Late penalty saves Al-Nassr from a disastrous defeat by Al-Ettifaq

Al-Nassr, in particular, have endured a catastrophic start to the season, losing five and winning only one of their first six games to leave them rooted to the bottom of the 16-team league. (Saudi Professional League - Twitter)
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Updated 08 December 2020
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Late penalty saves Al-Nassr from a disastrous defeat by Al-Ettifaq

  • Despite late escape, Al-Nassr remain rooted to the bottom of the table as rivals Al-Hilal stretch lead at the top

Al-Nassr and Al-Ettifaq played out a remarkable 2-2 draw on Monday as the former managed to narrowly avoid their nightmare campaign hitting a new low.

A very late penalty saved them from what would have been a disastrous sixth defeat out of seven games in the 2020-21 Saudi Professional League (SPL) season.

As they took to the field at King Fahd Stadium, watched by Saudi national team manager Herve Renard, both teams knew that only three points would ease the pressure on their clubs and coaches.

Al-Nassr, in particular, have endured a catastrophic start to the season, losing five and winning only one of their first six games to leave them rooted to the bottom of the 16-team league. After pushing Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal all the way for the SPL title last season, their collapse has been as severe as it was unexpected.

Al-Ettifaq’s start to the campaign has been marginally better, but with only seven points from their first six matches, they were just one point clear of the relegation zone, in 13th place, before Monday’s game.

Looking devoid of all confidence, Al-Nassr performed like they have all season and so it was Al-Ettifaq who started the brighter of the two. Naim Sliti almost gave the visitors the lead on eight minutes but his firm, left-footed strike was tipped over by Brad Jones. It would prove to be a busy half for the Australian goalkeeper.

Although Al-Ettifaq continued to be the better team, Al-Nassr thought they had taken the lead on 19 minutes, only for Abderrazak Hamdallah’s goal to be — correctly — chalked off for offside. Minutes later, Sliti’s deflected shot was superbly saved by Jones to prolong the stalemate.

Abdullah Al-Salem had another chance to put Al-Ettifaq ahead when he was put through on goal but the alert Jones managed to get in a saving tackle just in time.

Al-Ettifaq would get one last chance in the half, deep into injury time. Slovak midfielder Filip Kiss was fouled by Maicon and, after consulting the video assistant referee (VAR), the referee awarded a penalty. Kiss himself took it and sent Jones the wrong way to give Khalid Al-Atwi’s team the lead.

Rui Vitoria rang the changes for Al-Nassr at half time, with Moroccan playmaker Nordin Amrabat and Sami Al-Najei replacing Osama Al-Kahalf and Ali Al-Hassan. Almost immediately the home team looked more energized, with Amrabat twice stretching Al-Ettifaq’s defense down the right flank. It proved to be a mirage.

Only five minutes after the restart, the brilliant Sliti met Mohammed Al-Kwikbi’s cross and struck a stunning volley to give Al-Ettifaq some breathing space and leave Al-Nassr struggling to keep their heads above water.

On 57 minutes Al-Nassr were thrown a lifeline when Kiss elbowed Al-Najei and, again with the input of the VAR, another penalty was awarded. Hamdallah, the SPL’s top scorer in the past two seasons, struck his spot kick wildly over the bar — the pressure had clearly gotten to even the best of the team’s players.

Al-Nassr belatedly took control of the match in the closing stages, however, and with only two minutes remaining, Al-Najei halved the lead to give his team a glimmer of hope — especially when the referee signaled that six minutes of stoppage time would be added.

It proved to be enough, with another VAR-assisted penalty award giving Al-Nassr one last chance to clinch a point. This time Hamdallah converted with a “Panenka strike,” leaving Al-Ettifaq deflated by the late refereeing decisions that went against them, having come so close to a valuable victory.

“Of course it’s better to draw than to lose,” said relieved Al-Nassr defender Abdullah Madu. “The match had some controversial moments but I’d like to congratulate my teammates on the comeback. To be two goals down, it’s tough to recover.

“We promise our fans that we will be doing our best to do even better in the coming matches. We are not happy with what’s going on. All teams go through difficult times but we are capable of overcoming them.”

Man of the match Sliti blamed naivety for his side’s dropped points. “When you’re leading 2-0 and end up drawing, we’re not going to be satisfied,” said Al-Ettifaq’s star man. “Perhaps it was lack of experience that meant we couldn’t maintain the result. I won’t speak about the referee but I can say it was our lack of experience that led to this result.”

He also praised the provider of the assist that led to his spectacular goal.

“It was great play from Al-Kwikbi to provide me with an excellent opportunity and I repaid the favor with the finish,” added Sliti.

Al-Salem struggled to hide his disappointment with the result and the nature of his team’s late collapse.

