No festive cheer for Arsenal and Tottenham as north London rivals lose in Premier League

West Ham United's Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos heads the ball and scores his team second goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium in London on Dec. 28, 2023. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 29 December 2023
Follow

No festive cheer for Arsenal and Tottenham as north London rivals lose in Premier League

  • A 2-0 home loss to West Ham stopped Arsenal moving back to the top of the Premier League
  • A 4-2 defeat at Brighton prevented Tottenham moving back into the top four

LONDON:There was no festive cheer for north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham on Thursday.

A 2-0 home loss to West Ham stopped Arsenal moving back to the top of the Premier League.

A 4-2 defeat at Brighton prevented Tottenham moving back into the top four.

Arsenal’s setback was more surprising, given it was the team’s first loss at home in any competition in seven months.

And it’s just one win in its last four league games for the Gunners, at a time when Manchester City — the defending champions — have been looking vulnerable with just one win in six before a come-from-behind victory at Everton on Wednesday.

In truth, Arsenal — despite having 30 shots — never looked like getting the better of West Ham once the visitors went ahead through a goal that was less conclusive than the final score.

Cameras did not show definitively whether the ball was out of play when Jarrod Bowen turned it back into the penalty area for Tomas Soucek to force home a finish in the 13th minute. Bowen’s right leg blocked the best sight of whether any of the ball was in play and the referee stayed with the onfield decision of giving the goal.

“The technology we have at the moment is not clear enough if the ball is out,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.

Konstantinos Mavropanos, a former Arsenal player, added the second goal with a glancing header at a corner in the 55th and it could have been worse had David Raya not saved a penalty by West Ham substitute Said Benrahma off virtually the last kick of the game. Declan Rice, sold to Arsenal by West Ham in July, gave away the penalty in what proved to be a miserable night for the midfielder against his former club.

Arsenal stayed in second place, two points behind Liverpool at the halfway stage of the campaign. City has a game in hand over both teams and suddenly is well poised, three points behind Arsenal and five adrift of Liverpool.

West Ham has climbed to sixth place on the back of consecutive wins over Manchester United and now Arsenal either side of Christmas Day.

TOTTENHAM OUTPLAYED

Don’t be fooled by the score line. Tottenham was outplayed by Brighton except for a remarkable final 15 minutes when Spurs had so many chances, they could have come from 4-0 down to equalize.

Before that, a Brighton team missing as many as 10 players because of injuries ripped apart the visitors, who were also without key men in center backs Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven as well as suspended midfielder Yves Bissouma, the main protector in front of the defense.

Jack Hinshelwood and Joao Pedro — from the penalty spot — put Brighton 2-0 ahead by the 23rd minute. Halftime substitute Pervis Estupinan and Pedro — again with a penalty — doubled Brighton’s lead by the 75th and the margin could have been bigger.

Alejo Véliz and Ben Davies scored amid that belated dominant period for Tottenham, whose captain Son Heung-min had no complaints.

“Every team is strong in the Premier League and if we’re not playing like the last 15 minutes in every game, we’re going to struggle,” he said. “This has to be a big wake-up call.”

Tottenham stayed in fifth place, a point behind City in fourth.


Nadal returns to action with easy win over Cobolli in first round of Barcelona Open

Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Nadal returns to action with easy win over Cobolli in first round of Barcelona Open

  • Nadal, a 12-time champion at the clay-court tournament, said he was never at full strength at the center court named after him, especially when serving
  • World No. 8 Andrey Rublev smashed his racket to the ground several times after a 6-4, 7-6 (6) loss to American Brandon Nakashima

BARCELONA, Spain: Taking it easy after months away from competitive tennis, Rafael Nadal was good enough to earn a comfortable first-round win at the Barcelona Open on Tuesday.

Nadal looked injury-free in a 6-2, 6-3 win over Flavio Cobolli to advance to the second round in his first tournament in more than three months.

Nadal converted on his second match point to seal the victory over the 21-year-old Italian ranked 62nd in the world. The Spaniard will next face Alex de Minaur, who had a first-round bye.

“Taking everything into consideration, it was a good first round,” Nadal said. “I played the kind of match that I needed to play. I’m happy for the victory and happy to be playing at home again.”

Nadal, a 12-time champion at the clay-court tournament, said he was never at full strength at the center court named after him, especially when serving.

“I’m not going to do anything that doesn’t make sense right now,” he said. “I’m not going to go out there and serve like crazy. I have to take it easy because that’s what’s needed at the moment.”

Nadal broke serve twice in each set. He finished with eight winners and 22 unforced errors.

Nadal was returning from yet another injury layoff and hadn’t played since an exhibition match against Carlos Alcaraz in March. The 22-time Grand Slam champion had last played a tournament in Brisbane in January, when he played only three matches before skipping the Australian Open.

He withdrew from Monte Carlo saying he his body wasn’t ready yet. Nadal is a 14-time winner at the French Open, which begins next month.

The 37-year old Nadal said it will likely be his last time playing the Barcelona Open. The Spaniard had hip surgery last summer and said 2024 will probably be his last year playing on tour.

