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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

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

Barcelona easily wins historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

MADRID --- If it was a farewell, Andres Iniesta went out in style. The veteran midfielder is expected to soon confirm he's leaving Barcelona at the end of the season. He couldn't have asked for a better way to say goodbye. Iniesta scored amid a brilliant performance as Barcelona crushed Sevilla 5-0 in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, and became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa titles. "It was a great night, for me and for the whole team," Iniesta said. "There were a lot of strong emotions, a lot of different feelings. I'm happy to be able to help the team win this title." Despite a lifetime contract at Barcelona, the 33-year-old Iniesta has been l...Keep on reading: Barcelona easily wins historic 4th straight Copa del Rey.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2018

Wenger to leave Arsenal after more than 21 years in charge

By Rob Harris, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Arsene Wenger is leaving Arsenal after more than 21 years, ending a revolutionary reign that saw him introduce new methods to the Premier League and become the club's most successful manager. While the 68-year-old Frenchman was able to announce his own departure plans on Friday, the tenure of English soccer's longest-serving manager will finish at the end of the season against a backdrop of mounting dissent as the London club's competitiveness in the Premier League has waned. Arsenal has failed to win the Premier League since 2004, but that feat represented the highpoint of Wenger's career as he became only the second manager to go through an English league season unbeaten. The "Invincibles" season, his third Premier League title, helped shield Wenger against the critics. But Wenger's power appeared to drain over the last year as executives trying to shape the future direction of the team were brought in. The new two-year contract that Wenger signed after winning the FA Cup for a record seventh time last May will now not be completed. "After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season," Wenger said. "I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years. I managed the club with full commitment and integrity. "I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high. To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever." Even though Arsenal is sixth in the Premier League, there can still be a successful conclusion to the season with the team in contention for the Europa League. Arsenal's appearance in the competition, though, is a sign of the recent demise under Wenger. Arsenal became accustomed to qualifying for the Champions League before missing out for the first time in two decades after finishing fifth last season. Winning the Europa League is now Arsenal's only realistic way of Wenger bequeathing his successor a place next season in the more illustrious Champions League. With Wenger's footprints all over the Emirates Stadium, finding a coach to step into the dugout after a dynastic reign is a challenge. Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke only has to look at the problems that have afflicted Manchester United since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after more than 26 years in charge. United is on its third manger since Ferguson left after winning a record-extending 20th English title and has not finished higher than fourth. Among the early contenders to succeed Wenger are two Germans: Thomas Tuchel, who left Borussia Dortmund last year, and Germany coach Joachim Loew. A popular appointment among Arsenal fans could be Patrick Vieira, who has been gaining coaching experience in Major League Soccer at New York City FC. The midfielder was one of Wenger's first signings in 1996 and featured in all three Premier League title-winning sides. Wenger took over in October 1996 as Arsenal's first foreign manager on the back of successes at Monaco and a stint in charge of Japanese club Grampus Eight. He was a relative unknown but quickly gained respect for helping to modernize English soccer in the early years of the Premier League, eradicating Arsenal's drinking culture and introducing new sports science methods. Adding Vieira and French players Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit and Thierry Henry helped to establish Arsenal as an English soccer power until Wenger was shackled by the financial constraints of the move from Highbury into the new Emirates Stadium in 2006. It coincided with the rise of foreign investment in rival clubs, with Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich transforming Chelsea and Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour raising the stakes by lavishing even more cash on players at Manchester City. While Arsenal was taken over by Kroenke in 2011, the American sports tycoon operated in a parsimonious financial environment that irritated many supporters. Now Kroenke, who told The Associated Press in 2016 that he was "very high on Arsene," has the tough task of replacing Wenger. "This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport," Kroenke said. "One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsene has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched. "Arsene has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude." Arsenal said it will make an appointment "as soon as possible." "We have high ambitions to build on Arsene's remarkable tenure and to honor his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game," Kroenke said. "We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal's history and one of the greats of the game."  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2018

