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Patriots happy to be home for latest trip to AFC title game

KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Writer br /> FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — The New England Patriots have had what seems like an annual spot in the AFC championship game over the past decade. But the fact that this year's game is at home could factor into whether they are able to make a return trip to the Super Bowl. The Patriots became the first team since the 1970 merger to advance to the AFC title game in six straight seasons with their win over the Houston Texans last week. The Patriots are 5-1 at home in AFC championship games, with their lone loss coming in 2013 against the Ravens in Ray Lewis' final trip to Foxborough. While being at home doesn't guarantee victory, playing the game at Gillette Stadium is welcomed by a team that has been on the road in two of their past three trips to the AFC title game. Both of those road games ended in losses to Denver, including a 20-18 defeat last season. 'It's the energy. You get out there and everyone is really energetic. The fans are really intense,' receiver Chris Hogan said Tuesday. 'At the end of the day, it's another football game, and I just have to approach it like that, just the way I've been approaching every single game this year. Go out there, play my best, play good football and try to help this team win as much as I can.' Special teams captain Matt Slater acknowledged that New England's performance against the Texans could have been better, but said no one is taking anything for granted about this latest shot at a Super Bowl berth. 'Anytime you win a playoff game, whether you play well or not, if you win the game that's all that matters,' Slater said. 'I think we all appreciate the opportunity that we have. Could we have played better? Certainly. But we could also be at home.' The Steelers — and coach Mike Tomlin specifically — can expect to get an even more hostile reception than usual from the Patriots fans. This comes after Tomlin was broadcast using a derogatory expletive to describe the Patriots during a postgame speech to his team following Pittsburgh's divisional-round win over Kansas City. Unbeknownst to Tomlin, the speech was aired on a social media livestream by Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown. Tomlin apologized for his use of 'regrettable' language on Tuesday. But he said he's not worried about it having an impact on his team's preparations this week. 'We are in the AFC championship. You aren't going to creep in the back door of New England and win a football game, and creep out of there with an AFC championship,' he said. 'I am not worried about our team's ability to deal with the potential distractions.' Slater said he continues to have respect for Tomlin and didn't think his comments would serve as any extra motivation. 'At the end of the day the only thing that is gonna matter is what we do in between those white lines on Sunday,' Slater said. 'What is said or what is done off the football field it really doesn't matter. It's about executing on Sunday.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Karlovic smacks 75 aces, sets long match mark at Aussie Open

 JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — As Ivo Karlovic and Horacio Zeballos struggled deep into the fifth set at the Australian Open on Tuesday night, fans rushed to distant Court 19 to watch as a record unfolded. The stands completely packed, some spectators stood on tables and chairs and even balanced on the fence of a neighboring court to try to get a view. Others lay on their stomachs and peeked beneath the black windscreen lining the fence, using their phones to record it. br /> After five hours, 15 minutes, Zeballos finally cracked in the 84th game. Chasing down a lob on Karlovic's second match point, he mis-hit a forehand and it floated long, giving Karlovic an epic, come-from-behind victory, 6-7 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20. br /> The 37-year-old Karlovic, one of the oldest players on tour, was elated to pull out the victory — if a little sore. br /> 'Arm is good,' he said, noting the frequency of ace. 'But my knee, my back, little bit not so good.' br /> The final set alone took two hours, 37 minutes. And though most points were short, the match didn't lack for some quality — the players combined for 237 winners to 94 unforced errors. br /> 'This is what I will, after my career, remember,' Karlovic said. 'If it was easy match or I lost easy, I wouldn't remember. But this one, definitely, I will remember forever.' br /> The scoreline didn't come close to the famous marathon match between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, which Isner finally won 70-68 in the fifth set after more than 11 hours. br /> 'Actually, I was thinking about that other match, Isner against Mahut,' Karlovic joked afterward. 