Manchester City take top spot in Champions League group, PSG through despite defeat

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian striker Lionel Messi (L), French striker Kylian Mbappe (C) and Brazilian striker Neymar (R) react after City equalize during the UEFA Champions League Group match between City and Paris Saint-Germain. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Manchester City take top spot in Champions League group, PSG through despite defeat

  • RB Leipzig’s 5-0 thrashing of Club Brugge means PSG are also guaranteed to go through in second place

MANCHESTER: Manchester City came from behind to secure top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain as both sides qualified for the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.
Kylian Mbappe put the French giants in front against the run of play five minutes into the second half.
But PSG run the risk of being drawn against the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea or Liverpool in the last 16 after Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus turned the game around for the English champions.
PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino had to fend off questions in his pre-match press conference over whether he may be making a permanent move to Manchester to take over the vacant managerial role at United.
The Argentine’s first year in the French capital has been far from plain sailing despite a 11-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.
Lionel Messi’s arrival to form a fearsome front three alongside Mbappe and Neymar has heaped expectation upon Pochettino to deliver a first Champions League crown to Paris.
The blessing and curse of that richly-talented trio was in evidence as the visitors were largely overrun but suddenly clicked to create the opening goal.
City’s collective cohesion had the better of the clash of styles, but lacked the clinical edge offered by PSG’s Galacticos.
Presnel Kimpembe cleared Rodri’s goalbound header off the line before Achraf Hakimi did likewise to turn Riyad Mahrez’s shot that was destined for the top corner over the bar.
Despite missing the midfield trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, City were still creating chances at will as Messi, Neymar and Mbappe did little to help their teammates defend.
Ilkay Gundogan had the hosts’ best chance before the break, but his curling effort came crashing back off the post.
Mbappe wasted the one opportunity PSG did muster in the first half as he pounced on a John Stones mistake, but fired over.
The Frenchman was not so wasteful five minutes after the break as he drilled low through Ederson’s legs from Messi’s deflected cross.
But the pattern of the game remained unchanged as City charged forward and finally found a way through.
Kyle Walker’s cross escaped Jesus, but rolled kindly for Sterling to prod in just his fourth goal of the season at the back post.
Keylor Navas then produced a stunning finger-tip save to deny Jesus.
Pochettino responded by introducing Angel Di Maria to add to his attacking trident and he teed up Neymar with a great chance to restore PSG’s lead, only for the Brazilian to slot wide with just his international teammate Ederson to beat.
Moments later another slick team move from City created a deserved winner.
Mahrez’s cross to the back post picked out Bernardo Silva, who nonchalantly turned the ball back into the path of Jesus to calmly slot home.
Victory gives City an unassailable four-point lead at the top of the section with just one game to go.
But RB Leipzig’s 5-0 thrashing of Club Brugge means PSG are also guaranteed to go through in second place.


Saudi, GCC entrants set to dominate in Hail

Updated 42 sec ago

Saudi, GCC entrants set to dominate in Hail

  • Twenty-six bikes and 10 quads will tackle the four desert sections laid on by the Saudi Arabian Motor and Motorcycle Federation

HAIL: Saudi Arabian and Gulf Cooperation Council country riders dominate the motorcycle and quad entry for this week’s Hail Cross-Country Rally, the four-day finale to the world’s 2021 off-road season.

While most attention this week in the north-central region of Saudi Arabia turns to the battle for FIA World Cup glory and the duel between Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez for the drivers’ title, the two-wheel protagonists will be looking for their own success in the absence of the world’s top cross-country riders.

Austria’s Matthias Walkner clinched the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship on a KTM and, as teams such as Honda, KTM, Sherco, Husqvarna, Yamaha and GasGas make their final preparations for the Dakar Rally, the stage is left open for regional riders to shine. 

Twenty-six bikes and 10 quads will tackle the four desert sections laid on by the Saudi Arabian Motor and Motorcycle Federation. 