Paul and Harden lead No. 1 seed Rockets against Wolves

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — So far the trade for Chris Paul to give the Houston Rockets another superstar to help James Harden has worked famously. Now the two, who have both had their fair share of playoff disappointments, will try to carry their regular-season success into the postseason when the Rockets open a first-round series with Minnesota on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). The guards have been effusive in their praise for one another, with Harden recently joking that his relationship with the nine-time All-Star was "love at first sight." Paul didn't go quite that far, but a huge smile crossed his often serious face when asked how their pairing has worked. "Unbelievable," he said. "You just [don't] get this opportunity too often in a career to play with somebody like James ... you get a chance to appreciate greatness. "What he's doing on a nightly basis and stuff like that, it's crazy and I'm in awe," Paul continued. "I'm grateful I get to play alongside him." When told of what Paul said about him, Harden was quick to answer. "You can tell," he said. "It feels like it's been forever but it's not even been a year yet." Their work in the regular season led the Rockets to a franchise-record 65 wins, their first No. 1 seed and sixth straight playoff appearance. They are looking to win the title for the first time capturing back-to-back championships in 1994-95. For the 32-year-old Paul, it's a chance for him to finally shake off years off playoff woes after making nine playoff trips without advancing past the second round. But if he is haunted by the ghosts of playoffs past, he wouldn't acknowledge it and was dismissive when asked if he thought this was his best chance to win it all. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think about all that." What he and the Rockets do know is that they're facing a talented team in the eighth-seeded Timberwolves, who had to win their last regular-season game to get into the postseason. They ended the NBA's longest active playoff drought with their berth, putting them back in the postseason for the first time since 2004 when they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Getting the Timberwolves into the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for the entire team, but might mean just a little more to star Karl-Anthony Towns, who made a vow the night Minnesota selected him with the top overall pick in the 2015 draft. "It means more than I think words can express honestly," he said. "I made a promise to ... Flip Saunders and it meant a lot to me that I was able to keep my word." Some things to know as the Timberwolves and Rockets open their series: BACK HOME The series is a homecoming for Minnesota's Jimmy Butler, who grew up in Tomball, a suburb about 35 miles from downtown Houston. But he insists he won't have any time to get back out there this week. "Nope," he said. "Zero [time]. I ain't even going home. I'm here to work." But he did spend a little time on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) reminiscing about his high school days when he idolized a former Rockets star. "I used to walk around the hallways and in the gym thinking I was Tracy McGrady," he said. "I remember it like it was yesterday. He was my favorite player. I wanted to wear his number, wear his tennis shoes, all of that good stuff." Butler, who returned on April 6 (April 7, PHL time) after missing 17 games with a knee injury, said he's fully recovered from his injury and is "well-rested" entering the playoffs. PLAYOFF HISTORY This is the second time these teams have met in the playoffs. Their other meeting came in Minnesota's first trip in 1997, when the Timberwolves were swept in three games. That Houston team was led by Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley, and the Wolves featured Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury and Tom Gugliotta. LIMIT KAT FROM LONG RANGE The Rockets are resigned to the fact that Towns, who led the NBA in double-doubles, will get his points under the basket and plenty of rebounds. "He's going to get a double-double," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's who he is." However, they are not OK with letting him shoot three-pointers. The seven-foot Towns ranked 14th in the league with a 42 percent average from three-point range and knocked down a career-high 120 three-pointers this season. "We [can't] leave him open or let him walk into a 3 because we're not guarding him," D'Antoni said. "We have to be aware of that. You can't take away his post-ups and his moves in there. He's going to score on anybody, but you can do a really good job on the three's." HARDEN'S MOTIVATION Despite finishing as the runner-up for MVP last season and being a front-runner for this year's award, Harden still faces plenty of criticism for some of his past performances in the playoffs, notably, a terrible performance in an embarrassing 114-75 elimination loss to San Antonio in the conference semifinals last season. But he has never been motivated by criticism, and he finds his drive in a far different place. "Just going out there and being the best that I can be," he said. "There's no negativity that someone can say that can motivate me. Some people can get motivated by that. I don't really care.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

Determined Dzeko delivers a Romantada over Barcelona

By Andrew Dampf, Associated Press ROME (AP) — Edin Dzeko surprised a lot of people when he turned down a lucrative offer from Premier League champion Chelsea in January to stay with Roma. Pledging his allegiance for Roma then, Dzeko declared that he was determined to accomplish something important with the Italian club. Consider his desire realized. Dzeko's sheer will and brute force were the primary reasons behind Roma's shocking elimination of Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals. The Bosnia and Herzegovina striker scored two goals and drew a penalty to set up another over the two legs as Roma clawed back from a three-goal deficit to advance to the semifinals. "I stayed with Roma to experience matches like these. I'm happy to be with Roma and I think the club should be, too," Dzeko said after Roma's 3-0 win Tuesday overturned a 4-1 first-leg defeat. "I turned down a lot of money by not going to Chelsea but that's not what I'm interested in. If we play like this we can play with anyone. I've never seen Barcelona in so much difficulty." Dzeko should know. He was on the Manchester City team that was eliminated by Barcelona in the last 16 in both 2014 and 2015. Roma suffocated Barcelona with high pressure, prompting the Catalan club to make a series of errant passes and turnovers. Barcelona had no answer for the aerial abilities of Dzeko and fellow forward Patrik Schick, who was the revelation of the night. Sparingly used previously this season due to a series of injuries, the 22-year-old Czech Republic striker had been set to join Juventus during the offseason but the deal collapsed because of a reported heart problem. So Roma picked him up instead from Sampdoria, where Schick scored 11 Serie A goals last season. Cengiz Under, another young attacking player, scored six goals for Roma in February and March and returned from injury by coming off the bench in the second leg. The 20-year-old Turkey winger's corner set up the header from Kostas Manolas that provided Roma's third goal. That came moments before Stephan El Shaarawy, another speedy and talented winger, was denied from close range. In all, Roma is developing a wealth of options in attack that combine velocity and strength, and Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco was hailed for his 3-4-1-2 formation. "We had never tried it before but over just three days he got it into our heads," said Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, who converted a penalty for Roma's second goal. "After the first leg we saw that the gap between us and them wasn't really all that large." Own-goals from De Rossi and Manolas handed Barcelona a 2-0 lead last week but Dzeko's late consolation goal in that match proved decisive when Roma advanced on away goals. Dzeko also scored the key goal when Roma eliminated Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16. He has six goals in all in this season's competition. "The best is yet to come. The semifinal will be even greater," Dzeko said. "But of course, tonight is unforgettable," Dzeko added. "I don't have an adjective to describe it. Let's just say it was a crazy match — incredible. Nobody believed in us." Roma fans celebrated throughout the night, waving flags and driving scooters around the central Piazza Venezia. "Imperiali!" — Imperials — said the headline in Wednesday's Gazzetta dello Sport. French sports daily L'Equipe labeled it a "Romantada" — a play on the Spanish word "remuntada," which translates as comeback. It's the first time that Roma has reached the last four since it lost the 1984 final to Liverpool on penalties in its own stadium. The semifinal draw is scheduled for Friday and so far the only other club which has advanced is Liverpool, which is spearheaded by former Roma striker Mohamed Salah. While Roma keeps on surprising in the Champions League — see its 3-0 domination of Chelsea in the group stage — the Giallorossi have struggled in Serie A. Roma is fourth in the Italian league, a distant 21 points behind leader Juventus and level on points with Lazio entering Sunday's Rome derby. "Honestly I don't know why we can't transfer the mentality we have in the Champions League to Serie A," said Dzeko, who led Serie A with 29 goals last season. Still, this season already marks a turning point for Roma's American ownership team led by Boston executive James Pallotta. Roma has received preliminary approval to build a long-delayed new stadium with a design inspired by the Colosseum. The Champions League success might help speed up the stadium process — especially if Roma reaches the final in Kiev. "We can't think like we've achieved a miracle," De Rossi said. "We've got to keep playing and try to go all the way.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2018

