Wydad heed Madrid’s example to overcome Al-Ahly in CAF Champions League final

Wydad AC won Monday’s final 2-0 to capture their third continental title. (AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2022

Wydad heed Madrid’s example to overcome Al-Ahly in CAF Champions League final

  • The team from Casablanca ceded the majority of possession in Monday’s showdown, but a 2-0 win over the record titleholders means they have now won Africa’s premier cup competition three times

There were two continental club finals in the space of 48 hours over the end of the last week and the start of this. Real Madrid won the first one, defeating Liverpool 1-0 in Paris on Saturday. Then on Monday, it was time for the African version.

It wasn’t that dissimilar.

Instead of Al-Ahly winning a third CAF African Champions League in a row to make history, Wydad AC won Monday’s final 2-0 to capture their third continental title. Zouhair El-Moutaraji scored a goal in each half to send around 50,000 fans in the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca into raptures.

If Al-Ahly, who have already won the competition 10 times, have been called “Africa’s Real Madrid” — a team that has a special pedigree in the competition — it was the Moroccans who channeled the aura of the Spanish giants.

“Today, we were Real Madrid, not Liverpool. We learned the lesson from Real Madrid’s win,” said Wydad coach Walid Regragui after the game. The club now equal Raja Casablanca as the most successful Moroccan team in the competition’s history.

In Paris, Liverpool may have had more of the ball but couldn’t make it count. In Casablanca, the Egyptians had plenty of possession but struggled to create clear chances in the face of a disciplined and effective defensive performance from Wydad.

“We let them have the ball, and we knew that they would send balls upfield to Percy Tau, so we focused on controlling him,” Regragui added. “The game was very tough, but we produced a strong performance and deserved to win.”

Many would agree, but Al-Ahly were unhappy about the choice of Wydad’s home stadium as the venue for the final, with CAF making the decision between the first and second legs of the semifinals. Mahmoud Al-Khatib, the president of Al-Ahly, looked to be complaining to FIFA boss Gianni Infantino ahead of the trophy presentation about the unfair timing of the decision, which was made when it looked almost certain that Wydad would be in the final.

He has a point. While, in theory, 10,000 tickets were allocated to each set of fans and the rest put on general sale, in practice, only a couple of thousand made the trip from Cairo with the rest snapped up by Wydad fans. In effect, this was a home game, and the Moroccan supporters created an unforgettable atmosphere — inspiring for their team and intimidating and hostile for Al-Ahly, who must have wished that there was a second leg back in Egypt. It was not a surprise that they looked a little shaken in the early stages and soon found themselves behind.

Al-Ahly boss Pitso Mosimane complained about the whole arrangement.

“I think that everyone behind this decision feels happy,” he said. “The best team lost today. When you play at a neutral ground and there is an equal number of fans between the two teams, then you can talk about winning and losing.”

The Cairo club had taken the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but had lost, predictably. There was genuine anger at the decision, but perhaps the whole situation became too big in their minds. It could be that, when the dust settles, the focus on complaining about the venue will be seen as counterproductive.

Going with the example of Liverpool once again, the Reds beat AS Roma in Rome in the 1984 final, and Chelsea triumphed against Bayern Munich in Munich a decade ago. These venues may have been known long in advance, and there may have been more English fans present, but playing a one-off game at the home of the final opponent was not seen as that big of a deal. Al-Ahly made sure that it was a major talking point before it all started.

It remains to be seen what happens to the losers now. They are accustomed to winning in Africa but also know what it is like to get to the final and fall short as this is a third runners-up place in the space of six years. There is, at least, plenty to occupy the team at home as they have slipped into third in the league though have four games in hand on the leaders Zamalek due to continental commitments.

The Red Giants have what it takes to close the gap, but then there is the question of coach Mosimane. The South African was on course to make history by becoming the first to win the title three times in a row and only the second to win four in total. To win in such a hostile environment would have been his biggest success yet.

According to reports, Al-Ahly’s board will meet to determine his future, though this has been denied by the club. Former players and Egypt manager Taha Ismail speaking on television called for Mosimane’s early departure, blaming the tactician for the loss and a run that has seen the club win just one league game in the last five. Whatever Mosimane’s future in the coming weeks, long-term, it should be a bright one.

Whatever happens, Al-Ahly will be back but for now, it is Casablanca, not Cairo, celebrating.

