Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Roma came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Young Boys. (Keystone via AP)
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Updated 22 October 2020
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Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Arsenal opened its fourth straight Europa League campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Rapid Vienna on Thursday in an opening round of games affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Star striker Pierre­ Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 74th for Arsenal, which won its group in its previous three campaigns in the second-tier European competition.
Roma also came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Young Boys, as did Granada to upset PSV Eindhoven away.
Rangers’ Kemar Roofe scored the goal of the night in a 2-0 victory at Standard Liege, dribbling his way through three opponents inside his own half and then launching a shot from the halfway line that caught the goalkeeper off guard and looped into the net.
Dutch team AZ Alkmaar overcame a slew of coronavirus cases to upset Napoli 1-0.
Tottenham, AC Milan were among teams playing later Thursday.
Arsenal went behind when goalkeeper Bernd Leno played a poor pass that fell to Rapid forward Taxiarchis Fountas, who slotted in a low shot from a tough angle in the 51st minute.
Arteta sent on Aubameyang and Héctor Bellerín in the 61st, and the substitutes helped spark the comeback.
After David Luiz headed in a free kick from Nicolas Pépé to level the score, Mohamed Elneny freed Bellerín down the right to cross for Aubameyang to complete the comeback from close range.
In the other Group B game, Molde also came from behind to win 2-1 at Dundalk.
AZ Alkmaar flew into Naples with 13 players sidelined with coronavirus infections. Napoli, meanwhile, was coming off a 4-1 win over high-scoring Atalanta 4-1 this past weekend. But the Dutch staved off the hosts’ pressure before Dani de Wit scored the winner in the 57th. Real Sociedad won 1-0 at Rijeka the other Group F game.
With Roma resting striker Edin Džeko, Bruno Peres and Marash Kumbulla led the rally with the second-half goals for the Italian side.
Jean ­Pierre Nsame had given Young Boys the lead by converting a penalty kick in the 14th.
It was the first home loss for Young Boys to an Italian opponent in European competitions after beating Udinese, Napoli and Juventus.
Also in Group A, Romania’s Cluj won 2-0 at Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia.
In Group C, Bayer Leverkusen produced the biggest win of the early games by beating Nice 6-2. Nadiem Amiri and Lucas Alario scored early first-half goals five minutes apart for Leverkusen, while substitute Karim Bellarabi netted two and 17-year-old forward Florian Wirtz came off the bench to complete the rout.
In a game between teams from two countries whose domestic leagues have been interrupted due to high levels of coronavirus infections, Israel’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva beat Czech Republic’s Slavia Prague 3-1.
James Tavernier gave Celtic the lead from the penalty spot in the 19th before Roofe added his spectacular second goal in injury time. Benfica won 4-2 at Lech Poznan in the other Group D game.
In Group E, German forward Mario Götze put PSV ahead in first-half injury time before Jorge Molina and Darwin Machis scored for Granada in the second half. Omonoia drew with PAOK 1-1.


Crown prince, Olympics chief meet in Riyadh

Updated 58 min 55 sec ago
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Crown prince, Olympics chief meet in Riyadh

  • Thomas Bach praised Saudi Arabia’s inclusion of more women in sport and leading positions within the sporting movement

RIYADH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday met with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, in Riyadh.

They discussed the development of sport and the Olympics movement in the Kingdom, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting was also attended by Saudi Minister of Sport Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, and Vice President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz.

Bach arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for his third visit to the Kingdom since being elected as the IOC’s president in 2013 and was received by Prince Abdulaziz.

He toured the recently concluded Saudi Games 2023 site and noted the “extremely impressive” development of sport in the nation.

“I don’t think I’ve seen such a transformation of sport in such a short period of time in any country,” Bach added.

And he praised Saudi Arabia’s inclusion of more women in sport and leading positions within the sporting movement.


Al-Ittihad ready to wow home fans in FIFA Club World Cup opener, says coach

Updated 11 December 2023
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Al-Ittihad ready to wow home fans in FIFA Club World Cup opener, says coach

  • ‘It is not an easy game and we do really respect Auckland City but we’re confident we can do a good job,’ adds Marcelo Gallardo
  • The Kingdom is hosting the competition, so the Saudi Pro League champs have home advantage in the game, the winners of which will play Egyptian side Al-Ahly on Friday

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad head coach Marcelo Gallardo said his players are fully prepared for their FIFA Club World Cup opener on Tuesday and looking forward to putting on a show for the home fans in Saudi Arabia.

“Our goal is to perform at our best and try to win the game to keep up our good run through the next round,” Gallardo said ahead of their match against Auckland city of New Zealand. “It is not an easy game and we do really respect Auckland City but we’re confident we can do a good job.”

Speaking about the benefit of home advantage in the game, the winners of which will progress to play Egyptian side Al-Ahly in the second round on Friday, he added: “Our fans will certainly help, no doubt. Our fans are our strength; we have said that we are strong at home and, in particular in such matches, hope we can qualify to the next round because I believe tomorrow’s match is very critical.”

