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Ronaldo and Van Dijk face off in Nations League final

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press PORTO, Portugal (AP) — The final of UEFA's newest competition will feature another clash between Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk, two players likely to be competing for the world player of the year award this year. The inaugural Nations League will come to an end on Sunday in Porto with Ronaldo's Portugal taking on the Netherlands of Van Dijk. The Portuguese superstar and the thriving Dutch defender haven't met since last year's Champions League final, when Ronaldo's former team Real Madrid came out on top of Van Dijk's Liverpool. Ronaldo will try to lead Portugal to its first title since the 2016 European Championship, while Van Dijk will look to help the Netherlands lift its first international trophy since the 1988 European Championship. Victory at Estadio do Dragao will give the Dutch some redemption after failing to qualify for the last two major tournaments, the 2018 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship. Van Dijk, touted as one of the best central defenders in the world, called Ronaldo "a fantastic player" but downplayed their matchup. "We play Portugal, we are not playing Cristiano Ronaldo," he said. "They have a very good team. It's going to be tough. We need to be ready." Van Dijk, who hasn't allowed anyone to dribble past him in more than 60 consecutive matches, lifted the Champions League trophy last week with Liverpool, being voted the man of the match in the final against Tottenham in Madrid. He is expected to be in the running for the world player of the year award for the first time. He has already been named player of the year in the English Premier League. Ronaldo has won the world player of the year award five times. "He's already had a really good season," Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said of his teammate. "I think he's been trying to stop everyone he plays against. But it's not up to us to decide if he wins the Ballon d'Or. For us, he's the best defender in the world, and if you look at his season, he definitely deserves the Ballon d'Or, but it's not up to us, it's up to other people to decide." Van Dijk also was voted man of the match in the Netherlands' 3-1 win over England on Thursday in the Nations League semifinals. Ronaldo was man of the match for Portugal when it defeated Switzerland 3-1 on Wednesday in the other semifinal. Ronaldo scored a hat trick, with two of his goals coming in the final minutes. "The Netherlands are an excellent team," Ronaldo told UEFA's website. "They have been playing pretty well. I've been watching them in recent matches and they have an excellent squad with great players — young players and more experienced players, which makes their team even stronger." Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman said he is not planning to change his defense plans to adapt to Ronaldo's threat. "We know he's one of the best," Koeman said. "And the nicest thing in football is that you cannot stop (a player like him) 100 percent (of the time) because sometimes he's too good. We know the qualities of that player, and of course we need to defend well when we have the ball, we need good defensive organization, but it's not a special marking (system), one on one, because we don't like that." The Netherlands eliminated the last two World Cup winners in the qualification round of the Nations League, Germany and France. Portugal reached the semis by getting past Italy and Poland. On Sunday, the hosts will be without veteran central defender Pepe, who broke his right shoulder against Switzerland. Koeman, who played at the 1988 Euros, said he should have all of his players available even though the Netherlands had one less day to rest for the final. The winner on Sunday will be crowned the first champion of the competition UEFA created to give national teams more meaningful games and reduce the number of friendlies. The winner receives 10.5 million euros ($11.8 million). The runner-up will get 9 million euros. The amounts include the 4.5 million euros all four semifinalists have already secured. The final marks the swansong of 45-year-old Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco. England and Switzerland will play the third-place match in Guimaraes earlier on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Real Madrid signs Eden Hazard from Chelsea

MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea on Friday for its second major offseason addition, and reportedly its most expensive ever. The 28-year-old forward joined Madrid on a five-year contract and a transfer fee reported to be around 100 million euros ($113 million) plus variables, which would make him the club's biggest signing. Madrid is rebuilding after one of the worst seasons in club history and had added forward Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt earlier this week. The Spanish club hadn't made any blockbuster signings in years and was yet to bring in a top player to try to replace Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portugal forward left to join Juventus last season. Real Madrid called Hazard "one of the best players in the world," known for his "attacking flair, assists and goals." "Hazard has world class technique, vision, dribbling, pace and finishing," Real Madrid said. "These qualities saw him stand out in his seven years in England." Hazard had already indicated his final game for Chelsea was last week's Europa League final victory over Arsenal. With two goals in his 352nd appearance for the club, he finished with a total of 110. "Although it is with sadness we say goodbye to Eden and we made it absolutely clear to him the club wished him to stay," Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said, "we respect the decision he has made to take on a new challenge in a different country and follow his childhood dream of playing for Real Madrid." Since joining Chelsea from French club Lille in 2012, Hazard has won both the Premier League and Europa League twice, the FA Cup and the League Cup. The Belgium international, who still had a year left in his contract with Chelsea, had already tried to leave the English club a year ago. "The memories he leaves us with will not fade," Granovskaia said. "He provided all who watched Chelsea play with great entertainment and many match-winning contributions, and for that we thank Eden enormously. "He has been a model professional throughout his time at the club, a wonderful individual to have around and a joy to work with." Hazard was a standout player with Belgium at the World Cup in Russia last year, helping his team earn a historic third-place finish. He scored three goals in six games and won the man of the match award three times. He was named the tournament's second-best player, behind Croatia's Luka Modric, his new Real Madrid teammate. Hazard is expected to be officially introduced to Madrid fans next week after undergoing a medical. Real Madrid finished third in the Spanish league and was eliminated early in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. It went through two coaching changes this season, its first without Ronaldo. Zinedine Zidane returned to the helm a few months ago to try to get the team back on track after winning three straight Champions League titles. Madrid earlier this year had signed Brazilian defender Eder Militao, who will join from Porto next season. Teenage forward Rodrygo, bought from Brazilian club Santos for nearly 45 million euros ($50.6 million) last year, also will be added to the squad for next season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Gatecrasher Tottenham takes on storied Liverpool in CL final

