Raphinha header helps 10-man Barca to nervy Valencia win

Barcelona's Raphinha celebrates scoring his side's opening goal during Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 5, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 06 March 2023
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Raphinha header helps 10-man Barca to nervy Valencia win

  • The Brazilian winger nodded the Catalans in front in the 16th minute

BARCELONA: Barcelona clung on with 10 men to beat Valencia 1-0 and move 10 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday, thanks to Raphinha’s early header.
The Brazilian winger nodded the Catalans in front in the 16th minute. But after Ferran Torres missed a penalty and Ronald Araujo was sent off, the hosts were left fighting tooth and nail for the three points.
“The important thing is we keep adding points and we have three more,” Raphinha told Movistar.
“It’s hard to play with one less man, we did what we needed to, moved deeper and we pulled out the win.”
Barca retreated in the final half hour following Araujo’s 59th minute red card but survived to beat Ruben Baraja’s Valencia, who are 19th and two points from safety.
Barcelona’s 1-0 Copa del Rey semifinal first-leg triumph over Real Madrid on Thursday followed two consecutive defeats, and this narrow victory felt like a significant step toward a first league title since 2019.
Madrid can cut the gap back to seven points later on at Real Betis, but were hoping a depleted Barcelona would stumble at Camp Nou.
Without top scorer Robert Lewandowski, midfield maestros Pedri and Gavi and winger Ousmane Dembele, the Catalans were unable to play their best football, but did just enough to win.
Along with Barcelona’s playing absentees, coach Xavi Hernandez was suspended too, watching from a box, with his brother and assistant Oscar in the dugout.
Valencia resisted early Barcelona pressure but came undone when Sergio Busquets lofted a pass into the area for Raphinha to meet with a cunning run and a header over Giorgi Mamardashvili.
It was Raphinha’s fifth league goal of the season and similar to his header against Osasuna which snatched Barcelona a vital win before the World Cup break.
Although the forward has not consistently shone since his move from Leeds United last summer, his goals in recent weeks have helped Barca cope with Dembele’s absence.
Raphinha fired a free-kick into the wall and curled another effort wide after a fine Alejandro Balde run as Barcelona looked to build on their strong start.
Remaining at the heart of the action, the Brazilian whipped in a cross for Ansu Fati who headed into the ground and off target when he should have tested Mamardashvili.
Valencia might have equalized when Samuel Lino slashed an effort wildly over the bar, with Barcelona’s defense caught out for the first time.
Former Barcelona youth player Ilaix Moriba stabbed an effort wide toward the end of the first half, as Los Che finally began to earn a foothold in the game.
Early in the second half, Barcelona should have moved two ahead when Hugo Guillamon was penalized for handball.
Torres grabbed the ball to take the penalty, although Fati also wanted it and the pair exchanged words, increasing the pressure on the Spaniard, who hit the post.
“Before the game we talked about who will take the penalties,” added Raphinha.
“Ansu wanted to, I understand that, it’s normal. He asked for it, but sometimes your team-mate lets you and sometimes he doesn’t. It happens in a lot of teams.”
Fati struck the near post himself moments later, before a mistake from Jules Kounde left Barcelona with 10 men.
The French defender’s ill-advised header back toward Marc-Andre ter Stegen sent Hugo Duro through on goal. Ronald Araujo dragged down the striker and saw red.
Valencia put pressure on Barcelona without troubling Ter Stegen, who kept his 18th La Liga clean sheet of the season.
The visitors might have been awarded a late penalty when Kessie tangled with Fran Perez, but the referee waved away their desperate — and not unfounded — appeals.
“I have the feeling we could have taken something more from here,” Guillamon told Movistar.
“I thought the referee was going to blow for (the penalty), he steps on him and there’s contact.”