‘Excellent’ Bashir takes four wickets to put England on top

Updated 17 sec ago

‘Excellent’ Bashir takes four wickets to put England on top

  • India were on the back foot at 219-7 on Day 2 of the fourth Test match
  • Bashir missed the opener due to visa delay and is playing his second Test

RANCHI, India: Spinner Shoaib Bashir took four wickets to lead England’s bowling charge and put India on the back foot at 219-7 on day two of the fourth Test on Saturday.

The rookie off-spinner rattled the Indian reply to England’s first innings of 353 in a marathon spell of 31 overs unchanged spread over three sessions in Ranchi.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Dhruv Jurel, on 30, and Kuldeep Yadav, on 17, were batting at the close of play with an unbeaten stand of 42 but India still trail the visitors by 134 runs.

The in-form Yashasvi Jaiswal made 73 but Bashir bowled him after the left-hander attempted to defend a low ball that caught the toe of the bat and crashed into the stumps.

Bashir, who missed the opener due to a visa delay and is playing his second Test, was ably supported by two wickets from fellow spinner Tom Hartley.

Joe Root hit an unbeaten 122 for England, who trail 2-1 and are fighting to stay alive in the five-match series.

But the day belonged to Bashir, who came on to bowl in the ninth over of India’s innings and remained unchanged from his end until Root replaced him shortly before stumps.

“I think he’s been excellent since he’s come into the squad,” Root said of the 20-year-old Bashir.

“The way he bowls is a great little insight into his character and personality, he is quite cheeky and great fun to be around,” he said.

“There’s clearly a huge amount of skill in what he does. To be able to continually put pressure on some very good players of spin, I know the wicket was helpful at times, but he did an amazing job and it’s a great sign for English cricket moving forward.”

Bashir removed Shubman Gill (38) and Rajat Patidar (17), both out lbw, and then had Ravindra Jadeja caught at short leg to put India in trouble at 131-4 at tea.

“I think they bowled well,” India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said of the opposition spinners. “Bashir bowled well. He has just kept it simple and picked up wickets for that.”

Mhambrey said Bashir “stuck to his strength, he’s not a big spinner, he is a tall guy, keeps his length, and keeps it simple. It’s the same for Hartley as well.”

Fast bowler James Anderson struck first to send back India skipper Rohit Sharma, caught for two before lunch, but the left-handed Jaiswal rebuilt the innings in an 82-run stand with Gill.

Jaiswal, who tops the series batting chart with 618 runs, including two match-winning double centuries in the second and third Tests, raised his bat to applause after reaching his fifty.

The 22-year-old hit 171 on debut in the West Indies last year and has since amassed 934 runs over eight Tests and 14 innings.

He survived a close call on 40 when he appeared to edge an Ollie Robinson delivery to Ben Foakes for a caught behind but the third umpire denied England’s appeal after many replays.

Anderson moved to 697 Test wickets in the first session after Root ran out of partners and England’s innings ended.

The 41-year-old is poised to become only the third bowler to take 700 wickets in Tests, after Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and the late Australian spin wizard Shane Warne (708).

England resumed on 302-7 and Root put on 102 runs with overnight partner Robinson, whose departure on 58 brought a quick end to the innings.
Jadeja returned figures of 4-67 with his left-arm spin and wiped out the tail.

US and local glory as Senor Buscador wins $20m Saudi Cup main race

Updated 24 February 2024

US and local glory as Senor Buscador wins $20m Saudi Cup main race

  • 6-year-old, owned by Saudi Sharaf Mohammed S. Al-Hariri and American Joe R. Peacock Junior, won the race by a head

LONDON: Senor Buscador came from a long way back to win a dramatic Saudi Cup race on Saturday under jockey Junior Alvarado, beating Ushba Tesoro and Saudi Crown.

The 6-year-old, owned by Saudi Sharaf Mohammed S. Al-Hariri and American Joe R. Peacock Junior, won the race by a head to make up for a second-placed finish at the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational last month.

The winning team take home half of the $20 million pot, with $3.5 million going to the Ushba Tesoro team and $2 million to the locally-owned Saudi Crown team.

“The plan, as of now, is Dubai,” winning trainer Todd Fincher said after the race at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, referencing the Dubai World Cup race set to run on March 30.

“I don’t have the words to put it all together that express how pleased and grateful I am for this victory and for representing my country and winning this race, I still don’t have the right words,” Alvarado told Arab News.

“He (Senor Buscador) had more speed just because some horses broke from different positions, I never like to change the style of the horse.