Hornets take advantage of resting Pacers for 119-93 win

By Michael Marot, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds and Frank Kaminsky tied his career high with 24 points Tuesday night to lead the Charlotte Hornets past the Indiana Pacers, 119-93. Charlotte ended the season with two wins in its last seven games. The Pacers, who are locked into the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, lost for the second time in three games with three starters sitting out. Darren Collison, T.J. Leaf and Glenn Robinson III all scored 13 points for Indiana. With Bojan Bogdanovic, Victor Oladipo and Thaddeus Young all resting, the Hornets quickly took advantage of the short-handed Pacers. Williams made four three-pointers in the first quarter to help Charlotte take a 37-25 lead. The Pacers cut the halftime deficit to 63-55 but never seriously threatened. Charlotte delivered the knockout punch with a 13-4 run midway through the third quarter. When it ended, the Hornets had a 79-63 lead and the Pacers couldn't cut the deficit to single digits again. TIP-INS Hornets: Ended a three-game losing streak in Indy. ... Howard finished the season with a franchise-record 53 double-doubles and is one of three players to hold the single-season record with two teams. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. ... Howard also is one of six players to average a double-double in each of his first 13 seasons in the league. ... Williams finished with 15 points and tied his career-high with five three's. ... Malik Monk had 17 points and Nicolas Batum had 14 points, four rebounds and six assists. ... Charlotte was 18-of-42 on three's. Pacers: Oladipo missed the game with a sore right foot but finished with the highest steals per game (2.36) since Ricky Rubio (2.32) in 2013-14. Oladipo also had a league-high 177 steals despite missing seven games. ... Collison was 3-of-5 on three's, improving his league-leading percentage to 46.8 percent. He also broke Chris Mullin's single-season NBA franchise record (46.5) set in 1998-99. ... Domantas Sabonis had 10 points and 10 rebounds while Lance Stephenson wound up with nine points, 13 rebounds and four assists. ... Play was stopped during the fourth quarter when a T-shirt misfired onto the court during play. UP NEXT Hornets: The offseason. Pacers: A trip to Philadelphia or Cleveland for a best-of-seven, first-round series......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Dominant at home, Europe where Bayern & City measure success