French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics

Updated 26 sec ago
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French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics

Oudéa-Castéra, dressed in a body suit, dove into the famous river after an initial slip and swam a few meters near the Alexandre III bridge
She was accompanied by Alexis Hanquinquant, the Paralympic flag bearer for France

PARIS: French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra took a symbolic dip in the Seine on Saturday in a bid to ease concerns about water quality before the start of the Paris Olympics.
Oudéa-Castéra, dressed in a body suit, dove into the famous river after an initial slip and swam a few meters near the Alexandre III bridge, where the Olympic open water swimming competition will be held.
“We held our promise,” she said to BFMTV, referring to an earlier pledge to swim in the Seine before the Games begin on July 26.
She was accompanied by Alexis Hanquinquant, the Paralympic flag bearer for France.
Ever since swimming in the Seine was banned in 1923 due to pollution levels, French politicians have promised to make the river swimmable again. Former Paris mayor and later president Jacques Chirac famously vowed in 1988 that the river would be clean enough to swim in by the end of his term, a promise that went unfulfilled.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also plans to swim in the Seine to prove its cleanliness.
In February, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to take a dip, too. But he added: “I’m not going to give you the date: There’s a risk you’ll be there.”
Hanquinquant, a para-triathlete, joined Oudéa-Castéra in Saturday’s swim and experienced firsthand the conditions he will face in competition on Sept. 1.
If water quality issues arise, organizers have backup plans.

Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2

Updated 13 July 2024
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Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2

  • Saudi Arabia’s Mostafa Nada needed just a little over two minutes to knock out Abdel Rahmane Driai with a flurry of strikes
  • The inaugural PFL MENA season will continue on Sept. 20 with the PFL MENA playoffs in Jeddah

RIYADH: The Professional Fighters League hosted the second event of the inaugural PFL MENA season at The Green Halls in Riyadh on Friday.

Athletes in the lightweight and welterweight divisions took to the SmartCage looking to secure their spots in the PFL MENA playoffs taking place on Sept. 20.

In the main event, Saudi Arabia’s Mostafa Nada needed just a little over two minutes to knock out Abdel Rahmane Driai with a flurry of strikes.

In the co-main event, Mohammad Al-Aqraa punched his way into the welterweight semifinals with a dominant third-round TKO win over Youcef Ouabbas.

Earlier on the card, Jarrah Al-Selawe made quick work of Rayan Atmani in their welterweight regular season bout, winning by rear naked choke submission in the first round to move on to the semifinals.

Also in the welterweight division, Badreddine Diani defeated Amir Fazli by unanimous decision to claim his spot in the semifinals.

Mohsen Mohammadseifi put his striking power on full display as he stopped Josh Togo by TKO in the first round to advance to the lightweight semifinals.

Souhil Tahiri earned a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Ahmed Amir in a lightweight regular season bout to secure his spot in the semifinals.

Omar El-Dafrawy put on a dominant performance against Anthony Zeidan, winning by unanimous decision and advancing to the welterweight semifinals.

In a women’s flyweight amateur showcase bout, Saudi Arabia’s Hattan Al-Saif earned her second straight TKO win, defeating Eman Baraka in the second round.

Abdullah Saleem secured his spot in the lightweight semifinals by submitting Omar Reguigui with a triangle choke in the first round.

In the first regular season lightweight bout of the night, Georges Eid outclassed Abbas Khan for three rounds to pick up a unanimous decision win and advance to the semifinals.

Kicking off the card’s action in a flyweight showcase bout, Ziyad Ayman Mokhtar showed off his grappling skills by submitting Hadi Omar Al Hussaini by rear-naked choke in the third round.

The inaugural PFL MENA season will continue on Sept. 20 with the PFL MENA playoffs in Jeddah. The event will start with the bantamweight and featherweight divisions.


US basketball team arrives in Abu Dhabi

Updated 13 July 2024
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US basketball team arrives in Abu Dhabi

  • Side faces off against Australia on July 15, Serbia on July 17

RIYADH: The USA men’s national basketball team arrived in Abu Dhabi as part of their preparations for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The Americans will face Australia and Serbia on July 15 and 17, respectively. Australia and Serbia will face off on July 16. The games will be played at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena.