The 2019 Sharqiya Baja winner Mishal Al-Ghuneim heads the two-wheel section on his Husqvarna FR 450 Rally and faces competition from the likes of fellow countrymen Fawaz Al-Toimi, Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and Mohammed Al-Khater. 

Qatar is represented by Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani (Honda), Mohammed Al-Kaabi (Beta), Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb (Beta) and Ali Mubarak Al-Badi (Yamaha). 

Sarah Khuraibet finished fourth in the women’s category of the FIM Bajas World Cup and represents Kuwait on her Husqvarna, while Salman Farhan is the sole representative from Bahrain, also on a Husqvarna. 

With Mohammed Al-Balooshi missing the Hail event to finalize his Dakar preparations, Othman Al-Ghefeli leads the Emirati challenge on a Honda CRF. He is joined by Hamdan Al-Ali and Abdullah Lanjawi. Lebanon’s Ehab Al-Hakeem and Italy’s Mauro Torrini round off the international two-wheel contingent. 

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi won the quad category in Hail on six occasions between 2014 and 2019 and the Yamaha Raptor 700 rider heads nine Saudi rivals that include Sultan Al-Masoud, 2021 Sharqiya Baja winner Hani Al-Noumesi, and Haitham Al-Tuwaijri, the 2021 FIM Bajas World Cup quad champion. 

Scrutineering and technical checks take place at the rally headquarters in Hail on Monday and Tuesday in advance of the ceremonial start at Maghwat, scheduled from 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Competitors will then tackle four desert stages from Dec. 8 to 11.

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Euro final review finds England fans endangered lives

Updated 52 min 3 sec ago

Euro final review finds England fans endangered lives

  • Some 100,000 fans gathered around the north London stadium for the match despite pandemic curbs capping the 90,000-seat Wembley’s capacity at 67,000

LONDON: Aggression by England fans at the European Championship final exposed an “embarrassing” part of the national culture that endangered lives and should lead to fans being barred from stadiums if they are chanting abuse and under the influence of drugs or alcohol, an investigation into the disorder has concluded.

The review found that around 2,000 ticketless supporters stormed into Wembley on July 11 after 17 “mass breaches” of the stadium gates, with many forcing their way through disabled access entrances by punching and kicking stewards before England lost to Italy in the country’s first men’s final since winning the 1966 World Cup.

“The behavior of a large minority of England supporters was not just disgraceful, it recklessly endangered lives,” Louise Casey, an experienced former government official, said in a 129-page report published Friday.

“The appalling behavior of supporters on Euro Sunday should be a wake-up call for us all. For too long, the actions of a minority of England fans have been tolerated as a part of our national culture (albeit an embarrassing one), rather than confronted head-on.”

The review said had England won the game, a ticketless group of 6,000 people were thought to be preparing to storm the stadium to see the trophy presented.

Casey blamed the ability for the rampage to take place on a “collective failure” and said she did not want to “scapegoat” anyone.

“A minority of England supporters turned what should have been a day of national pride into a day of shame,” Casey said.

Casey recommended that the English Football Association leads a campaign to bring about a “sea-change in attitudes” by fans.

Some 100,000 fans gathered around the north London stadium for the match despite pandemic curbs capping the 90,000-seat Wembley’s capacity at 67,000.

“The threats, aggression, violence, smoke and flare use, throwing of missiles — including faeces — excessive consumption of alcohol and cocaine all combined to fuel a febrile atmosphere,” Casey said. “A loss of experienced stewards as a result of the pandemic left Wembley’s stewarding operation vulnerable when confronted with the most aggressive and disorderly crowd Wembley had ever seen.”

Casey condemned fans who “targeted disabled supporters in a predatory fashion” to gain entry.

“In one appalling incident,” she said, “a ticketless fan tried to impersonate a steward and hijack a disabled child and separated him from his father, in order to trick his way through a pass gate.”

The insufficient enforcement of the ban on drinking alcohol on public transport in London was highlighted in the report.

“The FA and Wembley, working with others, should step up action on eradicating such behaviors from football ... refusing to allow entry to fans who arrive chanting foul abuse and/ or are clearly under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs,” she said.

