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SUAREZ, BALE, RODRIGUEZ AND Benzema STAR IN ADIDAS #therewillbehaters film

SUAREZ, BALE, RODRIGUEZ AND Benzema STAR IN ADIDAS #therewillbehaters film

4146adidas has lit a spark under the world of football today by launching their #ThereWillBeHaters campaign; focused around a provocative new video featuring global football stars such as Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema.

If you have “haters”, then it’s the ultimate compliment. The best players know that a great performance delivers “hate” from fans and opponents, particularly on social media, which then continues to fuel the confidence to deliver even greater performances. They thrive off it – and they make no apology in doing so.

The film, featuring title track “Battle Royale (Haters Instrumental VIP)” by Apashe, has been released to coincide with the launch of adidas’ new football footwear range for 2015. The adidas adizero f50, Predator, Nitrocharge and 11Pro all sit at the cutting edge of technology, ensuring you will deliver a “haters” performance when you step out onto the field.

The film, which kicks off with the provocative voiceover of “They hate the way you walk. They hate the way you talk…”, features the larger than life personas of ‘Hero’ Gareth Bale, ‘Golden Boy’ James Rodriguez, ‘Target Man’ Luis Suarez, and ‘Hip Hop VIP’ Karim Benzema. The video takes a whirlwind tour of the perceived lives of these players, focussing on their flash lifestyles, over exuberant goal celebrations, possessions and good looks.

The film then goes on to illustrate exactly how, why, and what the haters hate about them the most… their outstanding achievements on the field of play and the boots that drive these incredible performances. “They hate your shiny new boots. They hate your boots… because they wish they were in them”.

The world’s most hated players will wear the all-new adidas adizero f50, adidas Predator, adidas Nitrocharge and adidas 11Pro on field from January 23rd, with the boots available to purchase from Monday 2nd February at adidas own-retail outlets as well as specialist retailers worldwide. For further information please visit adidas.com/football or go to facebook.com/adidasfootball or follow @adidasfootball #ThereWillBeHaters on twitter to join the conversation.



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ABU DHABI OCEAN RACING IN THE HUNT AT HALFWAY POINT OF LEG 3

ABU DHABI OCEAN RACING IN THE HUNT AT HALFWAY POINT OF LEG 3

4114Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – the emirate’s entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 (VOR) – is in a close battle for a podium place at the midway point of the race’s third leg from the team’s homeport to Sanya in China.

So far, Leg 3 has seen the closest competition in this edition of the round-the-world sailing challenge, with ADOR leading the fleet away from the United Arab Emirates’ capital on January 3 before becoming embroiled in a familiar three-way battle for first place with the other top teams, China’s Dongfeng Race Team and the Netherlands crew on Team Brunel.

ADOR, aboard its yacht Azzam, briefly gave up the lead as the leading trio approached the northern tip of the Musandam Peninsula but soon snatched back control by splitting paths with the other two.

“Dongfeng Race Team and Team Brunel sailed through the Ras al Bab gap while we chose to take the longer route round the outside of the islands - as we had done to good effect on the approach to Abu Dhabi,” explained ADOR skipper Ian Walker at the time. “Once again this move paid off as we held more wind and eked a one-mile lead as the fleet compressed into lighter winds to the east.”

ADOR dropped to fifth when the wind dropped to little more than a zephyr in the Gulf of Oman allowing Dongfeng Race Team to develop a seven-mile advantage at the front of the fleet. Walker’s crew was back in contention for the Leg 3 lead on Day 3 after breaking from the fleet in search of more favourable winds. The move – which saw Azzam skirt the Volvo Ocean Race-imposed exclusion zone close to Iranian waters – paid dividends when the wind shifted in ADOR’s favour, leapfrogging Azzam into third place.

ADOR were called up on the marine radio by an inquisitive Pakistani navy patrol who questioned Walker over the team’s intentions. Happily for all concerned, the encounter was a friendly one and didn’t delay the ADOR crew’s progress. “It was a five minute conversation,” said Matt Knighton, ADOR’s on board reporter. “They wanted to know what we were doing, who we were, what nationalities we had onboard. They didn’t slow us down and we were soon on our way.”

Lighter than expected breezes close to shore for ADOR cost valuable miles and once again the sailors had to fight their way back into contention. The Azzam sailors were given little chance to sleep as shifty winds forced an almost non-stop cycle of sail changes. Their efforts paid off however and by January 8 Azzam was back up to third place again.