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Three of the teams in the Champions League quarterfinals are in a luxurious position, and running away with their domestic competitions allows them to concentrate on European glory. Manchester City and Bayern Munich could even secure trophies between the first and second legs in Europe over the next week or so. City, which travels to Liverpool in an all-northwest England quarterfinal on Wednesday, has a 16-point lead in the Premier League. Bayern, which is a point better off at the Bundesliga summit, visits on Tuesday a Sevilla side that is in the European Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 60 years. Barcelona has a nine-point lead at home as it prepares to host Roma on Wednesday, with defending champion Real Madrid trailing by 13 points in third place. Madrid, though, is a European force. Champions League winners in three of the last four seasons, Zinedine Zidane's side visits Serie A leader Juventus on Tuesday. A closer look at the quarterfinal match-ups: ___ JUVENTUS-REAL MADRID Has Gareth Bale done enough to retain his place in Madrid's starting lineup? Either side of the recent international break, Bale scored three goals in two matches. But he wasn't entrusted with a starting place in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain — reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the Wales forward's status in the squad. "I'm pleased with his performance," Madrid coach Zidane said after Bale scored twice in a 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Las Palmas on Saturday. "You'll have to wait and see if he plays on Tuesday." Lucas Vazquez could drop out if Zidane restores the "BBC" front-line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Bale. Bale, though, could miss out again if Madrid decide to add an extra midfielder for the first leg in Turin by including Marco Asensio or Francisco "Isco" Alarcon. Madrid and Juventus are meeting for the first time since last season's final when the Spanish capital club swept to a 12th European title. The only Champions League final Madrid has failed to reach in the last four seasons was in 2014-15 — when it lost to Juventus in the semifinals. Juventus must raise its game after struggling in Serie A recently. After a 0-0 draw at lowly Spal, the team was outplayed by AC Milan for much of Saturday's match before Juan Cuadrado came off the bench to turn things around. On his first appearance after more than three months out with a groin injury, Cuadrado grabbed the crucial second goal in a 3-1 win. "He's come back well and has astounded me," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said, "because often in the past he hasn't done well coming off the bench." Juventus is once again in the hunt for a treble, leading Serie A by four points and through to the Italian Cup final. ___ BARCELONA-ROMA Barcelona can count on Lionel Messi again but how fit is he? After missing recent Argentina games with a muscular problem, he made a scoring return from the bench on Saturday against Sevilla to preserve Barcelona's unbeaten La Liga record this season. Coach Ernesto Valverde, however, said Messi is still bothered by pain heading into the game against Roma. The Italian capital club is awaiting a prognosis on Radja Nainggolan's thigh injury. The Belgium international, who has started all of Roma's Champions League matches, limped off 16 minutes into Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bologna. Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco is doubtful Nainggolan will recover in time "He is the 'Ninja,'" Di Francesco said. "He told me to wait and tried to run it off, but if he had to give up and leave the pitch that means there's really something wrong and the problem is serious." With Roma prioritizing the game against Barcelona, the lack of depth was evident on Saturday when Edin Dzeko had to come off the bench to salvage a draw. __ LIVERPOOL-MAN CITY City makes a return trip to the only stadium where it has lost during an otherwise unbeaten Premier League campaign. With Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane boasting 75 goals between them this season, Liverpool has an impressive attacking armory to take on Pep Guardiola's side. "They are almost unstoppable," Guardiola said. "The way Liverpool play is so complicated for us. We know that. They are so quick, they are so good." The 4-3 loss at Anfield in January was a blip in City's progression to the Premier League title that can be sealed with a win against Manchester United on Saturday. With the European first leg on Wednesday and the return at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday, Guardiola's predicament will be whether to rest players for the Manchester derby and potentially miss out on winning the Premier League in perhaps the sweetest way. Guardiola is hoping to welcome Sergio Aguero back from a knee injury that has kept the striker out of action for a month. While Liverpool is England's most successful side with five European Cups, City has never won the competition. Guardiola, though, led Barcelona to two Champions League titles. ___ SEVILLA-BAYERN MUNICH Bayern's players must be dreading the sight of Sevilla: Spanish teams have eliminated them in the past four seasons. Before then, Bayern lifted the European Cup in the all-German 2013 final against Borussia Dortmund when Jupp Heynckes completed a treble before stepping down. The 72-year-old coach was brought out of retirement to return in October when Carlo Ancelotti was fired after losing to PSG. Heynckes has overseen a remarkable turnaround, with Bayern on course to repeat the 2013 treble. Sevilla, though, keeps on upsetting more illustrious sides. Not only was Jose Mourinho's Manchester United stunned in the round of 16 but Barcelona was held to a draw on Saturday. Sevilla, which won the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016, is contesting its first European Cup quarterfinal since 1958. ___ Tales Azzoni in Madrid, Daniella Matar in Milan and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 3rd, 2018

