Tigers slay Samurai to avoid last place

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia crushed Asian Games champions Japan 4-0 to record their first win of the Darwin International Open in Australia yesterday.

In the third-fourth placing playoff, the Tigers “avenged” their Asian Games final defeat last month with goals from Shahril Saabah, Azri Hassan, Haziq Samsul and Razie Rahim.

Shahril’s field goal came in the first half while the other three were scored in the second.

Assistant coach Amin Rahim, in charge as Stephen van Huizen is on a break, told Bernama: “I’m happy with the performance.

“One win, one draw and two losses can be considered good.”

Malaysia lost 5-2 to world champions Australia on Tuesday, drew 3-3 with Japan a day later before going down 3-2 to Olympic champions Argentina on Friday in preliminary matches.

Apart from Stephen, Malaysia went to Australia without six seniors — Sukri Mutalib, Faizal Saari, Marhan Jalil, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil, Nabil Fiqri Noor and S. Kumar.

The competition is part of their preparation for next month’s Asian Champions Trophy and November’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.


Turtles swimming cautiously

MARAN — “There’s no such thing as one foot in the semifinals.”

That was Terengganu coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim’s response after they beat Felda 2-1 in their first leg Malaysia Cup quarterfinal match at Tun Razak Stadium on Friday.

Terengganu’s goals were scored by Nasrullah Haniff and Lee Tuck while Felda replied through Gilberto Fortunato.

The experienced coach refused to get complacent ahead of next Friday’s return leg at home against a formidable Felda side.

“We don’t want to say one foot in the semis or anything to that effect,” Irfan told Bernama.

“We still have a second match in Kuala Terengganu. Two away goals are not an advantage … anything can happen in football.”

The 67-year-old however, assured fans the Turtles will not sit back and defend their lead at Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium.

“We’ll not play defensive football,” he said.

“We’ll continue to exhibit ‘positive football’ to increase the goals we score at home.”

Irfan also said he would rectify weaknesses he identified during the match before Friday.

Terengganu have not made the last four since finishing runners-up to Negri Sembilan in 2011.

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Champs off and running

KUALA LUMPUR — They only had 15 days to prepare but defending champions Iraq still possessed enough to beat debutants Afghanistan 2-1 in the AFC Under-16 Championship yesterday.

And it has given them confidence to continue winning against Australia on Tuesday.

Hussein Sadeq Rasetmee put Iraq ahead in the fourth minute of their Group D opener.

Afghanistan responded immediately when Ali Zahidi levelled scores just a minute later.

But Abdulrazzaq Qasim Subaihawi had the last say, scoring the 14th minute winner from the spot.

“We had no time to get our best team here so it was quite a scrap,” revealed Iraq coach Faisal Azeez Jebur.

“A win is a great start but we aren’t in the best shape and against Australia we need to step up.

“They’re one of the best teams and though I haven’t seen them play we’re wary of them.

“My team needs to eliminate the mistakes and if we can do that who knows. With another good result we’ll be assured of a quarterfinal place.”

Afghanistan coach Sayed Hadi Kazemi rued the many chances they squandered especially after proving to be the better team.

“Iraq got lucky,” he said.

“We played better, had more chances but couldn’t finish.”

He also blasted the opposition for playacting.

“They kept falling feigning injury,”
added Sayed.

“It’s not a good sight and not good football. At this stage it’s all about friendship, sportsmanship and camaraderie.

“But let’s move on and play South Korea (next on Friday).

“They’re no pushovers but our players have what it takes to win.”


My time will come’

LONDON — Goalkeeper Bernd Leno admits start to life has been “frustrating” at Arsenal, having joined the club “to play every game”.

The German has had to be patient after arriving at the Emirates in the summer — his debut only came on Thursday in the Europa League against Vorskla Poltava.

The Gunners paid Bayer Leverkusen €22 million (RM107 million) for the custodian, who suited manager Unai Emery’s style of football which requires playing out from the back.

Leno was expected to slot straight into the team but the 26-year-old has been unable to dislodge veteran Petr Cech from the starting XI.

“I came to play every game,” Leno told Standard Sport.

“I came for the Premier League. It’s the best. The Bundesliga is good but Premier League is better, so I look forward to playing any time.

“But moving to a bigger club, another country, it needs maybe a little bit of time.

“It’s a bit frustrating but I keep calm and work hard to improve.”

Leno believes his chance will come if he stays patient.

“My performances in training are good. I keep calm. My chance will come,” he said.

Leno insists he is suited to Emery’s philosophy, especially after impressing in the 4-2 victory over Vorskla.

