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Angelique Kerber wins 8th match in a row, into Sydney final

SYDNEY --- Angelique Kerber won her eighth consecutive match of the new season, coming from 3-1 down in the final set to beat qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 to reach the Sydney International final on Friday. Kerber, a former No. 1 and the 2016 Australian Open champion, won all four singles at the Hopman Cup and now all four in Sydney en route to the final. She will face Ashleigh Barty, who beat Australian compatriot Daria Gavrilova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the other semifinal. In a match that included 11 breaks of serve, Barty needed just one in the third set. "It's nice getting a bit of confidence going into our biggest tournament for us," Barty said of next week's Australian...Keep on reading: Angelique Kerber wins 8th match in a row, into Sydney final.....»»

Category: newsSource: inquirer inquirerJan 12th, 2018

Angelique Kerber wins 8th match in a row, into Sydney final

SYDNEY --- Angelique Kerber won her eighth consecutive match of the new season, coming from 3-1 down in the final set to beat qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 to reach the Sydney International final on Friday. Kerber, a former No. 1 and the 2016 Australian Open champion, won all four singles at the Hopman Cup and now all four in Sydney en route to the final. She will face Ashleigh Barty, who beat Australian compatriot Daria Gavrilova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the other semifinal. In a match that included 11 breaks of serve, Barty needed just one in the third set. "It's nice getting a bit of confidence going into our biggest tournament for us," Barty said of next week's Australian...Keep on reading: Angelique Kerber wins 8th match in a row, into Sydney final.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 12th, 2018

Federer joins Djokovic, Sharapova in 2nd round in Australia

By John Pye, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer picked up where he left off at the last Australian Open on a day when Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic ensured there were all kinds of successful comebacks. Defending champion Federer beating Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in a night match, his first on Rod Laver Arena since clinching a career-reviving title here last year. He's been met on court after wins here previously by tennis greats Laver, John McEnroe and Jim Courier. On Tuesday night, he got something different. Comedian Will Ferrell stepped out of the crowd and, slipping into character as Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman, conducted the post-match interview. Six-time champion Djokovic and 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka stuck to business, returning from long injury layoffs with victories in their first matches since Wimbledon. Sharapova barely missed a beat in her first match in Melbourne since a failed doping test in 2016 resulted in a 15-month ban from tennis. One of just two former champions in the women's draw, Sharapova recovered from an early break in the second set and closed out her 6-1, 6-4 victory over Tatjana Maria with an ace at Margaret Court Arena. She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd. "It's been a couple of years since I've been back here — obviously I wanted to enjoy the moment," the 2008 Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up said in an on-court TV interview. Former No. 1-ranked Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open winner, continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Anna-Lena Friedsam to extend her streak to 10 consecutive wins. Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she's coming back into the kind of form that won her a title in Sydney last week and makes her a strong contender at Melbourne Park. "Something is going on with Australia and me," Kerber said. "I enjoy my stay, play my best tennis." Djokovic tweaked his service motion while recovering from an injured right elbow, and used it to good effect in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Donald Young. Djokovic lost in the second round here last year, but won five of the previous six Australian Open titles. "Obviously I wanted to start with the right intensity, which I have," Djokovic said. "I played perfect tennis, like I never stopped." Wawrinka, who had six months out after surgery on his left knee, beat Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2). No. 4-ranked 4-Alexander Zverev and No. 7 David Goffin advanced, but No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut lost to Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist here in 2009, and former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic lost 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to Lukas Lacko. No. 13 Sam Querrey restored some order for the U.S. men with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez. Two other U.S. contenders, No. 8 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were out on opening day. Madison Keys also reversed a trend, becoming the only one of the four American women who contested the U.S. Open semifinals last September to reach the second round in Australia. Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe were all eliminated on Monday. No. 17-seeded Keys, the runner-up at the U.S. Open, had a 6-1, 7-5 win over Wang Qiang. No. 9 Johanna Konta beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-1 and will meet another American, Bernarda Pera in the second round. The U.S. women had four wins and 14 losses in round one. No. 1-ranked Simona Halep was in serious trouble twice — having to save set points at 5-2 down in the first set, and badly twisting her left ankle early in the second — before beating 17-year-old Australian wild-card entry Destanee Aiava 7-6 (5), 6-1. Halep, who lost back-to-back first-round matches here in the previous two years, will next play Eugenie Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist who beat Oceane Dodin 6-3, 7-6 (5). "It's always really cool to go up against the best in the world," Bouchard said. "You use it as a measuring stick. I want to try to play my game and go out there and do some damage." Other seeded players advancing included Wimbledon champion Garbine Mugurza, No. 6 Karolina Pliskova, No. 8 Caroline Garcia, No. 16 Elena Vesnina, and No. 29 Lucie Safarova. Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 to Andrea Petkovic. Sharapova was banned for after testing positive for the drug meldonium here in 2016, when she reached the quarterfinals, and finished last year ranked No. 60. The five-time major winner will next play No. 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova, who beat her at the U.S. Open last year in her return to a Grand Slam to tournament. After returning in New York, Sharapova is confident she's prepared again for a major. "I felt like I have got a lot of things out of the way physically and emotionally and mentally last year with — there was a lot of firsts again for me, playing the first tournament, first Grand Slam, and just different feelings and what it would be routinely," she said. "But it felt pretty routine today.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2018