“I think we deserved the three points today but that’s football,” he said. “I don’t like to comment on certain things but there were some strange incidents. I saw that the equalizer came on 90-plus-10 minutes — I don’t know where that time came from.

“We held out till the 89th minute (before conceding) the first goal — we should have had enough experience and focus to keep possession and defend. Mistakes and the late penalty means a draw is not convincing. But away to a big club, a point is better than nothing.”

Meanwhile Al-Hilal extended their lead over Al-Shabab at the top of the table to five points after an 84th-minute Ali Al-Bulaihi goal gave them a 1-0 win at Al-Raed. Earlier in the day, Al-Fateh lost 3-1 at home to Abha Club.

On Saturday, Damac twice overcame two-goal deficits to record a stunning 4-3 win over Al-Ahli. They scored three goals in the last 15 minutes, including Mazen Abo Shararah’s 92nd-minute winner. Al-Batin and Al-Taawoun drew 1-1, as did Al-Faisaly and promoted Al-Ain at Al-Majmaa Sports City.

On Sunday, Al-Qadisiya produced one of the surprises of the week with a 2-1 home win over second-placed Al-Shabab, while Al-Ittihad continued their improved run of form with a 2-1 victory at Al-Wehda.


Pacers pummel Knicks to stay alive in NBA playoffs

Updated 53 min 2 sec ago
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Pacers pummel Knicks to stay alive in NBA playoffs

  • On the brink of elimination after an embarrassing game five defeat in New York, the Pacers played with desperate aggression

LOS ANGELES: The Indiana Pacers produced another big win on their home court Friday, routing the New York Knicks 116-103 to force a decisive game seven in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Pascal Siakam scored 25 points to lead Indiana’s scoring. Tyrese Haliburton added 15 with nine assists and Myles Turner had 17 points as six Pacers players scored in double figures.
On the brink of elimination after an embarrassing game five defeat in New York, the Pacers played with desperate aggression, out-scoring the Knicks 62-38 in the paint and winning the rebounding battle.
They hustled after loose balls, blocked eight shots and handed out 35 assists to keep their offense firing, and kept Knicks talisman Jalen Brunson in check for much of the night as they improved to 6-0 at home in this post-season.
They’ll have to follow up on the road, however, if they want to book a clash with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, with the Knicks hosting game seven on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
“Now it’s a one game series, and it’s for all the marbles,” Haliburton said. “Where better to have a game seven than the Garden?
“No team’s won a game on the road in this series, so we’ve got to be ready to go from start to finish in 48 minutes.”
The Pacers broke open a close game with a 17-2 scoring run that pushed their lead to 13 points late in the second quarter.
Donte DiVincenzo stopped the rot for New York, draining a three-pointer from the corner that cut the Pacers’ lead to 10, 61-51, at halftime.
Brunson was limited to five points on 2-of-13 shooting in the first half. He found his range after the break, scoring 14 points in the third and finishing with 31.
Miles McBride added 20 for the Knicks, whose brief surge to open the third quarter was quickly squelched by the Pacers.
“There really isn’t any excuse for anything,” Brunson said. “Just the way they played tonight you’ve got to give them credit.”
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said it was a matter of playing harder.
He said Siakam, an NBA champion with Toronto in 2019 and acquired from the Raptors in January, had provided a key veteran presence on a young and a crucial skillset that made a big difference on Friday.
“He’s the only guy on our roster that can manufacture a 16-foot shot over a seven-foot guy and make it,” Carlisle said. “He did it three or four times in the third, fourth quarter.”
While Carlisle was pleased with his team’s bounce-back win, he was already looking ahead to the test awaiting on Sunday.
“In a series like this, you can’t sit around patting yourself on the back. That’s what gets your ass kicked the next game,” he said.
The Knicks return home with yet another injury concern after forward Josh Hart departed early in the fourth quarter with what the team called abdominal soreness.
He’d clearly been troubled by discomfort around his midriff since the first quarter.
It’s just the latest blow for the Knicks, who saw forward OG Anunoby go down to a hamstring injury in game two after they were already without Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson.
“We’ll see,” was head coach Tom Thibodeau’s tight-lipped response on whether Hart would be available on Sunday, but he made it clear the Knicks wouldn’t be citing injuries as an excuse.
“This is the nature of the playoffs,” he said. “This is what you play for. Oftentimes it comes down to a hustle play, a loose ball .. so you’re going to get tested physically, mentally, emotionally — and you’ve got to be able to get through all of that.
“So whatever it is that we’re facing, we can overcome and just keep battling.”


