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Coutinho is back but problems run deeper at Liverpool

em>By Steve Douglas, Associated Press /em> LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Philippe Coutinho's belated return to the Liverpool team adds an extra layer of ingenuity to a forward line that promises to be one of the most thrilling in European soccer this season. Entertainment is unlikely to be in short supply at Anfield now that the front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will be prompted from midfield by Coutinho, who has been reintegrated after his unsettling offseason when he was wooed by Barcelona. However many goals they score, though, Liverpool seems destined to be debilitated by its frailty at the back. Whether it's a collective problem — as manager Juergen Klopp is suggesting — or individuals simply making bad decisions or mistakes, Liverpool doesn't have the defense to make a realistic challenge for major honors this season. This past week, Liverpool has lost 5-0 at Manchester City, albeit after being down to 10 men for more than half the game, and then ruined a dominant performance against Sevilla in the Champions League by giving away two sloppy goals in a 2-2 draw. There are legitimate concerns starting with the goalkeepers and going right across the defensive line, and they have been there from the moment Klopp took over in October 2015. It was odd, then, that he chose to sign only one defender during the transfer window, left back Andrew Robertson from relegated Premier League team Hull for 8 million pounds ($10.7 million). Robertson has played only one game so far this season. Would things have been different had Liverpool managed to sign Southampton center back Virgil van Dijk, its much-publicized top defensive target? Klopp doubts it. 'I know here you're always looking for this thing about the defense ... that these problems will have been sorted with one player — it was mentioned we put all our money together and do this,' Klopp said after the Sevilla game. 'It's not about this. It's about being dominant and losing a little bit of concentration, the grip of the game that you do not have in all defensive moments.' The issues are clear to see. Klopp has rotated his two goalkeepers, Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, in the last four matches, continuing the long-held uncertainty in that position. At center back, Joel Matip is good on the ball but not a commanding presence at set pieces or under the high ball, while Dejan Lovren can be clumsy and error-prone, as shown against Sevilla when he completely missed an attempted clearance to allow a tap-in goal in the fifth minute. At left back, Alberto Moreno can be an attacking threat but a defensive liability, and Robertson is inexperienced on this stage. At right back, youngsters Trent Alexander-Arnold (18) and Joe Gomez (20) have bright futures but can be caught out in behind them. Of the so-called 'Big 6' in the Premier League in Klopp's time in England, Liverpool had the leakiest defense in the 2015-16 season and only Arsenal conceded more goals last season. The neutral will want Klopp to keep things as they are, starting with the home match against Burnley in the league on Saturday. Liverpool is arguably the most exciting team to watch in the Premier League, with opportunities popping up regularly at both ends. The team's first-half performance in the Sevilla game was so exhilarating that Liverpool's fans gave the players a standing ovation as they went off for halftime. Throw the returning Coutinho into the mix, and Adam Lallana when he is back from a thigh injury maybe next month, and Liverpool's attacking options are seemingly limitless. It's what happens at the other end, however, that could decide the Reds' fate this season. Here's what else to watch out for this weekend in the Premier League: ___ strong>ROONEY'S RETURN /strong> On Sunday, Wayne Rooney makes his first return to Old Trafford since leaving Manchester United to rejoin boyhood club Everton. Rooney spent 13 trophy-filled years at United and is the club's record scorer with 253 goals, yet seemingly isn't held in the same regard as United's great names of the past like Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs. United midfielder Jesse Lingard predicted Rooney will receive a good reception, saying: 'He's a legend at the club and we will always welcome him back.' United leads on goal difference after collecting 10 points from a possible 12. Everton has scored only two goals in four games this season, Rooney grabbing both of them. ___ strong>HODGSON'S FIRST GAME /strong> Fifteen months after leaving the England job, Roy Hodgson is back in management after taking over at Crystal Palace. Palace fired Frank de Boer after only four league games, with the team in last place and yet to score a goal in four straight losses. Hodgson's first game in charge is at home to Southampton on Saturday.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnSep 15th, 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

Neymar makes spectacular return as Brazil beats Croatia 2-0

By Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Only three months ago, Brazil striker Neymar was on an operating table and in danger of missing the World Cup in Russia. Those fears largely disappeared Sunday when Neymar returned to action with smart dribbling, fluent passing and an impressive individual goal, which he celebrated with his surgeon. Playing for the first time since February, Neymar scored the opener in Brazil's 2-0 friendly win against Croatia in Liverpool after coming on for the second half. He then ran to hug Brazilian soccer confederation doctor Rodrigo Lasmar on the sidelines at Anfield. "I am so happy to play football again. I have waited and worked a lot for this. I suffered, these were very tough three months," Neymar said. "When I saw the ball hit the net I only thought of those that helped me, Dr. Lasmar, my family, friends." Neymar, who also withstood a few challenges in the game, received the ball from midfielder Philippe Coutinho in the 68th and dribbled past Croatia defenders Sime Vrsaljko and Duje Caleta-Car. He smashed the ball into the net from around five meters (yards) with his right foot. The Brazilian injured the same foot playing for Paris Saint-Germain and underwent surgery in Brazil in early March. He did not warm up with the Brazilian team on Sunday, which had again raised concerns among supporters. Neymar said he was 80 percent at his best for the Croatia game. Brazil coach Tite said Neymar's return was "above the expected standard." "Neymar is only human, but he came back above my expectations too," Tite said. "I was expecting much less." Neymar had replaced midfielder Fernandinho at halftime with the score at 0-0. He quickly made his mark and raised the hopes of Brazilian fans for the World Cup, which starts June 14. Tite wasn't getting carried away, though. "Neymar is going to have ups and downs like he had in training until the third, fourth game (on his return). Then he will have his normal standard," Tite said. Croatia captain Luka Modric was among many impressed with Neymar. "It is beautiful to watch him play again, he is special, one of the best in the world," Modric said. Brazil "improved in the second half after Neymar made the difference." Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scored Brazil's second goal in the 90th. After Casemiro put the ball in the penalty box, Firmino controlled with his chest and sent the ball over Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to step up his challenge for a starting position in the team. Brazil captain and No. 9 Gabriel Jesus was replaced by Firmino after an hour. "I am here to help Brazil. I respect Tite's opinion (in starting with Jesus) 100 percent," Firmino said. The striker also thanked local fans for their support, saying "it is good to play at home." The same Liverpool supporters who cheered Firmino went out of their way to jeer Coutinho, who left the Reds for Barcelona earlier this year. Until Neymar stepped onto the pitch it was Croatia which had the best opportunities in a match that seemed headed for a dull draw. Defender Dejan Lovren had the best chance to open with a header that grazed Brazil goalkeeper Alisson's right post after a corner. When Fernandinho went off, Coutinho played a greater role and Brazil's game improved. The five-time World Cup champions play their last pre-World Cup friendly against Austria on June 10. Monday will be a rest day for the team and Brazilian media claimed midfielder Fred will be traveling to Manchester for medical tests before signing a deal with Manchester United. Tite did not confirm the move but said: "Our orientation is for them (players) to solve (transfers) as quickly as possible so they keep their head and effort focused on Brazil. If I were the manager there, I would try to sign him too." Brazil's World Cup opener is on June 17 against Switzerland......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2018