By Rob Harris, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Familiar territory for Liverpool. So very unfamiliar for Tottenham. The second all-English Champions League final in history pits one of Europe's most successful clubs against a side unexpectedly gatecrashing the continent's elite. After losing last year's final to Real Madrid, Juergen Klopp's Liverpool has another shot at lifting the European Cup for a sixth time on Saturday. Tottenham doesn't get its hands on trophies often. The north London club is contesting a Champions League final for the first time, the culmination of an improbable run that has shaken the soccer establishment. "It is something that we have changed at the club," Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen said. "How people look at the club. How people think about us players at Spurs." Much has been made of Liverpool's 29-year domestic title drought — that came within a couple of points of ending three weeks ago — but Tottenham's stretches back exactly twice as long to 1961. Despite that, the club has made an unexpected march to the biggest game in club soccer without anything near the kind of lavish spending that clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have thrown — unsuccessfully — toward the same pursuit. Manager Mauricio Pochettino hasn't even been able to sign a single player in the last two transfer windows — a first for a Premier League club — because of a frugal environment brought on by the club's recently completed $1 billion-plus new stadium. And yet he has just celebrated a fourth consecutive top-four finish in the Premier League by seeing off bigger spending rivals Arsenal and Manchester United. Qualifying for the Champions League is seen as an achievement alone for a club which has only reached four second-tier European finals, mostly recently winning the now-defunct UEFA Cup in 1984. Since Pochettino took charge in 2014, Tottenham's net spend on transfers is estimated to be less than 30 million pounds ($38 million). That is around a sixth of Liverpool's net spend over the last five years. "You can either take it that the manager has got full confidence in what he's worked with in the last two years, that he believes in you and doesn't want to bring in anyone to challenge for your position," Tottenham defender Danny Rose said before flying to Madrid. "Or you can take it that nobody wants to join Tottenham, the club hasn't been able to provide the funds to buy anyone." That's not the accusation leveled at Liverpool owner John Henry, who also runs the Boston Red Sox in MLB. Klopp's answer to losing last season's final was jettisoning blundering goalkeeper Loris Karius and — briefly — breaking the goalkeeping transfer record to sign Alisson Becker from Roma for $85 million. That final in Kiev was agony for Mohamed Salah, who was forced off in the opening half hour with a shoulder injury before Liverpool lost 3-1. The striker has struggled to live up to the 44 goals he scored last season, with a haul of 26 in all competitions in a front three alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Now the target is preventing Liverpool falling to a third Champions League final loss since the club's last victory in 2005. "Everything feels better this time around," Salah said, "and we have more experience than the last time." That experience pushed Manchester City to the final day in the Premier League title race and amassed 97 points that would usually be enough to secure the crown. "If there was a prize for the biggest development in the last 12 months then it's going to the Reds, that's how it is," Klopp said. "The boys did a really amazing job, but we get that it's about winning competitions." Pochettino faces the same jibes as Klopp about his inability to land a trophy. Although Klopp did win the Bundesliga twice at Borussia Dortmund before joining Liverpool in 2015 — but also lost a Champions League final with Dortmund and a Europa League final with Liverpool. Pochettino, a former Argentina defender, is now in his third managerial role after Espanyol and Southampton, and still awaiting a winner's medal. Winning the biggest prize in Europe wouldn't be bad place to start for a manager so often linked with moves to bigger clubs. "We can provide our fans and our people and our family, of course, the best happiness in football that you can provide," Pochettino said. "I think today to talk about individual thing is a little bit embarrassing and ashamed because you know I think I am not important." But Pochettino has taken much of the credit for steering Tottenham to the final after collecting only one point from the opening three group stage games. Progress to the round of 16 was only secured thanks to a late equalizer by Lucas Moura at Barcelona in the group finale. Even after Harry Kane limped out of the quarterfinals first leg against Manchester City, Tottenham found a way to cope without its leading striker. Fernando Llorente's goal — and a favorable stoppage-time VAR denial of Raheem Sterling's strike — clinched a frenzied aggregate win at City. In the semifinals, Moura scored with almost the final kick of the second leg to complete a hat trick and overturn a 3-0 aggregate deficit. If Kane recovers from his ankle injury, Moura is likely to return to the bench. "No one expected us to be here at start of competition," Rose said. "No one expected us to be here after the quarters or the semis." Liverpool also pulled off an improbable semifinal result to see off Barcelona by recovering from 3-0 down. And form is on Klopp's side heading into Saturday's game at the Atletico Madrid stadium. Although Tottenham only finished two places below Liverpool in fourth, there was a 26-point gap between the sides and the north London club lost both league encounters 2-1. "It's not that we were five levels above them," Klopp said. "But that's how a final actually should be.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 31st, 2019

