Albon, Sargeant confident of strong finish to season for Williams in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Alex Albon (L) and his teammate Logan Sargeant (R) are keen to end a Williams losing streak in Abu Dhabi and hold off AlphaTauri. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 November 2023

Albon, Sargeant confident of strong finish to season for Williams in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

  • Alex Albon (L) and his teammate Logan Sargeant (R) are keen to end a Williams losing streak in Abu Dhabi and hold off AlphaTauri

ABU DHABI: Alex Albon is well aware that Yas Marina Circuit has not been a happy hunting ground for Williams, but the Thai-British driver is hoping his team can finish the season on a high and secure seventh place in the constructors’ championship this weekend.

A Williams car has not scored points in Abu Dhabi since Felipe Massa finished 10th in 2017, but Albon and his teammate Logan Sargeant are keen to end that streak and hold off AlphaTauri, who are seven points behind in the standings.

Seventh would be Williams’ highest finish in the championship since 2017 — when they placed fifth — and Albon, who has scored points on seven occasions this season, believes his team have been “one of the surprises” of 2023.

“I think I can speak for Logan and the whole team, we’re all burnt out massively. We’ve obviously just come from Vegas, but we’ve had a great season,” Albon said at a Q&A session organized by team sponsors Jumeirah ahead of the race weekend.

“For Williams, historically, we’ve had a few years now where we haven’t been where we want to be. We’ve been more towards the back of the field. But this season we’ve had some great results, we’ve been able to get some top 10s. I think we’ve been one of the surprises of the year, which has been a lot of fun.”

Albon’s best performances of the campaign were seventh-place finishes in Canada and Monza, while F1 rookie Sargeant became the first American driver to score a point since Michael Andretti in 1993, thanks to his 10th place showing in Austin.

“It’s been a great morale boost for everyone back in the UK, back where the team is. We’re on the up, we’re fully focused there into next year, but I think, at least from what I’ve seen, from speaking to people in the team, it’s been maybe the strongest (season) they’ve had in six or seven years. Things are going really well,” said Albon.

Sargeant is the only driver on the grid yet to secure a seat for next year but the 22-year-old does not sound too worried about his chances. He had the best qualifying result of his career last weekend in Las Vegas, and started the race in sixth place.

“We need to try and have a good weekend and beat AlphaTauri, which is the last goal of the season. I believe we both want to end out pretty strong, so hopefully we have a good weekend,” said Sargeant.

“Realistically, it’s not going to be the best track for us, however we have also thought that in the past and we’ve gone okay.

“We’re always optimistic that it’ll play in our favor, but it’s one of those things where you’re never completely sure until you put the car on the ground. Some weekends when you don’t expect it to be good it surprises you, and some weekends you expect it to be better and it’s not really there. You have to play it by ear and take it as it comes.”

West Ham’s winless run in EPL finishes. Non-league Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale ends

Updated 39 min 50 sec ago

West Ham’s winless run in EPL finishes. Non-league Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale ends

LONDON: Jarrod Bowen scored his first English Premier League hat trick for West Ham as they beat Brentford 4-2 and eased pressure on coach David Moyes on Monday.
The Hammers’ first win in 2024 ended an eight-game winless run in all competitions.
West Ham jumped from 10th to eighth in the league, behind Brighton only on goal difference.
Brentford was 16th, five points above the relegation zone.
Bowen was already West Ham’s top goal-scorer but he hadn’t scored in the league since before Christmas, and he broke that drought in spectacular fashion.
His first goal was a potent left-foot strike that gave the goalkeeper no chance, and the second capped a counter-attack when he side-footed home a cross from Vladimír Coufal.
Neal Maupay got one back soon after for Brentford but Bowden grabbed his and West Ham’s third after 63 minutes when he headed home a cross from Mohammed Kudus.
Full-back Emerson Palmieri made it 4-1 six minutes later with a spectacular long-range shot.
Yoane Wissa got a second for Brentford with eight minutes remaining.

Maidstone’s FA Cup run ends
A first-half hat trick from Coventry’s Ellis Simms helped to end Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale 5-0.
Maidstone was the first sixth-tier team to appear in the fifth round since 1978.
But second-tier Coventry was too strong from the off, with Kasey Palmer pulling the strings in midfield.

Maidstone United pose for a team group photo after the match. (Reuters)

His passes helped Simms to his first hat trick for the club. Tavares Desidério got two more in the dying seconds to complete the rout.
The rest of the fifth-round ties will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

Updated 27 February 2024

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

  • Babar Azam scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries to help Peshawar set a 202-run target
  • Arif Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs as Peshawar restricted Islamabad to 193 for nine

ISLAMABAD: Babar Azam hit a blistering century and Arif Yaqoob registered a five-wicket haul as Peshawar Zalmi defeated Islamabad United in their exciting match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Monday.

Islamabad won the toss and sent Peshawar in to bat. Babar orchestrated a relentless assault on Islamabad and scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries, laying the foundation of his side's win.

Saim Ayub and Paul Walter respectively added 38 and 19 runs to help Peshawar set a 202-run target for Islamabad. In response, Islamabad could reach 193 runs in 20 overs.

