Real Madrid’s double bid ends in shock loss to Athletic Bilbao

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Athletic Bilbao's Alex Berenguer (not pictured) scores their first goal against Real Madrid on February 3, 2022. (REUTERS/Vincent West)
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Athletic Bilbao's Alex Berenguer, second left, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during their quarter final soccer match with Real Madrid in Bilbao on Feb. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
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Updated 04 February 2022

Real Madrid’s double bid ends in shock loss to Athletic Bilbao

MADRID: Real Madrid’s hopes of clinching a Spanish domestic double were dashed on Thursday as Athletic Bilbao scored a dramatic 89th-minute winner to knock them out of the Copa del Rey.
Alex Berenguer’s scintillating strike after a Casemiro mistake was enough to seal a shock 1-0 victory at San Mames and send Athletic through to the semifinals.
With Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla already out, Madrid were firm favorites to win the Copa del Rey while in La Liga, they are in the driving seat too, sitting four points ahead of Sevilla at the top of the table.
But it will be Athletic that join Real Betis, Valencia and Rayo Vallecano in the last four and while Betis are flying high in the league, all four teams will have genuine hopes now of lifting the trophy.
For Athletic, it would be particularly special, coming after they were beaten in two finals in two weeks last year, the first a postponed game from 2020 against Basque rivals Real Sociedad, and the second at the hands of Barcelona.
They defeated a Real Madrid team that was almost at full-strength and certainly the best Carlo Ancelotti had at his disposal, even if the visitors dearly missed Karim Benzema, who is still recovering from injury.
Without Benzema, Madrid lacked any real threat up front and it was a daunting reminder for Ancelotti of his lack of quality options to back up the Frenchman when he needs them.
Neither Eden Hazard nor Gareth Bale were given even a minute in a competition that usually affords fringe players an opportunity.
“We are hurting because we want to win all the competitions,” said Ancelotti.
“We are out and we have two other competitions left and we believe this defeat will not have consequences. This defeat makes us stronger.”
The match was intense and compelling but low on chances, with neither team able to carve out any golden opportunities, even if Athletic were the more aggressive overall.
When the decisive moment came, it came from a mistake as Casemiro’s sloppy pass was cut out by Mikel Vesga, who quickly fed into Berenguer.
He still had work to do but made the space with a sharp turn away from Nacho Fernandez, before burying a superb shot past Thibaut Courtois and into the far corner.
There was no such drama for Real Betis, who cruised through after thrashing Real Sociedad 4-0 to continue their superb season under Manuel Pellegrini.
Betis sit third in La Liga, with hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, and on this form they will take some stopping in the cup. They have not reached the Copa del Rey final since they last won the competition in 2005.
Juanmi, who joined Betis from Real Sociedad in 2019, scored twice against his former club but his opener owed much to some brilliant work by William Carvalho, who burst through and then cut back for his teammate to slot into the corner.
Adnan Januzaj had an equalizer for La Real ruled out before half-time and shortly after it, Juanmi struck again, firing in with his left foot after Alex Moreno raced onto an excellent pass from Sergio Canales.
Betis made it more emphatic in the last seven minutes as Willian Jose converted a penalty and then Aitor Rubial, on off the bench, sprinted clear and smashed in to make it four.


Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

Updated 24 sec ago

Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

RABAT: World Cup qualifiers Morocco have split with coach Vahid Halilhodzic three months ahead of the finals in Qatar.
The fall-out appears to have come over Halilhodzic’s handling of two of his star players.
He sidelined Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax for disciplinary reasons and qualified for the World Cup without them, but it seems the federation wanted them back.
“We came to an amiable agreement to part ways due to divergences on preparations for the World Cup,” the Moroccan federation said.
Neither Ziyech and Mazraoui were part of the squad that reached the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon in January and Halilhodzic omitted both from the World Cup qualifying play-off matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo in March.
The World Cup starts November 20 in Qatar where Morocco take on Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Group F.
Halilhodzi has previously qualified for the World Cup finals with Ivory Coast and Japan.

