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

Al-Wasl's 4-1 win over Al-Bataeh sees them go five points clear at the top of the UAE Pro League table. (X/@UAEProleague_En)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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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.


Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

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Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

  • Dar becomes second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat in her 108th ODI match against West Indies
  • Prior to her, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone, has 151 wickets from 120 ODIs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani off-spinner Nida Dar on Sunday achieved her 100th One-Day International (ODI) wicket as her side lost their second game to West Indies at the National Stadium in Karachi.
This was 108th ODI match played by Dar, who became the second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat.
“Congratulations to Nida Dar being the second Pakistani female player to get over a hundred ODI wickets,” Lisa Sthalekar, former Australian woman cricketer and broadcaster, commented after the Pakistan-West Indies match.
“This shows you the long journey she has had. She is a fiercely character that loves that competitiveness.”
Prior to Dar, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone. She has taken 151 wickets from 120 ODIs.
In July 2021, the International Cricket Council announced that Dar had become the country’s first cricketer, male or female, to take more than 100 wickets in Twenty20 internationals.
She had accomplished the feat while playing a match against West Indies, though Pakistan were defeated in that game too.


Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

Updated 21 April 2024
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Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

  • The Nuggets continue dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings
  • Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers also win their NBA playoff openers

LOS ANGELES: The defending champion Denver Nuggets, powered by 32 points from Nikola Jokic, shook off a slow start to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in game one of their NBA playoffs first-round series on Saturday.
The Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in four games in the Western Conference finals on the way to their first title last season, continued their dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings.
The game was the finale of the first day of the playoffs, which saw the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Phoenix Suns 120-95, the New York Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic 97-83.
In Denver, Jokic added 12 rebounds and seven assists, Jamal Murray added 22 points with 10 assists and Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 for the Nuggets, who used a 13-0 scoring run to take charge in the third quarter — in which they limited the Lakers to 18 points.
James scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Anthony Davis added 27 for the Lakers, who cut a 15-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to six only for the Nuggets to pull away again.
Jokic’s only three-pointer of the game pushed the Nuggets’ lead to 103-93. He added a dunk over James, who took a hard fall with a minute remaining but stayed in the game to the bitter end.
“Mindset needed to change,” Jokic said of the Nuggets’ third-quarter resurgence. “I think for the second half defense was amazing.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the Nuggets’ 15-6 superiority in offensive rebounding was key as Denver piled up 18 second-chance points.
“You can’t allow them to get multiple possessions,” said Ham, who added that he still believed the best-of-seven series, which resumes Monday, will be a “hard fought” affair.
In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half as the Minnesota Timberwolves thrashed Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in their Western Conference clash.
Against a team that also had their number in the regular season, Minnesota’s Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert — bolstered by a strong supporting cast — turned the tables.
Towns scored 19 points, Gobert added 14 points and 16 rebounds and the Timberwolves reserves — led by 18 points from Nickeil Alexander-Walker — out-scored the Suns bench 41-18.
Up by 10 at halftime, the Timberwolves took full control in the third quarter, with Edwards scoring 18 points and taking the opportunity to needle Durant.
“I think everybody here knows that’s my favorite player of all time,” Edwards said of two-time NBA champ Durant. “That was probably one of the best feelings ever in my whole life, for sure.”
Durant finished with 31 points and seven rebounds. Devin Booker added 18 and Bradley Beal 15, but the Suns couldn’t find a way through the Timberwolves’ stifling defense keyed by Gobert.
“It’s just one game,” Edwards said. “They’re going to be ready the next time we play them.”
In New York, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart scored 22 points apiece for the Knicks and Miles McBride came up big off the bench with 21 — 13 of them in the second quarter.
The 76ers got a jolt shortly before halftime when NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid came down from a highlight reel dunk and appeared to hurt his surgically repaired left knee.
He returned for the third quarter coming up with a steal and feeding Kelly Oubre Jr. for a dunk that gave the Sixers a three-point lead late in the period.
The Sixers, led by 33 points from Tyrese Maxey, couldn’t stay in front, and with less than two minutes remaining Hart drilled a pair of three-pointers and OG Anunoby made another to help the Knicks seal it.
The Knicks host game two on Monday, with the Sixers breathing a sigh of relief that Embiid, who finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists, apparently will be ready as they try to even the series.
In Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers in a wire-to-wire victory that Allen hoped would set the tone for their Eastern Conference series.
“We keep saying ‘throw the first punch,’” Allen said in an on-court postgame interview. “I think it was the perfect example tonight.”
Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points but had nine of the Magic’s 12 turnovers.


‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

Updated 20 April 2024
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‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

  • Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287

NEW DELHI: Australia’s Travis Head smashed 89 off 32 balls to lead Sunrisers Hyderabad to another huge IPL total of 266-7 in a crushing 67-run victory over Delhi Capitals on Saturday.
Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287 and threatened to breach the mark once again at Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium.
Delhi skipper Rishabh Pant won the toss and put Hyderabad into bat on a batting-friendly pitch, which produced the fourth highest total of the T20 tournament.
Delhi were bowled out for 199 in 19.1 overs, with left-arm quick T Natarajan returning impressive figures of 4-19.
Hyderabad jumped to second spot behind Rajasthan Royals with five wins in seven matches.
Head remained the hero after he blasted a 16-ball 50 in an explosive opening stand with fellow left-hander Abhishek Sharma to tear into the opposition attack as Hyderabad reached 100 in five overs and 125 in six.
“On a bit of a roll there,” Head said of his form after he took second place in the batting chart with 324 runs including a century and two fifties. “Enjoyable, boys are on a roll.”
He said: “When you’re in good form, just trying to keep it simple. Reacted to the ball.”
Head and Sharma hit 12 sixes between them as the innings witnessed a joint IPL record of 22 hit over the fence and Hyderabad equalled their effort from the previous match when they smashed 287-3 in a win over Royal Challengers Bengaluru early this week.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav checked the carnage with two wickets in the seventh over as he sent back Sharma, out for 46 off 12 balls, and then Aiden Markram, for one.
Hyderabad then lost two wickets in the space of two deliveries after Kuldeep dismissed Head and fellow spinner Axar Patel bowled Heinrich Klaasen, for 15, at the start of the next over.
Shahbaz Ahmed then steadied the innings and kept up the attack as he hammered an unbeaten 59 off 29 balls.
Ahmed, a left-handed batsman, put on 67 runs with Nitish Kumar Reddy, who made 37, before Kuldeep dismissed Reddy to finish with four wickets.
Hyderabad lost two wickets in the final over including skipper Pat Cummins to a run out but Ahmed reached his first IPL fifty with a four and ended the innings with a six.
“I think powerplay was the difference,” said Pant.
“We were just catching up throughout the match. That was the massive difference. Hopefully we will come back with more thought process and clear mindset.”
Washington Sundar came in as the impact player in place of Head as Hyderabad added a spinner to defend the total.
Sundar opened the bowling and was hit for four straight boundaries by Prithvi Shaw, who was Delhi’s impact player, but got his revenge on the fifth when he dismissed the opener for 16.
David Warner fell to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for one before up and coming Australian batsman Jake Fraser-McGurk smacked an 18-ball 65 and put on 84 runs with Abishek Porel, who hit 42.
Leg-spinner Mayank Markande dismissed the pair and the rest of the batting failed to live up to the challenge despite Pant’s 44.
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US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Updated 21 April 2024
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US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

  • More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries
  • US first with 11 medals, Italy second with 14, France third with 6

RIYADH: American fencers won 11 medals to top the table of medal winners at the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which concluded in Riyadh on Saturday.
Sheikh Salem Al-Qasimi, president of the Asian and Arab Fencing Federations, and Abdul Muneim Al-Husseini, vice president of the International Fencing Federation, crowned the winners on the final day of the championships held in King Saud University’s Arena Hall.
More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries during the competition, which took place on April 12-20.


