Nantes hand Nice first loss, Lens beat Lyon in French league after Arsenal nightmare

Nice's Brazilian defender Dante (C) fights for the ball with Nantes' French goalkeeper Alban Lafont during the French L1 football match between FC Nantes and OGC Nice at La Beaujoire stadium in Nantes, western France on Dec. 2, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Nantes hand Nice first loss, Lens beat Lyon in French league after Arsenal nightmare

  • Nice were unbeaten in 13 league matches before kickoff and had won eight of their last 10 matches
  • Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont made three decisive saves in the first half to help his side weather intense pressure from the visitors

PARIS: Hiring new coach Jocelyn Gourvennec brought an immediate reward to Nantes.

The eight-time champions snapped a four-game winless run on Saturday to hand Nice their first loss in the French league just three days after Gourvennec was appointed.

Nice were unbeaten in 13 league matches before kickoff and had won eight of their last 10 matches.

The Riviera side remained in second place, one point behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who travel to Le Havre on Sunday. Nantes stood in eighth place, 12 points off the pace.

Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont made three decisive saves in the first half to help his side weather intense pressure from the visitors.

Florent Mollet broke the deadlock with a left-footed shot from close range in the 24th minute.

Douglas Augusto came close to doubling his team’s lead after an hour when his powerful half-volley hit the crossbar. Lafont was decisive again in the 63rd to deny Terem Moffi’s acrobatic kick.

Coach Pierre Aristouy, who helped Nantes avoid relegation last season, was fired on Wednesday and replaced by Jocelyn Gourvennec.

Gourvennec played 109 matches and scored 32 goals for Nantes from 1995-98. He started his coaching career in 2008 and also managed Guingamp and Bordeaux.

LENS BACK TO WINNING WAYS

Just days after getting hammered by Arsenal in the Champions League, Lens inflicted more misery on last-placed Lyon in a 3-2 victory.

Under the helm of interim coach Pierre Sage — who replaced Fabio Grosso this week — Lyon delivered a gritty display that will give the struggling seven-time champions some comfort in their fight against relegation.

Lyon made a strong start and led in the 14th minute from a goal by Jake O’Brien, who later completed a brace.

Wesley Said brought Lens level then Przemyslaw Frankowski gave the “Sang et Or” the lead from the penalty spot.

After O’Brien gave the visitors a glimmer of hope they could bring back a point from their trip to northern France, Frankowski connected with a cross from Ruben Aguilar and scored again with a left-footed shot to lift Lens within one point of fifth-placed Reims.

Unbeaten in their past nine league matches, Lens were thrashed at Arsenal 6-0 midweek for the biggest ever Champions League defeat by a French club.

Grosso were fired on Thursday after less than three months in charge at Lyon, a storied club known for its record run of seven straight league titles from 2002-08. The last time Lyon played in the second division was in 1989.


Amateur Attieh creates history for Saudi in professional golf

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Amateur Attieh creates history for Saudi in professional golf

MUSCAT: Khalid Walid Attieh made history for Saudi Arabia on Friday when he became the first amateur player from the country to make the cut in an elite professional tournament.
 
The 28-year-old from Riyadh shot a commendable round of one-under par 71 in the second round of the $2 million International Series Oman after an opening 73, and his two-day effort of even-par 144 was enough to qualify for the weekend in the Asian Tour event.
 
Playing in the last group of the day, Attieh finished with a bogey in near darkness, but that could not dampen his spirit.
 
“It is a very proud moment for me and a very proud moment for my country,” said Attieh, who qualified for the tournament that features 21 LIV Golf stars by winning last week’s Oman Masters.
 
“Saudi Arabia has done so much in golf over the past few years and we players have benefitted immensely from it. The best way I can acknowledge and thank Golf Saudi for all the support is by performing well for my country. And that’s why this is extremely satisfying.”
 
Attieh started the day from the 10th tee and quickly picked up a shot on the par-5 12th hole. However, he gave up that advantage on the other par-5 on the back nine, the 16th. That hole was playing one of the toughest throughout the day.
 
On his back nine, the Saudi National Team member made a birdie on the par-5 third, and then made a stunning 25-footer downhill putt for his third birdie on the par-3 eighth hole. On the ninth, Attieh was slightly distracted by his playing partner taking a long time after a wayward drive, and in failing daylight, he three-putted for a bogey from a long range.
 
The University of South California graduate, who has his own software business in Saudi, said: “I’ve been playing well over the last few months. And finally, I got some things rolling my way today and put in a good round, which honestly. could have been even lower.
 
