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Barcelona wins at Eibar 2-0 before trip to Chelsea in CL

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi looks ready for London. Barcelona's star helped to set up two goals to beat 10-man Eibar 2-0 on Saturday as the Spanish leaders warmed up for their visit to Chelsea in the Champions League. Barcelona broke its mini-slump of back-to-back draws to remain unbeaten through 24 rounds and extend its advantage over second-place Atletico Madrid to 10 points. Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the opening leg of the round of 16. "We will head to the match with confidence," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said about Chelsea. "We are having a good season, but that won't mean anything now. We are facing a tie against a great team that won its league last season. We know it will be difficult and that we have to play smart for 180 minutes." Eibar showed why it is one of the surprises of the season in Spain by taking the initiative first at Barcelona. But a moment of brilliance by Messi was all it took to swing the match Barcelona's way. Messi's weight-perfect pass threaded past three defenders left Luis Suarez all alone in the 16th minute. Suarez used a feint to bring goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic to the turf before netting his 17th goal in the competition. Only Messi, with 20, has more. Messi played a big part in Jordi Alba's goal in the 88th, when he forced a save from Dmitrovic and Alba was free to finish it off. Suarez's goal came against the flow of the match. Pressing up the pitch and setting a fast pace, Eibar forwards Fabian Orellana, Takashi Inui and midfielder Joan Jordan threatened the visitors. Orellana damaged his team's chances of a comeback when he earned bookings in the 57th and 66th. The first card was for a a needless tackle that cut down Andres Iniesta. Orellana compounded that mistake when he batted a ball into the air with play stopped and the referee waiting for Eibar to return the ball to Barcelona to take a free kick. Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar was also sent off minutes later for protesting when the referee did not book Suarez for lightly kicking the ball after play stopped for an offside call. Despite playing a man down, Eibar still managed to make Barcelona work. Inui had two attempts that required saves from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until Alba secured the three points. "Losing a player hurt them. It came at a moment when the game was tightly contested," Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde said. "It was important to win after the past two matches and knowing how difficult it would be against an Eibar that is having a great season." The loss was only the second for Eibar in its last 13 matches. It remained in seventh place. Atletico hosts Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. ___ SEVILLA AWAITS UNITED Sevilla also won before its Champions League meeting with Manchester United, beating Las Palmas 2-1 in the Canary Islands to move into fifth place. Sevilla hosts United on Wednesday to start their Champions League final-16 tie. ___ LATE TURNAROUND Valencia scored two late goals to snatch a 2-1 win at bottom side Malaga, which was left seven points from safety. Dani Parejo hit the winner with five minutes remaining when he converted a penalty kick after Ignasi Miguel earned a direct red card for pulling down Rodrigo Moreno with only the goalie to beat. Valencia, in third place, moved four points clear of Real Madrid before it visits Real Betis on Sunday. ___ DEPRESSED DEPORTIVO Deportivo lost its second straight match under new coach Clarence Seedorf after falling at Alaves 1-0. Deportivo remained in the relegation zone as its winless streak reached nine rounds......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnFeb 18th, 2018

Chelsea looks for another good showing at Camp Nou

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Few teams have caused as much trouble for Barcelona as Chelsea since Lionel Messi started playing with the Spanish club almost 15 years ago. Barcelona has been dominant with Messi against nearly every opponent it has faced in Europe. But not against Chelsea. The English club is even used to doing well against Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium, where the teams will meet Wednesday in the second leg of their last-16 series in the Champions League. Chelsea is unbeaten against Barcelona in eight matches, with four straight draws at Camp Nou. Barcelona earned a 1-1 draw in the first match in England thanks to a late away goal by Messi, who had never scored against the Premier League club. "It will be a hard match just like in the away leg," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "They have a strong team that defends well in a block and has a great counterattack. We will struggle." Barcelona has been thriving again this season. Its only loss came against Real Madrid in its first match of the season in the Spanish Super Cup final. It has won 18 of its last 20 home matches since then, with two draws — 2-2 against Celta Vigo and 0-0 against Getafe in the Spanish league. "We have to show great resilience," Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said. "We are playing against one of the best teams in the world. We must pay great attention and have the same focus and concentration of the first leg." This is the first time Chelsea and Barcelona are facing each other in the Champions League since the semifinals in 2012, when the English club advanced 3-2 on aggregate after securing an astonishing 2-2 draw in the second leg at Camp Nou, after trailing 2-0 with 10 men for most of the match. Chelsea also drew at Camp Nou in the Champions League semifinals in 2009, as well as in the group stage of the 2006-07 season and the round of 16 a year earlier. Chelsea is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014, when eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the semis. Barcelona is looking to reach the last eight for a record 11th straight time. The Spanish league leaders are coming off a 2-0 win at last-place Malaga on Saturday, when Messi didn't play because of the birth of his third son, Ciro. It remains unclear if Valverde will be able to count on midfielder Andres Iniesta on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. Here's a look at the other matches this week: ___ MAN UNITED-SEVILLA Jose Mourinho may be faced with a dilemma when Manchester United hosts Sevilla on Tuesday. With Paul Pogba ruled out of United's Premier League victory over Liverpool on Saturday, Mourinho's side finally managed to find the balance it has been lacking in recent weeks. If the France midfielder is available, Mourinho would have to drop Juan Mata or 21-year-old Scott McTominay to make room for him. United, which drew the first leg 0-0 in Seville, is trying to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013-14. "The next game is very important for us, maybe the most important game of the season," United midfielder Nemanja Matic said. Sevilla is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time. ___ ROMA-SHAKHTAR Roma will be hoping it has turned its poor home form around when it hosts Shakhtar Donetsk needing to overturn a 2-1 defeat. Roma beat Torino 3-0 on Friday for what was only its second win at Stadio Olimpico since mid-December. "Mentally, the lads felt a bit of pressure because we hadn't won at the Olimpico for a while — and I could see that," Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. "Today's win shows that we've cleared the hurdle now." ___ BESIKTAS-BAYERN Besiktas is dreaming of becoming the first team to overturn a five-goal deficit in the UEFA competition when it hosts Bayern Munich on Wednesday, although restoring its pride will likely be enough after a chastening 5-0 first-leg defeat in Munich. The Turkish champion, playing in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time, is hoping to extend its 12-game unbeaten run at home in European competitions. Bayern has made it to the Champions League quarterfinals six years in a row, but hasn't won the title since coach Jupp Heynckes' previous stint in 2013, when he led the side to a treble. It warmed up for its trip to Istanbul with a 6-0 rout of Hamburger SV on Saturday. "You can never hide in football, you can never take it easy," said Heynckes, who has 25 wins and just one defeat in 27 games across all competitions since returning to Bayern. ___ Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey, Daniella Matar and Sam Johnston contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 12th, 2018