Recovering Neymar confirmed in Brazil s World Cup squad

By Mauricio Saverese, Associated Press SAO PAULO (AP) — A recovering Neymar was confirmed and injured leader Dani Alves was replaced by Danilo and Fagner in a Brazil World Cup squad of few surprises on Monday. The only surprises were among the likely reserves for the tournament in Russia, with the inclusion of Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred and winger Taison. Neymar has been recovering from right foot surgery in March, and Brazil Football Confederation doctors believe he will be fit to train next week in Teresopolis, where preparations will begin, and play on June 3 in a friendly against Croatia in Liverpool. Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro he examined Neymar on the weekend and the results were positive. "This is the final stage of his recovery, he will be able to go to training sessions soon, and will play the friendlies," Lasmar said. Coach Tite said Neymar was one of the top three players in the world, but insisted his team didn't depend on him alone. "We will be much stronger with Neymar doing well, but for him to do well the rest of the team has to be well, too," he said. All but one of Tite's starting lineup in World Cup qualifiers was confirmed in the squad: Alisson; Miranda, Marquinhos and Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Renato Augusto and Philippe Coutinho; Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. Defender Alves, a veteran of two World Cups, sprained his right ACL last week in the French Cup final and was replaced in the 23-man Brazil squad by Manchester City's Danilo and Corinthians' Fagner. Tite decided not to inform who are the players that could replace one of those until June 4 in case of injury. Tite also summoned goalkeepers Ederson (Manchester City) and Cassio (Corinthians); defenders Thiago Silva, (Paris Saint-Germain) Pedro Geromel (Gremio) and Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid); midfielders Fernandinho (Man City) and Willian (Chelsea); and strikers Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) and Douglas Costa (Juventus). The coach said several positions in his starting lineup were open, including up front. "At first, Gabriel Jesus is our starter. But Roberto Firmino will fight for that position in top form," Tite said. "The challenge is open on the right back, but Danilo has some advantage now because he has performed well recently." Tite also hinted in his hour-long news conference he could change one of his central defenders for Thiago Silva. The inclusion of Taison, the coach admitted, suggested Coutinho could be taking a role in central midfield and leaving his spot for Willian. Tite said he needs "a pacemaker" in the team, which he has not received from Beijing Guoan's Renato Augusto. "Coutinho can play in the middle and in the flanks, he is versatile," Tite said. "Sometimes preparation gives you elements that you didn't have, and force you to change your mind." Tite said Brazil was one of the favorites for the title, but refused to name other candidates. The coach's final list includes 15 out of the 23 players he called for his first game with Brazil, against Ecuador in World Cup qualifiers in September 2016. There are only four survivors from the 7-1 hammering by Gerrmany four years ago at the home World Cup: Marcelo, Fernandinho, Paulinho and Willian. Thiago Silva and Neymar did not play that semifinal, one due to suspension and the other because of injury. Marcelo, Casemiro and Firmino will join Brazil for preparations in London only after Real Madrid and Liverpool play the Champions League final on May 26. Brazil starts its World Cup campaign against Switzerland on June 17, followed by Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2018

Barcelona unable to find its stride in Champions League

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Suddenly, the Champions League has become a tough challenge for Barcelona. The Spanish club thrived in nearly every competition it played over the last few years but has failed to succeed recently in the top European club competition. Lionel Messi and his teammates lost to Roma 3-0 on Tuesday in Italy, relinquishing a 4-1 first-leg win and getting eliminated in the quarterfinals for the third straight season. "All we can do is apologize to our fans for the way we lost," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. "This is the toughest loss since I've been with Barcelona, because of the way it happened. I'd be lying if I said that this could help us in some way in the future, because last year we lost in a similar manner." Barcelona was eliminated by eventual runner-up Juventus last season, losing 3-0 in Turin and being held to a scoreless draw at home in the second leg. In 2016, Barcelona fell to Spanish rival Atletico Madrid 3-1 on aggregate, winning 2-1 at home and losing 2-0 in Madrid. "We want to be contending for the Champions League title year after year," Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said. "We were hopeful of advancing to the semifinals after having played a great first leg. Now we have to carefully analyze what happened and try to move on." Since 2015, when it won its last Champions League title, Barcelona was dominant in other competitions, winning two Spanish leagues, three Copa del Reys, one Club World Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and one Spanish Super Cup. Messi was a crucial component in nearly all of those triumphs for Barcelona, but the playmaker performed below expectations in the team's recent Champions League failures. He didn't score in the six quarterfinal games that led to Barcelona's recent eliminations. The team's other players couldn't do enough help Barcelona advance then, and this time Messi had even less support. Neymar left in the offseason, and the players who joined the club after his departure were not able to play up to the same level. Ousmane Dembele, touted as the main replacement for the Brazil forward, was marred by injuries and wasn't able to establish himself as a reliable attacking partner for Messi and Luis Suarez. Dembele was on the bench Tuesday, entering the match in the final minutes as a substitute. Philippe Coutinho also arrived to help fill Neymar's absence, but he was ineligible to play in the Champions League because he had already played for Liverpool earlier in the tournament. Right back Nelson Semedo, another offseason signing for Barcelona, was the player unsuccessfully trying to stop Roma defender Kostas Manolas when he scored the 82nd-minute decisive goal for the hosts on Tuesday. This was Barcelona's first Champions League loss under coach Ernesto Valverde, who replaced Luis Enrique at the end of last season. "We have a very competitive team and it will recover from this," Bartomeu said. "We still have other tournaments to play and we have to focus on them." Although the loss in Rome ended Barcelona's chances of winning the treble, the team remains in good position to win the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey. Barcelona has an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid with seven matches left, and it will face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final on April 21 trying to win its fourth straight Copa title. "It will be very difficult to recover," said veteran Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, who most likely played in his last Champions League match. "But we don't have any other option. On Saturday we have another match to play and we have to give our best to try to win the titles that are still achievable." Barcelona hosts third-place Valencia on Saturday looking to achieve a Spanish league record of 39 consecutive games unbeaten. It shares the record that Real Sociedad set in 1979-80......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2018

Coutinho must live up to cost, legacy of Barca s Brazilians

JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Philippe Coutinho arrives at Barcelona bearing both his huge price tag and the legacy of the long line of Brazilian stars who have dazzled at Camp Nou. The comparisons will be constant with Neymar, whose world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain in August provided Barcelona with the 160 million euros ($192 million) it needed to acquire Coutinho at a cost that would have seemed ludicrous just six months before. Only Neymar and PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe surpass it. But while Neymar, as before him Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Romario, all became fan favorites by staring in Barcelona's attack, Coutinho will have to measure up to the Spanish club's long line of top-notch_and largely homegrown— midfielders. The 25-year-old Coutinho will come to Spain charged with the daunting task of one day taking over as its midfield leader with Andres Iniesta entering the twilight of his career at age 33. Coutinho can count on the big advantage of setting up Lionel Messi for goals as he strives to justify the club-record fee Barcelona agreed to pay on Saturday, when it finally pried him away from Liverpool after the English club had refused to let him go in the summer. Even though coach Ernesto Valverde has successfully kept Barcelona winning after predictions of decline abounded following the unwanted departure of Neymar, Coutinho will greatly increase his options in a midfield that is still heavily reliant on Iniesta for its playmaking spark. His signing signals Barcelona's intention to refocus on the patch of the pitch that has defined its passing style for decades, an emphasis that had slipped somewhat in recent years with Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez forming a powerful attack, albeit sometimes at the expense of its ability to dominate possession. Since the exit of Xavi Hernandez two and a half years ago, and those of Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, Barcelona was in danger of seeing its lineage of great midfielders broken. Coutinho showed at Liverpool that he can play anywhere in the midfield: in a more attacking role, as a wide player in a four-man line, or deeper to help start the attack. That versatility will help ensure him a place in a Barcelona midfield that has a set group of first-choice players in Iniesta on the left, Ivan Rakitic on the right, and Sergio Busquets in a defensive role, but little else. Coutinho, who has the vision and quick passing skills that Barcelona needs, can also provide goals with his accurate strike from distance. He scored 41 times in 152 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, including seven in 14 matches in the first half of this campaign. With Coutinho set to feature, Barcelona will likely part ways with one or more of midfielders Andre Gomes, Arda Turan, Rafinha and Denis Suarez. Barcelona has also recently seen the return of summer signing Ousmane Dembele, which cost it a then-club record fee of 105 million euros plus add-ons that could take the total to 147 million euros, from a tendon injury that had sidelined him since September. Dembele would likely need to play in a 4-3-3 alongside Messi and Suarez, while Coutinho could play on the right side of a midfield line with Iniesta and Busquets. But Valverde has also gotten good results this year— including a 3-0 victory at Real Madrid last month— with just Messi and Suarez in attack and a four-man midfield including Paulinho, who has given the team goals and added muscle since his arrival in the offseason. Valverde will have to use different lineups regardless, because Coutinho will be limited to playing in the Spanish league, which Barcelona leads, and the Copa del Rey for the remainder of this season since he cannot play for another team in the Champions League after participating in the group phase with Liverpool. He will then have five more seasons under the contract he has agreed to sign to help Barcelona win a sixth European Cup......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2018