“But I am very happy with my score today. To be able to qualify for the event last week by winning the Oman Masters was very satisfying, but this is even better. I hope to keep the momentum and hopefully, more good rounds are coming on the weekend.”
 
Attieh, who made a comeback to golf after taking nearly two years off to complete his studies and then focus on setting up his business, said he plans to turn professional soon.
 
“I also had a small back injury, and I wanted to complete my studies. I started playing again about eight or nine months ago, and I found that I was playing just as good, if not better after my big break. So, I decided to get serious and worked hard on my game. Started working with a mental coach to get stronger mentally, and all of it seems to be paying dividends,” said Attieh.
 
“I’m very much looking forward to keep on raising the bar for myself and the flag for Saudi. I plan to turn pro soon, maybe by the end of summer this year. I want to try out the Qualifying Schools in both Asian and the DP World Tour. It should be exciting few months ahead.”


Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

Updated 24 min 14 sec ago
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Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

  • Sultans faced an early setback when skipper Muhammad Rizwan was dismissed for 0

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi ended Multan Sultans’ winning streak in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament on Friday by clinching a five-run victory in a closely fought contest that was decided on the last ball of the match.

Batting first, Zalmi finished with a respectable total of 179/8 at the end of the first 20 overs.

None of Peshawar’s batters were able to score a half-century, with Haseebullah Khan top-scoring with 37 runs from 18 balls while skipper Babar Azam hitting 31 runs off 26 balls.

Rovman Powell scored a quickfire 23 from 11 balls while Luke Wood contributed with 17 runs off 12 deliveries.

Sultan bowlers David Willey, Mohammad Ali and Usama Mir took two wickets each while Shahnawaz Dahani and Abbas Afridi only got one.

When they came to bat, the Sultans faced an early setback when skipper Muhammad Rizwan was dismissed for 0 but opening batter Yasir Khan and Reeza Hendricks contributed with 43 and 28 respectively to give the Sultans some support.

Dawid Malan smashed a 25-ball 52 runs knock but after his dismissal, the Sultans buckled.

Khushdil Shah, Iftikhar Ahmed and Usama Mir failed to hold on to their nerves, scoring only 5, 16, and 12 runs respectively, as Zalmi bowled out Multan for 174 runs on the last ball of the match.

Zalmi’s Arif Yaqoob returned figures of 3/43 while Salman Irshad, Naveen-ul-Haq and Luke Wood finished with figures of 2/39, 2/44 and 2/13 respectively.

“Catches win matches,” the team exclaimed on its social media account after displaying brilliant fielding performance.


’Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai

Updated 23 February 2024
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’Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai

  • Kalinskaya snapped Swiatek’s seven-match winning streak and ended the world number one’s bid for a rare Doha-Dubai title double
  • “I didn’t have power anymore to give even more, which doesn’t happen often,” admitted 22-year-old Swiatek