After a week of predominantly sunny and dry light wind sailing, boat speeds increased dramatically on Day 9 as the fleet were hit by stronger winds funneling between the southernmost tip of India and the island of Sri Lanka. The ADOR sailors revelled in the stronger conditions, clawing their way past Team Brunel and into second place. The gain was short lived however, as that night they fell foul of the light winds in the wind shadow cast by Sri Lanka’s high mountains. The fleet quickly compressed and by first light just a few miles separated ADOR, Brunel, Spanish team MAPFRE, and Turkish entry Team Alvimedica, as all four battled for second place.

“What a frustrating night,” wrote ADOR skipper Ian Walker in an email from Azzam the following morning. “We sailed really well yesterday – we had good speed and made good sail choices. We ground Brunel down and then got ahead of them – only to get stuck under Sri Lanka! We were 125 miles south of the island but needed to be 10 more. We had got close enough to leaders on Dongfeng to see them at one point, but they just wriggled through to the north of us.”

The second half of Leg 3 looks set to be as challenging as the first with light winds expected to dog the fleet in the next few days as they head for the entrance to the Straits of Malacca. Although Walker admits he would always rather be leading, he predicts the final result is far from certain at this stage.

“The good news is we have three boats to race against now,” Walker said. “But the stakes have gone up. We are closer to Brunel than we have been for the last week and the wind ahead looks dire. It likely the fleet could compress again soon so it is all very much still to play for on this leg.”

ADOR is expected to complete the 4,642-nautical mile leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya on or around January 24.


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GT ACADEMY WINNERS SHINE AT DUBAI 24 HOURS

GT ACADEMY WINNERS SHINE AT DUBAI 24 HOURS

4101The NISMO PlayStation® GT Academy continued its legacy of unearthing real racing talent from the world of PlayStation®’s Gran Turismo game yesterday when an all-gamer line-up finished the 2015 Dubai 24 Hours race in second position in the top Pro-Am class, a stunning fifth overall.

Competing in the full race-spec 550bhp Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 in the prestigious international race was the ultimate prize for four GT Academy 2014 winners - Gaëtan Paletou (France), Ahmed Bin-Khanen (Saudi Arabia), Ricardo Sánchez  (Mexico) and Nicholas Hammann (USA). The impressive result comes after only three months of intensive training in GT Academy’s cutting-edge Driver Development Programme. The new drivers were joined in the race by 2013 GT Academy Germany winner, Florian Strauss – the team’s ‘professional’ with a full 18-months of racing experience.
 
The tenth running of the Dubai 24 Hours was the first taste of international racing for the latest crop of GT Academy champions and the first time that the gamer-to-racer competition’s winners have raced in Dubai in the premier A6 category. The gamers proved once again to be up to the challenge putting in a disciplined, controlled, mature and, most importantly, quick performance to take to the podium. They were only beaten in the Pro-Am class by a team that included two professional drivers, one of whom was GT Academy judge Rob Barff.
 
The ‘veteran’ Strauss had qualified the #23 car 14th overall and first in the Pro-Am class on Thursday and it was down to him to make Friday’s race start in a packed grid of 95 cars. Strauss handed over to European winner Gaëtan Paletou before Middle East winner Ahmed Bin-Khanen took the car into Dubai’s dusk. International winner Ricardo Sánchez and North American champion Nick Hammann raced their first stints in the darkness of the 5.39km circuit.
 
The GT Academy team’s fortunes ebbed and flowed throughout the night with some unlucky timing on driver changes and a couple of drive-through penalties costing them time. But when the sun came up, Nick handed over to Florian who put in a charge and took the car to P2 in class, fifth overall. Gaëtan consolidated the position handing over to Ricardo with a five-lap buffer over their nearest rivals. The team orders then came through to bring the #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 home safely and, fittingly, it was senior partner Florian Strauss who took the chequered flag in the fourth 24-hour race of his 18-month motorsport career.

Dubai is a major step towards professional racing for GT Academy winners. The race allows them to show off the skills first displayed on the Gran Turismo® game for PlayStation®3 and then honed by top experts in driving, race craft, fitness and psychology on the comprehensive, fast-track GT Academy Driver Development Programme. Those that display the right speed, aptitude and potential may be lucky enough to be invited to become NISMO Athletes, joining the likes of Strauss, Jann Mardenborough and Lucas Ordoñez as key components in Nissan’s burgeoning motorsport programme.
 
Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO added: “What a performance. Twenty four hour races are generally a rollercoaster of drama and excitement combined with severe fatigue. However, it is testament to the professionalism of the team, the reliability and speed of our car and the thorough preparation of our drivers that we have come through this event relatively unscathed and with a highly impressive result. It speaks volumes that the team brought out three tonnes of spare parts and will take the same three tonnes back home with them!
 
“Through taking the natural talent these guys show in their gaming and adding NISMO’s real-world racing knowhow, GT Academy continues to unearth and develop some very exciting drivers in an incredibly short space of time. These guys have all done a great job in Dubai and GT Academy continues to give us the tough, but welcome, challenge of having access to so many talented drivers as our racing programme grows. My thanks, as always, to the hugely professional team that make GT Academy happen and special mention, after a gruelling 24 Hours, to Bob Neville and the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN.”
 
“Each year we see more and more success stem from GT Academy which has seen over five million people pursue their dreams of racing cars through PlayStation,” said Penrose Tackie, Senior European Brand Manager from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. “GT Academy really is making history and it is always incredibly satisfying to witness how it has already changed the lives of these Gran Turismo gamers. They did a great job here and everybody involved in the project should be very proud.”


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Grey Doha takes part in Ooredoo Marathon 2015

Grey Doha takes part in Ooredoo Marathon 2015

475As part of its commitment to promoting Sport and healthy lifestyle’s importance, “Grey – Doha” Agency for PR & Advertising participated in the Ooredoo Marathon 2015.

Grey’s participation came in line with the goals of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) to encourage more young people to participate in sports activities in Qatar and adopt a healthy daily lifestyle. Grey’s runners printed SCH logo on their shirts stressing on the importance of the council’s endeavors in supporting any cause related to health awareness.

On this occasion, Mr. Karim Zarka, Managing Director for Grey - Doha, said:

“Grey’s participation in the Marathon translates well our agency’s commitment to its Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and comes in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 and its Human Development Pillar with Health constituting one of its main cornerstones. Grey aims to raise awareness on the benefits of sport and physical activity, increase community’s participation in sports and improve talent’s development and improvement.”

He added: “We are very pleased to offer our full support to the efforts that are being made in Qatar to place wellbeing and healthy lifestyle at the top of people’s priorities. Raising awareness about important health topics, such as regular exercising and proper nutrition, are part of the main fundamentals advocated by Grey.”

Zarka explained that “Qatar has enjoyed unprecedented global recognition in the sports field in recent years and continues to advance through targeted efforts aimed at creating a safer, healthier and more peaceful society.”

He said that “Grey’s participation in this sports event aims to spread the humanitarian message within the community and encourage our team to get involved in sports and healthy lifestyles.”


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HH Sheikh Hamdan wins the 2015 Endurance Cup Presented by Longines

HH Sheikh Hamdan wins the 2015 Endurance Cup Presented by Longines

471On 10 January 2015, HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai & Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, won the 2015 HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup presented by Longines and hosted by the Dubai Equestrian Club at the Dubai International Endurance City.

To further its long-term commitment with Meydan, Longines was once again the Presenting Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup, which took place in Dubai on 10 January 2015. This impressive international event featured some of the top names from the world of endurance riding competing over a distance of 160 km. The winner of the cup, HH Sheilkh Hamdan, received, along with the prestigious trophy, an elegant Longines watch, the Longines 24 Hours Single Push-Piece Chrono. This stainless steel chronograph watch piece of the Heritage Collection houses a self-winding mechanical chronograph movement. Its refined black dial displays hours in a 24 hours scale, minutes and small seconds at 9 o’clock and date. In addition, the total prize money for the winners of the Endurance Cup amounted to AED 9.6 million.

Longines is a significant partner of endurance riding. Besides the renowned HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Endurance Cup presented by Longines since 2010, the Swiss watch brand is also the title partner of the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships, which will take place in 2016. The discipline shares Longines’ values of elegance, precision, reliability and a perfect mastery of technique.

The passion of Longines for equestrian sports dates back to 1878, with the design of a chronograph featuring an engraved jockey and his mount. In 1912 the brand is partnering for the first time with an international show-jumping competition in Portugal. This passion continues today as, in addition to endurance riding, Longines is also committed in show jumping and horseracing.