Belgium, team of tomorrow, hopes to finally win now

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Belgium is the team of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. De Rode Duivels, as the Red Devils are known, have been playing for 114 years and remain in search of their first major title. A polyglot known for waffles, chocolate and beer, the nation of 11 million hopes for soccer to join the national identity, boosted by a golden generation that includes Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bryune. Belief is growing. Philippe, King of the Belgians, was on hand wearing a bright red tie and team scarf. "Belgium is a small country, you know? So we're very happy that we have this kind of talent," defender Toby Alderweireld said after Saturday's 5-2 rout of Tunisia all but clinched a round-of-16 World Cup berth. "Hopefully we can do something special." Lukaku tied Cristiano Ronaldo for the tournament lead with four goals, becoming the first with consecutive two-goal games in the World Cup since Diego Maradona and Gary Lineker in 1986. Hazard also scored twice , and Michy Batshuayi added a 90th-minute goal after failing to convert a trio of prime chances. Belgium opened with a 3-0 victory over Panama and has an 8-2 goal difference. Ranked third in the world behind defending champion Germany and Brazil, the Red Devils have become a chic choice to join the exclusive club of eight World Cup winners: Brazil (five), Germany and Italy (four), Argentina and Uruguay (two), and England, France and Spain (one). "Belgium was not the favorite because of the history of the country — and especially the history of the other countries," said former Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, now a Fox analyst. "They're growing. Also, they're playing with important team spirit. So for me, it's not really a big surprise what they're doing at the moment." Training is conducted in English under Spanish coach Roberto Martinez, who spent a decade managing in England. Postgame interviews sound like a corridor at European Union headquarters in Brussels, with players alternating among English, French, Dutch and Spanish. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has picked up a Scouse accent after five seasons with Liverpool. Seventeen of the 23 players were on Champions League clubs last season, a glamorous group that includes Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. "That gives them the confidence and the experience to play at the highest level. That is what a World Cup is about," Mignolet said. "For us, it's now the third tournament in a row where we play, which gives you the experience, so nobody's really fussed about the occasion anymore. Maybe the two tournaments were a bit different where we arrived and we were thinking about what was going to happen. Everything was new." After completing the group stage against England on Thursday, Belgium would face Colombia, Poland, Senegal or Japan in the second round, and then could have a possible quarterfinal against Germany, Brazil or Mexico. Since losing their first match under Martinez to Spain two years ago, Belgium is unbeaten in 21 games (16 wins) and has outscored opponents 72-17 during the run. But while outscoring Panama and Tunisia by 8-2, the defense and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois looked like they could be exploited by better opposition. "Today what I saw is a team that it was prepared to suffer, prepared to work for each other, and we look well-balanced in that respect," Martinez said. "So when you've got that, then the individuals can show their talent." Lukaku has 15 goals in his last 10 international matches but left in the 59th minute after injuring an ankle ligament. Hazard came off nine minutes later with a calf problem, and forward Dries Mertens came out in the 86th after an ankle issue. Belgium came closest to a title at the 1980 European Championship, losing 2-1 to a German team that got a pair of goals from Horst Hrubesch. It has reached semifinals twice at major events, losing 2-1 to West Germany at the 1972 Euros and to Maradona's Argentina at the 1986 World Cup. After missing two straight World Cups, the Red Devils returned four years ago, beat the U.S. in extra time in the round of 16, then lost to Argentina in the quarters. At the 2016 Euros, they wasted an early lead in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Wales. Given the past and the sound and fury that would follow any misstep, Martinez wants to manage expectations. "To be a favorite in a World Cup, you need to have the know-how of winning a World Cup," he said. "The World Cup is something that probably gives you an advantage psychologically when you've won it before.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 24th, 2018

Atletico celebrates Europa League title on streets of Madrid

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Thousands of fans lined the streets to salute Atletico Madrid players as they paraded through the Spanish capital Friday to celebrate the team's Europa League triumph. Players, coaches and club officials met with the city mayor and the community president before parading through some of the city's main roads and plazas on an open bus. They ended the night on the Fountain of Neptune — the club's traditional celebration spot — where a stage and large screens were set up to welcome the players. Each team member was introduced to loud chants from the crowd packing the plaza, and the team's captain Gabi and other players draped an Atletico scarf around the Neptune statue. Antoine Griezmann heard fans and his teammates call for him to stay at the club for another season. Griezmann, who scored twice in the team's 3-0 win over Marseille on Wednesday, is rumored to be on his way out of Atletico. Barcelona is reportedly interested in signing the France forward. Fernando Torres, one of the club's greatest idols, is definitely leaving at the end of the season. The veteran forward received some of the loudest cheers from the crowd, along with popular coach Diego Simeone. "I've won a lot of things in my career, but without a doubt this is the best one," said the 34-year-old Torres, who won a Champions League trophy with Chelsea plus two European Championships and a World Cup with Spain. "I remember when I was an 11-year-old and I was here as a fan celebrating the team's double in 1996. At the time I had a dream of one day being here where I am right now. To all kids who have a dream, nothing is impossible, especially if you are an Atletico fan." Atletico president Enrique Cerezo, in a speech after meeting with local officials, proudly foresaw Atletico "playing the Champions League final in our stadium" next year. The final will be held at the club's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. "We want to be back here in a year celebrating the title," he said. Atletico was eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League this year after having lost two finals to city rival Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016. Atletico needs a home draw against Eibar on Sunday to secure second place in the Spanish league, behind champion Barcelona. Atletico's women's team, which won the Spanish league, paraded along with the men's team. Thousands of Atletico fans had already packed the Fountain of Neptune plaza shortly after the team won its third Europa League title......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Germany gets reality check before defense