The team’s visit, as part of the USA Basketball Showcase, highlights Abu Dhabi’s growing prominence as a hub for world-class sporting events.

The city boasts state-of-the-art pitches, top-quality technology and comfortable spectator areas, a press release said.

For the second straight summer, the USA Basketball Showcase is being held in the UAE capital in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi.


Burmester, Stringers take lead on tough first day at LIV Golf Andalucia

Updated 13 July 2024
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Burmester, Stringers take lead on tough first day at LIV Golf Andalucia

  • South African shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot advantage while leading Stinger GC to the top of the team leaderboard

SOTOGRANDE: Real Club Valderrama bared its teeth in Friday’s first round of LIV Golf Andalucia, making it the toughest scoring day in the league’s young history.

Dean Burmester shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot advantage while leading Stinger GC to the top of the team leaderboard, but even the South African was not sure how he managed the low score.

“Valderrama is some place,” said Burmester, the individual winner earlier this season in Miami on another difficult course, Doral’s Blue Monster. “… I don’t know how I shot 5-under, to be honest with you.”

Only seven of the 54 players in the field were under par, the fewest amount in a single round of any LIV Golf regular-season tournament. The field stroke average of 3.519 over par, with five players shooting 80 or higher, is the highest for any of LIV Golf’s 88 regular-season rounds. Collectively, the field was 190 over, and just one hole played under par, the par-5 11th.

Gusting winds reaching nearly 20 mph from a direction that was different from the practice days required players to throw their game plans out the window. The winds also dried the greens, creating firm putting surfaces.

Fireballs GC Captain Sergio Garcia, who has more experience at Spain’s most celebrated golf course than any other LIV Golf player, told fellow Spaniard and playing partner Jon Rahm early in their round that Valderrama was “showing some teeth today. Probably not the whole mouth but definitely the teeth.”

The Legion XIII captain replied: “Some teeth? I think it’s more than that.”

Rahm, making his first start in his home country since joining LIV Golf in the offseason, shot a 2-over 73 on a day in which he said he made just one mistake, misjudging his putt on the 13th hole, leading to a three-putt bogey. 

“I feel like I played really good,” said Rahm, in an eight-way tie for 16th. “The scores on this golf course a lot of times are worse than it feels like.”

Garcia was one of those seven players under par, shooting a 2-under 69 to share fourth place with Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri. Fireballs teammate Eugenio Chacarra of Spain was one stroke better, shooting a 68 as his game continues to trend up after a tie for third at last week’s International Series Morocco.

“My goal for today was to play smart golf,” Chacarra said. “I know my game is there.”

The Fireballs, with three Spanish players on their roster, are at 2-under and in second place on the team leaderboard, two shots behind the Stingers.

The closest pursuer to Burmester on the individual leaderboard is Iron Heads GC’s Danny Lee, who shot a 4-under 67. It is his fourth-best round relative to par this season as he has struggled for results. He entered this week ranked 45th in points. 

“Definitely a sign that I’m moving into the right direction,” said Lee, whose goal is to finish the regular season inside the top 24 to lock up playing privileges for 2025.

For Burmester, the key to survival on Friday was his putter. He needed just 21 putts, which tied for fewest in the field with wild card player Anthony Kim, who shot a 73.

“It was probably one of the best putting rounds I’ve ever had as a professional,” Burmester said. “Just every time I stood over a putt, I just felt like could I make it. You don’t get days like that too often.”

LIV Golf players have never seen a day like this, and they are hoping for a bit of relief this weekend in the final two rounds.

“Can it be more difficult? Yes, everything can be more difficult,” Rahm said. “… But not a lot harder, obviously. Today was a pretty hard day.”

 

TEAM COUNTING SCORES

Standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Andalucia. The three best scores from each team count in the first two rounds while all four scores count in the final round. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title. 

