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London calling for Anthony Joshua with Tottenham’s stadium a likely venue



Anthony Joshua has set his sights on a springtime homecoming fight at Tottenham Hotspur’s 60,000-seat stadium after regaining his WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight title belts against Andy Ruiz Jr. “London’s calling, I think,” said Joshua, who is likely to face the IBF mandatory challenger the Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev in April or May

What next for restored heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua? Read more “British supporters do play a big part in my career. Any time I’m on home soil, I can’t lose.” Joshua also revealed that a health issue that required an operation left him “tired” and “drained” in the buildup to his shock defeat against Ruiz in June – and that it was so troublesome he had to put a bucket of ice on his head before his ring walk at Madison Square Garden. 

“I had some issue with my health which I was going through for a long time,” Joshua admitted. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt so tired and drained and thought it must be down to training. In the changing room before the fight I got a bucket of ice and was putting my head in it thinking: ‘Why do I feel so tired?’” The 30-year-old did not reveal what the problem was but said it was diagnosed after a checkup following the Ruiz fight and quickly dealt with. 

“Even in this camp I had an operation done but as I’d started training in June I had no issues. The responsibilities of being world champion are difficult. All that stuff, feeling so tired, dealing with obligations. Now I have energy, I haven’t missed a session.” 

The Briton intends to start light training for his second reign as heavyweight champion before Christmas, after pledging to keep learning “the sweet science” – while his promoter, Eddie Hearn, plans to nail down an opponent and venue quickly for what will be Joshua’s first contest in the UK since defeating the Russian Alexander Povetkin in September 2018. “I felt like we upped our game preparing for Ruiz this time. We were doing longer rounds, we brought in a lot more sparring partners, I kept my mind thinking, challenging myself.

Even in the fight on Saturday there were challenges, even if not physically. Mentally staying switched on was really challenging. And it worked really well.” Joshua had talked about going back to school after his seventh-round defeat at Madison Square Garden against Ruiz and he proved as good as his word, repeatedly jabbing and moving to win a wide points victory over the Mexican-American. 

Ruiz sows seeds of destruction and Joshua reaps the benefit Read more Afterwards, when asked if he had ever felt better in a ring, he replied: “No, I felt good. I’m getting more and more experienced, understanding myself, and that’s a good thing. Even though I took my loss, I didn’t lose heart. I’m back again, I’m learning. And we’re going to get back into the gym. I’m going to go to Sheffield early and just keep practising my skills.” 

Joshua also expressed his sympathy for Ruiz, who confessed afterwards that he had spent three months partying, eating and not training after becoming world champion. When asked if he could empathise, Joshua said: “Yeah, I did it. Everyone does it. The belts can be your best friend or your best enemy. It just depends on you as a person. It’s hard to say no. Even though I gave Andy the belts at the weigh-in, it’s hard being champion. Trust me. It’s not all fun. I remember when Tyson said: ‘You couldn’t walk in my shoes.’ It’s not what it seems like, this life of dedication. It’s a fucking headache.”


Chisora calls for a clash with Usyk



Derek Chisora has called for a clash with pound-for-pound star Oleksandr Usyk if he defeats David Price in this weekend's bumper British battle at The O2.

Chisora faces Price in a big domestic clash on the Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor bill at The O2 this Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office, as he targets his third successive victory at the venue this year.

Another big-name bout could be in touching distance for Chisora, who has already singled out Usyk after the former undisputed cruiserweight king marked his debut in the division with a stoppage of Chazz Witherspoon earlier this month.

Chisora has been unimpressed with Usyk's pre-fight displays of agility, telling Sky Sports: "Him and his team they need to stop juggling balls, it's not a circus.

"Come and do what you need to do. Forget the juggling balls and dancing. Nobody wants to see a dancing show. Come Dancing with the Stars? This is a boxing match. "You know what, I want to have that fight. Yeah, I would take it, 100 per cent. No shadiness, nothing, I'll take that."

Price stepped in as a replacement opponent after Joseph Parker withdrew due to a suspected spider bite, but Chisora will not alter his normal all-action style for the Liverpudlian. After his demolition of Artur Szpilka in the summer, Chisora intends to deliver another memorable victory for his vociferous hometown support.

"I'm excited," he said: "I'm back at The O2 Arena, buzzing. Boxing this year for me has been amazing. I'm just excited for this fight.

"Home of boxing, O2 Arena. I've worked hard to get that off the fans, and I really appreciate them for embracing me and loving me, so I have to come and deliver.


UFC 242 brings fan fervour with Khabib vs. Poirier fight in Abu Dhabi



In a concluding choke-hold, Khabib Nurmagomedov forced interim American title holder Dustin Poirier to submit in the third round, before making a victory leap over the caged fence of the arena, and ending the Ultimate Fighting Championship 242 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday as the lightweight winner.

For the dominating Dagestani national, this jump was one of joy, unlike his October win at last year’s UFC 229 in Las Vegas, where he hopped the fence to brawl with his opponent’s coach, leading to a nine-month suspension and a $500 thousand dollar fine.

Regional line-up

This year fans in the UAE capital welcomed back the ferocious fighter along with others in a star-studded lineup which also included women for the first time, with Canadian Sarah Moras breaking the record as the first female winner of a UFC fight at a Middle East event, after scoring a third-round technical knockout over Georgian Liana Jojua.

Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia fighters were especially received with celebratory fanfare, including Moroccan mixed martial artist Ottman Azaitar, who walked in carrying his native country’s flag and overcame his counterpart in a first-round knockout.

A highlight of the night was Palestinian-American combatant Belal Muhammad, who delivered a crowd-pleasing speech after his win in a welter-weight bout with Japan’s Takashi Sato.

“I knew I had to go out there and put on a great show for the Middle East, this is my home crowd,” said Muhammad, before waving the Palestinian flag on his way out of the octagon ring.

Fans meet their heroes

Seeing familiar faces speaking directly to regional fans ignited the stands with roaring cheers from UAE residents and global fans alike, for whom having a UFC fight for the second time in the Emirates meant garnered interest.

Like in the case of one Palestinian-Canadian super fan living in the UAE who developed a passion for the martial fighting form of jiu-jitsu about six years ago, after it became more available in the country with high level gyms over the past decade.


Yan Bingtao beats Mark Joyce in the final



Yan Bingtao claimed his maiden ranking title by beating Mark Joyce 5-2 in the final of the Riga Masters.

Bingtao has been tipped for big things ever since reaching the final of the Northern Ireland Open in 2017 but began the new campaign on the back of a frustrating season last term, though he did arrive in Riga with a real opportunity owing to late withdrawals from the likes of Neil Robertson and Kyren Wilson following a cancelled flight on the eve of the tournament.

As it proved, Bingtao got stronger as the event progressed and following hard-fought victories over the likes of Alan McManus and Li Hang, the 19-year-old produced some fine snooker to beat Matthew Selt 5-3 in the semi-finals.

Joyce, on the other hand, sensed his chance for a big payday when edging past Jack Liswoski in the third round but despite beating Kurf Maflin to book his place in the final, he was always on the back foot against Bingtao who dominated proceedings from the moment he won the opening frame on the black.

A break of 48 helped Bingtao double his lead and though Joyce struck back with a classy break of 103, Bingtao stepped in with a cool run of 53 to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval.

Joyce managed to win the first frame upon the resumption, frame five, but Bingtao always looked the more assured of the two and didn't blink with the winning line in sight, wrapping up proceedings with clinical breaks of 65 and 66 and seal his 5-2 victory.

In lifting the trophy, Bingtao became the first teenager since Ding Junhui back in 2006 to win a ranking title.





Professional snooker season 2019/2020 as usually will kick off in Riga with the first ranking event of the season KASPERSKY RIGA MASTERS 2019!

The draws for the qualifying round of the Kaspersky Riga Masters 2019 have been made.

The qualifying round (last 128) of event will be played on 10-13 June in Ponds Forge, Sheffield (UK), where 128 world best professionals will compete for the rights to play in the main event in Riga.

KASPERSKY RIGA MASTERS 2019 main event will run from July 26 to 28 in Riga, Arena Riga, where 64 winners of the qualification round will compete for the title.

The tournament will be broadcast by Eurosport and Eurosport 2 in addition to 16 national TV channels across the world.

2014 – Mark Selby
2015 – Barry Hawkins
2016 – Neil Robertson
2017 – Ryan Day (first title in professional career).
2018 – Neil Robertson


Mairis Briedis on way to controversial WBO world title win



Mairis Briedis won the WBO world cruiserweight title after elbowing Krzysztof Glowacki in a controversial Super Series semi-final in Latvia.

Briedis, the home favourite, floored Glowacki with an elbow to the head with 40 seconds left in the second round.

But referee Robert Byrd ordered the Pole to his feet before he was knocked down twice in the same round, with the second coming after the bell in Riga.

Briedis then ended the bout with a strong right hand in the third round. Following the fight, the Latvian said his "dirty" shot was in response to a punch by Glowacki on the back of his head, after Byrd ordered the fighters to pause following a coming together.

"I think the referee didn't do nothing, then I did a little bit of a dirty punch but I'm sorry for how I responded, it's my old Muay Thai style," said the 34-year-old Latvian.

Briedis will now fight in the final against IBF champion Yunier Dorticos, who knocked out Andrew Tabiti in the 11th round of their semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series.

Both the WBO and IBF belts will be on line for the final of the Super Series, which was won by Oleksandr Usyk last year.




'I think it's a goodbye,' says Chelsea forward



Chelsea's Eden Hazard suggested he had played his last game for the club after his two goals helped the Blues beat Arsenal 4-1 in the Europa League final.

The Belgium forward has been linked with a move to Real Madrid and said he is now "waiting on both clubs". "I think it's a goodbye but in football you never know," the 28-year-old told BT Sport after Wednesday's match.

But Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said: "I know he wants to leave and I have to respect his decision." Sarri added: "He is a wonderful player. It took two or three months for me to understand him as a man and now I do, he's a wonderful man.

"He's an extraordinary player. He is a strange boy but when he understands it is extraordinary." If the final in Baku was Hazard's final match, then it brings to an end a seven-year association with Chelsea, having joined them for £32m from Lille in 2012.

Hazard has made 352 appearances for the Blues and his two goals in the final moved his tally for the club to 110. Discussing his future, he said: "We will decide in a few days - the only target in my mind was to win this final. Maybe now it is the time for a new challenge.

"My dream was to play in the Premier League and I have done that for one of the biggest clubs." Hazard was named Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year in 2014-15, scoring 14 league goals as Chelsea won the title. He then struck 16 league goals as they regained the title two seasons later.

Wednesday's Europa League victory was his second in Chelsea colours, as he also collected a winners' medal - despite not playing - in the 2013 final.




O’Sullivan reaches 1,000 career centuries



Ronnie O’Sullivan became the first snooker player to make 1,000 career century breaks after successfully defending his Players Championship title with a convincing 10-4 victory over Neil Robertson.

The five-time world champion started the week in Preston on 994 career centuries and rolled in a 101 break in the opening frame of his first-round win over Barry Hawkins.

Nos 996 and 997 soon followed during his 6-4 quarter-final triumph over John Higgins but he could not add to his total in his 6-0 whitewash of Mark Allen in the last four.

O’Sullivan moved to 999 after two centuries in the afternoon session of the final gave him a 7-2 lead, which he quickly extended to 9-4 at the mid-session interval in the evening. Within one frame of his 35th career ranking title, O’Sullivan went about securing the ton that would earn him another place in history.

He teased the fans by stopping his approach while on 99 before potting the red left-handed and recording a 134 break – even though he potted the white after sinking the final black to deny him a superb 141 finish.

O’Sullivan’s attempt at snooker history was not the only talking point of the week as the 43-year-old maverick has bizarrely adopted an Australian accent in post-match interviews and also claimed to have set up an all-Australian final against Robertson.

In Sunday’s final ‘The Rocket’ rattled in a 67 break during the opening frame before there was controversy in the next as he complained to the referee, Terry Camilleri, over the re-spotting of the black. That did not stop him from registering runs of 66 and 52 to claim a 2-0 lead before breaks of 70 and 65 saw O’Sullivan take a 4-0 advantage into the first interval.

Robertson got on the scoreboard with a well-worked 65 in the fifth set before a brilliant 116 break saw O’Sullivan regain his four-frame initiative. The duo traded the next two frames before O’Sullivan added a wonderful 105 for a 7-2 lead.

Robertson responded to reduce the score to 8-4 but O’Sullivan eased to the 13th frame to put himself within one of victory, and he ended the match in style as the crowd gave him a standing ovation once he had passed the magical 100-point mark.


Friday's Arsenal transfer rumours



The latest Arsenal news and transfer rumours on Friday January 4, including Mesut Ozil, Cengiz Under, Aaron Ramsey and Keylor Navas.

According to Turkish publication Fotomac, Arsenal have launched a £55m bid for Roma midfielder Cengiz Under. The Turkey international has scored six goals with six assists for the Serie A side this season, although is under contract with the club until 2022.

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, the Wales international is able to speak to European clubs this month in order to secure a move. Reports of the 28-year-old having already signed a pre-contract agreement with Juventus are premature and he has not yet undergone a medical.

Another player whose stay at Arsenal is uncertain is Mesut Ozil, with The Independent reporting that his future will be reviewed at the end of the season after the midfielder and the club distanced themselves from the possibility of a transfer this month.

Finally, manager Unai Emery has distanced himself from a move for Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, despite Spanish outlets heavily linking the two.

But Emery said: "Not true. We never speak about one goalkeeper because we are very happy with the three goalkeepers we have now. We never speak about Keylor Navas."


Brexit could hit British-based F1 teams and European races.


Jonathan Neale, the chief operating officer at McLaren, has warned the result of a no-deal Brexit may put the ability of teams to stage Formula One meetings at risk.

Seven of the 10 teams are based in the UK and there will be nine races in Europe next year. According to Neale, McLaren are already working with partners within the sport in an attempt to ensure they are ready to deal with potential difficulties.

If parliament rejects the prime minister’s deal in December there is a possibility of the UK leaving Europe with no deal on 29 March next year, although other scenarios are still possible. By then, the F1 season will have started and the first European race is in Spain on 12 May. Mercedes, McLaren, Williams, Force India, Renault and Red Bull are all in the UK, while Haas have their headquarters in the USA but a base in Banbury.

“The key issues will be border efficiency for both parts and people and administrative costs,” said Neale. “McLaren F1 takes 40 tons and 100 people and we pop up at an event every two weeks around the globe in 20 countries and five continents, through a variety of customs borders, to put the show on the road. Currently there are well-trodden paths in how we manage customs and borders in order to move seamlessly.

“One of the things we are doing is working with F1, HMRC and our logistic providers like FedEx and DHL and try to anticipate [and] lobby, to make sure that we continue to work efficiently … that the administrative cost and the burden don’t make that a cumbersome process which would put risk into the ability to deliver the show.” Neale said McLaren have identified the key areas they believed may be issues in light of a no-deal Brexit.

“The friction points are talent; supply chain and export of our product; administrative costs in coping with inefficiencies in borders and delays,” he said. “We will wait and see. We are not running around being over-dramatic but we are absolutely addressing it.” Talent will be of particular concern to all teams given the international nature of F1. McLaren’s F1 team employs 800 people.

Neale revealed in the engineering group alone there were 23 nationalities. Ensuring this diversity was paramount. He said: “What we would like to avoid is getting into crazy, administratively costly and time-consuming visa requirements either for retention or for future recruitment. We want to be able to hire talent on the basis of right person for the job.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ team principal, recently said he had concerns too for the 1,800 people employed across Mercedes motorsport in the UK, many of whom are EU citizens. Renault also face potential difficulties. They are based in Oxfordshire but their engines are manufactured in France.

“We are 10 weeks from starting our car build for 2019,” Neale said. “An F1 car has about 14,000 parts and the carry-over between the last race of this year and the first of next year will be less than 10%.

Many of those materials are sourced from a number of small-to-medium enterprises in the UK and across Europe. Some complex sub-assemblies will cross many borders before they arrive here. “If every time a border is crossed there is a transaction, it introduces a huge amount of inertia and inefficiency to our supply chain. It will be the same for everybody but as a business it is something we would be keen to avoid.”

Meanwhile Michael Schumacher’s son Mick, 19, will compete in F2 next year. He will continue to race for the Prema team with whom he drove an exceptional season in this year’s Formula 3 European Championship, taking the title with eight wins and seven poles. F2 is the final proving ground in an attempt to gain a seat in F1.


Stuart Bingham beats Mark Davis 9-7



Mark Davis was denied a first ranking title as former world champion Stuart Bingham won the English Open with a 9-7 victory in Crawley.

Davis, the 46-year-old from Sussex who turned professional in 1991, easily beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-1 on Saturday to reach his first ranking final. He made a 136 to lead 5-4 in a superb final featuring 11 breaks over 50. There was never more than a frame in it until Bingham won a tactical 16th frame to seal his fifth ranking title.

The two friends, with a combined age of 88, were contesting the oldest ranking final and Davis ensured it was level at the first interval with his second 136 of the tournament, his fifth century of the week. Davis went ahead for the first time since the opening frame with a clearance of 94 and was on a break of 40 in the next when he declared a foul on himself for feathering the cue ball.

Bingham made a 78 clearance to win that frame and added a 73 in the next to move 6-5 ahead but Davis levelled again at 6-6 at the final interval. The Sussex crowd showed their approval as Davis edged ahead again with a 65 clearance but Bingham responded with his highest break of the match, an 82, to make it 7-7. He eclipsed that with a 102 and closed out the match to secure the Steve Davis Trophy, becoming the first player to win two home nations titles.

Asked whether admitting the foul in frame 10 was the turning point in the match, Davis told Eurosport: "We'll never know, I was feeling good then. If it takes me another 27 years to reach a final there's a bit of a problem somewhere!"

Bingham said of the incident: "I was thinking the worst there, to be 6-4 down, to own up well done to Mark, but that's in our game."

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VAR to be used in Champions League from 2019-20 season



Video assistant referees will be used in the Champions League from the 2019-20 season, Uefa has announced.

VAR will also be used in the 2019 Super Cup and at Euro 2020, as well as in the Europa League from 2020-21 and the 2021 Nations League finals.

The system - used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia - allows referees to review footage of key decisions. President Aleksander Ceferin said Uefa was "confident" it would have time "to put in place a robust system".

He added it would also provide sufficient time to train match officials to ensure an "efficient and successful implementation of VAR" in "the world's flagship club competition".

VAR was under intense scrutiny at the World Cup, where its use was allowed to clear up incidents around the awarding of goals, penalties, red cards and in cases of mistaken identity.

Australia's A-League was the first top-flight league to use the system in 2017, with Major League Soccer in America soon following. England's Carabao Cup is using VAR in all fixtures held at Premier League grounds this season.


Bellew: Usyk win will have to be my last



Tony Bellew is convinced he will beat Oleksandr Usyk but believes he will then have to retire as "not the same man" due the damage he will suffer.

Bellew's promoter Eddie Hearn and his counterpart Alexander Krassyuk, are discussing terms for a cruiserweight fight that will have Usyk's four world titles on the line.

The Ukrainian's goal is to move up to heavyweight and face Anthony Joshua but 'Bomber' has told Usyk a fight with him is anything but a stepping stone, although the British star believes even if he wins, it will have to be his last fight.

"I will ask a load more questions of him, than he can of me, because I've been through every single scenario you can imagine in a boxing ring," he exclusively told Sky Sports.

"I've got so much respect for him. I sparred with him in the amateurs and he was a master then. He is my worst nightmare, a tall, rangy southpaw, with skills to burn and fantastic footwork.

"But I can tell you now, if I fight Oleksandr Usyk, it will be me last ever fight, because I will take some serious stick.

"If I fight Tyson Fury next, I could have another fight after that because I will beat Tyson Fury and it would be much easier than beating Usyk, without a shadow of doubt. I understand exactly what I am getting into. It's a very hard, dangerous fight.

Usyk made history by beating Murat Gassiev to become the first cruiserweight to hold all four recognised belts, following his World Boxing Super Series win.

The 31-year-old has won Olympic, world and European amateur golds and has barely been troubled in 15 professional fights, but even if he has to move back down from heavyweight, Bellew believes he will be the first to beat the pound-for-pound contender.

"I will be coming with a whole new set of tools for him to deal with, than Murat Gassiev or an old Marco Huck did. I know he doesn't think it or believe it, but I can iron him out. If I hit him with the same left that I hit David Haye and Makabu, he is going.

"Number one, I will be the first fighter he's ever fought who is hard to hit, and I mean really hard to nail clean. Number two, I am a fighter that when he's missing, he gets counter-punched by something heavy from me. He's hitting the floor.

"Does he know what to do when that happens, because I do. I've been down that many times, but has he?"


FIFA delight as VAR finally approved for Russia World Cup


FIFA has finally – and fully – approved video review to help referees at the Russia World Cup.

The last step towards giving match officials video assistance in Russia was agreed to on Friday by Fifa’s ruling council.

“We are going to have our first World Cup with VAR,” the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, said. “It has been approved and we are extremely happy with that decision.” It comes two weeks after Fifa’s rule-making panel voted to write video assistant referees into the laws.

That move still left competition organisers with the option to use video review in their games, and Fifa’s ruling committee had to sign off on the World Cup decision.

VAR is another slap in the face for the long-suffering paying spectator Paul Wilson Read more Reinhard Grindel, a Fifa council member, wrote on Twitter that clear communication will be important to make the system a success – something that was promised on Friday by Infantino.

Referees will be able to call on VAR to review and overturn “clear and obvious errors” plus “serious missed incidents” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards and mistaken identity.

Infantino acknowledged two weeks ago that VAR is “not perfect” after the rules panel met in Zurich.

In 18 months of trials worldwide, including at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, Bundesliga and Serie A, reviews have often been slower than promised and communication has been unclear in the stadiums.

Controversy has been stirred even by the most experienced VAR officials who have handled many more games than most referees who will work at the 64-game World Cup.

A total of 36 referees, plus their teams of assistants, are being trained by Fifa for World Cup duty and many come from countries that do not use video review in domestic games.


Nadal breaks McEnroe's 34-year-old set record



World number one Rafael Nadal broke John McEnroe's 34-year-old record for successive set wins on a single surface as he moved into the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open.

Nadal, 31, beat Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 on clay to take his winning streak to 50 sets in a row. He will play Austria's Dominic Thiem on Friday for a place in the last four.

American McEnroe's 49-set winning run came on carpet in 1984 and included him clinching the Madrid Indoor Open title. Nadal's 50 sets have included tournament wins in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and last year's French Open.

The Spaniard, looking for a sixth Madrid Open title, faced a minor scare as Schwartzman broke back to make it 4-4 in the second, before Nadal responded immediately and closed out for the match.




Champions League trophy arrives in Kiev


The UEFA Champions League trophy arrived in the Ukrainian capital ahead of the 2018 final on May 26.

The trophy was paraded through the streets of Kiev by a group of young Ukrainian football players, as part of the ceremony celebrating its arrival.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kiev, was joined by former Ukrainian footballer Andriy Shevchenko at the ceremony to welcome the cup.

After the formalities fans were allowed to take selfies with the trophy,


Chelsea ask for information from fans after alleged incidents



Chelsea have appealed for supporters to get in contact with information after claims some were allegedly hurt by police and security using batons outside the Nou Camp before their Champions League defeat to Barcelona.

Antonio Conte's side were knocked out 4-1 on aggregate at the last-16 stage of the competition after two goals from Lionel Messi helped Barca cruise to a 3-0 victory on the night.

Video footage has emerged from after the game but fans have told Sky Sports News that aggressive tactics were also used before the match and some missed the start of the game, with Chelsea keen to hear from any supporters affected.

"The club has been made aware of some issues experienced by our supporters accessing the stadium tonight," Chelsea posted on their official Twitter feed on Wednesday."

A spokesman said: 'We are aware of reports of incidents outside the ground before the game where a number of Chelsea fans were hurt.

"'We ask that our supporters contact us with accounts of their experiences of this evening's arrival at the stadium so that we can take this up properly with the authorities.'"


Bach defends IOC’s approach to Russian doping problem



Thomas Bach has defended the International Olympic Committee’s approach to the Russian doping problem, even though the final Winter Olympics participants will not be confirmed until hours before Friday’s opening ceremony.

The court of arbitration for sport will make decisions, either on Thursday evening or Friday morning, over whether the IOC must invite 47 athletes to compete in Pyeongchang. The 23rd Winter Games open on Friday evening.

Bach insisted the IOC has dealt with the issue as best it can and the organisation’s president insists the IOC, Cas and the World Anti-Doping Agency will convene to ensure a repeat of the chaotic build-up to a second successive Olympics, after Rio 2016, will not be repeated.

He said: “The timing there was not in our hands. Studies had to be done, evidence had to be provided, fair hearings for the Russian athletes had to be offered.”

Bach insisted the IOC could not act solely on the damning findings of systemic doping by Russians at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics alone as any disciplinary action resulting from the McLaren Report would not have been successful.

He declined to speculate on the outcome of the Cas hearings, but expects the Cas president, John Coates, and his Wada equivalent Craig Reedie to discuss the way forwards.

“We’re very pleased that the president of Cas yesterday made the offer to have a round table forum with stakeholders to see what they need to do,” Bach said. “And the president of Wada has also made it clear that also Wada will look into these matters.

“Hopefully soon we can have a strengthened system in anti-doping, as far as the IOC and international federations are concerned (so) we have a strengthened system which allows us to protect our values.”

Cas announced on Wednesday that the case of 32 Russians had been adjourned. And when the panel reconvenes at the ad hoc division of Cas to hear the case on Thursday, it will also consider a new case involving 15 additional athletes.


Dutch Olympic BMX silver medallist in coma



Olympic BMX silver medallist Jelle van Gorkom is in a coma after a training accident on Tuesday.

The Royal Dutch Cycling Union said the 27-year-old had "broken ribs, a fracture in the face, a tear in the skull and damage to the liver, spleen and kidneys".

The incident occurred at the National Sports Centre Papendal in Arnhem. Van Gorkom won silver medals at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Rio Games.

Bas de Bever, the Dutch national BMX coach, asked that the rider, his girlfriend and his family be given "peace and privacy", while Jochem Schellens, director at the National Sports Centre Papendal, added: "It is a terrible accident and... we wish them all the strength in the coming period."




Liverpool to face Everton in FA Cup third round



Defending ChampionsArsenal will face a trip to second-tier Nottingham Forest at FA Cup third tround.

Liverpool will welcome Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup third round while holders Arsenal face a trip to second-tier Nottingham Forest following Monday’s draw.

Premier League leaders Manchester City are at home to Burnley, 12-times winners Manchester United host second-tier Derby County while Chelsea are away at Norwich City.

Brighton & Hove Albion were pulled out of the hat at home to arch-rivals Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough entertain Sunderland in a mouthwatering north-east clash.

The third round, to be played from Jan. 5-7, sees teams from the Premier League and second-tier Championship join the competition.

Non-league side AFC Fylde could potentially land a lucrative encounter at top-flight Bournemouth should they upset third-tier pacesetters Wigan Athletic in their second round replay.

Fleetwood and Hereford will battle it out in their replay to face 2016 Premier League champions Leicester City. Struggling West Ham United travel to Shrewsbury Town, who are currently second in England’s third tier.


Chinese cyclist expelled over attack


A rider who violently attacked a rival team and was expelled from the Chinese island of Hainan faces further sanction from the country's cycling authorities.

Video footage shows Wang Xin of the Keyi Look team punching and kicking at two members of the Swiss team, before retrieving a foot pump from a car boot. At that point police stepped in. Earlier on the Tour of Hainan stage, Wang threw a water bottle at the Swiss team's car window, apparently blaming them after crashing to the ground.

The Chinese Cycling Association said it "strongly supported" race organisers' decision to expel Wang and his team, adding that it will itself "collect evidence and investigate further". Swiss Cycling team manager Danilo Hondo denied that his car struck Chinese rider Wang. "We never bumped into him, you can see that from the race video," he told Eurosport.

"He simply hit the back wheel of another rider and went down. He was obviously embarrassed and took out his frustration on us. "We tried to approach him after the race, in fact we waited 45 minutes after the finish to apologise for any misunderstandings and to show him and his team that we respect them and meant no harm. "But both he and his team approached us with anger and everything escalated from there."

Wang and his Keyi Look team apologised in statements on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, but continued to blame the Swiss car for knocking him over, the AFP news agency reported. Tour of Hainan organisers said Wang and his team would never be allowed to return. "Wang's behaviour is not acceptable and doesn't reflect Chinese cycling. Hainan people are known for being very friendly," a statement read.

"The team was instructed to leave the island of Hainan on the spot and will not be welcomed back. The image and the reputation of the Tour of Hainan cannot be tarnished by such improper behaviour. Fighting will never be permitted in this event."


Ferdinand 'not looking' for boxing career


Rio Ferdinand says he is "not looking" to have a boxing career but is focused on getting his professional boxing license and having "one fight".

The former Manchester United and England defender launched a professional boxing career last month and said he was "aiming for a belt".

The 38-year-old's career change is backed by betting company Betfair.

"I want to see if I can get a license and become a professional and have one fight," said Ferdinand.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast he added: "I am not looking to have a career here. I am looking to have a professional fight and I will see where I go then. It might grab me and say 'I want to stay in here'."

Ferdinand, who won the Premier League six times and the Champions League once during his time at Old Trafford, says he does not have an opponent yet.

"I need to get a license first, " he added. "I am taking this seriously, this is not a joke, hopefully I will get a license, go on to become a professional and fight someone. Boxing can't be a gimmick. If I take it lightly I will get hurt."


Putin and Abe take time out to enjoy judo



Russian president Vladimir Putin and fellow world leaders took time away from the Eastern Economic Forum Thursday to enjoy a shared passion - judo.

Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga were all in attendance for the International Vladivostok Jigoro Kano Junior Judo Tournament.

All three are keen advocates of the sport. Putin is a black belt, while Battugla was head of his country's judo federation and a wrestling World Cup champion in 1989.

Speaking to the press Japan's Olympic gold medalist Yasuhiro Yamashita at the Eastern Economic Forum, Abe suggested he challenge Putin to a judo contest, according to Russian state news agency Itar-Tass.

Putin's love for judo has helped the sport develop a keen following in Russia, according to judokas present in Vladivostok.

"I think the fact that Putin loves judo does help it to be a more popular sport," judo master Vladimir Sinistin told CNN.

"And if your leader does judo and has an athletic title, and Putin is a master of this sport, of course this sport gets more attention.


Maria Sharapova stuns world number two Simona Halep



Sharapova, who returned from a suspension for a drugs offence earlier this year, has had her comeback interrupted by injuries but recaptured much of her old form to beat Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Earlier this month she was not even sure whether she would be fit enough to accept the US Open’s offer of a wild card, but the former world No 1 looked in fine shape as she secured a second-round meeting with Hungary’s Timea Babos.

The US Open is actually Sharapova’s least successful Grand Slam tournament, but in 18 night matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium the Russian has never been beaten. The Russian loves playing on this stage.

“Prime time, baby!” she said in her on-court interview after the match when asked how she always wins in late-night matches in the biggest arena in tennis. She was in tears at the end.

“It almost seemed like I had no right to win this match,” Sharapova said. “Somehow I did.”

While Halep, arguably the best athlete in the modern women’s game, had the edge in terms of her athleticism and court coverage, Sharapova’s movement was impressive too. Sharapova fell to the floor and after shaking hands with Halep and the umpire she sat on her chair and wept.

“I'll enjoy this for a little bit of time, but then I have to move on,” she said later. “This is a big win for me and I will enjoy it, then move on to the next one.”

Halep, who had gone into the tournament knowing that this was another chance for her to go top of the world rankings, admitted that Sharapova had been the better player but said she had given everything she had. Sharapova, meanwhile, could take some stopping in this tournament.

“Behind all these Swarovski crystals and little black dresses this girl has a lot of grit - and she's not going anywhere,” she said.


Los Angeles agrees to host in 2028


Los Angeles has officially declared its candidature to host the 2028 Olympic Games, leaving Paris to stage the 2024 edition.

In June, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to name hosts for successive Games - with just Paris and Los Angeles bidding - but it was unclear which would host in which year. Both had wanted to host the 2024 event. The IOC welcomed Los Angeles' move, pledging to contribute $1.8bn (£1.4bn) to the organising committee.

A source close to the negotiations told BBC Sport that for LA to have accepted the 2028 Games there would have had to have been significant financial benefits that outweighed the benefit of hosting in 2024. The funds will include money to pay for the extended planning period and to support youth sports programmes leading up to the Games.

Los Angeles bid committee chairman Casey Wasserman earlier said "both cities now stand together ready to serve the Olympic and Paralympic movements". Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said "we're bringing the games back" in 2028, adding that "this deal was too good to pass up". Los Angeles has staged the Olympics twice - in 1932 and 1984.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said: "Paris and Los Angeles are two amazing global cities that are united in their support of the Olympic cause and we stand together now to help the Games thrive in 2024 and 2028.

"As today's announcement shows, dialogue between the IOC and the two cities is progressing well. We are confident that a 'win-win-win' agreement can be finalised ahead of the IOC session in Lima."

The IOC wanted LA and Paris to reach an agreement before the session in September and had they not, a vote to select the 2024 host would have been held. IOC president Thomas Bach welcomed LA's decision, describing the bid as "strong and enthusiastic".

He added: "We are very confident that we can reach a tripartite agreement under the leadership of the IOC with LA and Paris in August, creating a win-win-win situation for all three partners. "This agreement will be put forward to the IOC session in Lima in September for ratification." In June, Wasserman appeared to concede to Paris when he said: "We have never been only about 2024."

However, a spokesman later told BBC Sport: "LA is the ideal host city for 2024 and is not conceding anything in the race for the 2024 Games." Paris has said it has to go first as the site it has earmarked for the Olympic Village will not be available for redevelopment after 2024.

Los Angeles had argued that it could host a low-cost Olympics given that it already has all the necessary infrastructure in place, while Paris would need to build several expensive structures. The two cities were the only ones left in the race for 2024 after Budapest, Hamburg and Rome withdrew.




Lewis Hamilton wins in Canada for sixth time



Lewis Hamilton dominated the Canadian Grand Prix as dramatic action behind allowed him to cut Sebastian Vettel's title lead to 12 points.

The Mercedes driver controlled the race from start to finish, leading home team-mate Valtteri Bottas. Vettel, meanwhile, could finish only fourth in the Ferrari. The German dropped to the back when he needed to change his front wing, damaged by Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the start.