Matter of when Man City wins title and how many records fall

By Steve Douglas and Rob Harris, Associated Press English soccer has never seen a team so utterly dominant as Manchester City entering the packed Christmas program. There seems little doubt Pep Guardiola will be raising the Premier League trophy for the first time in May. It is just a question of when City will wrap up its third title since 2014, and how many records will tumble on the way. City has already reeled off the most consecutive English top-flight wins — a record extended at the weekend to 17 games. Manchester United's record Premier League title-winning margin of 18 points from 2000 could also be under threat. And England could be looking at its third unbeaten "Invincibles" team after Preston in 1888-89 and Arsenal in 2003-04. So it doesn't bode well for a compelling second half of the Premier League season? Think again. The chase for the other three Champions League spots should be fierce with eight points separating second-place Manchester United and Arsenal in sixth. Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are in the mix among them. Two leading sides will fall by the wayside and be denied a place among the European elite. The battle to stay in the world's richest soccer league is also intense. No team is stranded at the bottom, with Swansea in 20th place only six points behind Southampton in 13th. A closer look at the first half of the season: ___ TITLE RACE City leads by 13 points at the halfway stage after winning 18 of its 19 games and drawing one in the best ever start to a Premier League season. The only dropped points came at home to Everton in the second game on Aug. 21, when City played more than a half with 10 men following Kyle Walker's sending-off. Guardiola won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in late March in 2014 — aided by a winning streak of 19 games never before seen in a major European league. It will be tough for Guardiola to win the title that early in England as he chases a quadruple after finishing his first season at the club without a trophy. City is already through to the League Cup semifinals, into the Champions League last 16 and begins its FA Cup campaign in two weeks. Man United is in second place, with defending champion Chelsea three points further back in third. United manager Jose Mourinho says the title race is still on, but the rest of his peers among the chasing pack don't see City faltering now. It will be intriguing how Mourinho reacts to be seeing his title ambitions further fade in his second season at United, having already opted to publicly call out his "childish" players after a draw at Leicester on Saturday. ___ PICK OF THE PLAYERS Kevin De Bruyne is playing in a deeper role for City this season, virtually as a center midfielder, and it is bringing the best of out the Belgium midfielder. He has provided many of this season's wow moments, from scoring the winning goal at former club Chelsea in September with a fierce left-footed strike from outside the area to the assists for goals by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling in the 7-2 win over Stoke in October Dovetailing perfectly with fellow playmaker David Silva, De Bruyne has six goals and eight assists but it's more than just his statistics. His prodigious work rate, range of passing and crossing ability — arguably the best in the Premier League since the days of David Beckham — that make him a strong contender for the player of the season awards. No wonder City is determined to nail down the 26-year-old De Bruyne to an improved, longer contract. ___ EMERGING TALENT Amid an offseason of record spending in English soccer, little was made of Watford signing Richarlison from Brazilian team Fluminense for 13 million pounds ($17 million). Yet the 20-year-old forward is proving a bargain, settling in quickly to the pace and intensity of the Premier League and being one of the key factors in Watford's impressive start to the season that, at one stage, saw them challenging around the top four. Direct, skilful and quick, Richarlison already has five goals and keeps getting himself in great positions to score more, with his finishing sometimes letting him down. Opponents have cottoned on to his impact, with Richarlison telling ESPN Brazil this month: "Teams are already marking me individually, they are putting two players there on my side." Chelsea and Tottenham have been linked with the Brazil under-20s player, who has yet to earn a call-up to the senior squad. That appears only a matter of time. Other players to break through this season are Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, the Danish center back who has ousted David Luiz, and Liverpool's Joe Gomez, the right back who has ensured long-term injury absentee Nathaniel Clyne hasn't been missed. ___ SURPRISE TEAM An unfashionable club is mixing it with the heavyweights of the Premier League against all the odds. We've heard this before, right? Two years ago, it was Leicester delivering a soccer fairy tale by somehow winning the league. Now it's Burnley's turn to provide the feel-good story of the season. Widely regarded as a relegation candidate at the start of the season, Burnley is currently seventh. Don't rule Burnley out of staying in the tussle for the Champions League qualification places, with Liverpool only three points better off in fourth. The northwest team hasn't finished a season higher than sixth place in the top flight since 1974. Burnley, which has conceded just 15 goals in 19 games, has already beaten Chelsea away and drawn at Tottenham and Liverpool. Not bad for a team that returned a profit of about $20 million in summer player sales when most of the rest of the Premier League was spending freely. ___ POINTS TO PROVE Alexis Sanchez is a superstar performing well below expectations this season, perhaps as a result of failing to secure a move to Man City from Arsenal during the summer. That transfer could be revived in January — Guardiola cut an awkward figure recently when asked about making a new bid for the Chile forward — to potentially leave City with an even greater wealth of attacking riches. Sanchez has five league goals. By this stage last season, he had already scored 12 on his way to career-high haul of 24 for a single league campaign. In the dugout, these are testing times for two British managers: Alan Pardew and Mark Hughes. Pardew succeeded Tony Pulis a month ago with a mission to keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. Then the Baggies were two points above the bottom three. Now they are next-from-bottom after collecting only two points from Pardew's first five games. Hughes' future appears on a knife-edge at Stoke despite a pressure-relieving victory over West Brom on Saturday that hauled the team three points from the danger zone......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017

Four sperm whales die in Indonesia beach rescue

Four sperm whales stranded on a beach in Indonesia have died, a local official said Tuesday, despite frantic efforts to save the massive mammals. The whales were among a pod of 10 spotted by locals stranded along Ujong Krueng beach in Aceh province Monday, with one seen farther out in the water. Rescuers tried to push the nine beached whales back out to sea as hundreds of curious locals looked on, some snapping pictures. Five were pushed back and survived but four died, some with their mouth agape as small waves crashed over their giant bodies. Rescuers tied ropes to the tails of some of the mammals to pull them to deeper water. "We had problems evacuating th...Keep on reading: Four sperm whales die in Indonesia beach rescue.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 14th, 2017