'I was hoping little bit it could go this long so I could also have record.' br /> The match also fell short of the 5-hour, 53-minute Australian Open final played by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in 2012, the longest in terms of time at the tournament. br /> But Karlovic and Zeballos did set a couple records. br /> The total of 84 games broke the previous Australian Open mark of 83 set by Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui in 2003, a match Roddick won 21-19 in the fifth. Karlovic's 75 aces also smashed the previous record of 51 for a single match, set by Joachim Johansson against Andre Agassi in 2005. br /> The 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Karlovic has a massive serve that opponents often stand and watch as it whizzes by. Zeballos was particularly powerless against the towering Croat's serve: He only had four break points in the match and converted just one. br /> Still, Zeballos hung tough as the fifth set wore on, buoyed by the raucous Argentine fans, who sang and waved their blue and white flags at every opportunity. br /> After Zeballos' last shot floated long, Karlovic thrust his arms in the air and his supporters leapt to their feet, chanting 'Ivo, Ivo!' br /> Then, he started to think about recovery ahead of his next match against Australian wild-card entry Andrew Whittington. br /> 'I will have two days now,' he said. 'I'm just going to do the ice bath, try to hit good, go to sleep early. Hopefully that will be enough.' br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Sock beats Sousa to win ASB Classic

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Fourth-seeded American Jack Sock made amends for the disappointment of a year ago when he beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in Saturday's final to win the ASB Tennis Classic. div> Sock also reached the tournament final in 2016 but had to pull out of the title match due to illness. The 24-year-old Kansas resident is ranked 23 but still with only one career title to his name, having lost his past four finals, so his emotional response to Saturday's win was understandable. Sousa beat fifth-seeded Alberto Ramos-Vinolas and eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis on his way to Saturday's showdown with Sock. Though the finalists knew each other well, playing doubles and regularly practising together, they had only met once before on the ATP Tour: last year in Madrid when Sousa won in three sets. Sock came back from a break and 40-15 down in the deciding set to snatch his second career title, and enters next week's Australian Open in confident mood, having also shown good form in the preceding Hopman Cup tournament in Perth, Australia. 'Coming from Perth I played a lot there so I felt good coming into this week but you never know how your first tournament of the year can go,' Sock said. 'I lost the second set today and I had to regroup and buckle down. In the off-season we worked a lot on that, regrouping and putting a lot of things behind you.' Sock took a close first set with a single break in the seventh game, then found himself a break down after the third game of the second set. Sock immediately broke back but Sousa gained the advantage again when Sock double faulted at break point in the 11th game and served out the set to square the match. The decisive set followed a similar patter. Sock dropped serve in the third game but broke back in the fourth and the match went with serve until the eighth game when Sousa double faulted at break point. 'I've been playing a good level so it gives me a lot of confidence to face the first grand slam of the year,' Sousa said. 'It's going to be a tough one...but hopefully I can play this level and get a good result.' /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Napa technical fires up Bullpups in victory versus Eaglets

strong>TEAM STANDINGS /strong> br /> Adamson 7-0 br /> NU 7-1 br /> FEU-Diliman 5-2 br /> Ateneo 4-4 br /> DLSZ 2-5 br /> UPIS 2-5 br /> UE 1-6 br /> UST 1-6 John Lloyd Clemente and Rhayyan Amsali were both in foul trouble, Nazareth School of National University was getting outwitted and outworked, and just his second loss in the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournament was staring Jeff Napa in the face. Add to that what he deemed to be a questionable call and Napa had enough – entering the playing court in vehement opposition and getting called for a technical foul for his troubles. Taking their mentor’s cue, the Bullpups also got back to business in what proved to be a decisive 23-9 third quarter run that eventually ended as a 78-71 triumph over Ateneo de Manila High School on Saturday at the San Juan Arena. Behind a balanced attack, the Blue Eaglets mounted a 38-33 advantage at the half. Things were looking even better for them when Amsali and Clemente got their third and fourth fouls, respectively, near the middle of the third. It was at that point, however, that Napa reacted to another foul called on another one of his players and took the “T.” Captain Clemente then huddled his teammates just as Dave Ildefonso missed the freebie. There was no stopping NU from that point and the 23-9 rally took back the lead for them, 56-47. “Naging energizer talaga yung technical ko para magising yung boys na hindi namin sila iiwan,” Napa expressed. In the end, the Bullpups scored their fifth win in a row and seventh overall in eight games to remain in solo second. Clemente and Amsali only combined for 13 points, but the bench more than made up for their missing production. “Naghihintay lang naman ng pagkakataon second group ko. Alam ko namang lahat yan, mag-step up,” Napa said. Indeed, all from the bench, Karl Penano muscled his way into 19 points, Paul Manalang scored 16 of his own, and Muhammed Sarip was a pleasant surprise with 10 markers and nine rebounds. On the other hand, Ateneo saw their three-game winning streak come to an end as its frontline got dominated in inside points, 32-48. At 4-4, however, they are still solo fourth. BOX SCORES NU 78 – Penano 19, Manalang 16, Sarip 10, Amsali 7, Clemente 6, Coyoca 5, Tolentino 5, Malonzo 4, Callejo 2, Fortea 2, Dela Cruz 2, Atienza 0 ATENEO 71 – Belangel 14, Ildefonso 1, Salazar 8, Angeles 8, Manuel 8, Sotto 8, Berjay 6, Credo 6, Escalona 3, Laud 0 QUARTER SCORES: 13-13, 33-38, 58-52, 78-71 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Packers confident facing Cowboys without injured Nelson