“I was in a good spot in the back just looking at everything just biding my time, letting him get his feet under, and he’s a horse that when he’s ready he will start letting you know, he will start picking up (pace) and after that you just start riding along with him,” he added.

Alvarado was full of praise for his charge and the King Abdulaziz track.

“It was a very exciting race, I think the best of the horses was running today, mine was one of the best horses and he proved it today that he was one of the top performers and one of those horses in the world,” he said.

“It’s definitely a different track, a different feeling, but the horses move out very well on it and it feels like probably top three one of the best tracks I’ve rode in the world for sure,” he added.

The first edition of the Saudi Cup race was held in 2020 and the event attracts the world’s finest thoroughbreds and jockeys for the biggest prize in world racing.

Foden strikes as title chasing Man City beat Bournemouth

Updated 24 February 2024

Foden strikes as title chasing Man City beat Bournemouth

  • With Liverpool in League Cup final action against Chelsea on Sunday, City took advantage to close the gap in their game in hand on Jurgen Klopp’s side
  • Foden netted in the first half at Dean Court and City survived a rocky second half to win for the 13th time in their last 14 games in all competitions

BOURNEMOUTH, UK: Phil Foden fired Manchester City to a 1-0 win against Bournemouth as the Premier League title chasers moved within one point of leaders Liverpool on Saturday.
With Liverpool in League Cup final action against Chelsea on Sunday, City took advantage to close the gap in their game in hand on Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Foden netted in the first half at Dean Court and City survived a rocky second half to win for the 13th time in their last 14 games in all competitions.
Chasing an unprecedented fourth succesive Premier League title, Pep Guardiola’s men weren’t at their best on the south coast but displayed the resolve required to grind out a vital victory.
While Liverpool remain in pole position, City are hot on their heels after extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 17 games since losing at Aston Villa in December.
City head to Luton in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday before hosting Manchester United in a crucial league game next weekend.
Guardiola left Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, but City were quickly into their stride.
Foden flicked a pin-point pass to Erling Haaland, who swept toward goal only to misfire with a drive that whistled wide.
Bournemouth almost made Haaland pay for that miss when Milos Kerkez’s well-struck effort forced a fine save from Ederson.
But City were quickly back on the offensive as the live-wire Foden brought Bournemouth keeper Neto into action for the first time with a long-range blast.
It was a warning Bournemouth failed to heed as Foden put the visitors ahead in the 24th minute.
Haaland muscled his way into the penalty area and drilled a shot that Neto could only push out to Foden, who had the simple task of tapping into the empty net.
Foden’s 16th goal in all competitions this season was almost followed by a Bernardo Silva moment of magic when the City midfielder curled narrowly wide.
Bournemouth are without a league win in seven games since Boxing Day, but they recovered to give City a genuine scare.
Ederson saved well from Ryan Christie’s strike just before half-time and the Brazilian was called into action again immediately after the interval.
Justin Kluivert was given too much time and space outside the City area and the Bournemouth forward’s low drive was repelled by Ederson at full stretch.
After another narrow win against Brentford in midweek, Guardiola was again shifting uneasily on the touchline as Bournemouth grew in confidence.
Marcus Tavernier wasted a chance to equalize with a poor finish from Antoine Semenyo’s cross.
Tavernier was guilty of an even worse miss moments later, scuffing wide from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy.
Usually so unruffled, City were reeling for once, but Ederson preserved their lead with a superb save from Dominic Solanke’s header.
In his last action before being replaced by Julian Alvarez, Haaland’s powerful surge ended with a good save by Neto.
City were nervous right up to the final whistle, but Bournemouth’s Dango Ouattara squandered a good chance before Enes Unal’s header crept inches wide.

Karachi Kings clinch thrilling victory over Lahore Qalandars in PSL nail-biter

Updated 24 February 2024

Karachi Kings clinch thrilling victory over Lahore Qalandars in PSL nail-biter

  • Qalandars gave 176-run target to the Kings, but it seemed slightly low for a batting track
  • Karachi struggled against Lahore’s pace attack, yet they reached the target in the last over

ISLAMABAD: The storied rivalry between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars culminated in an electrifying Pakistan Super League (PSL) showdown at Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore, with the former’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss playing a crucial role in their two-wicket victory in the match.

The Qalandars faced an early setback when opener Fakhar Zaman was caught by Shan Masood with the team’s total at just 9. However, Sahibzada Farhan rose to the occasion with an unbeaten 72-run knock off 45 deliveries, including four 6s and four 4s.