Morata hat trick keeps Chelsea near top of EPL

SAM JOHNSTON, Associated Press br /> LONDON (AP) — Despite having been Chelsea's second choice in the transfer window, Alvaro Morata is quickly proving his doubters wrong in the English Premier League. The former Real Madrid forward showcased his skills with a hat trick as Chelsea defeated Stoke 4-0 on Saturday, drawing him level with Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero with six league goals. 'Alvaro took his goals very well, which for a striker is very important,' Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. 'I am pleased with the team also because it means we are creating chances for our strikers.' Aguero and Lukaku were on the scoresheet, too, as Manchester City and Manchester United won but stayed unbeaten by different paths. City's latest victim was winless Crystal Palace by 5-0, while United ground down Southampton 1-0 thanks to Lukaku's first-half strike. Liverpool overcame its leaky defense to secure a first win in September as Philippe Coutinho starred in a 3-2 win at Leicester. Tottenham and Watford also maintained perfect away records. Spurs withstood a late West Ham comeback to win at the London Stadium 3-2, Watford won at Swansea 2-1, Everton came from behind to defeat Bournemouth 2-1, and Burnley and Huddersfield played out a goalless draw. MORATA, MORATA, MORATA Morata's first three Premier League goals came via his head, but a cool side-footed finish after just two minutes gave Chelsea the lead at Britannia Stadium. His second was even better as he picked up the ball on the left, drove past two Stoke defenders and curled his shot past Jack Butland. His third was simple, but the Spain striker's movement was on display as he slipped his marker to find space to tap in Cesar Azpilicueta's knockdown. If there was any remaining sadness over Diego Costa's exit from Chelsea, which was finally resolved this week, Morata ensured his compatriot was forgotten on Saturday. Pedro scored Chelsea's other goal as Antonio Conte's side maintained its perfect away record in the league, keeping it within three points of United and City at the top of the table. CITY CAN'T STOP SCORING City scored five or more goals for a third consecutive league game as the impressive Leroy Sane opened the scoring before Raheem Sterling added a double against Palace. Aguero maintained his goal-a-game record and substitute Fabian Delph rounded off the scoring, to leave Roy Hodgson's Palace pointless and goalless after six games. LUKAKU: GOALS, CHANTS CONTINUE Lukaku scored the only goal but United's win in Southampton was overshadowed by the continued use of a racist chant in support of Lukaku by United fans. The club said it will review CCTV footage to identify supporters who sang the lyrics despite Lukaku's pre-match request for it to stop. SWEET REVENGE Days after being knocked out of the League Cup by Leicester, Liverpool went to King Power Stadium and beat Leicester in an action-packed encounter. Coutinho laid on an assist for Mohamed Salah before curling a stunning free kick into the top corner to put Juergen Klopp's side in control. However, Liverpool's fragile defense was once more exposed as Shinji Okazaki pulled a goal back. Jordan Henderson restored the Reds' two-goal advantage but Jamie Vardy got Leicester back into contention just a minute later. Vardy then squandered a chance to secure the Foxes a draw when his penalty was saved by Simon Mignolet. PERFECT ON THE ROAD Harry Kane's double and Christian Eriksen's goal appeared to give Spurs an unassailable lead, but a Javier Hernandez header quickly followed by Serge Aurier's sending off made for a tense finale. Cheikhou Kouyate headed West Ham within touching distance but Tottenham held on to make it three wins from three away from home. Watford matched that record with an equally dramatic 2-1 victory over Swansea as Richarlison struck a 90th-minute winner. Andre Gray earlier scored his first goal for Watford before Tammy Abraham came off the bench to level the game. IN FROM THE COLD Oumar Niasse came off the bench to score twice as Everton came from behind to defeat Bournemouth and end a run of three successive defeats. Niasse was deemed surplus to requirements by Ronald Koeman last summer, but with Everton struggling for goals, the Senegal forward was given a chance. He grabbed it with both hands, ending the Toffees' run of 6 1/2 hours without a league goal, before notching the winner five minutes later. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

Klopp angry as Liverpool eliminated from League Cup

em>By Steve Douglas, Associated Press /em> Liverpool failed to finish off a slew of chances and conceded a sloppy goal in a 2-0 loss at Leicester in the English League Cup, arousing the ire of its frustrated manager Juergen Klopp on Tuesday. It is becoming a familiar narrative for the Reds in a disappointing month when they haven't won any of their four matches. Questions are now being asked the team's efficiency at both ends of the field. Liverpool over-ran Leicester in a dominant first-half display, with Philippe Coutinho orchestrating the attacks from midfield. But the visitors struggled after the Brazil playmaker was substituted at halftime of the third-round match in a pre-planned move from Klopp. In another game-changing substitution, Shinji Okazaki came on in the 53rd minute for Leicester, scored 12 minutes later with a deflected shot after Liverpool's defense was beaten to two headers, and then laid the ball on for Islam Slimani to drive home a stunning second goal at King Power stadium. 'Second ball from a corner and a goal from a throw-in — I'm sick of goals like this, to be honest. Unbelievable,' Klopp said. Referring to the first goal, Klopp added: 'We didn't push up together — I say it one time, I say it a thousand times. It's not nice to concede these goals.' Since beating Arsenal 4-0 in the Premier League before the international break, Liverpool has been thrashed 5-0 by Manchester City and drawn 1-1 at home to Burnley in the league, conceded late to draw 2-2 with Sevilla in the Champions League, and has now been eliminated from the League Cup. Klopp is easing Coutinho back to full match sharpness after the midfielder missed Liverpool's first six games of the season — officially because of injury and illness — while he was the subject of three transfer bids from Barcelona. Leicester couldn't handle Coutinho's passing and movement in the first half, and only came into the game when he was off the field. 'They've got a world-class player in Coutinho,' Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare said. 'I was very relieved when he went off.' Liverpool finished the game having had 21 shots, but only three on target. Against Burnley on Saturday, the Reds only scored once from 35 shots. Tottenham was among the other Premier League teams to win on a night when top-flight sides mostly fielded fringe players for what is regarded as the inferior cup competition on the English calendar, compared to the FA Cup. ___ strong>SPURS EDGE THROUGH /strong> In another unconvincing domestic display at its temporary home of Wembley Stadium, Tottenham beat second-tier Barnsley 1-0 thanks to Dele Alli's close-range goal in the 65th minute. Tottenham hasn't won any of its three Premier League games at Wembley this season, but has beaten Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. ___ strong>HODGSON'S FIRST WIN /strong> Crystal Palace scored its first goal since Aug. 22 to earn a 1-0 win over Huddersfield and a first victory under new manager Roy Hodgson. Bakary Sako was the scorer from a corner. Palace has started the Premier League season with five straight losses and no goals, the first time that has happened in the history of England's top flight. Hodgson replaced the fired Frank de Boer last week. Defender Pape Souare came on as a substitute for Palace for his first appearance since breaking his jaw and thigh, and picking up other injuries, in a car crash a year ago. ___ strong>STOKE, BURNLEY ELIMINATED /strong> Stoke lost 2-0 at Bristol City and Burnley was eliminated on penalties by Leeds after a 2-2 draw, as two second-tier League Championship teams got the better of Premier League sides. Bristol City also knocked out a Premier League team in Watford in the second round. Bournemouth, West Ham and Swansea were Premier League teams to advance to Round 4.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 20th, 2017

Birthday news: Salah fit for Egypt s next World Cup match

By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Mohamed Salah celebrated his 26th birthday with a Chechen cake and the news that he will play in Egypt's next World Cup match. A statement from the Egyptian soccer association gave no details about his fitness except that the Liverpool striker participated fully in training Saturday in Grozny, the team's base in Russia's Chechnya region. Salah injured his left shoulder in the Champions League final last month, putting his World Cup in doubt. He was an unused substitute in Egypt's 1-0 loss to Uruguay on Friday — his birthday. "(His) condition is so much better," Egypt executive director Ihab Leheta said Saturday. "He was very upset after the Uruguay game. He thought he could have played and made a contribution." Fans and Chechnya's leadership tried to cheer him up, presenting Salah with a giant birthday cake. Salah smiled as he sang "Happy Birthday" with his teammates, team officials and hotel staff, but the brief celebration was visibly subdued and not everyone joined in. "We could have celebrated more," Leheta said, alluding to the loss to Uruguay. The brief celebration took place upon the team's arrival back in their Grozny hotel after the flight from Yekaterinburg, where they played their opening match. A video clip showed a cake coated in the colors of the Egyptian and Chechnya flags sitting on a table in the team's hotel lobby. Perched atop the cake was what appeared to be a replica of the golden boot won by Salah as the Premier League's top scorer this season. Egypt faces host Russia in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, and then takes on Saudi Arabia on June 25......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