Coach Thomas Tuchel says he’s still leaving after talks on extending Bayern Munich stay fell through

Updated 17 May 2024
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Coach Thomas Tuchel says he’s still leaving after talks on extending Bayern Munich stay fell through

  • “We found no agreement on further cooperation so the agreement from February remains in force,” he said
  • In the three months since Bayern said Tuchel was leaving, they have tried and failed to sign a series of high-profile replacements

MUNICH: Thomas Tuchel says he is still leaving Bayern Munich after talks on extending his stay at the club fell through.
Bayern said in February that Tuchel would leave at the end of the season, but the coach said Friday that he held talks with the club on a “180-degree turn” that would have seen him stay after all.
“We found no agreement on further cooperation so the agreement from February remains in force,” he said.
In the three months since Bayern said Tuchel was leaving, they have tried and failed to sign a series of high-profile replacements.
Xabi Alonso is staying with Bayer Leverkusen after beating Bayern to the Bundesliga title, Tuchel’s predecessor Julian Nagelsmann signed an extension with the German national team, and Ralf Rangnick remains with Austria.
Bayern are without a trophy this season for the first time since 2012 after losing the Bundesliga title to Bayer Leverkusen, but Tuchel’s team were praised for reaching the Champions League semifinals before a narrow loss to Real Madrid.
There was also a petition from some Bayern fans calling on the club to keep Tuchel.
Strong European performances prompted the club to reach out to him in an attempt to persuade him to stay, the coach said.
“Above all, the feedback after Real Madrid over this last week was the basis to think again about the 180-degree turn, but we didn’t reach any agreement,” he said. “I don’t want to go into the individual points and the motivations behind them. That is behind closed doors and stays that way.”
There was tension last month after Tuchel said he had been insulted by comments from the club’s honorary president Uli Hoeness claiming the coach “doesn’t think he can improve” the team’s young stars.
Tuchel said at the time that Hoeness’ comments were “so far removed from reality” and added: “On the one hand it insults my honor as a coach, because I think we’ve shown as a coaching team for the last 15 years that young players, especially from the academy, always, always, always have a place with us in training and that they have a place on the field with their performances.”
Tuchel is heading into his last game with Bayern at Hoffenheim on Saturday with second place in the Bundesliga on the line. The injury list is as long as ever in a season when he has rarely had his first-choice team available.
Striker Harry Kane is undergoing treatment on a reported back injury, while Leroy Sané, Kim Min-jae, Kingsley Coman, Raphael Guerreiro and Jamal Musiala are also injured and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is unavailable with flu, Tuchel said. Right back Sacha Boey has been granted personal leave.
Bayern’s two-point advantage over third-place Stuttgart and superior goal difference mean that a draw with Hoffenheim — which is seventh and chasing European qualification — should be enough to guarantee second position. Stuttgart host Borussia Moenchengladbach.


FIFA orders legal review of Palestinian call to suspend Israel

FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivers his speech at the FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2024
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FIFA orders legal review of Palestinian call to suspend Israel

  • Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials. Israel says its strikes are targeted at militants

BANKOK: Soccer’s world body FIFA ordered an urgent legal evaluation on Friday of a proposal by the Palestinian Football Association to suspend Israel over the war in Gaza, promising to address it at an extraordinary meeting of its council in July.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino took the decision at an annual Congress in Bangkok, where the PFA president made an emotional plea to delegates to hold a vote to suspend Israel from all club and national competitions, accusing it of multiple breaches of FIFA statutes.
The Palestinian proposal accuses the Israel Football Association of complicity in violations of international law by the Israeli government, discrimination against Arab players, and inclusion in its league of clubs located in Palestinian territory. The IFA rejected that.
The request for sanctions against the IFA comes two years after FIFA’s decision to suspend Russia from international competitions over its invasion of Ukraine.

HIGHLIGHT

The request for sanctions against the IFA comes two years after FIFA’s decision to suspend Russia from international competitions over its invasion of Ukraine.

“FIFA cannot afford to remain indifferent to these violations or to the ongoing genocide in Palestine, just as it did not remain indifferent to numerous precedents,” PFA President Jibril Rajoub said.
“How much more must the Palestinian football family suffer for FIFA to act with the same urgency and severity as it did in other cases? Does FIFA consider some wars to be more important than others and some victims to be more significant?“
Since an Oct. 7 cross-border raid by militant group Hamas that Israel says killed more than 1,200 people, the Gaza offensive has left more than 35,000 Palestinians dead, according to Gaza health officials. Israel says its strikes are targeted at militants.
Rajoub said 193 Palestinian players had been killed, football infrastructure destroyed, its leagues suspended and its national team required to play World Cup qualifiers abroad.

