African heavyweigts prepare for final bout



Between them, Egyptian club Al Ahly and Esperance de Tunis have won the CAF Champions League eight times - Al Ahly have a record six of those, while the defending champions Esperance have twice lifted the African club crown. On Sunday the two will contest the first of the two-legged final to determine which of the clubs will have bragging rights for a year and, with the winner being granted a place in the FIFA Club World Cup, the stakes are upped considerably.

Fans of Cairo-based Al Ahly are expected to travel to Alexandria in their thousands for the final after Egyptian footballing officials announced that a limited number of fans - expected to be 15,000 - will be allowed entry to the Borg El Arab Stadium in the port city. It will only be the second match in Egypt played in front of fans since the Port Said tragedy in February, during which dozens of football fans died after a game between Al Masry and Al Ahly. Not surprisingly, the tragedy is something that is close to the heart of the Al Ahly players, and they have said they want to win the continental title for their fans who died.

 "We'll do our best to win the title and dedicate it to the souls of our fans who lost their lives in Port Said. Along our campaign we were affected negatively by playing behind closed doors, and now that we have our supporters back, they're going to strengthen our side going into such an important fixture", said Egyptian international striker Emad Meteab, adding: "Having our supporters back strengthens us. Definitely this is going to be a very tough game, but all we are thinking about is the trophy. We know well the nature of the encounters between Egyptian and Tunisian clubs. We respect Esperance, but we're not afraid of them."

 Al Ahly, who last won the competition in 2008, will be without left back Sayed Moawad, who is suffering from a foot injury. He could though, be back in time for the return leg on 17 November in Tunis. The Red Devils also suffered an injury scare around goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy, who missed a training session earlier in the week, but doctors believe the international will be fit for Sunday's game.


Also available for selection is influential playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika, who missed several games, including the two-legged semi-final, after being suspended by the club. Coach Hossam El Badry will have to decide whether to recall the 33-year-old veteran, as well as midfielder Mahmoud Hassan. The teenager, who is known as Trezeguet has played several games in the competition, but missed the 1-0 victory against Sunshine Stars in the semi-final due to Egyptian U-20 commitments. Striker Mohamed 'Gedo' Nagy, who scored twice in the 3-3 draw in Nigeria and then got the winning goal in the return leg, will be the dangerman up front for Al Ahly.

 Esperance, who are appearing in their third consecutive final, have the competition’s top scorer in their squad, but unfortunately for Taraji fans, Emmanuel Clottey, who scored 12 times in the competition, is cup-tied, having only been signed from Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea in September. The Blood and Gold also will have to deal with the absence of wunderkind Youssef Msakni, who had an emergency appendectomy on Thursday according to the club. The loss of the playmaker is a big blow, and his attack-minded brother Iheb also will miss the first leg through injury, leaving much of the focus up front on Cameroonian Joseph Yannick Ndjeng.

 Esperance have not been scoring as freely as coach Nabil Maaloul would like coming into the tie, and they secured their place in the final having tallied just seven goals in their last six Champions League matches. However, the side have proven themselves nothing if not resilient over the last two terms, and Maaloul is confident enough to say that his team will be going for the win in Alexandria. "Despite the strength of Ahly, we will aim for three points," he said before qualifying: "The most important thing in Sunday's match is to avoid conceding goals. This is our target."

 Defensive midfielder Houcine Ragued, a Paris-born Tunisian international playing his first season in Africa, added that the allure of representing Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup is a great incentive for the side. "It gives us an extra motivation. Most of the players in the team already played in the FIFA Club World Cup last year. These players told us new players what a great experience it was. Our fans also want us to win the African Champions League so that Tunisia represents Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup.”





Chelsea v Manchester United: Di Matteo says cup win was justice

 Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo said his team's 5-4 League Cup win against Manchester United emphasised his view that Sunday's result was unjust.

The nine-man Blues lost 3-2 to United at the weekend with Javier Hernandez's winner coming from an offside position.

"We wanted to show that Sunday's game was really heavily influenced by the officials," Di Matteo told BBC Sport.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a young defence on Wednesday, which he conceded "were just too young".

Di Matteo was furious with referee Mark Clattenburg on Sunday after he booked Fernando Torres for diving, leading to the Spanish striker's dismissal.