As Saudis wilt on field, kingdom pursues soccer power grab

By Rob Harris, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — The Saudis have ambitions to seize control over parts of international soccer. Losing 5-0 by Russia in the World Cup opener shows they might have bigger problems at home. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had to endure the humiliation in the stadium on Thursday, with Saudi Arabia's mauling in Moscow coming at the hands of a side just below the Saudis in the FIFA rankings. Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi studiously sidestepped a question about whether his federation had been distracted lately. But it has. Just when the Saudis had a first World Cup appearance in 12 years to prepare for, the federation has been mounting a power grab of soccer far beyond the kingdom. What appears the creation of just another bureaucratic institution within the sport could actually have wider ramifications. On its face, the establishment of the South West Asian Football Federation by the Saudis, including the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, to help to develop the game appears a benevolent undertaking, especially when the existing regional governing body is so vast. "Football is about growth and if you don't grow economically, socially, technically, you will not be moving," Saudi federation president Adel Ezzat told The Associated Press. "It's not enough for us to be in the World Cup. "We have a vision that an Asian country will win the World Cup one day, but there must be a start for that. Football is underdeveloped in many areas in Asia." Is the Asian Football Confederation to blame? "Ambitions have to be higher than winning the Asian Cup," Ezzat said. Confederation president Sheikh Salman, a Bahraini, said he "had no objection to the creation of SWAFF as long as it remains as a football body outside of the AFC's zonal structure." Scratch deeper below the surface and the true objectives of the new body seem a little cloudy. It is unclear why SWAFF is required when there are already regional offshoots of the AFC, including the West Asian Football Federation, which is led by Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein who resisted an attempt by the Saudis to seize power of his organization before the new regional force emerged. "It will help Asia and it will help FIFA," Ezzat told The Associated Press. "We don't see anything wrong creating that connection between the south and the west. Football needs to grow." Ezzat maintained that SWAFF had followed the right legal steps to avoid breaching the rules of world football's governing body. Ezzat said FIFA governance committee head Mukul Mudgal had been dispatched by FIFA President Gianni Infantino to the SWAFF meeting on May 31 in Jeddah. The Indian judge denied he was in attendance. SWAFF said the founding members also include Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Maldives, Yemen, Oman and Kuwait. Oman Football Association General Secretary Said Othman Al Bulushi told the AP his nation was waiting to assess the statutes and legality of the body within FIFA before confirming its membership. The entire Gulf is not in SWAFF. Take a look at the map and three countries in particular are missing: Iran, Qatar and Yemen. "It's not about the geographic map," Saudi federation president Adel Ezzat said. "It's about zones." Could it also be about politics? For three years, a Saudi-led coalition has been trying to drive out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis from Yemen to break the civil war in the Arab world's poorest nation and restore the exiled government. Across the Gulf, the Saudis are part of a quartet, including the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, which has spent the last year putting the squeeze on Qatar. Diplomatic ties with the energy-rich country have been severed amid allegations that Qatar supports extremist groups in the region, which Doha denies. The Qataris, though, have plowed ahead with preparations to host an event that will put them at the center of the world's attention: the next World Cup in 2022. Ezzat won't discuss Qatar, or the 2022 World Cup. Turki Al-Sheikh, head of Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority, has been less circumspect, demanding earlier this year that Qatar be stripped of the hosting rights if corruption around its bid was proven. For now, in Saudi sights is Qatar's flagship sports network, which owns exclusive Middle East and North African rights to the World Cup. The BeIN Sports coverage of the Russia World Cup opener was watched across Saudi Arabia — but on a pirate channel. The beoutQ signal is transmitted by a Riyadh-based satellite provider, whose largest shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Still, the BeIN coverage was seized on by Al-Sheikh to threaten legal action against the network for "wrongdoings against KSA, its sports and officials, and for exploiting sports to achieve political goals." In a tweet, Al-Sheikh added Friday that this "proves Saudi authorities' true stance when banning this network from airing on its soil." Soccer's world body, though, is finally intervening. FIFA said it is "exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights, including in relation to action against legitimate organizations that are seen to support such illegal activities." What FIFA would not say is whether Infantino raised Qatar's concerns when he watched the opener in the Luzhniki Stadium alongside the Saudi crown prince. Infantino has been a keen visitor to Saudi Arabia over the last year, including meeting King Salman, as intrigue has swirled about the country's role in a consortium's plans to underwrite $25 billion to launch a vastly expanded Club World Cup and an international Nations League. "He knows for a fact the importance of Saudi Arabia in the region," Ezzat said. "That's why I believe he is paying a lot of attention to Saudi Arabia. ... That's a very important sign. (FIFA) know this country can play a very important role in the development of football." Infantino, though, said he believed the backing for the new competitions was "not part of a wider Saudi sports grab." The proposals have stalled because of opposition within the council to Infantino's secrecy over the financial backers. Growing football is part of a sweeping "Vision 2030" plan to wean Saudi Arabia off its near-total dependence on oil money. Prince Mohammed is trying to push Saudi Arabia to become a more cosmopolitan nation that appeals to international investors. Ezzat wants to create new soccer competitions under the auspices of SWAFF and invite countries to participate from beyond the region — particularly Europe. "The country is going through an important change," Ezzat said. "Football can be a catalyst for change. The FIFA president I'm sure knows this very well. ... My country can play an important role in football." Just not the Saudi national team at the moment......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 16th, 2018

At random

It’s back to classroom again for some 27 million pupils and students in elementary and high schools all over the country. As in the years past, the same old problems marked the first day in school......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJun 7th, 2018

Lukaku, Hazard on target as Belgium beats Egypt 3-0

By Mike Corder, Associated Press BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium showed flashes of its attacking prowess Wednesday, beating Egypt 3-0 in a World Cup warmup with the help of goals from Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard in a dominant first half. Substitute Marouane Fellaini swept home from close range in injury time to complete the scoring. Egypt, held goalless for the second time in three matches, showed how much it misses the injured Mohamed Salah. Driven forward by the speed and insight of Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium was up 2-0 at halftime before losing some fluency amid a flurry of substitutions after the break. "I don't think our performance was perfect, far from it," said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. "There are many aspects that we need to improve. But what I like is that when we make mistakes we've got the togetherness to try to overcome them and I don't think we had that before and that's very pleasing." Salah, Egypt's great scoring hope for the World Cup, is still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in the Champions League final as Liverpool lost 3-1 to Real Madrid. The Premier League's top scorer has been named in Egypt's squad for the tournament in Russia and coach Hector Cuper badly needs him. "Mo Salah is not just a good player, he's an outstanding footballer, he's a world class footballer after what he's done this season," Martinez said. "So any team is going to miss the goal scoring threat of Mo Salah. We all wish him a speedy recovery and we want to see him in the World Cup." Egypt should have taken the lead in the 23rd minute when Mohamed Abdelshafy swung in an enticing cross from the left, but Marwan Mohsen, unmarked in the middle, headed wide a chance Salah likely would have scored. The move didn't only highlight the Liverpool forward's absence for Egypt; the space Mohsen found also underscored how Belgium could miss center back Vincent Kompany if he is not fit to play in Russia. Kompany injured his groin on Saturday during Belgium's lackluster 0-0 draw with Portugal. Coach Roberto Martinez named Los Angeles FC defender Laurent Ciman as a replacement if Kompany is not fit to play in Russia. If Lukaku and Hazard are in top form in Russia, Belgium might not miss Kompany too badly. Hazard drove a low shot in the 27th minute that Egypt goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary couldn't hold and Lukaku pounced on the rebound to fire in from close range. Hazard added his name to the score sheet in the 38th minute, blasting a shot high and hard past el-Hadary after Yannick Carrasco had cut back the ball from the left. Martinez rested Lukaku and Hazard for the second half, giving Michy Batshuayi and Adnan Januzaj a chance to play themselves into favor. Batshuayi set up Fellaini's goal by beating an Egypt defender and cutting back the ball. The defeat was Egypt's final warmup before Russia, while Belgium plays Costa Rica on Monday. One positive for Egypt coach Cuper was that Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny returned from injury and lasted the full 90 minutes. Martinez said his team needs the final tune-up. "I don't think we are physically, tactically and mentally ready ... and that's why the Costa Rica game will be important," he said. Egypt opens its World Cup campaign in Russia against Uruguay on June 15, Belgium's first Group G match is against Panama on June 18......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 7th, 2018

PBA: San Miguel outlasts Ginebra in overtime classic

The hype was around Renaldo Balkman vs. Justin Brownlee but locals stole the show in the highly-anticipated San Miguel-Ginebra clash. MVPs June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos were crucial for Beermen late as the defending champions outlasted Ginebra in an overtime classic, 104-97, Sunday at the MOA Arena in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup. Fajardo got the lucky bounce on a last-second fadeaway in regulation to force extra time while Santos scored his usual clutch triple in overtime as San Miguel won back-to-back games for the first time this conference. After a 0-3 start, the Beermen are now 2-3 in the standings. The Gin Kings meanwhile, just got buried even deeper and now hold a 1-5 card......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Get ready for Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova in Paris

