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Al-Rajhi improvises to seal dramatic victory in AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally

ALULA: Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi improvised and overcame three punctures, power-steering issues and a faulty jack to snatch a dramatic victory in the Al Ula–Neom Cross-Country Rally, round three of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, on Saturday. Trailing fellow countryman Yasir Seaidan by 1min 14sec at the overnight halt, Al-Rajhi and his Russian navigator…

Al-Rajhi improvises to seal dramatic victory in  AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally

ALULA: Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi improvised and overcame three punctures, power-steering issues and a faulty jack to snatch a dramatic victory in the Al Ula–Neom Cross-Country Rally, round three of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, on Saturday.

Trailing fellow countryman Yasir Seaidan by 1min 14sec at the overnight halt, Al-Rajhi and his Russian navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov guided their Toyota Hilux to the fastest time of 1hr 30min 45sec on the final 175km loop stage around Neom to claim victory by a margin of 2min 09sec. 

With a broken jack, Al-Rajhi managed to hang the car over a roadside drainage pipe to enable the crew to replace a punctured tire during a dramatic morning’s action.

Al-Rajhi said: “The stage today was full of action and we did it well! We lost the first day with a small problem with the wheel nuts, but we pushed every day and today we attacked like hell. We did it well and we won the rally. It’s a nice feeling after all these problems. Konstantin did a great job and we are here with the win.”

Seaidan and French co-driver Francois Cazalet finished as runners-up in a MINI All4 Racing and the Spanish pairing of Formula One star Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma rounded off the podium places with the third fastest time on the final selective section.

Yasir added: “It was an interesting rally but difficult for us. We had many punctures and the last day was difficult navigation. In the end we finished in second place. That is a good result for us and we are still leading the championship with two rounds to go. It was nice to see Fernando Alonso here practicing over the terrain. It was a nice experience to have a world champion with us, for him and for us.”

Alonso said: “It was a good four days preparation for the Dakar and discovering new terrain and new things here. To be third in the final two stages and to be third in the overall is the first podium of my life in rally. It is good that it happened now and gives us confidencefor Dakar.”

Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi had been awarded a 10-minute penalty by rally officials after the third leg for a speeding infringement in a restricted zone, but it mattered little to the Emirati that he had been demoted to fourth place at the overnight halt behind Alonso. 

That was because the former regional rally champion’s engine had developed a serious oil leak and the decision was taken not to continue on Saturday. With Al-Qassimi’s Peugeot 2008 out of the running, ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossary was able to fend off the challenge from Czech Miroslav Zapletal to claim fourth place in a Nissan Navara with French navigator Sebastien Delaunay.

Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi and French navigator Stephane Duple climbed to sixth overall in a Nissan Patrol. Mutair Al-Shammeri and Faris Al-Shammeri finished seventh and eighth, Mohammed Al-Tijiwri slipped a place to ninth and Khalaf Al-Shammeri rounded off the top 10.

Salman Al-Shammeri came home in 11th place to confirm top spot in the TL2 category by 32min 27sec and Yousef Al-Suwaidi sealed the win in the T2 section for series production cross-country vehicles from Reda Al-Shammeri. Saleh Al-Saif held on to win TL3.

Yousef Al-Dhaif and French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter crushed their rivals in the NUTV class, the Can-Am Maverick X3 finishing 41min 23sec in front of the similar car of Majed Al-Tiwijri and Raed Al-Maziad.

KTM rider Mishal Alghuneim dominated the motorcycle category, in which Abdullah Al-Helal finished a very distant second, and Yamaha’s Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi cruised to victory in the quad class by 1hr 24min 48sec. Riyadh Al-Orafan was second and Walid Al-Shegawi rounded off the top three.  

The event was organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

It was run with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

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Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

LUXEMBOURG: Cristiano Ronaldo took his career tally to 99 international goals on Sunday as Portugal qualified for the 2020 European Championship with a 2-0 win against Luxembourg. The Juventus star tapped in a shot by teammate Diogo Jota that was just inches from going over the goal line in the 86th minute, leaving Ronaldo one…

Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

LUXEMBOURG: Cristiano Ronaldo took his career tally to 99 international goals on Sunday as Portugal qualified for the 2020 European Championship with a 2-0 win against Luxembourg.