He recovered well with some aggressive overtaking on a two-stop strategy and caught the battle for third place, in which Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was leading the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, with seven laps to go.

Vettel passed Ocon in a touch-and-go move into Turn One with four laps to go. An off-track moment a few corners later dropped him back from Perez but he made a daring late pass into the last corner with two laps remaining. It was a sixth win in 10 races in Canada for Hamilton, who on Saturday equalled his hero Ayrton Senna's mark of 65 pole positions.

"I had my first win here and my first pole," Hamilton said. "So to repeat it again 10 years later is incredibly special." Hamilton and Vettel qualified alongside each other on the front row and were expected to stage a close fight in the race for superiority in a race the Mercedes driver really needed to win to boost his title hopes.

But the grand prix fell into Hamilton's lap within a few seconds of the start. Verstappen made an electrifying getaway from fifth place, threaded his way between the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes' Bottas and swept around the outside of Vettel into the first corner.

But the Dutchman slightly misjudged the move, and his left rear wheel clipped Vettel's front wing as he claimed the corner.




Manchester clubs pay tributes



Manchester clubs pay tributes to victims of Arena terror attack.

Manchester United and Manchester City have paid tributes to all those killed and injured in Monday night's terror attack at Manchester Arena.

Greater Manchester Police has confirmed that 22 people have died and 59 were injured during an explosion which happened shortly after Ariana Grande's concert finished at the sold-out Arena.

Police say the attack was carried out by one man, who died in the blast.

GMP chief constable Ian Hopkins says police are treating the blast as an act of terrorism "until we know otherwise".

Police have set up a help centre for anyone needing assistance at Gate 11 of City's Etihad Stadium.

Both Manchester clubs, City captain Vincent Kompany, the Football Association and UEFA were among those to express their condolences to the victims and their families.

United fans travelling to Stockholm for the Europa League final have been advised that all flights from Manchester Airport are proceeding as scheduled.

United are due to play Ajax in the final at Stockholm's Friends Arena on Wednesday evening.


Klitschko praises Joshua’s strength but queries his ability



Wladimir Klitschko has described Anthony Joshua as a fighter who gets confidence from his “big muscles” and suggested that will ultimately not be enough for the 27-year-old to hold on to his IBF title when the heavyweights meet at Wembley this month.

A crowd of 90,000 people are expected to fill the national stadium on 29 April for one of the most anticipated bouts of the year and for Klitschko it represents a chance for redemption following his defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015.

The 41-year-old former WBA, IBF and WBO champion has not fought since while Joshua has gone on to stretch his record to 18 wins from 18, all via knockout, and in the process become a world champion himself.

Klitschko is full of admiration for the 2012 Olympic gold medallist, particularly so having sparred with him three years ago, but speaking at his training camp at the Stanglwirt hotel in the Austrian Alps on Wednesday, the Ukrainian outlined his belief that his opponent, while intimidating and impressive, is ultimately limited and “raw”.

“AJ has a lot of energy, he’s young, he wants to show it. He has these big muscles that give him confidence,” said Klitschko. “He wants to demolish people, but did you hear about boxing? It’s the sweet science.

The ice is thin and the most vicious boxers get conquered. I have a lot respect for Anthony – his commitment and physical ability. He can lift weights, he’s strong. He can be a cross-fit world champion actually. But cross-fit is not boxing.”

Klitschko was in relaxed mood as he spoke at a venue he has used as a preparation base since 2003, but the veteran, who will be contesting his 68th fight – and 29th world title contest – became noticeably agitated when it was put to him that Joshua may be making a mistake facing him given their respective levels of experience.

“A mistake? No. I’m sorry, should I wait another five years? I can’t,” he said. “The opportunity is now, I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, it was too early for him’ or ‘Klitschko is over the hill’. Everything has its time. “I think it’s going to be a great event. I hope both fighters get through it injury free, so there are no other issues.”


MPs' inquiry will look at painkiller tramadol in cycling


Questions for Team Sky and British Cycling as the substance, which can enhance performance, is likely to draw the attention of the MPs committee.

While the focus last week was on the corticosteroid triamcinolone, the legal painkiller tramadol is likely to draw the attention of the group of MPs looking into doping in sport, the Guardian has learned. “There are a number of lines of inquiry that remain open and tramadol is one of them,” said Damian Collins, chairman of the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee.

“Given the amount of evidence we had last week we want to take stock and see if there are further questions.” Collins added that, had the doctor at the heart of the inquiry, Richard Freeman, been able to attend the hearing last Wednesday, the committee would have raised the use of tramadol with the former Team Sky and current British Cycling medic.

“We did ask Dave Brailsford about this and his answer was the same as with triamcinolone, that it was only [used] in cases of medical need.” Allegations regarding the possible use of tramadol to enhance performance – which would not contravene doping rules – also form part of the inquiry being carried out by UK Anti‑Doping into allegations of possible wrongdoing in cycling, while Ukad continues to probe the precise contents of a jiffy bag delivered to Freeman at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011.

The Ukad head, Nicole Sapstead, told the MPs last week that records seen by her team showed evidence of considerable quantities of triamcinolone being ordered by Freeman. Recently another former Sky member, the Canadian Mike Barry, revealed that he had been sufficiently concerned about the use of the painkiller to raise it with Team Sky doctors.

Barry stated that during his time at Sky, between 2010 and 2012, “ethically, I really started questioning the use of the tramadol, and the sleeping pills, especially when you see the younger riders using this stuff heavily. If we went into a medical clinic and just asked their GP, they probably wouldn’t give these out. And that is not ethical.”

Barry first raised the issue of tramadol in his book Shadows on the Road in 2014, when he admitted he personally had used tramadol at Sky. “I never saw it used in training, only in races, where I saw some Sky riders using it frequently.” He added: “Tramadol made me feel euphoric but it’s also hard to focus. It kills the pain in your legs and you can push really hard.”

At the time Team Sky responded with a spokesperson: “None of our riders should ride while using tramadol – that’s the policy of this team. Team Sky do not give it to riders while racing or training, either as a pre-emptive measure or to manage existing pain. “We believe that its side-effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness, could cause issues for the safety of all riders.

We also feel that, if a rider has the level of severe pain for its appropriate use, they should not be riding. This has been our firm position for the last two seasons and all medical staff and riders are aware of this.” In October 2016 Brailsford told The Cycling Podcast that he was not aware of his riders using tramadol when it was listed by his interlocutor with other substances in the grey area where substances may be legal but can also be performance enhancing.

“I have no knowledge whatsoever in any way, shape or form of us systematically using any of those and, if I did, I’d stop it. It’s not what we’re about.”


Stuart Bingham beats Judd Trump 9-8 in final



Stuart Bingham held his nerve in a tense final frame to beat Judd Trump 9-8 and win his first Welsh Open title.

The 40-year-old took the last two frames, sealing victory with a break of 55 to claim his first ranking title since the 2015 World Championship. Bingham had led 4-0 in the early stages and came through a scrappy final session that saw a highest break of 63. "Unbelievable," said the world number two.

"To get my hands on another trophy means everything." Trump, 27, cut the early deficit to 5-3 by taking the last frame of the afternoon session and moved 7-6 and 8-7 ahead in the evening session.

However, Bingham got back on level terms and, after Trump missed an early opportunity in the decider, it was the former world champion who prevailed with a clearance. "I honestly felt that Judd outclassed me from the word go," said Bingham.

"The first two frames were massive but it was only from his mistake that I cleared up and won. "I've been knocking on the door since October time, playing pretty well. I thought it weren't going to happen here and hats off to Judd, from 4-0 down a lot of people would have crumbled and given up."

Trump said: "It was tough. I missed a few chances early on. I kind of threw it away in the first four frames. "I missed too many easy balls and even tonight when I was getting back into it, I missed another easy ball. On the whole I did well to get back into it, it was just the odd shot here and there that cost me."




Mourinho: My style is popular now


Jose Mourinho feels the praise for the playing style he has implemented in English football is long overdue.

Manchester United scored three goals in eight minutes to defeat Premier League champions Leicester City 3-0 on Sunday and close the gap on fifth-placed Liverpool to a single point.

Mourinho's side are now unbeaten in 15 league games and the manager feels he is finally starting to get the recognition he has long deserved in English football.

He said: "My team is playing very well but for many, many years in my career, especially in this country, when my teams were ruthless and when they were phenomenal defensively and very good in the counter-attack, I listened week after week... it was not enough, in spite of winning the title three times.

"It looks like this season, to be phenomenal defensively and be good at counter attack is art, so it's a big change in England".

"I don't want to change the profile of our play. This is the way we want to play. I don't want to be the manager of a team that plays very well, creates chances and doesn't win matches. We need to score goals and today we did."

The result at the King Power never looked in doubt as United turned in a dominant performance against a Leicester side struggling at the wrong end of the table after a superb 2015/16 season in which they won the title.

It was a far cry from last season, when Mourinho lost his job as Chelsea boss after a 2-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium - and he could not resist a joke at his expense.

He said: "The last time I was sat in this chair, the next day I was sacked!"


Banned Russian athletes must prove they are clean


Russian athletes must prove they are clean before they can return to international competition, athletics' governing body has warned.

Russians are banned from competing by the IAAF because of widespread state-sponsored doping in their country. Now it has issued guidelines to Russian athletes, spelling out what they need to do before they can compete again. A recent report said more than 1,000 Russians, including Olympic medallists, benefited from a doping programme.

"Russian athletes have been let down by a system that should have protected them," said Lord Coe, chairman of the International Association of Athletics Federations. The IAAF banned Russian athletes from competition in 2015 in response to allegations of state-sponsored doping.

Before last summer's Olympic Games in Rio, the governing body outlined "strict criteria" any Russian athletes must meet if they wanted to take part in the Games.

Only one athlete was able to meet the criteria - US-based long-jumper Darya Klishina, who entered as a neutral. Those guidelines have now been updated and sent to Russia's athletics federation.

They say Russian athletes wanting to compete need to prove they have never been implicated "by their national federation's failure to put in place adequate systems to protect and promote clean athletes".

It also points out any athletes cleared to compete will only be allowed to take part under a neutral flag. The updated criteria also asks Russian athletes to show:

* Whether any coach, doctor or other support person with whom they have worked has ever been implicated in the commission of any anti-doping rule violations;
* The number of urine, blood or athlete biological passport (ABP) samples they have had collected;
* Whether they were subject to testing by the IAAF or any other national or international World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) recognised testing authority;
* Any atypical findings or concerns about their ABP profile, requiring further investigation after a drug testing sample has been provided;
* Whether any samples previously provided by them are currently in storage or need retesting.

The IAAF said applications would be reviewed by its Doping Review Board (DRB), who will decide whether applicants will be granted neutral athlete status. Last month, the IAAF decided to extend Russia's ban - which was first announced in November 2015 - meaning the country will miss March's European Indoors in Belgrade, Serbia.

Since then the second part of a report for Wada by lawyer Richard McLaren has been published, stating that more than 1,000 Russians across 30 sports benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015.




Merc to name driver in New Year



Mercedes will not announce Nico Rosberg's replacement until New Year 2017.

Mercedes will not announce Nico Rosberg's replacement until the New Year, the F1 world champions have confirmed. F1 has been on tenterhooks to learn who will succeed Rosberg in the seat alongside Lewis Hamilton since the German stunned the sport by retiring three weeks ago.

However, a Mercedes spokesman has confirmed that the wait will continue for at least a few weeks longer with no announcement before January 3, the date when the Brackley team return to work after the Christmas break.

Williams' Valtteri Bottas remains the front-runner for the seat but Sky Sports understands the Grove team rejected the world champions' initial approach.

With Christmas fast approaching, Mercedes' decision to delay any announcement until January at the earliest means the Brackley team have more time to weigh up their options and return to Williams with any improved offer for Bottas.

Mercedes' first offer to Williams is thought to have included a discount on the price the Grove team pay for their engine supply, but the prospect of losing the experienced and well-regarded Bottas would leave them with their own 11th-hour driver quandary.

Pascal Wehrlein, who remains a contender for the main Mercedes seat, is thought to have been offered to Williams but the German has just one season of F1 under his belt compared to Bottas's four, with the Finn also boasting a proven podium-finishing record.


Villas-Boas lands £11m-a-year China job


Andre Villas-Boas replaces Sven-Goran Eriksson as Shanghai SIPG boss.

Former Chelsea and Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas is set to earn a reported £11m a year after taking over Chinese Super League team Shanghai SIPG.

He replaces former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, who left the club on Thursday after two years in charge.

Shanghai finished second and third in the league under the 68-year-old Swede.

"Andre Villas-Boas is the leading young manager in European football, with a huge amount of passion and coaching experience," a Shanghai statement said.

"We are convinced his arrival will enrich the tactical nous of the team, unearth the potential of our young talents and guide our club to scale new heights."

Portuguese Villas-Boas, 39, had been without a job since leaving Russian side Zenit St Petersburg at the end of last season.


Fury gives up world heavyweight titles to focus on recovery


Tyson Fury has voluntarily vacated his WBO and WBA world heavyweight titles with immediate effect to focus on his medical treatment and recovery.

Fury recently withdrew from a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko for the second time after being declared “medically unfit” and courted more controversy after it was reported he had tested positive for cocaine.

The British Boxing Board of Control was set to discuss removing Fury’s licence on Wednesday, which would have led to him being stripped of the belts, but the boxer has beaten them to the punch by vacating them.

The 28-year-old said in a statement: “I won the titles in the ring and I believe that they should be lost in the ring but I’m unable to defend at this time and I have taken the hard and emotional decision to now officially vacate my treasured world titles and wish the next-in-line contenders all the very best as I now enter another big challenge in my life which I know, like against Klitschko, I will conquer.”

Fury upset the odds by beating the Ukrainian Klitschko in November 2015, also claiming the IBO belt, but he has yet to honour a rematch, twice pulling out.

Fury added: “I feel that it is only fair and right and for the good of boxing to keep the titles active and allow the other contenders to fight for the vacant belts that I proudly won and held as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world when I defeated the long-standing champion Wladimir Klitschko.”

Fury recently told Rolling Stone magazine that he had been taking cocaine to help with depression and he will now seek medical care. His promoters, Hennessy Sports, added in a statement:

“Out of respect for the governing bodies, the sport of boxing and the heavyweight division Tyson has made the difficult decision to vacate the belts. This will also allow him the time and space to fully recover from his present condition without any undue pressure and with the expert medical attention he requires and his close family support.”

The move looks set to hand Klitschko and Anthony Joshua the chance to fight for the vacant heavyweight titles. Negotiations are ongoing between Klitschko and Joshua, with promoter Eddie Hearn hoping to get the fight on in December.


World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan



NOW that the Rio 2016 Olympics have ended and the Paralympics have yet to begin, it appears that eastern Kyrgyzstan is where all the global action is at with the second World Nomad Games - a celebration of Central Asian nomadic heritage that features sports like mass-wrestling and eagle hunting, and an opening ceremony that features displays of flaming horsemen (above). 

Check out some highlights from this year’s Games, which ends this week. 

The martial arts ace, actor and friend of Russia dressed up like an ancient Kyrgyz warrior and rode in on a horse as the Games’ guest of honour. 

Feats of horseback riding were rampant throughout the Games, which took place at Issyk Kul lake in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, like this guy who took riding side-saddle to the extreme. 

Forty nations with strong nomadic traditions are participating in the Games, including Russia and the United States. 

Kazakh and U.S. (red) riders play the traditional Central Asian sport buzkashi also known as kok-boru, “a violent Central Asian form of polo in which two teams battle for control of a decapitated goat carcass” which the Guardian describes as the Games’ biggest draw. 

Kyrgyz people in native dress hang out in front of two of the more than 300 traditional yurts on display. 

Participants hold golden eagles for an eagle hunt. 

“If Genghis Khan were alive, he’d want to be here.” So said an announcer during the Opening Ceremony, and we believe it. An archer shoots on horseback.

  World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan


Brazil impress to progress to the quarter-finals



Brazil reached the quarter-finals of Olympics men's football with an impressive 4-0 win against Denmark

Gabriel Barbosa got the first with a scrappy finish before new Manchester City signing Gabriel Jesus volleyed in. Luan then finished off a fine team move before Barbosa's deflected strike ensured Brazil went through as Group A winners. However, Argentina and London 2012 champions Mexico failed join them in the last eight. 

Argentina finished third in Group D after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Honduras, while Mexico were beaten 1-0 by South Korea. Brazil will play Colombia in the last eight, while Denmark still go through despite the defeat after a 1-1 draw between South Africa and Iraq meant they finished second in the group. 

Hosts Brazil had come in for criticism after a lacklustre start to the tournament in which they were held to goalless draws by South Africa and Iraq. Neymar's form in particular had frustrated Brazilian fans, but the Barcelona forward looked more like himself against Denmark, with a beautiful chipped pass in the build-up to his side's third a notable highlight. 

 Germany finished the group stage in dominant fashion as they beat Fiji 10-0. Freiburg forward Nils Petersen hit five goals, Schalke midfielder Max Meyler grabbed a hat-trick and Arsenal's Serge Gnabry scored twice as Germany finished second in Group C to set up a last-eight match with Portugal. 

The Portuguese finished top of Group D after drawing 1-1 with Algeria in Belo Horizonte. Colombia progressed after beating Group B winners Nigeria 2-0. That result ended Japan's hopes of going through as they finished third in the group, despite beating Sweden 1-0. 

 Quarter-finals: Brazil v Colombia; Portugal v Germany; South Korea v Honduras; Nigeria v Denmark


BBC Sport


Moscow press furious at allegations


Russia's press has reacted with anger at the international report which found evidence of state-backed sports doping over a four-year period. Pro-government papers dismiss the validity of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report, which some said was influenced by foreign governments as part of a deliberate anti-Russia campaign.
However, amid the outrage, one former leading sports star says he thinks the Wada accusations were largely true.
State-owned Rossiskaya Gazeta wades in with the theory that Wada is not politically neutral and is at the centre of an anti-Russia campaign. "The Wada commission that was preparing the report under the supervision of its Canadian boss described itself as 'independent'," Nikolai Dolgopolov writes.
"This is highly unlikely." "The work was carried out as if following somebody's orders. The Russians are to blame, full stop." In the same report, academic Andrei Smolensky says simply: "It is not a report, it is a farce." Pro-government Izvestia thinks Russian athletes were just pawns in a bigger game.
"Sport is too big a temptation not to draw political profit from it," it argues. Writing in liberal business daily RBC, Andrei Kolesnikov of the Moscow Carnegie Centre believes that Russia was being deliberately targeted.
"It is important for us to take part in the Olympics, it is a quasi-war, a demonstration of soft and hard power." Some, however, believe Russia does share at least some of the blame. An editorial in Moscow business daily Vedomosti says Moscow's "yearning to win at all costs" has caused a "crisis of distrust".
"It will take Moscow years to prove that it is really fighting doping," it adds. Popular news website agrees, adding that Russia's reaction has not helped matters. "Do not shout 'you don't have proof', but prove our innocence," it urges officials.
'Weak spots'
Russia's sporting newspapers lament what they think is the inevitable fate of not going to the Olympics. "Mere hours remain before Russian sport is fully outlawed," Natalya Maryanchik writes in Sport Express.
However, she sees a chink of light: "This document has plenty of weak spots, from mixed up surnames to the absence of names of specific athletes." In Sport Express, former world number one tennis player Yevgeni Kafelnikov provides a rare voice in support of the report's findings.
"I am disinclined to think that the allegations against Russian sport are the handiwork of our foes," he tells the paper. "I don't think that Wada representatives would throw around such accusations willy-nilly. Evidently, such things really did take place."
Pro-Kremlin Twitter users have been quick to defend their country's sporting honour, while opposition figures demanded that heads roll. "Doping [exists] across the globe, in all countries," pro-Kremlin TV presenter and media executive Tina Kandelaki tweeted.
"But for some reason Russia has been made a scapegoat. Why?" Several apparently pro-Kremlin users have circulated a picture of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell holding a model of a vial of anthrax while trying to make the case for invading Iraq at the UN Security Council in 2003.
"Wada has presented 'convincing' and 'sound' evidence that Russian athletes use doping," user "subb_zer0" tweeted.




Russia boss to quit after Euros exit



Russia coach Leonid Slutsky offered his resignation after his side were knocked out of Euro 2016 at the group stage. 

Monday's 3-0 defeat by Wales, which followed a 1-1 draw with England and a 2-1 defeat by Slovakia, meant Russia finished bottom of Group B. 

Uefa had threatened to disqualify Russia after violence from fans. 

"After a type of tournament like this, you need someone else to take charge of the national side for major competitions," Slutsky said. 

The 45-year-old CSKA Moscow boss succeeded Fabio Capello as Russia coach last July, but only had a contract until the end of Euro 2016. 

He was told by the Football Union of Russia he would have to choose between the national team and CSKA at the end of the tournament. 

The 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia, who qualify automatically as hosts.


Price dealt Povetkin reminder


David Price has commended Deontay Wilder for cancelling his world heavyweight title defence due to Alexander Povetkin’s failed drugs test – but wished he could have done the same.

Povetkin denies any wrongdoing after testing positive for banned substance meldonium but will no longer challenge for Wilder's WBC belt after the governing body postponed the fight pending an inquiry.

Wilder's management team insist the fight will not be rescheduled if Povetkin is confirmed to have violated doping rules, but Price never had the luxury of walking away before fights with opponents who would eventually fail tests.

Tony Thompson and Erkan Teper tested positive after becoming the only men to beat Price, leaving the Liverpool heavyweight with a rebuilding job that begins at Goodison Park on May 29, live on Sky Sports.

"If I knew Teper was on drugs, I would have done what Wilder did and the fight wouldn't have happened," Price exclusively told Sky Sports. "My career would have kept bubbling along, everything could have been completely different for me.

"It has highlighted what happened to me, which was wrong, and I deserve to be put back where I was before it happened. Once I'm active again I'm hoping to be reinstated to the position that I was in before I was cheated.

"Just to highlight what a big deal this is, a WBC title fight with a lot of money around it has been cancelled because one of the fighters has failed a drugs test. Now, if that doesn't tell you how much of a big deal this is, nothing will."

Price had strung together 15 consecutive victories including 14 stoppages until he was dealt two knockout defeats by Thompson in his home city in 2013.

Thompson's subsequent positive test for a prohibited substance was compounded when Teper, who knocked out Price last summer, was exposed and banned for two years by the European Boxing Union.

As the 32-year-old Brit prepares for his comeback he has reiterated a desire to see life bans dished out to anyone who fails a drugs test. "If you do it, and you're caught, you're out and you don't come back," Price said.

"They need the book thrown at them because without harsh penalties it will continue being a problem. Our health is on the line when you step in the ring - I could have walked into a potential death trap.

"There should be a protocol across the world where, if someone loses a fight as a result of the opponent taking drugs, they are reinstated and compensated. It won't happen to me now, but I've potentially lost out on a lot of money for losing that fight.

"I've lost to two men who failed drugs tests, and a lot of people have written me off. But I think this is a great story, it will become a great comeback story, and a success story for the clean-living athlete.

  Price dealt Povetkin reminder


Mark Selby wins 2016 World Snooker Championship


Mark Selby has won the 2016 World Snooker Championship after beating Ding Junhui 18-14 in the final at the Crucible on Monday evening.

The Leicester-born player, who is crowned world champion for a second time after his 2014 triumph, stormed to a 10-7 lead against Ding before holding his nerve in a tense final few frames.

Selby progressed to the final after overcoming Marco Fu in a close 17-15 semi-final encounter – the 32-year-old also gained victories over Robert Milkins, Sam Baird and Kyren Wilson in the earlier rounds.

The result will come as a massive blow to Ding who was again frustrated in his bid to become the first ever world champion from Asia.

It was a huge evening for sport in Leicester, with Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes side able to clinch the Premier League title if Chelsea could see off Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.


G. Rutherford: DNA analysis helps me make better decisions


Olympic and world long-jump champion Greg Rutherford says DNA analysis is helping him to "make better decisions" about his training programme.

A study by the University of Central Lancashire found that using DNA-matched training could enhance athletes' performance. "For me it was a fascinating experiment," Rutherford told BBC Radio 5 live's Stephen Nolan programme. "It helps guide you on the way where you may not know."

The DNA analysis presents users with a detailed report based on their body's response to particular types of training and nutrition. Rutherford, who is also the reigning Commonwealth and European champion, has been incorporating the genetically guided information into his training for the 2016 since Olympics since February.

"I do a lot of things like running hills and larger amounts of reps in the gym," he explained. "The DNA showed I have a level of endurance in me which I never really realised, which makes sense.

"It helps you make clear, informed decisions based on what your DNA make-up is showing you, and it shows that following what your make-up is saying is a good path to go down." You can hear the full interview on BBC 5 live's Stephen Nolan programme.


BBC Sport


Ronnie O'Sullivan exits Grand Prix


Ronnie O'Sullivan was a first-day casualty at the World Grand Prix in Llandudno on Tuesday as he crashed out to Michael Holt. 

O'Sullivan - without a ranking defeat in 2016 - looked set to go home with a whimper as he slumped 3-0 down, Holt running up scores of 88 and 119. 

But the five-time champion replied to level at 3-3 before Nottingham man Holt cracked in a 76 in the decider. 

The 40-year-old's exit came on a day of shocks, with world No 3 Neil Robertson going out 4-3 to Peter Ebdon. 

 The Australian was hindered by the gritty Ebdon and unable to find any fluency, with Ebdon taking a decider in a low-scoring clash with a 69 break. 

 "It was a tough match and I'm delighted to win," Ebdon said. "I butchered a few balls, but it's hard to get over the line when you haven't been getting results. 

"I was very focused and felt I had a chance of winning. Things haven't been going for me this season and I'm looking for consistency." 

Ding Junhui was also taken to a decider, but the Chinese prevailed, knocking out Ben Woollaston, with his highest break of 61 getting him over the line. 

Elsewhere, Barry Hawkins was whitewashed 4-0 by Joe Perry and Martin Gould beat Tian Pengfei by the same scoreline and Ryan Day beat Matt Selt 4-1. 

More surprising was John Higgins' clean sweep of fellow Scot Stephen Maguire, Higgins putting together runs of 92, 54, 69 and 79.


Awards for Koeman and Aguero



Ronald Koeman and Sergio Aguero named Premier League Manager and Player of the Month

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero have been given January's respective Premier League Manager and Player of the Month awards. 

Koeman has been credited for having won three out four league games in the first month of 2016 - finishing off with a 1-0 win at Manchester United after beating West Brom and Watford. 

The Dutchman narrowly pipped Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino to the award, whose side also won three out of four in January but were beaten at home by Leicester. 

Also nominated were Manuel Pellegrini, whose Manchester City team went unbeaten last month with two draws and two wins, and West Ham boss Slaven Bilic, who watched his team beat Liverpool and Bournemouth and draw with Man City. 

Aguero has been crowned Player of the Month for the first time since November 2014 after scoring five goals in four games and assisting another, with 79 successful passes. 

The Argentinian striker beat Jermain Defoe, who also scored five goals for Sunderland, Roberto Firmino and his four for Liverpool, Dele Alli, who has shone for Tottenham, Leicester 'keeper Kasper Schmeichel and Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk.


Murray helps to raise £83,000 for Unicef



Tennis star Andy Murray has raised more than £83,000 for the charity Unicef through his Andy's Aces initiative. 

Last September, the Wimbledon winner and current BBC Sports Personality of the Year said he would donate £50 every time he hits an ace on court. His donations were added to by his sponsors, tennis associations and fans. 

Murray created the scheme following the repercussions of the conflict in Syria and said: "It's amazing that we've been able to raise so much." 

The Dunblane-born star, who led Britain to Davis Cup glory last year, added: "I remember watching the news last summer and deciding I wanted to do something to help some of the millions of children whose lives have turned upside down by the situation in Syria. 

"I'm very grateful to my sponsors and fans for their help in this - I couldn't have done it without them. I know how hard Unicef are working to support these children, and millions of others around the world and I'm proud to have been able to help." 

Murray's sponsors Standard Life and Under Armour, along with the Lawn Tennis Association and The Association of Tennis Professionals, matched every £50 donation from the tennis star, and Standard Life employees also participated in fundraising. Unicef said the donation will allow the organisation to provide over 16,000 children with blankets. 

David Bull, Unicef's UK Executive Director, said: "All of us here at Unicef UK are incredibly grateful to Andy for his continued support. Almost five years into the conflict, Syria remains one of the most dangerous places to be a child and millions of children have lost loved ones, homes and schools. 

"Their world has been turned upside down by the conflict and humanitarian needs are becoming ever more urgent. The support of Andy, his fans and the wider tennis community will help us provide support for children who have lost so much."


Beckham backs Qatar 2022 World Cup



David Beckham says 2022 World Cup should be held in Qatar David Beckham believes the 2022 World Cup should be held in Qatar despite uncertainty over its hosting rights. 

Swiss and US authorities are looking at claims of corruption in the bidding for both the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 events. In the Radio Times' Christmas issue, Beckham said: "Whether it's corrupt or not, those countries have been chosen. People need to get behind that. 

"It's about bringing football to new countries. They should stick with it. They'll make it work." In June a leading Fifa official said Russia and Qatar could lose the 2018 and 2022 World Cups if evidence emerges of bribery. Russia and Qatar have denied wrongdoing in their bidding processes and the official, Domenico Scala, said he had not seen evidence of corruption. 

Fifa is currently in disarray and has announced plans to reform, but asked whether the governing body was turning a corner, the 40-year-old former England captain said: "No - they are just hitting the bend. "It's such a mess that it's going to take a while to sort out. "For me to see the game, the way it's been treated and looked after, is devastating. It's disgusting." 

Last week Fifa plunged further into crisis when US authorities investigating corruption at the sport's governing body charged 16 officials. In May there were seven Fifa arrests, while Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Uefa counterpart Michel Platini - a Fifa vice-president - have been suspended for 90 days after the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings against Blatter. 

Former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder Beckham also revealed that he "loves rugby". "I love watching it and I love the whole thing. I have enjoyed going to Twickenham more than I have enjoyed watching football," he said.


BBC Sport


British and Irish Lions XV



The World Cup is over for another four years but before New Zealand start to think about a hat-trick of titles, there is a British and Irish Lions tour to consider.

The Lions will tour New Zealand in 2017 and already talk has turned to who will make the grade. Have the best of Britain and Ireland got any chance of beating the world champions? 

Wales coach Warren Gatland, who led the Lions to a series win against Australia in 2013, could well be the man to lead the class of 2017, although fellow Kiwi - and Ireland coach - Joe Schmidt is also a strong contender. 

We got our magnificent seven rugby pundits to select their British and Irish lions XV to take on New Zealand in the first Test on the 24th of June 2017 at Eden Park, Auckland. 

Stuart Barnes, Scott Quinnell, Will Greenwood, Alan Quinlan and Shane Horgan all picked Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones as the man to lead the 2017 Lions, while Rory Lawson and Ieuan Evans opted for another Welshman in Sam Warburton as captain. 

 Forward thinking 
England's Dylan Hartley gets the nod for the No 2 jersey from Barnes, Greenwood and Evans, while Ross Ford, Scott Baldwin and Rory Best are also nominated. Scotland's powerhouse prop WP Nel is only selected by three of our pundits - Quinnell, Greenwood and Horgan - with the rest backing Wales tighthead Samson Lee to cause maximum damage upfront. 

The chances that Richie McCaw will still be around in black come 2017 are slim, but New Zealand will still have a formidable backrow and getting the balance just right will be crucial. Triumphant 2013 Lions skipper Warburton (who missed the final Test through injury) is the favourite to once again wear the No 7 jersey. 

However, Stuart Barnes and Will Greenwood have thrown Steffon Armitage into the mix. Ireland's Sean O'Brien is favoured at No 6 by Lawson, Horgan and Greenwood while Barnes has him at No 8. 

Half-back pairing 
The half-back pairing is another crucial area and only Rory Lawson has gone for a current international pairing - Wales duo Rhys Webb at scrum-half and Dan Biggar at fly-half. Webb and Biggar both feature in the other selections but are teamed up with - in Biggar's case - Greg Laidlaw (Quinnell) and Conor Murray (Greenwood and Quinlan). Webb has Johnny Sexton (Evans and Horgan) and George Ford (Barnes) outside of him. 

England's centre partnership has been a real issue in recent years, but for the Lions tour of 2017 three Englishmen are favoured - none together, though! 

No place for Halfpenny? 
Surprisingly the man of the series of 2013 - full-back Leigh Halfpenny - only makes Scott Quinnell's and Stuart Barnes' line-up. Scotland's Stuart Hogg is favoured by Greenwood, Lawson and Evans, while Kearney gets Shane Horgan's vote and Quinlan opts for Mike Brown. 

Let us know which expert has got it right and send us your Lions starting XV.


Banned drugs found in 3,800 samples



Banned substances were found in more than 3,800 samples out of 283,304 tests carried out worldwide last year, World Anti-Doping Agency figures reveal. 

However, that represented a fall, across all sports, of more than 10%, despite an increase in the number of tests carried out. Athletics has been the subject of allegations of widespread doping. And Wada has told the BBC more than 10% of elite athletes could be using performance-enhancing drugs. August's athletics World Championships in Beijing included 66 competitors who had previously been subject to doping sanctions. 

Athletics' governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), carried out more than 1,400 tests on an estimated 600-700 athletes - only a third of the total number of competitors - in China. Just two - Kenyan runners Joyce Zakary and Koki Manunga - failed them, although the IAAF said samples would be frozen and stored for future reanalysis as science and technology progressed. 

As well as the reduction in samples containing banned substances - or 'adverse analytical findings' - in 2014, the number of tests requiring further investigation also fell. In contrast, the number of adverse findings had increased by more than 10% between 2012 and 2013. Wada says the fall in these 'atypical findings' is partly due to the introduction of the athlete biological passport. 

Wada's results report the number of tests carried out by sport governing bodies and national anti-doping organisations submitted to its 32 accredited laboratories worldwide. A blood or urine sample showing a banned substance does not automatically mean the athlete in question has been doping. Some prohibited substances can be produced naturally by the body, for example.


BBC Sport


Klopp ready for 'right job' in Premier League



Liverpool target Jurgen Klopp ready to end sabbatical for 'right job' in Premier League. 

The German coach was expected to stay out of the game for a year. 

Jurgen Klopp is reportedly prepared to end his sabbatical and move to the Premier League for the 'right job'. 