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — If the upcoming French Open showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova provides any of the sort of animus and back-and-forth they manage to stir up away from the court, look out. During a news conference after both won Saturday to set up the longtime rivals' fourth-round matchup at Roland Garros, Williams criticized Sharapova's autobiography as "hearsay" and twice brought up the Russian's 15-month doping ban. Producing by far the best performance in her return to Grand Slam tennis — 16 months after her last major tournament and nine months after having a baby — Williams played cleanly and powerfully in a 6-3, 6-4 tour de force against 11th-seeded Julia Goerges that lasted a mere 75 minutes and lacked much in the way of theatrics. "There is still a ways to go, but it's moving in the right direction," said Williams, who made only three unforced errors in the first set, 12 in all. "And I think that as long as it's moving in the right direction, I know I will get there." Sharapova advanced with a similarly lopsided win, 6-2, 6-1 against 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova. Now comes the drama: Williams vs. Sharapova on Monday with a quarterfinal spot at stake. They have verbally clashed in the past, such as a 2013 public spat about their private lives. Williams, 36, owns 23 major singles titles. Sharapova, 31, has won five. Williams has won the French Open three times, Sharapova twice. They are the only active women with a career Grand Slam; they are two of six in history to accomplish that. Both have been ranked No. 1. But the head-to-head history is overwhelmingly in Williams' favor: She has won 19 of 21 meetings, including 18 in a row. "Quite frankly, she's probably a favorite in this match, for sure," Williams said with a chuckle. "She's been playing ... for over a year now. I just started. So I'm just really trying to get my bearings and trying to feel out where I am and see where I can go." The last time Sharapova beat Williams was in 2004. The last time they played was in the 2016 Australian Open quarterfinals, Sharapova's final appearance before her 15-month drug suspension. "Well, it's been a while," Sharapova said, "and I think a lot has happened in our lives for the both of us, in very different ways." Williams was asked about Sharapova's book, which was published last year. It contains quite a bit of material about the American, including a reference to Williams crying in the locker room after losing to Sharapova in the Wimbledon final 14 years ago. "As a fan, I wanted to read the book and I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her. And then the book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest," Williams said. "I was, like, 'Oh, OK, I didn't expect to be reading a book about me — that wasn't necessarily true.'" Insisting she doesn't "have any negative feelings" toward Sharapova, Williams said "the success of one female should be the inspiration to another." Seconds later, Williams made reference to Sharapova's "incident of drugs." There were plenty of other results involving top names at the French Open on Saturday. Other women moving into the fourth round included 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza, two-time runner-up Simona Halep, two-time major title winner Angelique Kerber and reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens. Men's winners included 10-time champion Rafael Nadal, No. 3 Marin Cilic, No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 6 Kevin Anderson and No. 9 John Isner. The story of Day 7, though, was what everyone can look forward to on Day 9: Williams vs. Sharapova. This is Williams' first Grand Slam tournament since January 2017, when she won the Australian Open while pregnant. The American made a brief foray on the tour earlier this season, but she played only four matches. She had some problems in her initial two outings in Paris, including in the second round, when she dropped the first set against 17th-seeded Ashleigh Barty before — as Williams herself put it — "Serena came out." Against Goerges, the careless errors were largely absent. The missing energy was back. In front of a crowd that included former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, it took 15 minutes for Williams to gain the upper hand, sprinting to reach a drop shot and whip a cross-court forehand passing winner for a 3-1 lead. Williams yelled loudly and raised her fist. It was almost as if she'd never left the scene. "Any time you play against Serena, you know what you're up against. You know the challenge that is upon you," Sharapova said. "Despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best players.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Thompson, Till battle at UFC Fight Night 130 in Liverpool, England

TOP ULTIMATE Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight fighters collide at “UFC Fight Night 130” today in Liverpool, England, as number one contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson takes on eighth-ranked Darren “The Gorilla” Till in the headlining fight. Happening at the Echo Arena, American Thompson (14-2-1) descends on enemy territory looking to make it back-to-back wins and reassert […] The post Thompson, Till battle at UFC Fight Night 130 in Liverpool, England appeared first on BusinessWorld......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsMay 27th, 2018

Thompson, Warriors force inevitable Game 7

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. -- The final game of the Western Conference season will tip on the last Monday in May (Tuesday, PHL time) at the Toyota Center in Houston, as it should. This is the route the GPS mapped out back in October and never had any reason to recalculate from since. Warriors at Rockets in a winner-take-all. Never in doubt, no? A pair of championship-quality teams will go 48 minutes and the previous six games in this series tells us to expect a tense jump ball-to-buzzer affair. With or without Chris Paul. Paul’s inflamed right hamstring is a significant flaw, no question, yet the Rockets do have home-court advantage and will hear a crazed crowd trying to fill the void with noise if as expected Paul misses a second straight game. The Rockets didn’t have their point guard and spiritual leader Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) and still sent an early chill through the defending champions on enemy soil, going up 17 after the first quarter and 10 at halftime. Oracle Arena and the Warriors were confused. Then Game 6 flipped suddenly and drastically in the second half, as the Warriors rolled to a 115-86 victory. and here we are. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: “We got what we want, a seventh game on our home court, now it’s up to us to go get it.” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said: “I feel like we’re the best team in the world.” The Rockets constructed this team specifically to challenge and beat the Warriors. Meanwhile, the Warriors paced themselves through the regular season partly to conserve their attention and energy for Houston, which has Golden State’s attention like no team before in the West playoffs. Both are causing each other irritating problems. The Rockets’ defense with its switching and hand-in-the-face pressure is forcing Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry to work hard for their shots. The Warriors’ ability to thrive even if not all four of their All-Stars are clicking is testing Houston’s limits; such was the case in Game 6 when Thompson, the No. 3 Guy, broke loose for 35 points with nine threes. That’s what makes the Warriors tough to erase: They don’t need to be perfect, and good for them, because they haven’t been in this series, with the exception of their 41-point victory in Game 3. About Thompson: He was locked in, emotionally and physically, popping off screens, catching and shooting, creating space to get good looks and punching the air after big three's. The energy and the shots saved the Warriors from a lackluster and potentially deadly start. Thompson stayed in rhythm most of the night while Curry (29 points) and Durant (23) went through off-and-on cold stretches and afterward joked how he was “born” for this. “Man, that felt good, to be honest,” Thompson said. “I just wanted to play with as much passion as I could. I probably sounded more vocal than I am.” There was a natural link to the last time Thompson was this splashy in a Game 6 elimination game, two summers ago when he dropped 41 on Oklahoma City to trigger a comeback from 3-1 down. Durant was on the wrong side of that performance. “Please don’t go there,” begged Durant, bowing his head. “Next question.” Mindful of what happened right after that series -- the Warriors would blow a 3-1 lead of their own to Cleveland -- Curry said: “I think we both blocked that whole year out of our memory.” Actually, that volcanic performance by Thompson helped convince Durant to leave Oklahoma City, which led to last year’s championship and helped build a solid case for the Warriors to repeat next month. Thompson’s latest piece of work helped awaken the Warriors from being trapped in an extended state of stun, courtesy of how fierce the Rockets came at them right from the start. The Houston lead grew to double digits within minutes and stayed that way through the break. This was further evidence that the Rockets, in this game and actually for the series so far, refuse to concede anything and believe this West title is realistic even with Paul’s status uncertain. “I saw a lot of things that I liked,” said D’Antoni, “and I think we’re in a good position.” Eric Gordon, a strong candidate to win the Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, started in place of Paul and was a concern for the Warriors, drilling deep shots and scoring 19 points. Also, Harden rediscovered his own touch from that distance; he’d missed 22 straight threes in this series but made four and scored 32 points. Houston missed Paul’s composure and steady point guard hand, which could be expected. The Rockets had 22 turnovers, with the Harden-Gordon backcourt combining for 14. The other issue for the Rockets was depth. With Gordon in the starting lineup, D’Antoni was forced to give minutes to Luc Mbah a Moute, still struggling after hurting his shoulder just prior to the playoffs. He wasn’t a factor and neither was the bench. Assuming Paul sits another game, the Rockets will undoubtedly need major scoring and playmaking from Harden, solid shotgun work from Gordon and at least two members of the support group -- Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela -- to break loose in order to make Game 7 interesting. Remember, the Rockets have now gone four straight games without breaking 100 points, and Harden appeared beaten in the fourth quarter Saturday where he went scoreless. The Warriors are also dealing with a missing part, with Andre Iguodala’s inactive streak now at three. They’re crossing fingers whenever Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and/or Nick Young are pressed to play more than 15 minutes. None of them have distinguished themselves since Iguodala suffered a bone bruise on his left knee in Game 3. So that’s the tale of the tape. Between now and tipoff, the Rockets’ therapy staff will work on Paul’s hamstring, hoping for some intervention from the Medical Gods. In the perfect basketball world, Paul and Iguodala would be fit to play; why should the finish of this series be deprived of them, of less than what it should be? Last fall, before training camp, Paul, Harden and Tucker vacationed in the Bahamas for one last moment of chill before preparations for a season of big expectations. Obviously, they talked shop. They set goals and their sights on the Warriors. Tucker asked Paul and Harden: Imagine if we get them on our court for a Game 7. They all nodded and agreed it would be a logical scenario to launch themselves into the NBA Finals. “Obviously we hope to have our starting point guard back,” Tucker said. “If not, we need to be ready.” The Warriors held no such pre-camp huddle -- champions have what others want -- yet knew that once the Rockets added Paul, Houston would be their toughest test since Durant signed up. Warriors vs. Rockets in a single-game elimination is the proper stage, then, to determine who reps the West in the NBA Finals. D’Antoni said: “It should be a great game.” Curry: “It should be fun. This is what you play for, to be in a situation where you’re one win away from going to The Finals. You’ve got to want it.” Truthfully, neither team would rather be in a winner-take-all. Sweeping would be vastly preferred. But the other part about what Curry said is definitely true: Who wants it? Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or 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 NewsMay 27th, 2018

