Late Wydad strike spoils Al-Ahly CAF Champions League party

Al-Ahly’s South African forward Percy Tau (C) reacts during the first-leg final football match of the CAF Champions League, between Egypt's Al-Ahly and Morocco's Wydad AC, at Cairo International Stadium on June 4, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 05 June 2023

Late Wydad strike spoils Al-Ahly CAF Champions League party

  • Final is finely balanced ahead of the second leg, with Egyptian giants having a slender advantage

CAIRO: Al-Ahly took a small step toward an 11th continental title with a 2-1 win over Wydad AC in the first leg of the African Champions League final on Sunday but were left wondering what might have been. The Egyptians were looking good with a deserved two-goal lead before the Moroccans hit with a late goal, which means that next week’s second leg is very finely poised.

In this rematch from the 2022 final that went the way of Wydad, a first-half header from Percy Tau and a Kahraba strike on the hour put the Red Giants in control before Saifeddine Bouhra hit back to set things up for next Sunday when there will be a big crowd and a hostile atmosphere in Casablanca.

That was the case with 50,000 fans at Cairo Stadium making an unforgettable atmosphere, Al-Ahly made most of the early running. Perhaps attack was always going to be the best form of defense as despite the pre-match news that Mohamed El-Shenawy had recovered from a calf injury and was set to start, in fact third-choice goalkeeper Mostafa Shobeir came in as the second choice stopper also injured. The stand-in stood out. 

Al-Ahly dominated possession and just before the half-hour, the game seemed to turn the way of the ten-time continental champions as the referee pointed to the spot, judging that that Hussein El Shahat’s free-kick had been handled by Zouheir El Moutaraji but VAR clearly demonstrated that the ball had hit the back of the head of the turning player.

After 38 minutes, there were more calls for a penalty as Al-Ahly claimed that the impressive El Shahat was brought down in the area by Jalal Daoudi but the appeals were waved away.

Until that point, the Moroccans had barely been visible as an attacking force but had shown in the semifinal elimination of Mamelodi Sundowns that they could not be counted out and before the break, Wydad finally started to ask a question or two.

Shortly after the third-choice goalkeeper had the home fans on their feet. Reda Jaadi picked up the ball in space on the right side of the area but Shobeir came out quickly, made himself big and blocked the shot. It was not the first or the last save that the 23-year-old made look easy.

On the stroke of half-time, Al-Ahly got the goal they deserved. El Shahat kept the ball in play on the byline and his cross from the left found Tau unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box and the South African made no mistake and his smart header guided the ball home. 

Wydad came out with a bit more urgency after the break as the game started to open up but found themselves two goals down on the hour. Youssef El Motie, himself the number two goalkeeper for the Moroccans, came far off his line to the right of the area in an attempt to clear a long ball from defense but Shahat got there first. He squared the ball to Kahraba who then had time to pick his spot — high in the Moroccan net — to put the Egyptians firmly in control.

After 68 minutes however, Shobeir was finally beaten by a first-time shot from Yahia Attiyat Allah on the left side of the area but the home fans were relieved to see the ball bounce back from the inside of the post. 

Ten minutes later, Shobier saved again, this time for Mohammed Ounajem as the Moroccans pushed for that away goal that would have changed the whole complexion of the tie. And that is what happened with four minutes remaining. Ayoub El Amloud got to the byline on the right to pull the ball back for Bouhra on the penalty spot and he steered the ball home. The delighted celebrations from the visiting team demonstrated with the goal meant. 

At the end, Al-Ahly left the field as if they had been defeated but it is all to play for in the second leg and it should be a cracker.

Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal hopes intact after action on day 4

Updated 54 min 40 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal hopes intact after action on day 4

  • Nepal’s victory over Hong Kong cemented their place in the semifinals
  • Outcome of Group B, as with Group A, will go down to the wire

AL-AMARAT: More rain arrived to influence the ACC Premier Cup competition on day four. A shower at about 8 a.m. caused a late start in the two morning matches, reduced to 18 overs per team.

In the Group A match between Nepal and Hong Kong, the latter was asked to bat. A steady start to 48 for two after seven overs became 82 for four from 13 overs. After that, wickets tumbled, the innings subsiding to 114 all out.

In reply, Nepal raced to 68 for no loss from five overs. The loss of two wickets in the sixth over did little to stop the charge, 117 being reached in the 13th over. Nepal’s victory cemented their place at the top of the group and a place in the semifinals.