Elegance, Performance and Tradition are values that both equestrian sport and Longines share. Longines’ growing involvement and partnerships to umbrella institutions, prestigious events, as well as numerous races and competitions in equestrian sport make the Swiss watch brand resolutely indissociable from the equestrian world.

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Audi R8 Driving Experience day for AC Milan players

Audi R8 Driving Experience day for AC Milan players

4128Audi Middle East organized an Audi R8 Driving Experience day for AC Milan players in Dubai Autodrome, one day before their friendly challenge against Real Madrid FC in the Sevens stadium, Dubai.

The players who attended the driving experience are Nigel De Jong, Philippe Mexes, Andrea Poli and Giampaolo Pazzini who were given an introductory safety training by certified Audi Driving instructors before experiencing the agility and performance of the Audi R8 on the track.

“As a car sponsor for both AC Milan and Real Madrid, we were pleased to have the players experience the Audi R8 on the track here in Dubai. They drive as good as they play football” said Trevor Hill, managing Director of Audi Middle East who attended the event with the players.




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NISSAN SAYS “THANKS A BILLION” TO LEAF OWNERS

NISSAN SAYS “THANKS A BILLION” TO LEAF OWNERS

413Nissan has revealed that owners of the LEAF, its 100% electric car, have collectively recorded an impressive one billion kilometres on the CarWings telematics system worldwide; saving over 180 million kilograms of CO₂ emissions* in the process.

This incredible achievement comes almost four years since the LEAF was launched in 2010 as one of the first mass-market, pure-electric vehicles. It is now the best-selling electric vehicle in history, with over 147,000 LEAF vehicles sold globally to date, 31,000 of which have been sold in Europe.

Thanks to the innovative CarWings telemetry used in the LEAF, Nissan has been able to keep an accurate log of the total distance covered by every LEAF registered with CarWings since the car’s launch. Nissan has been recording the kilometres on an online counter and actively involving owners in the count with a series of celebratory videos.

Paul Willcox, Chairman for Nissan in Europe, said: “Our aim was to see Nissan LEAF owners registered with our innovative CarWings system amass one billion kilometres by January 2015, and we are absolutely delighted to announce that we have achieved this landmark milestone earlier than anticipated. We would like to thank every single Nissan LEAF owner for helping us in reaching this world-first.

“The Nissan LEAF was the first mass-market family electric vehicle ever built and the owner satisfaction scores are the best in the Nissan range. This huge distance landmark shows that many of our customers are rapidly clocking up kilometres as they enjoy the benefits of quiet, emission free driving.”

This extraordinary accomplishment reflects the success of the LEAF and is testament to the company’s on-going leadership in the electric vehicle market. Nissan continues to maintain its position at the forefront of the field, having launched its second 100% electric vehicle, the e-NV200, a Zero Emission, compact city van.



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Nike and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation Unveil New National Team Kits

Nike and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation Unveil New National Team Kits

334TheKingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) unveiled the new national home and away kit for 2014-2015 revealing a design rich in national pride combined with the best in performance innovation.The team’s latest home and away kits pay homage to the country’s national heritage and feature classic football uniform design.

The new kits feature the signature Saudi whiteandgreen palette inspired by the national flag. The home jersey is classic white with green cuffs and green V-neck trim, while the away jersey is green with contrasting white details. White and green shorts and socks complement the jerseys and complete the clean look.

“It’s always an honor for my teammates and I to put on the Saudi national jersey,” said Salem Al-Dawsari, a Saudi National Team member. “I cannot wait to get out to the pitch and do my best to perform at the highest level while wearing our national colors.”

“The team’s comfort and performance on pitch is clearly our priority” saidAhmed Eid Head of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. “With Nike Football innovations we are confident that the Kingdom’s national team will out-perform themselves in the upcoming tournament and will continue to maintain a leadership role in the region.”

The Saudi Arabia national football team considered one of Asia’s most successful national teams, Saudi Arabia has won the Gulf Cup of Nations, three times (1994, 2002, 2003), Asian Cup three times (1984, 1988, and 1996) and qualified for the World Cup four consecutive times ever since debuting at the 1994 tournament. It’s known by its fans as Al-Saqour (The Falcons) or Al-Akhdar (The Green).