Spaniards with little to cheer for in Champions League final

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — It will be an unusual Champions League final for Spain. Madrid will be hosting the final again after nearly a decade, but the country's streak of having at least one team playing for the European title ended this year after five straight seasons, giving home fans little to cheer for when Liverpool faces Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday. The all-English matchup will be the first Champions League final without a Spanish club since 2013, when Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund in a match between German teams. Since then, Real Madrid made it to the final four times, Atletico Madrid twice and Barcelona once. "We were used to seeing Real Madrid in the final all these years," said Francisco Javier Diaz de Castro, a 55-year-old Real Madrid supporter. "It's a weird feeling to think that this time we won't see it fighting for the Champions League trophy. When we finally get to watch the final in Madrid, the team struggles and can't make it. I guess that's how it goes in soccer." Real Madrid won four titles in its recent streak, beating Atletico in 2014 and 2016, Juventus in 2017 and Liverpool in 2018. Barcelona lifted the trophy in 2015, and it had also won it in 2006, 2009 and 2011. There was at least one Spanish club in seven of the last 10 Champions League finals. This time, tough, as the Spanish capital prepares to host its first final since Inter Milan defeated Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in 2010, Spanish clubs are already starting to plan their offseason. On Saturday, there are only two Spanish players with a chance of playing in the final — Tottenham forward Fernando Llorente and Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno. Here's a look at some of the reasons why there won't be any Spanish clubs in this year's final in Madrid: BARCELONA After dominating in the domestic competitions in recent years, Barcelona turned its focus on trying to win the Champions League again. It last won the competition in 2015, when it defeated Juventus in the final in Berlin. Barcelona cruised through a group that included finalist Tottenham, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven, winning four matches and drawing two to end six points ahead in first place. It also didn't face major difficulties as it got past Lyon in the round of 16 and Manchester United in the quarterfinals, being able to make it to the semifinals after three straight eliminations in the last eight. The team's dominance continued in the first leg of the semifinals against Liverpool, when it won 3-0 at the Camp Nou and looked set to finally return to the final. But the team collapsed in England, losing 4-0 to see its title hopes vanish. "We are still recovering from what happened in Liverpool. At least I am," Lionel Messi said last week. "Our performance was lamentable. It was a very tough loss for us." REAL MADRID The three-time defending champions never really got close to making it to the final. In a frustrating season that included two coaching changes, Real Madrid couldn't advance past the round of 16 in the European competition, being eliminated after a demoralizing 4-1 loss to Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. It had won its group against Roma, Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow, but its campaign included consecutive losses to CSKA — 1-0 in Russia and 3-0 at the Bernabeu. The early Champions League elimination led to the return of coach Zinedine Zidane, who was at the helm when the club won its last three European titles. ATLETICO MADRID After four straight seasons reaching at least the quarterfinals, Atletico was coming off a disappointing group-stage elimination and was hopeful of playing in the final again at its own stadium. It qualified from a group that included Borussia Dortmund, Club Brugge and Monaco, but the draw for the round of 16 set up an encounter against Juventus and old foe Cristiano Ronaldo. Things went well in the first leg, with the Spanish team winning 2-0 at home, but Ronaldo thrived in the return match, scoring a hat trick in a 3-0 win that ended Atletico's hopes. VALENCIA Valencia was the only other Spanish club in the Champions League this season, and it couldn't get past a group that included Juventus, Manchester United and Young Boys. It finished third, ahead only of the Swiss club......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2019

Season over, Real Madrid faces turbulent summer

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The best thing for Real Madrid about this season is that it is finally over. A humiliating 2-0 loss at home to Real Betis on the last day of the Spanish league on Sunday brought to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in years for the most successful team in European club competition. Madrid's last match exemplified the collective decline of a group of players who had won four of the previous five Champions League titles but found themselves practically out of the running for any major trophies months ago. Defenders often a step too slow, midfielders unable to maintain ball possession, and forwards incapable of producing sufficient scoring chances, much less put the ball in the net. Madrid finished in third place and 19 points adrift of champion Barcelona, the largest-ever deficit with its fiercest rival by the end of a season. Madrid was effectively out of the league title race by January and was eliminated from the Champions League and Copa del Rey in early March, leaving the club with nothing to play for other than pride. And pride couldn't stop the team from failing to get a win in its last five away matches, or ending the season with back-to-back losses. Coach Zinedine Zidane wants his players to remember this feeling. "When you want to try harder and you can't even achieve the smallest little thing, it is complicated," Zidane said. "We have to accept that it has been a bad season. We can't forget it; we have to have it very present in the future so it can help us improve." Now Zidane and club president Florentino Pérez can finally put in motion their plans to breathe some life into a squad that performed far below what its fans expect. "Football is motivation ... Next season this is going to change," Zidane said. WHO'S OUT? Candidate No. 1 to leave is Gareth Bale. Bale arrived at Madrid in 2013 as the biggest signing in football history. Six years, multiple titles and more than 100 goals later, Zidane looks more than ready to part ways with the Wales winger. Zidane has rarely counted on Bale since he returned to the club in March nine months after stepping down, becoming Madrid's third manager of the season following the failures of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari. Bale didn't leave the bench on Sunday in what many believed was his last game for Madrid. But with Bale under contract until 2022, his exit may hinge on finding a club that can cope with the 29-year-old winger's salary of a reported 15 million euros a season. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is reported to be unwanted after he became a second-choice player following the signing of Thibaut Courtois. The future of midfielders Toni Kroos and Francisco "Isco" Alarcon and defender Marcelo are also in doubt after their sub-par campaigns, while Zidane has shown little interest in playing midfielders Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and left back Sergio Reguilón. "Nobody is going to take away what these players did for five years," Zidane said. "(But) we don't have excuses. We ask our fans for forgiveness because we have the obligation to give it our all." WHO'S IN? Of all the names floated, Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard's is the most commonly heard. His contract with Chelsea expires in 2020 and he may be ready before then for a change after seven years in London. The other major name is Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who Zidane has said he admires. But unless Madrid can somehow succeed in prying Kylian Mbappé away from Paris Saint-Germain, then the goals that went missing when Cristiano Ronaldo left last year won't be found in a single player. Zidane will still have to solve the pending problem of retooling a team that spent most of the last decade feeding that goal-scoring machine called Ronaldo. If not, then next season may not be much better......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2019