Federer deflects attention to Nadal, Djokovic in Australia

By John Pye, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer prefers to think of Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic as the favorites for the Australian Open title, despite entering as defending champion and coming off a worry-free preparation. "I play down my chances just because I don't think a 36-year-old should be a favorite of a tournament," Federer said Sunday on the eve of the year's first Grand Slam tournament, "It should not be the case. "That's why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career." The 19-time major winner can afford to relax slightly longer, given the half of the draw that he shares with Djokovic doesn't start until day two. Top-ranked Nadal will get under way Monday night against Victor Estrella Burgos on Rod Laver Arena, where he lost the final in five sets to Federer last year. All four singles finalists were 30 or older here last year in what became a tournament for the ages, and three of them are back. Serena Williams beat her older sister Venus Williams in the final to capture an Open era-record 23rd major here last year but decided against defending her title because she didn't have enough time to recover from health issues after a complicated childbirth in September. Venus Williams is seeded fifth and is second match scheduled on center court to get her 77th major under way with a challenging opener against Belinda Bencic. She's 4-0 in career head-to-heads against 20-year-old Bencic — who reached a career-high No. 7 ranking in 2016 and who helped Federer win the Hopman Cup title for Switzerland earlier this month — but is coming off an abbreviated preparation that included a loss in the second round to eventual champion Angelique Kerber at the Sydney International last week. At 37, Venus Williams among the top contenders at Melbourne Park. Others in action on Monday include seventh-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, who meets Francesca Schiavone in a match featuring current vs. former French Open champions, No. 2-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, who opens against Mihaela Buzarnescu, and U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens against Zhang Shuai. Simona Halep is the No. 1 seed in the women's draw, and one of six women who can hold the No. 1 ranking at the end of the Australian Open. Halep, who has had back-to-back first-round exits on her last two trips to Melbourne Park, opens on day two against Australian wild-card entry Destanee Aiava. Only two men can hold the top ranking in the first week of February — Nadal or Federer — regardless of what No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov or No. 4 Alexander Zverev or anybody else does in Melbourne. Federer returns in contrasting circumstances to his appearance in 2017, when he was coming off a six-month break for an injured left knee and had low expectations about ending a Grand Slam title drought that dated to Wimbledon in 2012. "This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win," a match, Federer told his pre-tournament news conference Sunday. "It was more of a 'let's see what happens' kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak or Stan (Wawrinka) or others are going through this year." Six-time Australian Open winner Djokovic has been sidelined for six months with an injured right elbow, returning with a remodeled service motion, and 2014 champion Wawrinka has also been out of the game since Wimbledon after surgery on his knee. Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Open titles last year, has also had a limited preparation restricted to couple of exhibition matches last week as he recovers from a sore knee. None of that makes them any less of a threat to Federer. "Rafa, with the year that he's had, and Novak with the six titles he's had here, even if it's unknown how he's feeling, they could very well be the favorites, too," Federer said. "If you're in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That's what happened for me last year — all ended up way better than I thought it would, as you know.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2018

Radwanska ends Konta s Sydney International defense

SYDNEY (AP) — Former champion Agnieszka Radwanska ended Johanna Konta's Sydney International defense with a 6-3, 7-5 win Tuesday to advance to the second round. The fourth-seeded Konta was playing her first match since retiring from her Brisbane International quarterfinal last week with a hip injury. Third-seeded and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, No. 5-seeded Kristina Mladenovic, sixth-seeded U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens and No. 8-seeded Anastasija Sevastova also lost their first-round matches. Angelique Kerber was scheduled to play second-seeded Venus Williams later Tuesday. Former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur won her first-round match, beating Carina Witthoeft 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. In men's first-round play, Leonardo Mayer had a 7-5, 6-3 upset win over eighth-seeded Mischa Zverev.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2018

For Adidas and rivals, sponsorships are good business

em>By David McHugh, Associated Press /em> FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Multi-million dollar sponsorship deals of the kind between Adidas and the University of Louisville — in focus after a scandal over alleged bribes paid to high school athletes — are not just an effort to burnish the image of sports gear makers. They can be a cost-efficient way to boost sales against tough competition, marketing experts say. Whether in U.S. college sports or European soccer, Adidas and its major rivals Nike and Under Armour reach potential customers more effectively by getting their brands used in the biggest events, say marketing experts. Criminal charges brought last week against an Adidas marketing executive and 9 others drew renewed public attention to the perfectly legal practice of paying university sports programs to wear branded goods. Gatto and others are accused of funneling $100,000 to the family of a high school athlete to gain his commitment to play at Louisville and to sign with Adidas once he became a professional. Louisville and Adidas announced at 10-year, $160 million extension of their sponsorship deal over the summer. That deal is just one among increasingly expensive arrangements. The top recipients this academic year are UCLA with $16.5 million from Baltimore-based Under Armour, followed by University of Texas with almost $12 million and University of Michigan with $9.8 million, both from Nike, according to the Center for Research in Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Payments have risen as the big three competitors bid for exposure that, marketing experts say, can often be more effective and targeted than expensive television advertising. Universities in the top five leagues, or 'conferences' in U.S. sports speak, are in line to get over $200 million this school year, up from around $100 million just five years ago, according to the center's figures. 'Increased investment by Under Armour starting in the 2014-15 academic year, along with continued investment by Adidas, have led to a re-investment by Nike in the intercollegiate athletics space to retain national powers such as Ohio State and Texas, and bring Michigan back into the fold from Adidas,' the center noted in its latest report. George Belch, chair of the marketing department at San Diego State University's College of Business Administration, put it this way: 'It's expensive, but if you want to sit at the table and play the game, you have to ante up.' How much is too much to spend on endorsements? Academics have been trying to figure out what the returns on investment are and marketing experts say the companies surely have their own internal metrics. But 'only they know exactly what the return is,' said Belch. Jonathan Jensen, assistant professor in the sports administration program at North Carolina, notes that the value of sponsorship deals measure the truckloads of equipment given to the schools at retail price, which is far more than the cost to the company to have them produced. 'When you see $250 million, it's not actually $250 million, it's more like $75 million,' he said. And based on what a 30-second commercial costs, having a team wear the company's gear can far outweighs the investment in terms of valuable exposure. That can be money well spent in an era where people can use digital technology to skim past television commercials. 'They don't need to buy airtime,' Jensen said, 'because they are literally part of the event.' On top of that, favorable licensing deals on merchandise mean that the company can earn back much of its sponsorship money solely from fans buying the jerseys. 'The schools themselves are really just in the past two, three or four years getting smart about negotiating and forcing the brands, especially Nike and Under Armour, to pay what they should be,' said Jensen. Similar calculation applies to sponsorship deals outside the United States. Gerd Nufer, director of the German Institute for Sports Marketing in Reutlingen, attempted to figure out how many jerseys companies would have to sell to repay their endorsement deals with national sports teams at the soccer World Cup. He says Adidas needed to see sales of 1.9 million German national team jerseys retailing for around 80 euros in order to make back its 28 million euros-per year sponsorship deal; when Germany won the cup for the fourth time in 2014, 2 million had been sold even before the final match. By contrast, it is unlikely Nike recouped its full $40 million sponsorship with France through direct sales. But it's unlikely that Nike minded much, as its exposure helped its image building more broadly. 'The fact is that building the image of the overall brand and positive halo effects on all branded products of the company is the most important thing,' Nufer wrote in an analysis. That logic was reflected by Nike in its annual financial reports, which indicate it had contractual obligations to pay $1.1 billion in endorsement contracts in 2017. The company, based in Beaverton, Oregon, noted that the costs of sponsorships had risen as competition from rivals had grown. By losing key partnership deals, it said, 'we could lose the on-field authenticity associated with our products, and we may be required to modify and substantially increase our marketing investments.' 'As a result, our brands, net revenues, expenses and profitability could be harmed. ' Adidas says it spent 1.98 billion euros in 2016 on marketing investments, about half of which went for partnerships. That includes events like the World Cup, UEFA's Euro soccer tournament, and the French Open in tennis. And also sponsorships of national federations including Germany, Spain and Argentina plus deals with high profile individuals: soccer stars Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba, and Gareth Bale; basketball stars James Harden and Derrick Rose; U.S. football players Aaron Rodgers and Von Miller, and tennis players Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep. Adidas, based in Herzogenaurach, German, said it was unaware of misconduct in the Gatto case and vowed to fully cooperate with authorities. The company immediately didn't respond to an email inquiry about its sponsorship spending. The company had a good second quarter, with sales beating predictions and growing 27 percent in North America. 'Adidas has been going gangbusters,' said San Diego State professor Belch. 'They are gaining market share on Nike, they have taken away market share from Under Armour in the U.S. market, and particularly in North America they made a tremendous turnaround.' 'So they didn't need this,' he said, referring to the Louisville scandal. 'That's what's really amazing about this.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 5th, 2017

