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Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan



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.


Barca dumped out of cup after extra-time defeat by Athletic Bilbao




Barcelona were dumped out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday as Ferran Torres’ first goal for the club failed to prevent a dramatic 3-2 defeat after extra-time by Athletic Bilbao.

Disappointment for Barca was compounded by the sight of a visibly upset Ansu Fati going off injured in the second half of normal time at San Mames.

Fati only returned earlier this month after two months out with a hamstring problem, having also come back in September following 10 months out with a knee injury.

Another spell on the sidelines for Fati would be a huge blow to Barca’s hopes of making La Liga’s top four. Pedri also asked to go off in extra-time.

Real Madrid needed an extra 30 minutes as well to defeat Elche 2-1, with Eden Hazard scoring the winner after Marcelo’s red card forced La Liga’s leaders to come from behind with 10 men.

Barca were hoping to join them in the last eight but instead it is Athletic who advance, joining Madrid, Real Sociedad, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano, Cadiz, Valencia and Real Betis in Friday’s draw for the last eight.

Madrid will be firm favorites, particularly after Sevilla crashed out at the hands of Real Betis, who are now perhaps the greatest threat to Carlo Ancelotti’s side winning their first Copa del Rey since 2014, during Ancelotti’s first tenure as coach.

Barca won the Copa del Rey last season and defending their title was probably their best chance of silverware this term.

They are out of sight in La Liga and were beaten by Madrid in last week’s Spanish Super Cup, with the Europa League now their only realistic remaining route to a trophy.

Only 102 seconds had passed when Iker Muniain sent San Mames apoplectic by collecting Nico Williams’ cross at the back post, before turning and bending into the far corner.

But Barcelona were level in the 20th minute, and from a similar angle, as Torres shifted right, inside Oscar De Marcos, and whipped a stunning shot into the net.

Inaki Williams hit the bar with a long-range effort late on but the real drama was still to come. Athletic thought they had won it in the 86th minute when Inigo Martinez prodded in at the back post ahead of the sliding Gerard Pique.

Barcelona, though, found a way back in the 93rd, as Dani Alves bicycle-kicked Jordi Alba’s cross back into the area and Pedri’s hit on the stretch was too powerful for Julen Agirrezabala’s right hand.

Barca celebrated like it was the winner but there was extra-time to come and injuries. Fati went off and then Pedri asked to depart.

Then in the 103rd minute, a sliding Alba stopped Nico Williams’ cross with his right arm and after consulting the replay, Jose Munuera pointed to the spot. Ter Stegen dived right, Muniain shot left.

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A commentator from Equatorial Guinea celebrates hysterically after defeating Algeria



The media circulated a video clip showing the hysterical joy of a match commentator from Equatorial Guinea, following his country’s victory over its Algerian counterpart in the second round of the first round of the African Cup of Nations currently being held in Cameroon.
And the commentator appeared jumping for joy, standing on the seats and embracing a person who was standing next to him, after his country’s team won a precious 1-0 victory in the match yesterday, Sunday.

In the 71st minute of the match, Esteban Obiang scored the first goal for Equatorial Guinea from a corner kick on the first post, which he turned with a direct shot into the net against Algeria.
It is noteworthy that with this result, Algeria bottomed in the group with an orphan point from its draw against Sierra Leone, while Equatorial Guinea’s tally rose to 3 points, to come second, after Côte d’Ivoire, which leads the group with 4 points, while Sierra Leone occupies third place with two points.

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The French Ministry of Sports confirms that Djokovic will not play at Roland Garros without vaccination



Novak Djokovic may be banned from participating in the French Open this year if he insists on not receiving a vaccine against Corona.
This comes after the French Sports Ministry confirmed that there will be no exceptions to the new measures to limit the spread of the virus, according to Reuters.

The ministry said on Monday, “The regulations are clear. The (vaccine passport) will be imposed as soon as the law is passed. The order will apply to every fan or professional athlete until further notice. Roland Garros will take place in May. The situation may change from time to time. So we will see, but Of course, there will be no exceptions.
Yesterday, Sunday, the French Parliament gave its final approval to the government’s latest measures to tackle the Corona virus, including the “vaccine passport”, which was protested by anti-vaccine protesters, paving the way for the law to enter into force in the coming days.
The new law, which has run into difficulties in Parliament, where opposition parties have found some of its provisions too harsh, will require people to obtain a vaccination certificate to enter public places such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.
Djokovic, a record nine-time Australian Open winner including the last three, left Australia late on Sunday after the government’s decision to revoke his visa was upheld by the Federal Court, ending several days filled with excitement over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and the lack of access to the country. Serbian player on vaccination.
Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot now be granted another three-year visa unless the Australian Minister of Immigration agrees that there are compelling reasons.
Serbian Djokovic, who was denied the record number of Grand Slam titles with 21 titles after being expelled from the Australian Open, refused to receive the vaccination and was criticized for his participation in last month’s events after he contracted Corona.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision and the fact that Novak must leave Australia,” Djokovic’s family said in a statement. “Despite the disgraceful behavior towards Novak, we believe the sport must win.”
The family indicated that the court’s decision was related to “politics and other (interests)”.

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