The second Group A match of the day saw Malaysia face Qatar, who had yet to register a win. Malaysia were asked to bat, reaching 82 for two in 11 overs. Despite losing two quick wickets, the fifth-wicket partnership prospered so well that a total of 151 for five was achieved.

Qatar’s response was positive and, at the midway stage, half of the required target had been scored. Slow bowlers then stifled Qatar’s progress to 113 for four from 13 overs, with the result in the balance. In the next three overs the required acceleration was injected, so that only five runs were required in the final over, duly achieved with a straight six.

This result injected a new dynamic into Group A, in which four teams each have two points. At the end of day four, Saudi lead the way by virtue of a superior net run rate, with two matches left to play, against Qatar and Nepal. If Qatar are beaten, then Saudi are likely to qualify for the semifinals. If not, the door would be open for one of the other sides, each with one left to play. One unpredictable variable is the possible influence of rain on match completion.

The rain returned after the morning matches on day four. The distant hills to the south were not visible. Oman’s experienced curator, who has had eight years in Oman, revealed that he had never seen rain like this in April. Normally, rain comes from the west, but the current rain is arriving from the south and southeast. Fortunately, it cleared after an hour, and two Group B matches, reduced to 15 overs per side, commenced.

On Turf A, Oman asked the UAE to bat. Prolific batter Alishan Sharafu was out second ball, a second wicket falling in the second over. Muhammad Waseem was then partnered by Asif Khan in an 88-run stand. Khan continued in his attacking mode until a last-ball dismissal for 66 saw the UAE total 145 for five, Bilal Khan claiming three for 11.

Oman’s response was dismissive, Kashyap Prajapati and Naseem Khushi racing to 67 in 4.4 overs, before Khushi was dismissed. Khalid Kail continued the onslaught, scoring 50 from 23 deliveries, while Prajapati eased to 53 not out from 147 for the loss of a single wicket, with 14 deliveries to spare.

Two of the UAE’s ILT20 bowlers, Aayan Khan and Junaid Siddique, were heavily punished.

Oman’s comprehensive victory means that they top Group B, with six points from three games, to almost certainly secure a semifinal slot. The UAE have four points from three matches, with a final match against pointless Cambodia, whom they are heavy favorites to beat.

On Turf B, Kuwait were asked to bat by Bahrain and lost five wickets in reaching 79. No. 3 batter, M. Bhavsar, held firm with 54 before being the seventh wicket to fall. Late hitting by B. Tahir, 40 not out, took the total to 161 for seven.

In reply, Bahrain lost two early wickets for 24 and a third on 35, all to Yasin Patel who conceded only eight runs. Some middle-order hitting was not enough and the innings closed on 135 for six.

The result puts Kuwait on equal points (four) with the UAE. Kuwait have a superior net run rate, but have to play Oman in their final match. The outcome of Group B, as with Group A, will go to the wire.

FEI World Cup comes to Riyadh: Meet the Saudi riders

Updated 15 April 2024

FEI World Cup comes to Riyadh: Meet the Saudi riders

  • Riyadh will be hosting the prestigious FEI event for the first time since winning the bid in 2019

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian capital is gearing up to welcome the global equestrian community for the Federation Equestre Internationale Jumping World Cup Finals this weekend.

Riyadh will be hosting the prestigious FEI event for the first time since winning the bid in 2019. According to the international body, it is also a first for the Arabian peninsula region.

The finals will run from April 17 to April 20 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, with a total prize pool of €2.6 million ($2.7 million) up for grabs.

Three Saudi champions who qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics — Abdullah Al-Sharbatly, Ramzy Al-Duhami and Khaled Al-Motby — will compete in this weekend’s showjumping competition.

Arab News joined the riders behind the scenes at the stables, as the pressure mounts for the trio to secure their country a medal.

“I’ve got my, superstars, my best friends, Alamo and Fiumicino, two horses,” Al-Sharbatly said.

The 41-year-old Olympic medallist was part of the showjumping team that won Saudi Arabia a bronze medal during the 2012 London Olympics. In late 2023, he secured his sixth Asian gold medal.

Riyadh will be hosting the prestigious FEI event for the first time since winning the bid in 2019. (AN Photo/Abdulrahman bin Shulhub)

Despite this impressive record, Al-Sharbatly believes that fate also plays a part.

“In any sport you can’t win every day. And you also need a little bit of luck,” he said. “So it could be my show and it can be also that I want to have the best luck in this show.”

For Al-Sharbatly, the most important thing is that he will be surrounded by the animals he loves.