Wozniacki beats Pavlyuchenkova to retain Pan Pacific title

TOKYO (AP) — Caroline Wozniacki overwhelmed Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 7-5 to retain her Pan Pacific Open title on Sunday. The victory gives Wozniacki, also champion in Tokyo in 2010, her first title of the year. The Dane had lost all six of her previous finals in 2017. 'This was my seventh final of the year — it gets harder to get that last win,' said world No. 6 Wozniacki, who has now won at least one title every year since 2008. 'I've been putting myself in a position to win all year. It was really important for me to stay focused and positive.' Wozniacki had crushed world No.1 Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals and a similar score looked on the cards here Sunday. 'The court suits my game. She plays powerfully so it was important for me to make her move around early on. In the first set everything was going my way. In the second set she served better, so it was tricky for me to break.' The first set lasted only 20 minutes as Pavlyuchenkova struggled to get a foothold. 'I was really disappointed in the first three games,' said the Russian. 'I felt I was a bit unlucky and really believe if I had turned those points round and won the games, it may have been a different match. I was a little down on myself and missed more than I should.' The Russian fought harder in a second set that went with serve until the 12th and final game. Yet she failed to earn a break point in the match and appeared outclassed in her first Premier-level final since Moscow in 2015. Semifinal opponent Angelique Kerber was the only seed she faced this week before third-seeded Wozniacki. 'It's disappointing to lose no matter which round it is, even more disappointing in the final,' said Pavlyuchenkova, who needed three sets to win all four of her matches en route to the final. 'I felt a little flat due to the previous matches. I didn't have so much energy left.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 24th, 2017

Top seed Kerber crashes out in Sydney

SYDNEY – Top-ranked Angelique Kerber lost her opening match at the Sydney International on Tuesday, upset, 7-6 (5), 6-2, by Darya Kasatkina in a setback ahea.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

New number one Kerber into US Open final

German Angelique Kerber will have a chance to celebrate her new number one ranking with a US Open title after downing Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-3 to reach the championship match......»»

Category: newsSource:  mb.com.phRelated NewsSep 9th, 2016

Even without Serena, Aussie Open women s field still tough

By Justin Bergman, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Without defending champion Serena Williams in the draw at the Australian Open, there's certainly an opportunity for another player to go on a surprising run and emerge as a first-time Grand Slam champion. Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko did it last year. Just don't describe the first Grand Slam of the year as "more open" than usual. "Whenever I get asked that question, it always comes across in really kind of an almost negative way instead of acknowledging how many great players we have," Johanna Konta, who reached the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, said in her pre-tournament news conference Saturday. "The depth in women's tennis, I really do believe in the last few years, has gotten so strong," she added. "There's no straight sailing to the quarters or semis. It doesn't exist." Stephens agrees the Australian Open field is still extremely tough, even without Williams, the 23-time major winner. Williams withdrew from the tournament to recover from health issues after a complicated childbirth in September. "There's a lot of great players," Stephens said. "It's up for grabs." A new face will be holding the trophy at Melbourne Park in two weeks. The No. 1-ranking changed seven times in 2017, with five different women assuming top spot — three for the first time. Top-ranked Simona Halep is looking to finally break through and win her first major after twice finishing runner-up. She won the season-opening Shenzhen Open in China, but has mixed results at Melbourne Park, losing in the first round the last two years. "I don't feel pressure. I feel OK. I feel fit. I feel ready to start," Halep said. "I have one more goal: to win a Grand Slam." Stephens made a stellar run to the U.S. Open title after missing several months with an injured left foot. She's struggled to adjust to the sudden stardom that's come with being a Grand Slam champion — losing seven straight matches since September — but believes she can find her game again in Melbourne. "I think it's always a tough transition when you go from not playing tennis for 11 months to winning a Grand Slam," she said. "I like to just stay in my own little bubble and do my own thing. ... It's kind of been what I'm trying to do." There are plenty of other contenders. Ostapenko, now 20, rocketed up the rankings after her stunning win at the French Open. Venus Williams is a threat at 37 years old after finishing runner-up to her sister last year. Angelique Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open winner, won the Sydney International title on Saturday. Garbine Muguruza is the reigning Wimbledon champion, though her health has been in question at the start of the new year. Caroline Wozniacki had a career-reviving 2017 season and could return to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in six years with a strong showing in Melbourne. Maria Sharpova, the 2008 winner, returns after missing last year's Australian Open because of a drug suspension. And then there's Elina Svitolina, who earned her 10th tour title last week at the Brisbane International. She has a shot at No. 1 during the Australian Open. "I had a great week in Brisbane. Of course, I'm confident," she said. But she added that isn't enough in the constantly shifting, ultra-competitive women's game. "Everyone wants to win a Grand Slam," Svitolina said. "So, I try to find my way, what can help me to be there, to be ready for the fight.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2018

