Gomis shines as Al Hilal drub Xavi’s Al Sadd 4-1

Hilal players celebrate winning the first leg of the AFC Champions League semi-finals football match against Qatar's Al Sadd. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2019

Gomis shines as Al Hilal drub Xavi’s Al Sadd 4-1

  • Gomis went from villain to hero by equalising for Al Hilal after having helped Al Sadd go ahead in the 14th minute with an own goal
  • Saudi team take a giant step toward the AFC Champions League final

DOHA: Bafetimbi Gomis starred as Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal took a giant step toward the AFC Champions League final with a 4-1 drubbing of Qatari giants Al Sadd, coached by Xavi, in the first leg of their semifinal clash in Doha on Tuesday.
Gomis went from villain to hero by equalising for Al Hilal after having helped Al Sadd go ahead in the 14th minute with an own goal, while Ali Al-Bulayhi and Mohamed Al-Shalhoub also netted for the visitors at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium
Al Sadd’s Salem Al-Hajjiri also scored an own goal to help boost the visitors’ score before the second leg clash in Riyadh on October 22.
Al Sadd and Al Hilal have a storied history in the West Asian region, both teams having won the Champions League on two occasions.
But Al Hilal had won only once before in their nine away encounters against Al Sadd, a fact that must have boosted Xavi and his men’s confidence ahead of the match.
On Tuesday, however, the home side failed to make their chances count, and to make matters worse for them Abdelkarim Hassan was sent off in the 35th minute — for a foul and then for arguing with the referee.
Needless to say the exit of the defender — who was named Asian Player of the Year in 2018 — was a big blow for Xavi’s side as they struggled to contain the Al Hilal forward, of whom Gomis was a constant threat.
Al Sadd were more enterprising in the early stages with Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Haydos excelling up front and creating quite a few chances.
Afif elicited a fine save from goalkeeper Abdulla Al-Mayouf and later found his shot from close hit the upright much to the disappointment of the near-capacity crowd.
But luck shone on the hosts in the 14th minute when Al-Haydos cut in from the right off a corner and shot across the goalmouth, only for Gomis to attempt a clearance with the ball ending up in the Al Hilal net.
Gomis, however, made amends in the 33rd minute with a simple finish after a cross from Sebastian Giovinco following a defensive lapse involving Tarek Salman and Boualem Khoukhi.
Just before the first half ended, Al Sadd conceded another goal with Al-Bulyahi heading home from close range after the ball was nodded on to him off a corner by Giovinco.
Gomis was also involved in Al Hilal’s third goal when under pressure from him Al-Hajjri was forced to make contact with the ball inside the six yard box and sent it into his own net as Al Hilal went 3-1 up in the 60th minute.
Al Hilal completed the rout in the 67th minute when Al-Shalhoub received Mohamed Kanno’s pass and drilled it into the bottom of the net.


Swiss defender Elvedi says Brazil are beatable

Updated 5 sec ago

Swiss defender Elvedi says Brazil are beatable

DOHA: Switzerland center-back Nico Elvedi said on Saturday his side would not be awed by the might of Brazil, saying they had enough quality to push the tournament favorites.
“Every team in this world is beatable,” the Borussia Moenchengladbach defender said ahead of Monday’s game against the five-time champions.
“We know the challenge, but we are not going to hide away. We know our quality and what we are able to show.”
A second-half goal from Elvedi’s former Gladbach teammate Breel Embolo helped Switzerland to a 1-0 win over Cameroon in their opening fixture.
Elvedi said that win “did us good” and “gave us a lot of trust.”
Switzerland have qualified for the knockout stage in four of their last five World Cup appearances.
Avoiding defeat against Brazil would put the side in a strong position to reach the last 16 ahead of what will likely be a crucial final group stage clash with Serbia.
Elvedi said the Swiss could draw little hope from the likely absence of Brazil talisman Neymar, who will miss the match with an ankle injury.
“It won’t change much for us,” he added. “They have enough top players who can play in that position.
“I will sleep exactly the same as always. I won’t be sleeping better because Neymar isn’t playing.”
Switzerland trail Brazil on goal difference in the early Group G standings.
Elvedi said his team would relish the chance to “measure ourselves against the best.”
“We know that this is a really difficult opponent... Brazil is one of the favorites but we are looking forward. We are hot for this game.”

Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign

Updated 9 min 52 sec ago

Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign

  • The result means Australia still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16
  • After a scrappy start from both sides, Australia went ahead with a play out of the back from their goalkeeper

AL WAKRAH, Qatar: Australia only needed to avoid defeat to stay in the World Cup. The Socceroos did more than that in a 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday.
Mitchell Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header and Australia went on to register their first win at soccer’s biggest event since a victory over Serbia back in 2010.
The result means Australia still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing 4-1 to defending champion France in their opening match.
France and Australia lead Group D with three points each, while Denmark and Tunisia have one point each.
France play Denmark later tonight.
In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia play France and Australia meet Denmark.
After a scrappy start from both sides, Australia went ahead with a play out of the back from their goalkeeper. Duke collected the goalkeeper’s pass near mid-field and made a quick touch to set Craig Goodwin down the left flank and Duke then sprinted forward to nod Goodwin’s deflected cross into the far corner.
Duke celebrated by making a ‘J’ with his fingers in a tribute to his son, Jaxson, who was in the stands.
The goal quieted the large contingent of red-clad Tunisia fans among the crowd of 41,823 inside Al Janoub Stadium, and sent the small pockets of Australian supporters dressed in yellow into delirium.
Tunisia impressed when they held European Championship semifinalist Denmark to a 0-0 draw in their opener but only occasionally threatened against Australia until the Aussies sat back and defended toward the end.
Australia had also gotten off to an early 1-0 lead over France in their opener but then was outplayed in a loss which they blamed on a series of defensive errors.
There were fewer errors this time, and some timely interventions, too – none bigger than a last-gasp sliding clearance from center back Harry Souttar to block Mohamed Dräger’s dangerous shot shortly before halftime.
Tunisia are still seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time in its sixth World Cup appearance but now needs to beat France.
During the second half, Tunisia fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag with the words, “Free Palestine” printed on it.


Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

Updated 26 November 2022

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

  • Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time
  • This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions

DOHA, Qatar: How big was Japan’s 2-1 upset of Germany in the opening round of the World Cup?
Newspapers in Japan used the term “Daikimboshi” from sumo wrestling to describe the magnitude of the surprise: when a low-ranked wrestler overpowers a grand champion.
The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 upset of powerful South Africa in the 2015 rugby World Cup in England.
Japan was the underdog against four-time champion Germany, but it will be a strong favorite in its next Group E match against Costa Rica, where a victory could move Japan into the knockout stage with a game to spare.
A loss by Costa Rica on Sunday would eliminate it from advancing. Costa Rica faces Germany in its final match and Japan goes against Spain.
Costa Rica is reeling from a 7-0 thrashing against Spain in its opener, and it’s anyone’s guess how the Ticos will respond. With a population of just over 5 million, the tiny Central American country is appearing in its sixth World Cup. It reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.
Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time. This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions, including in Russia in 2018. It lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0.
It was eliminated by Paraguay on penalties in 2010, and lost to Turkiye 1-0 in 2002 when the country co-hosted the event with South Korea.
Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu has spoken often about going farther this time and breaking the “final-16 hex.”
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals against Germany — they both play in Germany’s Bundesliga — to lead Japan to the upset. Asano got the winner in the 83rd minute, squeezing the ball behind German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from a very sharp angle.
Costa Rica was overwhelmed by Spain with only 28 percent of the possession. It would also face the same problem against Japan, which is able to hold the ball for long spells, and is also a quick, counterattacking threat.
“We couldn’t complete three or four passes,” Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez said of the Spain loss.
The Ticos will have to do much more against Japan.


Green Falcons all set for Poland clash at the World Cup

Updated 26 November 2022

Green Falcons all set for Poland clash at the World Cup

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia have concluded their preparations to face Poland on Saturday in the second game of the World Cup in Qatar.
The Saudi players conducted a training session at the Celine Resort Stadium, under the supervision of their head coach Herve Renard.
The training comes after the Green Falcons produced the World Cup’s shock win against Argentina 2-1 at Lusail Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.