“I have so much love for horses,” he said. “Even if I don’t ride, it’s not a problem, but I have to be surrounded with horses every day.”

Al-Duhami said: “As you grow older in this sport, you get more experience and your goals change.”

The 52-year-old Saudi Olympic medalist, a revered rider in the Kingdom, has competed for decades, dating back to the 1980s. He competed in the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, where he received the bronze medal with the Saudi team.

“It’s not anymore about winning any event, but you want to win this big, major event, and then your focus becomes that, instead of just winning every weekend and trying to get a result every weekend,” he said.

Al-Duhami said that there was “a lot of hope” for the coming finals, though the focus has been the Olympics. He described his horse, Untouchable 32, as a “very good Olympic-caliber horse.”

He has witnessed the equestrian scene develop first-hand. From first discovering horses as a child through his late father, who financially invested in horses for him, to now watching the federation take on that crucial, parental-like role for the younger generation.

Three Saudi champions who qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics — Abdullah Al-Sharbatly, Ramzy Al-Duhami and Khaled Al-Motby — will compete in this weekend’s showjumping competition. (AN Photo/Abdulrahman bin Shulhub) 

For Al-Duhami, the World Cup is more than just a sports milestone for Saudi Arabia.

“Bringing this event to Saudi is is one step, for this young generation to come and see their role models in front of their eyes,” he said.

“And seeing their home country riders competing will give them the ambition and the possibility to think that ‘OK, now we can do it.”

Al-Duhami believes that hosting this event will enable a rich cultural exchange that can contribute in positive ways to the growth of the equestrian scene in Saudi Arabia.

“There is a lot of talent. The Saudi riders are very talented, and if they have given the chance to come and compete, they will always perform,” he said.

One of the riders Al-Duhami referred to is Al-Mobty. At only 25-years-old, Al-Mobty will be rubbing shoulders with the Kingdom’s and Arab world’s best competitors, as well as international champions, over the course of the weekend.

In 2018, he, together with Al-Sharbatly and Al-Duhami, brought home a gold medal from the Asian Games in Jakarta.

He described the results as one of his proudest achievements, coupled with the “gold medal in Ashgabat with the Saudi team, a silver medal in the Ashgabat tournament. Winning an individual gold medal in the Saudi Games Championship and winning a team gold medal in the Saudi Games Championship.”

This weekend’s tournament is indoors, which can pose a challenge for some showjumpers.

“They are always the hardest due to space limitations, and there will be greater pressure on the horses since it is a closed venue with an unfamiliar audience,” Al-Mobty said.

Al-Mobty said that despite these hurdles, he is hopeful that they will all perform well.

Day 3 of Fencing World Championships sees new champions

Vctorious women’s under-20 foil team was honored during the ongoing event in Riyadh. SPA
Updated 15 April 2024

Day 3 of Fencing World Championships sees new champions

  • The American team dominated the men’s under-20 foil team

Riyadh: Abdullah Al-Sunaid, CEO of the 2024 Junior and Cadet Fencing World Championships, crowned the victorious women’s under-20 foil team during the ongoing event in Riyadh. 

The Japanese team emerged triumphant, securing the gold medal after a thrilling victory over Italy, who won silver. The Republic of Korea claimed the bronze, with France also clinching bronze and securing the third position in the intense competitions held at the King Saud University Sports Arena.

In the men’s events, Mohammed Chaouchi, president of the Tunisian Fencing Federation, honored the winners of the third day. The American team dominated the men’s under-20 foil team, seizing the gold medal by defeating Italy, who took silver. Japan secured the bronze, while France also claimed the bronze and secured the third spot on the podium.

Wehrlein wins Misano E-Prix after last-lap heartbreak for Rowland

Updated 15 April 2024

Wehrlein wins Misano E-Prix after last-lap heartbreak for Rowland

  • Victory for TAG Heuer Porsche driver was the sixth of his Formula E career
  • Reigning champion Jake Dennis claims second place for Andretti Formula E Team, Nick Cassidy of Jaguar TCS Racing secures third

MISANO: The Misano E-Prix saw Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team emerge triumphant after an intense battle for Round 7 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship on Sunday night.

At the second leg of the inaugural Misano E-Prix double-header, Wehrlein made amends for TAG Heuer Porsche’s poor performance in the first race on Saturday. His first-place trophy from Round 7 is the sixth of his Formula E career, following a heartbreaking last-lap miscalculation that resulted in the then-race leader Oliver Rowland running out of energy and retiring.

