Arsenal sweep aside Chelsea to ease pressure on Arteta

Chelsea’s defender Ben Chilwell vies with Arsenal’s striker Alexandre Lacazette during Saturday’s match. (AFP)
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Updated 27 December 2020

Arsenal sweep aside Chelsea to ease pressure on Arteta

  • Gunners produce their best performance this term to outclass their London rivals

LONDON: Arsenal eased their relegation fears and lifted the pressure on beleaguered boss Mikel Arteta with a much-needed 3-1 win against Chelsea on Saturday.

Arteta’s side sat just three points above the relegation zone before kick-off at the Emirates Stadium after their worst start to a season since 1974-75.

But the Gunners produced their best performance this term to out-class their London rivals.

Alexandre Lacazette’s controversial penalty opened the scoring before Granit Xhaka’s superb free-kick increased Arsenal’s lead before half-time.

Bukayo Saka bagged Arsenal’s third goal after the break as they won in the Premier League for the first time in eight games stretching back to Nov. 1.

Tammy Abraham’s late strike was no consolation for woeful Chelsea, who missed a penalty through Jorginho in the final moments.

Moving six points clear of the bottom three will buy Arteta a little breathing space following talk he was in danger of the sack after just a year in charge.

Arsenal have only been relegated from the top flight once in their history, in 1912-13.

With matches against Brighton and West Brom coming next in their Christmas schedule, Arsenal have a chance to climb to a healthy league position heading into 2021.

Having won the FA Cup final against Chelsea in August, Arteta has now delivered two major blows to Blues boss Frank Lampard this year.

Chelsea would have gone second with a victory, but instead they remain six points behind leaders Liverpool after a third defeat in their last four league games.

Lackluster in attack, short of drive in midfield and bereft of a cutting edge up front, Chelsea’s £200 million ($267 million) pre-season overhaul is yet to pay off.

Lampard has only 48 hours to lift Chelsea’s flagging spirits before they are back in action against Aston Villa on Monday.

Arteta suffered a pre-match blow when Gabriel was ruled out for three matches as he self-isolates under coronavirus protocols.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started on the bench as he battles with a calf injury and a poor run of form, yet Arsenal didn’t miss their captain or Brazilian defender Gabriel.

Although Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount curled a free kick against the outside of the post, there was no doubt who was on top.

Arsenal made the breakthrough in the 35th minute when Kieran Tierney got across Reece James into the Chelsea area and tumbled under the slightest contact from the panicked defender.

Michael Oliver’s debatable decision to award a penalty survived a VAR review and Lacazette sent Edouard Mendy the wrong way from the spot for his sixth goal of the season.

It was no more than Arsenal deserved for a vibrant first half and Arteta was celebrating again in the 44th minute. Xhaka has been much-maligned at Arsenal, with the Swiss midfielder’s most recent faux pas coming when he was sent off in a defeat against Burnley.

N’Golo Kante fouled Saka and Xhaka did his bit to get back in favor when he whipped a brilliant 20-yard free-kick over the Chelsea wall and into the top corner.

Lampard sent on Jorginho and Callum Hudson-Odoi for Timo Werner, whose goal drought now stretches to 10 games, and Mateo Kovacic. But the switches failed to spark lethargic Chelsea into life and Arsenal struck again in the 56th minute.

Hector Bellerin and Emile Smith Rowe combined to send Saka into the area and his cross-shot looped over Mendy into the far corner.

Abraham converted Hudson Odoi’s cross from close range in the 85th minute to spark a late Arsenal wobble.

Pablo Mari’s foul on Mount gave Chelsea a stoppage-time penalty, but Jorginho missed for the third time this season as Bernd Leno kept out the Italian’s weak effort.


Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’

Updated 27 February 2021

Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’

LONDON: Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho said on Friday that being under pressure was “like oxygen” for him as he seeks to turn around the club’s terrible Premier League form.
Mourinho’s job has come under scrutiny after a run of five Premier League defeats in six games left them ninth in the table — nine points outside the top four.
But the Portuguese, whose team topped the table in December, said it was just part of the job.
“The problem is if you don’t have pressure,” he said. “I felt in trouble when I was at home and did not have pressure for a few months.
“That’s the problem. It comes like oxygen, it is our life; I don’t think there is any coach in the world without objectives or any kind of pressure.
“You just get used to it and also used to the way the press is at the time, you just have to adapt to it.”
Mourinho said earlier this week that he was confident he would be remembered for the right reasons at Spurs despite overseeing a collapse in their form during his first full season in charge.
The poor run in the league is unprecedented for the 58-year-old in a long and mostly successful managerial career at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
However, Tottenham’s season could still be saved by success in cup competitions.
Spurs will meet Dinamo Zagreb in the last 16 of the Europa League after completing an 8-1 aggregate win over Austrian side Wolfsberg this week.
Mourinho’s men also face Premier League leaders Manchester City in the League Cup final in April — looking to win their first silverware
in 13 years.
 


Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four

Updated 27 February 2021

Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four

LONDON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the race for the Premier League top four will go down to the wire as Manchester United prepare to face Thomas Tuchel’s revitalized Chelsea on Sunday.
United were knocked off top spot by Manchester City on Jan. 26 and a run of just two wins in six top-flight matches means they are now 10 points behind their rivals.
Second-placed United head to the Etihad Stadium for a Manchester derby clash on March 7 but before then they have back-to-back fixtures away to London clubs, with Sunday’s match against Chelsea followed by Wednesday’s game with Crystal Palace.
“We’ve got Chelsea just behind us, we’ve got City away in front of us,” said Solskjaer.
“Of course we can’t let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can’t give Chelsea too much hope to catch us either.”
Solskjaer believes United are over their recent wobble ahead of the match at Stamford Bridge, where Tuchel has made an impressive impact since succeeding Frank Lampard last month.
The Blues have yet to lose under the German and can halve the six-point gap to United on Sunday as the race for Champions League qualification spots heats up.
“You can see the results, you can see the stats, the possession they’ve had, they keep teams away from their own goal, keep the possession,” Solskjaer said.
“He’s (Tuchel) done really well ... It’s never easy coming into a season halfway through so he must be pleased as well. Hopefully we can stop that run. That’s my job now.”
The Norwegian predicted a tense battle for Champions League places with a third of the season still to go.
City, United, Leicester and West Ham are currently in the top four but a clutch of teams, including Chelsea and champions Liverpool, harbor ambitions of dislodging them.
“I don’t think the positions will be decided early,” said former United striker Solskjaer.
“With this season as well, it’s unpredictable. We’ve seen teams going through bad phases then a run and then who knows what’s going to happen with injuries, with how players react to the circumstances.”
Solskjaer’s remarks came as Manchester United and AC Milan prepare to meet in the round of 16 of the Europa League, putting 39-year-old forward Zlatan Ibrahimović up against his former English club.
Ibrahimovic played for United for two years, including in the 2016-17 season when United won its only Europa League title.
Milan, a seven-time European Cup champion, has never won the Europa League or its predecessor the UEFA Cup — the only continental title it is missing.
“It’s one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game,” Solskjaer said on Friday.
United dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in its Champions League group. Milan last played in the top-tier competition in 2014.
Both teams are on track to qualify for the next Champions League, in second place in their domestic leagues trailing crosstown rivals Manchester City and Inter Milan, respectively.
“They’re on the up and have done really well this season,” Solskjaer said of Milan, who are scheduled to visit Old Trafford for the first leg on March 11.
The return leg at San Siro is one week later.
Arsenal will face Olympiakos and go back to Piraeus for its second straight game in the competition.
The London team used Olympiakos’ stadium as a neutral venue on Thursday and beat Benfica 3-2 in the “home” leg in the round of 32.
Arsenal and Olympiakos will be meeting in a European competition for the sixth time in the past 12 seasons. Olympiakos won in the last 32 a year ago.
Two-time UEFA Cup champion Tottenham will face Dinamo Zagreb and play the first leg in Croatia, while 1992 champion Ajax is at home first against Swiss club Young Boys.
 


Peshawar Zalmi cricket team launches Pashto language anthem 

Updated 26 February 2021

Peshawar Zalmi cricket team launches Pashto language anthem 

  • Zalmi’s main anthem Kingdom was a runaway success, loved both by the team’s fans and supporters of opponents
  • ’Dedicate it to passionate Zalmi fans who always enjoy Pashto language anthems,’ Zalmi owner Javed Afridi says 

KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi, one of the teams competing in the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket tournament, on Thursday released a Pashto language anthem called ‘Shamla,’ an ode to the culture and traditions of the ethnically Pashtun-dominant Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that the Zalmi team represents.
Shamla, which means turban in Pahsto, is written by Laiqzada Laiq, sung by Pashto folk singer Gul Panra and composed by the famous music band Khumariyaan.


“Before every PSL we release two anthems,” chairman of the Peshawar Zalmi team, Javed Afridi, told Arab News. “We always try to present something different and special… We dedicate it [Shamla] to our passionate Zalmi fans who always enjoy the anthem in traditional folk and Pashto language.”
Zalmi’s title anthem, Kingdom, released last week, was sung by Abdullah Siddiqui and Atlamash, and features Zalmi ambassadors Mahira Khan, Hania Aamir and Ali Rehman, three Pakistani actors, as well as Turkish star Esra Bilgiç, who played Halime Sultan in the popular series Diriliş: Ertuğrul.
Kingdom track was a runaway success, praised equally by both Zalmi fans and supporters of opponent teams.
Arab News Pakistan is an international media parter of the Peshawar Zalmi team for a second year in a row.


