Neymar draws blank as Al-Hilal draw with Damac

Hilal’s Brazilian forward Neymar takes on Damac’s Egyptian midfielder Tarek Hamed, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium, Abha, Sept. 21, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2023

Neymar draws blank as Al-Hilal draw with Damac

  • Early goal from Malcom put the visitors ahead as Al-Hilal looked to bounce back from a disappointing opening game 1-1 draw in the Asian Champions League with Navbahor
  • Nicolae Stanciu lined up a free-kick for Damac and the Romanian’s shot took an awkward bounce as Bounou went down to make the save and it ended up in the net

Neymar is still looking for his first goal in Saudi Arabia as Al-Hilal were held to a 1-1 draw with lowly Damac on Thursday. Despite the dropped points, the Riyadh giants return to the capital as league leaders with 17 points from the first seven games of the season. 

An early goal from Malcom put the visitors ahead as they looked to bounce back from a disappointing opening game 1-1 draw in the Asian Champions League on Monday with Navbahor of Uzbekistan. It didn’t quite work out that way as Damac produced a performance that belied their next-to-bottom league standing.

Hilal coach Jorge Jesus fielded a strong line-up containing the club’s big summer signings. Neymar was in attack alongside fellow Brazilian Malcom. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic also started, as did Kalidou Koulibaly in defense and Yassine Bounou between the sticks. Ruben Neves came off the bench at the start of the second half.

By that time the men in white were looking for a bit of a cushion as Damac, still looking for a first win of the season with just three points from the opening six games, had their moments.

Malcom fired the opener after just nine minutes but there was much to thank Neymar for. The former Barcelona star had dropped deep — as he did on numerous occasions — to pick up possession. He then threaded a pass through two defenders on the left for Salem Al-Dawsari to get to the byline — to pull back for the Brazilian to smash the ball high into the net from the edge of the six-yard box.

Al-Hilal wanted a second, and almost immediately from the restart, attacked down the same side but this time Al-Dawsari’s low ball, with Neymar waiting in the middle, was cut out.

Damac almost levelled after 14 minutes. Abdulaziz Al-Bishi blocked a poor clearance, and after pushing Bounou out of the way on the right side, could not curl the ball into the empty net from the tightest of angles. It was a let-off for the 18-time champions.

There was another warning on the half-hour. Assan Ceesay looked like he was going to give Damac the lead as he shot from inside the area but Bounou was quick off his line to make the save.

Then Neymar should have scored. With eight minutes of the first half remaining, Malcom drew a number of defenders on the right side and then slipped the perfect pass into his fellow Brazilian, unmarked near the penalty spot. Neymar shot toward the bottom corner but was denied by the heel of Sultan Faqihi.

Just before the break, Damac came even closer as Farouk Chafai headed against the Hilal crossbar. The hosts continued to push for the equalizer after the break and got back on level terms midway through the second half. It was a deserved goal though slightly soft from the point of view of the visitors.

There didn’t seem to be a huge amount of danger when Nicolae Stanciu lined up a free-kick more than 30 meters from goal, but the Romanian’s shot took an awkward bounce as Bounou went down to make the save and it ended up in the net.

Soon after, Milinkovic-Savic produced a pass of beauty to dissect the Damac defense and while Neymar made his run behind the backline, he could not quite guide the ball between the posts.

Both teams continued to push forward for the winner but neither managed it. It was a second successive disappointing 1-1 draw for Al-Hilal.

Elsewhere, Gina Wijnaldum announced his arrival in Saudi Arabia with a brace as Ettifaq picked up a dramatic 4-3 win at home to Al-Tai. 

The former Liverpool star scored the fastest goal of the season so far, after 79 seconds, to give the Dammam men the lead. A hat-trick from Bernand Mensah ensured that Al-Tai were in the game as Moussa Dembele and then a second from Wijnaldum ensured it was 3-3 as the game entered injury time.