The Associated Press br /> The Green Bay Packers were better prepared to play without Jordy Nelson after the star receiver was ruled out of the NFL divisional playoff against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. br /> Nelson had an NFL-high 14 touchdown catches in the regular season as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' top target in the Packers' prolific passing attack. But he suffered broken ribs in a tackle as the Packers beat the New York Giants 38-13 in the wild-card round last weekend, and still wasn't right on Friday. br /> The offense struggled to hit big plays in 2015 while Nelson was sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury, but Green Bay proved last week that it can win without him, scoring all their points after he left. br /> With Rodgers, the league's best quarterback over the past two months, connecting regularly even on desperation passes, the Packers have won seven straight games. br /> And in Nelson's absence, Rodgers still has Randall Cobb, who caught three touchdown passes against the Giants, Davante Adams emerging as a playmaker, and Jared Cook as an athletic target at tight end. The Packers should do their share of scoring against a Dallas defense that ranked 26th against the pass. br /> Then again, sensational Cowboys rookies Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott, operating behind the best offensive line in the NFL and complemented by Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, also should supply points. br /> Elliott and Precott are the third rookie running back-quarterback starting tandem in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era. Of note, the other two pairs lost their playoff debuts. br /> The Cowboys and Packers share an NFL postseason history that dates back five decades. Dallas holds a 4-3 edge, but since they beat the Packers three years in a row in the 1990s, they haven't been back to the NFC Championship game in 21 years. br /> All four home teams this weekend are tipped to win, especially the New England Patriots, who are 15 1/2-point favorites over the visiting Houston Texans, just the sixth time in 50 years that a team has been favored by at least 15 points in a playoff game. br /> New England has won its past four meetings with Houston at Gillette Stadium by a combined 150-49, but the Patriots say they aren't taking anything for granted against the NFL's top-ranked defense. But how does Houston, which lost 27-0 in September to a Patriots team without Tom Brady, go about beating a team that the odds-makers say is one of the most unbeatable in playoff history? br /> Running back LeGarrette Blount has taken a lot of pressure off Brady's arm this season, rushing for a New England single-season record 18 touchdowns and career-high 1,161 yards. And the defense has been creating turnovers at a high rate during their ongoing seven-game win streak. br /> That walking boot being worn by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Pittsburgh's win against Miami last weekend is very worrisome to the Steelers. But Roethlisberger tends to always show up in the playoffs, and he's expected to perform against the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday. br /> The Steelers eased past the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2, but that was in Pittsburgh. Kansas City is better now than it was back then, although so are the Steelers. br /> If the Chiefs can get pressure on Big Ben and somewhat control Antonio Brown, the league's most dangerous receiver (and non-quarterback), and running back Le'Veon Bell, it can use its relatively conservative offense to its advantage. But will coach Andy Reid turn the reins loose a bit when the Chiefs have the ball? br /> The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game in 23 years. br /> Then again, the Atlanta Falcons are the only team among the eight left who have not won a Super Bowl. br /> Facing the Seattle Seahawks at home on Saturday is one of those prove-it games for Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and wideout Julio Jones. Which opponent to better prove that your offense, and an improving defense, are capable of a long postseason run than against the big kid on the NFC block? br /> The Seahawks bring superior experience, coaching, and swagger. br /> Seattle is as accomplished as any NFC playoff team, and many of the key contributors to its recent success remain on the scene: Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin. And now that Thomas Rawls seems healthy, there's a running game to complement Wilson, Baldwin and tight end Jimmy Graham. br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Match-fixing back in spotlight on eve of first Grand Slam

