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The week in Asian football



(Last Updated On: September 4, 2023)

Al-Hilal moved top of the Saudi Pro League after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s hat-trick helped them rally to a 4-3 win over reigning champions Al-Ittihad in Jeddah on Friday.

The former Fulham forward cancelled out Romarinho’s 16th minute opener but goals from Karim Benzema and Abderrazak Hamedallah gave Al-Ittihad a two-goal lead at halftime.

Mitrovic then struck twice in five minutes to level the scores at 3-3, completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot in the 65th minute, before Salem Al Dawsari hit the winner with 19 minutes remaining.

Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli had been the only teams left with perfect records going into the weekend’s games but a 5-1 loss to Al-Fateh saw Al-Ahli’s winning start also ended.

Al-Hilal top the table with 13 points, level with Al-Taawon, who beat Al-Wehda 4-1.

Vissel Kobe vs Kyoto Sanga

Vissel Kobe defeated Kyoto Sanga 2-1 on Sunday to return to top spot in Japan after Yokohama F Marinos lost 2-0 to Kashiwa Reysol, second-half goals from Yuto Yamada and Matheus Savio condemning the defending champions to a second straight defeat.

Taichi Hara gave visitors Kyoto the lead in the sixth minute but Shuhei Kawasaki pounced on a defensive error 12 minutes later to level and Jean Patric hit the winner for Kobe seven minutes into the second half.

Kobe, who announced the signing of former Spain midfielder Juan Mata on Sunday, lead Marinos by two points with eight games remaining.

Ulsan Hyundai vs Gwangju FC

Ulsan Hyundai saw their lead cut to eight points on Sunday with a 2-0 defeat by Gwangju FC, allowing Pohang Steelers to narrow the gap after two second-half penalties from Zeca and Wanderson gave them a 2-0 win over Incheon United.

Defending champions Ulsan have won only once in their last five league matches as goals from Lee Kun-hee and Beka Mikeltadze earned third-placed Gwangju the victory.

Chinese Super League

Senior Chinese soccer official and chairman of the Chinese Super League, Liu Jun, was placed under investigation for suspected serious violations of discipline and law, China’s anti-graft watchdog said.

Liu was previously chairman of now-defunct Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning and was appointed chief executive of Italian Serie A side Inter Milan in 2016, soon after the club was purchased by the Suning Holdings Group.

The move came six months after Chinese Football Association chairman Chen Xuyuan was placed under investigation for suspected serious violations of discipline and law.


International Sports

Former chairman of Chinese Football Association charged with bribery



(Last Updated On: September 26, 2023)

Chinese authorities have charged the former chairman of the national football association with bribery as part of an anti-corruption investigation into the soccer federation, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday.

Authorities in central Hubei province charged Chen Xuyuan, the ex-head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), with utilizing his position and authority to “seek benefits for others” and “illegally accept other people’s property and possessions”, CCTV reported.

Chen’s case was now before the public prosecutor, CCTV added.

Chen could not be reached for comment. The CFA did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comments.

Chen was also the deputy party secretary for the football organization.

In August, Chinese state media reported that senior soccer official and chairman of the Chinese Super League Liu Jun had been taken away by authorities for investigation.

In January, two former CFA officials were investigated for suspected “severe violations of the law”, according to statements posted by the sports regulator.

Another two leading soccer officials were investigated for suspected serious violations of the law in March.

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International Sports

Dortmund need win against Wolfsburg as storm clouds gather



(Last Updated On: September 21, 2023)

Borussia Dortmund host in-form VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday hoping for a victory that will dispel the storm clouds that have been gathering amid their poor start to the season.

With only two wins from four league matches so far, and a disappointing 2-0 Champions League loss at Paris St Germain on Tuesday, last season’s Bundesliga runners-up are in danger of being left behind both at home and in Europe, Reuters reported.

Coach Edin Terzic said his players had not been brave enough against PSG.

“You can say it politely and say we showed too much respect, or you can simply say we lacked courage,” he added.

From losing possession to a complete lack of pressure and some very weak defending, Dortmund’s game against PSG was indicative of their season so far.

Dortmund, who will likely be without injured midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, scored two late goals last week to beat Freiburg and needed a last-gasp winner against Cologne in their season opener.

They spectacularly squandered a two-goal lead at home against promoted Heidenheim to draw 2-2, leaving fans wondering whether players are still feeling the effects of last season’s dramatic finale.

Dortmund missed out on their first Bundesliga in 11 years when they slipped up with a home draw against Mainz 05 in the last game of the campaign.

They will need to pluck up as much courage as they can muster against Wolfsburg, winners of three of their four Bundesliga matches, if they are to avert a crisis with the season only a few weeks old.

Dortmund have their 17-match unbeaten run at home in their favour and have gone 10 home games without defeat in the Bundesliga against the Wolves.

Wolfsburg, however, have hit the ground running with their second best start to a league season thanks largely to Jonas Wind, the first player in the club’s history to have scored five goals in the first four league games.

The 24-year-old Dane has also delivered one assist to help them move up to nine points, one behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen and champions Bayern Munich, and one ahead of Dortmund.

Bayern, fresh from their 4-3 Champions League win over Manchester United on Wednesday, take on VfL Bochum with striker Harry Kane looking to add to his four league goals.

Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen host Heidenheim while third-placed RB Leipzig travel to Borussia Moenchengladbach.

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Crowds hail Ronaldo’s arrival in Iran ahead of match



(Last Updated On: September 18, 2023)

Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo received a warm reception in Iran on Monday, in the first visit of a Saudi team to Iran since 2016 ahead of the beginning of the group stage of the Asian Champions League.

Al-Nassr face Iranian side Persepolis in Group E on Tuesday, while Qatari side Al-Duhail play Istiklol Dushanbe of Tajikistan.

The streets were crowded with fans who raised welcome banners and pictures of Ronaldo upon the arrival of the Saudi Arabian team in Iran after the restoration of relations between the two countries, Reuters reported.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced that matches between Saudi and Iranian teams would be held on a home-and-away basis after the agreement of the two local federations.

Matches had been played on neutral territory since 2016 because strained diplomatic ties between the two countries meant Saudi nationals were not permitted to travel to Iran.

Supporters invaded the team’s hotel, despite attempts by security personnel to prevent them.

The fans chanted Ronaldo’s name, with children and women carrying pictures of the Portugal captain.

Al-Nassr posted several photos of Ronaldo receiving a luxurious hand-made Iranian carpet from Persepolis supporters.

“Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo, welcome to Iran. A token of appreciation, an original hand-woven piece of art made by Iranian artists to commemorate your presence in Iran, on behalf of Persepolis’s fans,” the fans wrote.

Children wore Al-Nassr and Portugal shirts bearing Ronaldo’s name and number, and some fans performed the famous celebration of the former Real Madrid player.

The Saudi Pro League has become an attractive destination for Europe-based players since Ronaldo moved to Al-Nassr last January.

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