Federer loses to Thiem in Madrid Open quarterfinals

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Roger Federer's return to clay lasted only three matches. A day after saving two match points at the Madrid Open, Federer squandered two match points himself in the quarterfinals against Dominic Thiem on Friday, losing 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4. It may have ended his first appearance at a clay-court tournament in three years, but Federer wasn't leaving the Spanish capital too disappointed with the outcome of his return. "I feel very good about my game. I thought I had some good matches here," Federer said. "I feel good on the clay right now. It's been a good week. Frustrating, clearly. Losing with match points is the worst, so that's how I feel. But nevertheless, if I take a step back, it's all good." Federer skipped the clay swing the past two years to remain fit for the rest of the season. He decided to return this year in preparation for his first French Open appearance since 2015. The fifth-seeded Thiem, runner-up in Madrid the last two seasons, will next face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who didn't have to play his quarterfinal after Marin Cilic withdrew because of food poisoning. Thiem has a chance to win his third title of the year after victories in Barcelona and Indian Wells, where he defeated Federer in a three-set final. "Facing him, it always requires my absolute best game and also a little bit luck, which I both had in Indian Wells and also here, and that's why I won these two matches," Thiem said. The other semifinal will be between Stefanos Tsitsipas and five-time Madrid champion Rafael Nadal. Tsitsipas defeated defending champion Alexander Zverev 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, while Nadal cruised past Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2. Nadal lost only seven points on his service games, conceding no break opportunities against the 34th-ranked Wawrinka. The Swiss lost the 2013 Madrid final to Nadal. "It was one of my best matches in a long time, my best match on clay this year," the second-ranked Spaniard said. "It means a lot to have this feeling in this crucial moment of the clay season." On the women's side, Simona Halep made it back to the Madrid final for the first time since 2017 with a 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-0 win over unseeded Belinda Bencic. The French Open champion can surpass Naomi Osaka for the No. 1 ranking if she wins Saturday's final. "I don't want to think about that. For me, it is more important to win the trophy here than being No. 1," the third-ranked Halep said. "I prefer titles than numbers and rankings. So this is my goal, to play finals and to win trophies." She will face last year's runner-up Kiki Bertens, who defeated Sloane Stephens 6-2, 7-5. The 37-year-old Federer was trying to win his third Madrid title, and first since 2012. He has already won hard-court titles this season in Dubai and Miami. Federer got off to a great start against Thiem at the Magic Box center court, breaking the Austrian's serve early and cruising to a first-set win. He squandered five break points in the second, and then had match points at 8-7 and 10-9 in the tiebreaker before Thiem forced the deciding set by converting his sixth set point. Federer had saved two match points in his difficult three-set win over Gael Monfils on Thursday. Thiem broke Federer for the first time in the third game of the third set, converting his ninth break opportunity of the match. Federer got back on serve at 4-4, but started his next game 0-40 and couldn't recover. Thiem then served out for the victory, converting on his second match point. Thiem has won the last two matches he played against Djokovic, who got the day off because of Cilic's withdrawal. "It was supposed to be definitely a good match," said Djokovic, who has played only four sets this week. "I went back on the court, trained for another hour and got a good sweat in. Happy that I'm going to be fresh for my semifinal." The top-seeded Serb is seeking a third Madrid Open title, and his second of the season after winning the Australian Open. Thiem lost the Madrid final to Nadal in 2017 and to Alexander Zverev in 2018. "I was playing Novak last year and two years ago and he was not at his best I guess, and now he is again," Thiem said. "He's won the last three Slams and he is at the top of the ranking again. So the challenge couldn't be bigger.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2019

Osaka wins Madrid opener, Muguruza loses in 1st round

MADRID (AP) — Naomi Osaka won her opening match at the Madrid Open, Caroline Wozniacki withdrew due to injury and Garbine Muguruza was upset by Petra Martic in straight sets on Sunday. Top-ranked Osaka, the reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champion, hit 43 winners, including eight aces, on the outdoor red clay to beat 2016 finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 7-6 (6). "For me, I'm just happy to get through it," Osaka said. "I feel the most nervous during the first round and to play against Cibulkova was kind of tough for me, especially on clay." Osaka will face Sara Sorribes in the second round after she got past fellow Spanish wild card Lara Arruabarrena. A lower back injury forced Wozniacki to retire from her match with Alizé Cornet when she was losing 0-3 in the first set. Martic ousted two-time grand slam winner Muguruza 7-5, 7-6 (2), a week after the Croat won her first career title in Istanbul. Martic will next face fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber, who broke Lesia Tsurenko six times to earn a 6-3, 6-2 victory. Third-seeded Simona Halep, who has won twice in Madrid, brushed off Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan 6-0, 6-4. Fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova had to fight back from a set down to fend off 18-year-old Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka also advanced, while Madison Keys lost to Sorana Cirstea in three sets. NADAL NEXT On the men's side, Rafael Nadal knows who his first opponent will be after Felix Auger-Aliassime beat fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov, a semifinalist last year, 6-2, 7-6 (7). The 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime has reached the final in Rio and the semifinals in Miami already this year. Jan-Lennard Struff beat Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a match that saw a combined 21 aces......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Barcelona shows it can also thrive without ball possession

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — There was Lionel Messi as usual, backed by many of the same supporting players. The main difference for Barcelona this time was the coach. Barcelona has reinvented itself under Ernesto Valverde, showing it can change its style when needed and still be successful. The match against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday was a perfect example. Barcelona was forced to relinquish its ball-possession game, but it still came away with a 3-0 victory that left the club in position to reach its first final since it won its last European title four years ago. "They were able to impose their back-and-forth game and it made it difficult for us," Valverde said. "We tried to slow down the pace but they kept pressing. I liked how we knew how to suffer and how we came up with answers. We pulled off a victory against a very strong team." Despite playing at home, Barcelona finished with less ball possession than Liverpool, 48% to 52%. It was the first time a team held more possession than Barcelona in the Champions League since the semifinals against Bayern Munich in 2015. "We played their game, their physically demanding pace. It was counterattack against counterattack," said Messi, who scored twice to add to Luis Suarez's opening goal at the Camp Nou. "We aren't used to that. We like having possession of the ball and making the opponent run after the ball. We were exhausted, but that's what the match demanded. We had to compete anyway we could." Liverpool also exchanged more passes than Barcelona (482-457), and ended with more attempts (14-11) and corners (5-3). Barcelona was pinned down on defense during parts of the game, needing 24 clearances against seven by Liverpool. "I don't know if we can play much better, to be honest," Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp said. Valverde had hinted even before the game started that ball possession might not have been the main focus for Barcelona, adding the more defensive-minded Arturo Vidal to the starting lineup in midfield instead of the more technical Arthur. The Brazilian has taken over the role of Andre Iniesta as the team's pace-setter, becoming the man responsible for controlling possession. But although the back-and-forth game was supposed to favor Liverpool and its speedy attack, Barcelona ended threatening the most in the end, and it could have scored more goals if it had capitalized on a few late counterattacks. The defense also played a key role, holding strong when Liverpool pressed forward, with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen again coming through with a great performance and making a few important saves to keep the English team from getting an away goal. Barcelona conceded that away goal in a 3-1 win over Roma in the first leg of last year's quarterfinals at Camp Nou, eventually being eliminated in Italy after a 3-0 loss. "It's similar to last year, we also have a three-goal advantage, but look what happened then," Valverde said. "We still have to play well in the second leg.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Bucks respond, play their game in Game 2 win over Celtics

