Al-Hilal advance into AFC Champions League semifinals

Al-Hilal midfielder Salem Al-Dawsari vies for the ball with Al-Ittihad defender Saud Abdulhamid, left, during their AFC Champions League quarterfinals match. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2019

Al-Hilal advance into AFC Champions League semifinals

  • Riyadh-based team beat Al-Ittihad of Jeddah in the all-Saudi final eight showdown

JEDDAH: Al-Hilal battled from one goal down early to beat Al-Ittihad in the all-Saudi quarterfinal and advance to the AFC Champions League semifinals at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.

After a goalless draw in the first leg in Jeddah, Ittihad looked to have the advantage of  the away goals rule after scoring in the 10th minute courtesy of Ziyad Al-Sahafi.

But the Riyadh-based Hilal regrouped and tallied three unanswered goals to qualify for the final four on 3-1 agregate victory in the two-leg final eight contest. Hilal meet Qatar’s Al-Sadd in the semifinals.

Andre Carrillo equalized for Hilal with a goal in the 44th minute. Salem Al-Dawsari  and Italian import Sebastian Giovinco then put Hilal on the way to victory with goals in minutes 48 and 78.

Earlier in Japan, captain fantastic Shinzo Koroki's powerful first-half header via crossbar and goalkeeper proved enough to squeeze Urawa Red Diamonds into the semifinals  at the expense of Shanghai SIPG on the away goals rule Tuesday.

Wang Shenchao equalized for the visitors with a cool volley on the hour, but the Japanese side comfortably held on for a 1-1 draw and a semifinal place courtesy of the goals scored by Tomoaki Makino and Koroki three weeks ago when the first leg was drawn 2-2 in Shanghai.

The prolific Koroki was, however, officially denied his seventh strike of the campaign on a technicality.

Gloveman Yan Junling was credited with an own goal after palming Koroki's 39th-minute header from Takahiro Sekine's cross onto the woodwork and watching helplessly as it cannoned back into his outstretched arm and over the line.

That was harsh on Yan, who had kept his toothless side — packed with expensive imports — in the tie with a string of saves as Urawa pressed for the cushion of a second goal on a sultry night in Saitama.

It was a poor performance by Vitor Pereira's SIPG side, who were devoid of penetration up front without suspended 55 million euro Brazilian striker Hulk, who had scored both first leg goals from the penalty spot as they came from 2-0 down.

Instead they started with Marko Arnautovic at centre forward, the big Austrian having been signed from English Premier League West Ham last month for 25 million euros.

But with playmaker Oscar — who cost 60 million euros from Chelsea — having an off night, chances remained few and far between.

SIPG had little fluency in the attacking third, a familiar trait that has seen them exit with a curious unbeaten streak of seven draws and one win in their last eight matches in this year's Champions League.

Arnautovic's best efforts were a wasteful header over from six yards out, which would not have counted anyway as the referee had blown for a push, and a tame shot easily deflected for a corner eight minutes from time.

After Shenchao's equalizer SIPG still needed another goal but it was Urawa who seconds later came closest, Daiki Hashioka thumping a shot against the crossbar and Tsuyoshi Otsuki's side continued to carry the more serious threat on the counter attack.

Urawa, the 2007 and 2017 AFC Champions League winners, progress to their fourth semi-final appearance where they will face either defending champions Kashima Antlers or Guangzhou Evergrande, who play Wednesday. Their first leg in China ended 0-0.


Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

Updated 11 December 2019

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

  • Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation

MOSCOW: Russian high jump world champion Maria Lasitskene on Tuesday accused her country’s own sports authorities of failing to protect athletes from the deepening doping crisis, in a rare public broadside at top officials.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a new, this time four-year, ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will do so under a neutral flag. But Lasitskene and some other Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition.

“I’ve already missed one Olympics and one-and-a-half years of international competition,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter addressed to Russia’s sports authorities.

“And it seems that’s not the end of it. So who ultimately is to blame? Who’s going to give me back what I’ve lost?” she wrote in the letter published on Russian sports media outlet Championat.Com.

Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been suspended for doping since 2015, and has been one of the few Russian athletes to voice her anger publicly.

World Athletics, the global body governing athletics, last month halted the reinstatement procedures for Russia’s athletics federation after its president and six others were provisionally suspended for serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these fresh sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

“Why have we arrived at a situation when an athlete is supposed to be delighted about getting neutral status?” Lasitskene wrote.

“Was the Sports Ministry and Russian Olympic Committee really happy with the Russian athletics federation’s work?”

The president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, on Monday dismissed the sanctions against Russia as inappropriate and excessive.