Al-Ittihad captain Karim Benzema, who previously played in the competition during his time with Real Madrid, said he and his teammates look forward to giving the Saudi fans something to cheer about.

“Our players are very anxious to play and they know exactly how important this match is,” he said.

“My previous experience is totally different from this one and I hope I can help my players in this important match. We know it will not be easy but we have to have the mentality that we can win this match.”

Auckland’s head coach, Albert Riera, said his side will face a tough challenge against the reigning Saudi champions but is confident they are capable of stepping up when it matters.

“For sure we’re the underdogs, we’re aware of that, and being the underdog is an advantage but all of the work that we’ve put in, all the effort that every player is putting into every training session is not so that we go there and don’t compete and not try to win,” he said.

“We’re here to make Auckland City fans proud, to make New Zealand proud and to try and compete as much as we can.”

This year’s tournament is the 20th FIFA Club World Cup and marks Auckland City’s 11th appearance in the competition. Saudi Arabia is hosting the event for the first time.


Lluis Cortes unveiled as new Saudi Arabia women’s national team head coach

Updated 11 December 2023
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Lluis Cortes unveiled as new Saudi Arabia women’s national team head coach

  • Former Barcelona Femeni and Ukraine manager unveiled at an official ceremony in Riyadh this afternoon
  • Cortes led Barcelona Femeni to historic continental treble in 2021 and has won the UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year award

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has announced the appointment of Lluis Cortes as the new women’s national team head coach. The Spaniard succeeds Rosa Lappi-Seppala on a four-year contract until 2027 and was unveiled at an official ceremony in Riyadh this afternoon.

“Lluis was the outstanding candidate to lead our women’s national team in this exciting new era and we are thrilled to have finalized this important appointment,” said Yasser Al-Misehal, president of the SAFF.

“We believe Lluis’s coaching capabilities, knowledge of the game, and extensive experience will play a huge role as we look to maintain our sustained and steady progress in the years ahead. He is a deep thinker and is looking to develop the long-term strategy so I’ve no doubt he will make an important impact upon Saudi women’s football on and off the pitch. We’re really looking forward to working with him.”

The most impressive achievement of Cortes’ career to date came in the 2020/21 season as head coach of Barcelona Femeni. Widely regarded as one of the greatest campaigns in women’s club football history, he led the side to a continental treble by winning the Primera Division, Copa de la Reina, and UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Following his two years in charge at Barcelona Femeni, where he also won another Primera Division title, one Supercopa de Espana, and the UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year award, he managed the Ukraine women’s national team from 2021-2023.

“Being confirmed as Saudi Arabia’s new women’s national team head coach is a real privilege,” said Cortes. “I want to thank the Saudi Arabian Football Federation for this wonderful opportunity to work in a country that loves the game so much and is really growing football for all. The prospect of working with such an ambitious and energetic group of young players is really exciting and I will look to incorporate my philosophy of attractive and attacking football on our journey together.”

“The team’s progress in such a short space of time can only be described as incredible,” he continued. “Already there is much to be proud of and a lot achieve. The grassroots are flourishing, a new Under 20 national women’s team announced and the Women’s Professional League is developing fast. So, I am confident the future is even brighter as we have all the ingredients to climb up the FIFA rankings.”

“The aim is to keep working, keep improving, and take further steps toward our aim of competing at the highest level internationally. This is why I’m here and I can’t wait to meet the players and get started.”


Pakistan not here to compete but beat Australia, says team director Hafeez

Updated 11 December 2023
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Pakistan not here to compete but beat Australia, says team director Hafeez

  • Pakistan play their first Test match of the three-match series against Australia on Dec. 14 in Perth
  • Hafeez says Canberra pitch where Pakistan face PM XI was ‘slowest pitch’ a visiting side could play on 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan men’s cricket Team Director Mohammad Hafeez said on Monday the visitors had arrived in Australia not to compete but beat the home side, as the green shirts brace for a tough challenge against the World Test champions when their three-match Test series kicks off this week. 

Pakistan face Australia in the first Test match at Perth on Dec. 14. The visitors have traditionally found playing in Australia harder than other venues around the world, having lost their last 14 Tests in the country, spanning five whitewashes.

Australia’s pace battery, in the form of skipper Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland and Mitchell Starc is one of the most feared in the world. Pakistani batters have fared poorly in the Test format, with its batters traditionally finding it difficult to bat on the bouncy Australia surfaces. 

“Everyone is excited to take the challenge, performing in Australia would be great for them,” Hafeez told reporters at the WACA ground. “As a Pakistan team, we are here to beat Australia, not to compete here.”

The former Pakistani cricketer said Shan Masood’s side had done well in the training session. 

“We have ticked most of the boxes in our training,” he said. “Everyone on the team is excited to showcase their ability and eager to win. Unfortunately, Abrar Ahmed is unfit but everyone else is fit and ready to take on Australia.”

Ahmed was ruled out of the Perth Test match last week due to a leg injury. Pakistani spinner Sajid Khan has been called up to be his replacement. 