Unbeaten Kerber looks to extend winning streak

SYDNEY, Australia – Former world number one Angelique Kerber says she is looking for more confidence-boosting matches ahead of next week's Australian Open after knocking Venus Williams out of the Sydney International. The German overcame a first-set fade-out to beat the American second seed 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 late Tuesday, January 9, ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 10th, 2018

Monfils wins Qatar Open in 4th appearance in final

DOHA, Qatar --- Gael Monfils won the Qatar Open title on his fourth appearance in the final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Andrey Rublev of Russia on Saturday. The 46th-ranked Monfils, a former top-10 player, lost previous finals at the tournament to Roger Federer in 2006, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2012, and Rafael Nadal in 2014. "I've been very close and finally I get it," Monfils said after winning his seventh career title. Monfils was playing in his first tournament since a right-knee injury forced him to retire during his U.S. Open third-round match in September. "I had a long rest and I'm a lot stronger for 2018," Monfils said. "I didn't expect to win the first tournament, but I'm happy...Keep on reading: Monfils wins Qatar Open in 4th appearance in final.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 7th, 2018

Baby Tams face Tiger Cubs as UAAP Jrs football resumes

Defending champion Far Eastern University-Diliman has a score to settle University of Santo Tomas as the UAAP Season 80 juniors football tournament resumes Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Baby Tamaraws streaked to three consecutive wins before being held to a scoreless draw by the Tiger Cubs in their first round duel last Dec. 10. Kick-off is at 8 a.m. FEU-Diliman has 10 points, two off National University, which will take on De La Salle-Zobel in the day’s other match at 3 p.m. Kieth Absalon, the reigning Best Striker who has a league-best seven goals, will banner the Baby Tamaraws as the seven-time champion seek to open their second round campaign on a high note.  The Bullpups are on top of the table with 12 points, three clear off the Junior Archers, who are in third spot. NU began its second round run with a 4-0 blanking of last placed Ateneo, while La Salle-Zobel dismantled UST, 8-0, in the final match before the Christmas break last Dec. 17. The Tiger Cubs have four points while the Blue Eaglets remained without a point. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2018

Best in history Ronaldo put to test by Messi in clasico

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo has made his claim. Now he has to live up to it. Ronaldo will face Lionel Messi on Saturday for the first time since the Portugal forward declared himself “the best player in the history” of soccer after equaling the Argentine’s five Ballon d’Or awards this month. Basking in the spotlight of a glitzy ceremony under the Eiffel Tower, Ronaldo felt confident enough to put himself at the pinnacle of the sport, ahead of Messi and other greats like Pele and Diego Maradona. “You will go and say that I have a big head, but when you’re at the top, it’s normal that you’re criticized,” he told France Football. “I am the best player in history, in both good and bad times.” Personalities aside, Ronaldo has a tough case to make. He and Messi both have four Champions League titles, but Messi’s eight Spanish league titles double Ronaldo’s tally for Madrid and Manchester United. Messi also has the edge in their head-to-head duels. Messi has outscored Ronaldo 19-17 since Ronaldo joined Madrid in 2009. Prior to that, Messi scored in a 2-0 win over Ronaldo’s Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final. The Barcelona-led Messi has also had a clear advantage over Ronaldo’s Madrid. Messi has helped Barcelona beat Ronaldo’s side 13 times, to eight wins for Madrid and seven draws. Overall, Messi holds the “clasico” record with 24 goals in 36 matches. Ronaldo is one goal shy of matching Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano’s 18 goals against Barcelona. The camera-shy Messi insisted again on Monday when he was recognized for leading the Spanish league in goals last campaign that he put more value on team titles than individual honors. “Titles are our goal,” Messi said. “If individual statistics are there also, that’s even better, but they are not the objective.” Ronaldo has no doubt closed the gap with Messi after he led Madrid to back-to-back Champions League titles in the last two seasons. But for Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres, this past decade is still set to bear Messi’s mark. “If it wasn’t for (Ronaldo), Messi would have won twice as much,” Torres said Wednesday. “What Ronaldo has done in the age of Messi says a lot about him.” Ronaldo will need to be at his best on Saturday because anything other than a victory will deal a huge blow to Madrid’s title defense before the season reaches its midway point. Madrid enters the match in fourth place and trailing Barcelona by 11 with a match in hand. Atletico Madrid and Valencia are in second and third. “Given the situation we are in we are obligated to win,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. Messi had one of his most memorable performances at Madrid last season when he scored his second of two brilliant goals in stoppage time to silence the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid got revenge with wins of 3-1 and 2-0 in the Spanish Super Cup in August, when Barcelona was reeling from the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, however, quickly rallied his team and the Catalan club has not lost since, a run of 24 matches. With Neymar gone, Valverde has succeeded in tightening up Barcelona’s defense. “It would be important to win for everything that would represent, since the match is so special, and we are playing at their ground,” Messi said. “There would still be a long way to go for the league title, but a victory would be a nice before the Christmas break.” Here are some other potential keys to the “clasico.” ___ SUAREZ Striker Luis Suarez has rediscovered his scoring touch at just the right time for Barcelona. After only scoring three times in the first 11 matches, Suarez has six goals in his last five league games. They will need him even more with backup forwards Paco Alcacer and Gerard Deulofeu injured. ___ BENZEMA Karim Benzema has only scored two goals in 11 league appearances for Madrid this season. The drop in production has contributed to Madrid’s stumbles, leading many fans to lament the exit of Alvaro Morata to Chelsea. ___ ALBA Jordi Alba has flourished going forward into the hole that Neymar used to occupy. The Spain left back is a favorite of Messi to weave together short-passing combinations that unlock packed defenses. His matchup against Madrid right back Dani Carvajal should be key. ___ BALE Gareth Bale is playing for his future. Recurrent injuries have cost the Wales winger his spot in Madrid’s starting lineup, with coach Zinedine Zidane preferring the playmaking — and sturdier legs — of Francisco “Isco” Alarcon. Bale returned after his latest injury layoff to help Madrid win the Club World Cup, but as a second-half substitute. He is likely to have that role against Barcelona and will need to make the most of the minutes he gets. ___ VERMAELEN Thomas Vermaelen was considered a lost cause. That was until defenders Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano got injured, giving the Belgian another chance to find his spot in Barcelona’s rotation. Vermaelen has played six consecutive matches, a personal record for him at Barcelona. Injuries limited him to 11 league appearances in two seasons before he was loaned out to Roma last year. Now that he is back, the former Arsenal player will be critical to Barcelona’s chances of stopping Ronaldo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

