Red card, penalty undid Sepahan

Jeddah: Sepahan coach Zlatko Kranjcar believes that his side were very much in their quarter-final second leg match against Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia until the dismissal of goalkeeper Reza Mohammadi and the resulting penalty converted by Victor Simoes which saw his side collapse to a 4-1 defeat.

With the tie in the balance after a goalless draw in the first leg in Esfahan, Mohammadi conceded a penalty and received a red card for a foul on Taisir Al Jassim in the 27thminute.

Simoes converted and Amad Al Hosni went on to score twice as Al Ahli ran out convincing winners to set up a semi-final clash against Jeddah rival Al Ittihad.

It marked the second straight year that Iranian league champions Sepahan had gone out in the last eight and Kranjcar felt that the key moment was the penalty incident.

"In the first 30 minutes of the match we had three good chances to score and if we had scored from any of those chances it would have been a different result. But we couldn't score and we paid the price," said the Croatian.

"The penalty and the red card changed the game for us and our performance dropped in the second period as we were playing with 10 men and we had only one man up front. Therefore, Al Ahli converted their chances unlike us."

"In the pre-match press conference I said that the match will be very hard for us and it was indeed hard as Al Ahli put on a good performance and they showed great capabilities."

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.