According to Sky Sports, the former Borussia Dortmund coach is prepared to end speculation over his future and will listen to coaching offers from English clubs, despite originally intending to spend a year out of the game. 

Klopp has been heavily linked with the Liverpool job in recent weeks as pressure has intensified on incumbent Brendan Rodgers. 

However, at this point, the German has not been contacted by Anfield officials. Rodgers' side, who are without a win in six games, limped past League Two outfit Carlisle United in the third round of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night, only progressing via a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw. 

The performance was met with boos by a large proportion of the Anfield crowd when the final whistle sounded. Earlier that day, the club had been forced to deny that they had approached former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti over the possibility of replacing Rodgers. 

Klopp is the first-choice candidate among many Liverpool supporters after his impressive seven-year spell at the Westfalenstadion. During his time in Dortmund, the 48-year-old won two Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012, as well as taking the club to the Champions League final in 2013.


Rooney breaks England goalscoring record



Wayne Rooney made history by breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time England goalscoring record in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley.

England captain Rooney equalled Charlton's tally of 49 with a penalty in the victory against San Marino on Saturday that ensured a place in France next summer. 

And he was on the spot again late on in Tuesday's match against the Swiss for goal number 50 to erase a record that has stood for 45 years. 

It looked like Rooney might be made to wait until England's meeting with Estonia at Wembley next month as Switzerland frustrated Roy Hodgson's side until their resistance was eventually broken. 

England substitute Harry Kane pierced the deadlock with a crisp finish after 67 minutes and Rooney rewrote the record books with a thunderous penalty six minutes from time, earning a standing ovation from the Wembley gallery. 

It ensured his side completed eight wins out of eight, securing top spot in Group E.


BBC Sport


Retirement not on Nadal radar



Rafael Nadal insisted Sunday that retirement is not on his mind despite a year in which he was dethroned as French Open champion and saw his ranking slip to its lowest in a decade. 

The 29-year-old former world number one and 14-time major winner said that he will hang up his racquet only when he has lost the thrill of playing the sport. 

"For sure, there is more behind than in front in my career. I'm sure of that," Nadal said on the eve of the Montreal Masters - a major tune-up for the US Open, which starts in three weeks. 

 "But I don't think about retirement. Day by day is my way to work. In 2005, I was aged 19 and I'm sure that I won't be playing tennis until 39. 

"I have motivation to keep going so it's difficult to think about not playing. But when it comes, I will know. 

"When I wake up without motivation to improve, that will be the end. But until that day arrives, I'm here and enjoying it." 

Nadal slumped to number 10 in the world in June after he lost his French Open title and then went on to suffer a second round exit at Wimbledon. 

But he won on clay in Hamburg recently and hopes to use that to his advantage in his summer hardcourt opener. It was in Montreal a decade ago that Nadal claimed the first hardcourt title of his career when he beat Andre Agassi in the final. 

 This week, he is chasing a fourth Canadian honour. He is the seventh seed in Montreal and will play either Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky or Canada's Filip Peliwo in his first match.


World Cup 2018: Local derbies



The home nations and the Republic of Ireland have discovered their 2018 World Cup qualifying fates. 

England will face old rivals Scotland, while Wales are up against not-really-rivals the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland are going it alone in a group of strangers. The top team from each group goes through with the eight best second-placed sides playing off. But who else awaits the British and Irish sides in qualifying? 

Group F (England and Scotland) 
 Who else is in the group? 
England and Scotland fans who follow their teams on the road will be pretty happy with the draw. Short trips to face each other, then mini-breaks to scenic capitals Bratislava and Ljubljana in central Europe and a few days in the sun in Malta as well as seeing the Baltics with Lithuania. On the pitch, there is no doubt about the biggest threat to England and Scotland. 

Slovakia are 'doing a Wales' - they are flying in Euro 2016 qualifying, topping a group with Spain with a 100% record from six games. They have risen to joint 15th in the Fifa world rankings. There are lots of familiar faces to England in this group. 

Slovenia and Lithuania are in the same Euro 2016 qualifying group as the Three Lions. Slovenia are 49th in the world and third in the group, while Lithuania (110th) are fifth. They have been in every one of England's Euro qualifying groups since the 1990s. 

Malta (158th) are bottom of Group H with one point. Both sides will hope they don't struggle in the Maltese heat as much as West Ham, who needed penalties to beat their third best side Birkirkara in the Europa League last week.


BBC Sport


Quique Sanchez Flores takes Watford reigns



Former Atletico Madrid boss Quique Sanchez Flores has signed a two-year deal to become the new Watford head coach. 

Sanchez Flores, 50, brings an impressive CV to England, having guided Atletico to the Europa League title in 2010 with a win over Fulham in the final, as well as coaching in Portugal at Benfica and more recently with Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. 

A statement on the club website read: "We are delighted to announce the appointment of Europa League winner Quique Flores as the club’s new head coach. "The Spaniard, who boasts a wealth of top-flight experience in his home country and Portugal, has signed a two-year contract to lead the Hornets upon their return to the Premier League." 

 He will be assisted by Alberto Diaz and Antonio Carlavilla, alongside Dean Austin who will remain within the Vicarage Road coaching structure. Previous incumbent Slavisa Jokanovic's contract talks broke down last month over his wage demands. 

Jokanovic was appointed as Watford's fourth coach of the season in October, and steered them back into the Premier League after an eight-year absence as they finished runners-up to Championship winners Bournemouth. 

Jokanovic's deal expires at the end of June, and it is understood the 46-year-old had been offered significantly improved terms of around £1m basic salary, plus another £1m in performance-based payments. Watford put on record the club's appreciation for the outgoing management team. 

A statement read: "Watford FC would like to take this opportunity to thank former head coach Slavisa Jokanovic, along with assistants Ruben Martinez and Javier Pereira, for an outstanding contribution to the success of the club. The Hornets wish all three men well for their future careers." 

Jokanovic also sent a message to Watford following confirmation of his departure. He wrote on Twitter: "Thank you to Watford FC fans, players and staff for their support during this season. I'm proud to have had the chance to help put this club back where they truly deserve to be. I wish you all the best in the future."sy


Mayweather-Pacquiao breaking all limits



For a few hours on Saturday night, the eyes of the boxing world were collectively centered on one location - a relatively small arena, known as the MGM Grand, located in the heart of Las Vegas. 

Several thousand spectators were lucky enough to be able to afford tickets to the Fight of the Century. Millions of people purchased pay-per-view. And some just followed along via social media, where the majority of boxing fans gave their takes on each round in 140 characters or less. 

For a few hours, the Fight of the Century was all that mattered to millions of people on the planet. But now, the fight won't just have the attention of those who actually live on Earth. 

Instead, it'll expand through the atmosphere and to the orbit of Earth. Because the Fight of the Century has officially reached space. Both Showtime and HBO have worked with NASA to give the American astronauts onboard the International Space Station full access to the Fight of the Century. 

And now, they'll be able to watch it in its entirety. As expected, this is the first time a PPV fight will be viewable from space. What they'll see is a vintage Mayweather performance. 

For all 12 rounds, Mayweather danced and ducked his way around the speedy Pacquiao. Despite frequent roars from the pro-Pacquiao crowd, the underdog had a tough time landing blows. 

Mayweather, on the other hand, picked his moments and capitalized on his chosen opportunities. And, as the final seconds ticked down, Mayweather raised his fist in the air to celebrate his 48th straight win. 

It was a unanimous decision for Mayweather on Saturday night. And now, even those stationed above Earth will have the ability to take it all in.


Donald steps down as South Africa bowling coach


Allan Donald has stepped down as South Africa bowling coach after four successful years in the role. 

The South African, a formidable fast bowler in his playing days, took over in June 2011 and helped the team become the top-ranked Test nation in 2012. 

"I was blessed to have worked with the best bowling attack in the world over a four-year period and leave with fond memories and experiences," said Donald. He took 330 wickets in 72 Tests at an average of 22.25. 

"It's never easy to lose a legend from your ranks but we respect Allan's decision in the knowledge that we will seek his involvement in our cricket programmes in the future," said Cricket South Africa (CSA) Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat. 

South Africa's Dale Steyn is currently the world's top-ranked Test bowler, with Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel at seven and 11 respectively. Steyn, Morkel and spinner Imran Tahir are all in the one-day international top 10. 

South Africa reached the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup in March. "I have had some time to reflect after the World Cup and have come to the conclusion that the time is right to move on," added Donald. 

"The last four years have been the best of my life and being involved with the Proteas in the 2015 Cricket World Cup was a goal I had set my sights on." 

Cricket South Africa said it would appoint a replacement in due course, with a Test and limited-overs tour of Bangladesh scheduled in July.


Woods expecting to make Ryder Cup team


United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III says Tiger Woods is confident of qualifying for the 2016 team. 

Woods ruled himself out of contention for last year's match at Gleneagles, taking a break from golf due to injury. The 39-year-old, now ranked 96, has started only two events this year and is on another break to regain form. 

"He's expecting to make the team," Love told BBC Radio. "He and I keep in touch a lot more than we have. He still has a good attitude and is working hard." 

Former world number one Woods, who won the last of his 14 majors in 2008, made his Ryder Cup debut in 1997 and has made a total of seven appearances in the event. After recovering from surgery on a pinched nerve which forced him to miss last year's Masters and US Open, he failed to make the cut in his first tournament of the season, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, when he recorded an 11-over-par 82, the worst round of his professional career. 

The following week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines he was two over par when he withdrew after 11 holes of the opening round because of further back problems. Days later he announced another indefinite break saying his game was "unacceptable for tournament play" but said this month he is "hopeful" of playing in the first major of the year, the Masters at Augusta from 9-12 April. 

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, Love III added: "I spoke to a few people who tell me he's working very hard and is eager to get back. I suppose he has a plan for The Masters - we're hoping to see him back soon. "Right now, it's the Ryder Cup we're talking about - we have guys trying to make the Presidents Cup team [against the International team in October] and he is anxious about getting back to playing so he can get some points for that, then he can think about Ryder Cup. 

"But I wouldn't count him out just yet. Europe have won the last three Ryder Cups and defend the trophy against the USA at Hazeltine, Minnesota, from 30 September-2 October next year.


BBC Sport


Hamilton opens F1 season with straightforward victory


Lewis Hamilton made the perfect start to the defence of his Formula One world championship with one of the most straightforward victories of his career in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

It was Hamilton’s 34th win and his first at Melbourne’s Albert Park since his championship year of 2008. Hamilton led from start to finish, driving well within himself to push team-mate Nico Rosberg into second place, followed by Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Felipe Massa (Williams), the impressive debutant Felipe Nasr (Sauber) and home hope Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull).

But this was a race totally dominated by Mercedes, who didn’t even have to flex their considerable muscles for a one-two result. With Red Bull and McLaren looking in disappointing form, to put it very mildly, it will be up to Ferrari and Williams to make this a competitive season. But apart from Mercedes the happiest team was probably Sauber, with Felipe Nasr finishing fifth and Marcus Ericsson eighth after the team’s very difficult week fighting legal problems.

It was also an encouraging day for Force India after their recent financial problems, with both their drivers finishing among the points. There were only 11 finishers, with most of the casualties falling before or at the very start of the race. In fact that was where most of the action was. Last man Jenson Button was the only driver to finish out of the points.

Valtteri Bottas, who had qualified for sixth place on the grid, was ruled unfit by an FIA medical delegate because of a tear in his lower back, and had to withdraw. With Manor not taking part, that reduced the official starting grid to 17 cars. But there were only 15 there at the start because both Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat failed to survive their reconnaissance laps.


Former team bosses plan to start F1 2015 season



Bosses of the former Marussia F1 team are pressing ahead with plans to race from the start of the 2015 season. 

The team, now going by their original name of Manor, say they have approval to start the season with a modified version of their 2014 car. This plan appeared to have been derailed after Force India vetoed the proposal at a meeting of leading teams. But Manor say they are proceeding with steps previously laid out by Formula 1's bosses. 

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley voted against Marussia using a 2014 car at a meeting of the rule-making strategy group on Thursday, saying the proposal presented was "totally out of order" in its lack of detail. Manor Grand Prix first entered F1 in 2010 but were renamed Virgin Racing when Virgin bought a shareholding. 

They were then renamed Marussia from the 2012 season. But Graeme Lowdon - the former president of Marussia, who has sourced the money for Manor to continue in F1 - said they had not made a presentation to the strategy group because they had not been asked to. 

Lowdon said Manor needed unanimous approval from all the teams to be allowed to race under these circumstances and that they were working to achieve this. Manor still plan to complete this process in time to allow them to take part in the first race of the season in Melbourne on 15 March. 

They would then race with the modified 2014 car for a part of the season before switching to their definitive 2015 car, which is already in production. "We are doing everything possible to adhere to the process set out for us to return to the 2015 grid," Lowdon said. This is a fantastic good news story for the whole sport and we just want to go racing." 

Fernley has denied his decision to veto Manor's plan was made for financial reasons. If Manor do not race in 2015, the prize money Marussia earned last year would be divided between the remaining nine teams, who would receive about £4m each.


BBC Sport


MU second only to Real in list of world's richest clubs


Manchester United may have had their worst season for two decades last year but they have reclaimed second spot in the list of the world's richest football clubs

Only European champions Real Madrid stand ahead in terms of income, while Barcelona by contrast are struggling to keep pace financially with their Spanish rivals, United and Bayern Munich. The Football Money League compiled by Deloitte sees Real established at the top of the tree for the 10th year in succession, with revenues of £459m, while United are on £433m, Bayern £407m and Barcelona £405m. Manchester City remain in sixth position behind Paris Saint-Germain, with Chelsea and Arsenal sustaining their seventh and eighth places and Liverpool up to ninth. 

A Deloitte spokesman said: "A season that saw Manchester United finish in their lowest league position since the start of the Premier League era actually saw the Red Devils reclaim second spot in the money league. "Their commercial growth... continues to yield record-breaking deals. If the club can regain their Champions League status for the 2015/16 season, there is a strong possibility they will also regain top spot in our money league for that season." 

Indeed, almost half of the top 30 richest clubs are now made up of Premier League sides and that figure is likely to increase; Newcastle United and Everton have appeared at the top of the list for the first time, in 19th and 20th position respectively The spokesman added: "It is with great anticipation that we wait to see what the new round of Premier League broadcast deals, expected to be agreed in 2015, will yield. With the market expectation that another significant increase will occur, it is likely that the money league will have a strongly English appearance in the coming years." 

The Deloitte report underscores the changing landscape in relation to the European powerhouses, highlighted by the decline of Italian clubs in terms of finances; in 2001 Italy had five clubs in the top 10 and only Juventus, who significantly have built a new stadium, remain there in 10th position. It also shows the continuing value to the Spanish clubs to be able to negotiate their own broadcast rights - Real earned more than twice the sum of Atletico Madrid in broadcast income despite their city rivals winning the league and reaching the Champions League final. 

 Club 2013/14 Revenue (£m) (2012/13 Revenue): 
1 Real Madrid 459.5 (444.7) 
2 Manchester United 433.2 (363.2) 
3 Bayern Munich 407.7 (369.6) 
4 FC Barcelona 405.2 (413.6) 
5 Paris Saint-Germain 396.5 (341.8) 
6 Manchester City 346.5 (271.0) 
7 Chelsea 324.4 (260.0) 
8 Arsenal 300.5 (243.6) 
9 Liverpool 255.8 (206.2) 
10 Juventus 233.6 (233.5) 
11 Borussia Dortmund 218.7 (219.6) 
12 Milan 208.8 (225.8) 
13 Tottenham Hotspur 180.5 (147.4) 
14 Schalke 04 178.9 (169.9) 
15 Atletico Madrid 142.1 (102.8) 
16 Napoli 137.8 (99.8) 
17 Internazionale 137.1 (141.0) 
18 Galatasaray 135.4 (134.6) 
19 Newcastle United 129.7 (95.9) 
20 Everton 120.5 (86.4)


West Indies beat South Africa in record Twenty20



West Indies completed the highest run chase in Twenty20 history as they beat South Africa by four wickets in a thrilling game in Johannesburg. 

Skipper Faf du Plessis's 119 from 56 balls helped the hosts to 231-7, the fourth highest T20 international score. Chris Gayle led the reply with 90 from 41 balls, smashing seven sixes and adding 152 with Marlon Samuels (60). Gayle departed with 61 needed from 38 balls but skipper Darren Sammy saw the Windies home with four balls to spare. 

Victory gave West Indies an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, with the final game in Durban on Wednesday. Gayle's powerful hitting took the tourists to 86-1 after the six-over powerplay after Sammy won the toss. The left-hander also moved level with New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum's record of 87 sixes in T20 internationals. 

With West Indies needing 21 off 12 balls, South Africa retained hope of victory. But Sammy hit Kyle Abbott for successive fours to leave only three required from the final over, and completed victory with a six over wide long-on. It surpassed the previous highest successful Twenty20 run chase, which was Sussex's 226-3 against Essex at Chelmsford last summer. 

Earlier, Du Plessis hit 11 fours and five sixes in his brilliant innings, while David Miller made 47 from 26 balls. The Wanderers has been the venue for several international batting records. In 2006, South Africa achieved the highest one-day international run chase, making 438-9 to beat Australia. 

In September 2007, Gayle scored the first T20 international century, 117 from 57 balls, including a then record 10 sixes, against South Africa in the inaugural World Twenty20. In the same tournament, Sri Lanka made 260-6 against Kenya, which remains the highest T20 international total.


BBC Sport


Steve Smith century leaves Test in balance


Australia stand-in captain Steve Smith hit a second century in two games to help leave the second Test with India finely poised

Deputising for the injured Michael Clarke, Smith made 133 as the hosts posted 505, a first-innings lead of 97 at the Gabba. 

Mitchell Johnson struck 88 as Ishant Sharma (3-117) and Umesh Yadav (3-101) shared six wickets. 

India reached 71-1 by the close of day three, trailing by 26. India's Murali Vijay, who made 144 on the first day, fell in the evening session when he played on trying to leave a delivery from Mitchell Starc. 

However, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara negotiated a tricky final period without further loss and will resume on Saturday on 26 and 15 respectively. 

Australia began the day on 221-4 and Smith, 65 not out overnight, brought up his sixth Test hundred off 147 balls before he chopped on off Ishant. 

He made an unbeaten 162 and 52 not out as Australia won the first Test by 48 runs. 

Starc (52) and debutant Josh Hazlewood (32) helped boost Australia's total with some valuable late-order hitting.


BBC Sport


O'Sullivan beats Trump to win UK Championship



Ronnie O'Sullivan withstood an epic Judd Trump comeback and a broken ankle to claim a fifth UK Championship title. 

O'Sullivan led from the off and went 5-1 ahead in the first session, before Trump pulled two frames back to stay within touching distance in York. He then fell 9-4 behind but a superb revival saw Trump emerge from the brink, making breaks of 120 and 127 to level the contest at 9-9. But Trump fouled from a snooker in the last as O'Sullivan won 10-9. 

O'Sullivan broke his left ankle while out running before the tournament and was in significant discomfort in the early rounds. After the first round, in which he wore a protective brace, he said he might pull out as it was too painful. However, the pain seemed to ease as he progressed, compiling a magnificent maximum 147 break in his quarter-final. He collected £150,000 prize money, plus £44,000 for the 147. 

"That is the hardest match I have ever played," O'Sullivan told BBC Sport. "I was going through the motions and accepted I was going to get beaten. "We've seen two warriors in action. Ronnie has got guts and temperament - he showed it all when it was needed. He's a superhero of our game." 

"The fans like him even more at the moment. He's up against the younger brigade but still taking it to them. He's the most astonishing player we have ever seen. In a lifetime I'm not sure we'll see anyone like him again." 

"I didn't know what day it was but I found something towards the end and was able to hold my position." O'Sullivan - who has now won every UK final in which he has appeared - was the highest-ranked player left in the tournament after the surprise exits of world champion Mark Selby, defending champion Neil Robertson and Chinese number one Ding Junhui. 

The 39-year-old looks to be getting better with age and his success in the competition comes 21 years after he won it for the first time in 1993. He has now won each of the UK, World and Masters titles on five occasions. His 27th ranking win leaves him one behind Steve Davis and nine behind Stephen Hendry in the all-time list. 

This match was billed as a contest between two players with attacking and aesthetically-pleasing styles, and O'Sullivan was running away with it at 9-4 before Trump mounted a brilliant comeback. But a lack of composure when in amongst the balls early on caused the damage, enabling O'Sullivan to pick him off. 

"When your opponent is dishing up every time, it is demoralising and dents your confidence," said Trump. "Towards the end I let go and I made a good clearance to go 9-9. I felt so relaxed and was waiting for the chance in the last but the good safety won it for him."


BBC Sport


Vettel given Red Bull send-off



Sebastian Vettel receives red Speedos and model bull on his Red Bull farewell. 

Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel was given a send-off by Red Bull as the German made one final visit to the team’s Milton Keynes factory. 

The German’s Ferrari career may have officially begun last weekend when he drove the Italian marque’s 2012 car at Fiorano, but he was back at the home of his long-time employers on Tuesday to say farewell to the team’s staff. 

Vettel was presented with a series of parting gifts by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and chief technical officer Adrian Newey, with the most eye-catching a 50 per cent scale model bull with the German’s four championship laurels engraved on the plinth. 

Red Bull will also give Vettel one of his title-winning cars, although with the German having defected to one of their main rivals, the delivery won’t be happening quite yet. 

“We don't want it turning up in Maranello,” joked Horner. Vettel’s departure from Red Bull ends one of F1’s most successful driver-team partnerships with all 39 of the 27-year-old’s grand prix wins having been achieved in one of the company’s F1 cars. 

"The last six years have been incredible," Vettel said in his final address to the workforce. "What we've achieved, the work that's gone in. So much passion, so much dedication. It will always stay in my heart. 

“Big, big thank you to everyone. In the end we had the better car because we were the better team. Thank you really doesn't really describe enough what I feel." Newey, who himself is reducing his F1 workload at Red Bull next season, paid tribute to team’s departing star. 

“Whenever Sebastian's been in the car he's been carrying all of our hopes, our ambitions," he said. "But we've always known that he's putting everything of himself into it as well. It's been a real privilege."


Wladimir Klitschko vs. Kubrat Pulev


Lineal heavyweight world champion Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko once again proved why he is the high man on the totem pole of the division by stopping Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev in their Saturday meeting at the O2 World arena in Hamburg, Germany. 

The end came by way of knockout at 2 minutes, 11 seconds into the fifth round, courtesy of a left hook from Klitschko, the same punch that had earlier dropped the undefeated Pulev, now 20-1, 11 KOs, twice in the first round and again in the third. The bout began with a tense first round, both fighters coming out strong and looking to put the hurt on early in the fight. 

The game Pulev’s aggression was snubbed when Klitschko, now 63-3 with 53 KOs, dropped the “The Cobra” twice to earn himself a 10-7 opening round. The fighters came out more composed for the second round, with the 38 year-old Klitschko trying to tie up The Cobra with clinches, and Pulev doing his best to muscle out of them while continuing to pressure the champ with jabs to the body. 

Referee Tony Weeks was quick to break up the clinches and warned Pulev about his repeated rabbit-punches. Pulev came out looking strong in the third round, seemingly recollected from the earlier knockdowns, as Klitschko started putting his straight right hand into play. Pulev was able to withstand a solid right to the head, but a following left hook, proceeded by a shove, sent the challenger to the mat for a third time in the fight. 

Steelhammer smelled blood and went in for the kill, repeatedly detonating right hands on Pulev’s face. Pulev clinched his way through the remainder of the round, barely surviving the onslaught. The clinching continued into the fourth round, with Pulev initiating most of the holding and ref Tony Weeks repeatedly having to intervene. Pulev had moments of success in the round, scoring with right hands and pawing with the left. But by then, his power was drained and he was unable to deter Steelhammer’s continuing attacks. 

Klitschko kicked off the fifth round by rocking The Cobra with a big left hook to the head. The fighters continued with the excessive clinching, threatening to turn the high-action bout into a slow-paced snooze fest. Luckily, fans did not have to endure another Klitschko stinker when the champ put the challenger down for good with a left hook, abruptly ending the match. 

 “Pulev put in a good performance and I give him respect,” Klitschko said during the post-fight interview televised on HBO. “He made it hard to land the left hook by staying out of range, but I managed to land a lot of punches and I`m glad it worked out in the end.” “I`m happy with myself, but I think Klitschko had a bit of luck,” Pulev said after the fight. 

“Now I want revenge and it will be different result.” By defeating Kubrat Pulev, Wladimir Klitschko keeps his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO & The Ring Heavyweight titles and continues his eight-year reign as a titleholder, second only to Joe Louis’s record of 11 years. 

The victory also sets up a possible future showdown for Klitschko against the winner of the Deontay Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne fight in December, and the chance to add the WBC heavyweight belt to his collection. But first look for Steelhammer to take on Shannon Briggs, who has been desperately campaigning for a shot at the champ. 

 Pulev was expected to make $1,450,026 for Saturday’s fight, compared to Klitschko’s $5,800,105.


Roy Hodgson criticises Wembley NFL game


England boss Roy Hodgson has questioned the Football Association's decision to allow an NFL game to take place at Wembley six days before his side's Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia. 

Sunday's match between Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys is the third NFL match at Wembley this year. "I don't really think you could expect me to say 'excellent, delighted, well done'," said Hodgson. 

"If I was asked if it was a good thing or not, I would have to say not." Hodgson, who gave West Brom striker Saido Berahino a first senior international call-up on Thursday, added: "I can't pretend it is something that makes me leap for joy," 

"The pitch, unfortunately, is not in the best of nick anyway, which we're all a bit unhappy with. The FA board sanctioned the NFL's partnership with Wembley, which is now in its eighth year and has three more games lined up for 2015. 

One one of those will take place on 4 October - just five days before England host Estonia in their last home Euro 2016 qualifier. 

"It is a decision Wembley has made and I know the ground staff will work very, very hard to give us the best pitch they can give us," said 67-year-old Hodgson. 

"Hopefully in the future the pitch will recover to its normal level and when it has done that we will be better able to support this type of activity." England have won their first three qualifiers and will go six points clear at the top of Group E with victory over Slovenia.


BBC Sport


Murray seals Tour Finals place



Andy Murray booked his place at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Grigor Dimitrov at the Paris Masters. 

Murray needed a victory in the third round contest to qualify for the season-ending event in London and duly delivered in impressive style. The British No 1 will face Novak Djokovic in the Paris quarter-finals after the top seed rounded out the action on Thursday with a straight sets win over Gael Monfils. 

Murray's place at the O2 Arena was in doubt until a brilliant run of form late in the season which has seen him win three tournaments over the past month. It is the seventh straight time Murray has qualified for the Tour Finals, although he was not present at the tournament last year as he was recovering from back surgery. 

 "It's a great event to be involved in. It's a fun way to finish the year. It's in London and they put a great event there - a packed house every day you play," Murray told Sky Sports. He added of his improved form: "Since the French Open I think I've played well. I've lost against some of the best players that have ever played the game in the slams this year. 

 "I just needed to get some wins against the top players to gain some confidence and I've managed to do that in the last few weeks. 

"It's been a strong year after a tough surgery and a hard beginning of the year. I'm pleased with the way I'm playing now and hope it sets me up well for next year." Ninth seed Dimitrov defeated Murray at Wimbledon earlier in the year but this time was outclassed by the two-time Grand Slam champion. 

Murray wore his opponent down with patient, powerful groundstrokes, not looking back after clinching the early break and sealing the first set in 33 minutes with a second break in game nine. The second set continued in the same vein, with the writing on the wall for Dimitrov as Murray surged into a 3-0 lead and offered the Bulgarian no hope of a comeback. 

 Murray did not face a break point throughout the 69-minute contest, and won 93 per cent of points on his first serve. He can expect a much tougher challenge next time around, with current world No 1 Djokovic recording a 6-3 7-6 (7/2) victory over home favourite Monfils despite having issues on his first serve. 

 Elsewhere in the third round Australian Open champion Stanislas Warwinka - the world No 4 - bowed out to 14th seed Kevin Anderson, boosting Murray’s hopes of finishing the year in the top four.


Russian Grand Prix 2014 Results


Sochi, Sunday 12 October 2014, Conditions: Sunny 

 Driver                     Car      Team          Grid        Fastest Lap          Race Time      Points 
1 Lewis Hamilton       44   Mercedes       1              1:41.606           1:31:50.744       25 
2 Nico Rosberg          6     Mercedes      2              1:41.360           +00:13.657        18 
3 Valtteri Bottas        77     Williams        3              1:40.896          +00:17.425         15 
4 Jenson Button         22     McLaren      4              1:41.964           +00:30.234        12 
5 Kevin Magnussen   20     McLaren      11            1:43.076          +00:53.616         10
 6 Fernando Alonso   14      Ferrari         7              1:42.179          +01:00.016          8 
7 Daniel Ricciardo       3       Red Bull      6              1:43.050          +01:01.812          6 
8 Sebastian Vettel       1       Red Bull      10             1:42.630          +01:06.185          4 
9 Kimi Raikkonen       7         Ferrari        8              1:42.919          +01:18.877          2 
10 Sergio Perez         11    Force India    12             1:42.92 4          +01:20.067         1 
11 Felipe Massa        19      Williams       18             1:42.879           +01:20.877         0 
12 Nico Hulkenberg   27    Force India    17             1:42.685          +01:21.309          0 
13 Jean-Eric Vergne   25     Toro Rosso    9              1:42.550          +01:37.295         0 
14 Daniil Kvyat           26     Toro Rosso    5              1:42.022             lapped             0 
15 Esteban Gutierrez   21        Sauber        13             1:44.075             lapped            0 
16 Adrian Sutil            99         Sauber       14             1:43.822             lapped             0 
17 Romain Grosjean     8           Lotus         15            1:44.461             lapped             0 
18 Pastor Maldonado  13          Lotus          21           1:44.030              lapped            0 
19 Marcus Ericsson      9        Caterham       16            1:43.979             lapped            0 
20 Kamui Kobayashi   10       Caterham        19           1:47.407              retired, 21 laps0 
21 Max Chilton             4           Marussia      20           1:48.268              retired, 9 laps  0


BBC Sport


Alberto Contador beat Chris Froome


Alberto Contador sealed victory in the Vuelta a Espana with a solid performance in the closing time trial stage in Santiago de Compostela. 

In wet conditions on Sunday he lost 27 seconds to Briton Chris Froome. But it was enough for Spaniard Contador to take his third Vuelta title, finishing one minute and 10 seconds ahead of the Team Sky rider overall. "It's a dream for me to win three Vueltas," said 31-year-old Contador. 

"I really was not expecting it." Movistar's Adriano Malori had the best of Sunday's weather and won the stage from Jesse Sergent and Rohan Dennis. Malori clocked 11 minutes and 12 seconds around the 9.7km course to beat New Zealand's Sergent (Trek Factory Racing) by eight seconds with Australian Dennis (BMC) a further second back. 

Tinkoff-Saxo rider Contador won stage 20 on Saturday to extend his overall lead from Britain's Froome to one minute and 37 seconds to all but secure the title and add to his wins in 2008 and 2012. It was an amazing recovery not only by Contador, 31, who broke his leg less than two months ago in a crash that forced him out of the Tour de France, but also by Froome, who broke his hand and wrist in a crash that ended his Tour defence. 

"These past two months, I have had a lot of ups and downs and the support of the fans has been crucial," said Contador. "I am extremely pleased and just want to thank the team as without them this win would have been impossible." 

Froome said: "I think given how I've come into this race, I couldn't be happier with this result. "I didn't know if I was coming here to fight for top 10, to fight for the podium or to fight for the win, so this is really going to give me a lot of motivation going forward. "We can take away a lot from this race." 

The Vuelta was the final Grand Tour of David Millar's career as the 37-year-old Scot is retiring at the end of the season. 

General Classification 
1. Alberto Contador (Spa/Tinkoff-Saxo) 81 hours 25 minutes 5 seconds 
2. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +1:10" 
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +1:50" 
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) +3:25" 
5. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +4:48" 
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa/BMC Racing) +9:30" 
7. Daniel Martin (Ire/Garmin) +10:38" 
8. Warren Barguil (Fra/Giant) +11:50" 
9. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Cannondale) +12:50" 
10. Daniel Navarro (Spa/Cofidis) +13:02"


BBC Sport


Nico Rosberg could be punished


Nico Rosberg could face punishment from Formula 1 bosses after Lewis Hamilton claimed the German admitted to deliberately colliding with him during Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix

Hamilton alleges that, in a meeting with Mercedes officials, Rosberg "basically said he did it on purpose". Causing a collision is an offence under F1's sporting regulations. Had the information come to light before the result was finalised, the stewards would have investigated. However, motorsport's world governing body, the FIA, has the power to re-open a case if further evidence comes to light. 

Mercedes have already conceded that Hamilton's remarks were a "broadly accurate" reflection of the post-race meeting. The incident that overshadowed a victory for Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo came very early in the race. At the start of lap two, Rosberg's front wing hit Hamilton's left rear tyre, causing a puncture and ultimately ending the Englishman's race. 

Wolff later claimed Rosberg's remarks had been misinterpreted. "Nico felt he needed to hold his line," said Wolff. "He needed to make a point. He didn't give in. He thought it was for Lewis to leave him space and that Lewis didn't leave him space. "For Lewis, it was clearly not him who needed to be aware of Nico. 

"So they agreed to disagree in a very heated discussion among ourselves, but it wasn't deliberately crashing. That is nonsense." Wolff had already blamed Rosberg for the collision and indicated that Mercedes could take internal disciplinary action. As for any further punishment from F1 bosses, that is down to FIA president Jean Todt. In contrast to predecessor Max Mosley, Todt has tended to take a non-confrontational approach to disciplinary issues in F1 since becoming president in 2009. 

Yet, with so much information in the public domain, he may feel he has to act. If he does, it could set a dangerous precedent. Rosberg currently has a 29-point advantage over Hamilton, with Ricciardo a further 35 points back. Rosberg issued a statement following the meeting with Mercedes officials but did not make a reference to Hamilton's claims. He said he "regretted that Lewis and myself touched" but felt it was "a racing incident". 

He added: "I was quicker at the time and there was an opportunity, so I gave it a go around the outside as the inside was blocked. "I didn't see any risk in overtaking, or trying to overtake, so why should I not try? The opportunity was there even without DRS because I was so much quicker, so I gave it a go.


BBC Sport


Injured Woods ruled out of Ryder Cup



Tiger Woods has ruled himself out of contention for next month's Ryder Cup because of injury. 