With 94 minutes on the clock Dembele struck again to send the team third, just a point behind leaders Al-Hilal.

Al-Taawoun are second after a 2-1 win at home to Al-Raed.

Al-Ahli, Al-Shabab to the fore at Saudi Games

Updated 14 sec ago

Al-Ahli, Al-Shabab to the fore at Saudi Games

  • Medals also given out following the fencing and robotics events
  • 3x3 basketball and handball competitions got underway on Saturday

RIYADH: Al-Ahli and Al-Shabab dominated the medals at the Saudi Games’ athletics events on Saturday.

In the men’s 800-meters final, Al-Shabab’s Issa Ghazwan took the gold and his teammate Sami Al-Yami the bronze. There was also a gold medal for Al-Shabab in the men’s 400-meters hurdles, which was won by Mohammed Al-Mauwi.

Al-Ahli’s Ali Mas took home the gold medal in the men’s 200-meters final, while Suga Saied finished first for the same club in the women’s long jump final.

Elsewhere, Ryan Al-Khawiter beat last year’s champion Kevin Orlandi to win gold and SR1 million ($266,574) in the triathlon at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex.

Khaled Al-Mobty also clinched gold on Saturday in the individual show jumping event, with Meshari Al-Harbi taking home silver and Mohammed Al-Askar the bronze.

The jet ski gold medal and SR1 million prize was won by Tariq Bukhari at Durrat Al-Arous in Jeddah.

There were also medals awarded in the under-54 kg, under-65 kg, under-80 kg and under-97 kg categories of the paralympic weightlifting event.

Al-Nassr and Al-Selmeyyah qualified for the beach soccer final, to be held on Sunday evening, while the Riyadh club also secured a place in the men’s futsal final against Al-Ettifaq.

There were medals given out following the fencing and robotics events, while the 3x3 basketball and handball competitions got underway on Saturday.

Kashmiri students arrested for celebrating India's Cricket World Cup defeat get bail

Updated 03 December 2023

Kashmiri students arrested for celebrating India's Cricket World Cup defeat get bail

  • Police dropped the charges and an Indian court granted bail to the students on Saturday, according to their lawyer
  • In granting bail, the court imposed a condition the students should be available when needed for the investigation

SRINAGAR: An Indian court has granted bail to seven Kashmiri students who were arrested under anti-terror laws for allegedly celebrating Australia's victory over India in the men's Cricket World Cup final last month, a lawyer said on Sunday. 

The students from an agriculture university were detained in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after one student filed a complaint accusing them of using anti-India slogans and cheering for Pakistan along with Australia after the match. 

Claimed in full but ruled in part by India and Pakistan, Muslim-majority Kashmir has seen a bloody insurrection against New Delhi for decades. Muslims in the region have in the past cheered for the competing side in India cricket matches as a way of protesting Indian rule. 

Local political leaders opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi government's rule over J&K had said the arrests were a way to intimidate locals using the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The act deals with inciting any unlawful activity and is punishable with seven years' imprisonment. 

Police dropped the UAPA charges and an Indian court granted bail to the students on Saturday, according to the lawyer of students, Shafiq Bhat, and a court order seen by Reuters. 

In granting bail, the local court imposed a condition that the students should be available when needed for the investigation and "shall not indulge in any anti national activity," the order stated. 

The students still face allegations under other Indian laws that related to making statements inducing public mischief. 

Australia had entered the World Cup match as clear underdogs against an all-conquering India side, who had won 10 matches in a row to storm into the final. But India was defeated in the final match on Nov. 19. 

India blames Pakistan for supporting the Muslim insurgents. Pakistan denies this and accuses India of violating the rights of Kashmir's Muslim people, a charge India rejects. 