Dimitrov wins ATP Finals, targets Grand Slam next

  LONDON --- Grigor Dimitrov's talent took him to the brink of his biggest career win, but he needed more than that to get over the line.   The sixth-seeded Bulgarian claimed the title at the season-ending ATP Finals on Sunday, prevailing on his fifth match point to beat David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the final.   "I felt I had a good mental toughness throughout the whole year," Dimitrov said. "So when my body's allowing me to do this kind of preparation, I feel I already have an advantage over any other player. And right now those are the moments that I rise up to."   It was not the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal matchup many fans had hoped fo...Keep on reading: Dimitrov wins ATP Finals, targets Grand Slam next.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 20th, 2017

Vandeweghe, Barty, Sevastova advance at WTA Elite Trophy

ZHUHAI, China (AP) — CoCo Vandeweghe, Ashleigh Barty and Anastasija Sevastova all advanced to the semifinals at the WTA Elite Trophy on Thursday. The second-seeded Vandeweghe had 11 aces and saved all four break points she faced to beat Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-2 in the Bougainvillea group. Vesnina received treatment for a back injury during the match. "It was tricky in itself, playing against an opponent that's obviously hampered, and you're just trying to kind of manage your own emotions with that and trying to keep your intensity, keep your focus, and that definitely gets a little bit tough," Vandeweghe said. Barty, who is the youngest player in the draw at 21, beat former top-ranked player Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-3. The ninth-seeded Australian also beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the Rose group. "It was tough group for me because I hadn't actually beaten either of those girls," Barty said. "It's nice to sort of get that revenge this week, but I felt like I served great all week and put myself in a good position in my service games to then be super-aggressive and nice and clear when returning so I can have a little bit more of a crack and see if I can get some of those early breaks in the sets." Sevastova, seeded fifth, beat Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-4 in the Camillea group. The tournament in Zhuhai features the leading players on the women's tour who didn't qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore last week. The 12-player draw is divided into four groups of three, with the winner of each group advancing to the semifinals......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 3rd, 2017

Giroud s overhead kick gives Arsenal 1-0 win at Red Star

The Associated Press - Olivier Giroud scored late in the second half for Arsenal to maintain its perfect Europa League campaign with a 1-0 win over 10-man Red Star Belgrade on Thursday. Five minutes after Milan Rodic was sent off for a second yellow card, Giroud struck with an overhead kick five minutes before the final whistle after Theo Walcott headed the ball to him. "It was a great combination before the goal as well and he finished well," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. Arsenal opened a five-point lead in Group H with nine points. Red Star and BATE Borisov, which beat visiting Cologne 1-0, are on four. Cologne is bottom without a point. Elsewhere, Lazio rallied to take three points at Nice with a 3-1 win in Group K, and Real Sociedad thrashed Macedonia's Vardar 6-0 in Group L with Willian Jose scoring four goals. Milan was held 0-0 at home by Greek team AEK in Group D, and Everton's campaign suffered another blow after a 2-1 loss at home to Lyon in Group E. Arsenal rested nine front-line players who were in the lineup for the English Premier League's match against Watford on Saturday, which Arsenal lost 2-1. But goalkeeper Petr Cech was in the goal as captain and made his presence felt, making several perfect saves. "It's important to have a good goalkeeper in this kind of game, too," Wenger said. "They were dangerous and Petr Cech kept us in the game." Mathieu Debuchy returned to the squad after a year due to injuries. With several young players, including Reiss Nelson, Joseph Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the Gunners didn't look dangerous until Giroud's goal. "I believe you win when you can, you do not decide when," Wenger said. "What's remarkable is the spirit we have shown. They defended very well, but the goal is a consequence of us wanting to play through them." Richmond Boakye headed the ball onto the crossbar in the biggest chance for Red Star. LAZIO LEADS Boosted by a 2-1 victory over Juventus in Serie A, Lazio took the sole lead in Group K after rallying to a 3-1 away win at Nice in a matchup of two teams that won their previous two games. The fans didn't have to wait long for goals. Mario Balotelli headed home for the hosts four minutes into the game from Wesley Sneijder's cross, but Felipe Caicedo equalized for the hosts just a minute later. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored his first goal for Lazio in the 65th before adding his second a minute from time. Lazio stays perfect atop the group with nine points from three wins. Nice is second, three points back. Zulte Waregem and Vitesse drew 1-1 and have a point each in the group. REAL ON FIRE Willian Jose scored two goals in each half for Real Sociedad on the way to thrashing Macedonia's Vardar 6-0. Mikel Oyarzabal gave the Spaniards a first-half lead. The Brazilian striker then took charge before he was substituted on the hour. Alberto de la Bella added the final goal at the last minute. Despite the victory, Real is second in Group L with six points, trailing leader Zenit St. Petersburg by three after the Russians beat Rosenborg 3-1 to stay perfect. Rosenborg has three points and Vardar remains bottom after three defeats. EVERTON'S MISERY Everton is 16th in the 20-team English Premier League and is still without a win in three Europa League group matches this season. Nabil Fekir converted a penalty kick six minutes into the match for Lyon after Mason Holgate downed Marcal in the area. Players of both teams briefly clashed after a hard push from Everton captain Ashley Williams on Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes. Everton could face punishment from UEFA after a fan holding a child appeared to aim a punch at a Lyon player during the second-half melee at Goodison Park which continued off the pitch and in front of the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End. Just minutes later, Williams seemed to come to Everton's rescue with a 69th-minute header. But Lyon needed just six minutes to answer with Bertrand Traore restoring the advantage to 2-1. Under-pressure Everton manager Ronald Koeman has something to think about before league games against Arsenal and Leicester sandwich a League Cup match with Chelsea. Italian side Atalanta leads Group E with seven points after a 3-1 win over Apollon Limassol. Lyon trails by two points in second. Apollon has two points and Everton remains last with one point. NO CHEERS IN BALKANS Partizan Belgrade played without its fans at Skenderbeu in Albania on Thursday with the reverse situation— no Skenderbeu supporters — scheduled to happen in Serbia. Both teams agreed on that measure at UEFA's request to not "create a hot situation." The Group B game ended in a 0-0 draw......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 20th, 2017