The 38-year-old American, who failed to qualify automatically for the Gleneagles event, has been suffering from a persistent back problem. Woods had surgery in March and has been told not to play by doctors. "While I greatly appreciate Tom [Watson] thinking about me for a possible captain's pick, I must take myself out of consideration," he said. 

Iain Carter, BBC golf correspondent
"Tiger Woods has done the American Ryder Cup team a big favour by withdrawing. Skipper Tom Watson has been spared a difficult decision, one that could easily have undermined the US effort to regain the trophy. The uncertainty over whether Woods would receive a wildcard was already starting to have a corrosive effect on the captain's authority." 

United States - the nine automatic Ryder Cup qualifiers 
Player                 Points 
Bubba Watson  6,930.038 
Rickie Fowler   6,733.253 
Jim Furyk         6,707.694 
Jimmy Walker  6,111.405 
Phil Mickelson  5,510.338 
Matt Kuchar     5,114.665 
Jordan Spieth   4,835.827
Patrick Reed    3,650.227 
Zach Johnson   3,568.694 

The US captain has endured a bad couple of weeks, with Dustin Johnson announcing he was taking a break from golf, Matt Kuchar pulling out of the US PGA with a back problem and defending champion Jason Dufner withdrawing during his first round at Valhalla with a neck injury. 

Europe will go into the tournament in Perthshire, Scotland, which takes place between 23-28 September, as the holders. 

Jose Maria Olazabal's team beat the United States 14.5-13.5 at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois in 2012.


BBC Sport


Real Madrid 2-0 Sevilla match report


It was a happy homecoming for Gareth Bale in Cardiff, but the spotlight shone on his team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Cristiano Ronaldo even managed to upstage Gareth Bale's homecoming last night. Ronaldo scored twice in a wonderful man-of-the-match display to win Real Madrid the European Super Cup and secure all the plaudits for himself. Portugese superstar Ronaldo used the European showpiece to surely prove he is the best player on the planet as he outshone Welshman Bale and all of Real's Galacticos. 

Ronaldo's first goal was a sublime finish with his right and his second an unstoppable finish with his left as Real Madrid outclassed Sevilla to confirm their status as the best team in Europe. It had the Cardiff crowd chanting Ronaldo's name rather than Bale's and you could see the arrogant smile on his face as he showed he is still top dog at the Bernabeu. 

Bale came in last year as the most expensive player in the world and this summer's big money recruits - James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos - were also left playing second fiddle to Ronaldo's brilliance. Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti was left to look on and wonder what sort of an excuse he could possibly come up with if his team does not win the lot this season. 

They have already started with the Super Cup and, with this wealth of talent, surely even the arrival of Luis Suarez at Barcelona will not stop Real Madrid from being red-hot favourites, especially as Atletico Madrid have sold the family silver. Ancelotti's biggest task will be to get all of the Galacticos playing in the same line-up but in Cardiff it looked so easy, as Ronaldo, Bale, Rodriguez and Karim Benzema took it in turns to switch positions. 

 Their movement and pace tore Sevilla apart and the only surprise was that it took Real Madrid half an hour to take the lead. Ronaldo began the move, spreading the ball wide on the left to Bale and his sensational cross found Ronaldo ghosting in at the back post to steer home a low shot past Beto. Sevilla's moments were few and far between but their best came after 35 minutes - courtesy of a Rodriguez mistake. 

His poor clearance let in Daniel Carrico but the Sevilla midfielder's shot was blocked by Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas. That was just about the only save that Casillas has made all summer. Real Madrid made it plain sailing after 49 minutes when Ronaldo conjured up a goal which had his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson - in Cardiff rather than at Old Trafford - clapping in the posh seats. 

Ronaldo and another new signing, Toni Kroos, swapped passes, Sevilla failed to clear and Benzema then fed Ronaldo who cut in from the left. Ronaldo then unleashed an unstoppable shot which was too hot for Sevilla keeper Beto and it flew into the far corner.


World Snooker Riga Open


The new Kaspersky Lab Riga Open in Latvia, the season's first European Tour event, runs from Thursday to Sunday. 

Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Judd Trump, Steve Davis, John Higgins, Jimmy White and Mark Selby will be among the players competing in the first ever World Snooker Tour event in Latvia. 

The amateur rounds are on Thursday, followed by the last 128 from Friday to Sunday. 

 For ticket details see and search for snooker. 

 LIVE SCORING / RESULTS (or for results follow us on Twitter @WorldSnooker1) 

 LIVE STREAMING (blocked in China, Europe, Middle East, Thailand, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Mongolia) 

 Prize money 2014/15

Latvia facts: 
Population: 2 million 
Language: Latvian 
Capital: Riga 
Time zone: BST + 2 hours 
Bordering countries: Estonia, Lithuania, Russia and Belarus 
Currency: Euro 
 Flight time from London to Riga: 2 hours 35 minutes


Hamilton third in Hungarian GP as Ricciardo wins



Lewis Hamilton fought up from a pit lane start and a first-lap spin to finish third as Daniel Ricciardo beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to win a sensational Hungarian Grand Prix. 

And there may well be words behind the scenes at Mercedes after Hamilton refused orders to let team-mate Nico Rosberg pass by during the race. Hamilton judged a thrilling wet-dry race perfectly to hold off title rival Rosberg, who finished fourth. The result reduced Hamilton's deficit to Rosberg to 11 points. 

A spectacular last 10 laps featured a three-way scrap for the lead when Alonso, Hamilton and Ricciardo's diverging strategies brought them together, and with Rosberg closing fast after his own late stop. But Ricciardo passed Alonso for the victory with three laps to go. A few laps earlier, Hamilton had been told to let Rosberg by so the German could pit more quickly, and therefore score as many points as possible. Rosberg complained repeatedly on the radio, asking why Hamilton was not letting him past. But Hamilton, realising that if he let Rosberg by he was at risk of finishing the race behind him, refused, saying: 

"Tell him to get closer." Rosberg's stop on lap 56 ended the discussion, but it will certainly continue behind closed doors at Mercedes after the race. One of the great F1 races saw the advantage swing backwards and forwards throughout after a wet start, two safety car periods and some thrilling racing in front of a large crowd. Hamilton had survived a spin on the first lap and started to make up places, and was up to 13th when the first safety car period was triggered after a crash by Caterham's Marcus Ericsson. 

Ricciardo's decisive move was to stop for fresh tyres when the second safety car period was caused by a crash involving Sergio Perez's Force India on lap 23. That put Alonso into the lead, with Rosberg third and Hamilton fifth in a train of cars being held up by Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne in second when the race restarted on lap 27. Rosberg pitted for fresh tyres five laps later, fitting 'softs' with the intention of making another stop. 

Alonso and Hamilton waited until laps 38 and 39 for their own second stops, deciding not to pit again before the end of the 70-lap race. icciardo took second with a superb move around the outside of Hamilton at Turn Two on lap 67 and dived past Alonso's struggling Ferrari for the lead at the start of the next lap. But Alonso managed to hold off Hamilton, who in turn fended off his team-mate to the flag. Earlier, Ricciardo's team-mate Sebastian Vettel threw away his own chances with a spin out of the last corner on lap 32. 

Vettel had been one place ahead of Hamilton in the queue of cars behind Vergne, but ran wide out of the last corner on to the kerb and lost control. Unlike Perez, who made exactly the same mistake seven laps after his car was damaged in a collision with team-mate Nico Hulkenberg on lap 16, Vettel did not hit anything and rejoined the race, but his hopes of victory were over.


BBC Sport


Premier League boss turns down Brazil


 Everton are hopeful of completing a £4m deal for Bosnia World Cup star Muhamed Besic, 21, after a breakthrough in talks with Hungary side Ferencvaros. 
Liverpool Echo 

 Monaco striker Emmanuel Riviere, 24, has arrived on Tyneside hoping to wrap up a £6m move to Newcastle United. 
Newcastle Chronicle 

 Manchester United's swoop for £35m midfielder Arturo Vidal caused furious Juventus boss Antonio Conte to leave his job. 
The Sun (subscription only)

 Liverpool defender Kolo Toure, 33, is wanted by Turkish side Trabzonspor. 
Daily Mail 

 Besiktas want Chelsea striker Demba Ba, 29, on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent deal next summer but the Blues would prefer to sell the Senegal striker now. 
Daily Mirror 

Swansea City have rejected Liverpool's £8m offer for Wales defender Ben Davies, 21. West Brom have turned down a £1.5m bid from Burnley for Craig Dawson, 24, with Baggies' manager Alan Irvine saying that he wants the defender to stay at The Hawthorns. 
Birmingham Mail 

 AC Milan have made an approach to sign Manchester United and Portugal winger Nani, 27. 
Football Italia 

Manchester United have taken highly rated Benfica youngsters Joao Filipe, 15, who has been dubbed 'the new Cristiano Ronaldo', and goalkeeper Joao Virginia, also 15, on trial. 

 Aston Villa's hopes of signing midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng, 25, hang in the balance with Swansea eager to hand him a new deal. 


BBC Sport


Barcelona sporting director praises humble Luis Suarez


Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta believes Luis Suarez has shown humility by apologising for his bite on Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup.

Suarez waited seven days before using his Twitter account to apologise to Chiellini and "the entire football family" for his actions during Italy’s Group D match with Italy on June 24. "Suarez has shown he is humble enough to admit an error, which is very important," Zubizarreta told reporters.

"He has been humble enough to apologise to those he has affected, because it happened in the middle of a festival of football. In this case it's the best thing a person can do." Suarez has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona and Zubizarreta, who was speaking at the Nou Camp as the club unveiled Ivan Rakitic, made no secret of his admiration for the Liverpool striker.

"Everyone knows that Luis is an excellent player," he said. "Everyone knows last season he played in various positions in attack, but everyone also knows that he is a Liverpool player." Sky Sports' Spanish football pundit Guillem Balague believes Suarez had to apologise in order to secure his dream move to Barcelona. "Barcelona wanted Luis Suarez to apologise," he said. "It is also part of an appeal that will surely reduce his ban.

"I realise many people feel cheated as he has apologised before. Biting shouldn’t be done but can be corrected and Chiellini has accepted the apology, so who are we not to do the same?" Croatian international midfielder Rakitic added: "The fact he has had the character and the strength to go in front of everyone and say sorry says a lot about him as a person. "I rarely say that I am wrong so this says a lot about him, he has shown the character and strength he has so he should be commended for that.

"Regardless of whether the club signs him or not, his quality is unquestionable. "He has shown a lot of quality with Uruguay and scored more than 30 goals (last season) with Liverpool, so he has the necessary quality to play for Barca."


Russia goalkeeper targeted by laser


Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was "blinded" by a laser before the goal that eliminated his side from the World Cup, according to coach Fabio Capello.

Television footage showed a green laser pointed at Akinfeev's face seconds before Islam Slimani scored Algeria's equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

Capello, whose side needed to win to reach the last 16, said: "The goalkeeper was unable to do his job.

"The laser was in his face. It is not an excuse. You can see in the footage."

Russia took a sixth-minute lead through Aleksandr Kokorin, but Slimani headed in from Yacine Brahimi's 60th-minute free-kick as Algeria qualified for the last 16 for the first time.

Capello, who confronted the officials at the end of the match, has now only won one of his seven games at two World Cups.

The 68-year-old took England into the second phase, where they lost 4-1 to Germany in South Africa in 2010, but drew twice and lost once as Russia failed to make it out of their group in Brazil.

Russia hosts the next World Cup and the Italian, who agreed a contract extension to 2018 earlier this year, has no plans to resign.

Asked whether he would stay in charge, Capello replied: "If they still want me, yes."


BBC News


Nadal win ninth French Open title


Rafael Nadal saw off the threat of Novak Djokovic for another year to win his ninth French Open title and a record fifth in succession.

The Spaniard, 28, coped better in hot conditions as he won 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 in three hours and 31 minutes. Nadal is the first man ever to win a major title nine times, taking his Grand Slam total to 14. The victory also means he will remain world number one ahead of Djokovic.

"In matches like this every moment is crucial. Playing against Novak is always a big challenge, I had lost against him the last four times," Nadal said on court. "I feel sorry for him today, he deserves to win this tournament."

It is the third year in a row that Nadal has ended Djokovic's hopes of winning the one Grand Slam title he lacks, with the Serb in particular struggling on a stifling Parisian afternoon and ending with a double fault on match point.

"Congratulations to Rafa and his team, it is incredible to win this tournament nine times," Djokovic said. "It was an emotional day. I have tried with all my power, my strength, my capacities but Rafa was the strongest on court."

Nadal extended his incredible run at Roland Garros to 66 wins and just one defeat in the last 10 years. That record looked under threat when he dropped the first set as his usually fearsome forehand let him down, five errors handing Djokovic the initiative.

Both men were having to work hard in temperatures of around 27C, and Djokovic was the first to ask for iced towels to wrap around his neck at the changeovers. Nadal finally made his move when he broke for 4-2, only to lose his advantage straight away as the nervous errors returned in the following game.

Djokovic had won their last four matches but taking on Nadal in a five-set contest on Court Philippe Chatrier is a very different kind of test. The 27-year-old Serb faltered badly with a tie-break in sight, offering up a double fault and a forehand error before Nadal smacked a forehand winner to level the score. It was a huge blow to Djokovic's hopes and he faded further in the third set. After dumping a straightforward volley in the net to lose serve in game two, the second seed took some tablets at a changeover in an attempt to improve his condition.

Nadal scented victory once again, breaking twice on his way to the set and leaving Djokovic to stare in disbelief at coach Boris Becker in the stands after one error. Another poor volley and a wild backhand into the tramlines saw Djokovic fall 4-2 down in the fourth, but Nadal was now having his own issues, bending over apparently in some discomfort and badly mistiming a smash to give the break straight back.

With cloud cover giving Djokovic some respite from the sun, he was showing signs of launching a renewed assault only to falter with his opponent under pressure. A terrific backhand pass helped Nadal to match point and Djokovic, disrupted by a call from the crowd, fired his second serve long to leave the Spaniard on his knees in his familiar celebratory pose.


Villa seals New York switch


Spain international David Villa has completed his move from Atletico Madrid to newly-formed Major League Soccer side New York City FC.

The World Cup-winning striker is the first player to sign for the club, which is jointly owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees.

Villa, who last month helped Atletico to their first La Liga title, arrives on a three-year deal ahead of the franchise's inaugural MLS season in 2015.

"This is a historic and exciting moment for the City family and the building of New York City Football Club," City CEO Ferran Soriano told the club's official website.

"I know David really well; he is one of the best footballers in the world, a true winner and in an outstanding moment of his career. I'm sure New Yorkers will enjoy watching him play for their city."

Villa, who will wear the No 7 shirt at Yankee Stadium, said: "Throughout my career I've always tried to keep pushing myself to achieve new targets and this represents another important goal for me.

"I want to try and help MLS continue to grow, through playing, working hard, scoring goals and at the same time try to make New York City FC become the best team in the league."

Villa was part of Pep Guardiola's illustrious Barcelona side between 2010 and 2013 and won the World Cup with Spain in 2010.

He could be joined by Frank Lampard, who is out of contract at Chelsea and understood to have held informal talks about a move, as head coach Jason Kreis looks to assemble a stellar first squad ahead of kick-off in March.


Toure: Playing for PSG would be an honour


Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has cast more doubt on his future at the club by saying it would be an honour to play for Paris St Germain.

Over the last week it has emerged all is not well with the Ivory Coast midfielder after his agent complained the player was not respected enough by the club’s hierarchy, even suggesting the 31-year-old was unhappy his recent birthday was not marked properly.

Dimitry Seluk said last Tuesday he rated Toure staying at City as “50-50” and the player’s comments about PSG will only increase speculation he is looking to move on.

“Given the goals of Paris, how could you not be interested in a club like that?” Toure told France Football.

“PSG have become one of the strongest teams in Europe. It would be a honour to one day play for a club like that. If I can be of service...”

In the interview, the midfielder did little to play down suggestions a summer move could be on the cards.

“Given the magnificent season Manchester City have had, everyone talks about me and everything is open,” he added.

“My agent, Dimitry, is hanging on the telephone and he knows what he has to do, I have complete confidence in him.

“Nobody knows what can happen tomorrow, my attention is on the World Cup and we will see afterwards.

“Yes, I have said I would like to finish my career at Barcelona. You never know because football moves quickly, you never know.”

Seluk reiterated his view from last week that Toure should be offered a job on City’s backroom staff when he finishes playing.

“A role at City after his (playing) career? Of course. Like Real Madrid have done with (Zinedine) Zidane, for example,” he said.

“Zidane played there and afterwards began working for the club.

“Yaya will need a club in the future. We do not want more money or a longer contract, anything like that, just the right attention.

“More attention on Yaya, and that he feels happy at the club, that is the most important thing.

“I will tell you one more time, we do not need more money.”


Manchester United posts rise in profits and revenue


Manchester United has reported a sharp rise in profits and revenue despite a disappointing season on the pitch.

For the three months to the end of March, profits were £11m, up from £3.6m a year ago. The club also posted record revenues of £115.5m for the period.

Commercial, broadcasting and match day revenues were all up on last year.

The club is expected to appoint Holland manager Louis van Gaal to replace David Moyes, who was sacked last month, as manager for next season.

Reports suggest an announcement on the manager will be made next week.

The club finished the Premier League season in seventh place, and have not qualified for European football as a result.

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Club executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said: "We once again generated record revenues as all of our businesses delivered impressive year-over-year growth.

"This puts us in a healthy position to continue to invest in the squad. Everyone at the club is working hard to ensure the team is back challenging for the title and trophies next season".

Commercial revenue rose almost 20% to £42.8m, largely due to an increase in sponsorship - the club signed deals with drinks company Aperol and with Eurofood in Southeast Asia.

Broadcasting revenue was up 64% at £35.6m, while match day revenue was up slightly at £37.1m.

Overall debt fell by £16m to £351.7m.

According to the most recent Deloitte Football Money League, Manchester United is the fourth highest-earning club in world football. Shares in the club were floated on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.


Pens nearly blow 4-goal lead, eliminate Blue Jackets


Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick and the Pittsburgh Penguins almost blew a four-goal lead before beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Monday night to clinch their first-round playoff series in six games.

The Blue Jackets, closer to making tee times than thinking about a Game 7, scored three times in a 4:52 span in the third period to turn up the pressure on the Penguins.

Pittsburgh awaits the winner of the New York-Philadelphia series, with the Rangers leading 3-2 going into Tuesday night's Game 6.

Brandon Sutter also scored and Matt Niskanen had two assists as the Penguins became the first team in the series to score first and win — but barely. Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves.

Fedor Tyutin, Artem Anisimov and Nick Foligno scored late to thrill a crowd of 19,189 who stood and roared for the final 4 minutes.

The Penguins were hard pressed to just fight off the upstart Blue Jackets after goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who also had 24 saves, was pulled for an extra attacker with under 2 minutes left.

Columbus' Matt Calvert was wide with a potential tying shot with 3:30 left.

It was Malkin's 10th career three-goal game. He hadn't scored in the first 332:52 of the series, then scored three in a span of 26:11.

The Blue Jackets, one of the NHL's youngest teams, found consolation in earning the first two playoff victories in the franchise's 13 seasons.

Malkin, who ended a nine-game playoff goal drought, made up for lost time by scoring twice in a 4:02 span of the opening period.

Chris Kunitz won a puck battle along the short boards and then slid a pass from the left corner to Malkin, who was alone at the edge of the right circle. He settled the puck and then beat Bobrovsky high on the stick side at the 9:11 mark.

Foligno, who had the Game 4 overtime winner the previous time the teams played in Columbus, went sent to the penalty box for a roughing penalty before Malkin scored again.

Columbus' Derek MacKenzie appeared to have cleared the puck, but Niskanen got a stick on it to keep it in the offensive zone. The puck ended up going to Malkin, who unleashed a hard wrister from the high slot with Kunitz blocking Bobrovsky's view.

Fleury didn't get much work in the opening 20 minutes, but made a big save when he stymied MacKenzie, who had intercepted a Craig Adams pass in the Penguins' end and squeezed off a shot from close range.

A Blue Jackets power play had just ended when defenseman James Wisniewski mishandled the puck at the blue line and Sutter grabbed it. He was all alone streaking down the left wing, faked the forehand and then slipped a backhand into the net.

Malkin scored his third goal at the 15:22 mark of the second period, benefiting from a 2-on-1 break after taking a pass along the left wall from Jussi Jokinen. The big Russian glanced at James Neal to his right while cruising past the lone Blue Jacket back, defenseman Jack Johnson, then ripped the shot past Bobrovsky to make it 4-0.

The fans were up in arms after Tanner Glass leveled Wisniewski on a hit in the corner in the second period and was called for boarding.

Early in the third, Columbus' Blake Comeau got the best of Beau Bennett on a check and the Pens' Joe Vitale then initiated knee-to-knee contact with Comeau. Vitale was called for interference, but was in pain on the ice and did not return.

Tyutin's shot from the right dot ended Fleury's shutout streak at 97:26 — since the Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead in the first period of Game 5.

But then Anisimov scored from the left point with 6:06 remaining to make it 4-2 and Foligno redirected a Tyutin shot to cut the lead to a goal with 4:47 left.

The Penguins were pushed to the limit to hold on the rest of the way.


Real Madrid hails match-winner Gareth Bale


Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti was full of praise for Gareth Bale after his brilliant solo goal won the Copa del Rey final.

Real had led through Angel Di Maria's earlier strike at the Mestalla in Valencia on Tuesday night, but Barcelona levelled just after the hour through youngster Marc Bartra. However, with the game looking set for extra-time, Bale produced a wonderful run and finish with just five minutes remaining.

"It was his most important goal, it was the most defining moment of the game," Ancelotti said in the post-match press conference. Midfielder Xabi Alonso added: "The goal was incredible , I don't think I've seen anything like it. It looked like the ball was going out and he was under pressure, he ran off the pitch to keep it in, it was just amazing. "Now we have the taste of victory. It was a really exciting game, with both sides playing at their best."

The win earned Ancelotti his first trophy since succeeding Jose Mourinho as the Madrid boss last summer, and kept the team's hopes of winning a treble alive.

Ancelotti added: "I think we played very well, we were playing against a very strong team. We had to suffer at times but I think it is a deserved victory. We are very proud to have won this competition. "More than anything, I want to congratulate the players. The atmosphere inside the stadium from both sets of supporters was fantastic, I am happy to be here and to have experienced this spectacle."

Next up for Madrid is their Champions League semi-final tie with holders Bayern Munich, while they trail Primera Division leaders Atletico Madrid by three points with five games of the campaign to go. Barca, meanwhile, look set for their first season without a trophy since 2008, knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico and four points adrift of Diego Simeone's side in the table. However, Ancelotti refused to write off the Catalans.

"You cannot say Barcelona are finished, not everything has gone well for them this season but I think they will remain hopeful of achieving something until the end of the season," he said. "We can say from experience this season that playing against Barcelona is very, very difficult. At times, you need a bit of luck to win. In my opinion Barca are not a team at the end of an era. They are still very dangerous."


Grand National 2014: Where did your horse finish?


Pineau De Re won the 167th Grand National by five lengths from Balthazar King, with joint favourite Double Seven in third. Find out how your horse fared in the world's biggest steeplechase.

Place, horse, odds, jockey
1. Pineau De Re 25-1 (Leighton Aspell)
2. Balthazar King 14-1 (Richard Johnson)
3. Double Seven 10-1 J/F (AP McCoy)
4. Alvarado 33-1 (Paul Moloney)
5. Rocky Creek 16-1 (Noel Fehily)
6. Chance Du Roy 33-1 (Tom O'Brien)
7. Monbeg Dude 16-1 (Paul Carberry)
8. Raz De Maree 50-1 (Davy Condon)
9. Swing Bill 66-1 (Conor O'Farrell)
10. Kruzhlinin 100-1 (Wilson Renwick)
11. Buckers Bridge 66-1 (AE Lynch)
12. The Package 14-1 (Tom Scudamore)
13. Vesper Bell 40-1 (Katie Walsh)
14. Across The Bay 50-1 (Henry Brooke)
15. Mr Moonshine 20-1 (Ryan Mania)
16. Prince De Beauchene 20-1 (Paul Townend)
17. Hunt Ball 50-1 (Andrew Tinkler)
18. Hawkes Point 50-1 (Ryan Mahon)


BBC Sport


Bayern Munich punished for banners


Bayern Munich will have to close a small section of one stand for their Champions League tie with Manchester United.

They were punished by Uefa after fans displayed illicit banners during their game against Arsenal.

One made reference to Kosovo's desire to be in Fifa, and another used homophobic words and images.

The European champions must close one of their 131 Allianz Arena sectors for the second leg against the Red Devils.

They have also been fined £8,350 (€10,000).

Bayern Munich progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 3-1 aggregate win over the Gunners.

They host United on 9 April.


BBC Sport


Sochi: Games end with colourful ceremony


The curtain has come down on the 2014 Winter Paralympics in a colourful and spectacular ceremony in Sochi. The Games were being held in Russia for the first time and were a huge success.

The hosts topped the medal table with 80, including 30 golds - the most medals ever won by a nation at a Winter Games. Great Britain enjoyed their most successful Games since Innsbruck in 1984 with six medals - one gold, three silvers and two bronzes. The GB team finished 10th in the medal table above the likes of Norway and Sweden.

Visually impaired skier Jade Etherington, who won three silvers and a bronze along with her guide Caroline Powell to become the greatest British Winter Paralympian of all-time, carried the British flag. Etherington (23) missed her final race of the competition, Sunday's giant slalom, because of illness but recovered for the ceremony.

The Ukraine flagbearer, biathlete and cross-country skier Lyudmila Pavlenko entered the stadium wearing a top emblazoned with the word 'Peace'. The closing ceremony theme of 'Reaching the Impossible' celebrated the achievements of the 547 athletes from 45 countries who competed for the 72 medals on offer. International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven hailed the Games as the best ever Winter Paralympics.

"Proud Paralympians - your inspirational athletic performances have redefined the boundaries of possibility," he told the crowd. "You have shown the world that absolutely anything is possible and that life is about amazing capabilities and not perceived deficiencies."

The Paralympic flag was lowered and presented to Pyeonchang in South Korea, hosts of the 2018 Winter Games. Dutch snowboarder Bibian Mentel-Spee and Australian skier Toby Kane were given the prestigious Whang Youn Dai award for exemplifying the spirit of the Paralympic Games.

Mentel-Spee was instrumental in getting her sport into the Games for the first time in Sochi and became the sport's first ever female Paralympic champion. Kane, who won won bronze in the standing division super-combined in Sochi, helped lead the Australia team during a difficult build-up to the Games, which included the death of snowboarder Matthew Robinson last month.


BBC Sport


Mourinho hints at Chelsea move for Balotelli


Jose Mourinho has fuelled speculation that Chelsea could make a move for AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli this summer.

There have been reports the former Manchester City forward is unsettled in his native Italy amid intense media scrutiny and there are suggestions he could return to the Premier League.

  Mourinho, who endured a tempestuous relationship with Balotelli during their time at Inter, has complained of a lack of killer instinct from his strikers this season. And the Chelsea boss has hinted the Blues could step in and make a bid for the 23-year-old Italy international.

  "In football you never know the future," Mourinho told Yahoo. "Balotelli is with a big club at the moment but you never know the future. "They want to keep the best players and want to keep the best Italian players. But Mario has already been in English football before.

"I'm not going to be manager of Milan or the Italy national team, but he's a good kid and somebody I'd like to work with again." Balotelli has previously claimed he would like work with Mourinho again.

"Of course I would like to play under Jose again," Balotelli said earlier this year. "In my first days at Inter we had some problems, but then it turned into a mutual respect, and now we have a real friendship.

"It is never boring playing under Jose. When you are in Mourinho's team it is a family and he coaches on the principal that if all is well with the family it doesn't matter what is going on outside the team."

  Balotelli scored 30 goals in 80 matches during his spell in the Premier League with City, which ended in 2013 when he joined Milan. Chelsea are currently top of the Premier League but have scored 21 goals fewer than second-placed Liverpool.




Federer to meet Djokovic in Dubai semi-finals


Roger Federer will play world number two Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships after beating Lukas Rosol in straight sets.

Fourth seed Federer beat Rosol of the Czech Republic 6-2 6-2 and will face Djokovic on Friday. The Serb advanced to the last four after Russia's Mikhail Youzhny withdrew through illness. Philipp Kohlschreiber plays Tomas Berdych in the second semi-final.

Federer recovered from an early deficit against the sixth seed to win 12 of the final 14 games, completing victory in only 58 minutes. Federer lost his opening service game for the fourth successive set to fall 2-0 behind, but he broke back to love and won six games in a row to take the set. Federer saved a break point to avoid losing his first service game in the second set, but then broke Rosol twice more to complete a routine success.

Returning to the tour more than five weeks since the loss of his Australian Open title, Djokovic goes into the meeting with Switzerland's Federer with a little more than two hours court time from his two matches in Dubai. Earlier on Thursday, Germany's Kohlschreiber beat Tunisia's Malek Jaziri 6-2 6-3 for his 300th win of his career, and Berdych, of the Czech Republic, beat France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 6-3.

Kohlschreiber said: "It's always great to win many matches on the tour, especially a few rounds in a row. I think I produced a very solid and good performance today. It's great that I have 300 victories under my belt."


BBC Sport


Thousands of spectators unable to attend Winter Olympics


Organisers of the Winter Olympics encountered further problems after thousands of spectators failed to turn up for events.

Around 4,000 ticket holders were unable to attend the games due to stringent security measures and confusion over transport. Security at Sochi 2014 has been tightened up after several threats from terror groups in the volatile Caucasus and spectators must undergo thorough checks.

Organisers said a Russian mentality of arriving very close to the start of sporting events had caused the long delays and have warned people to arrive early. Approximately 40,000 tickets were sold for the events, which included snowboarding, figure skating and biathlon.

Aleksandra Kosterina, communications vice president, said: "If we talk about yesterday, we had pretty full stadia, 92 per cent of tickets were sold. We might have lost around 10 per cent of people who actually showed up, so when we talk about the actual turnout, it was probably 81 per cent."

This was the first actual day of the games and for a lot of people it's certainly important to work out the logistics of it as we've had some problems with basically a Russian mentality in a lot of ways. "Russians like to come to the event not prior, but as close as possible. That is why indeed we had an issue with a lot of spectators being late for the games."

Athletes have already complained about the accomodation in Russia, with pictures emerging on Twitter about the poor condition of hotels.


Mourinho: Chelsea are not title contenders


Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho still insists his side are not serious title contenders - despite inflicting a first Premier League home defeat of the season on Manchester City.

Branislav Ivanovic gave the Blues a 1-0 win to put them two points behind leaders Arsenal and level with City, but Mourinho says both rivals have a better chance of finishing top. The title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump," he said. "Maybe next season we can race." Victory at Etihad Stadium meant Chelsea became the first team to do the double over Manchester City in the Premier League since Everton in 2010-11.

It was a deserved result for the visitors, who hit the woodwork three times in the match as they continually caught out Manuel Pellegrini's side on the counter-attack. However, despite the impressive performance and result, Mourinho refuses to state publicly that his side are capable of beating Arsenal and City to the title this season. "I don't agree we are title contenders," said the 51-year-old Portuguese.

"We are a team in evolution but this is the kind of performance that helps a team grow up a little tactically and mentally. It was fantastic. "We have beaten the best team, Manchester City, twice but they are the best team. I am not saying we are better than them but today we were the best team. "We do better in these big games because we love it. We love the big games and when you love it maybe you feel an extra motivation."

He added it was not Chelsea's "objective" to win the league, adding: "Our objective is to build the team. "I want to start the next pre-season and say this season we are going to win the league. This season, I can't." Mourinho also revealed the final words of inspiration to his team before they took to the field at Etihad Stadium came from masseur Billy McCulloch rather than the manager himself. "He was screaming at them in Scottish. I didn't understand a word," said Mourinho.

"The players were clapping so I thought 'OK, that's good'. I'm serious." It was City's first defeat since they were beaten 1-0 by Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in November, but Pellegrini played down the significance of the result. "For Chelsea, it was a decisive game, not for us," he said. "If we won, we were six points ahead of them. Now we are two points behind Arsenal."


BBC Sport


Stanislas Wawrinka beats Nadal in final


Stanislas Wawrinka becomes the Australian Open champion after beating an injury-hit Rafael Nadal in Melbourne.

Wawrinka withstood a fightback from the world number one, who was struggling with a back problem, to secure his first Grand Slam title 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3.

The Swiss had never won a set, let alone a match, in 12 previous attempts against Nadal.

BBC Sport's Alex South reports.


BBC Sport


Samuel Eto'o scores a hat-trick


A hat-trick by Samuel Eto'o ensured Chelsea maintained the pressure on the Premier League pacesetters and surely ended Manchester United's chances of retaining their title.

The veteran striker scored twice in the first half and completed his treble just after the interval to leave Chelsea only two points behind leaders Arsenal and one adrift of Manchester City. United manager David Moyes cut a dejected figure at the final whistle as he surveyed a 14-point gap to Arsenal at the top of the table - with matters made worse by the late red card for Nemanja Vidic following his needless lunge at Eden Hazard.

Javier Hernandez's goal hardly qualified as consolation and United must now try to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Old Trafford on Wednesday without their suspended captain, who starts a three-match ban. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has played down his side's title credentials but there is a real sense of momentum building around Stamford Bridge that will have only increased with this victory, the Portuguese's 100th in the Premier League.

His first also came against United, back in 2004. In Moyes's defence, he was without his injured world-class strike pair of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie - but even those mitigating circumstances cannot disguise the brutal truth that United's current squad is simply not in shape to mount a title challenge and is inferior to that at Arsenal, let alone Chelsea and Manchester City.

United's brisk start pinned the hosts back and Petr Cech had to plunge down sharply to save from Ashley Young in the opening moments, while Adnan Januzaj did much to confirm his rich promise. But for all the visitors' early impetus, it was Chelsea who took the lead after 18 minutes when a left-foot shot from Eto'o took a vital touch off Michael Carrick's outstretched leg and looped over United keeper David de Gea.

The champions were still showing some ambition and almost equalised when Januzaj's cross evaded the Blues' defence and landed at the feet of Welbeck. He could only shoot straight at Cech, however, appealing in vain for a penalty as Cesar Azpilicueta appeared to catch his leg just as he shot. The visitors applied some belated pressure but Mourinho was able to shore Chelsea up with the introduction of John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic, the £21m signing from Benfica who has returned for a second spell at Stamford Bridge.