FRUSTRATED RUBLEV

World No. 8 Andrey Rublev smashed his racket to the ground several times after a 6-4, 7-6 (6) loss to American Brandon Nakashima.

It was the third consecutive first-round defeat for the second-seeded Rublev, who also lost in straight sets in Monte Carlo and Miami. He also lost in straight sets in the second round in Indian Wells.

It was only the second win over a top-10 opponent for the 22-year-old Nakashima, and the first on clay. The world No. 87 had beaten Holger Rune in Shanghai last October.

“I’m still out here competing as hard as I can,” said Nakashima, who reached No. 43 in the world in 2022. “I’m happy with getting my level back to where it was. Playing in front of these crowds and on this court was super special.”

OTHER RESULTS

Also Tuesday, Facundo Diaz Acosta defeated 15th-seeded Borna Coric 6-2, 7-5. Tomas Machac beat Shang Juncheng 6-4, 6-4 to set up a meeting with 11th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Roberto Carballes Baena defeated Hugo Grenier 6-2, 6-4, while Jaume Munar cruised past Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-1.


Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis

Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis

  • The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their own territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead

BARCELONA: Kylian Mbappe struck twice as Paris Saint-Germain battled back to beat 10-man Barcelona 4-1 and book a place in the Champions League semifinals with a 6-4 aggregate triumph on Tuesday.
Raphinha fired Barcelona ahead early on but Ronald Araujo’s 29th-minute red card turned the tide in PSG’s favor, despite the Spanish champions leading by two goals following a 3-2 quarter-final first-leg win.
Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha levelled the tie for PSG and the deadly Mbappe hit a brace to put them into the final four for the first time since 2021.
The French champions have never won the trophy despite huge investment but demonstrated they have the attacking weapons in their squad to do so.
Five-time winners Barcelona were dreaming of a first semifinal return since 2019 but Araujo’s red card for pulling down the relentless Bradley Barcola undermined their grip on the tie.
PSG coach Luis Enrique, who led Barca to the 2015 Champions League, said he believed his team would turn things around despite never having managed to after a first-leg defeat, and so it proved.
The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their own territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead.
Explosive 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal ripped past Nuno Mendes and crossed to the near post where Raphinha turned home despite pressure from Achraf Hakimi.
It was the Brazilian winger’s third goal of the tie after his brace in Paris.
Robert Lewandowski fired another chance over the top for Barcelona before Barcola tilted the tie in PSG’s favor. The winger was a nightmare for his French compatriot Jules Kounde to handle.
Barcola teed up Mbappe but Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied him well, before Araujo was sent off for bringing him down.
The Uruguayan center-back pulled Barcola back as he burst into the area, leaving Barca with 10 men.
Dembele whizzed the resulting free-kick narrowly over, but soon found the net, as he did in the first leg.
The former Barcelona winger struck after 40 minutes from another Barcola cross, which raked across the area to the back post where Dembele was arriving to fire into the roof of the net.
Barcelona sacrificed Yamal for defender Inigo Martinez after Araujo’s red card and it left them with few outlets in attack.
With PSG controlling the game Barcelona soon paid the price for their inability to keep possession.
Vitinha was given far too much space on the edge of the box and he drilled into the bottom corner to put PSG ahead on the night.
Ilkay Gundogan hit the post at the other end for Barcelona before their coach Xavi was sent off for a show of dissent on the touchline.
The Catalans were losing their heads and Joao Cancelo clumsily fouled Dembele to hand PSG a penalty.
Mbappe, who had been kept quiet in the first leg, hammered it into the top corner for his 40th goal across all competitions.
The striker’s future may lie in Spain, with Real Madrid aiming to sign him in the summer at the end of his contract, and he made no friends in Barcelona by hopping the advertising hoardings and running toward fans to celebrate.
Another member of Barcelona’s backroom staff was dismissed after Gundogan had a penalty appeal waved away and it became clear the hosts had no response.
Mbappe wrapped up the win in the 89th minute after a fine Ter Stegen double save, leaving Barcelona the victims of another bitterly disappointing night in Europe.


Dortmund sink Atletico to reach Champions League semifinals

Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Dortmund sink Atletico to reach Champions League semifinals

  • Former winners Dortmund, fifth in the German top flight and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League, will next face PSG for a place in the final at Wembley on June 1