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Germany coasted through World Cup qualifying with 10 wins out of 10 and a European record 43 goals before getting a reality check. The World Cup holders haven't won any matches since qualifying for Russia. After drawing friendlies against England, France and Spain, Joachim Loew's team lost 1-0 to Brazil to end a 22-game unbeaten run. Becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend their World Cup title now looks even trickier for the Germans. "We're not as good as we're made out to be, or as some think we are," midfielder Toni Kroos said. "There's huge room for improvement." The recent slump in friendly matches could be a blessing in disguise if it eradicates any complacency going into the World Cup. "I'm not worried. In 2014 and 2010 we also lost in March," Loew said. "You can be sure that we'll improve." The first task for Loew's side will be to top Group F to avoid a likely second-round clash against Brazil. Here's a closer look at the Germany team: COACH Loew was assistant coach to Juergen Klinsmann during Germany's "summer fairytale" hosting of the 2006 World Cup and was promoted to the top job after its third-place finish. Loew favors a fast-paced possession-based game, pressing opponents to recover the ball and switching quickly from defense to attack. He has overseen steady progress since taking over, reaching the final of the 2008 European Championship, claiming third place at the 2010 World Cup and reaching the semifinals at Euro 2012 before finally winning a title in convincing fashion at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A disappointing semifinal exit to France at Euro 2016 followed, but Loew laid the groundwork for a successful World Cup title defense by winning the Confederations Cup with a young team of promising talent last year in Russia. Loew hasn't been afraid to test young talent, and Germany's strength in depth means one of his hardest tasks is leaving players out of the 23-man squad. Loew also has the unfortunate tendency to find himself in the headlines for other reasons. The 58-year-old has previously apologized after being caught on camera picking his nose or in other compromising positions during games. GOALKEEPERS The biggest concern is captain Manuel Neuer's fitness. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper sustained a repeat of the hairline metatarsal fracture in his left foot while training last September and hasn't played since. Marc-Andre ter Stegen could well establish himself as the No. 1 with doubts over Neuer's fitness. The Barcelona goalkeeper has overcome a shaky start to his international career and helped Germany win the Confederations Cup. Bernd Leno of Bayer Leverkusen and Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain are also options, while Sven Ulreich has been filling in impressively for Neuer at Bayern. DEFENDERS Bayern defender Jerome Boateng faces a race to be fit with a thigh injury sustained in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid in April. Bayern teammate Niklas Suele would be an able replacement to partner Mats Hummels in the center. Another Bayern player, Joshua Kimmich, has emerged to soften the blow of Philipp Lahm's retirement at right back. The modest Jonas Hector will likely keep his place on the left despite Cologne's relegation. MIDFIELDERS Toni Kroos will be among the first names on Loew's team sheet. The Real Madrid midfielder is the driving force behind the side. He will likely be partnered by Juventus' Sami Khedira, who provides more of a defensive presence, with Mesut Ozil in front, flanked on either side by Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus — if the latter proves his fitness. Reus has been unlucky with injuries and has only recently returned to shine again for Dortmund. But Germany has a wealth of options in midfield, with Ilkay Gundogan, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt all providing ample backup options. FORWARDS Timo Werner seems sure of his place after another good season for Leipzig, albeit with most of his goals in the first half of the campaign. The 22-year-old Werner has seven goals in 12 international appearances, but it's his runs into space and the problems he causes defenders that benefit the team. Loew will likely bring one of Mario Gomez or Sandro Wagner as a more experienced option for Werner, while Mario Goetze is another option to play up front if he gets recalled following a disappointing season for Dortmund. Goetze scored the winning goal for Germany to beat Argentina in the 2014 final. GROUP GAMES Germany kicks off its title defense near its tournament base in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium against Mexico on June 17. The side then faces a long trip south to Sochi for its second game against Sweden on June 23, before wrapping up Group F against South Korea in Kazan four days later......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Argentina s destiny tied to Messi

By Debora Rey, Associated Press BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Without Lionel Messi, would Argentina even be going to the World Cup? The team’s destiny is more closely tied to the Barcelona forward than ever before. There are plenty of doubts for coach Jorge Sampaoli ahead of the tournament in Russia. Defender Javier Mascherano is reaching the end of his career, while striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Biglia both experienced injury problems recently. Paulo Dybala is yet to deliver for his country despite all the promise on display at Juventus. Much of the squad also carries the burden of mass disappointment, following three successive losses in finals: the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America Centenario. Argentina secured its spot in Russia in the last round of South American qualifiers thanks to Messi’s hat trick against Ecuador. The deficiencies in the team were underscored in a 6-1 loss to Spain in a friendly in March. Here’s a closer look at the Argentina team: COACH The 58-year-old Sampaoli took over in June 2017 to replace Edgardo Bauza when Argentina was on the verge of missing a World Cup spot. Sampaoli was never a footballer and didn’t manage a first division club at home, developing his career in Peru and then Chile. His success at Universidad de Chile pushed him to the Chilean national team in 2012. At the 2014 World Cup, Sampaoli’s Chile reached the round of 16 but lost to host Brazil on penalties. But a year later, Chile won its first-ever title while hosting the Copa America. Sampaoli’s first experience in European football came with Sevilla in 2016, but he quickly left to carry Argentina to the World Cup in its last four games of the South American qualifiers. Drawing inspiration from Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli likes his teams to attack as a block to impose their superiority. But Argentina is still to implement his style after 10 matches. GOALKEEPERS Sergio Romero was set to be Argentina’s No. 1 in his third World Cup. But River Plate’s Franco Armani has become a competitor. Although Romero has World Cup experience, being David de Gea’s understudy at Manchester United hasn’t given him much playing time. Armani has not played for Argentina, but is now a people’s favorite at home. The team’s other options are Nahuel Guzman (Tigres, Mexico) and Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea). DEFENDERS Manchester City center back Nicolas Otamendi is the only player assured of a spot in the backline, with a likely partner in Roma’s Federico Fazio. Marcos Rojo (Manchester United) and Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton) are still improving after being sidelined with knee injuries. Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla) and Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisboa) are ahead in the preferences to be on the right and left flanks, respectively, with Fabricio Bustos (Independiente) and Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax) behind. MIDFIELDERS Until the dismal loss to Spain, Sampaoli’s preferred option in the center was Lucas Biglia, but the AC Milan player will be racing to be fit for the World Cup after injuring his back. Biglia’s injury raises the stakes for veteran Javier Mascherano, who will go to his fourth World Cup at the age of 33. The lack of better options should present opportunities to Ever Banega (Sevilla) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham). Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente) and Matias Kranevitter (Zenit) could also feature. FORWARDS Expect Messi and Angel Di Maria to make the team sheet. Aguero is expected to be center forward, but Sampaoli has to consider other options since the Manchester City forward injured his knee. Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain is an option, but he was wasteful in the three finals Argentina lost. Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi could make it to the squad due to the doubts over Aguero. Juventus’ Dybala has never recovered from saying it was hard for him to play with the best player in the world. Sampaoli now considers him as a natural replacement for Messi or a potential No. 9. GROUP GAMES Based in the Moscow region, Argentina opens its Group D campaign in the capital against Iceland on June 16. Then there’s a trip to Nizhny Novgorod to play Croatia on June 21, followed by a meeting with Nigeria in St. Petersburg on June 26......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 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

