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Saudi Arabia’s Arab Cup campaign began with a 1-0 defeat by Jordan on Wednesday at the Education City Stadium in Qatar. Both teams ended the game with 10 men.

While the result was not a huge shock, given the youth and inexperience of a young Green Falcons side shorn of most of their big-name players and featuring no outfielder born before 1999, the performance was disappointing, with few chances created until the dying moments. The Saudis were second best for much of the match, even though Jordan were reduced to 10 men after 53 minutes when midfielder Ehsan Haddad was sent off.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Nashama took the lead 10 minutes later thanks to Mahmoud Al-Mardi. And just as Saudi Arabia were beginning to press for an equalizer, defender Khalifa Al-Dawsari received marching orders of his own with 17 minutes remaining. The three-time Asian champions did manage to produce a late flurry that included an injury-time equalizer that was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Earlier in the day, Morocco moved into first place in Group C with a 4-0 victory over Palestine, so the defeat leaves the Saudis, who rarely troubled Jordan’s goalkeeper Yazeed Abulaila, with much to do if they are to progress to the last eight of the 16-team tournament.

Jordan had much the better of the first half, with nine attempts on goal. After 15 minutes, Yazan Al-Arab headed a corner straight into the arms of Mohamed Al-Rubaie. Moments later, a fierce long-range effort by Haddad went just over the bar.

The Reds were happy to shoot from distance, and after 25 minutes a looping shot by Mahmoud Al-Mardi from outside the area went wide. Soon after, Yazan Al-Naimat danced past a couple of Saudi challenges, only to shoot weakly at the goalkeeper.

The young Falcons struggled to get any sort of rhythm going at all, with Laurent Bonadei, manager Herve Renard’s assistant who is in charge of the team during games, growing increasingly animated on the touchline.

Eight minutes before the break, Jordan had their best chance so far. Al-Mardi’s left-sided cross seemed perfect but while Baha Faisal rose high above the Saudi defense to meet it, his header went well wide.

A goal looked to be coming and it seemed to have arrived a minute later. Just moments after Al-Naimat shot wide from a good position at the corner of the area, the Saudis gave the ball away cheaply. The forward gratefully received the ball near the penalty spot and made no mistake in firing home. However the VAR ruled that he was a centimeter or two offside during the build-up.

Saudi Arabia were happy to end the half on level terms after giving the Jordanian goalkeeper little to do — and their own coach much to think about.

The second half began in a similar vein as Jordan again came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock. Faisal got on the end of a free kick but his header hit the underside of the crossbar, and although Adnan Hamad’s men argued that the ball had bounced behind the line, play continued.

In the 53rd minute, Saudi Arabia seemed to get the break they badly needed when Haddad, who could have no complaints, was shown a straight red for a rash tackle on Turki Al-Ammar.

Yet Jordan recovered quickly from the setback to take the lead just after the hour mark. Faisal crossed from the left and, though the initial cross was blocked by Al-Dawsari, the ball fell to Al-Mardi whose shot hit the prone defender and bounced into the back of the net.

It took time after that for Saudi Arabia to get into the game but just as it was starting to happen, Al-Dawsari was sent off, with 17 minutes remaining, leaving both teams a man short.

Yet the boys from Riyadh should have equalized in stoppage time. Abdullah Al-Qahtani’s initial shot was saved by Abulaila at the near post but the ball bounced out to Aidan Hamed, only for him to blast it over the bar from a perfect position.

There was still time for controversy, as the Saudis had a goal ruled out after captain Saud Abdulhamid was adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper when they both jumped for the ball.

“I’m really proud of my players, who gave their all in the match, but when we were 11 versus 10, we wanted to attack and score first and we made a mistake,” said Bonadei. “We did well but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I think we can improve. We have to win the next game against Palestine.”

That match will take place on Saturday, with Jordan taking on Morocco the same day.

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Murray falls in Washington opener while Halep, Pegula win

Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray of Britain crashed out in the opening round of the ATP and WTA Washington Open on Monday, falling to Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.

The 35-year-old Scotsman fell to 115th-ranked Ymer 7-6 (10/8), 4-6, 6-1 after two hours and 50 minutes at the US Open tuneup tournament.

“I’m excited,” said Ymer, who saved four set points in the first set. “A lot left to do but it’s a very good start of the American swing.”

World number 50 Murray, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, is trying to earn a seeding at the US Open, which he won a decade ago.

“It’s still possible,” Murray said. “I would just need to have a good run in Canada or Cincinnati really. It’s pretty straightforward if I was to make a quarterfinal or a semifinal, which right now — after a loss like that — doesn’t seem realistic.

“I do feel like if I play very well that I could do that. But I’ll need to certainly play better than I did today.”

Ymer, who lost his only career ATP final last August in Winston-Salem, will next face 15th seed Aslan Karatsev.

Ymer won 75 percent of his first-serve points, 49-of-65, and smashed 37 winners past Murray, who made only 25 with 35 unforced errors, five more than Ymer.

Murray had a set point in the 12th game of the first set but sent a backhand wide and Ymer held into a tiebreaker.

Murray had three more set points in the tiebreak but Ymer smashed two forehand winners and a forehand volley winner to pull level at 7-7, prompting Murray to toss his racquet in frustration. Ymer, 23, took the set on a backhand volley winner.

“Had chances in the first set to close that out,” Murray said. “Didn’t get it. Yeah, frustrating.”