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl crush Al-Bataeh to go 5 points clear of nearest rivals

Updated 03 December 2023

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl crush Al-Bataeh to go 5 points clear of nearest rivals

  • Matches involving second-placed Al-Ain and third-placed Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai were postponed until Dec. 20 due to AFC Champions League commitments

Leaders Al-Wasl’s storming campaign continued with an affirmative thrashing of Al-Bataeh and Alfred Schreuder’s Al-Nasr debut finished in frustration during ADNOC Pro League’s truncated matchweek nine.

Ivorian youngster Adama Diallo’s excellent brace helped the unbeaten Cheetahs to a 4-1 victory, adding further veracity to dreams of ending their pained wait for an eighth top-flight trophy since their success in 2006-07.

Al-Wasl now hold a five-point lead, because of AFC Champions League commitments delaying until Dec. 20 second-placed Al-Ain’s match against Khor Fakkan, and third-placed holders Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club’s trip to continental contenders Sharjah.

A second-half penalty from 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin, meanwhile, saw fourth-placed Al-Wahda earn their 1-1 draw against ex-Al-Ain and Ajax supremo Schreuder’s Nasr. Jamal Maroof’s 97th-minute spot-kick for bottom-placed Hatta curtailed third-bottom Ajman celebrations in their dramatic 1-1 stalemate, while resurgent Iran starlet Mehdi Ghayedi had a hand in all four goals when Andres Iniesta’s sinking Emirates Club were beaten 4-2 by Ittihad Kalba.

UAE legend Ali Mabkhout got a brace as Al-Jazira produced a much-needed 4-1 derby beating of neighbours Baniyas.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from the latest action.


Player of the week: Mehdi Ghayedi (Ittihad Kalba)

Ghayedi had gone from Asia’s golden boy, to an unfulfilled afterthought.

The diminutive attacker with magic in his boots appeared to have the world at his feet after becoming AFC Best Young Player of the Year in 2020. A switch to Shabab Al-Ahli in the following summer was meant to take his game to another level, with this pathway having previously helped send exalted compatriot Ali Karimi to Bayern Munich back in 2005.

Ghayedi’s forgettable 2021-22 season was followed by sparks of life returning to his play on loan at former club Esteghlal. These reached full luminescence in a sensational display for latest temporary employers, Kalba, during victory against Emirates.

The now 24-year-old moved onto seven goal contributions in nine league run-outs under former mentor Farhad Majidi, thanks to a well-taken brace. Added influence was supplied by winning penalties ably converted by the superb Daniel Bessa and Andres Vombergar.

Ghayedi featured in June’s inaugural CAFA Nations Cup, but has since been ignored by Iran head coach Amir Ghalenoei. If he can continue to inspire Kalba’s rise up the standings from their current ninth during a packed December, a way back in may be found for the Asian Cup.


Goal of the week: Adama Diallo (Al-Wasl)

A star is on the ascendancy at Zabeel Stadium.

Diallo has gone from unheralded youngster, to keeping veteran Switzerland striker Haris Seferovic out of the XI and being tipped for naturalisation by the UAE.

The 21-year-old Ivorian produced a mesmerising double in a dominant victory over dark-horses Bataeh, with the 16th-minute opener especially outstanding.

Slipped behind the midfield by Nicolas Gimenez, there was still 40 yards+ to goal from the left flank. Lightning acceleration allied with tight control took him beyond a trio of retreating Bataeh defenders, before smashing into the near post’s bottom corner.

Diallo — who later delivered a deft Fabio De Lima-esque curled finish — now sits on four strikes in eight ADNOC Pro League run-outs this season, averaging out at one every 92 minutes.


Coach of the week: Frank de Boer (Al-Jazira)

Frank de Boer managed to find the release valve, just as pressure began to build toward dangerous levels.

A 4-2 chasing by surging Wasl in matchweek eight left a richly talented Jazira well off the pace in eighth. Their nine-point gap to top spot remains, but impressive victory at Baniyas Stadium provides a superior gloss in fifth.