Goals dry up for Man United as Man City delivers masterclass

em>By Steve Douglas, Associated Press /em> LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — The goals finally dried up for Manchester United in the English Premier League. They are flowing more than ever at title rival Manchester City. Hours after United's cautious approach eked out its latest 0-0 draw at Liverpool on Saturday, City produced an attacking masterclass in a 7-2 home win over Stoke — the biggest victory in the league this season. The standard of opponent was vastly different but it was hard to escape the contrast between the top two teams, who many are tipping to be vying for the title. After eight rounds, the Manchester rivals remain unbeaten but City has taken the outright lead for the first time by two points from its neighbor. City is setting new standards in attacking play: Its goal tally of 29 is the most by a team in the first eight league games of a top-flight season in 123 years, since Everton scored 30 in 1894. Before its trip to Anfield, United had 21 goals from seven games. There was finally something to celebrate for Crystal Palace, which registered its first points and goals of the season in a surprise 2-1 win over Chelsea. With Chelsea losing for the second straight game, third-placed Tottenham leads the chase to the Manchester clubs after beating Bournemouth 1-0 for a first league win at its temporary home of Wembley Stadium in four attempts. Arsenal conceded in injury time to lose 2-1 at Watford. Here's a look at Saturday's action: strong>HISTORY REPEATED /strong> Twelve months after a 0-0 draw in what has traditionally been regarded as the biggest fixture in English soccer, Liverpool and Man United played out another goalless draw at Anfield. Afterward, coaches Juergen Klopp and Jose Mourinho launched a defense of their respective footballing philosophies, aiming little digs at each other and claiming private victories. The loser was a global audience that expects more quality from England's most decorated and illustrious clubs. United defended in numbers and had goalkeeper David De Gea to thank for preserving a point in the game's most significant incident, the Spain goalkeeper sticking out his left boot to keep out Joel Matip's effort from point-blank range. Liverpool controlled possession but couldn't pierce the wall of white United jerseys set up by Mourinho, whose players carried out his game plan to the letter. strong>SLICK CITY /strong> City didn't even need top scorer Sergio Aguero in its latest attacking clinic. The Argentina striker stayed on the bench on his return to the squad after sustaining a broken rib in a car crash. He watched as City's free-scoring attack — a front three of Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, with David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne orchestrating behind them — ran amok at Etihad Stadium. On his 100th appearance for City, De Bruyne had a hand in four of the goals — including a no-look pass in one of the build-ups and a threaded ball that took out four Stoke players for Sane to score. Gabriel Jesus scored twice and Sterling, David Silva, Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva also netted for City, which has at least five goals in its last three home league games. City has won seven of its eight games. strong>RELIEF FOR PALACE /strong> 'We're Crystal Palace, we score when we want,' sang the fans as the league's bottom club found the net for the first time this season — in its eighth game. Invariably, it was an own goal, by Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta, in the 11th minute, but it sparked a surprisingly impressive display by Palace at Selhurst Park. Tiemoue Bakayoko equalized for the champions with a header from a corner in the 18th but Palace responded on the stroke of halftime through winger Wilfried Zaha, who was back in the team for the first time since getting injured on the opening weekend. Chelsea has lost back-to-back games, having been beaten by Manchester City 1-0 before the international break, and has dropped nine points behind first-place City. strong>TOTTENHAM WINS, ARSENAL LOSES /strong> After two draws and a loss at Wembley, Tottenham finally won at its new home thanks to Christian Eriksen's goal just after halftime. Harry Kane had his first game in six without a goal. In contrast to its concerning home form, Spurs have won all four away league games. They stayed five points behind City, and trimmed the gap to United to three points. Tom Cleverley scored Watford's winner against Arsenal in the second minute of injury time, completing his team's comeback from going behind to Per Mertesacaker's goal. Troy Deeney equalized from the penalty spot. In other games, Burnley came back to draw 1-1 against West Ham, which had Andy Carroll was sent off for two bookings, and Swansea beat Huddersfield 2-0. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2017

Atletico puts new stadium to the test in Champions League

A look at what's happening around the Champions League this week: ___ strong>ATLETICO'S HOME SUCCESS /strong> Atletico Madrid will try to extend its successful home streak when it makes its Champions League debut at the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Wednesday against Chelsea. It will be Atletico's third match at the venue which replaced the Vicente Calderon Stadium, where Atletico was unbeaten in its last 11 games in the European competition. Atletico has won both of its matches at the Wanda Metropolitano — 1-0 against Malaga and 2-0 against Sevilla, both in the Spanish league 'The Metropolitano has the feel of a Roman circus,' Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. Barcelona travels to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday, riding a seven-game winning streak that includes the emphatic 3-0 win over Juventus in its Champions League opener. Sporting, off to a great start in the Portuguese league, can make it two wins in a row to start its Group D campaign. On Tuesday, Sevilla will host Maribor, which is coming off its first loss of the season against Atletico Madrid. ___ strong>MOSCOW CHALLENGE /strong> The Champions League provides Russian authorities with a key test of their World Cup readiness this week, and a glimpse at the welcome fans can expect next year. Two of England's fiercest rivals, Liverpool and Manchester United, play on consecutive nights in Moscow. Liverpool is first up against Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, and CSKA Moscow plays United the following night. There isn't typically disorder when the teams — separated by about 30 miles (48 kilometers) in northwest England — meet on home soil. But since England fans were attacked by Russians at the 2016 European Championship in Marseille, concerns have heightened about hooliganism in the 2018 World Cup host nation. United and Liverpool fans have been advised by the British government not to wear club colors on the streets of Moscow and to avoid walking alone. On the pitch, United and CSKA both won their opening games in Group A. Liverpool and Spartak are chasing their first wins after starting Group E with draws. ___ strong>DORTMUND THRIVING BUT FLAWED /strong> Real Madrid heads to Germany to face on Tuesday a Borussia Dortmund side enjoying its best start to the Bundesliga. Dortmund hadn't even conceded a goal in five domestic games until Lars Stindl netted Borussia Moenchengladbach's consolation in a 6-1 rout on Saturday. While Dortmund has scored 19 goals in six league games, there is no perfection in the high pressing game. The team remains prone to lapses at the back and opponents can suddenly find themselves with wide spaces to run into behind the Dortmund defense. That happened three times alone in the first half against 'Gladbach but it didn't prove as costly as when Dortmund visited London earlier this month and lost its Group H opener against Tottenham 3-1. ___ strong>NEEDING NEYMAR /strong> A bust-up between Edinson Cavani and Neymar combined with a goalless draw at Montpellier have generated a sense of trouble at Paris Saint-Germain ahead of Bayern Munich's visit on Wednesday. Cavani and Neymar have reportedly made peace after arguing on the pitch, but PSG dropped its first points this season following a dismal performance at Montpellier that raised concerns about the side's dependence on its Brazilian star. Neymar sat out Saturday's game because of a toe injury and his absence was obvious. Facing a very defensive side which closed spaces efficiently, PSG did not find a way to break the deadlock in a 4-3-3 system that lacked rhythm and creativity. 'We need to push more in order to score goals,' PSG coach Unai Emery said. 'This match leaves us with a lot of things to analyze in order to continue our progression.' Neymar is expected to return for the Bayern game in Group B. ___ strong>ROMA'S NEGATIVE STREAK /strong> Roma will be hopeful of ending a woeful away record in the Champions League when it travels to Azerbaijan for the first time, to play Qarabag on Wednesday. Including qualifying, Roma has won only one of its past 13 matches on its travels in Europe's elite competition, with that sole victory coming against Basel in 2009. But coach Eusebio Di Francesco will be hopeful of success against Qarabag, which lost 6-0 at Chelsea in the last round. He will again look to an in-form Edin Dzeko, who netted his fifth goal in three matches in Saturday's 3-1 win over Udinese. Stephan El Shaarawy scored twice in that match and Di Francesco has described him as 'the ideal attacker' for his preferred 4-3-3 formation, which he hopes will boost Roma in Europe as well as domestically. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 25th, 2017