Reigning ABB FIA Formula E World Champion Jake Dennis of the Andretti Formula E Team secured second place, while Jaguar TCS Racing’s Nick Cassidy clinched third place at the flag by five hundredths of a second, in front of a 25,000-strong crowd.

Wehrlein’s triumph has him tied with Dennis at the top of the Drivers’ standings, with previous leader Rowland falling to third. Meanwhile, Jaguar TCS Racing leads the Teams’ table by a significant margin.

“Yesterday would have been better to win but I’m very happy about the race today,” Wehrlein said. “It was quite chaotic again in the beginning until mid-race. I wasn’t sure if I should stay in the lead or let Oli (Rowland) through the pace. His pace seemed a bit weird and too fast to try and defend so I didn’t defend him much. I was a bit surprised by his energy, I wasn’t sure if the team had the correct information or not. But in the end, it proved to be the right thing to do. It was a lot of managing; the energy, the battery, the tires. Just everything.

“It goes quickly from zero to hero, we know that in Formula E. I think we had the pace this weekend to win both races. Unfortunately yesterday with these kinds of races I was a bit of a victim with my front wing and then being at the back, but today was a big redemption for us.”

Round 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will be the 2024 Monaco E-Prix on Saturday, April 27.

Rohit Sharma century in vain as Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians in IPL

Updated 14 April 2024

Rohit Sharma century in vain as Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians in IPL

  • Set 207 for victory, five-time winners Mumbai finished on 186-6

MUMBAI: India’s Rohit Sharma hit an unbeaten 105 but his Mumbai Indians fell 20 runs short as they tried to chase down a big target set by holders Chennai Super Kings in a battle of IPL heavyweights on Sunday.
Set 207 for victory, five-time winners Mumbai finished on 186-6 even though Rohit raised his ton in 61 balls at his home in Wankhede Stadium.
Skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad and the in-form Shivam Dube powered Chennai, who won their fifth title last year, to 206-4.
Gaikwad hit 69 and Dube smashed an unbeaten 66 before warhorse M.S. Dhoni smashed three successive sixes in the 20th over to take Chennai past 200.
Dhoni came in to bat with four balls left and scored 20. He smashed Mumbai skipper Hardik Pandya for three sixes and finished with a two to end a 26-run over.
“Our young wicketkeeper scoring three sixes down the order helped a lot and I think that was the difference,” Gaikwad said of the 42-year-old Dhoni.
Sri Lanka quick Matheesha Pathirana then took four wickets to push Mumbai to their fourth loss of the season and Gaikwad said he bowled “exceptionally well and nailed those yorkers.”
The two teams are on contrasting runs after changes of guard this season.
Pandya replaced Rohit as Mumbai captain while Dhoni surprisingly handed over the Chennai leadership to Gaikwad.
Gaikwad had his fourth win as captain after he set the pace for his team with his 40-ball knock laced with five fours and five sixes.
He put on 90 runs with Dube before falling to Pandya, but Dube and then Dhoni’s cameo ensured Chennai finished strongly.
Mumbai started well with Rohit and Ishan Kishan putting on 70 runs for the first wicket before Pathirana hit back.
Pathirana, known “Baby Malinga” for his slinging action similar to former Sri Lankan quick Lasith Malinga, sent back Kishan and then Suryakumar Yadav, for his second duck this season, in the space of three balls.
He later dismissed Tilak Varma for 31 as Rohit attempted to keep up the charge in his 63-ball knock and his second IPL ton.
Pathirana was named man of the match and Pandya said the Sri Lankan “was the difference.”
Tushar Deshpande got Pandya out and the home crowd cheered in another sign of growing unpopularity of Mumbai’s choice of captain.
In the first match of the day, Phil Salt’s rapid 89 and three wickets for Mitchell Starc helped Kolkata Knight Riders race to a crushing eight-wicket win over Lucknow Super Giants.
Starc’s 3-28 kept Lucknow down to 161-7 at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, with the other Knight Riders’ bowlers putting in disciplined performances after their side elected to field first.
The Australian left-arm quick became the most expensive buy in IPL history after Kolkata shelled out $2.98 million for his services.
Opener Salt then steered the two-time IPL winners to their target in 15.4 overs for their fourth victory in five matches this season.
The English wicketkeeper-batsman put on 120 runs with skipper Shreyas Iyer, who made 38, smashing 14 fours and three sixes in his 47-ball knock.