MVP Ladder: Davis shrugs off pain, makes case for MVP

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com You’ll have to forgive New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry for not feeling the need to mount some coordinated public campaign for Anthony Davis for Kia MVP. Gentry figures the voters have eyes, so they've seen the same jaw-dropping things from the superstar big man that he sees every night. “He’s great, man. Just an absolutely great player in every aspect,” Gentry said in a hallway at the Smoothie King Center after Davis and the Pelicans came up short in a critical game against the Portland Trail Blazers. “You want to know what kind of guy he is? He’s in there beating himself up saying he should have done more. What more could he have done? He got 36 and 14 with three guys handing on him all night. Come on, man, he’s just a great, great player.” Davis finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and played the final 17 minutes in pain after injuring his left ankle late in the third quarter. He took a minute to shake it off and finished the game favoring the ankle, that required treatment after the game. These are the sorts of performances he’s turned in routinely this season, particularly since the Pelicans’ other All-Star big man, DeMarcus Cousins, went down with a season-ending Achilles injury Jan. 26 (Jan. 27, PHL time). He and Cousins were on pace to become the first pair of teammates in NBA history to each average better than 25 points and 10 rebounds. Davis is averaging 31.1 points, 12.3  rebounds and 3.6 blocks since the All-Star break, after averaging 27.4, 10.7 and 2.1 in the 51 games before the break. So the “M-V-P” chants he heard in those final minutes against the Trail Blazers were well warranted for a player with range and versatility as a two-way performer that might be unrivaled in the league. “I can only think of a couple guys in this league who can impact a game the way he can from end to end. It’s AD and … ” Gentry said, before a reporter blurted out the name of the other player he was thinking of, “yeah, LeBron. I mean, these guys can guard from the three-point line to the rim and can score from those same spaces on anybody. Guys like that, wth that ability and those talents, they are just very rare.” James and Davis (who occupy the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively, in this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder) will square off today at Quicken Loans Arena. It’ll be another chance for Davis to be measured against the league’s standard-bearer in regards to the MVP conversation. James has four MVPs in his war chest, and could (and probably should) have a couple more. Meanwhile, Davis is still searching for his first. At 33, James has shown a durability and staying power that Davis, 25, is also still searching for. If there is a knock on his game, it’s that he’s struggled with injuries, bumps and bruises to a degree that’s greater than you’d expect from a player as physically gifted as the 6'11", 253-pound dynamo. Tuesday night’s (Wednesday, PHL time) spill against the Trail Blazers marked the 11th time this season Davis has had to exit a game because of an injury. The reaction of the crowd, a collective hush as Davis writhed in pain under the basket, was followed by wild cheers when he got to his feet and limped to the bench. Davis refused to go to the locker room, choosing instead to take a moment to gather himself and return to the game, knowing the severity of his injury was overshadowed by the weight of the Pelicans’ current predicament. They need every single game to reach the postseason for just the second time in his career, the same postseason he suggested the Pelicans would have dominated had Cousins not gotten injured. That’s why he’ll play through whatever lingering discomfort he has to against the Cavaliers tonight. The gravity of the Pelicans’ situation demands that he fight through the pain, dust himself off and get back on the floor the same way he did Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). “Just knowing the type of situation we’re in,” Davis told reporters in New Orleans Thursday (Friday, PHL time), “I just wanted to be on the floor. I felt I couldn't leave that game, even though it was bothering me. I just tried to tough it out and just play through it.” * * * The top five in the Week 24 edition of the 2017-18 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 30.7 points, 8.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds Harden took a rare night off Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and the Rockets still rolled over the Chicago Bulls. The Rockets are good enough to go on auto-pilot the way they’re playing. They’ve already set the franchise record for wins in a season and secured the Western Conference's No. 1 seed ... all with seven games to go in their season. Harden’s work from the start of training camp has been the catalyst for this special season for the Rockets. He worked to integrate the new additions to the lineup, but did so without sacrificing any of the things that made him the strong MVP candidate he was last season. Topping his performance from last season should be more than enough to secure his first Kia MVP. The official word will come on June 25 (June 26, PHL time) at the NBA Awards show. But with the way the Rockets have played down the stretch of this season with Harden leading the way, the suspense in this MVP chase has evaporated. 2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 27.6 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds You have to appreciate LeBron’s admission that he would indeed vote for himself if he had a say in the race for the Kia MVP. And it’s hard to argue with his logic. Given all that the Cavaliers have endured since Kyrie Irving’s trade request was made public, it’s truly remarkable that he’s been able to compartmentalize the way he has and continue to play at an otherworldly level. If not for James Harden, LeBron would be clearing space on his mantle for his fifth Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Instead, he’ll have to settle for another season of milestones and his continued assault on nearly every career statistic the league has to offer. Not to mention he's still on track to play all 82 games for the first time in his career. And if you were wondering how the old man (relatively speaking, of course) bounces back after tough night (18 points in their Wednesday, PHL time, loss to Miami), catch the highlights from his 41-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist masterpiece in Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back set. 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks Back-to-back losses at Houston and at home to Portland have put Davis and the Pelicans in a familiar position in the Western Conference playoff chase. Every game until the finish is a must-win affair, with today’s tilt against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers serving as the ideal showcase for Davis. He’s been an absolute monster of late (29.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 2.4 assists in his last 10 games). He knows what it will take to push the Pelicans into the playoff mix without DeMarcus Cousins, as that is something Davis had to do three years ago to secure his lone playoff voyage. It took a home win over San Antonio on the final night of the regular season to clinch a spot and it might take the same this time around -- Davis and the Pelicans finish up the regular season April 11 (April 12, PHL time) with a home game against the Spurs. 4. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 23.3 points, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds Saturday’s trip game in Boston (Sunday, PHL time) couldn't have come at a better time for DeRozan and the Raptors, who still have some work to do secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Their lead over the Celtics is down to three games. Given Toronto's recent losses to the Cavs and LA Clippers, a statement win on the road against the surging Celtics would go a long way towards resetting the Raptors' collective confidence. DeRozan’s continued evolution as a playmaker has remained on full display (15 assists in his last two games) and will be crucial to the Raptors’ offensive effectiveness in the playoffs. That's assuming coach Dwane Casey does indeed plan to keep his rotation as deep in the playoffs as he has all season. But the scoring prowess that has propelled DeRozan to All-Star status the past four seasons will be just as important, if not more so, given the relative inexperience of several of the Raptors’ role players. Both DeRozan and fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry know how vital it will be for them to be in a good rhythm for the postseason. 5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Last week: No. 5 Season stats: 26.8 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds Lillard was spectacular in a critical road win in New Orleans Tuesday night, finishing with a game-high 41 points (and nine rebounds, six assists and four steals). He did all that while out-dueling fellow MVP candidate Davis in what was a thrilling, must-see fourth quarter. It didn’t matter who was guarding Lillard -- sometimes it was Davis and other times it was Pelicans defensive wiz Jrue Holiday. Lillard was locked in and on absolute fire in a playoff atmosphere. His importance to the Trail Blazers, though, was even more evident a night later when he was missing from a deflating road loss to in Memphis. Lillard missed the game for a good reason: the birth of his son. But it should be clear by now that these Trail Blazers will go only as far as the mercurial Lillard can take them in the postseason. C.J. McCollum is as good a No. 2 option as you’ll find and Terry Stotts has done Coach of the Year-caliber in developing the roster. It’s Lillard’s scoring and playmaking, however, that takes them from a solid team to a top-three seed in the Western Conference. The next five: 6. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 9. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics 10. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves And five more ... LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks; Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Next up? An inside look at LaMarcus Aldridge from an Western Conference advance scout: “I would love to know exactly what was said in the conversation he had with [Spurs coach Gregg] Pop[ovich] after last season, from both sides. Because whatever it was, it’s produced the best season I’ve seen from LA since he’s been in the league. And I’m dating that back to his best years in Portland. The Spurs aren't close to the team they are with all of the heavy lifting he’s done this season. He’s been more physical and much more active on the defensive end than he was last season and obviously, with Kawhi Leonard missing from the lineup for basically the entire season, his responsibilities as the No. 1 option for them offensively has been tremendous. He’s always been a skilled, face-up big. Working from the L and on the baseline extended, he’s as tough a cover as you’ll find at that position. "He embraced the other stuff, though, and perhaps at Pop’s urging. He’s made himself a more physical presence around the basket and at the rim. When he’s working in space against opposing [centers], that’s when he really has an advantage, because he’ll abuse guys his size and bigger who aren’t as mobile, guys who cannot match his quickness. He’s not an above the rim guy or a rim protector that causes you any concern, but he’s stronger than he looks and this season, he’s mixed it up more when necessary. He’s been more physical than usual. I’d suggest that’s a direct result of what Pop was trying to convey to him. Without Kawhi out there, someone had to play that role as their offensive catalyst and to do that LaMarcus was going to have to toughen up and show more fire than he did last season. I give him credit for stepping up to that challenge. I’ll admit, I was a bit of a skeptic when he was the hot free agent name a couple summers back. It’s easy to forget that. He was the player everybody wanted and the Spurs got him. And it seems like he’s finally comfortable there now in the role he’s playing leading that team right now. I’ve gained a lot of respect for him and his game with the way he’s played this season.” Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 31st, 2018