“We are proud to partner with Saudi Arabianational football team; the leading team in the region. Mr. Mohammed Baker,CEO, Sun and Sand Sports said. “Through Nike Football we aim to help the team realize their goals and inspire their football fans across the world.”

Cooling and comfort

Nike Dri-FIT technology draws sweat away from the body to the exterior of the shirts and shorts where the moisture quickly evaporates. This allows players to perform at their absolute best by remaining cooler, drier and more comfortable.

The laser-cut ventilation holes and mesh panels featured in key areas of the kit also improve performance by increasing air circulation to the players’ bodies and regulating their temperatures throughout the 90 minutes on the pitch.

The kits are crafted from a new dual-knit fabric consisting of both cotton and recycled polyester, which removes sweat and offers a softer feel and an overall more flattering appearance.

Perfect fit

Nike designers utilized three-dimensional body scans of elite footballers to collect data on the form of today’s players and identify an updated fit to improve comfort and allow the body to move more naturally within the kit.

Environmental sustainability

In line with Nike’s commitment to superior performance with lower environmental impact, the kits continue to feature fabric made from recycled plastic water bottles.

Each kit is made using an average of 18 recycled plastic bottles, and since 2010, Nike has diverted almost 2 billion bottles from landfills — enough to cover more than 2,800 full-sized football pitches.

NIKE DRI-FIT TECHNOLOGY

Nike Dri-Fit technology draws sweat away from the body to the exterior of the shirts and shorts where it quickly evaporates. This allows players to perform at their absolute best by remaining cooler, drier and more comfortable.

“At Nike we make sure that form follows function. The new kits look great but the innovation behind how it’s manufacturedhas set a new standard of performance in the game.” Said Edgar Jorissen, Nike, Brand Director, Central and Eastren Europe.“Our Nike Dri-Fit technology helps athletesmanage sweat bykeepingtheir body cooler for longer periods, so they feel more comfortable, sweat less and perform better.”

The laser-cut ventilation holes and mesh panels featured in key areas of the kit also improves performance by increasing air circulation to the players’ bodies and regulating their temperatures throughout ninety minutes on the pitch.

The kits are made of a new dual-knit fabric consisting of both cotton and recycled polyester, which as well as removing sweat offers a softer feel and an overall more flattering appearance.

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Nike continues to place environmental sustainability at the heart of their kits, which are again made from recycled polyester this year.

These kits have been created to provide both unrivalled performance benefits and lower environmental impact.

The kits are made from recycled plastic water bottles. The shorts are 100 percent recycled polyester; the shirts are 96 percent recycled polyester, while the socks are 78 percent.

Each kit is made using an average of 18 recycled plastic bottles, and over the last four years Nike has diverted almost two billion of these bottles from landfills to produce their kits.

By using recycled polyester Nike is also reducing the energy consumed in the entire process by up to 30 percent.

The new third kit is available to purchase in Nike stores in the Kingdomat a cost of SAR 355 for Men and SAR 215 for Young Athletes.


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NISSAN SCORES WITH UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GOAL OF THE WEEK COMPETITION

NISSAN SCORES WITH UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GOAL OF THE WEEK COMPETITION

430Nissan’s exciting Goal of the Week competition in partnership with UEFA Champions League is in full swing around the world and in the Middle East it is already netting plenty of fans wanting to take part.

‘UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week Engineered by Nissan’ gives football lovers the chance to vote for the most brilliant goals in the elite club tournament of Europe and win a host of prizes that fans of ‘the beautiful game’ will savour.

Polls to pick the most spectacular goals are being held during the competition with official UEFA Champions League merchandise including official UEFA Champions League football on offer during the group stages. But the big prizes for Middle Eastern football aficionados are two tickets to UEFA Champions League Final match, which will be taking place in Berlin, and two tickets to the 2015/2016UEFA Super Cup match.

Winners of the grand prizes of the match tickets will be revealed on June 8 next year. Eight prizes of UEFA Champions League merchandise are up for grabs each week.

Goal of the Week forms part of Nissan’s four-year partnership with the UEFA Champions League which kicked off when the first group stage match took place last month. Goal of the Week started at the same time.

The competition is available on the UEFA Champions League section of Nissan’s websites (nissan-ucl.com). UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week Engineered by Nissan is showing up to five of the best goals from each match week, as selected by UEFA Champions League’s panel of judges. Fans can vote from midnight (CET) every Thursday following those matches. Registered participants enter into weekly draws.