The Pride of Abu Dhabi lived up to their nickname via a virtuoso display by Mabkhout, moving onto a record-extending 213 goals in 286 top-flight run-outs with a tremendous brace.

Host left-back Joao Victor’s 34th-minute red card ensured 68 percent possession and a shot count of 24/11 favoured the visitors.

That this fine work was supplemented by ex-Fulham star Neeskens Kebano netting his second Jazira goal, a pair of assists from winger Oumar Traore and UAE matchwinner Abdullah Ramadan getting involved at club level speaks volume of the vast potential contained within De Boer’s ranks.

A generous end to 2023 in the league pits the Netherlands great against the current bottom three, in descending order. A perfect, nine-point haul — plus, progress in ADIB Cup’s quarter-finals versus bitter-rivals Wahda — would thrust Jazira right into the trophy mix.

De Boer collected ample silverware when employed as manager at Ajax and Atlanta United, despite a mixed record elsewhere.

This pedigree is unquestionable. So, too, the squad depth at his disposal.

Jazira’s foreign quintet is enviable, while six members of Paulo Bento’s victorious UAE roster hail from there.

Baniyas may have witnessed the start of another trophy charge in De Boer’s intermittently glittering managerial career.


Are Al-Wasl the real deal?

These are good times at Wasl.

ADNOC Pro League’s only unbeaten side have taken more points than any other in the last five matches, have triumphed in their last five outings in all competitions and swept the latest “The Best” monthly awards. They have netted six more goals than any other club and boast the joint-third meanest defence.

This form is underpinned by belief head coach Milos Milojevic can replicate in Dubai his prior double-winning campaign at Red Star Belgrade.

Wasl are, though, stung by recent memories. Strong starts under the likes of Juan Antonio Pizzi and Rodolfo Arruabarrena faded into obscurity.

The 21st century has not been kind to this storied club. But, the same was said of Sharjah ahead of 2018/19’s surprise title success.

Anthony Gordon sparkles in Newcastle win over Manchester United giving Gareth Southgate a Marcus Rashford headache

Updated 03 December 2023

Anthony Gordon sparkles in Newcastle win over Manchester United giving Gareth Southgate a Marcus Rashford headache

NEWCASTLE: In Paris, many were keen to compare Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon with Kylian Mbappe. And while the young Scouser was overshadowed by his more storied opponent that night, he showed many, four days later, including Gareth Southgate, that there are few more electric forwards in English football right now.

While Marcus Rashford still edges ahead of Gordon in England squads, the time is nearing where questions must be asked about the validity of that call. On Saturday night’s evidence, Gordon is head and shoulders the man who should own England’s left.

On the day when England’s European Championship opponents were announced — they face Serbia, Slovakia and Denmark in Germany in the summer of 2024 — Gordon sparkled, providing the only goal in a dominant 1-0 victory over Manchester United.

Rashford, like many others in red, wilted in St. James’ Park’s unforgiving atmosphere.

“I couldn’t be happier with the players,” said Howe. “The performances we put in against three top teams (Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Man United) were brilliant, so that will give us confidence. Then, when we get some players back, we can push on even further.

“(An) Incredible physical and mental effort. The level of technical performance, I don’t think should be underestimated, I thought we dominated the first half and attacked really well down both sides.

“The left side of Tino, Anthony and Joelinton was really productive for us. And on the right side, I thought that was Lewy Miley’s best game for us out of the three, which is saying something given how well he played in the other two but I thought he was, especially in the first-half, excellent. He, Miggy (Almiron) and Kieran (Trippier) worked really well down that righthand side so a good balance to the team today.”

Gordon was judged by many last summer to be a player who looked an ill-fit for Newcastle’s high-intensity, high-pressing style. He’s now the main man in the Magpies’ front three after netting his sixth strike of the season. Gordon has now scored seven in his last 21 games for the Magpies, matching his goalscoring tally for the rest of his career combined.