DUBAI: Iga Swiatek blamed fatigue for her semifinal defeat to Anna Kalinskaya in the Dubai semifinals on Friday, admitting: “I didn’t have power anymore” to up her level during the match.
Kalinskaya snapped Swiatek’s seven-match winning streak and ended the world number one’s bid for a rare Doha-Dubai title double with a commanding 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“I didn’t have power anymore to give even more, which doesn’t happen often,” admitted 22-year-old Swiatek.
“I just felt out of control a little bit because of that. Usually when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game. Today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn’t.”
The 40th-ranked Kalinskaya was contesting her first WTA 1000 semifinal, and is into the first tour-level final of her career, where she faces Italian Jasmine Paolini.
Kalinskaya defeated Paolini last month at the Australian Open to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final. They will square off once again on Saturday in another career-defining showdown.
Top seed Swiatek came into the semifinals having won 25 of her last 26 matches and looking to follow up her title run in Doha last week with a first-time triumph in Dubai.
Kalinskaya had to battle through the qualifying rounds and has won seven matches in total this week in the emirate, including three top-10 victories over Jelena Ostapenko, Coco Gauff and now Swiatek.
“She’s a great player. I knew if I didn’t stay calm and I didn’t stay aggressive she is going to destroy me. So that was my plan, to stay aggressive, to move her a lot,” said the 25-year-old Kalinskaya.
From 2-4 down, Kalinskaya won four games in a row to snatch in 53 minutes.
The Russian saved six of seven break points during that set, drawing 11 unforced errors off Swiatek’s racquet.
Swiatek took a toilet break between sets but it didn’t change the momentum as Kalinskaya clinched a fifth consecutive game on a loose forehand from her opponent.
Swiatek threw her racquet in frustration as she lost a sixth game in a row, falling behind 0-2 early in the second set.
Kalinskaya claimed a second break of serve in game seven and served for the match at 5-2 but Swiatek wasn’t ready to fold just yet and put pressure on the Russian by narrowing her deficit.
But even when she was staring down two break points while serving for the match for a second time, Kalinskaya didn’t flinch, saving both and completing a milestone victory on the one-hour 41-minute mark.
Earlier on Center Court, Paolini overcame Romanian big-hitter Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to reach her first WTA 1000 final and become just the fourth Italian to make it that far at a tournament of this calibre on the women’s tour.
The 28-year-old has pulled off some impressive wins this week in Dubai, knocking out 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, eight seed Maria Sakkari before Friday.
Paolini’s reward is a place in the world’s top-20 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“I’m really happy. It’s something that if somebody would have told me before this week, I wouldn’t believe maybe. But yeah, now I’m in the final, so let’s enjoy,” said Paolini.
On Friday, two breaks of serve were enough for Paolini to take a one-set lead in 41 minutes.
But things got more complicated in the second set as Cirstea kept striking back each time Paolini inched ahead.
Cirstea had come back from 2-6, 1-5 down in her previous round against Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, saving six match points along the way.
When she wiped a 2-4 deficit against Paolini, saved a match point in the 10th game, and served for the second set at 6-5, it looked like Cirstea was on her way to another come-from-behind victory.
Paolini held her nerve though, saving five set points to force a tiebreak, and she closed out the win on her second opportunity in just under two hours.


International drivers from Saudi Arabia, Iran, US, rev up for Pakistan Cholistan Desert Rally

Updated 23 February 2024
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International drivers from Saudi Arabia, Iran, US, rev up for Pakistan Cholistan Desert Rally

  • The annual 19th Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally started in Bahawalpur this week
  • Over 150 racing enthusiasts from Pakistan and abroad are participating this year

ISLAMABAD: The annual 19th Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally started in Bahawalpur this week, with over 150 racing enthusiasts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries participating.
The Cholistan Desert in southern Punjab forms part of the Greater Thar Desert, which extends to Pakistan’s southern Sindh province and the Indian state of Rajasthan. Cholistan was once a center for caravan trade, leading to the construction of numerous forts in the medieval period to protect trade routes, of which the Derawar Fort in Bahawalpur is the best-preserved example.
The 19th edition of the desert rally, which spreads over 500 kilometers, started on Tuesday. Drivers from Saudi Arabia, the UK, Afghanistan, Iran, and the US are participating this year, Managing Director of Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP) Humaira Akram told state-run APP.
“The women’s category has been made more active,” the official said. “The event will highlight the history and culture of the Cholistan Desert, the historical palaces of Bahawalpur, historical buildings, historical backgrounds, tourism, and culture through beautiful cultural dances in addition to light and sound shows.”
A qualifying round was held in Cholistan on February 22, followed by the first round of prepared cars on February 23, and a stock category race along with a dirt bike race on February 24, followed by a cultural show.
“On February 25, the prepared category race and truck race will take place, followed by the prize distribution ceremony,” Additional Deputy Commissioner Headquarters Sumera Rabani told media.
“The Cholistan Fort will be adorned with beautiful decorations during the Cholistan Rally. The Sports Department will organize competitions including Kabaddi, traditional wrestling, volleyball, and tug of war.”


Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

Updated 23 February 2024
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Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

  • The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013
  • “An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton says his switch to Ferrari programmed for 2025 will add a brand new chapter to his sparkling career, but insisted he hopes to leave Mercedes on a high.
The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013, but recently activated a break clause to seal a move to the Italian team in 2025.
“An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said, describing the decision as the hardest he’d ever faced.
“We have had an incredible journey together, created history within the sport and it is something I take a lot of pride in,” he said.
Hamilton — without a win in two years — won six of his record-equalling seven world championships with the Silver Arrows.
“This chapter is still not finished and I am still 100 percent focused on delivering for this team,” he insisted Friday.
Mercedes have struggled to match their rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull since Hamilton missed out on what would have been a record eighth world championship in 2021 in controversial fashion.
Current Formula One world champion Verstappen won 19 out of last season’s 22 races as he surged toward a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship.
The opening Grand Prix of the F1 season is set for Bahrain on March 2.