US misses World Cup because of numerous defensive breakdowns

em>By Ronald Blum, Associated Press /em> COUVA, Trinidad (AP) — Standing in the stadium tunnel near the U.S. locker room after the Collapse in Couva, captain Michael Bradley was asked over and over what went wrong. How had the United States, a regional power that had made seven straight World Cup appearances, failed to qualify for next year's tournament? What led to the Americans' stunning, crushing, almost farcical 2-1 loss to already eliminated Trinidad and Tobago that caused them to tumble to fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. A year of defensive breakdowns under two coaching staffs did in the U.S., which finished with three wins, three losses and four ties. 'We like to hang our hat on the fact that we outwork teams and we press teams,' goalkeeper Tim Howard said. 'They won a lot of second balls tonight and put us under pressure.' A relentless work ethic the Americans relied on for years was absent too often. 'You can't go and score four, five goals every game. We have to be able to be hard to play against,' forward Jozy Altidore said. 'We weren't hard enough to play against too many times on these nights.' In this cycle, the Americans not only lost their first home qualifier since the 2002 World Cup qualifying rounds, they lost two home games in a qualifying cycle for the first time since 1957 — during their 40-year absence from soccer's top event. 'When you lose the first two games and you drop points on too many days, your margin for error goes away, and so you know you're at the mercy of a night like this, where everything possible goes against you, both here and in the two other games,' Bradley said. 'When we start the hex poorly, when we don't take the points that we should on some other days, then you leave open the chance on the last day this can happen.' Bradley is 30 and may not play in another World Cup. Howard (38) and Clint Dempsey (34) will never again appear on soccer's biggest stage. 'If I said disappointment, it would be an understatement,' Howard said. A look at what went wrong in qualifying for the United States: strong>NOV. 11, 2016 /strong> The U.S. had been 30-0-2 in qualifying at home since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at Washington's RFK Stadium in September 2001 and scheduled its opener of the hex against Mexico at Columbus, Ohio, where the Americans had won four straight qualifiers against El Tri by 2-0 scores. Miguel Layun put Mexico ahead in the 20th minute with a shot that deflected off defender Timmy Chandler and past Howard. Bobby Wood tied the score in the 49th, but in the 89th minute 37-year-old Rafa Marquez got away from defender John Brooks, who was blocked by Altidore, and Marquez nodded in Layun's corner kick for the go-ahead goal in Mexico's 2-1 win. strong>NOV. 15, 2016 /strong> Costa Rica routed the visiting United States 4-0, the Americans' first four-goal loss in qualifying since 1980. Brooks' giveaway led to an attack culminating in Johan Venegas beating Brooks to a cross for the opening goal. Christian Pulisic's turnover set up Cristian Bolanos' goal, Brooks misplayed a looping pass leading to the third goal and Chandler was late to a cross as Joel Campbell scored his second of the night. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired six days later and replaced by Bruce Arena, the U.S. coach from 1998-2006. 'There's going to need to be some urgency,' Bradley said before boarding the team bus. 'We're going to have to look collectively real hard in the mirror at ourselves.' strong>MARCH 28, 2017 /strong> Four days after a 6-0 rout of Honduras at San Jose, California, in the first competitive match of Arena's return, Clint Dempsey's 39th-minute goal gave the U.S. the lead at Panama City. Gabriel Gomez tied the score four minutes later when he beat Tim Ream and Jorge Villafana to a loose ball following a thrown-in for an open 4-yard shot past Howard. The score finished 1-1. strong>JUNE 11, 2017 /strong> Arena changed seven starters with only two off days following a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Commerce City, Colorado. Bradley's 40-yard chip in Mexico City's thin air put the U.S. ahead in the sixth minute at Estadio Azteca, but Carlos Vela equalized in the 23rd minute to finish a field-length move, cutting inside of 35-year-old left back DaMarcus Beasley for a 23-yard shot that beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan to the near post. The game ended 1-1. strong>SEPT. 1, 2017 /strong> Marco Urena spun around Ream, caught Howard leaning and beat the goalkeeper to the far post in the 30th minute. Urena doubled the lead in the 82nd with an 18-yard shot after David Guzman intercepted a poor pass by Geoff Cameron, giving Costa Rica a 2-0 win at Harrison, New Jersey. strong>SEPT. 5, 2017 /strong> Romell Quioto put Honduras ahead in the 27th minute at San Pedro Sula after defender Omar Gonzalez failed to clear the ball with a slide tackle and left an open shot. Wood's 85th-minute goal salvaged a draw that kept the Americans in fourth place, behind Panama but ahead of Honduras on goal difference. 'He just kind of like fell over the ball a little bit,' Arena said of Gonzalez. strong>OCT. 10, 2017 /strong> A 4-0 rout of Panama days earlier in Orlando, Florida, moved the Americans back into third place and put them in position to qualify with a win over Trinidad and Tobago, almost certainly with a tie (because of goal difference) or even a defeat if Panama failed to beat Costa Rica and Honduras did not defeat Mexico. A loss coupled by either a Costa Rica or Honduras defeat would mean a two-game playoff for the U.S. next month against Australia. But 28 years after the U.S. won at Trinidad and Tobago to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1950, the Soca Warriors went ahead in the 17th minute when Gonzalez tried to clear a cross but sent the ball off his left shin and looping over Howard. Alvin Jones scored on a 35-yard shot in the 37th and while Pulisic cut the gap in the 47th, Dempsey hit a post in the 77th, and both Panama and Costa Rica rallied from halftime deficits to win.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Still alive: Teams chasing World Cup spots through playoffs