Howe said: “From day one, when he arrived at the club, you could see the passion he had and his desire to achieve and be successful. He puts the work in every day and sometimes we have to go and get him off the training pitch.

“He was very good again up against a very good defender in (Aaron) Wan-Bissaka. Physically he was so good today, it was a really good battle between the two of them.

“I am delighted he is scoring the goals now and getting the recognition he deserves.

“I thought he played really well at the start of the season but every attacker needs to score to get that feeling and the confidence that brings. Not just the goals but he’s getting assists as well, he’s involved in match-winning moments. I thought he played really well again today. It was a brilliant cross from Kieran. A good move and good finish.”

Gordon was overlooked by Southgate for the recent England internationals, in which only Kieran Trippier was called up from the Newcastle squad. Howe thinks it’s only a matter of time before all of that changes.

“I’d agree he’s playing at a very high level and he has done for this season,” said the head coach when asked about a possible call-up.

“When you come here to watch Anthony, that’s been his level. He’s getting the goals and you need the headlines really if you’re going to force your way into the England squad and the competition he has in those positions.

“There’s a long way to go, I just think he’s got to keep very level and focused on playing well for us then the rest will take of itself.”

Another who may well force his way into Southgate’s thinking, in a very stacked and competitive department, is full-back Tino Livramento. A star in Paris in the Champions League, the youngster’s tireless running down the left was a real feature of the Magpies’ win.

Howe said: “Very good in maybe a slightly different way to Paris to when he was having to deal with (Ousmane) Dembele. He was having to play against various opponents but good opponents in Antony and Rashford but he gave them a problem going back the other way, which was great to see. His athleticism, pace, speed and positioning, although he’s playing on a side maybe not natural to him, was of the highest level.”

The only real negative to take from the encounter was yet another injury to another key player, as Nick Pope was taken off with a shoulder problem.

“It will be a massive blow for us if he is ruled out for any length of time,” said Howe. “It looked really innocuous, but that is usually the way and they are normally the more serious ones. You could see he was in distress and it looked like he dislocated his shoulder just diving.

“Martin Dubravka came on in a tricky situation with 10 minutes to go with a narrow lead, which is not nice for any goalkeeper, so I have to compliment him for doing so well.”

Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi aims to upend David Warner’s farewell Test series in Australia

Updated 03 December 2023

Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi aims to upend David Warner’s farewell Test series in Australia

  • Afridi acknowledges Warner’s ‘great career’ but says he doesn’t want him to perform well against Pakistan
  • Afridi says Pakistani players have faced the 14-member Australian squad and were up for the challenge

ISLAMABAD: In a charged prelude to the upcoming Test series, Pakistan’s fiery fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has set his sights on challenging Australian batting icon David Warner, vowing to make Warner’s farewell Test series a memorable contest.

Afridi shared his bold ambitions with the media in Canberra on Sunday, just before Pakistan’s first practice session, igniting anticipation for an electrifying cricket showdown.

Afridi began by acknowledging the Australian opener’s “great career,” saying he had consistently delivered stellar performances across all three formats.

“We would wish him good luck but not hoping for a good end for David Warner in his last Test series against us,” he said with a hint of competitive spirit.

Warner made a triple century against Pakistan at Adelaide in 2019, though his recent performance in Test matches has remained mixed.

He plans to say goodbye to the format during the Pakistan series but will continue to play for Australia in white ball cricket.

“This is an important series for Pakistan as we are leading the World Test Championship’s point table at the moment,” the left-arm fast bowler said.

Having faced the majority of the recently announced Australian squad, Afridi expressed the team’s preparedness for the challenge that lies ahead.

“We have played against the recently announced Australia’s 14-member squad, and we are all up for this challenge,” he said.

“We don’t have much experience of Canberra, but I am sure this four-day match against PM XI [from Dec. 6 to 9] will help us prepare well for the series against the home team starting from Perth,” he added.

Pakistan will play the first test against Australia at Perth from Dec. 14-19.