HISTORY! Azkals beat Tajikistan to enter AFC Asian Cup

The Philippine Azkals made history Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium after beating Tajikistan, 2-1, to clinch their spot in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.  The Azkals fell behind midway through the second half after Kevin Ingreso committed a foul inside the box to award the visiting Tajikistan side a penalty, which Nazarov Akhtam drilled in the 64th minute.  GOAL TAJIKISTAN! Nazarov Akhtam sinks the penalty over Neil Etheridge in the 64th minute to draw first blood for the Tajiks! LIVE NOW! 📺 Liga 86 & Liga HD 183#AFCQ2019 pic.twitter.com/Ncu4hUitVB — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 27, 2018 Ingreso made up for his error moments later as he helped the Azkals pull even, scoring on a header off an Iain Ramsay cross in the 73rd minute.  GOAL AZKALS! Kevin Ingreso scores a header off a cross from Iain Ramsay! We're all tied up! LIVE NOW! 📺 Liga 86 & Liga HD 183#AFCQ2019 pic.twitter.com/i8J2GDoJ9Y — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 27, 2018 Team captain Phil Younghusband sealed the Azkals win late in regulation, sinking a penalty of his own in the 90th minute after Tajikistan was called for a handball inside the penalty box.  It was Younghusband's 50th international goal.  GOAL AZKALS! Phil Younghusband's 50th international goal virtually sends the @TheAzkalsPH to the #AFCQ2019! LIVE NOW! 📺 Liga 86 & Liga HD 183 pic.twitter.com/BNN86It1yF — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 27, 2018 Things got chippy near the end of the match when a bit of phyiscality ensued and Tajikistan's Dzhalilov Iskandar geta booked for a red card.  The match between the Azkals and Tajikistan has gone sour, as they go into some extra-curricular activity! Iskandar gets the red card. #AFCQ2019 pic.twitter.com/iAemusshHM — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 27, 2018 In the end, it was only the final score line that mattered, as the Azkals held on to the 2-1 victory, clinching arguably their biggest win in team history. "It was an emotional game. It's a difficult game when you know you don't need to win the game. We were very cautious, as cautious as possible," Younghusband said after the match. "They had to win the game. But when they scored their first goal, I think that spurred us to play our best football because we knew we needed to attack." "It showed the spirit of the Filipino people, the fighting spirit. Even when we’re down, we can bounce back and I think we showed and typified it today." Younghusband added.  With the win, the Azkals finish on top of Group F with 12 points off three wins and three draws.  More importantly, the first-place finish gives the Azkals their first trip to the AFC Asian Cup, which kicks off on January 5, 2019 in the United Arab Emirates. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 27th, 2018