Roel de-Vries, Corporate vice president, global head of marketing, communications and brand Strategy – Nissan said recently: “The UEFA Champions League sees the finest football players from around the world compete throughout the season.”

“The Goal of the Week activity will enable football fans to debate and determine the best and most technical UEFA Champions League goals around every match week, offering an exclusive opportunity to bring the excitement from the football pitch directly to fans online.”

Samir Cherfan, Managing Director, Nissan Middle East, added:”Nissan has a long and proud history supporting sports of all kinds. In football the UEFA Champions League is as special as it gets so it’s a wonderful partnership for Nissan.”

“People in the Middle East love their football and follow it closely. Goal of the Week gives them the opportunity for direct participation and there are great prizes on offer. There is already a great deal of interest in the competition and it’s only early days.”

Nissan is the official global automotive sponsor of the UEFA Super Cup and UEFA Champions League. Meantime, Nissan recently announced that three-time UEFA Champions League winner, Andrés Iniesta and Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil captain, Thiago Silva have signed as ambassadors for the Japanese auto maker.

In addition to the UEFA Champions League partnership, Nissan sponsors the Africa Cup of Nations, NCAA Football, Canadian Football League, sporting ambassadors including Olympic Gold Medallists Usain Bolt and Sir Chris Hoy, corporate partner for Heisman Trust/Heisman Trophy and the official global automotive partner of City Football Group.


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WANDERERS WIN AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

WANDERERS WIN AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

46Western Sydney Wanderers weathered an unrelenting onslaught from Al Hilal to hold on to their slender advantage from the first leg of the AFC Champions League final to be crowned Australia’s first-ever Asian club kings thanks to a goalless draw at King Fahd International Stadium on Saturday night.

Tony Popovic’s side, that features a number of AFC Asian Cup hopefuls, somehow kept the two-time continental champions at bay in front of a fiercely partisan full house to win 1-0 on aggregate thanks to Tomi Juric’s goal from the first leg in Parramatta last week.

Goalkeeper Ante Covic was the hero for the A-League side on Saturday evening, making a stunning save from Saudi international star Yasser Al Qahtani five minutes from time to deny the Saudis the chance to take the game into extra-time before keeping out Asian Cup bound Nasser Al Shamrani’s goal-bound effort moments later.

Covic’s late interventions capped a stellar display between the posts from the 39-year-old, but Al Hilal had only themselves to blame in a dominant display that should have resulted in a comfortable win for the Saudi giants.

Neither Juric nor Al Qahtani made it into the starting line-ups for their respective sides as both made one change each, as Al Hilal called Nawaf Al Abid for Abdullah Al Zori while Kwabena Appiah came in for Daniel Mullen for Western Sydney.

Thiago Neves was a constant thorn in the side of the Western Sydney defence, with the Brazilian at the heart of everything that was threatening from Al Hilal. It was from his 19th minute free kick that Digao should have scored, only for the defenders header to go wide.

A 29th minute shot from the edge of the area by Neves was deflected wide for a corner before Nikolai Topor-Stanley blocked another effort from the Brazilian minutes later.

But, with two minutes to go to the interval, Neves had the best chance of the half, only to steer his free header from eight yards over the bar when he had the goal at his mercy.

Both coaches made changes early in the second half, as Appiah made way for Vitor Saba for Western Sydney while, three minutes before the hour mark, Al Qahtani was introduced for his first taste of the final having missed the first leg due to suspension.

Within five minutes of his introduction, the former AFC Player of the Year looked set to find the back of the net after receiving the ball in the box from Salman Al Faraj, but his shot slid wide with the goal at his mercy.

Three minutes later Al Faraj had his effort blocked by the goalkeeper when he was one-on-one with Covic while Al Shamrani headed just wide as Al Faraj continued to terrorise the defence.

Al Hilal continued to rack up the opportunities, with Al Qahtani’s downward header easily collected by Covic while Al Shamrani’s form in front of goal belied his status as the tournament’s leading scorer, missing with a point-blank header as time steadily ran out for the Saudis.

With five minutes remaining Covic pulled off the save of the game, diving to his right to somehow push Al Qahtani’s shot to safety when a goal looked a certainty.

And when he kept Al Shamrani’s attempt out with less than two minutes remaining, the game was up for Al Hilal as Western Sydney notched up an historic – if unlikely – success a little more than two years after the club’s first-ever competitive game.




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