Sports court reduces ban on Pakistan's Akmal with $27,000 fine 

Updated 26 February 2021

Sports court reduces ban on Pakistan's Akmal with $27,000 fine 

  • Akmal was suspended in Feb 2020 for failing to report corrupt approaches made to him just before fifth Pakistan Super League
  • PCB’s disciplinary panel last April found Akmal guilty on two charges of separate breaches and handed him a three-year suspension 

ISLAMABAD: The Court of Arbitration for Sports has reduced the ban on international cricketer Umar Akmal to 12 months and fined him 4.25 million rupees ($27,000) for breaching the Pakistan Cricket Board’s anti-corruption code.
Akmal was suspended in February 2020 for failing to report details of corrupt approaches made to him just before the start of the fifth Pakistan Super League.
The PCB’s disciplinary panel last April found Akmal guilty on two charges of separate breaches and handed him a three-year suspension — with the periods of ineligibility to run concurrently.
That ban was halved after Akmal appealed to an independent adjudicator, before both Akmal and the PCB took the matter to the CAS.
The PCB on Friday said the 30-year-old Akmal is now eligible to reintegrate into competitive cricket, subject to paying the fine, and also has to go through the rehabilitation program under the cricket board’s anti-corruption code.
Akmal has represented Pakistan in more than 200 international cricket matches, including 16 tests.
“The PCB once again urges and reminds all participants to abide by their duty and promptly report any approaches to the anti-corruption officers and help themselves as well as the anti-corruption unit's effort to eliminate the anathema of fixing,” the PCB said in the statement.


Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Updated 26 February 2021

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

  • 2020-21 Formula E season opening double-header to run on Feb. 26-27

DIRIYAH, Riyadh: It is all systems go for the 2020-21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season as the first of the Diriyah E-Prix double-header of races on Friday prepares to get under starter’s orders in Riyadh.

History will once again be made when the single-seater series, given championship status by the FIA for the first time, takes place at night over the weekend.

“Formula E is back to Diriyah as the opening race of season seven, and to mark a world first, as the first ever night race in the history of Formula E,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, told a virtual press conference.

“On Feb. 26 and 27, the whole world will yet again watch the Kingdom host a global sporting spectacle, under the guidance and support of our government, one that followed every detail and offered all the leadership and support needed to ensure all logistical and health measures are applied at the highest global standards, despite the ongoing challenge that the world is facing due to (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19, and its huge impact on the sport industry,” he said.

Diriyah, the ancient UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh, was the first seat of power for Saudi kings, and today has quickly become home to several records in the world of motorsports.

In 2018, the site hosted the first all-electric race in the Middle East and welcomed international sports tourists for the first time.

In 2019, Diriyah once again captured headlines as the iconic venue hosting the opening weekend of season six, featuring a double-header of back-to-back races for the first time. And now season seven is poised for another first under the bright lights and in the spotlight of global sporting attention.

“Hosting the race at night and utilizing the best available technology to ensure its success is a clear evidence that our leadership gives sport the utmost priority and shows the close connection between sports and the sustainable future which will be headlined by clean renewable energy. It will be a historic race,” added Prince Khalid.

Lighting the track with the latest low-consumption LED technology will reduce energy usage by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technologies. The remaining energy needed to power the floodlighting will be fully renewable provided by high-performing low-carbon certified hydrogenated vegetable oil made from sustainable materials.

Formula E CEO, Jamie Reigle, said: “We are looking forward to the start of season seven, and what a way to start with the first ever night race.

“We had our priorities set on ensuring a safe race with all COVID-19 guidelines in place, but also focused on how we can make this year’s races even better with the high bar that the previous Diriyah E-Prix races have set.

“Of course, our utmost priority is always about sustainability and ensuring that the future of car racing is environmentally friendly. The sustainable night lights will ensure breathtaking scenes to everyone watching at home and a new, exciting experience to the teams and drivers,” he added.

Reigle described Formula E’s partnership with the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as “brilliant,” and he thanked them for their support in helping to make the race become a reality.

Meanwhile, Carlo Boutagy, founder and CEO of CBX, the official race promoter, said that organizing the first night races had been an “amazing experience,” and promised memorable television viewing.

“Diriyah looks beautiful as always, the night lights are in place, the safety measures are all set and working. We can’t wait to go green in Diriyah this Friday to organize a spectacle unlike any other.

“We will surely miss the fans, but their safety comes first, so we made sure they enjoy an unmissable experience while watching the races live on KSA Sports this weekend,” Boutagy added.

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