Clattenburg has since been accused of allegedly using "inappropriate language" towards Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.

But Di Matteo had only one complaint with the referee in this Capital One Cup tie - Lee Mason waved away a Juan Mata penalty claim.

Other than that, the official handled the game in a distinguished manner despite several big decisions.

He rightly awarded three penalties in a thrilling contest and his assistant correctly judged Gary Cahill's header to have crossed the line.

Mason also calmly and decisively broke up a scuffle between Oscar and Nani, awarding yellow cards to both players.

Chelsea, who now face Leeds in the quarter-finals, twice came from behind with David Luiz scoring from the spot either side of goals from Ryan Giggs and Javier Hernandez.

Cahill made it 2-2 and it looked like Nani's finish would win it before Eden Hazard's injury-time penalty took the game to extra-time. Daniel Sturridge and Ramires then made it 5-3 with Ryan Giggs adding another spot kick in added time.

"We deservedly won the game," Di Matteo added. "We had so many chances and we had to come back so many times as well and we showed great character to do so.

"We are trying to play differently but we all like to win as well. We are playing very well and sometimes you make a step back to do one forwards.

"It was a typical cup game because of all the young players in the team, and we had to chase the game. It was a bit more open than usual."

Ferguson, meanwhile, said his team let slip a great chance to progress and admitted they paid for fielding a young defence.

Centre-back Scott Wootton, 21, was culpable for Hazard's injury-time penalty to make it 3-3, when he bundled over Ramires, and the youngster also misjudged a header in extra-time leading to Sturridge's strike.

"We have done fantastically well and I think we have thrown the game away really," Ferguson told BBC Sport. "With the game finished, we had possession of the ball around about the corner flag and Nani decides to beat a player and we've lost a penalty kick.

"We didn't deserve it but in extra-time I think they found it too much in terms of the young players.

"You can always play young forwards because they don't cost you the game but young centre-backs have to be really top drawer at this level of football.

"Wootton is 21 years of age, Michael Keane is 19 years of age, obviously they will learn. It's a sore lesson from them in that respect - getting knocked out of the cup.

Ferguson added: "We have good options in attack, but obviously losing five goals in a game of football, then you have to worried about that."


Arsenal come from four goals down to win 7-5 at Reading


Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick as Arsenal produced an incredible comeback in what was probably the most remarkable game in the history of the League Cup to win 7-5 after extra time at Reading.

A Jason Roberts volley, Laurent Koscielny's own goal, Mikele Leigertwood's strike and Noel Hunt's header inside the opening 37 minutes at the Madejski Stadium appeared to be sending former Gunner Brian McDermott's Reading into the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup.

But a truly astonishing Arsenal turnaround came as Walcott started and finished, with the final kick of normal time, a stunning fightback at 4-4 with goals either side of headers from substitute Olivier Giroud and Koscielny.

Forgotten man Marouane Chamakh then looked like he had won the tie in extra time but, with the additional half-an-hour almost complete, Pavel Pogrebnyak delivered yet another grand twist with an equaliser at 5-5.

Reading, though, suffered the final heartbreak as first Walcott and then Chamakh settled the 12-goal epic to leave Wenger looking bemused and McDermott inconsolable in the respective dugouts.

It appeared as if it was going to be a most recent stumble from Arsenal, who have been trophyless for seven years, after a nervy win over Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League on Saturday had seemingly only papered over their cracked confidence of defeats by Norwich City and Schalke and a controversial AGM.

It was an explosive start, which should have offered a clue of what was to come, and soon Arsenal were behind as Roberts shook off his marker, Koscielny, inside the six-yard box to slide and meet Hal Robson-Kanu's 12th minute cross.

Wenger's team were rocking as they continued to make a wretched, error-strewn beginning and they found themselves two goals down in the 18th minute, when Koscielny's nightmare first half continued by poking a Garath McCleary cross into his own net.

Things were to get worse for the visitors just two minutes later, with Chamakh, who was making his first start for Arsenal since January among 11 first-team changes, giving the ball away and goalkeeper Damian Martinez making a mess of Leigertwood's soft shot.