A look at the lineup of teams in the intercontinental and European playoffs for the 2018 World Cup in Russia: ___ em> strong>EUROPEAN PLAYOFFS (matches to be confirmed) /strong> /em> strong>ITALY /strong> Four-time world champion Italy will be favored to qualify no matter which opponent it faces, yet the Azzurri aren't in top form after four discouraging results — a 3-0 loss to Spain, slim 1-0 wins over Israel and Albania, and a 1-1 draw with Macedonia. However, the expected returns from injury of center forward Andrea Belotti and veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi could provide a boost. The playoff outcome will likely determine the future of Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura. Milan's San Siro or Palermo's Renzo Barbera stadium are being considered to host the home leg of the playoff. strong>CROATIA /strong> Croatia finds itself in familiar territory. Led by playmaker Luka Modric and other high-profile players in Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic, the Croatians faced the same hurdle before the 2014 tournament in Brazil, eliminating Iceland 2-0 on aggregate. In this campaign, Croatia was on course to qualify automatically from the first place before two poor results — a 1-0 loss in Turkey and a 1-1 draw at home to Finland. Those results cost coach Ante Cacic his job. Under new coach Zlatko Dalic, Croatia won a needed 2-0 victory at Ukraine to seal a playoff spot behind Iceland. strong>SWITZERLAND /strong> Switzerland was perfect in World Cup qualifying for more than one year: Nine games, nine wins. Now coach Vladimir Petkovic must lift his players after a 2-0 loss in Portugal on Tuesday sent them to the playoffs, where the best runner-up record counts for little except being seeded. The Swiss have a reputation for being an efficient team in group-stage games that falls just short against good opponents in elimination games. They lost to Argentina at the 2014 World Cup, and Poland at Euro 2016. Their opponents next month are likely to be below that class, and Petkovic can expect that forward Breel Embolo — a substitute in Lisbon — will be fully fit after a one-year injury absence. strong>DENMARK /strong> There's a chance Denmark could face neighbor Sweden, which denied the Danes a spot in the 2016 European Championship by winning their playoff. Christian Eriksen is the undoubted star of the Denmark team, the playmaker having been one of the best players in the English Premier League over the last two years and scoring eight times from midfield in qualifying. Denmark was second to Poland in its group, only missing out on automatic qualification in the final round. strong>GREECE /strong> Reaching the playoffs came as a relief for Greece's players and coach Michael Skibbe following an embarrassing qualification campaign for Euro 2016, when the team was twice beaten by the Faeroe Islands and finished last in the group. An obdurate defense was again the key to earning a runner-up spot, nine points behind Belgium, with Skibbe struggling to find stability in midfield and a strike partner for Kostas Mitroglou. The German coach may look forward to the development of 21-year-old Tassos Donis, who provided some badly needed pace in midfield, as well as the talents of the Portuguese-born Carlos Zeca. strong>SWEDEN /strong> Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist says he'd prefer to not play Italy or Scandinavian archrival Denmark and would rather face Croatia or Switzerland. Sweden, for example, has never beaten Italy in the last 17 years. Sweden finished behind France in its group, but ahead of the Netherlands, in its first qualifying campaign without retired striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Marcus Berg has replaced Ibrahimovic as Sweden's leading striker and scored eight times in the qualifying. strong>IRELAND /strong> This will be Ireland's ninth time in the playoffs for a major tournament. The Irish have progressed on three occasions, with their most high-profile failure coming against France in the playoffs for the 2010 World Cup when Thierry Henry clearly handled the ball in the build-up to the crucial goal. In the final round of group play, Ireland beat Wales in Cardiff in a virtual playoff for the playoffs. Coach Martin O'Neill's counterattacking tactics worked perfectly in that 1-0 win and it would be no surprise if he does the same in the playoffs. strong>NORTHERN IRELAND /strong> After reaching the knockout stage at Euro 2016, the Northern Irish continued their rise in international soccer by finishing runner-up behind Germany in their group. They have never been to back-to-back major tournaments. There's no chance of a potentially spicy match against neighbor Ireland, as both are set to be among the non-seeded teams after the seedings are confirmed on Monday. ___ em> strong>INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS /strong> /em> strong>HONDURAS vs. AUSTRALIA /strong> Both countries have been regulars in recent World Cups, with Honduras looking to make it for a third straight tournament and Australia seeking a fourth in a row. Los Catrachos — as the Honduras national team is nicknamed — were squeezed out of an automatic place in Russia by Panama, which scored a late winner in a dramatic denouement to qualifying in the CONCACAF region. Asian Cup champion Australia had its chances to qualify directly, but failed to capitalize on a glut of scoring chances in the last group game against Thailand and ended up finishing in third spot behind Japan and Saudi Arabia. The Socceroos then beat Syria 2-1 after extra time to clinch the two-legged Asian playoff, but only after Syria hit the post with a free kick in the last moments of the second leg. The Australians were most recently in an inter-confederation playoff in 2006, when they ousted Uruguay over two legs. strong>PERU vs. NEW ZEALAND /strong> On New Zealand's side is a more recent appearance at the World Cup — going through the group stage in 2010 unbeaten but still being eliminated — and a first taste of Russia by qualifying for the Confederations Cup in June. But more than a 100 places separate New Zealand and Peru in the FIFA rankings. While New Zealand is at No. 113, Peru has surged to 12th as it chases a first visit to the World Cup since 1982. Peru claimed fifth place in the tough South American qualifying group to set up the intercontinental play-off that will be played over two legs on Nov. 6 and 14. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Nadal and Federer win in straight sets at Shanghai Masters

