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.”


Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

Updated 22 July 2024
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Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

  • Explosive Indian batter Suryakumar Yadav was named skipper for India’s T20 format for Sri Lanka tour 
  • Pandya, who was vice-captain during last month’s T20 World Cup, has suffered from fitness problems 

Mumbai: Hardik Pandya lost out on India’s T20 captaincy to Suryakumar Yadav because of concerns over his availability after frequent injury absences, India’s chief selector Ajit Agarkar said Monday.
Explosive middle-order batsman Suryakumar, 33, was last week named Rohit Sharma’s successor in the T20 format for India’s white-ball tour of Sri Lanka, which begins Saturday.
All-rounder Pandya, 30, was Rohit’s deputy during India’s T20 World Cup triumph last month but he has suffered from fitness problems and missed the 50-over World Cup last year with an ankle injury.
“Fitness has been something that he’s struggled with,” Agarkar told reporters in Mumbai alongside new coach Gautam Gambhir.
“As selectors, it becomes difficult then. The thought behind it was that we want someone who is likely to be available more.”
India begin their Sri Lanka trip with the first of three Twenty20 internationals on Saturday and Pandya has reportedly opted out of the three subsequent one-day internationals.
He was “still a very important player,” Agarkar said. “And that’s what we want him to be, those skill sets are hard to find.”
Agarkar praised Suryakumar’s captaincy credentials.
“He is one of the best T20 batters in the world,” said Agarkar.
“We feel that Surya has all the necessary qualities to be a good captain.
“We wanted a captain, who is likely to play all the games.”
Suryakumar would remain solely a T20 player, said Agarkar. Rohit has retained the 50-over captaincy.
Gambhir explained his coaching philosophy, speaking to reporters for the first time since succeeding Rahul Dravid.
“I think it is important to give players the freedom, that’s what I believe in,” he said.
“The best relationship is built on trust. I can promise that the most important thing is that they will always have my back.”
Rohit, 37, and Virat Kohli, 35, both quit T20 internationals after the World Cup.
Gambhir, a former India teammate of both Kohli and Rohit, expects the veteran pair to remain key figures in the Test and 50-over teams.
“Both those guys have a lot of cricket left in them,” Gambhir said, adding he hoped they are motivated to feature in the 2024/25 tour to Australia and next year’s 50-over Champions Trophy.
Retirement is “a very personal decision” he added.
 


Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign

Updated 22 July 2024
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Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign

  • The initiative by company Fuelre4m looks to harness the power of football to drive sustainability and environmental change

DUBAI: UAE-based clean-fuel technology firm Fuelre4m have announced a partnership with Harry Redknapp — former Tottenham, Portsmouth and West Ham football manager — as part of their “Green Goals” campaign.

The initiative aims to utilize former football stars to raise awareness and action for sustainability.

“With the global football industry emitting over 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, more top players need to join in to make a bigger impact,” Redknapp said recently.

“Football’s carbon footprint is massive, and players do have a responsibility to help. They can do more by getting involved in green campaigns, pushing for eco-friendly stadiums and clubs, and using social media to spread awareness and influence fans.”

“Football has the power to inspire millions,” he added. “If we can use that influence to promote sustainability, we can make a real difference. That’s why I’m excited to be part of Fuelre4m’s ‘Green Goals’ campaign.”

Rob Mortimer, managing director of Fuelre4m, highlighted the significance of Redknapp’s support.

“Having Harry Redknapp on board is a game-changer. His influence in the football world is immense, and his support for our campaign underscores the importance of sustainability in sports,” he said.

“Harry’s involvement will undoubtedly motivate players and fans to take action, amplifying our efforts to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels.”

FuelRe4m has developed a fuel-reforming technology that enhances the combustion process in engines, the company stated.

By breaking down impurities and complex hydrocarbons in liquid fossil fuels, the Re4mx technology is aimed at ensuring a more efficient and cleaner burn.

This results in increased power output, lower fuel consumption, and a significant reduction in harmful emissions.


Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh

Updated 22 July 2024
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Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh

  • Al-Hilal’s Brazilian superstar was avid spectator at the largest gaming and esports festival in the world

RIYADH: Neymar, the Brazilian superstar footballer who plays for Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League, was a delighted spectator in Riyadh at the inaugural Esports World Cup, the globe’s largest gaming festival.

The No. 10 joined packed crowds to watch the action at Boulevard Riyadh City, as teams in the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Counter-Strike 2” contests battled it out in the finals.

He also met Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation.

The world event features a unique cross-game structure pitting the top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

Held at the 8,000-capacity SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, the event runs until Aug. 25, and has a tournament prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of esports.

More than 1,500 players, of over 60 nationalities, are participating at the Esports World Cup.

As well as the “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters,” week three of the competition featured elite action in the “Counter Strike 2” and “PUBG Mobile” contests.