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press   For Rafael Nadal and the other stars of tennis, there's a familiar ring to the questions being raised as the first ball is about to be struck at the Australian Open. Recent match-fixing sanctions and a new case are bringing fresh scrutiny to the integrity of the sport a year after corruption allegations cast a pall over the first Grand Slam of the year. '(It's) obviously negative, always in the first month of the season starts to happen,' Nadal said at the season-opening Brisbane International. 'You get tired about this kind of stuff, but the most important thing is fight against these kinds of things.' The headlines started appearing early in the new year. On Jan. 5, police in Australia charged an 18-year-old player with a match-fixing offense at a lower-tier tournament last October in Traralgon, near Melbourne. Days later, another Australian player, Nick Lindahl, now retired but once ranked in the top 200, was handed a seven-year ban and $35,000 fine from the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) for offering to throw a match at a minor tournament in the city of Toowoomba in 2013. Lindahl had already been fined after a criminal trial. Two other Australian players received lesser punishments in connection with the incident. While Traralgon and Toowoomba are far removed from the glittering lights of Melbourne Park, the timing of the developments was troubling nonetheless. Last season began similarly beneath a cloud of suspicion after a report by BBC and Buzzfeed alleged that tennis authorities had suppressed evidence of match-fixing and failed to investigate possible cases of corruption. The reports went over old ground, but the timing and the headlines overshadowed the tournament. 'I haven't heard anything (about match-fixing) since last year's Australian Open,' German player Mischa Zverev told The Associated Press last week in Brisbane. 'I think it was funny timing. ... Like the day before the Oscars, they're going to bring something up to make somebody not win it, or win it.' Since then, tennis leaders have gone into overdrive to restore confidence in the sport. An independent panel was created to review the TIU, the internal body tasked with combating corruption, and authorities promised to implement all of its recommendations when it is completed this spring. The TIU also took separate steps to strengthen its monitoring and investigation efforts, develop new anti-corruption education programs for players, and improve the transparency of its operations. In an email statement to The AP, the agency said nine players and officials were sanctioned last year for match-fixing — the most for a single year since the unit was established in 2008. Several were banned for life, including a young South African player and four officials from Turkey and Uzbekistan. The unit also expanded its outreach efforts with betting operators and regulators, leading to increased reporting of suspicious wagers. In 2016, the TIU received 292 betting alerts — an 18 percent increase over the previous year. The vast majority of those came from the Challenger and Futures circuits on the men's tour, considered the most at-risk for match-fixing given the lower likelihood of detection and the smaller earnings of the players. However, the TIU said three alerts were generated at Grand Slam events, as well. The agency was quick to note, though, that an alert isn't necessarily proof of match-fixing. Of the more than 114,000 matches played last year on the professional tours, only 0.2 percent triggered a suspicious betting alert. 'Tennis was one of the first major sports to recognize the potential threat of betting-related corruption and do something about it,' the TIU said. 'It will be for the independent review panel to take a view on the conduct and effectiveness of the unit and to put forward recommendations to improve the current structure and approach.' Whatever the investigators recommend, the fact remains the TIU faces an uphill battle. Technology has shifted the gambling landscape in such a way, it's increasingly difficult for monitors to keep up. In tennis, wagers aren't just placed on who wins or loses; bets can be placed during matches in real time on everything from total points won in a game to whether a set goes to a tiebreak. 'We're talking individual player activities here,' said Hans Westerbeek, dean of the College of Sport and Exercise Science at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. 'It's much easier to get into a situation where you approach individual players to do things that can be, if done well, quite well hidden from it being suspicious.' He likens it to the ongoing battle against performance-enhancing drugs. 'You're always struggling to keep up with the innovations that a better-resourced front of gambling operators, legal or illegal, will have available to advance their technology.' Ryan Rodenberg, an associate professor of forensic sports law analytics at Florida State University, says this is one reason a more sophisticated approach is critically needed. He recommends an internal monitoring system that analyzes each match for suspicious activity in real time, rather than relying solely on betting alerts. 