Barcelona gets 6th win in 6 rounds, Atletico beats Sevilla

JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press br /> BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Girona succeeded in stopping Barcelona star Lionel Messi from scoring. If only it could have avoided its own net as well. Barcelona made it six wins in as many games in the Spanish league on Saturday when it won 3-0 at Girona thanks to a pair of own goals by the hosts. Barcelona went head in the Catalan regional derby when Girona defender Aday Benitez deflected Jordi Alba's off-target shot back into his net in the 17th minute. Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Aleix Vidal helped provoke a second goal three minutes after halftime, when Suarez deftly let Vidal's dangerous short pass go through his legs, hit surprised goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and turned into the net. Barcelona increased its lead of the league to four points after Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 2-0 to leapfrog the Andalucian club into second place. Sevilla is five points behind, followed by Real Madrid at seven points adrift after it won at Alaves 2-1. The decision by Girona coach Pablo Machin to man-mark Lionel Messi with Pablo Maffeo helped stop him from adding to his best ever start to a Liga. Messi scored nine goals in the first five rounds. 'I don't think that Messi was the decisive player that he usually is,' Machin said. 'We tried, but we were playing against some of the best players in the world. When you score in our own net it makes it very tough.' SUAREZ STRIKES Suarez rounded off Barcelona's victory in the 69th when he was left all alone to take Sergi Roberto's lobbed pass and beat Iraizoz. It was Suarez's second goal in six appearances this season. The Uruguay striker had been struggling this season, hampered by a right knee injury and adapting to life after the departure of attack partner Neymar. DREAM START Real Madrid turned to new midfielder Dani Ceballos to help it get back on the winning path. The midfielder made the most of his first start for Zinedine Zidane's team by scoring twice in the victory at last-place Alaves. The win came three days after Madrid lost 1-0 at home to Ceballos' former team, Real Betis. That slip combined with a pair of home draws left the defending champions trailing leader Barcelona. Ceballos received a pass from Marco Asensio, fought through a tackle, and shot just inside the post for the 10th-minute opener. Manu Garcia responded with Alaves' first goal of the season. But Ceballos put Madrid back in charge before halftime when he fired in a ball that goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco spilled when he collided with a teammate while defending a cross. Alaves almost leveled late when substitute Alfonso Pedraza twice hit the woodwork. Cristiano Ronaldo also hit the goal-frame twice in the second half as the Madrid forward seeks his first goal in the league. COSTA SPECTATES Diego Costa watched from the stands of Atletico's new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium as his soon-to-be teammates Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco scored in the second half to down Sevilla. Atletico reached a deal with Chelsea this week for Costa to return to his former club. Atletico will host Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday. MALAGA RALLIES Diego Rolan scored a double to help Malaga rally from a two-goal deficit in the final minutes and draw with visitor Athletic Bilbao 3-3. Malaga secured its first point of the season after it lost its first five matches. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