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE – The Stonecutter’s Credo is best known around the NBA as the philosophy and culture of the San Antonio Spurs. The shorthand version – “pounding the rock” – has been embraced as the organization’s mantra across 23 seasons under coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs hold no monopoly, though, on that faith in hammering away a hundred times without results in order, finally, to split open the rock on blow No. 101. It has been in play in both games so far of the Milwaukee-Boston Eastern Conference semifinal series at Fiserv Forum. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] In the opener, the Bucks were relieved to still be within a possession at halftime after bringing none of their usual energy or intensity. Then the Celtics struck their pivotal blow, splitting the stone when they dominated the third quarter 36-21. This time, in Game 2 Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum, the roles were reversed. Milwaukee dialed up everything, threw in a couple of adjustments and still couldn’t get much separation from Boston. Then wham! Again it happened in the third quarter, the Bucks delivering the blow this time, 39-18. One moment, Milwaukee was up 74-71. The next, 98-73. By the end it was 123-102, the best-of-seven series even at 1-1. Games 3 and 4 will be in Boston Friday and Monday (Saturday and next Tuesday, PHL time). Fans watch scoreboards, the equivalent of counting each team’s whacks at the rock. Coaches watch everything else, which is why both Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer and Boston’s Brad Stevens felt Game 2 was won well before it broke open or officially was decided. Stevens wasn’t fooled by the points. He saw how both teams were getting or denying them, and that was enough. “I thought they dominated a lot in the first half and we were lucky to be down by four,” he said. “They owned their space on both ends of the court better than we did. Our reaction to that was to settle on offense, and it led to some run outs. Then it just steamrolled us.” Budenholzer had the all-full perspective. “That’s more what we’re accustomed to seeing," he said. “I liked our spirit, our activity and our competitiveness up and down the roster.” Those things had been absent, or at least in short supply, when Milwaukee lost its homecourt edge in the series on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). That’s why this one turned must-win so swiftly for the East’s No. 1 seed. Mathematically, the Bucks had wiggle room, but going to Boston down 0-2 raised the very real specter of not getting back to Fiserv at all. The Bucks players claimed not to let that bad mojo in, focusing only on the frustration they felt in starting the series with such a clunker. True or not, they fixed what needed fixing. Giannis Antetokounmpo, especially early, tried less often to bust through a wall of Boston defenders. Instead, he gave up the ball to wing Khris Middleton or let guard Eric Bledsoe probe the defense in a more aggressive performance. Antetokounmpo’s teammates did their part in the symbiotic relationship by taking and making the good perimeter looks he earned them by drawing so much defensive attention. With so many dropping – the Bucks were 20-of-47 on three-pointers, outscoring Boston by 30 in that category – there invariably was more space for Antetokounmpo to work. The Greek Freak scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and shot more free throws (18) than the Celtics’ starting lineup combined (11). He wasn’t likely to get the scolding from his older brother Thanasis that he’d gotten in after the first game. Middleton was the one who served notice to the Celtics that their jobs would be tougher, scoring 20 of his 28 points by halftime. Seven of the three-pointers were his, on 10 tries. “We need to get better with that,” Boston’s Al Horford said. Bledsoe forced action and got the better of his matchup with the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving, who, in 48 hours, went from a game worth bronzing to one in need of forgetting. Irving, arguably the NBA’s top shot maestro, scored nine points on 4-of-18 shooting and shouldered a lot of the responsibility after. “I tried to get to my spots but they were really sending guys over every time,” he said. “That’s a sign of respect and I just have to be more efficient in controlling the tempo of the game, the pace, where I want to get to on the floor and making reads better around that mid-range area.” Irving said that Milwaukee’s “frantic” defensive style in Game 2 revved up Boston’s offensive decisions, and not in a good way. When rushed shots missed, the Bucks pounced for run-outs. The Celtics shot 39.5 percent after their 54 percent success in the opener. Budenholzer unleashed that “frantic” defense by having his guys switch their assignments with each screen. That’s not how they played this season, but those who were around in 2017-18 did that sort of stuff under Jason Kidd. It kept the energy level high, even when a pair of Bucks occasionally ran into each other. The Bucks' other adjustment was starting Nikola Mirotic at forward in place of Sterling Brown, the sub who’d been holding injured Malcolm Brogdon’s place. Mirotic scored just nine points, finally hitting a three-pointer after it mattered, but his size was helpful defensively, Budenholzer said. Boston heads home knowing it can advance without winning another game in Milwaukee. The Bucks assured themselves of a Game 5 and have fresher, happier film to study for the weekend games. As a series, this rock feels like it’s going to take a lot more whacks. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. 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 1st, 2019