The Juventus star tapped in a shot by teammate Diogo Jota that was just inches from going over the goal line in the 86th minute, leaving Ronaldo one strike from the 100-goal mark.

Bruno Fernandes got Portugal’s first goal against the flow of play in the 39th when he scored from a long pass by Bruno Silva.

Luxembourg had outplayed Portugal until that point, dealing with the poor field conditions better than the defending European champions.

Portugal advanced to Euro 2020 in second place in Group B. Ukraine had already gone through as the group winner.

Separately, World Cup runners-up Croatia rounded off a rebuilding mission by booking their place at the tournament with a 3-1 win over Slovakia but they are unlikely to sneak under the radar again at next year’s finals.

Croatia secured top spot in Group E, a section also including Hungary, Wales and Azerbaijan, with five wins and two draws from their eight qualifiers.

Coach Zlatko Dalic, who masterminded the run to last year’s World Cup final, has gradually reconstructed a squad that lost Mario Mandzukic, Danijel Subasic and Vedran Corluka to retirement in the wake of the 4-2 loss to France in Russia.

The “Vatreni” — Croatian for “Fiery Ones” — needed only a point in Rijeka on Saturday to ensure a spot at the 24-team event, which kicks off in Rome on June 12.

After a shocking start for home fans when Robert Bozenik scored in the 32th minute, Croatia’s qualification was never in doubt once Nikola Vlasic drilled home the leveller in the second half.

Bruno Petkovic headed the hosts in front and Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with a thumping finish with 16 minutes left.

“I’m relieved … proud and happy,” Dalic said after the match.

“These boys deserved the European Championship. This is the crowning moment for all that we have done in this year and a half since the World Cup.”

But the path through qualifying, preceded by a poor showing in the Nations League, where Croatia finished last in their group behind Spain and England, was far from plain sailing.

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Ronaldo scores 99th goal as Portugal qualifies for Euro 2020

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is sending its first woman to compete in the 55th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup that begins in Indonesia. Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang. Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to…

Ronaldo scores 99th goal as Portugal qualifies for Euro 2020

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is sending its first woman to compete in the 55th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup that begins in Indonesia.

Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.

Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating in the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating in the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The men’s competition started Sunday at 9 p.m.

The women’s competition will begin at 3 p.m. today, where Mashael will take part in six rounds. The competition will run until Nov. 24.

HIGHLIGHT

Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.

Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating at the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating at the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The competition continues on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and after completing 24 rounds, the top 24 players will be selected to compete for the top eight positions by playing eight runs on Friday. On Saturday, the best four female players and four male players will be chosen to compete in the finals.

Abdulrahman said that he is looking forward to the world cup. “This year there is a new advantage and that is having teammate Mashael joining me for the first time. I’m proud of her! It’s a big thing for Saudi women and for us in the team because this world exposure will help them to learn and give them an incentive to develop their skills,” he said.

The 20-year-old player has been bowling for the past 10 years. Despite his young age, thanks to his perseverance and sense of discipline he managed to win many victories, but the most distinguished were those in 2018. He delivered the bronze medal at the World Cup in Detroit, and two bronzes at the Asian Bowling Championship in the Philippines in the same year, and a gold medal for the trio event at the Arab Bowling Championship in Oman.

Mashael, 32, was only able to play officially last year in February 2018 when the Saudi Bowling Federation (SBF) received the decree to allow women to play in sports. However, she has been playing for fun since early childhood when she used to travel to Egypt with her family and where she managed to learn from the professionals and get hooked on the game. Mashael was chosen to take part in the Egypt Arab Championship and World Bowling Women’s Championship in Las Vegas in August 2018.

Mashael said: “Playing for fun is definitely enjoyable but when you wear your country’s flag that’s a huge responsibility put on your shoulder. You become an ambassador and a role model and when I’m put in that situation, I definitely want to give my all to be fit for that honor, and give the best image worthy of our beloved country.”

The bowlers expressed their gratitude to the Saudi Bowling Federation and its president Bader bin Abdullah Al-Alsheikh for his support and for creating opportunities for them so that they can progress, enrich their experiences and win awards and achievements.

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Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez. Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’…

Southgate to bring Sterling  back from England exile

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”

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