Rampant Manchester City looking more like a Guardiola team

em>By Sam Johnston, Associated Press /em> LONDON (AP) — Although it's taken a year longer than many expected, Manchester City is finally beginning to resemble a Pep Guardiola-coached team. City remained in rampant form as it ended Watford's unbeaten start to the English Premier League with a resounding 6-0 victory at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Guardiola's side has scored 15 goals in three matches since the international break, following 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Liverpool and Feyernood respectively. City stuttered to a third-place finish in Guardiola's debut season while failing to produce the stylish play of its manager's former sides, but a second straight offseason of significant personnel changes appears to be paying dividends. 'It was so good, especially after an away game in the Champions League,' Guardiola said. 'I was lucky to manage Barcelona with many outstanding performances but this week has been a lot of goals. We have found our game, we can make short passes, and we have a lot of energy from our full backs.' Sergio Aguero scored a predatory hat trick and laid on an assist for Gabriel Jesus, while Nicolas Otamendi headed in, and Raheem Sterling added a late penalty. The victory took City to the top of the table, but Manchester United can join it on Sunday with a win over Everton. Elsewhere, Liverpool failed to shake off the effects of last week's thrashing by City, letting Burnley leave Anfield with a 1-1 draw. Crystal Palace became the first club in league history to lose its opening five games without scoring. Swansea brought Tottenham back to earth in a scoreless draw at Wembley, three days after Spurs tore apart Borussia Dortmund. Newcastle made it three league wins a row by beating Stoke 3-1, Leicester and Huddersfield drew 1-1, and West Brom and West Ham played out a goalless draw. strong>AGUERO CLOSING IN /strong> Having struggled at times last season, Aguero appears to have been revitalized by his partnership with Jesus and was at his predatory best as he completed the sixth Premier League hat trick of his career. The Argentine forward is just three goals away from breaking Eric Brook's 177-goal record at Man City. 'I am very happy,' Aguero said. 'I am focused on scoring the next goal but what matters is that we won.' strong>NO MANE, MORE PROBLEMS /strong> Philippe Coutinho made his first start of the season for Liverpool after failing to force a summer move to Barcelona, but his return wasn't enough to fill the void left by the suspended Sadio Mane. Liverpool struggled at times last season without Mane and it appears little has changed. Summer recruit Mohamed Salah's tying goal secured a point for the Reds but even he can't match the brilliance of Mane, who is serving a three-match suspension after being sent off against Manchester City last weekend. Burnley has picked up away points at three of last season's top-six teams, beating Chelsea on opening day and drawing against Tottenham at Wembley. strong>ROY'S RETURN /strong> Roy Hodgson's first match in charge of Crystal Palace looked like the team's previous four matches. In a 1-0 loss to Southampton, Steven Davis' early goal proved decisive. Hodgson has been out of management since Euro 2016, where his England side was eliminated by minnows Iceland. Having become the first Premier League manager to be appointed in his 70s, Hodgson went for a return to a traditional four-man defense, but it took Southampton just six minutes to breach it. strong>WEMBLEY CURSE REMAINS /strong> Tottenham is still looking for a first domestic victory of the season at its temporary Wembley Stadium home. Harry Kane struck the crossbar in the second half but Swansea displayed great resilience to hold on for 0-0. Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs have failed to win all three league games at Wembley, where it's playing while White Hart Lane is redeveloped this season. strong>DEFENDER SCORES AGAIN /strong> Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles was an unlikely star for a second straight game as the defender headed home the winner against Stoke after Xherdan Shaqiri cancelled out Christian Atsu's opener. Newcastle beat Stoke 3-1 at St. James' Park. Also, West Brom midfielder Gareth Barry equaled Ryan Giggs' Premier League appearance record in his 632nd game.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 17th, 2017

Frayna wins, lands in top 20 in Spain

Woman Grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna downed Swedish Andreas Persson to barge into the top 20 after the eighth and penultimate round of the XX Obert Internacional Sant Marti 2018 in Barcelona, Spain Friday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated News3 hr. 29 min. ago

Miciano, Gonzales in big wins; Frayna loses

ASIAN Youth champion IM John Marvin Miciano and GM Jayson Gonzales pulled off morale-boosting victories in the sixth round to stay in contention in the XX Obert Internacional Sant Marti 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Miciano, who is hoping to redeem himself from last week’s so-so performance in Barbera del Valles,… Source link link: Miciano, Gonzales in big wins; Frayna loses.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilainformerRelated NewsJul 20th, 2018

Miciano, Gonzales in big wins; Frayna loses

ASIAN Youth champion IM John Marvin Miciano and GM Jayson Gonzales pulled off morale-boosting victories in the sixth round to stay in contention in the XX Obert Internacional Sant Marti 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Miciano, who is hoping to redeem himself from last week’s so-so performance in Barbera del Valles,….....»»

Category: newsSource:  journalRelated NewsJul 19th, 2018

Frayna in vengeful wins in Barcelona

WGM Janelle Mae Frayna is doing well in the XX Obert Internacional Sant Marti 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Frayna swept No. 58 seed Khudov Oleksandr of Ukraine in the fourth round and No. 104 IM Manish Kadam of India in the fifth round to move into a tie for 12th….....»»

Category: newsSource:  journalRelated NewsJul 18th, 2018

Chelsea fires manager Antonio Conte after 2 years in charge

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press Antonio Conte's protracted divorce from Chelsea was finalized on Friday when he was fired after a two-year tenure in which he won the English Premier League and FA Cup but failed to gain the power he craved at the London club. Chelsea began a terse, four-sentence statement on its website, "Chelsea Football Club and Antonio Conte have parted company." Leaving Stamford Bridge was always the likely outcome for Conte following a season in which Chelsea missed out on Champions League qualification after a fifth-place league finish, 30 points behind champion Manchester City. The Italian coach regularly grumbled about his failure to exert control, particularly over transfers. Contrast that to the end of his first season at the club, where Conte was feted for leading Chelsea to the league title by seven points after a record-breaking run of 13 straight wins in the middle of the season, sparked by an inspired and bold change of formation. Conte took preseason training this week at Chelsea's practice base in Cobham with players who hadn't featured at the World Cup, but reports emerged in the Italian media on Thursday saying Conte had been fired. That speculation only intensified when Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas and former Chelsea captain John Terry paid tribute to Conte on social media. "Thank you boss," Terry wrote on Twitter. "Great man, Great manager. I wish you every success in the future." The club's 64-word announcement was eventually made on Friday, ending with: "We wish Antonio every success in his future career." Conte still had a year left on a revised deal he signed last summer after delivering the fifth Premier League title since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003. Only the pay was improved, though, with Conte's contract still running for just another two seasons — hardly a show of commitment by either the club or its manager. The Italian's main gripe for the past year was Chelsea's failure to land the signings he really wanted for its Premier League title defense. Chelsea was beaten to the signing of Romelu Lukaku by Manchester United and then Fernando Llorente by Tottenham, for example. "The club decides every player," he moaned last season. Winning the FA Cup by beating Manchester United at Wembley Stadium in May — and getting one over his great managerial rival, Jose Mourinho — proved to be Conte's last hurrah and maintained his record of winning a trophy every season he has been in charge of Juventus — where he won the Serie A for four straight years — and Chelsea. Chelsea seeks a 13th permanent manager under Abramovich's ownership, and at possibly the most turbulent period of the Russian billionaire's trophy-filled reign. It emerged in May that Abramovich had yet to have his British visa renewed amid a crackdown by authorities on associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Chelsea also halted plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge, citing an unfavorable climate to invest in the 500 million pound ($665 million) project. Conte leaves amid reports in the British and Italian media that former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri will take over at Chelsea for next season. Sarri's future has been up in the air since Napoli hired Carlo Ancelotti as its new coach in May. Sarri spent three years at the club and led it to two runner-up finishes and a third place, playing an entertaining and high-energy brand of football like that seen at Man City under Pep Guardiola, Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino, and Liverpool under Juergen Klopp. Sarri didn't win a major title at Napoli, however, and that would not be tolerated at Chelsea. As Conte and many of his predecessors have learned, even winning trophies is no guarantee of job security at Chelsea under Abramovich......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018