And just as United hoped to escape from west London without any further damage, Vidic lunged in on Hazard when there was no danger and received a red card. United's frustration was now in danger of boiling over and Rafael was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for a flying two-footed challenge on Cahill.


BBC Sport


Obama dedicated to the sport of presidents


No one should ever question US president Barack Obama’s passion for golf.

He has played some of the United States’s most picturesque courses, held a debt-limit “golf summit” with House Speaker John A Boehner, taken on Tiger Woods and found time to steal away for a round in political good times and bad. The extent of Obama’s love of golf has been on display during his winter vacation in Hawaii, where he has played seven out of his 12 days, for as much as six hours at a time.

On one outing, he played so slowly he could get in only 17 holes before it became too dark to continue “I don’t know how he can play so much freaking golf, man,” said Howard Dashefsky, the director of sales and communications at Pacific Links Hawaii.

“My back would fall off.” Obama’s dedication has not gone unnoticed by Republicans in the US, who have taken advantage politically. In its gimmicky list of recommended New Year resolutions for Obama, the Republican National Committee offered this one: “I resolve to spend less time on the golf course.”

On the putting green

Historically, Obama is hardly alone on the putting green. If horse racing is the “sport of kings,” golf is the sport of US presidents. Fifteen of the past 18 of them have played, and their approach to the game has often illustrated their character in office. According to Don Van Natta Jr, author of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters From Taft to Bush, Dwight D Eisenhower, famous for his vacations and delegating White House business to aides, played 36 holes a week. Richard Nixon was awkward on the course, and a cheat. Bill Clinton was famous for his mulligans, or do-overs.

The two George Bushes were quick to take action. Obama is known for his slow, deliberative play. On the 18th hole at the Mid Pacific Country Club on Oahu last week, Obama crouched to survey his final shot, took several practice swings and then putted, with the ball stopping just short of the hole. By the time he had finished, roughly five hours had elapsed since his arrival. (The PGA frowns on slow play, threatening penalties.)

“Six hours is an especially long round of golf, and five is on the long side, too,” said Van Natta, a former New York Times correspondent. “He strives to be a bogey-a-hole golfer; that’s a handicap of 18,” Van Natta added, explaining how Obama aims to finish one-over par on every hole. “That’s still pretty respectable.”

In Hawaii, Obama has tackled the courses at Mid Pacific (a 1926 course by designer Seth Raynor), the Ko’olau Golf Club (“one of the country’s most punishing layouts,” according to and surrounded by stunning volcanic peaks) and the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club (known to locals as Jurassic Park for its lush tropical surroundings.). He has also played the course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii several times. Obama’s methodical style of play has its defenders. Dashefsky called it the “way it’s supposed to be played”.

Escape the demands

The president’s long hours on the course are one of his few chances to escape the demands of the White House and relax, said people familiar with his game. His golf partners here are a familiar cast of characters: White House aides (Sam Kass, the Obamas’ chef, and Marvin Nicholson, the trip director); two longtime Chicago friends (Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker); and buddies from his time in high school here (Mike Ramos and Bobby Titcomb).

Obama’s style is in contrast to the way both Bushes approached the game. They were famous for their speed, routinely playing 18 holes in less than three hours, in what was sometimes called “aerobic golf” or “polo golf”. George H W Bush had a personal best of an hour and 24 minutes for 18 holes.

“We weren’t trying to break a record,” said Ken Raynor, a longtime golf partner for Bush family members who is the head golf pro at Coral Creek Club in Placida, Florida, and a pro at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine.

 “The activity level was just at that pace.” The president most dedicated to golf may have been Eisenhower, who played nearly 800 rounds during his eight years in office. He became known as the “golfer in chief” and – given his fondness for playing 18 holes on Wednesdays and Sundays – as the inventor of the “36-hole work week.”


Rodgers may face FA sanction


Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is expected to face FA action for criticising the officials in the wake of the 2-1 defeat at Manchester City on Boxing Day.

The Reds stunned the Etihad Stadium with a 24th-minute Philippe Coutinho opener but by half-time, Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo had struck to put Manuel Pellegrini's hosts on course for the points.

Liverpool were certainly unfortunate early on when Raheem Sterling sprang the offside trap with ease only to be flagged, and Rodgers felt Liverpool had a decent penalty claim turned down in the second period when Joleon Lescott tugged at Luis Suarez's shirt.

Following a defeat that left Liverpool in fourth, Rodgers said of referee Lee Mason: "I was surprised we are playing in Manchester and have a referee from Greater Manchester. "I am sure we won't get (for) Liverpool-Man City someone from the Wirral. I thought they were horrendous in terms of performance. Hopefully we don't have another Greater Manchester referee again on a Liverpool-Manchester game.

"The officials make mistakes, I just felt the mistakes made shouldn't have happened at this level. This is a big game. It was a poor decision and of course Raheem goes through and scores. "I thought we never got any decision. The linesman on the offside one - he wasn't even on the same cut of grass.

"If you're working at this level you have to get it right. It's not even a difficult one. It is a perfectly-timed run and he is given offside when he is through one-on-one on goal. These are big moments in big games.

"There is another incident when Luis (Suarez) doesn't get a free-kick when Joleon Lescott went right through him. It is arguable it is a penalty at the end. Luis Suarez can't jump because he (Lescott) is tugging at his shirt."

Sky Sports understands the FA have launched an enquiry with Rodgers having appeared to breach the regulations over media comments made by managers.




2014 Fifa World Cup final draw


Spain will open their defence of the World Cup next year with a repeat of the 2010 final with Netherlands.

Vicente del Bosque's side will also face South American opponents Chile and Australia, who progressed from the Asia qualification competition, in Group B. Asked if Spain were in the toughest group, Del Bosque said: "No, I don't think so, the group with Uruguay, Italy and England is also tough." Three-time winners Germany are in Group G with Portugal, Ghana and USA.

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who won the World Cup as a player in 1990 with West Germany, said: "I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany. "So, we will be meeting old friends," said Germany coach Joachim Low, who was Klinsmann's assistant during the 2006 World Cup. "Jurgen and I have had a very good and close relationship for a long time."

Hosts Brazil open the month-long showpiece on 12 June in Sao Paulo against Croatia in Group A, who qualified for the tournament after defeating Iceland in the play-offs. The five-time winners will then play Mexico and Cameroon to decide who reaches the knockout stages. "We've got a difficult group, but the opening match of the World Cup against Brazil will be spectacular. I can't wait," Southampton's Croat defender Dejan Lovren said on Twitter.

Lionel Messi's Argentina are in Group F along with debutants Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iran and Nigeria. Manchester City's Argentina striker Sergio Aguero said on Twitter: "There's no easy match in the World Cup, but effort and hard work always gives rewards!" Aguero's country have twice been champions, but last won the tournament in 1986. England are in a tough Group D.

They open up against Italy, who knocked Roy Hodgson's side out of Euro 2012, 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay and Costa Rica. Meanwhile, 1998 winners France, who defeated Ukraine in a dramatic play-off tie, will face neighbours Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E. Belgium, fifth favourites with some bookmakers to win the World Cup, are in Group H with Russia, South Korea and Algeria. And in Group C, Colombia, who came second in the South American qualifying group, will face Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan.

Group draw for the 2014 World Cup:
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan.
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.
Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras.
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iran, Nigeria.
Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea.


BBC Sport


The best and worst of Formula 1 2013


One familiar driver and team may have run away with the 2013 World Championships, but as ever in F1, things were rarely dull either on or off the circuit...

Race of the year: The Malaysian GP, when drama on the track and the rare event of a close battle for victory was still overshadowed by the fireworks off it; Runner-Up: For all the wrong reasons, the British GP when a spate of tyre blows plunged F1 to the level of farce.

Least accurate statement of the year: "This year's car is the best we've ever made" - Jenson Button, January 31, at the launch of the MP4-28; Runner-Up: "The one certainty is that Paddy will be part of the team for another year" - Martin Whitmarsh, January 31, six months before Lowe joined Mercedes.

Driver of the year: The relentlessly record-breaking Sebastian Vettel, who refused to slow up even after becoming the youngest four-times World Champion in the sport by breaking Michael Schumacher's record for most consecutive victories in a season; Runner-up: Nico Hulkenberg, who is now rightly considered a top-line driver without a top-line seat.

Team of the year: Red Bull, the number one outfit for the last four and a half years. The longevity of their superiority is as impressive as the superiority itself; Runner-up: Mercedes. After three years of knocking on the door, they finally gained admission to the big time. F1 has a new major force to contend with.

Team Principal of the year: Eric Boullier, who retained his dignity to keep Lotus afloat on the track even as the team struggled to stay afloat off it; Runner-up: Ross Brawn. He may not be at Mercedes next year, but in impressively holding his nerve during the Testgate storm and overseeing the team's best Constructors' finish, he underlined why he remains a major asset to any team.

Most improved driver of the year: Romain Grosjean, from first-lap nutcase to first-class performer - the Frenchman was the only driver who matched Sebastian Vettel's level of excellence in the second-half of the season; Runner-Up: Nico Hulkenberg. He was good, now he's better than very good.

Best news of the year: Honda's comeback for 2015 six years after joining the mass exodus of brand names from F1; Runner-up: The rulebook being ripped up after four years of Red Bull dominance. Saddest news of the year: Maria de Villota's passing at the age of 33 one year after her testing accident with Marussia and the death of Canadian GP track marshal Mark Robinson.

Saga of the year: Testgate, from the bombshell news that Mercedes conducted a 'private test' to the subsequent punch and counter punch Tribunal in Paris, this was F1 at its baffling, bickering worst and its politicking, competitive best; Runner-up: Tyres, for one reason or another Pirelli have been in the headlines all year.


Pacquiao, Rios camps come to blows in Macau


Manny Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, was involved in a physical altercation with the entourage of opponent Brandon Rios on Wednesday, days before their fight.

Roach approached Rios' trainer, Robert Garcia, in the gym both camps are sharing at The Venetian casino on Macau's Cotai Strip, saying they had gone past their scheduled training time and should leave. Video of the incident shows a heated argument before Roach was kicked in the upper body by Alex Ariza, a member of the Rios camp who formerly worked alongside Roach in Pacquiao's corner.

Roach demanded on-site security call the police and initially wanted to press assault charges against Ariza. But Bob Arum, chief executive of Top Rank, which promotes both fighters, talked him out of it, for fear it could derail this weekend's bout for the vacant WBO welterweight title.

'Who knows what the hell happens in Macau if you press charges. Everybody could get arrested. We don't know anything about the legal system,'' Arum told The Associated Press, adding he was ''pretty disgusted'' with the incident. The fight is Sunday in Macau, which will still be Saturday night in the United States.

''That kind of publicity is not good for the sport,'' Arum said. ''It was nothing to do with the fighters. It had all to do with a grudge that Ariza has with Freddie, who fired him from Pacquiao's corner. ''Garcia and Rios are good friends of mine and they listened to reason, and I've told them to tone everything down and they will. But Ariza sometimes gets out of control, and that's really the problem. And usually when these types of fights occur, it's usually someone who is tangential to the main guys who starts it.''

Pacquiao indirectly addressed the issue during a promotional media appearance later Wednesday. ''Let everything finish in the ring,'' Pacquiao said. ''No trash talk before the fight because it's not a good example to all the people. If anyone has a grudge against someone, forgive them as God forgives. It's not personal. It's our job, entertaining people.''

Ariza said he did not believe Pacquiao's comments were directed at him, and the hours that had passed between the morning altercation and the late-night promotional event had not reduced his displeasure toward Roach. ''I take responsibility for what I did 100 percent. I know what I said and know what I did. I can't take it back; it was the heat of the moment,'' Ariza told The Associated Press.

''I did what I did because he accosted me, he got close. I know Freddie Roach for six years, and I know he has a tendency to be aggressive. If he did it again, I'd do it again, too.'' Ariza, who during the altercation mocked Roach's slurred speech resulting from Parkinson's disease, said the Hall of Fame trainer was clearly coming toward the end of his ringside career. ''There's one thing that anger brings out is the truth,'' Ariza said.

''He hides behind that whole Parkinson's gig, not to demean Parkinson's. He feels very threatened. People gave me a lot of credit for Manny's rise. It's sad. It's transparent he's at the end of the road, and this is his way of trying to hang on to what popularity he has.''


China's quest for global golf domination


There are no windows, the floor is bare wood, the Chinese flag hangs beneath stark lighting. Not the kind of place you would expect to find a future world-class golfer. But this is how China is hoping to build Olympic champions in the country's newest sport.

This is golf's basement at Beijing's famous state-run sports school, Shichahai. About 30 children - aged between five and nine - are practising putting and chipping. They are lined up in front of mirrors to work on their grip and their swing. They do this for two hours a day, five days a week. The thumping music from the boxing gym next door buzzes through the wall, while above their heads, on multiple floors, rows and rows of children play table tennis and badminton, or tumble and twist in the gymnasium.

The school is known as the Cradle of Champions. It has produced 37 world and Olympic gold medallists in the five decades it has been open. Now golf is on the Olympic programme, it is getting the Shichahai treatment too. Taylor Li, who manages the Beijing Golf team, is overseeing the school's newest course. Junior golf started here last year. Are the children pushed to be here? "I don't think so," Li says. "I think it's quite normal if you want to be a player, if you want to do the sport better and better, you need to spend much more time than the normal people.

"I think most of these boys and girls like golf and I believe they will like it more and more." Every province in China has its own centre of excellence like Shichahai. Since the IOC voted to include golf in the Olympics from 2016, five million people in the country have been given the chance to try their hand at the game. If they show promise, their education and training will be paid for by the government while they work towards becoming the best.

"Present a challenge and the Chinese will excel," says Billy Payne, chairman of the Augusta National. "That's their culture and if there's a way or an award that says 'you are the best', then as a country in terms of a training programme, they will identify the athletes that at some point will make them the best." Payne is speaking in the colossal, marble-clad clubhouse at the Nanshan International Golf Club, the course that is hosting the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships. The prize for the winner will be a place at the Masters next April.

"We're fortunate to be able to call Augusta our course," he says, "and to make it a dream for these kids has always been our goal. Not too many years ago we decided there was place in the world only just discovering golf and if we got involved perhaps we could advance the game, get more kids interested and the ultimate prize of being able to play in the Masters inspires a lot of people." Last year that prize inspired Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang.

At 14 he was the youngest player ever to compete at the Masters - and he made the cut. He is back at the Asia-Pacific to try and qualify for Augusta again this year - but life has changed a little. He now has 1.5 million followers on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. So is he a superstar? "A bit," he says, looking embarrassed. His friend, and rival, 16-year-old Dou Zecheng, is also a star in the making. He swaggers around the green in his baggy trousers, trademark hat and trendy sunglasses; a picture of cool.

His game is impeccable and off the course he is funny and likeable. "Wearing three shirts messed me up today," he says after a tricky second round. "It was too cold this morning." I ask him if one day we will see players like him and Guan winning all the majors. "One day yeah we will, but it won't be too soon because we still don't have enough players. But in a few years we will." For all China's ambition and enthusiasm, success will take time. Dou speaks in a perfect American drawl - he plays much of his golf in the US where he can train with other amateurs his own age and take advantage of the coaching and facilities on offer.

This is true of most of China's leading young golfers. The grassroots programmes are cranking into action now there is an Olympic medal up for grabs; the new £50m National Training Centre in Nanshan is evidence of that. But for those young players who have already given Chinese golf a global reputation, Western coaching and expertise is still better than anything on offer in their home country. But China is taking the best of what it can from Europe and the West - coaching, tradition and investment - and harnessing that for its own ends.

Rich families, the government and big business are all working towards a common goal here; to produce golf's next superstar. It may take a decade or two, but no other country is producing golfers in this way and on this scale. And if they make it to the top, perhaps no other country will be able to compete.


BBC Sport


Vettel cruises to Abu Dhabi win


Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel dominated the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to seal his seventh consecutive victory.

Vettel, already world champion, led every lap as he beat his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Lotus's Romain Grosjean. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso enlivened the closing laps with a late charge to take fifth from Force India's Paul Di Resta and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

The Spaniard was later cleared by stewards for passing off the track. Alonso's late progress was one of a number of scraps through the race for the lower positions, but it all took place behind Vettel, who was in total control once he had beaten Webber into the first corner. The Australian had beaten his team-mate to pole position on Saturday but Vettel made a slightly better start, led into the first corner and drove off into the distance.

"The car was absolutely brilliant. Not much more to say. Massive gaps, big surprise," said Vettel. He made his first stop several laps later than Webber, Rosberg and Grosjean, which meant he could come in for tyres for the first time on lap 14 and rejoin without losing the lead.

Webber's hopes of challenging Vettel were ended when he was passed by Rosberg at the first corner. Unable to pass the Mercedes during the first stint, Webber was further delayed when he came out behind Adrian Sutil's Force India following his first pit stop on lap eight. It was Vettel's 11th win this season, equalling his tally from his second championship-winning season in 2011.

The 26-year-old remains on target to equal both Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 13 victories in one season and Alberto Ascari's of nine consecutive F1 grand prix wins, which has stood for 60 years. Behind Rosberg and Grosjean, Force India's Paul Di Resta found himself in fifth place in the closing laps having done only one pit stop and fighting off the faster cars of Hamilton and Alonso behind him.

Hamilton and Alonso had both done two stops, but the Spaniard had delayed his second long enough to allow him to fit the faster 'soft' tyres for a short final stint while his rivals were on worn 'mediums'. Alonso used the extra grip of his tyres to close on and pass Hamilton and Di Resta to take fifth place on consecutive laps with four and three laps to go.

Di Resta held off Hamilton to take sixth, with Ferrari's Felipe Massa eighth from McLaren's Sergio Perez, who overtook Sutil in the closing stages. Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, who started from the back after his car failed a post-qualifying check, retired on the first lap after breaking his front suspension in a collision with a Caterham at the first corner.


BBC Sport


Holloway leaves Palace


Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway has left the club after several rounds of crisis talks, according to Sky Sources.

He is due to appear at a press conference in central London at 5.30pm with co-chairman Steve Parish and it is understood they will announce his departure. Holloway's position at the club has looked shaky since his side were beaten 4-1 by Fulham on Monday night.

He was called in to talks with Parish after the game with further key discussions said also to have taken place on Tuesday. Palace have won just once in nine matches this season and remain second from bottom of the Premier League, five points from safety.

Holloway took charge at the club just under a year ago and took into the Premier League but before the press conference was announced, Parish seemed to be planning for a return to the second tier.

He said: "We've tried to get a squad that can keep us in this division, but also be a very strong squad in the Championship should the worst happen. "When you go down it's about what state you're in. You have to plan for both eventualities and we'll do our best to stay up. It might be about whether there are three worse teams."




Fernando Alonso concedes title after points record


Ferrari's Fernando Alonso said he was happy to have broken the all-time Formula 1 points record but admitted this year's championship is over.

The Spaniard finished fourth in the Japanese Grand Prix to pass Michael Schumacher in the all-time points list. But he is 90 points behind race-winner Sebastian Vettel with 100 available.

"Even if Vettel doesn't finish all of the races I need to win nearly all, so it's a matter of time [until Vettel is champion]," Alonso said. On his own accomplishment, he admitted he had benefited from the fact that slightly more of his career than Schumacher's had come after 2010 when points awarded were more than doubled and extended to 10th place.

Alonso has now scored 1,571 points in his 12-year career, two more than Schumacher. Vettel is third on 1,351. "We have different goals now and they told me I have the record for the most amount of points in F1 history, so it's a happy day. Leading points scorer in F1 is something great," he said. "I know the points system changed, but when someone overtakes me in the points no-one will remember the points system changed."

To win the title, however, Alonso - who has won 32 grands prix in his career to Vettel's 34 - would have to win three of the remaining four races and finish second in the other, with Vettel retiring from them all. Alonso acknowledged his Ferrari did not have enough pace to do that.

"We struggle a little bit to do so," he said, "so it is matter of time. We continue to try to do out best on Sundays. When it is mathematically settled we [will] congratulate him." In fact, Vettel will clinch the title in the next race in India on 27 October as long as Alonso does not outscore him by at least 16 points.

"Regarding the championship, as I said, I think obviously we have a very, very good gap but we still keep pushing," said Vettel. "I think we've proven in the last couple of years that we never give up. I think we've won one or two championships because of that. Alonso's aim is now to secure second in the drivers' championship and do the same for Ferrari in the constructors' competition.

The Italian team extended their lead over Mercedes to 10 points after a bad race for the German team, who saw Lewis Hamilton retire with damage caused by a puncture and Nico Rosberg take eighth after a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release from a pit stop. Lotus are also in the running for second place - they are 33 points behind Ferrari after Romain Grosjean took third in Suzuka and Kimi Raikkonen fifth.


BBC Sport


Wladimir Klitschko beats Alexander Povetkin in Moscow


Wladimir Klitschko defended his WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles with victory over Alexander Povetkin by unanimous decision. Russian Povetkin, who was unbeaten before the fight, was put down on three occasions in the seventh round and never really troubled the champion.

All three judges scored the fight 119-104 in 37-year-old Klitschko's favour. Klitschko has made 15 defences in his second spell as champion and has won 61 of his 64 professional fights. "That was a tough bit of work, he's a real fighter," said Klitschko.

"I kept landing the punches, but he stayed in there. "I believe it was a deserved win, but I think I can improve still." Klitschko quickly established his dominance and put Povetkin down with a short left towards the end of the season round.

With Klitschko's jab working well, the challenger struggled to get close and was never able to build momentum. Klitschko produced a fierce onslaught in the seventh, sending the Russian to the canvas on three occasions, although he looked to have pushed Povetkin over for two of those.

Seemingly content to coast through the rest of the fight, Klitschko was docked a point for once again throwing Povetkin to the ground in the 11th round. Povetkin continued to battle, even after the final bell, but Klitschko's victory never looked in doubt.

"Things didn't quite go as well as I wanted, but I never give up," said Povetkin. "Of course, he was the better fighter, he's the best in the world, that's clear."


BBC Sport


FIFA delays Qatar decision


FIFA has delayed making a decision on moving the Qatar World Cup to winter - but set up a task force that paves the way for the process. The world governing body's executive committee held a two-day meeting in Zurich to debate a controversial proposal to shift the 2022 showpiece from the summer months to avoid the extreme heat.

  But, with president Sepp Blatter keen on a consultation period before confirming a switch that has extensive domestic ramifications, officials have agreed to first set up an investigating body. The commission, announced by Blatter at a press conference in Zurich on Friday, will draw members from across the game but is not expected to rule on the proposition until 2015.

  Blatter, who insisted Qatar's host nation status was not in doubt, said: "The FIFA World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar. There you have it. "We have decided we are going to carry out consultations. These will include all the participants in the World Cup and stakeholders including players, clubs, leagues, national associations confederations and FIFA.

  "There are also economic partners involved be they from marketing, the media and television and we need to bear in mind our obligations to these partners. "We need to carry out very deep consultations and investigations and show some diplomacy and wisdom."

Qatar organisers insist special cooling technology means they can hold the event any time of the year but stifling temperatures outside the stadia remain a worry and UEFA's 54 member associations last month agreed to a move in principle. The exact timing of a winter tournament appears to be the major sticking point, with FIFA preferring a November/December World Cup but UEFA president Michel Platini championing a January tournament that would not clash with the Champions League.

  The November/December plan has also emerged as the favoured option of the Premier League. Such a timeframe would allow the traditional club Christmas programme to take place as normal, and interfere less with the final few months of the season than a long break in January and February. Aside from the timing of the tournament, the executive committee also discussed an investigation into the mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar, and Blatter confirmed he would visit the Middle Eastern country to raise his concerns in person.


Cosmonauts to take Olympic torch into space ahead of Sochi Games


A Russian Soyuz rocket, with three crew members, has blasted off from the Beikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhastan for the International Space Station.

The rocket is carrying two Russian cosmonauts and an American.

It will orbit the earth four times before docking with the space outpost.

During one of the space walks, the two Russians will take the Olympic torch into open space as part of torch's relay, ahead of the winter games in Sochi in February.

But, for safety concerns, the torch would not be lit.


Real Madrid forward agrees new contract


Cristiano Ronaldo says he wants to stay at Real Madrid for the rest of his career after signing a new contract with the Spanish giants until 2018.

The Portugal forward, 28, was linked with a return to former club Manchester United over the summer. "Manchester United is the past. Real Madrid is now my home," he said. "I hope that I'm here until I retire. This is a great club." Spanish reports suggest he will earn an annual salary of 17m euros (£14.25m).

His previous contract at the Bernabeu was due to expire in 2015. Ronaldo joined Real from Premier League champions United in 2009 for a then-world record transfer fee of £80m. He has scored 203 goals in 203 games for Los Blancos, helping them win La Liga in 2011-12 and two domestic cups.

The Madeira-born star was also voted as the world's second best player, behind Barcelona's Lionel Messi, in 2011 and 2012. But questions were raised about the ex-Sporting Lisbon youngster's future as Real planned their 100m euros (£85.3m) summer move for Tottenham forward Gareth Bale.

"I respect all the clubs who ask about me," he said. "But they always know that my decision, that my only goal, is to be here and to play at this club until, maybe, the end of my career. "I'll be here five more years. I just want to win trophies for this club." Real president Florentino Perez, who sat alongside Ronaldo in a media conference on Sunday, labelled the new deal as one of the greatest days in the recent history of the club.

"It's a great day for the club," said Perez. "We have made the dream of all Madridistas. "Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid will remain forever." Ronaldo was replaced as the planet's most expensive player when Welshman Bale, 24, completed his switch earlier this month.

The pair both started as Real drew 2-2 at Villarreal in Bale's first appearance for last season's runners-up. Bale levelled after Villarreal's opener and Ronaldo put the visitors ahead before home forward Giovani Dos Santos equalised.


BBC Sport


Nadal will break Federer's Grand Slam titles record


Rafael Nadal's US Open victory caps the greatest comeback in sport, says Greg Rusedski.

Nadal, 27, claimed his 10th title since returning from seven months out with a knee injury by beating World No 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a thrilling final at Flushing Meadows.

The win earned Nadal his second US Open title and second Grand Slam success of the season after victory at the French Open and also extended the Spaniard's unbeaten run on hardcourts to 22 matches.

"They call him the 'King of Clay' but he's the 'King of Hardcourts' now," said former British No 1 Rusedski. "This is probably the greatest comeback I have ever seen in sport.

"He didn't play in the Australian Open and he lost in the first round of Wimbledon so it's a massive leap to get to this point. There's no question who is the number one player on the planet right now.

"Yes, Djokovic will still be number one in the rankings on Monday but in all of the players' minds right now - especially after two Grand Slam victories from Rafa - he really is the World No 1 right now.

"But Djokovic is resilient. If I was his coach Marian Vajda I'd show him the second set and half of the third and say 'that's the way you've got to play Novak if you are going to beat Rafa and get back.

"Djokovic is the one who has been chased for the last two-and-a-half years and now he's going to be the one chasing Rafa."




Bale completes move from Spurs to Real Madrid


Tottenham and Real Madrid have confirmed that a deal has been completed for the transfer of Gareth Bale to the Spanish side for a world record fee.

Madrid say the 24-year-old Welsh winger will sign a six-year contract, pending the completion of a medical, and it is believed he will cost them 100m euros (£85.3m). He will be presented as a Real player at noon UK time on Monday, in front of 80,000 fans at the Club's Bernabeu Stadium.

Bale has released a statement in which he said: "I have had six very happy years at Tottenham but it's the right time to say goodbye. "We've had some special times together over the years and I've loved every minute of it.

"I would like to thank everyone at the Club; the Chairman, Board, staff, coaches and players and, most of all, the fantastic fans, who I hope will understand this amazing career opportunity. "I am not sure there is ever a good time to leave a club where I felt settled and was playing the best football of my career to date. I know many players talk of their desire to join the club of their boyhood dreams but, I can honestly say, this is my dream come true.

  "I am well aware that I would not be at the level I am today were it not for, firstly Southampton, and then Spurs, standing by me during some of the tougher times and affording me the environment and support they have. "Tottenham will always be in my heart and I'm sure that this season will be a successful one for them. I am now looking forward to the next exciting chapter in my life, playing football for Real Madrid."




Hamilton: No answer to Bulls


Lewis Hamilton admitted that Mercedes simply had no answer to the pace of Red Bull at Spa but has refused to give up on his title hopes in the wake of Sebastian Vettel's dominant victory in Sunday's Belgian GP.

Unable to keep pace with either Vettel or the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso on what proved to be a chastening afternoon for the Mercedes team, Hamilton has fallen 58 points behind the reigning World Champion. "They were both too fast for us today and this was the best we could have done," Hamilton said of his third place.

  "We didn't have as good a package as the Red Bull and Ferrari today, they were just too quick for us - particularly on the straights, through Eau Rouge and the last sector. I was pedal to the metal all the way, but I just couldn't do anything about it." Despite starting from pole position, Hamilton's victory chances were as good as over by the end of the first lap as Vettel blasted past the Englishman and built up a formidable 1.4-second lead.

  "I think everyone was surprised," the Mercedes driver reflected as he considered Vettel's unexpected straightline speed. "I felt like I had a good exit through turn one but Sebastian caught me massively through Eau Rouge and there was no defending really. I could only move once and just had to watch him glide by. After that it was very difficult to hold on to him."

"Our general end-of-straight pace looked like it was the same as theirs, but they were picking it up elsewhere so we have some performance to gain." Hamilton's own lack of straight-line speed was even more apparent when he deliberated surrendered second place to Fernando Alonso in the expectation of repassing the Ferrari into Les Combes with the benefit of DRS, only to find that the F138's straight-line speed was still a match for the W04's.

"Every year you come here and Monza with a new package, on the front but particularly on the rear wing, and sometimes you hit the nail on the head and sometimes you don't. We did a decent job but obviously these guys have done a slightly better job," he said. "Whether or not we can really make an adjustment for the next race, let's wait and see, but more importantly I think we will back to being very competitive when we get to Singapore."

One statistical consolation for Hamilton from Sunday is that he now resides in third place in the World Championship ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. The bottom line, though, is that with the gap to Vettel extended to 58 points, he now trails the World Champion by a margin in excess of two race victories.




Bolt becomes most successful World Championship athlete


Usain Bolt guided Jamaica to victory in the sprint relay in Moscow to become the most successful athlete in the history of the World Championships.

The 26-year-old added 4x100m gold to his 100m and 200m triumphs and now has a total of eight golds and two silvers. Carl Lewis and Allyson Felix also have 10 medals but have eight golds, one silver and a bronze respectively. Jamaica won in 37.36 seconds with the United States second and Canada third after Great Britain were disqualified. Britain finished third but lost their bronze after an appeal was lodged against their second changeover.

Bolt's latest triumph meant he joined Americans Michael Johnson, Felix and Lewis on a record-equalling eight world titles overall. The 100m and 200m world record holder also secured a sprint triple in World Championships for the second time, matching the trebles he completed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

"It is just great," Bolt said of the comparison. "I'll continue dominating. I'll continue to work hard. For me, my aim is to continue into the greatness thing." The United States team gave the Jamaicans a scare but Rakieem Salaam's handover to Justin Gatlin left the individual 100m runner-up off balance. He clearly strayed into the Jamaicans' lane outside him but somehow escaped disqualification.

It made no difference to Bolt, who streaked clear to complete victory in the sixth-fastest time ever. "I wasn't really worried about Justin. I knew if he got the baton in front of me, I could catch him," Bolt said. "So it was just going out there to run as fast as possible." Bolt delighted the crowd with a celebratory Cossack dance before parading round the track with team-mates Nesta Carter, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Nickel Ashmeade.


BBC Sport


Rogers gives Australia hope


Chris Rogers gave Australia just the start they wanted in the third Ashes Test as the tourists look to turn the series around at Old Trafford - but their hopes were hit by another controversial dismissal.

Opener Rogers made an unbeaten 67 to help his team reach 92-2 at lunch after skipper Michael Clarke - who was on five not out at the break - had won the toss and, unsurprisingly on an excellent-looking pitch, opted to bat first. A rather becalmed Shane Watson helped blunt the new ball as Australia's top two reversed their usual roles in putting on a stand of 76.

  Rogers was, for once, the aggressor up front, reaching his half-century at faster than a run-a-ball rate when a square drive through point recorded his 10th boundary of the morning session. Watson had contributed just 19 to the partnership when he finally became the first wicket to fall, Tim Bresnan finding his outside edge to provide Alastair Cook with a simple catch at first slip.

Usman Khawaja (1) also failed to make it through to lunch, though he could feel aggrieved when he was adjudged caught behind off Graeme Swann's bowling. Umpire Tony Hill initially gave the batsman out but it seemed Khawaja would get a reprieve on review when 'Hot Spot' suggested there was no outside edge.

However, third umpire Kumar Dharmasena decided there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the original decision, leaving the Australians two down. The visitors opted to make three changes to their side that was beaten inside four days at Lord's - Mitchell Starc returned to the XI in place of the injured James Pattinson, while Nathan Lyon was preferred to fellow spinner Ashton Agar.

There was also a recall for David Warner, the batsman having pushed his claims with a big hundred on duty for Australia A in South Africa whilst the rest of his team-mates were in action in a tour match against Sussex at Hove.

Warner - banned in the build-up to the Ashes after throwing a punch at England opener Joe Root in a Birmingham bar during the ICC Champions Trophy - will bat in the unusual position of number six, Clarke confirmed at the toss. Phil Hughes - who scored 81 not out in the opening Test only to muster two more in three innings since - was the man to make way.

England, meanwhile, named an unchanged line-up. Kevin Pietersen was declared fit after picking up a calf strain at Lord's, meaning James Taylor was not required. Paceman Chris Tremlett and left-arm spinner Monty Panesar were the other men to miss out from the 14-man squad.


Sky Sports


Liverpool owner baulks at Arsenal's £40m bid


Liverpool owner John W Henry has asked what "they're smoking" at Arsenal after rejecting the Gunners' improved offer of just over £40m for Luis Suarez.

The unusual bid of £40,000,001 was designed to trigger a clause in the 26-year-old Uruguay striker's contract. Under the terms of Suarez's deal, Liverpool must inform him of the bid but do not have to accept it. It is unclear whether Henry is talking about Arsenal's attempts to sign Suarez or their valuation of the player. Liverpool have now rejected two bids from Arsenal.