LeBron, back in Boston, for another Cavs farewell

By Jimmy Golen, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — LeBron James and the depleted Cleveland Cavaliers won’t get any sympathy from the Celtics when they return to Boston for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Already laboring to reach his eighth straight NBA Finals with a supporting crew made mostly of cast-offs and throw-ins, James lost the only other All-Star on the roster on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) when Kevin Love was declared out for the series finale with a concussion. Now, in what could be his final game in a Cleveland uniform — again — James will have to do it largely on his own. In Boston, where the Celtics are perfect so far this postseason. And in a series where the road team hasn’t really even come close. “There’s something different about LeBron, period,” Cleveland forward Larry Nance Jr. said after James scored 46 with 11 rebounds and nine assists on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) to send the series to a decisive seventh game. “I think [coach Tyronn Lue] said it best: ‘We’re going into a Game 7 with the baddest dude on the planet on our team.’ I like our chances.” James is having what could be the best postseason of his career, averaging 33.9 points and just under nine assists and rebounds, with seven 40-point games, two buzzer beaters, and a sweep of top-seeded Toronto. But he’s played in every game this season — Sunday (Monday, PHL time) will be his 100th — and it showed in the Game 5 loss to the Celtics. He admitted to fatigue afterward, and then played all but two minutes in Game 6 despite a sore knee from a collision with Nance. Still, the four-time MVP carried his team even after Love banged heads with Boston’s Jayson Tatum in the first half and left the game. “I can’t say enough good things about him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Every time we watch. Every time you’re standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game.” James will probably have to do it again in Game 7 to reach the NBA Finals for the eighth straight year, something accomplished only by Bill Russell and some of his Celtics teammates in the 1960s. Lue said he wasn’t concerned about James’ leg. Or about the team’s history in the TD Garden, where the Cavaliers lost the first three games by an average of 17 points. “We throw it all out,” Lue said on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). “It’s one game left to go to the NBA Finals.” The Celtics have had their own injury problems, starting in the first quarter of the season opener — at Cleveland — when top free agent Gordon Hayward went out for the year with a broken leg. Five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, acquired from the Cavaliers in an offseason roster overhaul, needed knee surgery and was lost in March. But they caught a break when Tatum was cleared to play on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Stevens said the team doctors checked on him “and he’s great.” “So nothing there as far as to be concerned about,” Stevens said. Well, there’s one thing to be concerned about. “We know LeBron is different than a lot of other guys, but we’ve got to get the job done,” Celtics guard Terry Rozier said. “That’s no excuse, so we’re looking forward to it.” For James, it’s an opportunity to extend the season for his hometown team and put off another summer of questions about his future. Eight years ago, he came to Boston for the conference semifinals and had a triple-double — 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists — but shot 8-for-21 with nine turnovers and the Celtics eliminated the Cavs from the playoffs. As he left the court, James stripped off his Cleveland jersey; then came “The Decision” and the move to Miami. James is again able to become a free agent this season, with the Lakers, 76ers and Rockets among the most-mentioned destinations. Having led Cleveland to the city’s first major sports title in half a century in 2016, there is less pulling at him to stay home this time. But another title would ease the pain even more. And with the injury bug hitting the Western Conference finalists — Chris Paul was the latest ruled out for a game — the East champion might not be as big an underdog as expected. James will be ready. “You’ve got to be poised. You’ve got to be able to handle a punch or two,” he said. “We know it’s challenging. They’re 10-0 on their home floor, and they’ve been very successful against us, obviously, at home. But if you love challenges, then this is a great opportunity.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2018

Paul paves way for Rockets, but will he be there in the end?

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — If he doesn’t take another step on that tender right hamstring in these Western Conference finals, Chris Paul did what he came here to do. That won’t be enough for him, of course. No Hall of Fame-level competitor is ever satisfied with just reaching the precipice of a dream. They want it all. And you know Chris Paul’s every intention is to get to the summit. You don’t wait as long as he has, fight through as many barriers as he has throughout his career and get to the final seconds of a defining game like Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, and not feel the burn when you have to watch the outcome from the bench. Paul’s right hamstring didn’t allow him to take in the final, frantic 22.4 seconds of the Houston Rockets’ 98-94 win over the Golden State Warriors Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Toyota Center. He tweaked it trying to drive to the basket on Quinn Cook with the Rockets clinging to a 95-94 lead. Another injury for the man who has seen so many of his playoff dreams vanish in a haze of different injuries over the course of his career. It has to sting. He went from shimmying at Stephen Curry after knocking down a wild three-pointer to being forced to watch the end unfold without him on the court to finish what he’d started. But the Rockets are here, up 3-2 in this series and four quarters away from dethroning the defending three-time Western Conference champion Warriors. Paul's availability for Saturday’s (Sunday, PHL time) Game 6 remained a mystery late into the night; he received treatment after the game and did not speak to the media. “He’ll be evaluated tomorrow,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who for the second straight game in this series relied on just a seven-man rotation. “But obviously you saw him limp off, and he’s a tough guy. So they’ll do whatever they can do. If he’s there, great, good for him. If he isn’t, we have enough guys, it’s time for somebody else to step up. We’ve got plenty of guys over there that will have some fresh legs, that’s for sure. So we’ll be alright. We’ve just got to continue doing what we’re doing and we’ll find our way.” The Rockets found their way with Paul lighting the path of another heavyweight fight. Rockets fans left the building on an emotional high thanks to Paul, who scored 18 of his 20 points after halftime, after a brutal 1-for-7 shooting performance in the first half that made you wonder if he came into this game injured already. Once again he willed these Rockets past adversity, the same way he did in the close-out game of the conference semifinal against Utah when he piled up 20 of his playoff career-high 41 points down the stretch of a Game 5 masterpiece. “Well his spirits aren’t great,” D’Antoni said. “He wanted to be out there, and for sure he’s worried and all that. That’s normal. And like I said, we’ll see [Friday] how it goes. But what he did was remarkable. When we were kind of teetering, he made two or three three's. That’s just his heart. He made something out of nothing. His heart, his will to win, I don’t know how many times everybody’s got to see it in this league. He’s one of the best players that have played the game. Just his will alone and what it means to basketball, I don’t know. If you can’t root for him, I think you’ve got some problems.” The Warriors are loaded with problems then. Because they’ve surely seen enough of Paul in the deciding moments of the last two games in this series. Paul led the charge in Game 4 at Oracle Arena and did it again in the third quarter of Game 5, keeping the Rockets right with the Warriors during the period they’ve owned by draining three of his four attempts from beyond the three-point line during an unconscious third-quarter stretch. “It was well-deserved,” Curry said, a showman tipping his cap to a fellow showman. “It was a tough shot. If you can shimmy on somebody else, you’ve got to be alright getting shimmied on. So I’ll keep shimmying and maybe he will too, so we’ll see what happens.” It was more than just the shimmying, though. Time after time Paul got the switch he wanted, backed up and went at bigger Warriors defenders and got whatever he wanted. “Well, Chris is a Hall of Fame player, this is what they do,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “They put James [Harden] and Chris in pick-and-roll every single time. So they’re going to challenge you. We did a great job. They combined to shoot 11-for-40. He hit two 35-foot three's that were just unbelievable. You’ve got to live with that.” The Rockets have lived off of it all season. They knew it would the moment Paul was acquired in that blockbuster trade with the LA Clippers that set this Rockets’ Western Conference takeover attempt in motion. The aesthetics be damned. Keep your analytics. Sometimes the biggest moments require the unthinkable, unbelievable shots Kerr spoke of. “That’s the most difficult shots you can imagine,” Harden said of Paul’s three-point heroics and his entire arsenal of shot-clock beating artistry. “He’s been doing it all year, and he just manages to get those shots off and make big plays. He was built for it.” If only his body was built for the pounding that comes with the work he has to do, often as the smallest man on the floor. Paul’s body always seems to betray him at the very worst times. Dragging up the long list of bumps, bruises and season-derailing instances won't do any good now. It won’t do the Rockets any good, with or without him in Game 6, or even a Game 7, back here Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) if needed. Paul’s right leg will be on the minds of each and every one of his teammates as they prepare for the next step on this wild ride that began with a humbling Game 1 defeat that temporarily cost them home court advantage they’ve since snatched back. Can they win three straight and finish this? Is it even a realistic possibility without Paul available? “There is concern, obviously,” Rockets veteran Trevor Ariza said. “I hope he’s healthy. I hope he gets better and if not, somebody else has to step up and do what we’ve been doing all year, step in and try and help this team win.” 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 NewsMay 25th, 2018