Ronaldo nets 600th club goal as goalscoring race heats up

By Daniella Matar and Andrew Dampf, Associated Press MILAN (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo's unrelenting hunger for goals is plain to see. The Juventus forward netted his 600th club goal on Saturday and celebrated with typical joy. But his desire to score was far more evident in the first half against Inter Milan when he fired over the bar and showed anguish and frustration. That appeared to spur Ronaldo to the equalizer after the break as Juventus came back to draw with bitter rival Inter 1-1 in Serie A. "Ronaldo is lethal, I have him, and I'm happy," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "It's important to have a player like him. After he missed a chance he got very angry, then he played a different game." Ronaldo already plays a different game to most. And after alreading clinching a record-extending eighth successive Serie A title, Ronaldo could become the first player to win the top goalscorer award and the Serie A title in his first season in Italy. The 34-year-old Ronaldo has 20 league goals for Juventus, three less than league leader and Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella. He could also become the first player to win the top goalscorer award in three of Europe's top five leagues, having claimed the prize in Spain (three times) and England. There are four rounds remaining. Ronaldo has been playing and scoring regularly, even while being accused of raping a woman in 2009 in the United States — something the Portugal star denies. The strike against Inter Milan was his 27th for Juventus in all competitions. Ronaldo scored 450 for Real Madrid, 118 for Manchester United and five for Sporting Lisbon. "With him you always start in front, we are lucky to have him with us," Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini said. "He will help Juventus win more." Earlier in the season, Ronaldo became the first player to net 400 goals across Europe's top five leagues. CONTE CRAZINESS Roma fans are starting to believe the reports that Antonio Conte could become the club's next coach. With Claudio Ranieri in a caretaker role following Eusebio Di Francesco's firing, speculation is rampant that Roma is in talks with Conte about taking over the team for next season. When Conte, the former Juventus, Italy, and Chelsea coach, was spotted at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci Airport on Sunday, Roma fans stopped him for selfies and spread the word on social media — even though it appeared Conte was merely traveling to his home in Turin. While the Roman-born Ranieri has said he would like to remain with Roma, even he acknowledged the club would do well to hire Conte. "I would love to see him on the Roma bench, but I don't know anything: I would be the last to know," Ranieri said with a smile following Roma's 3-0 win over Cagliari on Saturday. "I would be super happy if Conte came in. I would go and collect him from the airport." Retired Roma captain Francesco Totti, who has a position in Roma's management, called Conte "one of the best coaches in Europe." "Wherever he's gone he's won. Any squad would do something crazy to get him," Totti said, adding that there are also reports that Inter Milan and Bayern Munich are interested in Conte. "There are a lot of squads chasing him." ATALANTA STADIUM Fresh off qualifying for the Italian Cup final, Atalanta has announced plans for a complete overhaul of its Atleti Azzurri d'Italia stadium. Work on the 40 million euro ($45 million) project will begin following Atalanta's game against Udinese on Monday, meaning the team will play its final two home matches of the season in Reggio Emilia at Mapei Stadium, Sassuolo's ground. The three-phase project should be completed in time for the 2021-22 season, at which time the stadium will be renamed Gewiss Arena. Atalanta beat Fiorentina on Thursday to advance to the May 15 Cup final against Lazio. ___ Dampf reported from Rome......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2019

Zidane says Ronaldo is still a difference-maker for Madrid

div>  /div> div>MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't scored a goal from open play in three games, a run that has Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive. /div> div>  /div> div>The glitch isn't exactly a goal drought because Ronaldo did score one from the penalty spot against Sevilla. But the dry period has coincided with Real Madrid's two-game losing streak after a 40-match unbeaten run. /div> div>  /div> div>'Cristiano is fine,' Zidane said Friday. 'He might have a bad day here and there. So what? He will always be a difference-maker in my mind. /div> div>  /div> div>'We have lost a couple of games, but there is no need to go overboard. Nothing is broken. Actually, it might have been a good time to lose two straight, in order to get going again and build up some confidence.' /div> div>  /div> div>Madrid leads the Spanish league with 40 points from 17 matches, holding a one-point lead over surging Sevilla. It was Sevilla that beat Madrid 2-1 on Sunday, after Ronaldo had converted a penalty to give his team the lead. /div> div>  /div> div>Defending champion Barcelona is third in the league and two points behind Madrid, which has a game in hand because of its trip to Japan to win the Club World Cup in December. /div> div>  /div> div>The loss in Sevilla was followed by another setback on Wednesday, when Madrid lost 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals — again raising questions about the after-effects of playing in the Club World Cup. /div> div>  /div> div>'I'm not thinking about that at all,' Zidane said. 'As in life, you can't always win in football. You are going to have some bad days, and you need to overcome them to push ahead. It happened last year. We are going to reverse this. /div> div>  /div> div>'We aren't playing worse football than before. We just had a few bad plays that our opponents took full advantage of. The locker room is fine. The good news is we have another game tomorrow (in the league against 13th-place Malaga), and we are looking forward to it.' /div> div>  /div> div>Zidane said Ronaldo has lately been playing out of position at striker, a move that somewhat surprisingly has not translated into more goals for the Portugal forward. Ronaldo has 12 league goals this season, two behind Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. /div> div>  /div> div>'He played up top against Celta, but his favorite position is on the left wing, and that will not change,' Zidane said. 'The problem is more when he doesn't score, since we have grown used to him taking over. Cristiano will always be subject to criticism. He is used to it.' /div> div>  /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Chelsea drops Diego Costa amid rift, unsettling Chinese link