Despite consistently losing wickets, Lahore managed to post 175/6 by the end of the first 20 overs. Contributions came from Rassie van der Dussen (26), Shai Hope (21) and George Linde (26), but the 176-run target seemed slightly low for the batting track.

Lahore’s pacers, however, put up a strong defense of the total, with all seasoned bowlers taking at least one wicket.



Zaman Khan stood out, dismissing two batters and finishing his four overs with an economy rate of 6.25.

The Kings faced challenges from Qalandar’s bowling but ultimately reached the 176-run target, clinching the match by two wickets.

Kieron Pollard was the standout batter for the Kings, scoring 58 runs off 33 balls.

“Pulled out a thriller,” Karachi exclaimed in a post on platform X. “Another win in the bag.”

Kane’s injury time goal saves Bayern against Leipzig

Updated 24 February 2024

Kane’s injury time goal saves Bayern against Leipzig

  • Bayern had lost three matches in a row for the first time in nine years
  • The win reduced the gap to leaders Bayer Leverkusen to eight points with 11 games left

BERLIN: Harry Kane scored two goals in the second-half, including an injury time winner, to snatch Bayern Munich a 2-1 home win over RB Leipzig on Saturday, ending the side’s worst run since 2015.
Bayern had lost three matches in a row for the first time in nine years before the club announced this week that coach Thomas Tuchel would leave in the summer.
Bayern captain Manuel Neuer told Sky “it might seem a bit like the good old Bayern luck, but we deserved to win today.”
The win reduced the gap to leaders Bayer Leverkusen to eight points with 11 games left.
Neuer said Tuchel’s exit “cast a bad light on us as players, that we weren’t able to make it work with a top coach like Thomas Tuchel.
“It’s our mistake. We want to keep things going professionally until the end.”
Kane broke the deadlock midway through the first half but Leipzig hit back with 20 remaining minutes, Benjamin Sesko equalising for the visitors.
With Bayern in danger of conceding further ground to Leverkusen in the title race, Kane stepped up and scored in the first minute of injury time, his 27th league goal of the season.
Kane had a golden chance to release the pressure on the home side just five minutes in but his point-blank header was pushed onto the post by Janis Blaswich.
The England captain went close once more just before half-time but a bicycle kick was directed straight at Blaswich.
Kane finally broke through after 56 minutes, slamming a low shot into the Leipzig goal, his 26th strike in 23 games.
Leipzig, who had not lost to Bayern in the league in two years, pressured the German champions, breaking through after 70 minutes through Sesko.
Sesko collected a short Dani Olmo pass and drove his shot low, with the ball deflected by Leon Goretzka and rolling into the net.
The match looked set for a stalemate until Kane latched onto a pass from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, before volleying past Blaswich to seize a valuable win.
Stuttgart were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Cologne.
Stuttgart were without injured Brighton loanee Deniz Undav, who had scored five goals in his past four league games, picking up the slack from striker Serhou Guirassy, who has only recently returned to club action after the Africa Cup of Nations.
Stuttgart took the lead in the 53rd minute, Enzo Millot finishing off the type of well-worked team move which has become the hallmark of Sebastian Hoeness’ side this season.
Cologne drew level nine minutes later, though, Eric Martel tapping in after being left unmarked at the far post from a free-kick.
After needing to win a two-legged relegation play-off to stay in the top division last campaign, Stuttgart have been this season’s Bundesliga surprise packages and stay third as they bid to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2010.
A disappointed Stuttgart captain Waldemar Anton said: “If you want to play international football you have to come out on top in games like this.”
Elsewhere, Union Berlin drew 2-2 at home to Heidenheim.
The visitors forged ahead through Nikola Dovedan on just three minutes thanks to a defensive blunder.
Germany left-back Robin Gosens drew Union level in the 44th minute, sending an ungainly shot across the face of goal and into the net, moments before Andras Schafer gave the hosts the lead.
Heidenheim, who are surprisingly within touching distance of the European placings in their first top-flight season, equalized through Jan-Niklas Beste, who chipped the ball home after a counter-attack.
Borussia Moenchengladbach thumped Bochum 5-2 at home, picking up a crucial three points to move eight clear of the relegation play-off spot.
Darmstadt went within inches of a third win of the season, having two goals chalked off in the dying stages for offside and handball in a 1-1 draw at Werder Bremen.
The result keeps Darmstadt last on 13 points.