The exercise started with a warm-up training then squares’ exercise before they split into two groups and played against each other.
Meanwhile, captain Salman Al-Faraj and Riyad Sharahili have continued their treatment programs with medical staff for injuries suffered in the Argentina game.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said that the Green Falcon’s delegation will travel to Doha on Friday night to prepare for Saturday’s match at Education City Stadium.
Argentina’s defeat to Saudi Arabia was their first against an Arab or Asian team in the World Cup finals.
Argentina took the lead after only 10 minutes through a Lionel Messi penalty. Saudi Arabia however fought back in the second half with strikes by Saleh Al-Shehri in the 48th minute and star man Salem Al-Dawsari five minutes later.
Solid defending and a man-of-the-match performance by goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais saw the Green Falcons secure a historic win in their opening Group C fixture.


Hosts Qatar crash out of World Cup after Senegal loss

Updated 26 November 2022

Hosts Qatar crash out of World Cup after Senegal loss

  • Draw between Ecuador, Netherlands left hosts at bottom of Group A with no chance of progressing
  • Qatar’s opening-night nerves were nowhere to be seen as they quickly got to grips with Senegal

DOHA: The World Cup hopes of Qatar were dashed after a 3-1 loss to Senegal and a draw between Ecuador and Netherlands left them bottom of Group A with no chance of progressing, just five days after they opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Ecuador.

The Qataris needed Ecuador to win but they fell behind to an early Cody Gapko goal, and though they equalized it wasn’t enough to prevent Qatar from becoming the first side mathematically eliminated from a final they have spent a reported $200 billion to host.

Qatar showed some flashes of exciting attacking play, but the reigning Asian champions were undone by sloppy defending that was harshly punished by a Senegalese side that was just that little bit better in every department.

The Senegal fans brought color and noise with rhythmic drumming throughout, while the home supporters turned out in maroon shirts, with many of the men opting for the traditional Middle Eastern thobe, a pristine white ankle-length tunic.

Qatar’s opening-night nerves were nowhere to be seen as they quickly got to grips with Senegal and should have had a penalty when Ismaila Sarr bundled over Akram Afif, but Spanish referee Antonio Mateu waved away their pleas and VAR did not intervene.

With Qatar defending well, it was going to take either a moment of magic or a catastrophic mistake for Senegal to break the deadlock and unfortunately for Qatar defender Boualem Khoukhi it turned out to be the latter.

His attempt to clear a routine low pass into the box by Krepin Diatta went disastrously wrong as he fluffed his clearance, allowing Boulaye Dia to pounce, and he rattled home the opening goal just before the break.

With the Qatari crowd thinned out somewhat at the start of the second half, Famara Diedhou doubled Senegal’s advantage with a brilliant glancing header from an Ismail Jakobs corner in the 48th minute.

QATAR SCORE

The missing home fans were soon back in their seats and rewarded with some superb attacking play as the hosts registered their first efforts on target in the tournament, with Ismail Mohamad forcing a superb reflex save from Edouard Mendy.

Muntari reduced the deficit in the 78th with a bullet header from Mohamad’s cross for Qatar’s first ever goal at a World Cup in their debut tournament but Senegal were unruffled as they continued to out-muscle their opponents in midfield.

Six minutes after Muntari’s strike, Bamba Dieng swept home a pass from fellow substitute Iliman Ndiaye for the African side’s third to consign Qatar to the bottom of Group A with no points, while Netherlands and Ecuador have four points and the Senegalese three.

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez told reporters that he and his team had never expected to set the world on fire, despite being at home.

“Expectations were set to give a good performance and organize a good World Cup, and that is the case,” he told a news conference, praising his players for their efforts.

“We wanted to show what we could do on the pitch — most of our opponents are ahead of us in many ways, but we managed to show what we can do.”

The 46-year-old Spaniard pointed out how being a small country with a small population had hindered the national team, and said that qualifying for the tournament for a second time would prove hugely beneficial.

First, though, they must meet the Netherlands in what will be their final game at this event.

“We have to prepare for the Netherlands, and we know it’s going to be an even tougher game against them — a great opponent, with some great players,” Sanchez said.