Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi transported fans back in time to the heyday of their storied rivalry, as both forwards got on the scoresheet in an exhibition match last night before Hugo Ekitike earned 10-man PSG a 5-4 win over the Riyadh Season Team.
While the match may not have much significance for the teams involved, soccer fans around the world got plenty of bang for their buck as a story that has dominated the sport for over a decade appeared to come to an end in a memorable goalfest. Wealthy fans bid for an exclusive ticket to rub shoulders with both the stars in their respective dressing rooms.
In an action-packed first half at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, goals from Messi and Marquinhos were cancelled out by a Ronaldo brace, while PSG’s Juan Bernat was sent off for a lunging tackle on Saudi international Salem Al-Dawsari.
Both teams kept their foot on the gas in the second half, but Ekitike’s 78th-minute strike eventually made the difference on the night.
“We saw lots of goals in a magnificent stadium with an incredible atmosphere,” PSG coach Cristophe Galtier said.
“This evening, we played in a lively stadium with lots of support. I enjoyed the way that they honoured the numerous stars that were on the pitch.”
Decked in a new black and gold kit, PSG made a blistering start to the game, racing into the lead in the third minute thanks to a deft finish from Messi.
Played through on goal by Neymar, Messi was able to poke the ball past goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Owais, who he last faced in Saudi Arabia’s shock World Cup win over Argentina in November.
Despite going behind early, the Riyadh Season Team – a combined Saudi Pro League XI featuring players from Al Nassr and Al Hilal – had numerous chances.
Ronaldo was an ever-present threat and won a penalty when goalkeeper Keylor Navas clattered into him. Sporting a bright red bruise on his cheek as a result of the collision, Ronaldo picked himself up to calmly convert the spot kick and level the game.
Bernat was shown a red card right after the equaliser, but the Ligue 1 club responded well to going a man down, scoring through defender Marquinhos.
Their lead would not last long, as Ronaldo once again levelled the game on the verge of halftime, hammering home a rebound after Sergio Ramos botched a straightforward clearance.
The goals continued to come thick and fast after the break, as Ramos turned in a Kylian Mbappe cross before South Korean Jang Hyun-soo replied with a near-post header from a corner to make it 3-3.
A handball by Ali Al-Bulaihi gave the visitors a penalty, which was expertly dispatched by Mbappe on the hour. It was Mbappe’s last contribution, as he was taken off shortly after, along with team mates Messi and Neymar, as well as Ronaldo.
Ekitike then extended PSG’s lead to 5-3 with a thumping finish following a lung-busting run from the halfway line before Anderson Talisca scored a late consolation goal for the Saudis in added time.
Diego Simeone contemplates Atletico future as derby defeat ends trophy dreams – ARN News Centre
Atletico Madrid’s dreams of a trophy this season came to an end with a Copa del Rey quarterfinal 3-1 defeat against bitter rivals Real Madrid on Thursday, with coach Diego Simeone blaming the referee’s decision to send off defender Stefan Savic for the loss.
The match, which was held at the Santiago Bernabeu, saw heightened emotions with Atletico fans issuing threats targeting Real’s Vinicious Junior before the game.
In the 19th minute of the match, Alvaro Morata scored to put Atletico ahead 1-0, but Real Madrid was able to take the game into extra time after Rodrygo Goes equalized late in the second half.
Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Eduardo Camavinga, leaving Atletico with 10 men.
It proved too much for Simeone’s side as Real scored twice in extra time, with goals from Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, securing their spot in the semifinals.
After the match, Simeone questioned Savic’s sending off, saying, “For me, we played a very good game until the 70th minute, when [Dani] Ceballos didn’t get a second yellow card [for a foul on Thomas Lemar].”
He went on to say, “We’d have been a man up and 1-0 up, but it didn’t happen. Later Savic was sent off and we were a man down. It got more difficult with 10 men, but the team was brave enough to look for the draw, I’m happy with the effort of the players.”
Simeone was also unhappy with what he said was a lack of protection from referee Cesar Soto Grado for forward Morata. “I asked him ‘Do you have something against Alvaro? If so, I won’t pick him in the next game you referee!'” Simeone said. “[Soto Grado] said Alvaro sometimes goes down easily. But he went off with a knock. They’re decisions. Ceballos could have got a yellow and didn’t, and Savic did.”
The Copa del Rey was likely to be Atletico’s last opportunity to win a trophy this season after the team finished bottom of their Champions League group, and are currently fourth in LaLiga, 13 points behind leaders Barcelona.
Diego Simeone, who has been in charge of Atletico since 2011, hinted it might be time for him to move on, saying he will reflect on his own future at the end of the season.
“We’re out of the Champions League, and we’re out of the Copa del Rey,” Simeone said.
“We’ve got the second half of the season to reach the objective which the club needs [to finish in the top four] and then we’ll look at everything.” He added, “I’m happy to be at Atletico Madrid. From the day I arrived until the day I leave I’ll give everything for the team and the club.”
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed goalscorer Vinicius for remaining “focused” despite being targeted in a racist incident ahead of the game, when a dummy wearing his shirt was hung from a bridge near the club’s training ground, drawing widespread condemnation. “Vinicius played well as always,” Ancelotti said. “His goal was the reward for his work. What happened was disgraceful, but he was focused on the game.”
Wigan sack manager Toure after nine games – ARN News Centre
Championship side Wigan Athletic sacked manager Kolo Toure on Thursday, less than two months into his 3-1/2 year contract, after he failed to win any of his nine games in charge.
The former Arsenal and Manchester City defender was appointed in late November but Wigan took only two points from his seven league games and were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Luton Town after a replay.
Last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Luton in the Championship left Wigan bottom of the table, four points from safety.
“Unfortunately, the results on the field have not been as we would have liked and as tough a decision as this was, the board felt it necessary to give us the best possible chance of remaining a Championship club next season,” Wigan chief executive Malachy Brannigan said in a statement.
Toure, 41, made 353 appearances in the Premier League for Arsenal, City and Liverpool between 2002-16 and earned 120 caps for Ivory Coast. He was in his first managerial role after previously being part of the coaching set-up at Leicester City and Celtic under Brendan Rodgers.
Wigan are now looking for their fifth permanent manager in the last three years. They spent eight seasons in the Premier League before they were relegated in 2013, the same year they won the FA Cup.
Wigan next play at Blackburn Rovers on Feb. 6.
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Dubai Desert Classic to welcome spectators with minor adjustments – ARN News Centre
KARIM SAHIB/ AFP
The organisers of Hero Dubai Desert Classic have made minor adjustments to the guest experience on Friday, January 27.
There will be no public parking available at Emirates Golf Club and spectators are strongly advised to use public transport.
The Al Khail Metro Station, located close to the venue will run from 5:00 am to 1:00 am, while RTA and Careem taxis will have a drop-off point directly outside the Club.
Commuters are also advised to check the RTA website for various bus routing options to the site.
Thursday’s opening day was closed to the public due to adverse weather conditions, which meant play was delayed by more than six hours.
— Hero Dubai Desert Classic (@DubaiDCGolf) January 26, 2023