“The game the boss wants is my style,” he said.

“I did a good job with the ball, with the passing. The two goals were disappointing but they were great goals.

“It’s a bit more of a risk to play this way because we don’t want to kick the ball upfront.

“But it needs time for the team to improve and get the confidence.”

Leno is now waiting to discover if he gets the nod from Emery for the clash with Everton today.

Arsenal head into the fixture high on confidence after four successive victories across all competitions. — Agencies


Toffees to unleash Brazilian winger

LIVERPOOL — Manager Marco Silva believes Bernard is ready to make his full Everton debut following an impressive substitute appearance against West Ham last weekend, reports Eurosport.

He came off the bench just before halftime at Goodison Park, where he was one of the few high points in a 3-1 defeat.

The Brazil winger is still working his way up to fitness following a move from Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer but Silva hinted he could start against Arsenal today.

“Bernard can help with everything we need,” said Silva.

“He’s ready to give 100 per cent, even if he’s not yet in his best physical condition, which is normal because he didn’t play since March.

“He’s a different profile from our other wingers.

“If I need 90 (minutes from him), he’s ready (to give it).”

The defeat to West Ham, who lost their opening four games, further dampened the initial optimism around Silva’s impact.

It followed draws with Bournemouth and Huddersfield.

Silva is keen to move on.

He said: “We started the season well within the circumstances.

“We were playing almost two games with 10 players, reacted well to the first home game, but after the (international) break, our performance wasn’t the best.

“It’s something we have to handle and prepare for in a better way.

“Working hard, learning from our mistakes, but giving the same confidence to players and looking forward is our way.”

Apart from Bernard, Silva could also hand Colombian Yerry Mina his debut after the former Barcelona centreback began training with the squad last week following a foot injury.

Portuguese Silva already has a win at the Emirates — he led Olympiakos to a 3-2 Champions League victory in 2015.

And he will be boosted by the return of Brazil forward Richarlison, who has completed a three-game ban. — Agencies


Future matters more

TURIN — Cristiano Ronaldo is not dwelling on the sending off in his Champions League debut for Juventus, says teammate Alex Sandro.

Ronaldo was redcarded in Juventus’ 2-0 win at Valencia on Wednesday after appearing to pull Jeison Murillo’s hair.

Uefa have not disclosed if an extended ban will be handed to the Portuguese star.

If they decide to do so, Ronaldo will miss a reunion with former club Manchester United at Old Trafford on Oct 24.

Sandro, however, feels the 33-year-old has put the disappointment past him and is looking forward to the next challenge.

“I see him motivated,” Sandro told Sky Sport Italia.

“He has a lot of experience and knows what happened on Wednesday belongs to the past.

“He’s already looking forward, he came to help and brought quality to our group.”

The Brazil international also backed Ronaldo to get better after a slow start in Italy, with his own understanding with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner improving.

“I’m learning to know him inside and outside the field,” said Sandro.

“I’m understanding his movements and how he likes to receive the ball. Slowly I’ll start to assist him.”

Frosinone host Juventus tomorrow, and they may well fall victim to an angry Ronaldo.

Winger Juan Cuadrado highlighted Ronaldo’s impact since his arrival.

“Cristiano certainly gave us something more,” Cuadrado told Juventus TV.

“We know the player he is, but Juventus have always been well built.

“Now we’re even stronger because some of us have been here a long time and become great champions.

“We hope to go far in every competition.” — Agencies

Once-in-a-lifetime talent

LONDON — Football will never see another player like Lionel Messi, Tottenham midfielder Erik Lamela believes.

Messi struck a hattrick against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Tuesday and has four goals in as many La Liga games.

International success has long eluded the Barcelona star, who lost three Copa America finals and the 2014 World Cup final.

And he could not inspire Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina to victory at this summer’s World Cup in Russia as they crashed out in the last 16.

But compatriot Lamela has no doubts about the 31-year-old fleet-footed forward’s ability.

“Leo is important for us, for all the things he can give as a player and teammate,” Lamela told Omnisport at the launch of EA Sports’ Fifa 19.

“Having him is important for the group. We all know he’s the best and he’s always a plus to win a game.

“I played and trained with him, he’s by far the best player I’ve seen since I played football.

“Game after game, people can see how easy he makes playing football at a high level look like. There won’t be anyone like him.”

Lamela is settling fine at Tottenham under fellow Argentine Mauricio Pochettino.

“First year I was there, he helped me because my English wasn’t good,” Lamela said of his compatriot.

“It was important to have a manager speaking Spanish, and other South Americans, because there are many young players who speak Spanish.