div>ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer /div> div>  /div> div>LONDON (AP) — Diego Costa's Chelsea career could be coming to a fiery abrupt end, in a setback to the English Premier League leaders' pursuit of the title. /div> div>  /div> div>The league top-scorer has not traveled with Chelsea to Leicester following a dispute with the coaching staff, and won't be playing against the champions on Saturday, a person familiar with the situation told The Association Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity on Friday because they were not authorized to discuss Costa being dropped from the team. /div> div>  /div> div>The discord between Antonio Conte's side and Costa follows the striker becoming aware of interest from China, the person said, referencing the country's wealthy and ambitious Super League. /div> div>  /div> div>Costa's only response on Friday was an Instagram post which featured the message 'Come on Chelsea!!!' followed by a heart symbol. /div> div>  /div> div>The Daily Mail newspaper's website first reported on Friday that the dispute was over whether Costa was injured. /div> div>  /div> div>The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported online that Costa is aware of a Chinese club willing to pay him more than $30 million a year, but Chelsea is determined to hold onto its most influential player. The Spain international, who joined Chelsea from Atletico Madrid in 2014, has 14 goals in the league this season and is under contract until 2019. /div> div>  /div> div>Costa has been a vital component in Chelsea's revival after the team went from champions to an 11th-place finish last season. /div> div>  /div> div>Chelsea has a five-point lead over Liverpool after its 13-match winning streak was ended by Tottenham in the team's last league game. /div> div>  /div> div>Chelsea has already sold two players — John Obi Mikel and Oscar — to Chinese Super League clubs in the last month. Chelsea made 60 million pounds ($73 million) just from Shanghai SIPG for Oscar. Despite the windfall, Conte said he hoped the club would not lose any more players to Chinese clubs, which spent more than $600 million on foreign players in 2016. /div> div>  /div> div>'The Chinese market is a danger for all,' Conte said last month, 'not only for Chelsea, but all the teams in the world.' /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Madrid to rest Ronaldo in Copa del Rey match against Sevilla

MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will not use Cristiano Ronaldo in the second leg against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. Zidane will also rest Luka Modric when Madrid tries to defend a 3-0 win from the first leg. Madrid can advance to the quarterfinals even with a two-goal loss at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. Ronaldo also didn't play against Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. His first match of the year was on Saturday against Granada in the Spanish league, when he scored once in Madrid's 5-0 win. Ronaldo was in Zurich on Monday to receive his fourth FIFA award for best player in the world. Zidane said James Rodriguez, who scored twice in the first leg, will not travel because of a calf problem, but defender Sergio Ramos will be back after a long injury layoff. Defender Pepe and striker Gareth Bale remain out, but forward Lucas Vazquez and defensive midfielder Mateo Kovacic will make the trip to southern Spain after recovering from injuries, as will Zidane's son, Enzo. Madrid plays again in Seville on Sunday in the Spanish league, a tournament it leads ahead of Sevilla. Madrid is trying to win the Copa del Rey title for the first time since the 2013-14 season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

Luis Enrique supports players' decision to skip FIFA awards

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona coach Luis Enrique gave his full support Tuesday to his players' decision not to attend FIFA's awards ceremony. Luis Enrique said he was '100 percent behind' the players after they chose to skip Monday's ceremony in which Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo was named the world's best player for 2016. The Barcelona coach said it was 'totally' up to the players whether to attend the event in Zurich, and that he would have been OK with any decision made by them. 'As a coach, I can only support their decision, especially because there is this situation of a game, which has to be a priority,' Luis Enrique said. The club had said that Lionel Messi and his teammates did not travel to Switzerland to prioritize preparations for the team's home match against Athletic Bilbao in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. Barcelona, the Copa champion, lost the first leg 2-1. Messi was runner-up to Ronaldo in the best player award. Three other Barcelona players were named for the world's best 11 in a vote organized by the international players' union FIFPro. The Barcelona players included Andres Iniesta, who pre-recorded a video that was released during the event. 'As captain of Barcelona, we would like to thank FIFA and FIFPro for being awarded these prizes, and we apologize for not being able to attend the ceremony because of a very important game for us this season,' he said. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 11th, 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA best player award for 4th time

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — Capping what he called the best year of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fourth FIFA best player award on Monday. The double European champion with Portugal and Real Madrid beat great rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards. 'It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sporting level,' the 31-year-old Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming 'Wow, wow, wow.' Ronaldo's fourth career FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, who has been the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory. His 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot was clearly better than Messi's 26.42 percent. Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media, and fans online. Messi did not attend after being pulled out hours before the ceremony by his club Barcelona to prepare for a cup match on Wednesday. 'Of course, I wish that they (Barcelona players) had been here tonight like in the other years. We have to respect the decision,' Ronaldo said. Yet again, Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other on ballot papers they got as captains of Portugal and Argentina. Ronaldo selected three Real Madrid teammates headed by Gareth Bale, and Messi picked Luis Suarez atop an all-Barcelona ballot. Ronaldo's 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League, and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine. 'I won a lot trophies, collective and individual, so I am proud,' said Ronaldo, adding he would send the inaugural silver FIFA Best trophy to the museum dedicated to his career on his home island, Madeira. Messi's Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double in 2016, though Argentina lost another Copa America final. Griezmann's France and Atletico Madrid lost their finals to Ronaldo's teams. Ronaldo's mentors for club and country were beaten to the coaching award by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the prize for a stunning English Premier League title. 'What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win,' said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation. Ranieri rose from his seat and politely shook hands with his two opponents, Madrid's Zinedine Zidane and Portugal's Fernando Santos, plus their partners before heading to the stage. The 65-year-old Italian collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters. Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinals exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. With gold-medal winner Melanie Behringer of Germany in third place, Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent. Behringer got 12.34 percent. 'I honestly was not expecting this,' Lloyd said. 'I know Melanie did fantastic in the Olympics.' Germany did win the women's coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States, and Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist. The Puskas Award for best goal was won in an online poll by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang. A players' vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo. The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club's anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016, and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord. FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30. After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Barcelona pulls Messi from attending FIFA awards ceremony

ZURICH (AP) — Lionel Messi will not attend the FIFA awards ceremony later Monday, when Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to be named the world's best player for 2016. Barcelona says it decided Messi would skip the event in Zurich and be 'prioritizing preparations' for a match on Wednesday. Messi's teammates, including Neymar, who could be named in a World XI voted for by players, will also not travel. Ronaldo is favored to win his fourth FIFA player award after helping Portugal and Real Madrid become European champions last year. Messi has five FIFA best player awards and has been runner-up in all other years since 2007. Barcelona hosts Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday in the Copa del Rey. The defending champions lost the first leg 2-1 in Bilbao. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