France s poor defending exposed again as Colombia wins 3-2

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — France's casual defending was exposed again as ruthless Colombia rallied from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in a World Cup warmup on Friday. European Championship runner-up France scored twice inside 26 minutes through striker Olivier Giroud and wide midfielder Thomas Lemar. But poor concentration from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris let Colombia back in two minutes later, when Luis Muriel's cross eluded him and went in. Roared on by huge swathes of yellow-shirted fans at Stade de France, Colombia leveled in the 62nd when striker Radamel Falcao swept in James Rodriguez's perfect cross from the right for his 29th international goal. A clumsy foul just inside the penalty area from Samuel Umtiti gifted Colombia a chance to win, and substitute Juan Quintero slammed the spot-kick past Lloris in the 85th. "Colombia really showed the character of a World Cup side. Not only did we turn the match around, we won it," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said through a translator. "The players really understood what they needed to do. They switched positions on the pitch and things changed." Colombia's fans, seemingly filling half the stadium, celebrated wildly at the final whistle. France coach Didier Deschamps, meanwhile, has plenty of thinking to do prior to Tuesday's game away to World Cup host Russia in St. Petersburg. It must have felt like deja vu for Deschamps. His side twice led away to World Cup winner Germany in November, only to draw 2-2. Against a spirited and tough-tackling Colombia, France often gave the ball away too easily, particularly in midfield. Colombia caused panic with every attack, particularly down the flanks. "Our first half hour was of the highest quality. It seemed easy at 2-0 but it never is," Deschamps said. "Colombia knows how to hurt you. We made a few mistakes and they really taught us a lesson, we'll have to learn from it." Deschamps further underlined his players' shortcomings. "There's a lot of quality in this team but it's not enough. The highest level requires much more determination," he said. "We had the same amount of possession in the first and second half without the same result. It's happened before, when we've alternated between good and less good, and the second half really wasn't good." Giroud's 30th international goal moved him level with Jean-Pierre Papin and France great Just Fontaine, who holds the single-tournament scoring record for a World Cup with 13 goals in 1958. It has been a frustrating season for Giroud, who became No. 3 striker at Arsenal following the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund. He moved to Chelsea in January, but he has managed only one goal so far for the Blues. But back with France, Giroud shook off his club woes. He swiveled and slammed a shot into the roof of the net in the 11th minute after a handling error from goalkeeper David Ospina — his former Arsenal teammate — from left back Lucas Digne's cross. France's second goal owed nothing to luck. Antoine Griezmann's backheel found Kylian Mbappe, who dummied a defender and passed left to Lemar. He steadied himself before smacking a powerful shot past Ospina and into the right corner. Ospina denied the lively Griezmann shortly before the break, but for all of its flair France leaves holes at the back. Muriel volleyed wide in the 50th and, shortly after, Lloris saved his angled shot. France also has friendlies against Ireland, Italy and the United States before its World Cup opener against Australia on June 16. Les Bleus then face Peru and Denmark in the group stage......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 24th, 2018

Spain experimenting with its forwards ahead of World Cup

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Spain enters the final stage of its World Cup preparations with coach Julen Lopetegui experimenting up front. Lopetegui has called up several different forwards since taking over the national squad and has plenty of options to choose from before announcing the final list for Russia in a few months. It won't be an easy decision because Spain has thrived in attack with a deep stock of strikers. The team has outscored opponents 52-10 in the 16 matches played under Lopetegui. The coach will get a chance to have a final look at some of his forwards in the high-profile friendlies against Germany on Friday in Dusseldorf and Argentina on Tuesday in Madrid. Still unbeaten since Lopetegui arrived after the 2016 European Championship, Spain will go to Russia trying to rebound from disappointments in the last two major soccer tournaments — it was eliminated in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and in the last 16 at Euro 2016. Here's a closer look at the key issues three months before the World Cup: ___ ATTACK Lopetegui has called up more than 10 strikers since his arrival, with the most-recent list including Diego Costa, Iago Aspas, Rodrigo and Lucas Vazquez. Alvaro Morata, Jose Callejon and Victor "Vitolo" Machin had been regulars in previous lists but were left out of the important pre-World Cup friendlies. Costa hadn't been called up in more than nine months because he couldn't play with Atletico Madrid until the team's transfer ban from FIFA ended in January, while Vazquez hadn't made Lopetegui's list since last year. Aspas has been a regular name in Lopetegui's teams even though he hasn't played much as a starter. Morata was left out of the current list because of physical problems but Lopetegui said the Chelsea player still has a good chance of making it to Russia. "Strikers are always under pressure," Costa said Wednesday. "We need to score goals, otherwise there will be pressure." ___ MORE ATTACK Among the other forwards tested by Lopetegui are Manuel "Nolito" Agudo, Paco Alcacer, Pedro Rodriguez, Aritz Aduriz, Gerard Deulofeu and even 36-year-old veteran David Villa. They had few opportunities recently, though, and are considered a longshot to make it to Russia even though Lopetegui said he hasn't closed the door on anybody. "Some players were not included in this (last) list but they still remain with their chances intact," Lopetegui said. "All players still have chances." ___ MIDFIELD A few attacking midfielders seem to have their spots secured after several call-ups under Lopetegui, including Isco, Marco Asensio, Saul Niguez and David Silva. Silva is among the players with the most minutes in Lopetegui's team, along with Sergio Busquets and goalkeeper David De Gea. Silva also has the most goals scored under Lopetegui with 11, followed by Morata with seven. ___ DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion and Andres Iniesta are practically assured of a spot at the World Cup, which will likely be the last for Iniesta. The 33-year-old Barcelona player has been struggling with his physical condition in recent months and hasn't played regularly with the Catalan club. Busquets will miss the friendlies against Germany and Argentina because of a fractured finger in his foot but is expected to recover in time for the tournament in Russia. ___ DEFENSE It will also probably be the last World Cup for Gerard Pique, who has said he plans to retire from the national team after playing in Russia. Sergio Ramos will most likely be his teammate in central defense at the World Cup, with Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal playing alongside them on the flanks. Left back Marcos Alonso got his first call-up for the upcoming friendlies and will be fighting to be in Lopetegui's final list. "I'm getting a chance to show my worth," the Chelsea player said. ___ GOALKEEPERS Calls for the return of Iker Casillas are long gone as De Gea continues to play in top form and is more than secured as the team's starter in Russia. Kepa Arrizabalaga and Pepe Reina have been included in Lopetegui's most-recent lists and are expected to be the reserve goalkeepers......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018