While Murray clawed back to force a third set, Ymer raced to a 4-0 lead, they exchanged breaks on double faults and Ymer ended the match on a backhand crosscourt winner.

Murray said he will explore why he has had cramping issues in his past two matches when he often thrives in heat and humidity.

“I started cramping at the end of the first set, Murray said. “After that you’re just trying to find a way to get through the match.

“Need to have a little look at that with my team and maybe see why that is, make a few changes.”

Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, coming off a Wimbledon semifinal run, beat Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa 6-3, 7-5.

Simona Halep of Romania plays a shot against Cristina Bucsa of Spain during Day 3 of the Citi Open at Rock Creek Tennis Center on August 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

“Always the first round is difficult when you change the surface,” third seed Halep said. “I know it’s going to take time to make the game more solid.”

US top seed Jessica Pegula cruised 6-2, 6-2, over US wildcard Hailey Baptiste.

Pegula won the most recent WTA Washington event in 2019 after two missed years due to Covid-19.

“It definitely feels weird,” Pegula said. “It’s great to be back.”

Britain’s Kyle Edmund made a triumphant return to ATP singles after three left knee surgeries and a 20-month layoff by defeating Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 7-6 (10/8).

Edmund, who next faces British 16th seed Daniel Evans, played in his first tour-level singles match since October 2020 at Vienna, a month before his first operation.

“I didn’t find it easy today,” said Edmund. “I hung in there and I got my reward in the end.”

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Man City, Liverpool renew title fight as Premier League clubs flex financial muscle

Premier League clubs have splashed an estimated £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in the arms race for new talent ahead of the start to the 2022/23 season on Friday, but champions Manchester City remain the side to beat.

After winning four league titles in five years, Pep Guardiola’s squad has been bolstered by the biggest name arrival of the summer in Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian had his choice of Europe’s top clubs after scoring 85 goals in 88 games for Borussia Dortmund and followed in the footsteps of his father Alf Inge — a former City captain — to the blue side of Manchester.

Haaland may have had a debut to forget as he missed a glaring opportunity toward the end of City’s 3-1 Community Shield defeat to Liverpool on Saturday, but Guardiola warned the pretenders to his side’s throne that “the goals will come.”

“There is no reason not to be confident,” added Guardiola. “What these guys have done, not just in the Premier League, but in the cups, the steps we have made in Europe and in many things.”

In a window of significant change at the Etihad, Argentine forward Julian Alvarez and England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips have also arrived.

But Guardiola has let plenty of experience go to Premier League rivals with Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko heading to Arsenal and Raheem Sterling joining Chelsea.

Liverpool are best placed to pounce on any slipping of City’s standards.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were denied a historic quadruple by the finest of margins last season as they were pipped to the title by a point and lost the Champions League final 1-0 to Real Madrid after winning the League and FA Cup.

The Reds have also refreshed their front line with the imposing presence of Darwin Nunez coming in to compensate for the loss of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich.

Nunez did make an immediate impact in the Community Shield, winning a penalty and scoring to turn the game in Liverpool’s favor late in the game.

City and Liverpool have dominated English football for the past five years, but if there is to be a challenge from the chasing pack, it could come from Tottenham.

Ahead of Antonio Conte’s first full season in charge, the Italian has been heavily backed by the normally thrifty Spurs board with the signings of Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic, Djed Spence, Clement Lenglet and Fraser Forster.

Crucially, Tottenham have also retained the star duo of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min as they aim for a first league title in 62 years.

Arsenal have been in blistering pre-season form with Jesus on fire in thrashings of Chelsea and Sevilla.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel blasted his side as “not competitive” after losing 4-0 to the Gunners in Orlando and the Blues are a team in transition following Todd Boehly’s takeover.

There is also plenty of work ahead for new Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag with the uncertain future of Cristiano Ronaldo hanging over start of a new era for the Red Devils.

Amid the scale of big spending from English clubs, Newcastle have been surprisingly quiet in their first summer window since a takeover from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

The Magpies have spent just short of £60 million on Dutch defender Sven Botman, England goalkeeper Nick Pope and a permanent deal for left-back Matt Targett.

New boys Nottingham Forest have splashed over £70 million on 12 new signings in the two-time European champions’ first season back in the top flight for 23 years.

That sum does not even include a one-year deal for Jesse Lingard worth a reported £200,000-a-week after he joined on a free transfer from Manchester United.

Aston Villa’s transfer business is arguably the best example of the growing financial gulf between the Premier League and the rest of Europe.

French international midfielder Boubacar Kamara and Brazilian center-back Diego Carlos have turned their backs on Champions League football with Marseille and Sevilla respectively to join Steven Gerrard’s side, who finished 14th in the English top flight last season.

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Saudi Arabia is among the countries interested in hosting the 2026 Asian Cup for Women

The Asian Football Confederation said today, Monday, that Saudi Arabia, Australia, Jordan and Uzbekistan have expressed their interest in hosting the Asian Women’s Cup in 2026.
The AFC will now work with all competing member associations to deliver the necessary bid documents in accordance with established procedures.
Next year, the file of the winning country will be announced to organize the women’s championship, which the Asian Football Confederation praised for its increasing popularity, according to Agence France-Presse.
Previously, India hosted the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which China won by expanding to 12 teams, up from just 8 before.
The AFC said the 2026 edition “is expected to build on the strong foundations of the tournament’s famous legacy”.

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