DORTMUND, Germany: Borussia Dortmund fought back to beat Atletico Madrid 4-2 in their quarter-final second leg on Tuesday, securing a 5-4 aggregate victory and a first Champions League semifinal since 2013.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, goals from Julian Brandt and Ian Maatsen had Dortmund 2-0 up at half-time.
Visiting coach Diego Simeone made three changes at half-time including bringing on Angel Correa and his energy told immediately, Mats Hummels conceding a poor own goal before the Argentine netted to put Atletico back ahead in the tie.
But those goals brought a sluggish Dortmund back to life, with Niclas Fuellkrug and Marcel Sabitzer each scoring in a three-minute period to send the Bundesliga club through.
Former winners Dortmund, fifth in the German top flight and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League, will next face Paris Saint-Germain for a place in the final at Wembley on June 1.
The home side should have been level in the tie after three minutes but Sabitzer took an extra touch with the goal beckoning, allowing Atletico to cover.
Just moments later, Atletico had a major chance of their own, as Alvaro Morata raced through one-on-one with the goalkeeper but chipped the ball well wide of the post.
Buoyed by an 80,000-strong home crowd trying to one-up last week’s atmosphere in the Spanish capital, Dortmund pushed and prodded, with Karim Adeyemi blasting straight at Jan Oblak.
Dortmund broke through after 34 minutes, Brandt collecting a Hummels chip and shooting on the turn, the ball bouncing through Oblak’s hands.
The home side were ahead in the tie just five minutes later, Maatsen threading in from an acute angle after he was given space to run in the Atletico box.
With Simeone sensing his chances of qualifying for the semis for a fourth time as Atletico boss slipping away, he shuffled his deck at half-time, making three changes including hooking the ineffective Morata for Correa.
Dortmund’s wobbles suddenly returned, letting the visitors back into the tie.
Hummels turned Mario Hermoso’s header into his own net from an Atletico corner under little pressure and with goalkeeper Gregor Kobel waiting to save.
Atletico smelt blood and could have levelled when Correa dragged the ball just wide.
The World Cup winner made up for his miss on 64 minutes when he cut through a penalty area crowded with yellow shirts and smacked the ball in, sending Atletico in front on aggregate.
The goal jolted Dortmund back into action and Edin Terzic’s men scored twice in three minutes to retake the overall lead.
Fuellkrug headed in a Sabitzer cross and the Austrian midfielder then got a goal of his own, shooting through the Atletico defense and into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, grabbing Dortmund a famous victory.


Riyadh Season becomes official partner of World Snooker Championship

Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Riyadh Season becomes official partner of World Snooker Championship

RIYADH: Riyadh Season will become the official partner of the  World Snooker Championship, Saudi entertainment chief Turki Alalshikh announced on Tuesday.

Riyadh Season and the World Snooker Tour signed an agreement to expand and develop the game in the Middle East and bring in more fans.

Additionally, Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has won a record 23 Triple Crown titles, will serve in an ambassadorial role in a three-year deal, announced on Tuesday. As part of this agreement guarantees that O’Sullivan will play in all WST events in Saudi Arabia and will also make special trips to the Kingdom to coach and foster aspiring talent.

Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever WST event last month — Riyadh Season World Masters in Snooker — which was won by O’Sullivan.

That tournament will return as part of the next Riyadh Season this winter and will feature the world’s top ten players, and two others as wild cards.

The event will again feature the innovative golden ball, known as the Riyadh Season ball, which will give players a chance to score a world record break of 167 if they pot it at the end of a maximum 147.

Alalshikh, the head of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, confirmed that the prize for the ‘super maximum’ will be doubled to $1 million should anyone succeed in achieving the milestone.

“Riyadh Season is delighted to be a partner of the World Snooker Championship, which will start next Saturday and continues until May 6th at Crucible in Sheffield,” said Alalshikh.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We are honoured to work with HE Turki Alalshikh on his visionary plans for progress. We share his ambition of bringing snooker to many more fans across the Middle East, and to foster new talent and develop grassroots structures.


Erolcevik claims gold for Turkiye at Junior World Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Erolcevik claims gold for Turkiye at Junior World Fencing Championships in Riyadh

  • Ukraine’s Anna Maksymenko won the women’s U-17 Epee after defeating America’s Sharika Gajjala in the final
  • Algeria’s Ferial Salehi: ‘I did not have the opportunity to compete in Saudi Arabia, but it is a great honor to attend this championship in an official capacity’

RIYADH: Turkiye’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Emrullah Isler crowned the men’s winners on the fifth day of the Junior World Fencing Championships at King Saud University’s Arena Hall in Riyadh.

Turkiye’s Doruk Erolcevik won the U-17 Epee gold medal, defeating Egypt’s Islam Osama in the final. America’s Alexander Bezrodnov and Italy’s Federico Varone claimed bronze medals.

Ukraine’s Anna Maksymenko won the women’s U-17 Epee after defeating America’s Sharika Gajjala in the final. Ukraine’s Emily Conrad and China’s Huishuang Jiang won bronze medals.

The Epee team competition concludes tomorrow. In the men’s event Saudi Arabia is represented by Ahmed Al-Fihani, Hassan Abid, Ahmed Hazazi and Yousef Albinali, while Fawzia Al-Khaybari, Dhay Alamiri, Yasmin Al-Saleh, and Dana Al-Saeed will represent Saudi fencing in the women’s event.

Algeria’s Ferial Salehi, a member of the executive board of the International Fencing Federation, said that Saudi Arabia, represented by the Saudi Fencing Federation, has impressed everyone with their organization of the event.

“I did not have the opportunity to compete in Saudi Arabia during my career, but it is a great honor to attend this championship in an official capacity.”