 
1. STINGER GC -4 (Burmester 66, Oosthuizen 70, Schwartzel 73)

 
2. FIREBALLS GC -2 (Chacarra 68, Garcia 69, Ancer 74)

 
3. IRON HEADS GC -1 (Lee 67, Vincent 72, Na 73)

 
T4. CRUSHERS GC +4 (Lahiri 69, Casey 74, DeChambeau 74)

 
T4. MAJESTICKS GC +4 (Horsfield 70, Westwood 71, Poulter 76)

 
T6. CLEEKS GC +6 (Bland 71, Kaymer 72, Meronk 76)

 
T6. TORQUE GC +6 (Ortiz 72, Pereira 73, Muñoz 74)

 
8. 4ACES GC +8 (Reed 72, Johnson 73, Perez 76)

 
9. LEGION XIII +9 (Hatton 72, Rahm 73, Vincent 77)

 
10. RIPPER GC +10 (Smith 72, Herbert 75, Leishman 76)

 
T11. SMASH GC +13 (Koepka 75, McDowell 75, Gooch 76)

 
T11. HYFLYERS GC +13 (Mickelson 73, Tringale 76, Steele 77)

 
13. RANGEGOATS GC +18 (Wolff 73, Pieters 79, Watson 79)


Esports Olympic Games in Saudi Arabia will ‘entirely reimagine’ the gaming landscape, says Prince Faisal

Updated 13 July 2024
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Esports Olympic Games in Saudi Arabia will ‘entirely reimagine’ the gaming landscape, says Prince Faisal

  • The Kingdom will host the inaugural Esports Olympic Games in 2025 following International Olympic Committee announcement
  • Saudi Esports Federation Chairman Prince Faisal calls announcement ‘proud and humbling’ moment

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the inaugural Esports Olympic Games in 2025 will “entirely reimagine” the gaming and esports landscape, says Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation.

The news was announced by the International Olympic Committee on Friday afternoon. The IOC has partnered with the Saudi Arabian Olympic & Paralympic Committee under an ambitious 12-year agreement — with the Esports Olympic Games set to be held regularly throughout this time.

Saudi Arabia is currently hosting the inaugural Esports World Cup, at Boulevard Riyadh City until Aug. 25, and Prince Faisal said that this latest news consolidated the Kingdom’s position as a destination of choice for leading global esports events.

“The opportunity to host an event of this magnitude is a proud and humbling moment for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — it’s something that has captured the attention and imagination of game enthusiasts all around the world,” he said.

“Beginning next year, there’s no doubt that this brand-new event is destined to be a spectacle that entirely reimagines gaming and esports as we know it. It will bring the entire global community even closer together as the spirit of elite competition and international cooperation shine bright while the world’s best athletes provide moments of esports excellence that entertain, delight and inspire.”

In line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, gaming and esports is one of 13 sectors being prioritized under the transformational socio-economic framework. From launching talent and infrastructure development projects to hosting international competitions, recent years have seen the Kingdom emerge as a global gaming and esports hub — supported by SEF and the ambitious National Gaming and Esports Strategy launched in 2022 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

With the Esports Olympic Games officially confirmed as a regular mainstay on the global calendar from next year onwards, Prince Faisal said that the Saudi-based Esports Olympics could mirror the success of the Summer Olympics by bringing the global community together for inspirational sporting events.

“For countless generations, the Olympic Games has been widely considered as the grandest stage in all of sport,” Prince Faisal said. “They represent something truly special and spectacular — an occasion where the world comes together to watch moments of magnificence that epitomize talent, teamwork, dedication and belief in one’s abilities to fulfill their dreams and aspirations.

“It’s my sincere belief that the Esports Olympic Games will have a similar influence and impact. We’ve already seen esports — the new global sport — morph into a modern-day phenomenon where opportunities are there like never before for athletes to compete, excel and succeed. The Esports Olympic Games will continue this legacy — and we look forward to the honor and privilege of hosting the first-ever edition,” he said.