While they remain determined to keep their prized asset, who scored 30 goals for the club in 44 appearances last season, their resolve is likely to be tested if the bidding continues to rise. Should Arsenal persist and have an improved bid accepted, it could come close to trebling their previous highest initial outlay on a transfer.

The Gunners, whose first offer for Suarez was £30m, paid a reported £15m to Zenit St Petersburg for Andrey Arshavin, in January 2009. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers last week said he considered Suarez to be at least as valuable as Edinson Cavani, who recently joined Paris St-Germain for £55m.

Real Madrid remain interested but have yet to make a formal offer. Suarez joined Liverpool's pre-season tour of Australia at the weekend and was expected to hold talks about his future with Rodgers. The Uruguay international flew to Melbourne from Montevideo on Sunday after being given extended leave by the Reds following the Confederations Cup.

He wants to leave Anfield to play for a Champions League club despite only signing a new long-term deal last summer. Speculation has grown about Suarez's future since he was punished with a 10-game ban at the end of April for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

The striker still has to serve six games of that suspension and was also banned in 2011 after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra. Suarez joined Liverpool from Ajax in January 2011 in a £22.7m deal.


BBC Sport


Spain beat Italy in penalty shoot-out


Favourites Spain will face Brazil in the Confederations Cup final after a dramatic 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory against Italy in Fortaleza.

Spain substitute Jesus Navas drilled in the decisive penalty after Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci missed. Italy dominated much of the 90 minutes but were left to pay for their misses. Emanuele Giaccherini hit the Spain post in extra-time, while Gianluigi Buffon pushed Xavi's shot on to the woodwork. Each of the first 12 penalties were converted in a high-quality shoot-out before Bonucci blasted his effort over Iker Casillas's crossbar.

His miss allowed new Manchester City winger Navas to coolly convert past Buffon to set up an eagerly anticipated clash against the host nation, 2-1 winners against Uruguay in their semi-final, in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. But the complexion of the match would have been totally different had Italy, without injured striker Mario Balotelli, not squandered a host of goalscoring chances.

The Azzurri dominated a high-tempo first half as the tactical instructions of boss Cesare Prandelli - to stay tight and compact defensively before breaking quickly down the Spanish flanks - were carried out to perfection. Spain, who beat their opponents 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final, looked vulnerable as they failed to cope with the Italian raids, but were left unpunished.

Italy wing-back Christian Maggio was the outstanding performer in a frenetic first half as he worried Spanish left-back Jordi Alba with his pace and movement down the right flank. Having guided the world and European champions to a record 28 competitive matches without defeat, the veteran coach has rarely seen his side struggle.

But, despite his half-time intervention, their lethargic approach continued after the interval. Italy, backed by a large vocal support inside the Estadio Castelao, continued to press with Marchisio denied by a desperate block from Gerard Pique and Giorgio Chiellini heading Andrea Pirlo's corner onto the roof of the Spanish net. However, the energy of the hard-working Italians started to wane as they felt the effects of sweltering temperatures in northern Brazil.

Spain found renewed energy as the game entered extra-time - Xavi and Andres Iniesta pushing and probing the tiring Italian defence with their slick interchanges. Pique saw a shot blocked, Daniele De Rossi poked clear away from Sergio Ramos and the Real Madrid defender then lashed over as Spain piled on the pressure with a succession of corners.

In the final moments of extra-time, Italy captain Buffon unconvincingly pushed Xavi's arcing long-range shot onto his left-hand post and escaped further punishment when Javi Martinez steered the rebound wide. Seconds later, Navas's drilled cross was palmed away by Buffon as the Italians held out for penalties after a breathless finale.

Buffon and Casillas were virtual bystanders in a shoot-out full of cool finishes, but it was Spain who were left celebrating after Navas's winner and they travel to Rio aiming to add the Confederations Cup to their trophy haul.


BBC Sport


Rose wins first major at US Open


Justin Rose clinched his maiden major title to become the first Englishman for 43 years to win the US Open.

The 32-year-old won by two shots from now six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson and Jason Day on a gripping final day. Rose, also the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo in 1996, fired a level-par 70 to end one over as overnight leader Mickelson carded 74.

Australian Day took 71 as England's Luke Donald (75) collapsed to six over on the treacherous Merion course. Rose, the world number five, looked up to the sky with tears in his eyes after he tapped in his final putt, and admitted later to thinking of his father and long-time mentor Ken, who died from leukaemia in 2002. Mickelson, celebrating his 43rd birthday, needed to birdie the last to force an 18-hole play-off on Monday, but the four-time major champion could only make a bogey five.

"It wasn't lost on me that today was Father's Day," said Rose of his gesture when he was presented with the trophy on the 18th green. "A lot of us come from great men and we have a responsibility to our children to show what a great man can be. "For it to all just work out for me, on such an emotional day, I couldn't help but look up to the heavens and think that my old dad Ken had something do do with it."

Rose, who was born in Johannesburg but brought up in Hampshire, burst onto the wider scene as a 17-year-old amateur when he finished in a tie for fourth in the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale. Play mediaHe went on to miss 21 consecutive cuts when he joined the paid ranks, before winning his first professional event in 2002. His biggest victory to date was the WGC Cadillac Championship last March.

Rose's previous best major finish was tied-third in the US PGA behind Rory McIlroy last year, while he has had six other top-10s in majors. He becomes the third UK winner of the title in four years after Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy (2011) and Graeme McDowell (2010).

Open champion Ernie Els (69) and Americans Jason Dufner (67), Hunter Mahan (75) and Billy Horschel (74) ended tied-fourth. World number one Tiger Woods's challenge was already over before the final round and he ended 13 over after a 74, while second-ranked McIlroy took 76 for 14 over.

"I did a lot of things right. Unfortunately I did a few things wrong, as well," said Woods, chasing a 15th major title and first since 2008. "I struggled with the speed (of the greens) all week."


BBC Sport


Rafael Nadal wins the French Open


Rafael Nadal is now in a class of his own in tennis history after winning his eighth French Open title on Sunday at Roland Garros, becoming the only man in tennis history to win the same Grand Slam eight times.

Nadal took out fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in what can only be considered a victory lap of sorts for the now 12-time Grand Slam champion.

Face it, the French Open finals was an epic five-set match that pitted the top two tennis players in the world against each other in Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the one problem being that the winner still had one more ceremonial match to play before he could accept the trophy.

  This was it, and it was everything that you'd expect from a man that has made his living beating professionals on clay. Nadal is now an astonishing
59-1 at the French Open, winning eight of the last nine championships in Paris and doing it in a style that says he isn't going anywhere soon.

Ferrer was a formidable opponent in the sense that games lasted longer than one might expect, but it was just too much power from Nadal on this surface for a man that was making his first appearance in a Grand Slam final.

Nadal hit 35 winners to his 25 unforced errors, a stat almost mirrored by Ferrer who had 22 winners to his 35 unforced. Nadal is now third all time in Grand Slam wins, tying Roy Emerson and sitting just two behind Pete Sampras and five behind the great Roger Federer.

His play at this event has been incredible over the years, but his return to the tennis scene this season has been a surprise even to experts who have watched him play over the years. Injuries kept him out of the 2012 U.S.

Open and this year's Australian Open, and some where worried he'd never come back full strength. He did, and his eighth French title is a pretty good reward for a return for one of the greatest tennis players in the history of the game.


England draw with Brazil in Rio


England came close to leaving Brazil's iconic Maracana home with an unlikely victory - only to be denied a repeat of their win here 29 years ago by Paulinho's late equaliser.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart produced a magnificent display to single-handedly keep Brazil at bay in a torrid first half when their latest young superstar Neymar tormented a poor England. The defiant Hart produced a series of superb saves as Brazil ran England ragged, backed by the traditional fervour of fans revelling in watching their side play in this renovated stadium.

Brazil looked on course for victory when Fred put them ahead after the break but substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain enjoyed a golden moment he will treasure forever when he powered home a fine equaliser. The Arsenal teenager's father, former Stoke City winger Mark Chamberlain, played in the Maracana when England secured a famous 2-0 win on their last visit in 1984.

And the fanatical Rio crowd feared the modern-day Brazil were going to suffer a similar fate when Wayne Rooney's deflected 25-yard shot gave Roy Hodgson's side the lead with 11 minutes left. Paulinho cut short England's hopes of ending their season with a landmark, if undeserved, win with a fine volley - but they can still take credit from battling through a period when they were outclassed by Brazil to come away with a draw.

This was a night when Brazil's new home was put on show and this entertaining friendly did it justice, although the locals were understandably disappointed by the eventual outcome. The new Maracana may have lost some of its unique appearance but the name still has the old mystique, with Rio's statue of Christ The Redeemer looking down from the hills overlooking the stadium.

And for England's players fed on tales of the Brazilian greats such as Pele, Garrincha and Jairzinho, simply to play in the arena bearing the famous name - even in its modern guise - will be a special memory, especially for Hart and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The exterior of the stadium, and indeed parts of the interior, is still very much a work in progress and led to brief fears that this game may not materialise after it was suspended on Thursday amid safety fears.

The searing temperatures in South America provided another test for England's somewhat depleted squad to conquer at the conclusion of a long season. This remains one of the great temples of football and huge surges of noise swept around the Maracana every time Brazil threatened, with Leighton Baines blocking an early acrobatic effort from Neymar, and Dani Alves shooting just wide from long range.

Neymar was the orchestrator supreme, often to the frustration of his team-mates, who waited for a pass that never came, and he teased England throughout the first half. It was developing into a personal battle with Hart and the keeper won when Neymar controlled Alves's pass after a slip by Glen Johnson. He then made a brave double save, diving at the feet of Hulk and Filipe.

Neymar then curled another shot just off target before England's under-pressure defence suffered a blow when Baines limped off to be replaced by Ashley Cole. England, who had barely entered the Brazilian danger zone, then had a clear opening but Walcott's shot following Johnson's fine pass was saved by Julio Cesar.

To say this would have been against the run of play would rank as a masterpiece of understatement. Frank Lampard then tested Cesar again but Brazil had exerted almost complete control and England had somehow remained on level terms. The visitors at least enjoyed some rare moments of possession after the restart but the goal Brazil had threatened came after 57 minutes when Fred hooked home, making a difficult finish look deceptively easy after substitute Hernanes's shot had bounced back off the bar.

Hodgson then introduced Oxlade-Chamberlain for Johnson and England suddenly looked dangerous, with James Milner seeing a shot deflected wide and Rooney sending a very good headed chance wide. And Oxlade-Chamberlain's time arrived after 67 minutes when Rooney headed Lampard's ball into his path and he drilled a powerful low finish past Cesar.

England, remarkably given what had gone before, then took the lead with 11 minutes left as Rooney cut inside and saw his shot deflected off Fernando past Cesar. It was a lead they held for only three minutes as Paulinho showed superb technique to volley Lucas Moura's cross beyond Hart.


BBC Sport


Beckham's career is officially over


David Beckham's illustrious 20-year playing career is at an end after he was not named in Paris St-Germain's squad to play at Lorient on Sunday.

Beckham, 38, walked off in tears after last weekend's home win against Brest, days after announcing his retirement. The ex-England captain gained 115 caps for his country, and also played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy and AC Milan.

Beckham joined Paris-St Germain on a five-month deal in January. He played 14 times in all competitions and helped the French side to their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years. Beckham also started the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final match against Barcelona.

"I want to say thank you to everybody in Paris - to my team-mates, to the staff, to the fans," Beckham said as he addressed a Parc des Princes crowd including wife Victoria and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy after the final whistle against Brest.

"It's been very special to finish my career here. It could not have been any more special. "I just feel that it's the right time to retire. I feel I've achieved everything I could. I wanted to go out as a champion. "I've finished my career in a team that has treated me like I've been here for 10 years."

The game last Saturday was briefly halted as Beckham, captain for the night, was substituted after 81 minutes, with his team-mates gathering in the middle of the pitch to applaud him. Speaking after his emotional exit, he cast doubt on the prospect of featuring at Stade du Moustoir against Lorient because of fears about their plastic playing surface.

He also expressed a concern it could cause a recurrence of an Achilles injury he suffered while on loan at Italian side AC Milan in 2010. His absence against Lorient means Beckham ends his career having won 19 major trophies. His 10th and final league championship, claimed with PSG, saw him become the first Englishman to win titles in four different countries.


BBC Sport


Rafa reigns in Rome


Rafa Nadal took just over an hour to send Roger Federer packing and claim the Rome Masters title after winning the 30th ATP Tour clash between the two giants 6-1 6-3.

For their landmark meeting Federer produced one of his worst performances, with Nadal capitalising in ruthless fashion to move to 20-10 against Federer and 13-2 on his beloved clay surface. In a perfect tune-up for next week's French Open for the 26-year-old Spaniard, Nadal took just an hour and eight minutes to pick up the title at the Foro Italica.

Federer's performance was littered with errors, as the Swiss made 32 unforced mistakes in just 16 games, while his serves was also misfiring as he could only find his first serve 58 percent of the time. Nadal forced six break points and took five of them, while Federer managed just one break of the Nadal serve from his two break points.

Nadal continue to show no signs of the knee injury that kept him out of the game for seven months, with the win in Rome taking improving his run to three straight tournament victories. It was also a sixth tournament win overall of the year, and he will head to Roland Garros in the best possible confidence as he goes in search of a eighth French Open title and fourth in a row.

"It's a very important day, a very happy day for me after a difficult year last year," said Nadal. "It is really emotional for me to win a tournament with such a long history as Rome.

"I am just enjoying the moment and valuing it more than ever because I know where we were just a few months ago. Being here a few months later with all I have achieved is really more than a dream."

Federer admitted he had been outplayed, adding: "It didn't go how I hoped and I was missing too many easy forehands and crucial points.

"He does an incredible job returning form the back of the court and it is hard because he covers the court so well. You need to serve accurately. When Rafa is at his best he creates opportunities in rallies and dictates. It was difficult to change."

Nadal was seeded just fifth in Rome, despite winning six titles in eight years in the event, after losing rankings points during his spell on the sidelines, but it was soon apparent who the top dog on clay is in the final.

The first set slipped away from Federer quick as a flash, with Nadal taking it 6-1 in just 23 minutes courtesy of two breaks of serve. Federer was a touch better in the second set, and showed some resistance by breaking to make it 5-2 in the seventh game, but after a hold he could not repeat the dose as Nadal brought up his 24th Masters title.


McDonnell crowned as IBF king


Jamie McDonnell was crowned as a world champion after capturing the IBF bantamweight belt with a points win over Julio Ceja in Doncaster.

McDonnell was forced on the back foot by the Mexican in the early rounds, but his disciplined display and high workrate earned a majority decision, with an extremely generous score of 118-110 followed by tallies of 115-113 and 114-114.

Ceja has a reputation as a big puncher and McDonnell wisely adopted a cagey approach in the opener, keeping his opponent at bay with range-finding jabs. But Ceja continued to march towards McDonnell and he landed hurtful hooks to the body in the second, while the Englishman shipped more spiteful shots in the third.

McDonnell fired back in the fourth with left hands before an uppercut got his attention, but the Englishman appeared to edge the fifth by visibly upping the tempo. Ceja again was the bully in the sixth, forcing McDonnell back with stinging shots, although the home favourite rallied in the seventh and pumped out combinations.

McDonnell's dogged effort appeared to turn the tide as Ceja was struggling to last the pace, but he gave a reminder of his threat with big shots in the 10th. Worse was to follow in the 11th as Ceja uncorked a huge hook on McDonnell, but he shook it off and battled through the round. McDonnell finished the final round strongly and was roared on to victory by his delighted hometown crowd.


SKY Sports


Wladimir Klitschko beats Italian Francesco Pianeta


Wladimir Klitschko retained his WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles with a sixth-round stoppage victory against Italian Francesco Pianeta.

Ukraine's Klitschko, 37, was never troubled as he made the 14th defence of his belts in his second stint as champion. Pianeta, who had been unbeaten in his previous 29 professional fights, was floored in the fourth and fifth rounds.

But Klitschko finished the contest in brutal style in the following round. Klitschko has now won 60 of his 63 fights, with his last defeat coming in May 2004 when he suffered a fifth-round stoppage against American Lamon Brewster.

The 28-year-old Pianeta took a lot of punishment but stayed in the contest for six rounds, although he was hopelessly outclassed in Mannheim, Germany.

Klitschko, who could now fight unbeaten Russian Alexander Povetkin later this year, floored his opponent with a straight right hand in the fourth and then again a round later when he landed with a left hook.

But a powerful combination in the sixth sent Pianeta down again and, although he got up, referee Ernest Sharif stopped the contest. Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir's brother, holds the WBC title.

  Britain's David Haye - who lost to Wladimir in 2011 - was commentating at ringside and in a thinly veiled dig, Klitschko said: "I want to thank my opponent. There are a lot of challengers who talk a lot, but he got in the ring and fought bravely."

Pianeta recovered from testicular cancer in 2010 and Klitschko added: "After the battle he has had against cancer he deserves respect. "He tried everything to hit me, if he had landed one his big punches, I wouldn't have got up."


BBC Sport


Martinez unanimously outpoints Murray


Sergio Martinez retained his WBC middleweight title, unanimously outpointing Martin Murray on Saturday night despite being sent to the canvas several times by the Englishman.

The three judges all scored the fight 115-112 in favor of the defending champion in his first fight in his hometown in 11 years after fighting mostly in Europe. Martinez has 53 victories in 55 fights. It was Murray's first loss in 27 fights.

The bout attracted 40,000 fans despite constant rain at the soccer stadium of Buenos Aires club Velez Sarsfield. Fans got soaked though, but the boxers fought under a canopy.

''Thanks Argentina. Thanks for following me. I love you a lot,''' Martinez told the fans from a ringside microphone. The decision likely went the way of Martinez because judges didn't see enough in the opening rounds from the defensive-minded Englishman.

Martinez explored for openings in the first three rounds, dropping his hands and dancing and daring Murray to break out of his conservative, defensive stance. Murray stayed covered up, but caught Martinez with a powerful right hand late in the third round.

Murray began to go on the offensive in the fourth round but stayed covered up, making it difficult for Martinez to land a punch squarely. In the sixth he pinned Martinez up against the ropes and seemed to taunt the champion before the partisan fans.

Caught by a right hand early in the seventh, Martinez began to change his strategy - dancing less and boxing more. Murray knocked down Martinez midway through the eighth with a left-right combination, which silenced the home fans and kept the Englishman on the attack.

Murray put more pressure on the in 10th, putting Martinez down again, and repeated the dose in the 11th, but Italian referee Massimo Barrovechio ruled were slips rather than knockdowns. Martinez has been nursing an injured right knee and, at 38, this is likely one of his final fights.




Boss hails extraordinary Bayern


Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes insisted he was not surprised by their performance as they thrashed Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League.

Heynckes, 67, is on the brink of taking Bayern to their third Champions League final in four years after a crushing victory in the Allianz Arena. He said: "We've been playing extraordinary football all season. "It was not a really big surprise to me that we scored four goals. We have played to a high level all season."

Heynckes - who will be replaced by former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola at the end of the season - insisted before the game that he would not seek any information on Barca from his chosen successor. And it was Bayern who were utterly dominant in front of their own fans, cruising to a deserved win with two goals from Thomas Mueller added to by Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben.

Barcelona may have had 63% of possession but were subdued as Bayern restricted them to only four attempts on goal all night. "You have got to analyse the other team and I did that," said Heynckes.

"How do they play? What is their style? Where do they move? You have got to have something to hold against that and I did that. "I had a powerpoint presentation to show the different ways Barcelona work and move. My team was very tactically disciplined."

Bayern, who last won the Champions League in 2001, are now huge favourites to book a place in next month's final at Wembley. They were beaten on penalties at their own ground by Chelsea last season, while Jose Mourinho guided Inter Milan to a 2-0 victory over the Germans in 2010.

Heynckes said: "My players were fantastic again. Falling short of success in the past two seasons has only made them more hungry for success this year. "We defended so well and in possession we have style of play going forward. We have a lot of creativity and a lot of class and quality. "The fact that we did not concede a goal was very important and the fact we scored four goals was even nicer for us."

Barcelona's chances of reaching the final look slim at best but Heynckes refused to say the mauling is the end of an era for the great Catalan side. He said: "Barcelona were very strong and they are still one of the best teams in the world. No-one can dispute that. They are one of four strong teams in the Champions League semi-finals along with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.

"Barcelona are a fantastic team and that is why you can only rate this victory even more."


BBC Sport


Rafa chases ninth straight win


Rafael Nadal heads into the first big European clay court tournament of the season chasing a ninth straight triumph at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Although he starts his campaign as the No 3 seed, the 26-year-old Spaniard remains the player to beat on his favourite surface, following his excellent return from a serious injury earlier in the year.

  Nadal has won 42 straight matches in Monaco, where his only defeat came as a 16-year-old in 2003 when he was beaten by Guillermo Coria of Argentina.

  Since then, he has not lost a single match in the principality, where he has beaten Roger Federer in three of his eight finals, plus two wins against the current world No 1 Novak Djokovic.

And in those eight finals he has lost just three of the 21 sets contested, such is his dominance on European clay.

Yet Nadal's career - not for the first time - appeared in the balance when he missed seven months of competitive action following a knee injury.

However, he returned to the ATP Tour in late January and has since won 17 of 18 matches and with it three titles.

  If Nadal is to win in Monte Carlo again he may have to beat No 2 seed Andy Murray in the semi-finals and Novak Djokovic in the final.

  With Roger Federer not in town, the Nos 4 and 5 seeds are Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro, both of whom are in Djokovic's half of the draw.

  The other top player in Nadal and Murray's half is Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.


Bayern Munich win Bundesliga title in record time


Bayern Munich clinched the Bundesliga title with six games to spare - the quickest-ever triumph in German league history.

Bastian Schweinsteiger scored the only goal of the game at Eintracht Frankfurt with a lovely back-heeled finish. Bayern have lost only once all season, conceding 13 goals, and have won all 11 games since the winter break. Defending champions Borussia Dortmund beat Augsburg 4-2 but are 20 points behind.

"The fact that we have won the title after 28 games is extraordinary, it's simply fantastic," said manager Jupp Heynckes, who is moving aside at the end of the season to allow Pep Guardiola to take over. "One of the things FC Bayern have demonstrated this season is that we're a top side, but we have done it with harmony in the team."

Schweinsteiger's solitary goal came as captain Philipp Lahm crossed for him to delicately flick a shot past the goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Dortmund's win was of no consequence, relinquishing their hold on the league trophy that they have won for the previous two seasons.

Bayern remain on course for a league, domestic cup and European Cup treble - something the German team have never achieved. They are unbeaten away from home so far this season, and with 75 points accrued thus far, are on course to beat Dortmund's record tally of 81.

After sealing their 23rd title, Bayern can now focus on other competitions. Leading 2-0 after the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Juventus, Heynckes' side are favourites to progress into the last four, and could set up a clash against rivals Dortmund, who drew 0-0 against Malaga. They face Wolfsburg in the semi-finals of the German Cup, looking to lift the DFB-Pokal trophy for the 16th time.


BBC Sport


Suarez welcomes offers as Liverpool cool talk of sale


Liverpool's Luis Suarez insists he is 'very happy' at the club but says Champions League clubs are 'welcome' to bid for him.

The Uruguay international has scored 29 times and is the top flight's leading scorer with 22. Suarez's form has regularly seen him linked with clubs who can offer him Champions League football but the 26-year-old has constantly stressed he is happy at Anfield, having only signed an improved contract less than 12 months ago. And Liverpool have moved swiftly to deny interest on their part in selling their star player, with managing director Ian Ayre telling the BBC the club expected him to stay next season and beyond.

"There's a story about Luis every week. It's in his local language," Ayre said. "We did a new four-year deal with Luis last summer, he's had a fantastic season for Liverpool and it doesn't surprise us every day when he's linked with a move or he's asked to comment on it and he makes a comment that gets taken in different directions. "We love Luis being at Liverpool, our fans love Luis being at Liverpool and he loves being at Liverpool and we fully expect him to be there next season."

However, speaking in his homeland before Friday's World Cup qualifier against Paraguay, Suarez refused to rule out leaving Anfield in the summer. "I am very happy at Liverpool but you never know in football," he said in quotes picked up by the Liverpool Echo. "A player’s ambition is always there, the ambition of wanting to play in elite teams is always there.

“I’m in a world-class team, an elite team like Liverpool. We have to realise we have a new manager who is imposing a philosophy and a way of playing that the players are adapting to as best we can. We hope that it will bear fruit next year. “If another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have me, they are welcome. “We would talk to the club, we would see if I want to go, if I don’t want to go.”

With Swansea having won the League Cup and Wigan or Millwall making the FA Cup final, it is likely that Liverpool will need to finish fifth to qualify for the Europa League next season. They are currently seventh, five points behind fifth placed Arsenal who have a game in hand. Suarez though has said that he feels Liverpool are going in the right direction. "I'm having a nice time because the club is growing and I feel I'm helping personally.

  "I do not know if I'm in the best form but I feel like it's my fate to score and I have to take advantage." While Suarez has once again been insisting he is content at Anfield, team-mate Jose Reina has been doing the same. The Spain goalkeeper has been heavily linked with a move away this summer with former club Barcelona seemingly top of the list as they are on the look-out for a long-term replacement for Victor Valdes. Reina, who could make a rare start for Spain in their World Cup qualifiers because of injury to Real Madrid's Iker Casillas, has dismissed the speculation.


Greek footballer Giorgos Katidis banned for Nazi salute


A Greek footballer has been banned for life from playing for the national team after making a Nazi salute.

AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis, 20, made the gesture to celebrate his winning goal during a Saturday match.

The Greek football federation called it "a severe provocation" that insulted "all the victims of Nazi bestiality". Katidis denied he gave a Nazi salute.

"I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant," Katidis said on his Twitter account.

The player - a former captain of Greece's under-19 team - was fiercely criticised on social media for the salute after scoring the winner in AEK's 2-1 victory over Veria in the Olympic stadium on Saturday.

He insisted he was simply pointing at a team mate in the stands. The club have asked him to explain himself at a board meeting next week. But AEK's German coach Ewald Lienen has backed Katidis.

"He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas. He most likely saw such a salute on the internet or somewhere else and did it without knowing what it means," he said, according to Reuters news agency.


BBC Sport


Man Utd & Chelsea in replay wait


Manchester United and Chelsea must wait until later this week for a decision from the Football Association on when their FA Cup quarter-final replay will take place.

Chelsea recovered from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Old Trafford on Sunday. The date could hinge on Chelsea's Europa League result against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday.

Defeat would allow the replay to take place in the first week of April. Victory would cause a fixture pile-up.

The international break runs from 18-27 March and it is considered impractical to cancel Premier League fixtures due to be played this weekend.

Chelsea would need to play a Europa League quarter-final in the two midweek dates before the FA Cup semi-final weekend of 13 and 14 April.

 After the game on Sunday, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said: "I don't know when the replay will be played, probably May!"


BBC Sport


Ferguson distraught after Man Utd exit to Real Madrid


Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was too "distraught" to face the media after their Champions League exit against Real Madrid at Old Trafford.

Ferguson was visibly enraged after Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir sent off Nani for a high challenge on Real's Alvaro Arbeloa after 56 minutes with United leading through Sergio Ramos's own goal.

Real took advantage of the dismissal with quick goals from Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo on his return to Old Trafford to confirm a 2-1 win on the night and 3-2 aggregate victory to reach the last eight.

United assistant manager Mike Phelan replaced Ferguson at the post-match media conference and said: "It's a distraught dressing room and a distraught manager. That's why I am sitting here now.

"I don't think the manager is in any fit state to talk to the referee about the decision. It speaks volumes that I am sitting here now rather than the manager of this fantastic football club."

Phelan continued: "We are extremely disappointed and wondering what has happened and why it has happened.

"We feel as though we had the tactics right for the game on such a big occasion.

We felt we were comfortable at 0-0. It was where we wanted to be, then we scored the goal that put us in a commanding position.

"We were in reasonable control and then the game totally changed. The decision was amazing but we had to carry on because it is hard enough playing Real Madrid with 11 men.

"Referees are there to make decisions but there is also an element of doing the right thing. All the media and a television audience watching all over the world will have an opinion on the decision but it was a disappointing one and it spoiled the game."


BBC Sport


PSG lavish praise on Beckham


Paris St Germain lashed out at David Beckham's critics after he cleared all doubts about his conditioning and performance level with an excellent showing for his first start with his new side.

The former England captain, who made a cameo debut of 15 minutes for PSG in Sunday's home league victory over Marseille, featured for 86 minutes in the Coupe de France last 16 victory over the same opponent.

Sports director Leonardo took the opportunity to hit out at all those who have questioned the real motives of Beckham's signing on a five-month deal and suggested it was only a marketing coup.

"You said it - we signed him only to take pictures, to set news conference and sell shirts," he said. "It's up to you to judge. You, the experts, who know soccer."

Beckham looked rejuvenated to his coach Carlo Ancelotti, who praised his new player's excellent performance with a softer tone than Leonardo.

  "He made a very good game. He showed that he can play. I think that he did not look like he was 37 tonight," the Italian said with a rare smile.

Ancelotti commented more on the game during which Beckham completed the more passes throughout the game, created a couple of chances from his neat set-pieces and also took his part in the defensive work in a deep midfield position.

  "He made good passes as usual, he was well positioned on the pitch alongside Blaise Matuidi. He was very solid," he said. "He can bring a lot of things, his passing skills, his experience, his (aggressiveness)."

  The Englishman himself, who had not played for three months before making his appearance three days ago, said he had "enjoyed" his first start.

"It's always nice to start. I really enjoy playing in this team, with special players like these ones," he said. "If I am tired? Not really. I feel good though I certainly am not ready to play 90 minutes." .


Australia stroll to final victory over Windies


Australia beat West Indies by 114 runs in the final of the ICC Women's World Cup in Mumbai.

After Jess Cameron and Rachael Haynes had guided Australia to a daunting total of 259-7 with knocks of 75 and 52 respectively, they bowled the Windies out for just 145.

Merissa Aguilleira top scored with 23 but in reality West Indies never made any inroads and were well beaten - after Shaquana Quintyne had earlier impressed with the ball in taking 3-27. Haynes and Meg Lanning put on 52 for Australia before the latter was caught by Kyshona Knight for 31.

Haynes and Cameron then put on 64 before Cameron was caught by Knight for 52 off 74 deliveries, including six boundaries. Cameron top-scored for Australia with a speedy 75 off 76 balls including two sixes and eight boundaries, before she too was caught by Knight.

West Indies' response started slowly as Australia quickly reduced them to 41-3. It was not until Aguilleira and Deandra Dottin began to set about the bowlers that they looked like they would have a go at reaching the Australia total.

However, their partnership was brought to an end when Aguilleira was clean bowled by Lisa Sthalekar and with her exit on 88-4, so went the West Indies' chances.

 It took until the 30th over for them to bring up the 100 mark and they never looked anything but well beaten, as the Australians claimed their sixth world title.


Africa Cup of Nations final


Sunday Mba scored a magnificent winner as Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time.

The dominant Super Eagles made the breakthrough just before half-time when Mba clipped the ball over Mohamed Koffi and then volleyed into the far corner.

Burkina Faso almost equalised when Wilfried Sanou forced a fingertip save from goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

Ahmed Musa slipped as he looked set to score and Victor Moses almost poked home as Nigeria eased to victory.


BBC Sport


David Beckham set for Paris St Germain move


David Beckham has arrived in Paris to complete the formalities of a dramatic deadline day move to Paris St Germain.

The 37-year-old will be officially presented as a PSG player on Thursday afternoon and will begin training with the club in the next fortnight. Beckham has been without a club since leaving MLS side LA Galaxy in December and has been training with Arsenal.

The former England captain had firm offers from 12 different clubs but has opted for Ligue 1's big spenders. Despite recently announcing he was to permanently base his family in London, Beckham always said he would make a decision on his next move - based on "footballing reasons".

PSG have spent more than £200m in the last 18 months, and are managed by Carlo Ancelotti - who was in charge of AC Milan during Beckham's loan spell there. They are also still in this season's Champions League and will face Spanish side Valencia.

The Paris club are currently top of Ligue 1 and already have a squad that includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Beckham, who made a record 115 outfield appearances for England, was part of the Manchester United side that famously beat Bayern Munich to win the 1999 Champions League.

He left Old Trafford for Real Madrid in 2003, before agreeing his move to LA Galaxy in January 2007 and making his debut for the club in August in that year. He attracted criticism from some Galaxy fans after agreeing loan moves to AC Milan in 2009 and 2010 which meant missing some of the MLS season.

And he brought an end to his five-and-half-year spell in the United States on 2 December after winning the MLS Cup for the second time. At PSG, Beckham will be hoping to win a league title in a fourth country, having already enjoyed success at Manchester United and Real Madrid in Europe before moving to Major League Soccer.

Beckham had been close to joining PSG last January but opted to stay in California for one more season. PSG have been the highest-spending club in Europe in the past year and will officially present Beckham as their player at 16:00 GMT.


BBC Sport


Lance Armstrong has tarred every cyclist


Roger Hammond knew what he wanted to do in life from a young age. At six years old, following an afternoon in front of the TV watching the Paris-Roubaix road race, he wandered into the kitchen with something important to tell his parents.

One day, he confidently told them, he would win that race. As one of cycling's Classics, Paris-Roubaix is renowned for the unique challenge it poses to the professional cyclists who annually compete in it. The route in northern France incorporates large sections raced over cobblestones, remorselessly shaking the competitors, with riders often physically exhausted by the time they finish.

There's a good reason why the makers of a 1976 documentary about the race called their film "A Sunday In Hell". So young Roger's bold prediction could easily have been dismissed as nothing more than a childhood fantasy. Only his dream almost became reality.

"It was dry that day I watched the race. There was dust everywhere, it seemed like chaos. In the whole race - there was always something amazing going on. Crashes, attacks, the suspense to the finish, it captured my imagination," says Englishman Hammond, 38. "From that day on every decision I made revolved around Paris-Roubaix.

"So I took French as an A-level because I wanted to be able to speak French, for when I joined a French team, to be ready [for the race]. "I rode cycle-cross throughout my career so I could improve my bike skills, as the race is all about riding and slipping on the cobblestones."

"I realised there was a lot of doping in cycling. And I got caught up in the fact that I couldn't win because everyone else was cheating. "As an athlete that's a vicious circle. So you either join them and carry on with them. Or you go the other way and just concentrate on what you did yourself. And so I concentrated on myself. I asked myself what I could do to make myself as good as possible."