‘Cynical, political and hostile’
The proposal was sent to FIFA in March and added to the Congress agenda with the support of the Algerian, Jordanian, Syrian and Yemeni federations.
The Asian Football Confederation gave its backing on Thursday for action against Israel.
IFA chief Shino Moshe Zuares said the proposal was based on motives and ambitions that “have nothing to do with the spirit of sports or the FIFA value of separating sports from politics.”
“Today, maybe more than ever, I believe that football must be a key element in healing the fractures and the wounds, helping us and everyone to recover,” he told the Congress.
“Yet, once again, we are facing a cynical, political, and hostile attempt by the PFA to harm Israeli football.
“I am holding myself back and will not speak about the true motives out of respect for this institution,” he said.
Infantino expressed extreme shock over the Oct. 7 attacks and the offensives in Gaza and said due to the “obvious sensitivity of the issue,” independent legal experts would be brought in urgently to analyze the Palestinian allegations.
Those findings would be referred to the FIFA Council, its main decision-making body outside of the Congress, to convene an extraordinary meeting in July and take appropriate decisions, he said.

 


Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians

Updated 17 May 2024
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Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians

  • Mumbai out, Lucknow too failed to qualify for the playoffs

MUMBAI: Nicholas Pooran starred in Lucknow Super Giants’ 18-run victory over pre-tournament favorites Mumbai Indians in the last game of a disappointing Indian Premier League season for both teams Friday.
The maverick West Indies’ wicketkeeper-batsman hit eight sixes in his 29-ball 75 to take Lucknow to 214-6 after Mumbai skipper Hardik Pandya won the toss and chose to field first.
Mumbai crashed to 196-6 despite an impressive start by openers Rohit Sharma and Dewald Brevis in their rain-interrupted chase.
Pandya said that it was “quite difficult” for five-time champions Mumbai, who finished the 10-team league in last spot.
“This season we didn’t play good quality cricket and it cost us the whole season,” Pandya said.
Lucknow too failed to qualify for the playoffs and ended the tournament in sixth spot.
Captain KL Rahul said that it was “very disappointing.”
He blamed mid-season injuries to key players and said that they “didn’t play well enough collectively and couldn’t come together” as a team.
Earlier, Nuwan Thushara got Mumbai off to a great start and removed opener Devdutt Padikkal for a first ball duck.
Padikkal’s partner Rahul stitched together a 48-run partnership with Australia’s Marcus Stoinis, who fell to Piyush Chawla’s leg-spin for a 22-ball 28 in the sixth over.
Chawla also removed Deepak Hooda (11) to reduce Lucknow to 69-3 by the 10th over.
Thushara finally removed Pooran in the 17th over to end his match-defining, 109-run partnership with Rahul.
He also removed rookie Arshad Khan (0) in the same over and finished with 3-28 in his four-over spell.
Chawla removed Rahul, who took 41 balls for his 55 runs, in the 18th over and finished with 3-29.
Key unbeaten cameos by Ayush Badoni (22) and Krunal Pandya (12) took Lucknow to 214-6.
Mumbai’s openers took their team to 88 before Brevis fell for 23 in the ninth over.
India skipper Sharma top-scored with a 38-ball 68 with 10 fours and three sixes before he fell in the 11th over.
In between, Mumbai also lost their best T20 batsman, Suryakumar Yadav, for 0 and were reduced to 97-3 while out-of-form skipper Pandya fell for 16.
Indian rookie Naman Dhir hit five sixes and four fours in his unbeaten 28-ball 62.
Leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, who removed Sharma, and Afghanistan’s Naveen-ul-Haq, who removed Brevis, took four key Mumbai wickets between them.


Pakistan’s army chief vows full support for hockey team after silver medal win in Malaysia

Updated 17 May 2024
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Pakistan’s army chief vows full support for hockey team after silver medal win in Malaysia

  • The national hockey team reached the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final for the first time in 13 years
  • The Pakistani players were also hosted and praised by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif this week

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Asim Munir vowed on Friday to fully support the national hockey team while meeting with its players and applauding them for winning a silver medal in the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also hosted the Green Shirts in Islamabad in recognition of their outstanding performance at the tournament, where they reached the finals for the first time in 13 years.

Sharif praised the team’s performance and reiterated his administration’s commitment to promoting sports, particularly hockey, in the country.

The army chief also praised the squad during the interaction with its players in Rawalpindi.

“The hockey team has brought immense pride to the nation, and we are committed to providing them with comprehensive support to ensure their continued success,” he was quoted as saying in a statement released by the military’s media wing, ISPR.

He also extended his best wishes to the players for their future endeavors.

Cricket has generally overshadowed other sports in Pakistan, including hockey, in terms of popularity and media attention.

This is despite the fact that hockey is the country’s national sport and has a rich history of international success. Yet, it has not received the same level of sustained interest or investment as cricket, with the disparity impacting its development and visibility within the country.