The US team won the gold medal in the Sabre (team) under 20, defeating Romania who won silver, while Italy won bronze.
Lamia Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Fencing Federation board, and Ahmed Al-Sabaan, president of the Saudi Fencing Federation, awarded the winners of the Sabre (female teams) under 20. France won gold after beating Italy, while Hungary won bronze.
Al-Sabaan presented the championships’ flag to the representative of China as the upcoming hosts of the 2025 edition.
American fencers won four gold medals, two silver medals and five bronze medals. Italy came second on the table of medalists with 14 medals — two gold, five silver and seven bronze. France ranked third with six medals — two gold, one silver and three bronze.
The organizing committee honored the participating sponsors: MOTUS, Al-Arabiya, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospital, Gormet, Nova, and the Hadaya Alam Association.


Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

Updated 20 April 2024
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Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

  • Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal
  • Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time

LONDON: Bernardo Silva fired Manchester City back into the FA Cup final as the Portugal midfielder’s late strike sealed the holders’ 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal, but Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time.
Shaken by their Champions League quarter-final loss against Real Madrid on penalties in midweek, City took a while to shake off the gloom from the end of their treble bid.
They were hampered by the absence of Norway striker Erling Haaland after he suffered a knock against Real, with Julian Alvarez unable to make an impact as his replacement.
City were bailed out by Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson’s profligacy and Guardiola will hope the hard-fought success provides a timely lift as they chase a Premier League and FA Cup double.
City face Manchester United or Coventry, who meet on Sunday, in the final on May 25 and will retain the Premier League title if they win their last six games.
It will be City’s 13th final in the competition and potentially a repeat of last year’s 2-1 win over United in the Wembley Manchester derby.
Beaten by Liverpool in the League Cup final in February, Chelsea’s wait to win their first domestic trophy since the 2018 FA Cup goes on for another season.
It was a bitter blow for Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has endured a difficult first season in charge and remains without silverware in England.
The semifinal was billed as in-form Chelsea forward Cole Palmer’s chance to punish his old club for selling him to the Blues in September.
Guardiola said Palmer was asking to leave City for two years before he eventually joined Chelsea, where he has scored 23 goals in all competitions this, including 11 in his last six games.
Palmer, who scored four times in Monday’s 6-0 rout of Everton, was a constant threat for Chelsea, but ultimately it was his team’s lack of killer instinct that proved decisive.
Palmer’s pin-point pass sent Jackson racing into the City area early on, but his strike lacked the accuracy to beat Stefan Ortega in a miss that foreshadowed Chelsea’s fate.
Jackson wasted a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the goal their dominance deserved.
Enzo Fernandez’s pass split the City defense, but Jackson opted to go around Ortega rather than shoot and the chance was gone as Nathan Ake scurried back to clear.
Playing with more purpose and quality than City, Pochettino’s team threatened again as Palmer cleverly shimmied past Rodri for a low drive from 12 yards that was well saved by Ortega.
It was the first time lethargic City had failed to muster a first half shot on target since a game against Everton in February.
Jackson, in the midst of a terrible debut season, was put clean through on goal by Conor Gallagher immediately after the interval.
But the much-maligned striker’s shot was palmed away by Ortega, who clawed away a close-range header from Jackson seconds later.
City finally tested Djordje Petrovic through Phil Foden’s snap-shot, but the Serbian was equal to his powerful strike.
Chelsea appealed in vain for a penalty when Jack Grealish’s arm blocked Palmer’s free-kick, while Moises Caicedo was fortunate to escape a second booking for a crunching tackle that forced Grealish to limp off.
Grealish’s replacement Jeremy Doku drew an immediate save from Petrovic with a near-post blast.
Doku’s presence lifted City and the Belgian played a part as they stole the victory in the 84th minute.
Advancing with intent toward the Chelsea area, Doku slipped a pass to Kevin de Bruyne, whose low cross was pushed out by Petrovic to Silva for a close-range finish that deflected home as Guardiola punched the air in relief.