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A mountain to climb for Ettifaq

Kuwait City: Al Ettifaq coach Maciej Skorza was despondent after his team’s 4-1 defeat by Kuwait Sporting Club on Tuesday, which leaves the Saudi club with a mountain to climb for the second leg of their semi-final in Dammam in three weeks’ time.

Tunisian striker Issam Jemaa struck twice in the first 11 minutes at the Kuwait SC Stadium as the home side seized the initiative against a club that had hammered them 5-1 at the same ground in their opening Group Stage game in March.

Yousef Al Salem pulled a goal back for the visitors midway through the first half but Chadi Hammami extended Kuwait SC’s lead from the penalty spot in the 58th minute, shortly before Walied Ali was sent off for his second booking.

But despite playing with 10 men for the final half-hour, Kuwait SC got a fourth goal in stoppage time thanks to a fine solo effort by Naseer Al Qahtani.

"It was a hard defeat as we conceded four goals and this means that we have a lot of things to fix before the second leg,” said Skorza.

“It was a disappointing defeat and a result that I never expected at all."

While the task facing Al Ettifaq in Dammam is immense, the Polish coach still feels that his side are in the tie and can qualify for the final.

"We still haven't lost hope as we have a game to play at home and things could change if we went into this game with big determination to make a good comeback and qualify for the final," he said.

"We made a lot of mistakes tonight as we gave our opponents the chance to score easy goals. We must fix those mistakes if we want to keep our chances in the competition alive."

Andy Murray wins his first match back since US Open triumph

Andy Murray maintained his unbeaten run as he defeated Ivo Karlovic at the Japan Open in his first match back after winning the US Open.

The 25-year-old Briton got a workout in the first set against the towering Croat but edged a tie-break 9-7 with a running forehand down the line.

Murray went 0-40 up in the 10th game of the second set and converted his third match point to wrap up a 7-6 6-4 win.

Next up for the defending champion is Slovakian Lukas Lacko.

The world number 65 beat Spain's Albert Ramos 6-0 6-2 in round one.

 “I feel like I can concentrate better, take more responsibility for my performances in every tournament throughout the year”

Andy Murray

The Tokyo tournament is another key event for Murray, who is eager to round off his career-best season on a high.

The world number three beat Rafael Nadal from a set down in last year's final and is now building towards the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals in London starting on 3 November.

The 25-year-old said in Japan that winning his first grand slam in New York has seen him re-evaluate his approach to each tournament.

"I was so, I don't want to say 'obsessed' with winning a grand slam, but it was so important to me," Murray said.

"Sometimes during the year in certain matches I haven't done myself justice. I felt after the US Open that I needed to reset some goals.

"I was always focusing on the next grand slam rather than every tournament and every match I played.

"Now I feel like I can hopefully concentrate better, take more responsibility for my performances in every tournament throughout the year."

It was a straightforward first-round win for Murray against Karlovic, who had only entered the Japan tournament as a lucky loser after Gael Monfils withdrew because of an injury.

The match was dominated by serves with Karlovic thundering over 16 aces, while Murray did not face a single break point.

Murray is also aiming to defend the doubles crown he won in Japan with his elder brother Jamie.

Khan has signed his younger brother Haroon to Super Fight Promotions

Amir Khan has launched his new promotional company with his brother Haroon the first signing.

The younger Khan is looking to follow in his sibling's footsteps in the professional ranks after a decent amateur career that was capped with a bronze medal in the flyweight division at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

He will get to do so under his brother's Super Fight Promotions banner, which boasts long-time promoter Dennis Hobson as a partner.

"I've always wanted to turn professional and to do so under Super Fight Promotions was an opportunity that I couldn't turn down," said Haroon.

"I have big ambitions but will take things a step at a time and I know I've got the best team behind me, who have that experience, to help guide my career to the very top."

The announcement comes just days after former IBF and WBA light-welterweight champion Khan revealed Virgil Hunter would be his new trainer, with his next bout against the undefeated Carlos Molina in December.

"I'm delighted that Haroon is the first fighter to sign for Super Fight Promotions. He's got a lot of talent and I know he can achieve a lot in the professional game," said the elder Khan.

"His amateur record will serve him well and I have no doubts that his decision to turn professional will prove to be a very fruitful one.

"Super Fight Promotions is a company which is going to make big waves in boxing as we actively seek to sign the very best young talent around."

Emotional Alfakeer praises players

Tehran: Syria coach Muhannad Alfakeer has urged his players to keep their head high despite the bitter 2-1 defeat at the hands of AFC U-16 Championship 2006 champions Japan. Muhannad’s boys were able to keep the Japanese threat at bay till the 80th minute as Japan scored two late goals and conceded one in one of the nail-biters of the tournament.

Earlier, Syria squandered a great opportunity to go ahead after Ahmad Ashqar missed a penalty awarded to them by Australian referee Strebre Delovski when the score was 0-0 with half an hour remaining.

“I am very sad because we failed in our mission but at the same time I am happy with the efforts and commitment my boys showed in the match against a very good Japanese side,” a visibly dejected coach Alfakeer said.

“The worry for me was our players’ lack of experiences in a big occasion and that’s what we saw in the match as those two goals Japan scored was the result of lapse of concentration.
“The turning point of the match was the miss penalty, we could have scored that one to open up more spaces,” he added.

“These boys have great future and I am sure they will continue developing.”

Japanese coach Yoshitake Hirofumi also hailed the Syrians and admitted that at time they Syrians made it difficult for his side to play.