Trying to be the best without recourse to synthetic processes involved many sacrifices, such as giving up decent accommodation during one stage of his career. Instead Hammond bought an £8,000 altitude chamber to sleep in so he could increase his endurance levels.

He is one of an unknown number of riders from Armstrong's era who claim they competed clean, who say they chose not to put a cocktail of drugs into their bodies or undergo blood transfusions in order to maximise their chances of winning.


BBC Sport


Paul McGinley handed Europe captaincy


Irishman Paul McGinley has been named as Europe's captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. The 46-year-old played in three Ryder Cups, was vice-captain in 2010 and 2012 and holed the winning putt in 2002.

McGinley was preferred to Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie, who captained a victorious European team in 2010 and wanted to fulfil the role again.

"This is a position I'm really thrilled to be in," said the Dubliner, Ireland's first captain. "It's also a very humbling experience and I can't wait to get into the role of captain and to working with the players."

World number one Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup stalwarts Luke Donald and Justin Rose all publicly backed McGinley for the captaincy of the biennial event against the United States.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, was also in the frame but formally requested not be considered last week. Scotland's Paul Lawrie, Open champion in 1999, and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez were also considered by the committee.

The decision was made by the European Tour's tournament committee, led by chairman Thomas Bjorn, after a meeting in Abu Dhabi. Scotsman Montgomerie, who played in eight Ryder Cups, was a late contender but seen by some as a bigger name than McGinley and better able to oppose American choice, eight-time major champion Tom Watson.

But in recent times Europe have taken the view that the Ryder Cup captain should serve for one match only, with Bernard Gallacher ('91, '93 and '95) the last man to lead the side more than once.

A winner of four European Tour titles, McGinley's best campaign was in 2005 when he finished runner-up three times before lifting the season-ending Volvo Masters crown.

And while the Dubliner may not have had as much individual success as eight-time European number one Montgomerie, many felt he did enough as a vice-captain (in 2010 and 2012) and as Britain and Ireland's two-time winning Seve Trophy captain to indicate he has the ability to lead Europe.

In 2009 McGinley, Ireland's first captain in the event, cajoled a supposedly weaker GB and Ireland team to a 16½-11½ victory over a continental Europe side led by Bjorn.


BBC Spoert


Murray draws Haase in Aussie Open


British number one Andy Murray will open his bid for a second Grand Slam title against Dutchman Robin Haase at the Australian Open next week.

The draw, which took place in central Melbourne, pitted the US Open champion against the world number 54. Murray could face Juan Martin del Potro in the last eight and Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

British number one Heather Watson will play Alexandra Cadantu and Laura Robson will take on Melanie Oudin. Murray has been drawn in the opposite half to world number one and defending champion Djokovic, meaning they could only meet in the final.

The Scot has a 1-1 record against Haase, and their last match was a dramatic five-set victory for Murray at the 2011 US Open. Speaking before the draw, he said: "It sounds cliched but I don't really ever look beyond the first round of the draws.

"The strength of the men's game right now means it's dangerous to look too far ahead, so I'm happy taking it match by match." He added: "I always love coming out to Australia, it's a great Slam and all the players love it, there's a laid-back atmosphere here and it definitely beats the weather back home this time of year.

"Having said that, it can hit 40 degrees during the day, so fitness and recovery definitely play a big part. "I've performed consistently here and have been in two Grand Slam finals here in the last few years, but I'm aiming to go one better this year."

Djokovic plays Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in round one, and fourth seed David Ferrer is a potential semi-final opponent. In-form Australian Bernard Tomic will open against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, with Roger Federer potentially waiting in round three.

The Swiss plays France's Benoit Paire in round one. Watson, ranked 47, looks to have the better draw of the two British women as she starts against Romania's world number 89. Cadantu won their only previous encounter on clay last year but Watson has since moved into the world's top 50 and won her first WTA title.

Robson will meet former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in round two, should she get past American Oudin. The pair have met once before in the seniors, with Robson winning in Melbourne 12 months ago.

Watson will play on Monday, Murray and Robson on Tuesday. Reigning champion and world number one Victoria Azarenka plays Romanian Monica Nicolescu in round one, while five-time champion Serena Williams meets another Romanian, Edina Gallovits-Hall. Williams and Azarenka are in the same half of the draw, which could also see Venus Williams take on Maria Sharapova in round three.


BBC Sport


Union continue negotiations; to meet Wednesday


Negotiations toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement continued Tuesday as the National Hockey League tabled a comprehensive response to the counterproposal it received Monday from the National Hockey League Players' Association.

"The fact that we're involved in a continuous process is something that I'm glad to see," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "but we're clearly not done yet.

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said Tuesday evening that the Union's negotiating committee was going to immediately begin examining the documents it received. Fehr also said the Union plans to get back in touch with the League's negotiating committee Wednesday morning to plan the next step in the process. The sides say they expect to reconvene for further bargaining at some point Wednesday.

  "The Players' Association said they would be back to us [Wednesday] morning to let us know when they'd be ready," Bettman said. On Monday, the NHLPA responded to a proposal it received from the NHL last week. The League took Monday night and most of Tuesday to go over the documents it received from the NHLPA in order to craft its response.

The League delivered its response late Tuesday during a meeting at the League office that lasted a little less than an hour. "We asked a couple of questions and now what we have to do is go through the document, try to make some sense out of it, compare it and see what the appropriate thing is to do next," Fehr said.

"And, that's what we are going to do. "We are going to start tonight, we'll continue in the morning and we'll be in touch with them in the morning. There is really not anything that can be said at this point."

Commissioner Bettman characterized the League's response in this manner: "In our response there were certain things that the Players' Association asked for that we agreed to, there were some things that we moved in their direction and there were other things that we said no. But, that's part of the process."


Russian side offered £205m for Messi


Spanish sports daily El Mundo Deportivo reports that the club agreed to pay more than double the world record transfer fee, and offered the Argentine a €30m (£24.6m) annual pay packet after tax.

Once that sum was offered Barcelona were contractually obliged to accept it - but from that point it was up to the player whether he was interested in leaving the club. The bid came during Messi's recent contract negotiations with Barcelona.

However, the 25-year-old rejected the move and signed a two-year extension with Barça that ties him to the Camp Nou until 2018. Although the club was not named it is likely to have been Anzhi Makachkala, who are owned by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov.

In 2011 Anzhi signed former Barça striker Samuel Eto'o, making him the highest-paid player in world football. El Mundo Deportivo said Messi rejected the Russian move because of his desire to continue winning titles at Barcelona.

He scored a record 91 goals in 2012 and is expected to win his fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or. Neither is Messi short of cash - in March it was revealed he earns £27m per year, topping up his £13m salary with sponsorships and endorsements.

 Every player in Spanish football must have a minimum fee release clause in their contract. Cristiano Ronaldo's is the highest, standing at €1bn (£800m) .


Star trio stays in Barcelona commits until 2018


Lionel Messi has agreed a new contract which will keep him at Barcelona until the summer of 2018.

The three-time World Player of the Year was previously signed up until 2016 and will be 31 by the time his latest deal expires.

And Barca have also tied down one-club stalwarts Xavi and Carles Puyol until the summer of 2016 - effectively for the rest of their careers.

Messi is in the running for a fourth successive FIFA Ballon d'Or, due to be awarded on 7 January, and recently set a new mark for goals scored in a calendar year.

Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals stood for 40 years before the Argentine's double against Real Betis on 9 December took him to 86, and two more followed in each of the games against Cordoba and Atletico Madrid.

Messi will have played 14 seasons at Camp Nou by the summer of 2018, and he already has five Primera Liga winners' medals and three from the Champions League.

Xavi's new deal, meanwhile, is due to expire almost 18 years after his Barca debut as an 18-year-old in 1998 - little more than 12 months before Puyol made his first senior appearance.


Beckham helps LA to a 3-1 win in MLS Cup final


David Beckham capped his playing career with Los Angeles Galaxy by winning the MLS Cup in his final game. Galaxy - the defending champions - had to fight back from 1-0 down against Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Centre but Omar Gonzalez equalised and Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane both converted penalties to win the game 3-1.

Beckham was substituted to a standing ovation deep into injury time and after the final whistle the former England captain broke down in tears. It was the final act of Beckham's time with Los Angeles - on the pitch at least - as he wants to continue his playing career elsewhere. Calen Carr's goal shortly before the interval gave the Texas team the lead to shock the home fans.

But defender Gonzalez powered home a superb header at the back post on the hour before Donovan converted a penalty five minutes later. Keane, who had two efforts disallowed, got his reward in injury time when Houston keeper Tally Hall tried to bring him down and the Irishman rose to slot home the penalty and seal victory.

"It's special to get any victory in a cup final, in front of our home fans," he told ESPN. "It's an amazing day today. I'm sad it's the end - it's been a special place for me and it will continue to be a special place for me."

Asked if he could reveal where he would be playing next he said: "I have no idea - I'm happy that I'm wearing this uniform today and that I have been part of this club for six years. I'm happy that I've been successful with this club for the last four years. I'm very thankful for that.

"I'm going to continue my commitment to this league and this country and my commitment will be the same as it was when I first came here six years ago. "I might not be playing here anymore but my commitment stays the same to growing this league and growing this sport."


Sky Sports


Chelsea name Benitez interim boss


Chelsea have appointed former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez as interim manager until the end of the season. He replaces Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked on Wednesday following a 3-0 Champions League defeat by Juventus.

Benitez, 52, becomes Chelsea's ninth manager since Roman Abramovich became owner in 2003. But his short-term appointment could pave the way for Abramovich to make a summer approach for ex-Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

A Chelsea statement said: "The owner and the board believe that in Benitez we have a manager with significant experience at the highest level of football, who can come in and immediately help deliver our objectives.

"The two-time Uefa Manager of the Year comes with outstanding pedigree." Benitez joined Liverpool from Valencia in 2004 and won the Champions League in 2005, as well as reaching the final in 2007, before leaving Anfield by mutual consent in 2010. He has been out of work since he was sacked by Inter Milan in December 2010. He spent just six months in charge of the Serie A club despite winning two titles - the Club World Cup and Italian Super Cup.

The Spaniard is due to meet the Chelsea players at the club's training ground in Cobham on Thursday. His first match in charge is Sunday's visit of Premier League leaders and reigning champions Manchester City. Before his appointment was confirmed, Benitez admitted his interest in the job to Abu Dhabi-based website Sport 360.

"I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one of these clubs," he said. When he was asked about the prospect of managing on a short-term basis, he added: "I am just trying to go to a team that can win. So we will find ways to have a challenge like this."

Former Chelsea midfielder Nigel Spackman suggested Benitez's appointment would be unpopular with Blues fans. He told BBC Radio 5 live: "You won't find many Chelsea fans happy with an appointment of an ex-Liverpool manager.

"Benitez has got a great CV and a good record, but the only way he will win the Stamford Bridge crowd over is getting the results. Now he had to focus on trying to win the Premier League. "He is the interim manager but if he does a good job maybe he will get it for longer." David Johnstone, spokesman for Chelsea fanzine cfcuk, told BBC Sport that fans would be unhappy with Benitez as their new boss. "Rafa Benitez is not a Chelsea manager," he said.

"Some people are born to play for or manage certain clubs and for us, Benitez isn't what we want. "When he was Liverpool manager and Jose Mourinho was Chelsea boss there was a bit of 'beef' between them. "He was very dismissive of Chelsea, very rude towards us, and my impression of him was that whenever anything went wrong it was always somebody else's fault, not his."

Former Liverpool and Germany midfielder Dietmar Hamann, a Champions League winner under Benitez at Anfield, believes the Spaniard will improve Chelsea.

"He is a very talented and outstanding manager," he said. "He's a very meticulous worker and he puts a lot of emphasis on tactical exercises." Chelsea's declaration that Benitez is only manager until the end fo the season indicates Abramovich is still interested in landing Guardiola once the former Barcelona manager decides to return to the game.

Guardiola, 41, is midway through a 12-month sabbatical after leaving Barcelona at the end of last season. He won 14 trophies in four years at Barca, including three titles and the Champions League twice.

Di Matteo, 42, won the Champions League and FA Cup as caretaker manager last season and was given a two-year deal in June. The Italian spoke of his "deep and unreserved passion" for Chelsea despite being sacked as manager after just eight months in charge. His dismissal came hours after defeat to Juventus, leaving the Blues on the brink of a Champions League exit.


BBC Sport


Klitschko beats Wach to retain heavyweight belts


Wladimir Klitschko retained his IBF, IBO, WBO and WBA heavyweight titles by recording a unanimous points decision over Poland's Mariusz Wach in Hamburg.

Klitschko landed at will for nearly five rounds but Wach's huge right at the end of the fifth sent him reeling. The Ukrainian managed to survive, though, and showed no lasting effects before stepping up his punishment. The judges' scores of 120-107, 120-107 and 119-109 reflected Klitschko's domination in his 13th title defence. This was the first time Klitschko had fought without the legendary Emanuel Steward, who died last month aged 68, in his corner.

He paid tribute to the trainer after the fight and said: "I want to remember one man, who can't be here today unfortunately. We miss you, we love you, you are always here in the ring, thank you Emanuel."

Aspiring heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks has been appointed as Klitschko's interim new trainer. Klitschko landed several one-two combinations in the first, with the pattern continuing in the second. However, the previously unbeaten Wach attempted to spoil his opponent's work by tying Klitschko up.

In the fifth, the Pole brought the crowd to its feet with an overhand right that sent Klitschko into the ropes, although the Ukrainian showed his experience by covering up and avoiding any further damage as Wach sloppily went in for the kill. But Klitschko, who has not been beaten in eight years since being stopped by Lamon Brewster in 2004, did not seem to be affected at the start of the sixth and landed a straight right that temporarily stunned Wach.

The punishment continued in the seventh and Klitschko looked to stop the fight with perhaps only the bell preventing him from doing so, with Wach sent into the ropes after yet another right hand. Wach's lack of defence seemed to prove his undoing and he came in for severe punishment in the eighth before Klitschko settled into a rhythm in the ninth.

By the 10th Wach had marks over his eyes and nose and his lack of head movement was giving Klitschko all the encouragement he needed. Wach did land another rare right in the 11th that opened up a cut on Klitschko's left eye but the champion closed strongly to seal victory.

"It was a very tough fight and Mariusz had to take a lot of punches," the 36-year-old said in a ringside interview. "I thought he would go down but he fought on. He caught me in the fifth, but then I slipped."


BBC Sport


Raikkonen wins Abu Dhabi GP


Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel held on to his championship lead despite starting from the pit lane.

Raikkonen inherited the lead when Lewis Hamilton's McLaren retired. Vettel fought back up through the field, benefited from a safety car period that wiped out early errors, to finish third behind title rival Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. Alonso has narrowed Vettel's lead to 10 points with two races to go. In a thrilling, nail-biting, incident-packed race that belied the Yas Marina track's reputation, Hamilton initially looked set to take a dominant win.

The McLaren driver led away from pole and, apart from a brief scare when he made a mistake while struggling to warm up his tyres in the early laps and had to fight off an attack from Raikkonen, appeared in control. Hamilton was in the region of half a second a lap quicker than Raikkonen behind him when his car ground to a halt on lap 20 of 55. The problem was later found to be a fuel-pump failure, continuing a dismal run of reliability from McLaren in recent races.

That left Raikkonen in the lead, and he appeared in control, edging away from Alonso, who had passed Williams's Pastor Maldonado to take second place on the lap Hamilton retired. "I'm happy but nothing to jump around about," said Raikkonen. "For sure we have a good party today and after a long night we will remember why we feel like that.

"I hope this can turn around the tables and give us many more wins if not this year then next year." Meanwhile, Vettel had been working his way through the field after starting from the pit lane following his disqualification from qualifying for not having enough fuel in his car to provide a sample.

The German damaged his front wing in a collision with Williams's Bruno Senna but that barely impeded his progress through the backmarkers. However, the safety car was then deployed following a frightening crash in which Nico Rosberg's Mercedes was launched over the back of Narain Karthikeyan's HRT.

In the queue behind the safety car, Vettel misjudged the pace of Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso in front of him, had to take avoiding action and smashed into a trackside marker board. Those stops promoted Vettel to second place behind Raikkonen and Lotus believed Red Bull might be trying to get to the end of the race without stopping again.

Instead, Vettel pitted again on lap 37 for another set of tyres, rejoining fourth about 15 seconds behind the lead group of Raikkonen, Alonso and McLaren's Jenson Button. Two laps later, an incident between Sauber's Sergio Perez, Lotus's Romain Grosjean and Red Bull's Mark Webber brought out the safety car again and wiped out Vettel's deficit. It set up a thrilling climax to the race.

The race was restarted with 13 laps to go and as Raikkonen quickly built a three-second lead, Vettel immediately started to pressure Button for third. Button appeared to have the Red Bull under control but then Vettel made a final push and managed to pass Button for third around the outside into Turn 11 and then taking the inside into Turn 12 on lap 52.

Alonso got the lead down to a second but Raikkonen just held on. "I'm very happy," said Alonso. "We were not super-competitive this weekend. "We fought good in the first laps, good overtaking then strategy enabled us to fight for the victory. In the last laps Kimi was a bit slower so we attack, but second was the best possible result for us today.

We keep fighting to the end." Maldonado took fifth ahead of Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi. Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Senna, Force India's Paul di Resta and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.


BBC Sport


Chelsea: Terry stays skipper


Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck says John Terry will remain the captain of the club, despite his four-game FA suspension for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand of QPR.

Manager Roberto Di Matteo refused to say on Friday whether Terry would remain captain but Buck has now confirmed the player's internal punishment will not include loss of the armband.

However Buck says the defender has been fined by Chelsea and that, while the details will remain confidential, in line with club policy, it is "by far" the heaviest fine they have ever given a player.

He told Talksport: "John Terry will continue to be captain of the club. The other question you're likely to ask is whether we are going to suspend him for any matches, in addition to the four the FA suspended him for, and we are not.

"We have taken disciplinary action. We think it is firm disciplinary action and appropriate for the circumstances. In setting the appropriate level of discipline, we have kept in mind that a court of criminal law found him not guilty.

"Of course we note the FA decision and we certainly respect that decision and we have taken these factors and other factors in mind. We have consulted with the owner, Mr Abramovich, and this is not a decision we have taken lightly."

The Chelsea chairman has also issued an apology to the Ferdinand family, something Terry did not do in his statement on Thursday.

Buck said: "I understand, and as a club we understand, what they have gone through since a year ago and Chelsea Football Club would like to apologise to them. It has been a very difficult year for them and they didn't do anything wrong. And we are sorry."


Fabio Capello's Russia beat Portugal


Fabio Capello's Russia beat a Portugal side captained by Cristiano Ronaldo to maintain their impressive 100% start to the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Alexander Kerzhakov scored the only goal to keep Russia top of Group F. Elsewhere, Sweden narrowly avoided embarrassment in Group C, coming from behind to beat the Faroe Islands 2-1. Belgium became the first team to beat Serbia in a home World Cup qualifier for more than 10 years, as they eased to a 3-0 victory in Belgrade.

Belgium now sit top of Group A, thanks to goals from a trio of Premier League players - Aston Villa's Christian Benteke, Chelsea's Kevin de Bruyne and Kevin Mirallas of Everton - with Croatia moving into second after a 2-1 win over Macedonia . Italy claimed a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Armenia to extend their lead at the top of Group B.

Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a penalty, but a relentless response from Armenia saw then deservedly draw level through the in-form Henrick Mkhitaryam just before half an hour. The hosts continued to put Italy under pressure in the second half, but headers from Daniele de Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo clinched all three points for the Azzurri.

 Elsewhere in the group, two second-half goals and a late penalty save from Petr Cech helped the Czech Republic to a 3-1 win over Malta , their first win of their World Cup qualifying campaign. Bulgaria drew 1-1 with Denmark to stay second in Group B. Zlatan Ibrahimovic spared Sweden 's blushes as they came from a goal down to beat the Faroe Islands 2-1 in Group C.

The Faroes, playing on their new artificial pitch for the first time, stunned their more celebrated opponents on 57 minutes but goals from Alexander Kacaniklic and a 75th-minute winner by Ibrahimovic changed the game. Elsewhere in the group, Kazakhstan held Austria to a 0-0 draw.

In Group D, leaders Netherlands coasted to a comfortable 3-0 victory over lowly Andorra thanks to goals from former Tottenham midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ruben Schaken. While in the same group, Romania won their third consecutive qualifier with a 1-0 victory over Turkey in Istanbul.

Gheorghe Grozav scored the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time. In Group E, leaders Switzerland were held to a 1-1 draw by Norway , allowing Iceland to draw level at the top of the table with a 2-1 victory over Albania . In the same group Slovenia beat Cyprus 2-0.

Israel thrashed Luxembourg 5-0 in Group F, while Slovakia remain in control of Group G after a 2-1 win over Latvia . Lithuania beat Liechtenstein 2-0 in the same group. Pedro Rodriguez scored a hat-trick as Spain coasted to a resounding 4-0 victory over Belarus in Group I.

The World and European champions led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Pedro and his Barcelona team-mate Jordi Alba. Pedro scored twice more after the break as Spain drew level with France at the top of the table.


BBC Sport


Michael Schumacher Calls It Quits Again


Michael Schumacher has done what everyone expected him to do and announced that he will retire for the second—and final—time from Formula One.

 ESPN F1 quotes the German superstar as saying:
I have decided to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season, although I am still able to compete with the best drivers of the world. This is something that makes me proud, and this is part of why I never regretted my comeback. I can be happy with my performance and the fact that I was continuously raising my game during the last three years. But then, at some point it is time to say goodbye.

Schumacher leaves the sport with a record that is as impressive as it long. Spanning more than 20 years, his statistics are unparalleled. He has the most championships (7), most consecutive championships (5), most race wins (91), most pole positions (68), most fastest laps (77), most races with a single team, and he won races in 15 consecutive years. He led 142 races and covered 5,111 laps and more than 24,000 kilometres leading races. But that was also his record when he retired the last time.

 In 2010, I wrote:
Schumacher’s decision to return to Formula One racing was undesirable, unnecessary and unlikely to succeed. It’s difficult to think of a single upside to his return, other than another opportunity for his fans to see him one last time. He has done little in the intervening period to change that opinion. It’s difficult to know whether the Mercedes was an inferior car or whether Schumacher has just gone past the point where he could reasonably be expected to get the most out of it.

At 43, he isn’t close to being the oldest driver in F1 history—Louis Chiron holds that distinction at nearly 56 years old, and Luigi Fagioli won a race at 53—but those were different times, and modern Formula One racing is a completely different sport. One of the saddest sights in sports is a champion who didn’t know when to quit, and Schumacher is no exception. Had he stayed retired after he left the sport at the end of 2006, there would have been few who would question his legacy.

But now there will always be those questions about this misguided epilogue to his career. It’s easy to see why he came back. The chance to represent Germany’s most famous marque (coupled with a whopping salary) would have been almost irresistible. But, while he didn’t embarrass himself, it was clear that he was out of his depth and was regularly outperformed by his younger teammate. The resumption of his retirement is long overdue.

 The man himself sums it up beautifully, according to
I have had my doubts for quite a while whether I had the energy to [carry on]. I said in 2006 my battery was empty and now I am in the red zone. I don't know if there is time to recharge them - but I am looking forward to my freedom. This will not be the last that we see of Schumacher in F1, even if it won’t be in the driver’s seat. He should enjoy his retirement and, this time, stay retired.


Europe beat USA after record comeback


Europe's golfers produced a stunning final-day comeback to win the Ryder Cup at a shell-shocked Medinah.

With the United States requiring only four points from the 12 on offer, Europe somehow secured eight and a half to clinch a historic 14½-13½ win. Martin Kaymer sank a five-foot putt on the 18th green to get his team to the 14 points needed to retain the trophy, before a Tiger Woods bogey in the final match gifted them overall victory.

The win matches the record recovery of Ben Crenshaw's US team in Boston in 1999 and is the best from a European side in the Ryder Cup.

It was a fitting tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros, the man who did so much to reinvigorate the competition and whose trademark colours the side wore on the final day. "Seve will always be present with this team," said victorious European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

"He was a big factor for this event, for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing, and I think they did."

On an afternoon of scarcely believable drama in Chicago, Europe first clawed back their overnight deficit of four points and then matched their opponents point for nerve-shredding point. Blows were traded down the stretch, one side grabbing the initiative before the other snatched it back, until it came down to the last two matches on the final two holes.

Both were all-square, and when Steve Stricker three-putted on the 17th, Kaymer had a one-hole lead. Kaymer then made a brilliant approach from a bunker on 18, and with Stricker crumbling under the pressure he stepped up to roll home the pivotal putt.

For the first time in three days Europe had come charging out of the traps, Luke Donald going into an early two-hole lead over Bubba Watson and muting both his opponent and the crowd in the process. It was peerless sporting theatre, the sun-drenched autumnal course awash with excitement.

Jason Dufner held his nerve to see out Peter Hanson two up on the 18th, and it was level again at 13-13 with just two matches, both all-square, left on the course. None of the four - Kaymer, Stricker, Molinari and Woods - had won a single point between them all week. Stricker broke first, making a dreadful mess of his putts on 17 and then booming his approach to 18 long, while Kaymer conjured up a beauty from the fairway bunker.

With Woods going one up on Molinari on 17 Kaymer had two putts for the Cup, and he somehow held his nerve as the shadows lengthened to seal an extraordinary triumph. With the packed home galleries silent with disbelief, a dazed Woods blew two putts from within eight feet to hand Molinari a half point, and with it victory.

"We know what it feels like now from the '99 Ryder Cup," said US captain Davis Love. "It's a little bit shocking. We were playing so well."


BBC Sport


John Terry retires from international football


John Terry has announced that he has ended his career as an England ­footballer – and he departed with a rebuke for the Football Association, who he accused of making his position as an international player untenable.

The 31-year-old Chelsea captain, who won 78 caps for his country, is to go before an independent four-man commission on Monday, which was convened under the auspices of the FA, to defend himself against a charge of using racially abusive language towards Anton Ferdinand, the Queens Park Rangers defender.

Terry defended himself successfully against a criminal charge at Westminster magistrates court in July related to the same flashpoint: that he allegedly racially abused Ferdinand in the Premier League fixture between QPR and Chelsea at Loftus Road on 23 October last year. He was cleared by the chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, because there was not the required weight of evidence to support a conviction – proven beyond reasonable doubt.

But the FA, having started an investigation which was halted when the police and the Crown Prosecution Service began their inquiries, reopened their case and, on 27 July, brought its charge, much to Terry's dismay. Terry said that he was making his statement on Sunday "in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable".

Terry had been supported by the England manager, Roy Hodgson, who took him to the European Championship in June, while the court trial hung over him. As recently as last month, Hodgson expressed the hope that the independent commission would clear Terry and what has been an unedifying and destructive affair could finally approach closure. "I'm hoping, and I make no secret of it, that the case will take its course and John, hopefully, will be freed as he was freed in a court of law and will carry on playing for England," Hodgson said.

"That's my hope. What will happen, I have no idea. I thought John did well in the Euros and I'd like to keep using him but this is a case which is way out of my hands. John understands that." Terry called Hodgson before he issued his retirement statement to offer him forewarning and thank him for standing by him. The respect between the pair is clear. There was the sense that nothing could retain the capacity to shock after an 11-month saga that has taken many turns, including Terry being stripped of the England captaincy by the FA and Fabio Capello resigning his post as the manager in protest, but the timing of the player's statement, on the eve of his hearing, was surprising.

Terry's legal advisers are aware the FA requires a lower burden of proof to obtain a guilty verdict. Its commissions judge on what they call the "balance of probability", as opposed to "beyond reasonable doubt" in criminal trials. Terry's lawyers are also mindful that the FA's success rate in such matters is high, largely because the governing body does not bring charges if it feels that it does not have a winnable case. It is not duty-bound to bring charges, as the police may be. Terry's international retirement was seen by some as a pre-emptive decision.

The FA made no comment on Sunday night, as it opted to take stock of Terry's statement. The fact that the commission, chaired by an independent QC, is poised to begin examining the evidence, complicated the FA's position. Terry's words were left to speak for themselves. "Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honour," he said. "I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision.

I want to wish Roy [Hodgson] and the team every success for the future. "I would like to thank the England managers who have selected me for my 78 caps. I have had great pleasure in sharing that honour with all the players that I've played with. I would like to thank them, the fans and my family for their support and encouragement during my international career. I now look forward to playing for Chelsea FC, and challenging for domestic and European honours." Chelsea said Terry's decision had been "personal and difficult".


Mancini warns Joe Hart over criticism


Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has told goalkeeper Joe Hart to stop criticising the team, insisting he is the only "judge".

City twice led Champions League rivals Real Madrid before slipping to a dramatic 3-2 defeat in the Bernabeu. "You can't go 2-1 up with five minutes to go and lose the game," Hart said. "We can only blame ourselves." But Mancini responded: "If anyone should criticise the team, I should criticise the team, not Joe Hart." The Italian added: "Joe Hart should stay as goalie. I am the judge, not Joe Hart."

City had to withstand some intense pressure before Edin Dzeko gave them the lead at the Bernabeu. Marcelo equalised for Real Madrid only for the Spanish side to fall behind again when Aleksandar Kolarov's free-kick curled in after 85 minutes. But Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo both powered in shots to give the La Liga champions a thrilling victory. "We dug deep, got a lead twice and we lost it, so we can only blame ourselves," Hart told ITV.

"It's hard to come off the field after losing 3-2 and be positive. I'm really sorry. "We're not a team that should come here and pat ourselves on the back for doing well. We're a team that gets results." Mancini added: "It is difficult not because we lost - we can lose against a side like Real Madrid - but because with four minutes to go it was 2-1. "This is strange. I think we need to improve this situation.

"Sometimes we go too deep. We made some mistakes and I don't want us to continue defending like this. "In the first half, they played better than us but in the second half we played well and scored two goals. "When you score two goals here and are 2-1 you should pay more attention." Mancini also believes his Premier League champions cannot use a lack of European experience as an excuse for the defeat.

"We can't continue to talk about experience," he said. "We have good players who play for their international teams. They play a lot of games. "I think I am happy for our performance in the second half but I think we can improve and we should be disappointed that we lost."

City were eliminated after the group stages last season and Mancini is determined to avoid a similar fate this time around. "We have five games left in the group and it is important we beat Borussia Dortmund at home next," said the Italian. "It will be difficult as they are a top team but this year we want to go through."




Oscar Pistorius sets world record in 200m heat


Oscar Pistorius set the Paralympics athletics competition alight with a new world record in the men's T44 200m.

The 25-year-old South African, who competed in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the Olympics, won his heat from lane eight in 21.30 seconds, beating the new mark of 21.88 set earlier in the night by Brazil's Alan Oliveira.

Prior to today, Pistorius's best time in the event was 21.76. He will also be competing in the 100m, 400m and 4x100m at the Paralympics.

"I didn't expect it at all," said Pistorius, who will compete in the 200m final on Sunday. "I tapped off well before the line and it makes me very happy."

I didn't expect a world record. Hopefully, I can go lower tomorrow. Brazil's Oliveira and USA's Blake Leeper are expected to be Pistorius's closest rivals in the final.

And Pistorius added: "The vibe inside the stadium was just as good as the Olympics - as passionate and energetic."

Elsewhere, sixteen-year-old Welsh sprinter Jordan Howe finished seventh in the T35 final, while fellow cerebral palsy athlete, Hazel Robson , 33, finished sixth in the T36 200m final.


BBC Sport


Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid


The Spanish Super Cup remains delicately poised after Barcelona secured a 3-2 win against Real Madrid in a pulsating first leg.

Real's Cristiano Ronaldo first headed in a corner, which Pedro levelled immediately from the kick-off. Lionel Messi scored a penalty after Andres Iniesta was fouled, before Xavi slotted home a sublime third.

Angel Di Maria then pounced on keeper Victor Valdes' mistake to breathe life into next Wednesday's second leg. The match was the first time the two sides had met since Pep Guardiola ended his reign as Barcelona manager and was replaced by assistant Tito Vilanova.

Jose Mourinho's Madrid side looked to pounce on the counter attack from the off, and could have gone ahead if former Manchester United winger Ronaldo had played a firmer pass to Karim Benzema on the edge of the penalty box.

Reigning Fifa World Player of the Year Messi - already on the receiving end of a strong challenge from the visiting defender Fabio Coentrao - then blazed over from 20 yards before Pedro tested Iker Casillas.

The first half continued in the standard tempo of a 'Clasico' as Spanish Cup holders Barcelona dominated the ball with their relentless 'Tiki-taka' passing, and La Liga champions Real threatened with their incisive speed and power on the break.

Their patience was rewarded in the 55th minute as Ronaldo freed himself from marker Sergio Busquets and headed in a Mesut Ozil corner to claim a goal in his fourth successive visit to the Nou Camp.

Barcelona hit back one minute later as Javier Mascherano played in Pedro to slot under Casillas for a quickfire equaliser.

Messi then put Barcelona ahead from 12-yards after Sergio Ramos' clumsy foul, and midfield pair Xavi and Iniesta produced the move of the night as their artistry cut open Real for the latter to score a potentially decisive third goal.

Barcelona seemed to have the trophy sewn up, before Valdes dawdled on the ball and substitute Di Maria robbed him to slot home a vital away goal.

Mourinho jabbed Vilanova in the eye in a melee at the end of last year's Super Cup, but there was no repeat of that controversial scene on the final whistle ahead of next week's decider.


BBC Sport


Van Persie in £24m move to Man Utd from Arsenal


Robin van Persie has completed his £24m move from Arsenal to Manchester United. The Dutch striker, 29, has signed a four-year deal and could make his debut at Everton on Monday.

He said: "It's an honour to sign for Manchester United. "I am looking forward to following in the footsteps of so many great strikers, bringing my experience and playing my part to help the team compete for the biggest trophies in the game. I can't wait to get started."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "The boy wanted to come. He turned down various clubs. If he hadn't told Arsenal he wanted to go to Manchester United, the transfer wouldn't have happened.

"His talents need no introduction to our fans. He has scored a number of goals against us in some classic battles with his former club. His movement, finishing and all-round ability are outstanding. And Ferguson revealed he enjoyed negotiating with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

"I can't elaborate but it was amicable," said the Scot. "Arsene knew the boy wanted to leave. He knew he wanted to join us. That made it a bit easier but not in terms of trying to reduce the fee. "[Wenger] could run a poker school in Govan. He got a great price but we are also happy the matter is concluded.