McIlroy says he resents Olympics for making him choose sides

  DUBLIN (AP) — Rory McIlroy says he resented how the Olympics forced him to decide whether he would represent Ireland or Britain and that it reached a point that it 'wasn't worth the hassle' to compete in Rio de Janeiro. In an interview with the Sunday Independent in Ireland, McIlroy explained why he was so critical of golf's return to the Olympics during a press conference at last summer's British Open. McIlroy, the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, cited concerns over the Zika virus as his reason not to go to Rio. He told the Irish newspaper that when the International Olympic Committee announced in 2009 that golf would be part of the program for the first time since 2004, 'all of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am.' 'Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to (upset) the most?' McIlroy said. 'I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in. That's my feelings toward it. And whether that's right or wrong, that's how I feel.' McIlroy said he sent a text message to Justin Rose to congratulate him on winning the gold medal in Rio for Britain. He said Rose thanked him and asked if McIlroy felt as though he had missed out. 'I said, 'Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.'' McIlroy told the newspaper. 'I don't know the words to either anthem. I don't feel a connection to either flag. I don't want it to be about flags. I've tried to stay away from that.' McIlroy was among several top stars who opted to skip the Olympics, most citing the Zika virus. He had been scheduled to play for Ireland until announcing in June he would not be going. Jordan Spieth did not announce his decision to miss Rio until a few days before the British Open. McIlroy spoke after Spieth, and the Olympics was brought up again. McIlroy dismissed the notion that he had let down his sport, saying, 'I didn't get into golf to try and grow the game.' He also said that he probably wouldn't watch Olympic golf on TV, only 'the stuff that matters.' 'Well, I'd had nothing but questions about the Olympics — 'the Olympics, the Olympics, the Olympics' — and it was just one question too far,' McIlroy said. 'I'd said what I needed to say. I'd got myself out of it, and it comes up again. And I could feel it. I could just feel myself go, 'Poom!' And I thought, 'I'm going to let them have it.' 'OK, I went a bit far,' he added. 'But I hate that term, 'growing the game.' Do you ever hear that in other sports? In tennis? Football? 'Let's grow the game.' I mean, golf was here long before we were, and it's going to be here long after we're gone. So I don't get that, but I probably went a bit overboard.' McIlroy said Olympic golf didn't mean that much to him. 'It really doesn't. I don't get excited about it. And people can disagree, and have a different opinion, and that's totally fine,' he said. 'Each to their own.' McIlroy, who is to play the South African Open this week, said he has never been driven by nationalism or patriotism because of where he was raised. 'And I never wanted it to get political or about where I'm from, but that's what it turned into,' he said. 'And it just got to the point where it wasn't worth the hassle.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

Ronaldo celebrates as Madrid cruises

Ronaldo celebrates as Madrid cruises.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Ronaldo favored to win his 4th FIFA award as world's best

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world's best player on Monday. A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich. Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA's top individual prize. However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine's prestiguous Golden Ball. FIFA will also name the best women's player, and the best coaches in men's and women's soccer. Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and — for the first time — an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points. Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony: ___ CRISTIANO RONALDO After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo's turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition. He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann's Atletico Madrid. But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship — two weeks after Messi's Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile. Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo's two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as — with his knee strapped — he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win. For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed. ___ LIONEL MESSI Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007. Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona. Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss — a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring — and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico. Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi's prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo's season record of 17 — set in 2013-14 — is within his sight this year. ___ ANTOINE GRIEZMANN Griezmann's goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016. In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout. Griezmann's six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice — including a coolly taken penalty — against favored Germany in the semifinals. However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time. ___ COACHING AWARD Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal? Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide. Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run. Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes. ___ WOMEN'S AWARDS Germany's Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards. Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil. All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year's winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden. ___ FIFA AWARDS FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games. A fans' vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women's Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang. FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players' union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

James Rodriguez comes through for Madrid in Copa del Rey win

  MADRID (AP) — James Rodriguez made the most of a rare start for Real Madrid on Wednesday, scoring twice in a convincing 3-0 win over Sevilla in a first-leg match in the Copa del Rey's Round of 16. Less than a month after he called for more playing time and said he might leave the club if things didn't change, the Colombian midfielder got to start at the Santiago Bernabeu. And his performance showed that Rodriguez believes he should still be considered for a place in Zinedine Zidane's regular starting lineup. 'Obviously we all want to play,' Rodriguez said. 'We all go through bad moments, but this is like a new beginning for me. I'm staying, I'm staying in Madrid.' He opened the scoring with a low, left-foot shot from outside the area in the 11th minute, and netted his second by converting a penalty just before halftime after Luka Modric had been fouled inside the area. 'He played a good game,' Zidane said of Rodriguez, who was cheered loudly by the crowd when he was substituted near the end. 'He scored the goals and worked well. I'm happy for the match he had.' Defender Raphael Varane scored the other goal with a header from the middle of the area in the 29th, as Madrid extended its unbeaten streak to 38 games - one short of the Spanish record set by Luis Enrique's Barcelona last season. Zidane, celebrating one year at Madrid's helm, had downplayed Rodriguez's complaints following the Club World Cup in December, saying he counted on the talented midfielder going forward. He included Rodriguez in Wednesday's lineup after resting some of the regular starters, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. Madrid, which beat Sevilla in the European Super Cup five months ago, will be the clear favorite for the second leg in Seville on Jan. 12. The teams are only four points apart atop the Spanish league, with Madrid first and Sevilla third. Sevilla lost last season's Copa final to Barcelona, which plays at Athletic Bilbao on Thursday. Also Wednesday, Real Sociedad earned a 3-1 home win against Villarreal in another matchup between teams near the top of the Spanish league table - Villarreal is fourth, one spot ahead of Real Sociedad. In a game between second-division clubs, Alcorcon and Cordoba played to a scoreless draw. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017