But still Arsenal's first-half misery was not complete and in the 38th minute, from another McCleary cross, Hunt's header made it 4-0 to leave some visiting fans seemingly heading for the exits.

Arsenal, though, rescued some hope on the stroke of half-time, when Walcott dinked a finish over Adam Federici and the goal proved to be a turning point in a historic night which saw Wenger's unchanged 11 players emerge for the second half as if they were a different team.

In the 62nd minute, Giroud entered the fray and instantly added to the impetus by expertly heading into the back of the net just two minutes later as Reading began to show the nerves of a squad who sit without a win in the Premier League relegation zone.

Koscielny's 89th minute header from a corner then had McDermott's side really twitching at 4-3 and it proved too much for them to handle, with Walcott scrambling an effort just over the line with the last kick of six minutes added time to set up an extra half-an-hour.

Extra time was therefore required after a quite sensational and, given Arsenal's ineptitude in the first half, totally unpredicted comeback, which gave the visitors the momentum at a time when Reading, who have never beaten their London opponents in any competition, were crumbling.

In the 103rd minute, Chamakh proved to be one of the heroes when hitting an effort from range past the despairing Federici but Pogrebnyak's 116th minute header seemingly set up a penalty shoot-out.

Arsenal had other ideas and Walcott ensured he would keep the match-ball when finishing a Koscielny and Andrey Arshavin-led counter-attack before Chamakh ended any doubts by lobbing in the final goal of the night to secure a breathless 7-5 result.


Argentina's derby of derbies ends all-square



Leonardo Ponzio's early free-kick, which left keeper Agustin Orion groping at thin air, put River -  promoted last season a year after their first ever relegation stunned fans across the nation - into an opening-minute lead.

And things looked even better for Matias Almeyda's men when Uruguayan Rodrigo Mora made it 2-0 midway through the second half at River's Monumental Stadium after former France star David Trezeguet linked-up with Carlos Sanchez.

But another Uruguayan, Santiago Silva, reduced the arrears with a 75th-minute penalty following German Pezzella's foul on Santiago Silva, before Walter Erviti rescued a point in the first minute of stoppage time.

The point left Boca in fifth place, three points ahead of their Buenos Aires rivals.

River had to reshuffle the pack with Almeyda having to take off defender Ramiro Funes Mori and Martin Aguirre after they suffered knee injuries in the opening period as 50,000 ferociously partisan fans looked on.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez replaced Mori after just four minutes while Ariel Rojas came on for Aguirre just nine minutes later, disrupting River's solid start.

Although Boca will be the happier with the draw, in what was the first meeting of the pair in 17 months, a title challenge has not materialised so far this season as they trail leaders Newell's Old Boys by seven points after 12 games.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Belgrano Cordoba climbed to third spot courtesy of a 1-0 home triumph over bottom club Union Santa Fe.

Substitute Cesar Pereyra netted the game's only goal midway through the second half - shortly after the visitors had had defender Bruno Bianchi sent off.

Lanus were also 1-0 winners, Mario Regueiro's 58th-minute strike enough to sink Argentinos Juniors and lift the victors to fifth.



Syrian kickboxing team shines in Iran

  The men's national kickboxing team have returned home after taking part in the Iran Kickboxing Championship.

The national team scored a remarkable result as they managed to capture seven varied medals(2 gold,4 silver and one bronze medal) in the full contact discipline.

Some 32 nations took part in the said event.

Mohammad Khureis finished first in the 75 kg discipline after overcoming a Turkish counterpart in the final. Shihab Muqdad,Khureis's teammate, also clinched a gold after beating a Kuwaiti opponent in the final.

Those who came second in their categories were:Mohammad Hourani(81 kg) who lost to a Turkish counterpart in the final.

Mohahammad Kharouki lost to a Turkish player in the final.Rateb Hatahit (85 kg) lost to a player from Finland and the last bronze was taken by the national team (team competition). Akram Madabi  came third in the 67 kg category.

Manar Bizra,chairman of the Kick boxing Federation, was quoted as saying:" the event witnessed tough competitions as the strongest players from Iran,Finland,Tajikistan,Turkey and Uzbekistan showed their prowess  in the said event. Our players lived up to expectations".