“They had a strategy of breaking up our play and to some extent they were successful, it was a very hard-fought win against a very good, organized and physical side,” he said.

“I have used all the players of the squad in this tournament and at the end of day we are in the World Cup which is a great opportunity for these boys to continue. Now the World Cup concern is over, now the next thing is how to win this trophy,” he quipped.




Heavyweights hit the road

Most of the UEFA Champions League’s big hitters face away ties on Matchday 2 of this year’s competition, with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Bayern Munich travelling to Benfica, Ajax, CFR Cluj, Nordsjaelland and BATE Borisov respectively.

Borussia Dortmund’s trip to Manchester City, and Paris Saint-Germain’s first major test, away to FC Porto, are two other games not to be missed.

Match of the day
Benfica-Barcelona, Group G, Estadio do Sport, Lisbon, Tuesday 2 October 2012
Benfica’s clash with Barcelona carries particular significance, given that every time the two teams have met in the competition, the winner has gone on to lift the trophy. The Lisbon outfit started the trend in Berne in 1961, when they beat their Catalan opponents in the final under the guidance of Bela Guttmann.

The current Benfica side are looking for their first win in 30 years against Spanish opposition, and will no doubt look to target a Barça back-line that has leaked goals this season in the absence of Carles Puyol. The Catalans conceded two in their group opener against Spartak Moscow, and let in two more in their recent league game against Sevilla. Lionel Messi’s starting position will also be in the spotlight. In the recent meeting with Sevilla, in which Barça came from 2-0 down to win 3-2, the Argentinian dropped deep to give his central attacking role to David Villa, scorer of the winning goal.  

The other matches
Tuesday 2 October 2012
Group E
Juventus-Shakhtar Donetsk
Juventus, unbeaten in 45 Serie A matches, have enjoyed an exceptional start to the season. The Italians fought back from two goals down to draw with Chelsea in their opening group match, and recently claimed a crushing 4-1 victory over Roma in Serie A. They will, however, need to be on their guard against visiting Shakhtar and their Armenian striker, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored twice for the Ukrainians on Matchday 1. Reigning champions Chelsea, meanwhile, travel to Denmark to take on Nordsjaelland, who will be facing English opposition for the very first time.

Group F
BATE Borisov-Bayern Munich
Having claimed their maiden Champions League victory against Lille, BATE Borisov face another stern test against Bayern Munich, who are unbeaten at the top of the Bundesliga. Valencia and Lille, meanwhile, are struggling in eighth and 15th in their respective domestic leagues, and both sides desperately need a victory to kickstart their campaigns.

Group G
Spartak Moscow-Celtic (18.00 CET)
Spartak Moscow gave Barcelona an extremely uncomfortable time at the Camp Nou in their group opener, and they will be hoping for a similarly strong display at home to Celtic.

Group H
CFR Cluj-Manchester United
Manchester United will be looking to record their 100th victory against 91 different opponents when they travel to Romania to take on CFR Cluj, who were surprise victors over Braga in their group opener. Braga, for their part, need a positive result from their trip to Galatasaray if they are to keep their hopes of qualification from Group H alive.

Wednesday 3 October 2012
Group A
Dynamo Kyiv-Dinamo Zagreb
FC Porto-Paris Saint-Germain
The main event in Group A sees the two winners from Matchday 1 go head-to-head. FC Porto, unbeaten at home in the competition since losing to Chelsea in November 2009, host an ambitious Paris Saint-Germain side who are gradually finding their rhythm in Ligue 1, and for whom Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be looking to celebrate his 31st birthday in style.

Group B
Having secured away victories in their respective group openers, Schalke and Arsenal both have the chance to strengthen their footholds in the section. The Gunners, who are unbeaten at home in the Champions League since May 2009, when they lost 3-1 to Manchester United, face Olympiacos for the third time in four years. Arsene Wenger’s men will be hoping for a strong performance to erase the memory of their recent 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea in the Premier League. Schalke, with the in-form Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, start as favourites against French champions Montpellier, who have endured a difficult start to the new season.

Group C
Zenit St. Petersburg-AC Milan (18.00 CET)
Two of the competition’s supposed ‘minnows’ have every chance of causing a stir in Group C. Despite having parted company with their main sponsor, Malaga are enjoying a superb start to the season. The Spaniards, who won their opening group match convincingly, now face a tricky test away to Anderlecht, but will take hope from the Belgians’ first-round home record of seven defeats and two draws. AC Milan, meanwhile, have a new core of young talent, but are still in the process of rebuilding. They can expect a difficult away trip to Zenit St. Petersburg, with the Russians unbeaten at home since their 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid in September 2008.

Group D
Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund
Ajax-Real Madrid
In a section as tough as this, even the slightest slip-up at home could prove costly. While Real Madrid are finding their form and will be hopeful of a good result in Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund face an altogether more difficult away trip to Manchester City, who are unbeaten at home in 17 Champions League games. City, however, will be wary of the threat of Marco Reus, who scored twice in Dortmund’s recent 5-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach.

Player to watch
Edin Dzeko, 26, has 25 goals in 47 international outings for Bosnia-Herzegovina, and is Roberto Mancini’s impact substitute of choice when Manchester City need a breakthrough. Indeed, Dzeko’s introduction from the bench usually sees City switch to all-out attack, and, since joining the English champions, he has become something of a specialist when it comes to scoring late in games. The forward beat his own record on Saturday by finding the net barely two minutes after coming off the bench against Fulham.