Miscues push Warriors to brink of elimination

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com HOUSTON — The hefty equipment bag sitting next to the visitor’s locker room entrance after Game 5 of the Western Conference finals never had a chance. Whack! went Draymond Green’s fist against it as he walked by. Well, at least the Warriors hit something as the night grew late. Once again, the defending champions, the team with four All-Stars, the franchise with a pair of former MVPs still in their prime and two of the most efficient machines of this generation went flatter than Texas when it counted. Missed shots, failed stops and poor decisions all piled on their heads. That fourth quarter was mostly a 12-minute mess. It doomed them at the finish, for the second straight game, and now has them on the brink — really! — in the conference finals. The Warriors awaken today with a pair of potential saving graces: Game 6 is in Oakland and Chris Paul is gimpy, and might be done for good. That could be enough to push this series to seven games. Yet nothing is for certain anymore in the Warriors’ world, if only because of the weird and uncharacteristic — for them — developments in the clutch. Simply put, their lack of composure and smarts is the reason they’re in a bind. Imagine: The Rockets don’t score 100 and James Harden missed all 11 of his three-pointers and the Warriors still lose. It was a strange, empty night for the Warriors where nothing made sense for them. Yes, Paul went nuts in the fourth quarter and Houston’s defensive rotations and traps are catching the Warriors — and especially Kevin Durant — by surprise, and yet the Warriors are also doing a good job of stabbing themselves. Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) 98-94 loss was another blown opportunity, another one that got away, and for the first time since The Finals two summers ago the Warriors are staring at elimination. The face of the Warriors in these back-to-back losses belongs to Durant, and it wears the look of a man confused and dumbfounded. He is 1-for-9 shooting over the last two fourth quarters, reduced to a supporting actor, a backup singer, instead of a beast. He’s not the total reason for this, but a strong symptom nonetheless. Could they fall short of The Finals, a place where they were all but destined to go? It’s a reality, obviously, and their margin for error is toothpick-like. But that’s not what coach Steve Kerr’s gut tells him. “I feel great about where we are right now,” he said. “That may sound crazy, but I feel it. I know exactly what I’m seeing out there … we got everything we needed. Just too many turnovers, too many reaches. If we settle down a little bit we’re going to be in really good shape.” Maybe some of Kerr’s mood has something to do with Paul grabbing a hamstring in the final moments, perhaps stripping the Rockets of their best player in this series. Maybe it’s just hard to fathom the Warriors losing four times in a best-of-seven. All that talent and past success can make a man stubborn, almost refusing to ponder the possibility of defeat. Fine, but Kerr and crew must find a way to clean up the bad choices they’ve made with the game on the line, before it becomes habit-forming. Eighteen turnovers isn’t a recipe for winning. “We can learn from it,” said Durant, “and we’ve got another opportunity at home. We’ll be ready to play.” Trailing by a point with 49 seconds left, here’s what the Warriors coughed up: * Quinn Cook missed a three-pointer. The big surprise is that the ball found Cook and he actually took a shot at that stage of the game. * Curry missed a driving layup, and rather than grab the rebound, Green slapped it out toward the perimeter, hoping a teammate would grab it. Trevor Ariza scooped the lose ball instead. * Then: Down three points and seconds left, the play was designed for Curry to spring loose for a three, but Green fumbled a pass that hit him in both hands. Game over. “We were supposed to score,” said Green. “I lost the ball. Nothing more, nothing less.” Before these self-inflicted misadventures, the Warriors were repeatedly punished by Paul, who recovered from an 0-for-7 first half with 18 points in the second half — complete with a payback shimmy aimed at Curry — before pulling up lame with 22 seconds left. Also, Eric Gordon dropped 24 points and went to the line 10 times, thanks to reach-in fouls by beaten Warriors defenders. “What we can’t live with is reaching and jumping on Eric Gordon’s pump fakes,” said Kerr. “We reached on James and he shot nine free throws. We’ve got to be a little more disciplined.” Overall, the Warriors withstood a manic Toyota Center and were locked in a tight finish against a 65-win team, but never led after the eight-minute mark and weren't nearly sharp enough to capture the lead. They were without Andre Iguodala again, but he’s a defensive specialist and for much of the night defense wasn’t a big issue for the Warriors; the Rockets shot 37 percent and Harden didn’t hurt them. Their problems were mistakes and missed shots. Anyway, Golden State has four All-Stars to Houston’s two, and now with Paul’s status questionable, maybe just one. That means, although the Warriors trail 3-2, they’re in a reasonably good position to keep the series alive. They’re not worried. There’s another emotion running through their bodies. “I think they’re angry,” said Kerr. “As they should be. They’re competitors.” This is new territory in the Durant Era. Remember, the Warriors lost only once last season and until the West Finals didn’t perspire much. As expected, the Rockets are indeed the biggest threat they’ve faced. It’s the series that’s meeting the high expectations for drama and suspense and a chance to see the mighty Warriors ousted. Does Paul’s injury linger and ultimately bail out the Warriors? Can Durant rediscover his touch in the clutch? Will the Warriors wise up or once again wig out? There’s nothing at stake, really, except a dynasty that a loaded team was created to become. Curry plans to remain cool and confident, and the Warriors really don’t have any other choice but to adopt that mentality. “We’ve played the last two games good enough to win but just haven’t gotten the job done," he said. "The way we played tonight, if we can repeat that, take care of turnovers, just stay mentally locked on the details for 48 minutes, we know we can get a win. “Just the talent we have on this team and the resiliency, you know we can get the job done. We know we haven’t been in this position before, so it’s a chapter we need to figure out and finish the story.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or 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 NewsMay 25th, 2018