 


Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’

Updated 22 July 2024
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Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’

  • Liverpool and Portugal star, an avid gamer and investor, watched all the ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Counter-Strike 2’ action, and met esports players

RIYADH: Diogo Jota, the Liverpool and Portugal footballer, who attended the Esports World Cup in Riyadh on Sunday, has declared the globe’s largest gaming festival “a truly amazing experience.”

Jota, an avid gamer and investor in multinational esports organization Galaxy Racer, watched all the action at Boulevard Riyadh City as teams contested the finals of the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Counter-Strike 2” competitions.

The eight-week Esports World Cup features a unique cross-game structure pitting the top clubs and players against one another across 22 competitions in 21 leading games.

Held within the 8,000-capacity Saudi Esports Federation Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, it runs until Aug. 25 and has a tournament prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of the sport.

The attacker, who has 42 caps and played for Portugal at the UEFA Euro 2024 this summer, met participating stars, including from Saudi Arabia’s Team Falcons, and happily swapped gaming and esports stories.

Jota said: “Being here at the inaugural Esports World Cup is a truly amazing experience. The organization and scale behind this event are truly impressive, even more than I anticipated.

“I’ve always believed in the potential of esports, even before starting my own team, and EWC is proof that this scene is evolving rapidly. This level of investment and infrastructure is exactly what esports needs to grow and reach a wider audience.

“I’m excited to see how EWC continues to evolve and push the boundaries of competitive gaming.”

Jota, who wears the No. 20 for Liverpool, was ranked world No. 1 in FIFA 21’s Champions Leaderboard. A regular streamer on Twitch, he also won an invitational series of FIFA matches, run by the Premier League, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then a Wolverhampton Wanderers player, Jota defeated future Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold in the final.

Last year, Jota’s own esports organization, Diogo Jota Esports, was rebranded to Luna Galaxy — coming under the Galaxy Racer umbrella.

Prior to this, Diogo Jota Esports participated in the FIFAe Finals at Gamers8, organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, at Boulevard Riyadh City last summer, with Daniel “DFernandes” Fernandes finishing in the top 16.

More than 1,500 players, of over 60 nationalities, are battling it out at the inaugural Esports World Cup. Week three of the competition features action in the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters,” “Counter Strike 2,” and “PUBG Mobile” contests.


Gaimin Gladiators celebrate ‘Dota 2 Riyadh Masters’ triumph at the Esports World Cup

Updated 22 July 2024
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Gaimin Gladiators celebrate ‘Dota 2 Riyadh Masters’ triumph at the Esports World Cup

  • Canadian club earn tournament’s top prize of $1.5m after defeating Team Liquid 3-0 in the final

RIYADH: Gaimin Gladiators celebrated a deserved “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters” triumph on Sunday night at the Esports World Cup after whitewashing Team Liquid 3-0 in the final.

After nearly two weeks of “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters” competition at Boulevard Riyadh City, Gaimin Gladiators took the lion’s share of the $5 million tournament prize pool — earning a cool $1.5 million.

Team Liquid claimed $800,000 for finishing second, and Saudi Arabia side Team Falcons earned $600,000 for coming third.

Gaimin Gladiators had qualified for the Grand Final after defeating Team Liquid 2-0 in the Upper Bracket Final earlier on Sunday.

Team Liquid then earned a rematch after beating Team Falcons 2-0 in the Lower Bracket Final — but to no avail as the Canadian club brought their A-game when it mattered most.

Speaking at the post-final press conference, Quinn, Gaimin Gladiators’ Solo Middle player, said: “I think it’s nice to prove to ourselves that we can grind from the bottom back up to the top again.

“We had a tough year with some issues, so just to grind back up to the top was nice. It’s cool, it’s satisfying.”

Coach Cy added: “We want to always be the best. We try to be the best. As long as we’re together in this roster we should be aligned with that idea. It’s okay if we don’t achieve that but we have to put in the work to try and achieve that.”

tOfu, the Support player for Gaimin Gladiators, praised the organization at Boulevard Riyadh City for the Esports World Cup. “Everything went super smoothly.”

The Gaimin Gladiators’ lineup consists of: Coach Cy (Aske Larsen, Denmark), dyrachyo (Anton Shkredov, Russia), Quinn (Quinn Callahan, US), Ace (Marcus Hoelgaard, Denmark), tOfu (Erik Engel, Germany), and Seleri (Melchior Hillenkamp, Netherlands).

The “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters” was just one of the many incredible tournaments at the eight-week long Esports World Cup.

The world event features a unique cross-game structure pitting the top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

Held at the 8,000-capacity SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, the event runs until Aug. 25, and has a tournament prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of esports.

More than 1,500 players, of over 60 nationalities, are participating at the Esports World Cup.

As well as the “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters,” week three of the competition featured elite action in “Counter Strike 2” and “PUBG Mobile” contests.