Ronaldo vs Messi: Scoring race heats up in Spain

MADRID --- Regardless of who wins the Spanish league title, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be battling it out to the end. Real Madrid doesn't have much chance of keeping Barcelona from winning the league, but Ronaldo is making a strong run to snag the scoring title from Messi with nine matches remaining. Ronaldo added another four goals in Madrid's 6-3 win over Girona on Sunday, giving him 22 for the season. That is only three below Messi, who scored his 25th in Barcelona's 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. "Hopefully he can catch him," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said of Ronaldo. "It's important for him and for us, too. When he's playing well, the team plays well. He transmit...Keep on reading: Ronaldo vs Messi: Scoring race heats up in Spain.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 19th, 2018

Portland wins 12th straight with 100-87 victory over Detroit

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) —Damian Lillard had 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Detroit Pistons 100-87 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) for their 12th straight victory. CJ McCollum added 16 points for the Blazers, who have the longest current winning streak in the league. It's the longest streak for the franchise since it also won 12 in a row in 2002. Portland (43-26) also earned its season-best ninth straight home win -- a timely streak as it tries to hold on to third place in the Western Conference standings. While the Blazers are soaring, the Pistons are struggling. Andre Drummond had 18 points and 22 rebounds in Detroit's 12th consecutive road loss. Blake Griffin had 15 points. The Pistons (30-39) have dropped eight of 10 overall, and currently sit in ninth place in the East. The Pistons trailed by as many as 19 points in the third quarter, but they closed to 84-74 on Stanley Johnson's dunk with 8:18 left. Evan Turner responded with a jumper for the Blazers. After Luke Kennard was whistled for a technical foul, Lillard made a foul shot and McCollum converted a layup to make it 89-74 with 6:19 remaining. Kennard was a game-time decision with a tight hamstring, but he finished with 12 points. Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic got two quick fouls within the first four minutes of the game, so he was replaced by Meyers Leonard. Portland went up 20-9 early. The Blazers led 60-45 at the break. Lillard led all scorers with 12 points. After extending the lead in the third quarter, Lillard went to the bench to start the fourth and it looked as if he might be done for the night. But he returned when Detroit got within 10 points. TIP-INS Pistons: It was the third of a six-game road trip. ... Forward/Center Eric Moreland played at Oregon State. ... Reggie Jackson, who has missed 35 games with a right ankle sprain, participated in a 3-on-3 optional practice earlier this week. Trail Blazers: Terry Stotts tied Nate McMillan for third-most victories as a Blazers coach. Stotts is 266-213. ... The Blazers had lost five straight to the Pistons. ... All five of Portland's starters scored in double figures. UP NEXT The Pistons visit the Sacramento Kings on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). The Trail Blazers visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday (Monday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 18th, 2018

Messi reaches 100 CL goals, Barcelona beats Chelsea 3-0

Messi reaches 100 CL goals, Barcelona beats Chelsea 3-0.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMar 15th, 2018

Messi reaches 100 Champions League goals, Barcelona beats Chelsea 3-0

BARCELONA, Spain --- Lionel Messi joined Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League's 100-goal club after scoring twice to lead Barcelona past Chelsea and into the Champions League quarterfinals for an 11th straight season on Wednesday. Messi also set up Ousmane Dembele in a 3-0 win at Camp Nou after he had scored Barcelona's goal in the opening-leg 1-1 draw in London. Messi beat Thibaut Courtois with two strikes between the Chelsea goalkeeper's legs from very tight angles on the side of the box. He struck the opener three minutes into the match and took Barcelona's third goal in the 63rd. Ronaldo, with 117 goals, is the only other player to reach the century-mark in Europe...Keep on reading: Messi reaches 100 Champions League goals, Barcelona beats Chelsea 3-0.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 15th, 2018