England finally wins penalty shootout at World Cup

MOSCOW --- In a World Cup of surprises, England provided the latest by finally winning a penalty shootout. A long run of penalty misery on soccer's biggest stage ended with a 4-3 shootout victory over Colombia on Tuesday, sending England to the quarterfinals for the first time in 12 years. Eric Dier scored the decisive kick after a scrappy game ended in a 1-1 draw, denying Colombia a second consecutive trip to the quarterfinals. "It was a nervous one," Dier said. "I've never really been in a situation like that before." England will next play Sweden in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Samara. It is the furthest England has progressed in any tournament since the David Be...Keep on reading: England finally wins penalty shootout at World Cup.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 4th, 2018

2017-18 NBA season review

NBA.com staff report The 2017-18 NBA season was full of loops and sharp turns, taking fans and teams on a twisting journey that teased everyone about what might happen next. Only there was no surprise party waiting at the end of the day, just the Golden State Warriors and their brooms. The season gave us a few shakeups in the standings, some players who unexpectedly found themselves on the big stage, no nights off for LeBron James … and the best team rather predictably earned the honor of being crowned, for the third time in four seasons. The Warriors made quick work of James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, winning 4-0 in the fourth straight meeting between the teams on that stage. The sweep further certified the legacy of Kevin Durant -- who became a back-to-back winner of the Finals MVP award -- and Stephen Curry, the central figure of the Warriors’ dynasty. Other than forcing overtime in Game 1, the only silver lining for the Cavs was James scoring 51 points in that game and nearly averaging a triple-double for the series. If the end game between the Warriors and Cavs was widely projected when the season tipped off, the events that preceded it weren’t locked into place. This run from October to June took the NBA on an unexpected trip with pit stops in unexpected places. The Philadelphia 76ers won 52 games and closed with a 16-game winning streak -- two seasons after they went 10-72. The turnaround was a direct result of patience with young players who rapidly became franchise cornerstones after returning from injuries. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, both of whom missed entire seasons, made themselves household names with big performances. Embiid was an All-Star who emerged as one of the game’s best big men, while sharp playmaking skills allowed Simmons to earn Kia Rookie of the Year honors. The Boston Celtics lost newcomer Gordon Hayward for the season after he suffered a leg injury in the season opener ... and then Kyrie Irving missed the final 14 games and the playoffs with a bum knee ... and still Boston flirted with the East's best record and one win from reaching The Finals. After trading their star swingman Paul George to Oklahoma City in the offseason, the Indiana Pacers improved by six wins and pushed the Cavs to a Game 7 in the first round. Victor Oladipo, acquired in the George trade, was the catalyst of a new Pacers era and was named Kia Most Improved Player. Twice a runner-up, James Harden finally won Kia MVP honors after leading the NBA in scoring (30.4) and finishing third in assists (8.8). He teamed with Chris Paul to turn the Houston Rockets into a beast. The Rockets won a franchise-record 65 games and held off the Warriors for the top seed in the West. Paul advanced beyond the semifinals for the first time in his playoff career. Behind steady 3-point shooting and an emerging low-post center in Clint Capela, the Rockets claimed a 3-2 lead on the Warriors in the West finals. But Paul suffered a hamstring injury that benched him the rest of the series as Houston faltered in Games 6 and 7. On the injury front, New Orleans Pelicans All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins tore his Achilles tendon. The Pelicans were forced to scramble in the second half of the season to defy the odds. Anthony Davis responded by playing at MVP level and had help from Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday and the arrival of Nikola Mirotic who infused the Pelicans with outside shooting. New Orleans changed its style in midseason, shocked the Portland Trail Blazers with a first-round sweep and then took a game from the eventual-champion Warriors. The Utah Jazz had an excuse to trigger a rebuilding process once Hayward left via free agency and center Rudy Gobert, the eventual Kia Defensive Player of the Year, was held to 56 games due to knee issues. Instead, the Jazz (48 wins) flourished under coach Quin Snyder mainly because first-round pick Donovan Mitchell played well beyond his years and became Utah's go-to guy. At season's end, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets staged essentially a play-in game on the final night for the right to reach the playoffs (which Minnesota won). Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the second straight season ... but couldn’t help the re-tooled Oklahoma City Thunder (with George and Carmelo Anthony) reach the West semifinals. And the Toronto Raptors took the top seed in the East with 59 wins, only to get swept by the Cavs. In the end, though, it was all about the Warriors. As a champion in their prime, the Warriors therefore gave the NBA plenty, except some suspense in the end. PLAYOFFS Eastern Conference first round Toronto defeated Washington (4-2) Boston defeated Milwaukee (4-3) Philadelphia defeated Miami (4-1) Cleveland defeated Indiana (4-3) Western Conference first round Houston defeated Minnesota (4-1) Golden State defeated San Antonio (4-1) New Orleans defeated Portland (4-0) Utah defeated Oklahoma City (4-2) Eastern Conference semifinals Cleveland defeated Toronto (4-0) Boston defeated Philadelphia (4-1) Western Conference semifinals Houston defeated Utah (4-1) Golden State defeated New Orleans (4-1) Eastern Conference finals Cleveland defeated Boston (4-3) Western Conference finals Golden State defeated Houston (4-3) NBA Finals Golden State defeated Cleveland (4-0) SEASON LEADERS Points -- James Harden, Houston Rockets (30.4) Assists -- Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (10.3) Rebounds -- Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons (16.0) Steals -- Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (2.4) Blocks -- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (2.6) FG% -- Cling Capela, Houston Rockets (65.2) FT% -- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (92.1) 3PT% -- Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers (46.8) AWARD WINNERS Kia Most Valuable Player --  James Harden, Houston Rockets Kia Rookie of the Year -- Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers Kia Defensive Player of the Year -- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz Kia Most Improved Player --  Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Kia Sixth Man of the Year --  Lou Williams, LA Clippers Coach of the Year --  Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors All-Star Game MVP -- LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Finals MVP -- Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2018

Uruguay wins group as Suarez inspires win over 10-man Russia

SAMARA, Russia – Luis Suarez helped fire Uruguay into the last 16 of the World Cup as Group A winners on Monday after opening the scoring in their 3-0 win over host nation Russia, who had a man sent off. A pinpoint free-kick from the Barcelona star and an own goal ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJun 25th, 2018

