on their results, will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Malhas wants to be at the prestigious sporting event in Japan. 

“The work that has been done in the past few years will manifest itself now and I’m enjoying what I’ve been working on ... I believe in destiny and hard work,” she told Arab News. “Anything could happen, but I’m hopeful and trying to focus on peak performance because it is important that, when it comes to the horse and myself, we want to be there, energetic and motivated.”

She was the first female athlete from the Kingdom to compete at an Olympic-level event, riding at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 in Singapore and winning a bronze medal. She participated in the 14-18 age group, becoming only the third Saudi athlete to snag an Olympic medal.

She said it was easy to buy a horse that was already trained and compete with it. But the challenge for her was to get an inexperienced horse and train him from scratch.

“I dedicated time, effort and energy. I had a vision of how he could be and transformed him into a skilled and talented horse, and step-by-step I followed that. You build a strong partnership when you go through that process. It’s an affinity you can’t really buy. This is a very big part of horsemanship and one of my biggest achievements since the Youth Olympic Games. It’s priceless, having a combination and partnership like this.”

Malhas was born in 1992. Her mother, Arwa Mutabagani, is a prominent equestrian and has been a board member at the Saudi Equestrian Federation since 2008. She was also the first woman to be appointed to the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.

Malhas has had a thoroughly international upbringing. At 12 she moved with her mother from Saudi Arabia to Rome to train with her under Italy’s former showjumping national coach, Duccio Bartalucci, spending a decade under his tutelage.

After studying and training in Italy she joined a two-year professional program at the Fursan Equestrian Center in Chantilly, France. She has been training with Olympic champion Roger Yves Bost since 2016. 

She started 2019 by participating in several tournaments, crisscrossing Europe and gradually moving up the leaderboard. 

She has won several awards to date, including Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, and can be regarded as a pioneer and role model.

Malhas said there were great opportunities for Saudi women in the fields of sports and equestrianism. She talked about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan and how it empowered women. She also saw an opportunity to become more involved. 

“I want to give back too. I’ve been mostly focused on showjumping and training, so hopefully I’ll start giving back and contribute to society and motivate my peers in the country. I don’t mind though I’ve been enjoying the ride and after years of work I’m finally being rewarded in the best way possible.”