'A robust betting data-monitoring operation would have both in-house capabilities and a number of collaborative information sharing agreements with third parties such as sportsbooks, private monitoring firms or academics,' he said. 'Anything less is sub-optimal.' With a limited budget of just $3.23 million for 2017, however, there is only so much the TIU can do. As such, preventative measures such as education have become a priority. More than 25,000 players and officials have completed the TIU's online anti-corruption training program, and a new version will be launched that players will be required to complete every two years. 'Educating players who are up-and-coming and those who support those players is a very good, positive and necessary thing to do,' Westerbeek says. 'Because the root of the problem is ... people not really (understanding) they're engaging in criminal activity.' ___ AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this report. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

Klopp's decision to field youngest ever side backfires

br /> JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer   Juergen Klopp's decision to field Liverpool's youngest ever team backfired Sunday as the Premier League title contender was held 0-0 at home by fourth-tier Plymouth in the third round of the FA Cup. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino also made sweeping changes, and was made to sweat as his side left it late to beat second-tier Aston Villa 2-0. Chelsea had an easier time, sweeping aside third-tier Peterborough 4-1, with Spanish forward Pedro scoring twice. With games coming thick and fast during the festive season and a midweek trip to Southampton looming in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals, Klopp made 10 changes from the team that drew 2-2 with Sunderland on Monday. But instead of keeping players rested for other competitions, the Liverpool manager now faces an unwanted replay at Plymouth. 'It's my responsibility, the whole thing, the lineup and performance. We could have done better,' Klopp said. 'If you want to see it (the result) in a bad way then I am 100 percent responsible, I have no problem with that.' Liverpool is in second place in the Premier League and well positioned to challenge for the title. Plymouth is second, too, but in the far less glamorous League Two. Despite this it still seemed a risky move by Klopp to select a team with an average age of 21 years, 296 days. 'There is a long season still to go and we need to change,' Klopp said. 'If you make that many changes, it doesn't make it easier for the boys.' The 17-year-old Ben Woodburn — Liverpool's youngest-ever scorer — made his full debut alongside 19-year-olds Ovie Ejaria and Sheyi Ojo in a three-man attacking midfield supporting lone striker Divock Origi. Trent Alexander-Arnold made only his second Liverpool start. Attacking midfielder Adam Lallana, forward Roberto Firmino and England striker Daniel Sturridge were on the bench. Woodburn and Ojo went close early on as Liverpool dominated. But for all of its possession, Liverpool struggled to create further chances. 'We started well but then we lost patience too early,' Klopp said. Klopp brought on Sturridge shortly after the hour mark, and he went close almost immediately with a low shot past the right post. Sturridge then clipped another shot narrowly wide as Liverpool continued to push forward. But even with the introduction of Lallana and Firmino late on — and six minutes of injury time — the winner never came. There were no such frustrations at Stamford Bridge, with Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi and Brazil midfielder Willian getting the other goals. Defender Ben Davies put Tottenham ahead and South Korea forward Son Heung-min scored for Tottenham in the last 20 minutes, while Middlesbrough eased past second-tier Sheffield Wednesday 3-0. Also, 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon scored Fulham's winner in a 2-1 win at Cardiff — a match pitting teams from the second-tier Championship. Defending champion Manchester United crushed Championship side Reading 4-0 on Saturday, but Premier League Bournemouth, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke lost to lower-league opponents, while Arsenal needed a late winner against Preston to reach the fourth round. ___ CHELSEA 4, PETERBOROUGH 1 Striker Michy Batshuayi got a rare start and welcome goal for his club while Spanish forward Pedro made it three in three games. After Pedro put Chelsea ahead in the 18th minute, Batshuayi made it 2-0 shortly before halftime. Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek expertly cushioned a cross from the right into Batshuayi's path, and he drilled in a low shot into the bottom corner for his fourth goal of the season. Since joining from French club Marseille for a reported fee of 33 million pounds (around $40 million), Batshuayi has struggled to get games and he had not scored since netting twice in the League Cup on Aug. 23. Pedro set up Willian's goal in the 53rd for 3-0 and — after John Terry was shown a straight red card for hauling back Lee Angol — forward Tom Nichols scored for the visitors. With 15 minutes left, Pedro's curling shot completed a comfortable win. ___ TOTTENHAM 2, ASTON VILLA 0 Defender Ben Davies' first goal for the club was a timely one after second-tier Aston Villa frustrated the home side. Mauricio Pochettino made nine changes from the Tottenham side that beat Chelsea 2-0 in the Premier League on Wednesday and fans at White Hart Lane had to wait until Davies headed home in the 71st minute. South Korea forward Son Heung-min turned in a cross from France midfielder Moussa Sissoko with 10 minutes left. ___ MIDDLESBROUGH 3, SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 0 Central midfielder Grant Leadbitter put the Premier League side ahead with a free kick in the 58th minute, and Spanish forward Alvaro Negredo showed his alertness to make it 2-0 shortly after. Negredo charged down goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith's attempted clearance, and the ball went off Negredo and into the net. Dutch midfielder Marten de Roon wrapped up the win against the Championship side in injury time. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Tottenham beats Chelsea 2-0 to end 13-match EPL winning run

br /> ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer   LONDON (AP) — Dele Alli underlined his growing reputation by single-handedly ending Chelsea's 13-match winning run Wednesday, scoring two headed goals to give Tottenham a 2-0 victory over the Premier League leaders. The defense has been the bedrock of Chelsea's three-month hot streak but Alli was gifted space to score carbon copy goals in each half at White Hart Lane after meeting crosses from Christian Eriksen. By taking his tally to seven goals in four games, the 20-year-old Alli inflicted Chelsea's first loss since its last trip to north London at Arsenal in September and prevented the Blues from earning a league record 14th successive win in a single season. 'This league is very tough,' Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. 'Now it's important to restart. After 13 wins in a row it's difficult to accept defeat.' Chelsea still leads Liverpool by five points but Tottenham is now only seven points behind in third after a fifth successive victory. 'It's a big statement for us but we are happy to stay under the radar,' said Alli, whose team's hopes of a first title since 1961 were ended by Chelsea last season. Conte established the winning run that sent Chelsea to the summit after switching to a three-man defense to stem the tide of goals in a 3-0 first half collapse at Arsenal. But the defense is now leaking goals, conceding four in the last two matches after only letting in two in the previous 12 fixtures. Tottenham matched Chelsea's formation and restricted Conte's side to few chances, while proving more cohesive and solid at the back to frustrate the visitors' forward line. 'I didn't get on the ball as much as I would have liked to,' Alli said. The midfielder didn't need to. Alli was described on the eve of the game by manager Mauricio Pochettino as the 'most important player to emerge in English football in recent years.' Signed from third-tier club MK Dons two years ago for 5 million pounds (then $8 million), Alli lived up to his manager's exalted praise with his mastery of the attacking spaces. While Chelsea was looking more likely to score on the counterattack in the first half, Tottenham used a break to devastating effect on the stroke of halftime with Alli making the breakthrough. Kyle Walker teed up Eriksen and as the cross was floated into the penalty area, Alli was left unmarked between Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta to coolly nod past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. It was an assertive start to the second half by Chelsea, but Tottenham preserved its lead. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris blocked a low shot from Diego Costa, Eden Hazard's low header was off target and Moses' penalty appeals were dismissed when he was clipped by Mousa Dembele. Spurs then punished Chelsea's porous defending again in the 54th minute with a replica of the opener. Walker did the running down the right flank before laying the ball off for Eriksen. The Danish international picked out Alli between Moses and Azpilicueta, and the midfielder found the target with this header. 'We were short of the levels we set ourselves, for whatever reason that may be, a few misplaced passes and not moving the ball as quick as we have been,' Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. 'They are a top quality opposition and we got punished for being short.' Chelsea's plight in the derby was summed up in the first half by the team's top scorer, Costa, engaging in an on-pitch row with Pedro Rodriguez for several minutes. It followed Pedro's failure to run into space in front of goal to meet a pass from Costa when the score was still 0-0. 'It is normal disappointment,' Conte said. 'It was a good chance for us and we wasted it.' ___ Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Patriots clinch home-field advantage