“In the end, my relationship with him is like the one he has with other teammates, it’s the same for all of us.” — Agencies

All fun and games

PARIS — Tiger Woods has not competed in France since 1994 but the 14-time Major champion is excited to tee off next week in Paris at the 42nd Ryder Cup.

Woods hoisted the trophy only once in seven appearances in the biennial team showdown against Europe — in 1999 when hosts US won despite trailing 10-6 entering the last day singles matches.

Woods last competed in France some 24 years ago as an 18-year-old prodigy for the triumphant US team at the Eisenhower Trophy.

That amateur team event was at Le Golf National, which will host the Ryder Cup from Friday.

“I’ve been there a number of times, usually the south,” Woods said.

“It’s been a while since I played in Paris. I’ve been there a number of times but just to enjoy Paris.

“And this is going to be work, but then again, a fun work week.”

After missing the 2014 Ryder Cup with nagging back pain, Woods served as assistant captain for the triumphant 2016 US squad, which lost eight of 10 prior meetings to Europe.

Questioning if he would ever play again, Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery last year in a final bid to resume his career.

This year has seen a return to form, including a runner-up showing at last month’s PGA Championship and five other top six finishes, including at the British Open in July.

“What I’m doing is remarkable, to come back from a fusion. Not a lot of people thought that was possible,” Woods said.

“Never dreamed I’d be in this position. Just so thankful everything turned out the way it did.”

But Woods still has not won a title in over five years or claimed a Major since 2008.

Helping the Americans end a quarter-century drought on European soil might be the taste of victory he needs to snap his own wait for a trophy.

“To have an opportunity to go to Europe and win Ryder Cup, we haven’t done it in 25 years there, and to be part of this group to have that opportunity, it’s exciting,” Woods said.

“We’re going to go there and give it our best and try and keep this Cup.” — AFP


Play rookies early, says Van de Velde

PARIS — Europe captain Thomas Bjorn should give his rookies game time on the first day of Ryder Cup to settle nerves on a French course that demands precision shot-making, Jean Van de Velde said.

Van de Velde, one of only three Frenchmen to ever play in the competition, speaks from personal experience: he was forced to sit out the first two days in 1999 and lost his Sunday singles.

“It’s stressful, there’s tension. You have to put them in as fast as you can,” Van de Velde said.

“Then at least you see how they’re reacting to pressure. Because there’s no room for fragility.”

Dane Bjorn has selected five first-timers — Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen and Jon Rahm — as he seeks to extend Europe’s 25-year unbeaten run on home soil.

Ryder Cups can be won and lost on the captains’ decisions on pairings and when to put out his players over the three-day tournament.

Van de Velde said his captain Mark James exhausted his experienced team members by overplaying them early on.

“You put two rookies together (on the first day) and what’s the worst that can happen? You lose a point. But they play, they’re in it.”

The National Golf’s Albatros outside Paris is a course many European Tour players know well.

It is less familiar to their US rivals.

“At the National you need to know where to hit the ball to access the pin,” Van de Velde said.

“Some holes are deceiving. The better you know the course the more advantage you have. It’s position shots here.” — Reuters


Team World sock it to Fedex-Joker

CHICAGO — Kevin Anderson and Jack Sock spoiled the doubles debut of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic but Team Europe still led Team World 3-1 after the Laver Cup first day.

Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and Kyle Edmund won their opening singles matches on Friday to give Europe a commanding 3-0 lead going into the evening’s final doubles match.

World’s Sock and Anderson needed a tiebreaker to defeat the doubles dream team of Federer and Djokovic 6-7, 6-3, 10-6.

Sock and Anderson won the tiebreaker after Federer double faulted to give World a key 5-4 lead.

Earlier in the day, Europe’s Dimitrov cruised past Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-4, Goffin saved two match points to outlast Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 and Edmund toppled Sock 6-4, 5-7, 10-6.

“It’s pretty nice to play indoors — no sun, no wind,” Dimitrov said.

“When you get in a good rhythm you just want to follow it. That’s what I did.”

This is the second instalment of the Laver Cup which has been dubbed the Ryder Cup of tennis.

The exhibition features 12 of the world’s top players squaring off against each other in three days.

Bjorn Borg’s favoured Team Europe are trying to defend their crown against Team World captained by the legendary John McEnroe.

Federer, Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Dimitrov, Goffin and Edmund make up Team Europe.

Sock, Nick Kyrgios, John Isner, Tiafoe, Anderson and Schwartzman represent Team World.

The event is named in honour of tennis legend Rod Laver, who won a record 200 singles titles, 11 Grand Slams and five Davis Cups for Australia. —AFP

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