SHANGHAI (AP) — Rafael Nadal lost only four points on serve Wednesday in a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jared Donaldson in the second round of the Shanghai Masters. The top-ranked Spaniard and No. 2 Roger Federer both advanced by winning their opening matches in straight sets. 'It was a very quick match,' said Nadal, who won his sixth title of the year in Beijing last week. 'I was happy to have that early break in the sixth game. After that I played a great match, not many mistakes, played aggressively.' Federer defeated Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (4), 6-4, winning the match with his 14th ace on his second match point. 'I knew going in it was not going to be easy because he's had a great run the last few weeks, months,' Federer said. 'He was confident. He was shaking off misses, no problems. He was serving well, making the right decisions. 'He was confident and as an opponent you can feel that. I felt that today it was going to be dangerous down the stretch of every set.' Nadal and Federer are both in contention for the season-ending No. 1 ranking, although only Nadal can clinch that honor this week. Nadal will be guaranteed to retain the No. 1 ranking through the end of the season if he wins his first career Shanghai title and Federer loses before reaching the semifinals. Earlier, sixth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov saved three match points before finally defeating Ryan Harrison 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6). The 46th-ranked Harrison led 4-2 in the third set and then 6-3 in the tiebreaker. But Dimitrov won the final five points to get through. 'I just had to be there (on those match points),' Dimitrov said. 'At (my) match point, I just had to make my first serve because I knew he would go for it if not.' Also, U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson lost to Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2), while Gilles Simon, Alexander Zverev, Sam Querrey and John Isner all advanced. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

The thunderclap heads to Russia: Iceland gets World Cup spot

em>By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press /em> MADRID (AP) — The Icelandic thunderclap is making its way to Russia. Iceland added to its incredible European Championship campaign by becoming the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup on Monday. That means the Viking chant popularized by Iceland fans at Euro 2016 will be heard across Russia next year. Iceland secured an automatic berth by defeating Kosovo 2-0 in Reykjavik to win Group I and kick-start celebrations in the island nation of about 330,000 people. Fireworks were set off after the match at a packed Laugardalsvollur Stadium, and captain Aron Gunnarssonled immediately led the crowd in the traditional chant in which players and fans yell and clap their hands at a rhythmic crescendo that is likened to a Viking war chant. The chant was a success when Iceland made its major tournament debut at the Euros in France last year, when it stunned by reaching the quarterfinals after drawing with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in the group stage and eliminating England in the last 16. Serbia also qualified for the World Cup for the second time since becoming an independent nation in 2006. Ireland secured a playoff spot from Group D, while Gareth Bale's Wales was eliminated only 15 months after reaching the semifinals at Euro 2016. Spain and Italy won their last qualifying games in Group G, which had already been won by the Spaniards. Italy was already assured of a playoff spot. Here's a look at the action on Monday: strong>GROUP D /strong> Serbia qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2010 by beating Georgia 1-0 in Belgrade with a goal by Aleksandar Prijovic's in the 74th minute. The result left Wales and Ireland to decide their fate in the Celtic showdown in Cardiff, and the Irish got the victory and a playoff berth after James McClean's 57th-minute goal following a defensive mix-up by the Welsh. 'That last half hour seemed an eternity,' Ireland manager Martin O'Neill said. 'We had to withstand pressure but we knew at some stage we would have to try to win the game and we did it.' Bale couldn't play for Wales because of injury. Serbia finished with two more points than Ireland, and four more than Wales. The Irish will try to qualify for the World Cup for a fourth time — and first since 2002. They will not be seeded in the playoffs draw which will take place on Tuesday. strong>GROUP G /strong> Spain ended its qualifying campaign by beating Israel 1-0 in Jerusalem, while Italy scraped past Albania 1-0 in Shkoder in another poor effort which will do little to inspire confidence in coach Gian Piero Ventura and his team. 'We have some limitations at the moment but today there was the desire to try and do things,' Ventura said. With a World Cup berth already secured, Spain played without most of its regular starters in Jerusalem but won thanks to a long-range strike by Asier Illarramendi in the second half It finished unbeaten with nine wins and a 1-1 draw against Italy in Turin last year. The Italians ended five points behind Spain. Macedonia beat Liechtenstein 4-0 in the match between the two bottom sides in the group. Liechtenstein was outscored 39-1 in its 10 qualifiers. strong>GROUP I /strong> Iceland made history by beating last-place Kosovo with a goal by Gylfi Sigurdsson in the first half and another by Johann Gudmundsson in the second, keeping the momentum from its inspiring run at Euro 2016. The result left the Icelanders two points in front of Croatia, which beat Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev to secure the playoff spot. Ukraine ended three points behind Croatia in third place. It was the tightest group in European qualifying. Iceland entered the final round with a two-point lead over both Croatia and Ukraine. Kosovo completed its maiden qualifying campaign for a major tournament with a single point from a draw at Finland. Iceland, unbeaten in 13 competitive home games, will be the smallest nation in terms of population to play in soccer's showcase event. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 10th, 2017