Norwegian woman climber on track to break 'super peaks' record

Updated 11 August 2022

Norwegian woman climber on track to break 'super peaks' record

  • Kristin Harila successfully summit Pakistan's Gasherbrum I on Thursday  
  • Pakistan has enjoyed a record-breaking climbing season this year

ISLAMABAD: Norwegian climber Kristin Harila has just three mountains left in her bid to climb the world's 14 "super peaks" in record time after successfully summiting Pakistan's Gasherbrum I, officials said Thursday.
Nepali Nirmal Purja holds the record for climbing the world's 8,000 meter-plus (26,000 feet) mountains -- six months and six days -- but Harila now has until early November to complete her quest and beat his time.
Harila's latest successful summit was reported on her official social media pages and confirmed by Karrar Hadri, secretary of Pakistan's Alpine Club.
"The second phase in Pakistan was very challenging and dangerous: ever-changing weather conditions, being hit by a rock, illness and a very tight schedule," read a message on Harila's Instagram page.
"But here we are with only three peaks left."
Five of the 14 super peaks are in Pakistan -- including K2, the world's second highest mountain -- and the country has enjoyed a record-breaking climbing season this year.
Sajid Hussain, head of the tourism department in Gilgit Baltistan, told AFP they had issued about 1,780 permits for the top peaks.
"It has boosted our tourism and has increased our foreign exchange," he said.
Only around 40 people in history have summited all 14 of the super peaks, but none have come close to Purja's 2019 expedition.
He demolished the previous record for accomplishing the feat with supplemental oxygen, set by Poland's Jerzy Kukuczka in the 1980s at seven years, 11 months and 14 days.
In an interview with AFP earlier this year, 36-year-old Harila said she was inspired to show women were as capable as men of achieving great mountaineering feats.
"In history and until now, it has been the strong macho men going out climbing mountains," she said.
"When I talk to people that are not in this sport, they believe that men are more capable than women... If we are going to change, we need to get attention and show that women are just as capable."
The three remaining mountains for Harila are Cho Oyu (sixth highest, in Nepal/China), Manaslu (eighth, Nepal) and Shishapangma (14th, China). 


Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Updated 11 August 2022

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

HELSINKI: This time, there were only two goals.
David Alaba and Karim Benzema scored in each half for Real Madrid to win the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Alaba prodded the opener home from close range in the 37th minute when Casemiro cushioned Benzema’s header back after a corner. The French star then sealed Madrid’s record-equaling fifth Super Cup title in the 65th thanks to an assist from the lively Vinícius Júnior.
It was Benzema’s 324th goal for Madrid, overtaking club legend Raúl. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has more after scoring 450 goals for the club between 2009-18.
But the game between the Champions League winners, Madrid, and Europa League champions, Frankfurt, failed to match the spectacle of their previous meeting.
Their only other competitive game was the 1960 European Cup final, when Alfredo Di Stéfano scored three goals and Ferenc Puskás chipped in with four to give Madrid a 7-3 win and fifth consecutive European crown.
Frankfurt goal-scorer Erwin Stein and teammate Dieter Stinka were in Helsinki for the rematch 62 years later, but it was the 93-year-old José Santamaria — the only remaining Madrid player from that final in Glasgow — who celebrated another win. The three veterans embraced warmly when they met before kickoff.


Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Updated 10 August 2022

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

  • New centers will be in Jouf, Hail, Al-Hudud Ash Shamaliyah and Al-Baha

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation is set to establish four new regional associations to help promote the sport across the Kingdom.

The federation told Arab News on Wednesday that is has 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions, but aims to establish new associations in the remaining four regions “to make sure that we have future cricket activities all around the Kingdom.”

The long-term aim is for Saudi Arabian cricket teams to compete professionally at regional and international competitions, with the national teams taking on world’s best.

In recent years, the SACF has introduced several competitions and programs to encourage the country’s youth to take up one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports.

In October 2021, it signed an agreement with sports management company JSW Sports to develop cricket in Saudi Arabia, focusing on high-performance academies.

The SACF was established in 2020 and lined up a series of major initiatives the following year, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social program in several cities.

The initiatives are part of a mission to promote healthy and active lifestyles under the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life scheme, with the SACF — supported by the Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — mandated to increase physical activity levels by 40 percent over the next decade.

In November, the SACF partnered with Saudi’s Sports For All Federation to launch the Kingdom’s first cricket talent-spotting program.

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Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

Updated 10 August 2022

Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

  • Al-Ahly and Zamalek are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches
  • Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly

CAIRO: An Egyptian appeals court has sentenced the president of Zamalek football club to a month in prison for insulting the president of bitter rivals Al-Ahly, a judicial source told AFP on Wednesday.
Al-Ahly and Zamalek, the country’s two biggest clubs and among the continent’s most successful, are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches.
The 70-year-old Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud Al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly and a former star player, and his family in a video posted on social networks and on Zamalek’s club channel.
On Wednesday, Mansour’s sentence was reduced to one month in prison and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (500 euros).
A former magistrate and member of parliament, Mansour is regularly in the news. He has had a long-running battle with Al-Ahly and has physically attack his counterparts.
His parliamentary immunity had for a while enabled him to avoid legal proceedings after complaints of insults and defamation.
In 2007, he was sentenced to three years in jail by a criminal court in Cairo for “insulting” court officials and levelling accusations of corruption against them.

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