The Associated Press br /> MIAMI GARDENS, Florida (AP) — Tom Brady threw for 276 yards and three scores Sunday as the Patriots clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating the Dolphins 35-14. New England took a 20-0 lead in the first half, and turned away Miami's comeback bid with the help of a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Julian Edelman and a 69-yard fumble return by linebacker Shea McClellin. The Patriots (14-2), already assured of a first-round bye, became the ninth team since 1972 to go undefeated on the road during the regular season. The Dolphins (10-6), beaten for only the second time in the past 11 games, had already earned an AFC wild-card berth. They play their first postseason game since 2008 next weekend at Pittsburgh. STEELERS 27, BROWNS 24 PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steelers backups assured the Browns of the top pick in the 2017 draft. Landry Jones hit Cobi Hamilton with a 26-yard touchdown with 2:57 left in overtime. The Browns took a lead on Cody Parkey's 34-yard field goal with 7:17 remaining in the extra session. Jones, who started while the playoff-bound Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger, took the Steelers 75 yards in nine plays. The last was a pretty lob to the end zone that Hamilton hauled in to give Pittsburgh (11-5) its seventh straight victory. Jones finished with 277 yards passing and three touchdowns and one interception. Isaiah Crowell ran for a career-high 152 yards for the Browns (1-15), who finished with the worst record in franchise history. JETS 30, BILLS 10 EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes in what was likely his final game for the Jets. Despite a 5-11 record, the Jets are making no changes in leadership, meaning both coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan will remain with the team next season. Bowles is 15-17 in his two-year tenure with New York, which hired him in January 2015 after firing Rex Ryan. Maccagnan is also in his second season with the Jets, and had also been criticized for the team's roster, which likely faces an overhaul this offseason. The Bills (7-9) also face some uncertainty this offseason after firing Ryan earlier in the week and elevating offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to the interim role. Two other people with direct knowledge of the situation told the AP before the game that Lynn is the clear favorite to take over the job permanently. TITANS 24, TEXANS 17 NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A concussion that sidelined quarterback Tom Savage could have the biggest impact coming out of the Texans' loss. Savage started for the AFC South champions, left in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and was cleared. He took a snap to kneel down on the final play of the first half and was diagnosed with a concussion after being re-evaluated at halftime. That left Brock Osweiler, benched for Savage last month, running the offense. He threw for 253 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a 1-yard TD on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter. Houston (9-7) will host Oakland next weekend, possibly with uncertainty at quarterback. DaQuan Jones recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter and the Titans never trailed to finish with their first winning season since 2011. EAGLES 27, COWBOYS 13 PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Tony Romo threw his first touchdown pass in nearly 14 months as the playoff-bound Cowboys played it safe. The Cowboys (13-3) had already locked up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs so Dak Prescott played only two series and Ezekiel Elliott watched from the sideline. Carson Wentz tossed two TD passes to Zach Ertz to help Philadelphia finish with a two-game winning streak. Prescott was 4 for 8 for 37 yards before giving way to Romo, who hadn't played in a regular-season game since Thanksgiving 2015 when he broke his left collarbone for the second time in less than three months. Romo broke a bone in his back in the third preseason game against Seattle this season, paving the way for Prescott to have one of the best years by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. BUCCANEERS 17, PANTHERS 16 TAMPA, Florida (AP) — Jameis Winston threw for 202 yards and one touchdown as the Buccaneers broke up Cam Newton's 2-point conversion throw in the closing seconds for their first winning season in six years. Winston threw a 10-yard pass to Mike Evans to snap a fourth-quarter tie and became the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. But the Bucs (9-7) were eliminated from playoff contention, not getting the help they needed in other games for their first berth since 2007. Winston's franchise record-setting 28th TD pass put the Bucs ahead 17-10 with 3:10 remaining. Newton, however, moved the Panthers (6-10) right down the field, with help of a 47-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin and two fourth-down completions to set up a 5-yard scoring pass to trim Carolina's deficit to one with 17 seconds left. VIKINGS 38, BEARS 10 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Bradford concluded his first season with Minnesota with three first-half touchdown passes. Bradford went 25 for 33 for 250 yards and one interception, finishing with a 71.6 percent completion rate to set an NFL single-season record. Kyle Rudolph caught 11 passes for 117 yards and a score for the Vikings (8-8), who started 5-0 before stumbling out of their bye week and never recovering. The Bears (3-13) wound up with their fewest wins in a non-strike year since 1973 after turning the ball over five times. Everson Griffen returned one of their three lost fumbles for a touchdown. 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