Hafeez seemed annoyed by the tour arrangements for Pakistan’s four-day match against the PM XI side in Canberra last week, at one point implying it might have been tactical.

“That was the slowest pitch a visiting team could ever play on in Australia,” he said. “The disappointment was really high because we weren’t expecting these kinds of arrangements. Maybe it’s tactical but we’re ready for it. We’re not using it as an excuse, we’re absolutely ready for the challenges coming up.”

Squads:

Pakistan squad: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jr., Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi

Australia squad: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Cameron Green, Lance Morris

Series schedule

First Test: Dec. 14-18, Perth

Second Test: Dec. 26-30, Melbourne

Third Test: Jan. 3-7, Sydney


Saudi Games ends with promise of bigger edition next year

Updated 11 December 2023
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Saudi Games ends with promise of bigger edition next year

The Saudi Games 2023 ended on Sunday after more than 8,000 male and female athletes competed in events across 53 sports.

The closing ceremony took place within the event’s Fan Zone after 15 days of intense competition in 31 venues.

Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, deputy chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and director of the Saudi Games, announced the hosting of the third edition next year.

The ceremony began with the Saudi national anthem, followed by a captivating highlight reel showcasing memorable moments involving athletes, coaches and fans across the tournament. A parade of the event’s winners was also held to recognize the athletes and their achievements.

Prince Fahd said the Saudi Games success reflected the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to champion sports, empower youth, promote societal development and foster opportunities for talented people.

The ceremony ended with a drone show, as well as a memorable musical performance from Fouad Abdelwahed and Modhi Al-Shamrani.

 

Princess Delayel crowns champions of judo and wushu

Saudi Games 2023 Deputy Director Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud, in the presence of Mohamed Al-Qahtani, president of the Saudi Wushu Federation, crowned the winners of the judo and wushu competitions, which ended yesterday at King Saud University Sports Hall.


Five gold medals in wushu

Moaaz Al-Tamduri secured the gold in the wushu under 65 kg division, while Tami Al-Amri claimed the silver. Rashed Al-Rashidi and Saud Al-Molhem both took the bronze. In the under 75 kg category, Hattan Manshi won the gold, Osama Shaban claimed the silver, and Osama Shaban and Faisal Manshi clinched the bronze. In the under 85 kg category, Mostafa Nada secured the gold medal, followed by Abdulahad Gari with the silver and Fahd Al-Qahtani and Ali Hawari with the bronze.

In the women’s competitions, Alaa Al-Abbad won the gold in the under 60 kg category, followed by Sarah Abduljawad with the silver. Dalal Al-Hothali and Suhad Jeddawi both came away with the bronze. Zainab El-Ghamdi took the under 75 kg category gold, while Arub Abu Mansur claimed the silver. Wejdan Banawas and Sara Mokhtar both secured the bronze.


Al-Ettifaq, Al-Ahli announced table tennis champions

Princess Reham bint Saif Islam Al-Saud, executive director of ceremonies and events management at the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, together with Dr. Abdullah Al-Bar, president of the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, crowned the winners of the table tennis competitions, which ended yesterday at the Paralympic Games Hall at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex.

Al-Ettifaq’s Rana Daloua was awarded the gold in the women’s singles, followed by Al-Nassr’s Saadi Shadan with the silver. Al-Raed’s Shaimaa Al-Hammadi secured the bronze.

In the men’s youth category, Al-Ahli’s Khalid Al-Shareif won the gold, Al-Fateh’s Ali Al-Taher took the silver, and Al-Khaleej’s Ahmed Hussein claimed the bronze. In the men’s singles division, gold was awarded to Al-Shabab’s Shady Hegazi while Al-Ittihad’s Abdulaziz Al-Abbad secured silver, and Ali Al-Khadrawi, from the same club, claimed the bronze.


Hessah brings home the youth judo gold

Gold in the women’s under 57 kg judo category was awarded to Al-Shabab’s Hessah Al-Melaiki. Al-Nassr’s Ghadah Al-Atiek took the silver, and Sondos Al-Shareef and Reema Al-Sudayri, both from Al-Nassr, secured the bronze.


Al-Semairi wins rapid chess gold

Dalia Al-Semairi claimed the gold in women’s rapid chess, which ended yesterday at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex swimming hall. Hala Shahein came away with the silver medal, while Adeem Al-Dosari secured the bronze.


The Olympic team leads the medal count

Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee athletes finished first in the Saudi Games 2023 medal count, securing a total of 171 (56 gold). Al-Shabab Club secured second place with 53 medals (23 gold). Al-Hilal Club followed in third place with 65 medals (22 gold). Al-Ahli Club ranked fourth with 36 medals (11 gold). Al-Ittihad Club claimed fifth with 39 medals (eight gold). Riyadh Club for the Disabled secured sixth place with 15 medals (eight gold). Al-Nassr Club came in seventh with 31 medals (six gold). AlUla Club ranked eighth with 13 medals (five gold). Al-Hada Club claimed the ninth position with 14 medals (five gold), and Al-Safa Club rounded out the top 10 with 27 medals (four gold).