Spain replaces fired Lopetegui with Hierro

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press With only two days to go before Spain's opening match at the World Cup, Julen Lopetegui was fired as national team coach because he accepted a job to lead Real Madrid next season. Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, who made the announcement on Wednesday in Krasnodar, later said Fernando Hierro would replace Lopetegui as coach for Spain's match against Portugal in Sochi on Friday. The 50-year-old Hierro, a former national team player and Real Madrid captain, had been acting as the federation's sports director and was already in Russia with the national team. Rubiales said firing Lopetegui wasn't the best solution but it was needed after the federation was caught by surprise by Real Madrid's announcement. "The federation cannot be left out of a negotiation by one of its workers and be informed five minutes before the press release," Rubiales said. "We have been compelled to act." Rubiales, who took over as president last month, said Lopetegui betrayed the federation's values and it was the only decision he could make. "It's a difficult situation, but we are not the ones who determined the action that had to be taken. The federation has its values and it has to maintain them," Rubiales said. "It may look like a weakness now, but with time this will make us stronger." Lopetegui did not attend the news conference but was expected to talk to the media later. "We have to work on a series of decisions that come just two days before the opener," Rubiales said. "There's a lot to do." Hierro spent most of his career as a defender for Real Madrid and finished his playing days with English club Bolton in 2005. He played in four World Cups with Spain, from 1990 to 2002, and in two European Championships, 1996 and 2000. Hierro was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at Real Madrid after Zinedine Zidane left the post in 2014. He coached second-division club Real Oviedo two seasons ago and was Malaga's general manager after leaving his sports director position with the Spanish federation in 2011. After Madrid's announcement that it hired Lopetegui, critics immediately began questioning some of the coach's decisions with the national team, including his choice to leave some Barcelona players such as Sergi Roberto out of the World Cup squad. There were also questions about how Lopetegui would be able to fully focus on the national team while also having to discuss off-season signings for his new club. There are six Madrid players in Spain's team for the World Cup. Lopetegui's name had not been mentioned by Spanish media among the probable candidates for the Madrid job, which opened up after Zidane unexpectedly quit. Last month, Lopetegui agreed to extend his contract with the national team through 2020. "I admire and respect Lopetegui a lot. He is a top coach, and that made it harder to make this decision," Rubiales said. "Winning is important, but above that, we need to know how things have to be handled." The 51-year-old Lopetegui took over from Vicente del Bosque after the 2016 European Championship. He was credited with reviving a team that was on the decline after winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. By successfully blending talented youngsters and veterans from its golden generation, Lopetegui kept Spain unbeaten through 20 matches in charge, comfortably leading the team to the World Cup from a qualifying group that included Italy. He won European championships with Spain's under-19 and under-21 teams in the early 2010s, but had a lackluster stint with Portuguese team Porto in his only job with a major club. He was fired after failing to win a title during almost two years in Portugal. Rubiales took over a federation which was in the hands of embattled official Angel Maria Villar for nearly three decades. He was elected president over Juan Luis Larrea, the federation's former treasurer and its interim leader since Villar was suspended following his arrest last year on suspicion of corruption. In one of his first actions, Rubiales canceled a previously arranged "vacation" trip by officials to the World Cup that would cost nearly 2 million euros ($2.3 million). He got the money reimbursed and spent only about 500,000 euros ($590,000) with new travel arrangements for sponsors and federation officials. "We are all affected," Rubiales said about Lopetegui's departure. "We have to think about what is best for the entity, for the federation and the team, and from this afternoon we will all be together to go forward.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2018

Zidane s successor faces high bar, doubts about stars

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane had barely finished announcing that he was leaving Real Madrid when speculation began about who would succeed him. Twenty-four hours later, both Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Germany coach Joachim Loew — two of the top names rumored to be on Madrid's list of candidates — have said they are staying put. Pochettino said Friday that his "commitment is total" to Tottenham. He signed a five-year contract extension last week. Loew, who is preparing Germany to defend its World Cup title in Russia, said "it's not an issue for me. I'm at the World Cup now. I can completely rule it out now." Other coaches that Madrid president Florentino Perez supposedly is considering include Chelsea's Antonio Conte, exiting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and former Madrid player Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez. While the Madrid job is one of soccer's most coveted posts, its next coach will have some hurdles to tackle. STARS IN DOUBT The biggest worry for any coach coming to the Spanish capital will be the uncertain future of the team's top stars. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale appear to be mulling an exit, at least according to statements they made just moments after Madrid beat Liverpool in last weekend's Champions League final. Ronaldo put a huge damper on Madrid's celebrations by appearing to speak of his time at Madrid as having reached its end. "In the next few days I'll give the fans an answer because they are the ones who have always been by my side," Ronaldo said. "It was very beautiful to be with Madrid." Ronaldo said he would clear up his future once he joins the Portuguese national team next week as it prepares for the World Cup. Bale, who scored twice as a substitute to beat Liverpool 3-1, was more explicit in stating his desire to get more playing time after a season during which he lost his spot in the starting 11. Midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon has also complained about not enjoying the same untoucbable status as Ronaldo, defender Sergio Ramos or midfielder Luka Modric. COMMITMENT Zidane could hardly have set the bar any higher with three straight European Cups. Still, the Frenchman leaves a Madrid team that woefully underperformed in both the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey this season. It is likely that only his status as fan favorite from his playing days at Madrid and his titles from the previous two seasons kept Zidane in his job through the first six months of last season, until the team finally found its form in the Champions League. Madrid finished in third place in the league, a whopping 17 points adrift champion Barcelona. In the Copa del Rey, the team was eliminated at home by a modest Leganes in the quarterfinals, a moment which Zidane said was the worst of his coaching stint with the club. Whoever inherits the team will have to improve its work ethic to face the weekly grind of games in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey if it hopes to dethrone Barcelona from both domestic competitions. BENZEMA Zidane has been the biggest public defender of Karim Benzema, fending off calls from fans and the local sports media to bench the struggling striker. Benzema scored only five times in 32 league appearances this season, his lowest mark since arriving at Madrid in 2009. If the club doesn't sign a replacement for Benzema this offseason, then its next coach will have to help him recover his best form. YOUNG PLAYERS Madrid tried to rejuvenate its squad last year by bringing in a group of young Spanish players, including defenders Theo Hernandez and Jesus Vallejo, midfielders Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente, and forward Borja Mayoral. But none earned a spot in Zidane's starting lineup or his group of preferred backups. Madrid's in-coming coach will have to bring those players into the fold so their careers don't stagnate any further......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 2nd, 2018