"Comeback for the ages," PSL wrote on its official account on X. "Islamabad United lose 6 wickets for just 10 runs as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a last-over thriller."

For Islamabad, Shadab Khan returned 2/28 figures, while Salman Ali Agha and Naseem Shah took one wicket each.

In the second innings, Azam Khan hit 75 runs from 30 balls as Islamabad attempted to chase the mammoth 202-run target.

Colin Munro partnered with Khan and added 71 runs from 53 deliveries, but Islamabad faltered towards the end, losing six wickets in quick succession.

Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs, while Ayub and Luke Wood dismissed one each to guide Peshawar to an eight-run win in the last over.

This was Peshawar's third consecutive win in their five matches, while Islamabad have won only one of their four games this season.

Anthony Kim to make pro golf return at LIV Jeddah

Updated 27 February 2024

Anthony Kim to make pro golf return at LIV Jeddah

  • Greg Norman: ‘It is an honor... to give the opportunity for this star to be reborn’
  • Anthony Kim made a record 11 birdies in his second round at Augusta in 2009

PARIS: Three-time PGA Tour winner Anthony Kim will make his first professional golf appearance since 2012 at this weekend’s LIV Golf event in Jeddah, the Saudi-backed circuit announced on Monday.
Kim suffered a series of injuries and has not played a tour event since undergoing surgery on his left Achilles tendon, but has been working for months on a return to competition and had spoken with PGA Tour and LIV Golf officials.
“He oozes incredible talent,” tweeted former world number one and LIV commissioner Greg Norman.
“The world has seen it in the past and now it is an honor... to give the opportunity for this star to be reborn.
“Welcome back and to the LIV Golf family mate. The golf world has missed you.”
American Kim finished third at the 2010 Masters and made a record 11 birdies in his second round at Augusta in 2009.
On the PGA Tour, he won the National and Wachovia Championship in 2008 and the 2010 Houston Open and was ranked as high as sixth in the world in 2008.
Kim also played on triumphant United States teams at the 2008 Ryder Cup and 2009 Presidents Cup.

Hamdallah the savior for Al-Ittihad once again

Ittihad's Moroccan forward #99 Abderrazak Hamdallah. (AFP file photo)
Updated 26 February 2024

Hamdallah the savior for Al-Ittihad once again

  • After playing a key role in his team’s Asian Champions League victory win last week, he scores both goals in a dramatic late victory against Al-Wehda in the Saudi Pro League
  • It helps save the blushes of strike partner Karim Benzema, who earlier missed a penalty and had two goals disallowed

JEDDAH: For the second time in a week, Abderrazak Hamdallah saved the blushes of an unfortunate Karim Benzema on Monday, this time stepping up to give Al-Ittihad a last-gasp 2-1 win at home to Al-Wehda.

Four days previously, Hamdallah intervened to equalize after Benzema scored an own goal, helping the Jeddah giants to a 2-1 win over Navbahor of Uzbekistan in the Asian Champions League Round of 16. Back in domestic action in the Roshn Saudi League, this time Hamdallah scored both of his side’s goals after the Frenchman missed a first-half penalty and had two goals disallowed.

The result keeps the team in the race for a top-three finish, six points behind third-placed Al-Ahli, and the atmosphere in the stadium at the end was particularly jubilant given that it looked, just a few minutes from time, as if the visitors were about snatch a famous victory.

Earlier, Benzema had the ball in the back of the net on the half-hour mark but his goal from just inside the area was ruled out due to a Fabinho foul in the build-up.

Five minutes later, Al-Wehda took the lead through Odion Ighalo. A well-worked free-kick found Craig Goodwin on the left side of the area and the Australian’s low cross was poked home by Ighalo for his 10th league goal of the season.

Deep into first-half stoppage time, 11 minutes no less, Benzema had a chance to equalize when Al-Ittihad were awarded a penalty after Hamdallah went down in the box. Benzema stepped up but his low effort was well saved by the diving Munir Mohamedi.

Al-Ittihad continued to push forward after the break and were finally rewarded for their efforts seven minutes from the end. This time it was the turn of Hamdallah to attempt a penalty, after Ahmed Hegazi went down in the area. The Moroccan marksman made no mistake as he coolly chipped the ball into the middle of the goal.

This spurred the hosts on to try to snatch a winner but their hopes looked to have been dashed when Saad Al-Mosa was shown a red card in the 90th minute. Time seemed to be running out but Hamdallah was not ready to give up, and four minutes into added time he grabbed the winner.

Benzema, who earlier had a goal disallowed for a second time, for handling the ball from a headed knockdown by his strike partner, this time turned provider. He twisted and turned at the near post to take two defenders out of the picture and then pulled the ball back for Hamdallah to score from close range. The fans went crazy, the players went crazy, the coaching staff went crazy.

Al-Ittihad next face Al-Hilal away from home on Friday and will need to be ready to make the most of all their chances if they are going to take anything from the league leaders, who are sitting 22 points ahead of them.