Casey said tailgating should become a criminal offense.

“The existing enforcement mechanisms available to the police and other enforcement officers do not offer enough deterrent against those determined to use the cover of football matches to commit criminal offenses,” she said.

Players’ families were caught up in the unrest, with England defender Harry Maguire’s father injuring ribs.

UEFA has already punished England, with a home Nations League game in June having to be played in an empty stadium. A second empty-stadium game was deferred for a two-year probationary period.

“The review makes clear that the circumstances leading up to the match led to a perfect storm of lawlessness,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said in a statement. “No event is set up to deal with such disgraceful behaviour from thousands of ticketless fans. Collectively we must never allow this to happen again.”


Bangladesh, Pakistan second test hit by rain, draw likely

Updated 06 December 2021

Bangladesh, Pakistan second test hit by rain, draw likely

DHAKA, Bangladesh: The third day of the second and final cricket test between Bangladesh and Pakistan was called off Monday due to persistent rain without a ball being bowled.
The announcement came about 90 minutes after the scheduled lunch break as there was no sign of an end to the rain that was caused by Cyclone Jawad. Rain has fallen heavily on each day of the match so far.
The third session of the first day was lost to rain and bad light and only 6.2 of 98 overs were possible on day two.
With more rain or thundershowers being predicted in many parts of Bangladesh in the next 24 hours, a draw looks like the only possible result.
Pakistan, which opted to bat first, reached 188-2 in 63.2 overs with captain Babar Azam batting on 71 and Azhar Ali on 52.
Pakistan won the first test by eight wickets and leads the two-match series 1-0. Earlier, the visitors swept the three-match T20 International series.


Pollard out of West Indies white-ball tour of Pakistan 

Updated 05 December 2021

Pollard out of West Indies white-ball tour of Pakistan 

  • He withdrew after failing to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained in the T20 World Cup 
  • West Indies are due to play three T20Is and three ODIs at the Karachi National Stadium from Dec 13 to 22 

ST JOHN’S, Antigua: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard withdrew Sunday from the upcoming white-ball tour of Pakistan after failing to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained in the T20 World Cup. 
Pollard was replaced in the ODI squad by Devon Thomas and in the T20 squad by all-rounder Rovman Powell.

Pollard will be reassessed in a few weeks ahead of the upcoming home tours by Ireland and England in January 2022, Cricket West Indies said.

The West Indies are due to play three T20Is and three ODIs at the Karachi National Stadium from Dec. 13-22. 


Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives

Updated 04 December 2021

Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives

  • The German Formula 1 driver said wanted to hear their first-hand accounts of recent changes in the country what life is like for them in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: In an effort to learn more about life in Saudi Arabia and recent changes in the country, and as an activist for equality, Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel said that he organized a special karting event this week for women in Saudi Arabia.

In comments shared on social media, the German driver, who races for Aston Martin, said he hired a karting track in Jeddah on Thursday and invited some Saudi women to race so that he could hear their first-hand accounts of what life is like for them in the Kingdom.

Vettel said: “It’s true that some things are changing here. There are a lot of questions that have been asked and I have asked myself. So I was thinking of what I can do. I really tried to think of the positive side.

“And so I set up my own karting event today, under the hashtag Race for Women, and we had a group of seven or eight girls and women on the track.

“I was trying to pass on some of my experiences in life and, obviously, on the track; to do something together to grow their confidence. Some of them had a (driving) license, others they did not. Some of them were huge Formula 1 enthusiasts, others had nothing to do with Formula 1 or racing before today.

“It was a good mix of women from different backgrounds and a great event. Everybody was extremely happy,” he continued. “And I was, I have to say, very inspired by their stories and their backgrounds, their positivity about the change in the country.

“It was important to get to know some of these women. And I think it was a very, very memorable and inspiring day and a great way to kick-off the weekend by focusing on the positive.”

Vettel will compete in the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on Sunday, Dec. 5.