Eddie Howe sets ambitious Newcastle United target with Joelinton deal top of priority list

Updated 26 February 2024

Eddie Howe sets ambitious Newcastle United target with Joelinton deal top of priority list

  • “That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long term. I see that as hugely important,” Howe said of Joelinton, whose current Magpies’ deal runs out in the summer of 2025

NEWCASTLE: Persuading key man Joelinton to pen a new Newcastle United deal is a “priority” for Eddie Howe, even with chief negotiator Dan Ashworth out of the Magpies’ exit door.

The Brazilian has been a huge miss in the Newcastle midfield since he suffered a thigh injury in the FA Cup third-round win over local rivals Sunderland. Joelinton went under the knife on Jan. 23 to rectify the issue, and is not expected back until May.

On the eve of Newcastle’s fifth-round tie at Championship Blackburn Rovers — who, like Howe’s men, have won the trophy six times — the team’s head coach has been discussing his desire to see the Brazilian stay on Tyneside, even with sporting director Ashworth on gardening leave, with Manchester United his desired destination.

“That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long term. I see that as hugely important,” Howe said of Joelinton, whose current Magpies’ deal runs out in the summer of 2025.

“I think we’ve missed Joe’s qualities, especially physically, his robustness, his abilities in duels, set-plays for and against. We’re very lucky to have a midfielder that’s as big as he is and as competitive as he is and whenever you lose those qualities, you notice when they’re not there.

“He’s a very unusual midfielder, really, a prototype. You don’t get many like him and it’s certainly been missed, what he can bring.”

When asked who will fill Ashworth’s role in taking up the contract talks, Howe said: “I think it’ll be a mixture of Darren Eales and probably Amanda (Staveley) and Mehrdad (Ghodoussi).”

While attentions turn to the pursuit of silverware and the temporary distraction of the cup, Newcastle’s Premier League form has been starkly different to anything seen under Howe for 18 months. Long gone are the weeks of endless points, a firm backline and wins galore, a trend which had followed Newcastle from their avoidance of relegation in 2021/22 into their Champions League-qualifying campaign of 2022/23.

Mixing with Europe’s best, at this moment in time, feels like a lifetime ago, even though their last Champions League clash with giants AC Milan was only two months back. Since then, the Magpies’ form has dropped through the floor, mainly underpinned by an increasingly leaky backline and, of course, injury issues, which are thankfully starting to be less of a burden.

Howe’s team have the worst defensive record in England’s top flight in the calendar year. Across the season just the bottom three, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth have conceded more goals. It is something all associated with the club know needs to be addressed — and sharpish.

“We are still in the throes of deciding where this season ends up. Nothing is decided for or against us. I definitely want to squash that feeling that we are feeling sorry for ourselves because that has negative connotations,” said the head coach.

“We need the players excited and ambitious, thinking brightly about the future. I always have a positive outlook. I’ve been in football long enough that it changes very quickly both for and against.

“This season has been very challenging. When you start the season it could be one thing but there have been so many scenarios that have happened that have led us to this point. But I think we will be better for it. The squad will be better for it, we will be better for it and the thought we could have had another season where everything seemed to go for us again, that very rarely happens in football. It’s how you navigate the situation and come back better.”

When pushed specifically on Newcastle’s defensive record — they have conceded 45 goals in just 26 games in the Premier League — Howe said: “Yes, of course we’re looking for solutions to everything.

“There’d be sort of the outcome which is the goals, of course, but there’s a whole body of work that goes into how you defend. Whether that’s how you press, how you defend in the mid-third of the pitch, how you defend toward the goal. Certainly we need to do a better job.

“I think regardless of how you tactically set up, it’s individuals doing their jobs and making sure you don’t make individual errors. I think we’ve been guilty of a combination of a lot of those things in the last few weeks.

“We’ve proved we can defend, we’ve proved we can defend even recently and we’ve put in some really good performances. Certainly we’re capable but we just need to deliver it consistently.”

Newcastle will be backed by more than 7,000 supporters on Tuesday night in Lancashire, with a Geordie invasion of Ewood Park in store. The Magpies have not won the competition since 1955, but can put themselves just one game away from a Wembley semifinal with victory.

“It’s a huge game for us,” said Howe. “We’re absolutely committed to the FA Cup to do well and have been all season. We’ve had two difficult games away from home to get to this stage, and now another one. We’ve been looking forward to this game for a while so we know how important it is.

“There have been performances where we’ve not been at our best and you can understand — we were disjointed, had players out of position, no substitutes, relying on 11 players continually. Arsenal (a 4-1 loss on Saturday) was different. We just did not perform and we have to take responsibility for that.

“Qualifying for Europe is right at the top of our priorities. Of course, qualifying for the Champions League was unbelievable last year. But if you can’t make that again, then we have to look for the next best alternative. That’s what we’re trying to do, and for me, they’re (Europa League and Conference League) realistic objectives, and we’ll give everything we can to achieve it. I think, for the football club, to try to qualify regularly for Europe is an achievement in itself, and that’s something we’re looking to do.

“We don’t want to be easy to play against; we want to be very difficult to play against. We didn’t execute what we wanted to do against Arsenal well enough, that’s clear. That’s clear from the performance and I take responsibility for that.”