"From the starting position when we first started negotiating, Arsene has done well." Van Persie said there were "no hard feelings" against his former club "It's just uncertain elements that we had a different view on. That's life. No-one is angry at me and I'm not angry at them," he said.

"It is always difficult to find the perfect match but I feel this is the perfect match. United will pay £22.5m, with a further £1.5m one-off bonus to follow if they win a Premier League or Champions League title in the next four years.

The Netherlands international scored 44 goals in 57 games for club and country last season. Van Persie was named Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' player of the year, but scored only once as the Netherlands were eliminated at the group stage of Euro 2012.


Peralta double takes Mexico to gold


Mexico left Brazil's long-cherished Olympic dream in tatters again when they scored a stunning 2-1 upset win to clinch the men's football title for the first time at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Brazil, the hot favourites and desperate to win the only major football title to elude them, ended with the silver for the third time after two goals from Oribe Peralta - the first after 28 seconds - sent them crashing to defeat.

Their players, who won all five matches scoring 15 goals on their way to the final, looked utterly crestfallen on the victory podium as their 60-year search for the Olympic gold, which looked certain to end here, continues.

The result threatens the position of coach Mano Menezes, who is also the coach of the senior side and hopes to be in charge when Brazil host the World Cup in two years time.

Brazil's young side - the Olympics is essentially an Under-23 competition with three over age players allowed - were stunned by Peralta's first minute goal which came after a mix-up between Sandro and Rafael.

They never really got back into the match until after half-time when the likes of Olympic poster boy Neymar, Oscar and Leandro Damiao began to click.

That was largely because of the influence of Hulk, who replaced Alex Sandro after 32 minutes and Brazil were an improved side after the break. But Mexico, who beat them in a friendly before the Olympics, were never ruffled.

Even without their injured playmaker Giovani Dos Santos, they kept their composure and doubled their lead when Peralta powered in their second with a 75th minute header from a free-kick only minutes after having a goal ruled out for offside.

They conceded late into added time when Hulk angled a shot home and survived a header from Oscar soon after when he should have equalised - but held on for Mexico's first gold of the London Games and their first major international football title.

Their previous best Olympic performance was a fourth place finish at the 1968 Mexico Games and their best World Cup performances came in the two World Cups they hosted in 1970 and 1986 when they reached the quarter-finals.


Michael Phelps wins 18th and final Olympic gold


American Michael Phelps won the 18th and final Olympic gold medal of his career before he retires as the United States took the 4x100m medley relay.

The 27-year-old swam the third butterfly leg to help the US past Japan before Nathan Adrian brought them home in the freestyle leg.

Australia took the bronze, with Great Britain in fourth.

Phelps ends his incredible career with 18 gold medals at Olympic Games and 22 medals in total.

Backstroker Matt Grevers and breaststroker Brendan Hansen set the US on their way in the last final of the London 2012 swimming competition, but it took Phelps to wrestle the advantage away from an impressive Japan team.

Phelps made his Olympic debut in Sydney as a 15-year-old in 2000 and won six golds and two bronze medals in Athens, followed by a historic eight gold medals in Beijing.

He ends London 2012 with more medals than any other swimmer at the Games - four golds and two silvers.


Hamilton: There's still all to play for


Lewis Hamilton has conceded he has plenty of work still to do if he is to challenge for the World Championship but insisted that a title tilt is still possible after winning in Hungary.

Despite his weekend of dominance around the Hungaroring culminating in a nervy but priceless victory ahead of the Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, the 2008 World Champion still trails Fernando Alonso by forty-seven points in the standings - almost the equivalent of two race wins.

Yet with the McLaren's vast improvement made plain in Hungary, with Hamilton topping the timesheets of every single session with the exception of Practice Three, what seemed almost impossible now looks distinctly possible.

Asked by Sky Sports F1 if he nows believes he can win this year's World Championship, a guarded Hamilton responded: "We still have a big gap and Fernando, the Red Bulls and the Lotuses are still quick. So we've got to keep working.

We've still got to improve, but we've proved this week that there is still all to play for. "I'm very mindful that there is still a long way to go, but this just shows that the season isn't over yet."

Sky F1's Martin Brundle was more emphatic on the revitalisation of Hamilton's title chances. "Even under pressure, Lewis didn't falter. It was a champion's drive and he has brought himself back into play for the championship. It's still a long shot but it's absolutely possible. He's back in the hunt."

Hamilton's victory has also strengthened the expectation that he will elect to extend his stay with McLaren by signing a new deal during the August break. But the 27-year-old seems determined to remain circumspect on his plans.

It is a promising team," he joked. "We've got the break and we'll see what happens. But there's no rush and the most important thing is that the guys back at the factory have been given this boost to know that they are on the right path."


Gazprom becomes Chelsea sponsor


Russian energy major Gazprom and reigning European club champions Chelsea have signed a three-year sponsorship deal.

The contract, announced late Tuesday, commits the state-controlled company to supplying gas and electricity to Roman Abramovich’s club.

Neither side disclosed the value of the deal, which comes just over a week after Gazprom became an official UEFA Champions League sponsor through 2015.

"This is another very exciting global partnership for the club, and demonstrates the ever-growing appeal of Chelsea FC," the club quoted chief executive Ron Gourlay as saying.

As for Gazprom, the company continues its football expansion. Apart from the aforemantioned involvement into the Champion League, they currently own the Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg and support the German side Schalke 04.


Beckham not selected for London 2012 football squad


David Beckham has not been selected for the Great Britain Olympic football squad. The 37-year-old former England skipper said in May he thought he had a "good chance" of playing at London 2012.

He said: "Naturally I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. "I would have been honoured to have been part of this unique Team GB squad. Like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold."

Beckham made manager Stuart Pearce's shortlist of 35 players but was overlooked for the final 18-man squad as one of three players over the age of 23 allowed to compete in the Olympics.

Pearce, who watched Beckham play for Los Angeles Galaxy in the United States last week, picked Manchester City defender Micah Richards ahead of him. Pearce rang Beckham on Wednesday night to tell him the news, explaining that he wanted more defensive cover in the squad.

Richards has been included alongside Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs and Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy as the three over-age players.

Beckham, who signed a new two-year with LA Galaxy in January, was part of the Olympic flame handover ceremony in May, bringing it to Britain for the torch relay.

He played a major role as a sporting ambassador when London won the 2012 bid, and has made no secret of his desire to captain Team GB.


IOC begins Olympics tickets investigation


The International Olympic Committee has begun an investigation into claims Olympics representatives were willing to sell thousands of tickets for the London Games on the black market.

The IOC's ruling executive board met after fresh claims by the Sunday Times involving more than 50 countries. This included allegations that tickets for top events were available for up to 10 times their face value. The IOC has referred the allegations to its independent ethics commission. Former LibDem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, a member of the Olympic Board, called for offending countries to lose future allocations of tickets.

The UK's Olympics organiser, Locog, denied claims its chairman, Lord Coe, was persuaded to hand over extra tickets to an IOC national representative. The Sunday Times has submitted a dossier of evidence detailing claims that Olympic officials and agents had been caught selling thousands of tickets on the black market for up to 10 times their face value, says BBC Sports News correspondent James Pearce.

The IOC could also review how Olympic tickets are distributed among member countries - more than one million were distributed to those taking part in the Games. Sir Menzies Campbell, a former Liberal Democrat leader who is on the Olympic Board, - which helps oversee London 2012 - told the BBC it was a "thorough disgrace".

"The sanctions [for offending countries] should be not just that the tickets get cancelled for this Olympic Games but that tickets are not awarded on future occasions," he added. The Sunday Times alleges, during a two-month investigation in which reporters posed as Middle Eastern ticket touts, it found corruption involving people representing 54 separate countries.

  IOC begins Olympics tickets investigation IOC begins Olympics tickets investigation


Sharapova wins French Open title


Maria Sharapova savours French Open win over Sara Errani.

Maria Sharapova says winning the French Open was a bigger achievement than claiming her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004. Sharapova beat Sara Errani in Paris for a first major since career-threatening shoulder surgery in 2008.

"When I won Wimbledon at 17, I thought that would be the most cherished moment of my career," she said. "But when I fell to me knees today on the court I realised that winning here was extremely special, even more so."

Sharapova's win at Roland Garros meant she became the 10th woman to win all four Grand Slams in her career, as she added to her Wimbledon crown, US Open win in 2006 and 2008 Australian Open victory. She has also lifted herself to world number one after dropping to 126 following her shoulder injury.

"It's been a long journey. I started from such a young age, but I'm not done yet, far from it," said the Russian. "I have a lot more to achieve, I always believed in my game and that I could get better on grass, clay, cement.

"No matter how tough it was or if people didn't believe in me, I never listened. I only listened to my own voice which told me that I would succeed again and I did. "No matter how many punches I took, I didn't care. I always got back up again. There were no excuses - I love this work of playing tennis.

"I could have said I have had enough when I was injured. I could have said I have enough money and fame, but when your love for the sport is bigger than those things, then you still get up to practice when it's freezing or when others have no belief."

Italian Errani will move into the top 10 in the world rankings following her surprise run to the French Open final, and she believes a mixture of nerves and Sharapova's big-hitting resulted in her defeat. "I was nervous, of course. In the beginning the court was full, but was very nice at the same time," she said.

"I started bad. That is what I don't like, because maybe for the tension, for everything. "And with this player, if you give her some games like this in the beginning, of course they are more relaxed." Errani added: "I couldn't arrive to play long points like I wanted to play, so it was difficult for me."


BBC Sport


Michel Platini tips Germany or Spain for Euro 2012 win


The UEFA President feels that Joachim Low's men belong to the same bracket as the highly-rated European champions.

UEFA president Michel Platini has tipped either Spain or Germany to emerge as victors during the upcoming European Championship.

Speaking at a gathering in Nyon, the 56-year-old set both of the finalists from the last edition of the competition apart from the rest of the crop, and said that both sides would be the teams to beat in Ukraine and Poland.

"As far as the favourites go, I always differentiate between those who can win and those who will be hard to beat," Platini said.

 "Germany and Spain belong to the first category, pretty much all the others belong to the second."

The France legend added that Germany's relative inexperience going into the tournament, with the youngest squad on average among all 16 competitors, may make them more eager to win the trophy.

"Germany are slightly younger, but the Germans are hungry. Spain, on the other hand, will try to defend their title with the same generation of players."


Webber triumphs in Monaco


A finely-judged drive from Mark Webber has seen the Australian become the sixth different driver to win one of the opening six races of the current campaign with victory at the Monaco GP.

The Red Bull driver led from start to finish in a grand prix dominated by tyre management and Monaco's ultra-restrictive nature. Not even a late sprinkling of rain could spice up a race that, for vast soporific swathes, felt more a procession than flat-out charge.

Even the fast-degrading Pirellis failed to enliven the drama, with each of the leading drivers adopting a policy of conservation that resulted in not a single overtaking move attempted, let alone completed, for a points-paying position once the first corner mayhem had been tidied up.

In was, in short, the sort of race that Monaco almost invariably produces: tightly-run but processed on a track too tight to permit any changes of position outside of the pit-stops. Six seconds covered the first six at the chequered flag, but they may as well have been separated by six minutes.

Not that any of those traditional quibbles should detract from Webber's performance, however. Around the ultimate driver's circuit, the 35-year-old was faultless, controlling the race from the front and thoroughly deserving the eighth F1 victory of his career.

Having held off Nico Rosberg with an atypically quick start off the line, Red Bull's calm reaction to Mercedes' attempt to undercut Webber by pitting Nico Rosberg ahead of predicted schedule proved decisive with the German failing to launch a convincing attempt for the lead of the race thereafter.

It might have been different had Sunday night's heavy rain shower arrived during the actual race, and it might be different still yet with a protest against the legality of the RB8 expected to be launched before the F1 circus makes its departure from the Principality, but the Red Bull team had double reason to celebrate with Vettel rescuing fourth place to finish behind new Championship leader Fernando Alonso.

There was little cheer either at Lotus, another team not short of pace but conspicuously short of points at the end of a weekend they had threatened to dominate at its start.

Kimi Raikkonen, on the back foot after missing Practice One, wound up a lacklustre ninth, while Romain Grosjean failed to make it through the first corner after being propelled into Michael Schumacher's Mercedes.

Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado were the collateral as the field tried to find a way around the stranded Lotus and, once the debris was cleared away, that was it for on-track drama. Not that Webber will be bothered about that, of course.




Chelsea wins Champions League


The charismatic striker was at the heart of Chelsea's unlikely comeback victory in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on Saturday night, scoring the tying goal in the 88th minute and the winner on the final penalty kick of the 4-3 shootout.

With two minutes to go and Chelsea down 1-0 to the German team in its home stadium, Drogba soared high from a corner to head home the equalizer and force 30 minutes of extra time, which ended 1-1. When it was still level after four penalty kicks each, the 34-year-old from Ivory Coast who makes a habit of scoring crucial goals did so again, sliding home the winner and giving Chelsea its first Champions League title. Chelsea's remarkable Champions League season has played out with the intensity of an opera since losing 3-1 to Napoli in a last 16, first-leg match in February.

The club's Russian owner Roman Abramovich -- whose craving for a Champions League title since 2003 is routinely described as a holy grail -- soon responded by firing coach Andre Villas-Boas and promoting assistant Roberto di Matteo, albeit with just an interim tag. Di Matteo responded by masterminding a stirring comeback against Napoli, defeat of Benfica and the epic rearguard action to eliminate Barcelona in the semifinals.

"The way we turned things around against Napoli, Barcelona, I think we deserve this trophy," Drogba said. "The last kick of the season and what a way to do it now." Abramovich now has the fascinating decision of whether to reward Di Matteo by entrusting his billion-dollar investment to the 41-year-old Italian on a permanent basis.

"Football, like life, is unpredictable and crazy," Di Matteo said. "Nobody could have predicted the last three months. To finish like this is incredible. Whatever the future holds for me, I'd be happy." Abramovich might consider how the interim coach helped protect the club's business plan.

Victory Saturday sealed Chelsea's last remaining route, as title holder, into next season's competition and retaining the elite status and finances that follow. The owner, who clapped and sang along as one of the fans' anthems, "The Liquidator," pounded the Allianz Arena sound system close to midnight, must also decide what contract to offer Drogba after his current deal expires next month. The final was billed as possibly Drogba's last match for the club after eight years of exceptional service in west London.

"We can't take decisions on moments like this, on emotions," he said. As against Barcelona, on Saturday Drogba led the attack alone as Chelsea was starved of possession, drew fouls where he could and came alive at the merest hint of a chance to score. For good measure, he conceded the extra-time penalty which his former Chelsea teammate Arjen Robben then struck too close to Petr Cech, helping the outstanding Czech goalkeeper earn best supporting honors. "When we have this guy in goal you have to believe," Drogba said.


Dortmund complete double


Borussia Dortmund completed their first ever league and cup double with an emphatic 5-2 victory over Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal final.

Robert Lewandowski was the hero at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, hitting a hat-trick as Jurgen Klopp's men underlined their superiority over Bayern this season. Jupp Heynckes' side must now focus their attention on next weekend's UEFA Champions League final against Chelsea.

And although world-class wide-men Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were on target for Bayern, the Bavarians played as though they already one eye on the huge European tie that awaits them. They certainly started the slower with Dortmund taking the lead after just three minutes through Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa.

The 23-year-old is believed to be a target for Manchester United in the summer and if this was to be his final game for BVB he signed off in style, converting Jakub Blaszczykowski's inviting cross. Bayern did regroup to level with Robben converting a penalty after Roman Weidenfeller brought Mario Gomez down inside the area.

But Dortmund took the lead with a penalty of their own before the break when Mats Hummels beat Manuel Neuer from the spot following Jerome Boateng's trip on Blaszczykowski. From that point on it was the Lewandowski show as he converted with two slick finishes either side of half-time to put Dortmund 4-1 up and start the party in the German capital.

Bayern refused to give up, pulling a goal back through Ribery with a quarter of an hour to go, before Lewandowski had the final word, completing his hat-trick after a mistake from Neuer. As Dortmund celebrated, the Bayern players contemplated the need to defeat Chelsea next Saturday in order to avoid going without a trophy for a second successive season.


Rooney's overhead kick named best Premier League goal


Wayne Rooney's overhead kick for Manchester United against Manchester City in February last season has been voted by fans as the best goal of the 20 years of the Premier League, it was announced on Thursday.

Rooney's acrobatic effort, which gave United a 2-1 home victory and helped them to win last term's title, was the only goal from the last 10 years among the nominees.

Dennis Bergkamp's swivel and finish for Arsenal against Newcastle United in 2002 and team mate Thierry Henry's dipping flick and volley against Manchester United in 2000 were second and third respectively.

The Premier League said in a statement that hundreds of thousands of fans had voted and that the top three received more than half the public vote, with Rooney garnering 26 percent, Bergkamp 19 percent and Henry 15 percent.

"I grew up watching the Premier League so to be voted the best goal in the history of the Premier League is a great feeling," Rooney said. "I'd like to say a big thank you to all the fans that voted for me."

Ex-United player David Beckham won the 10-year award in 2002 for his goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996.

A series of awards including best match, save and best goal celebration have been launched to mark the 20 years of the Premier League with results from the other online fan polls due in the coming weeks.

Rooney failed to reproduce his stunning goal in Monday's derby when City won 1-0 to leave the title in their grasp with two games left.


Pep Guardiola to end reign as Barcelona coach in summer


Pep Guardiola will stand down as Barcelona manager at the end of the season after deciding not to renew his rolling one-year contract.

The 41-year-old, who was appointed in 2008 and has led the Catalan club to 13 trophies, will be succeeded by current assistant Tito Vilanova. Barca look set to miss out to Real Madrid in La Liga and were knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea.

"The reason is simple: four years is enough," said Guardiola. "I'm drained and I need to fill up. The demand has been very high and a manager must be strong." It is understood the former Spain international will take a year away from football after relinquishing his duties to Vilanova. "At the beginning of December I announced to the chairman that I was seeing the end of my era at Barcelona," Guardiola continued. "Time has taken its toll - I rise each day and don't feel the same. I am going with the understanding that I have done my duty.

"You can only recover by resting and getting away from everything. It would have been a bad idea to continue. Perhaps it would not have gone wrong but I have the perception that it would. It is my time to go. "Now we are out of the two main competitions it is a good time to announce this. I did not want to continue with the confusion. "I want to thank my players who are responsible for everything that has happened here. I don't want to manage at the moment."

Guardiola was speaking at a news conference attended by many of his players and received rapturous applause at the end. The likes of captain Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas looked emotional as their coach announced his departure. Vilanova was not among the favourites to replace Guardiola once it emerged he would be leaving. But Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said: "We've always said that if the team needs players, we look at home first. What do we have here at home? Tito.

"We chose Tito because he represents the idea and the image. He has commitment and personality." Guardiola added: "Barca is making a great choice. He's very capable. The players know him. Even though I won't be here physically - if Tito needs me, I'm here." Guardiola is the most successful coach in Barca history, with three league titles, two Champions Leagues and a Copa del Rey among his haul. He has overseen the rise of three-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, while signing Fabregas from Arsenal.

Guardiola was particularly close to Messi - describing him as "the best ever" player - while the Argentina forward suggested Guardiola was the main factor behind Barca's recent success. Messi was one of the players who opted to stay away from Guardiola's news conference. Instead he posted a message on his Facebook page and stated he felt too much emotion to face the media glare. "Because of the emotions I feel I preferred not to be present at Pep's press conference and to stay away from the press because I know they will look for the pain on the players' faces," said Messi. "It is something I decided not to show."


BBC Sport


World Snooker: Brecel scores century


Teenage snooker sensation Luca Brecel compiled a century break on his Crucible debut against Stephen Maguire.

The Belgian, who became the youngest ever competitor at the event aged 17 years and 45 days, made a 116 in the penultimate frame of the first session.

However, it was the Scot who ended the opening period on top, going 4-0 in front, and ending up with a 6-3 lead.

Brecel could even have notched his first ever frame in Sheffield with a ton, but could only make 96.

He is looking to become the first 17-year-old to win a match at the World Championship, following the failures of Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Judd Trump and Liu Chuang at the same age.

And he retains faint hopes of achieving this having showed great scoring prowess with knocks of 96, 63, 116 and 62.

The young man from Dilsen-Stokkem was unable to take a frame going into the mid-session interval and handed the initiative to Maguire, who duly obliged by taking the first four frames, but Brecel hit back with a 96 upon the resumption.

Maguire increased his lead to 6-1, punishing his opponent's errors, but the debutant showed fantastic resolve to hit back in the last two frames, which included his maiden century, to set up an intriguing final session finish.


BBC Sport


Top 10 Chelsea-Barca


Ahead of Chelsea's UEFA Champions League semi-final clash with Barcelona, Sky Sports explores a number of links between the two European heavyweights.

When the draw for the second round and quarter-final stage of the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League was made, it was almost inevitable that Chelsea and Barcelona would end up locking horns in the last eight.

Here are two clubs who have crossed paths on numerous occasions in recent years, and meetings between the two have a habit of producing fireworks. The cream of the crop from West London and Catalunya have not always seen eye to eye, but there is plenty to tie these two European heavyweights together.

Whether it be players who have turned out for both clubs, epic European encounters or coaches who have graced Stamford Bridge and Camp Nou, Chelsea and Barcelona are connected in various ways.

Here, we at Sky Sports take a look at a few of the more notable links.

Special One
Only one place to start. The self-proclaimed 'Special One' cut his coaching teeth during a spell under Bobby Robson's wing at Camp Nou, before going on to work alongside Louis van Gaal. A coaching career destined for the very top would later take him to Chelsea, where he won two Premier League titles, two League Cups, one FA Cup and a Community Shield.

El Tel
Affectionately known as El Tel to those of a Catalan persuasion, Venables lifted the Primera Liga title with Barcelona in 1984/85. All in all he spent three years at Camp Nou, during which time he also tasted Spanish League Cup success. Some 20 years prior to his spell in Spain, a six-year stint with Chelsea during his playing days means he is also something of a fans' favourite at the Bridge.

Euro exit
Chelsea's first Champions League meeting with Barcelona saw them square off in the last-eight back in 2000. A 3-1 first-leg victory seemingly had the Blues in complete control of the tie, but a forgettable night on the road saw them lose 5-1 and 6-4 on aggregate. Celestine Babayaro saw red at Camp Nou as the Blues suffered extra-time heartache.

Mourinho rant
Much of the bad blood between Chelsea and Barca can be traced back to 2005, when Jose Mourinho claimed that Frank Rijkaard had met with referee Anders Frisk during the half-time interval of a last-16 tie. Frisk ended up hanging up his whistle in the wake of a heated encounter and Mourinho was branded 'an enemy of football' by UEFA's referees' chief and handed a two-match touchline ban.

Red mist
A year on and the two sides met in the last-16 once again. A 2-1 victory for the visitors at Stamford Bridge is best remembered for Lionel Messi's theatrical reaction to a challenge from Asier Del Horno which saw the Blues defender sent-off and an unsightly melee sparked - yet more controversial refereeing and further cause for Mourinho's blood to boil.

Reffing hell
It is fair to say that Chelsea were less than impressed by the performance of referee Tom Henning Ovrebo as they bowed out of Europe in 2009 on away goals. The Blues felt a number of contentious decisions cost them a place in back-to-back finals and Michael Ballack ended up chasing the Norwegian official the length of the field, Didier Drogba started swearing into a television camera and Jose Bosingwa called Ovrebo 'a thief'.

Special strike
Barcelona may have crashed out of the Champions League at Stamford Bridge in 2005, but an epic encounter saw Ronaldinho net a spectacular brace. His second of the night saw him bend the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot, leaving Petr Cech stranded. There appeared to be little on as he collected the ball on the edge of the box but, from a standing start, one flash of his right boot had those in attendance on their feet in recognition of a truly fantastic strike.

Lamps leveller
Drogba's late equaliser may have salvaged a 2-2 draw for Chelsea at Camp Nou in 2006, allowing them to top Group A, but it was Frank Lampard's earlier leveller that lit up the evening. Having escaped into space, the England international somehow spun on the by-line and floated the ball over Victor Valdes' head from an impossible angle. Was it a cross? Was it a shot? It does not really matter because the end result saw the ball nestling in the back of the net.

The Ice man
An all-round good guy who is fondly remembered at Stamford Bridge and at Camp Nou. Gudjohnsen spent six successful years with Chelsea, making over 260 appearances for the club and getting his hands on two Premier League titles. He packed his bags for Barcelona in 2006 and went on to taste domestic and European glory during his three years in Catalunya.

Best of the rest
A number of players have turned out for both clubs down the years, with Mark Hughes, Deco, Emmanuel Petit, Bolo Zenden, Juliano Belletti and Albert Ferrer among the more memorable, and Winston Bogarde the most forgettable.


Hanson leads from Mickelson at Augusta


Sweden's Peter Hanson made a late surge to take a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson into the final round of the Masters on Sunday.

The 34-year-old soared to nine under with a stunning 65, the best round of the week, as he seeks his maiden major title in only his second appearance at Augusta. Mickelson, 41, fired a back nine of 30 for a 66 to join Hanson in the final group as he pursues a fourth Green Jacket in nine years.

South Africa's 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (69) is one adrift with Americans Bubba Watson (70) and Matt Kuchar (70) six and five under respectively. England's Lee Westwood (72) is in a group on four under alongside America's Hunter Mahan (68), Ireland's Padraig Harrington (68) and Sweden's Henrik Stenson (70).

Tiger Woods will begin the final round 12 shots back after treading water at three over with a level-par 72. Rory McIlroy slumped to a 77 to end one over and world number one Luke Donald took 75 to end seven over. Halfway leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner fell away on Saturday with rounds of 75 to end two under in a goup which includes England's Ian Poulter, who carded 70.

Scot Paul Lawrie has sole possession of 10th place on three under after a 72. Eight players held at least a share of the lead at some stage on an absorbing day in the Augusta sun. Despite favourable scoring conditions, no-one was able to escape from the pack until Mickelson sank a 25ft eagle putt on the 13th to join Kuchar and Oosthuizen in the lead at six under.

That seemed to inspire Hanson, who was playing up the 14th, and the 2010 European Ryder Cup player made four birdies in his last four holes. Mickelson, who made his first birdie at the 10th and added another at the short 12th, was energised, too.

He fired further birdies at the par-five 15th, courtesy of an outrageous, high-risk high pitch from off the green to a few feet, and a birdie for a third day in a row at 18 after hooking his second shot around trees onto the green.

Mickelson credited Thursday's fightback from four over after 10 holes to end with a two-over 74 as the foundation for his bid to equal Woods and Arnold Palmer's record at Augusta. "When I look back at this tournament I'll look at Thursday," said the Californian, who has won all of his previous four major titles from the last pair.

"At some point I'm going to get hot here but I've got to be in a position to move up the leaderboard, not just get into the weekend. The way I fought back Thursday made that possible." "It's going to be tough. It's a new situation to me," said the Swede, who lost 4&2 to Mickelson in the 2010 Ryder Cup singles at Celtic Manor.

"I'll try to do the normal stuff. I've got my two kids here and my wife, so just try to stay in the house and cook in, and like I said, I probably won't be watching a lot of Golf Channel or stuff. Just trying to stay away from all that and try to get as much sleep as I can and try to be ready."

Oosthuizen, who has struggled with injury since his Open triumph at St Andrews, joined Mickelson on eight under on the 17th but a wayward approach into the crowd handed it back on 18.


BBC Sport


Roberto Mancini says MU will slip up in title race


Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is confident rivals Manchester United will drop points to keep his side in the Premier League title race. After City drew 3-3 with Sunderland, United will go five points clear at the top if they win at Blackburn on Monday.

"I think on Monday United will probably do a draw," said Mancini. "Eight games is enough to do two draws. United can arrive in a difficult moment. "Until we have a point to win this league we will try 100%." The result leaves City second on 71 points with seven games left, while United lead on 73 points with eight to play. But the Red Devils have won only two of their last eight league visits to Ewood Park and Mancini predicts they will falter again.

"It is hard but we have another seven games," stated the Italian. "Until we have a point to win this league we will try 100%. "We have done some mistakes in the last games but also United can arrive in a difficult moment. It is important we are there. "Before the derby [on 30 April] it is important we recover two points.''

Mancini described the Sunderland match as a "crazy game, very emotional" after City came from 3-1 down to snatch a point. Sebastian Larsson slotted Sunderland ahead before Mario Balotelli - who Mancini claimed he might have substituted after just five minutes - equalised from the penalty spot. Nicklas Bendtner headed the visitors back in front moments before half-time and Larsson tapped in his second after the break.

But after Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov had argued over who should take a free-kick, Balotelli hauled City back into contention on 85 minutes and Kolarov made it 3-3 with a fierce strike a minute later. "I think it is the correct result, a draw, but we didn't do a good performance," Mancini commented.

"I am happy only for the last 10 minutes, for the other 80 minutes I am unhappy because we didn't play very well. I don't know why. "In the first half we were flat and in a game like this, that is very important for us, we can't be flat in the first half.''

Looking ahead to next Sunday's trip to Arsenal, Mancini added: "I'm sure that we will do better than today. "We missed [striker Sergio] Aguero and for this reason I am disappointed. I hope he can recover for the next game.''

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill suggested there was plenty of life in the title race yet. "City are a top-quality team," he said. "There will be twists and turns before end of the season and United still have to visit us on the final day of the season."


BBC Sport


Tiger roars to victory


Woods ends drought with seventh career victory at Bay Hill.

Tiger Woods claimed his first PGA Tour win since 2009 thanks to a five-shot victory over Graeme McDowell in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida. Playing his final warm-up for next month's Masters, the impressive Woods carded a final round two-under 70 to secure the 98th victory of his pro career and his seventh title at Bay Hill.

In what turned into a final round duel with playing partner McDowell, Woods never looked like relinquishing the one-shot lead he held overnight despite the Ulsterman doing his best to put Tiger under pressure. And with McDowell running out of steam, Tiger stayed strong to give himself the perfect send off for Augusta and move up to sixth in the latest world rankings.

After an opening par, Woods dropped a shot by three-putting the short second before the fireworks started. McDowell, who had racked up a double bogey at the first, made a 45-footer from the fringe of the third and then holed from over 50 feet for eagle at the long sixth.

He still walked off that green two behind, though, Woods having three birdies in four holes. That became four in six with a superb approach to two feet on the difficult eighth, then McDowell missed a four-foot par putt to turn in 36 against the 33 of Woods.

The Ulsterman's putter came good again from 23 feet at the 11th, but when he took six on the long next - off much the better drive - he was four behind once more and now with just six holes remaining. Both bogeyed the short 14th, Woods made a great par save from 12 feet at the 15th and McDowell missed a six-foot birdie chance on the par-five 16th.

When he followed that by three-putting for bogey it was all over unless Woods did what Jeff Overton did earlier by dumping three balls in the water on the last. Tiger was playing far too well for that to happen and a solid par was enough to see him to a hugely impressive win.




Jenson Button wins Australian Grand Prix for McLaren


McLaren's Jenson Button dominated the season-opening Australian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton finished third.

Button, who qualified second to his team-mate, beat him into the first corner and pulled away to win. Hamilton lost second place to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel after an unlucky break with a safety car, and the German was able to hold him off. Red Bull's Mark Webber was fourth, ahead of the surprisingly quick Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

Williams driver Pastor Maldonado was on course to take a close sixth, but he lost control while chasing Alonso on the last lap and crashed at the Turn Seven kink. That handed sixth place to Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese won out in a seven-car fight to the flag.

In a chaotic final lap, Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, impressive on his return after two years in rallying, took seventh ahead of the second Sauber of Sergio Perez. The Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo, Force India's Paul di Resta, Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, who had been eighth until Maldonado's crash led to frantic place-swapping, followed.

Button was serenely unaware of the drama behind him - he was in a league of his own throughout the race after making a better start than Hamilton and passing him down the inside into Turn One. "As a team it really shows how important the winter is," said Button, who kicked off his 2009 championship-winning year with victory in Australia.

"We had a strong winter and qualifying really shows that. It's nice to come away with a win in the first race of the season. "Every win means a lot to you." Hamilton was slightly more than three seconds behind Button by the time of their first pit stops, which he made one lap later than Button. That meant he came out behind Perez and in the four laps it took Hamilton to pass the Mexican, Button extended his lead to more than 10 seconds.

Button held his lead at about that margin until they both made their second stops on lap 36, but a safety car deployed on the next lap to enable the recovery of the stranded Caterham of Vitaly Petrov cost Hamilton again. "It wasn't my day," said Hamilton, who started the race on pole. "I just have to keep my head down and my day will come."

Vettel was approaching the pit entry as the safety car signal was given. "And Ferrari will be encouraged by Alonso's performance." Alonso drove a strong race after a disastrous qualifying session had left him in 12th place. The Ferrari had looked very hard to drive throughout the weekend but it showed a surprising turn of race pace.

The Spaniard drove a feisty, consistent race and although he was not able to hang on to the McLarens and Red Bulls he was able to hold off Maldonado to take fifth until the Venezuelan crashed on the last lap. Mercedes faded after a strong qualifying.

Rosberg had run fourth in the early laps, just behind team-mate Michael Schumacher, who retired with gearbox failure on lap 11 while trying to fend off Vettel.


BBC Sport


Neuner's Germany storm to relay title


Magdalena Neuner’s ambition of winning six medals at her last-ever IBU Biathlon World Championships may have faded but she can still win five after Germany claimed 4x6km relay gold.

Neuner saw her ambitions of winning a medal in every women’s event on home soil in Ruhpolding end in the 15km individual on Wednesday as she struggled to 23rd overall.

That came after bronze in the mixed relay, gold in the 7.5km sprint and silver in the 10km pursuit and in the relay the 25-year-old made certain a return to the podium – and the top of it at that.

Taking on the second leg after Tina Bachmann took on the first, Neuner handed over to Miriam Gossner who set up Andrea Henkel perfectly as she ensured Germany won the 4x6km relay.

Henkel even had the chance to celebrate with the German flag well before crossing the finishing line as they celebrated their second gold medal in Ruhpolding after Neuner’s efforts in the 7.5km sprint.

The German quartet clocked a winning time of 1:09:33.0hours nearly 30 seconds ahead of the French team who took silver while Norway, anchored by Tora Berger, claimed bronze.

Neuner will have a chance to make it five medals from a possible six with the women’s 12.5km mass start set to bring proceedings in Germany to a close on Sunday.


Villas-Boas sacked by Chelsea


Andre Villas-Boas has been sacked by Chelsea after less than a year in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's decision comes on the back of Saturday's 1-0 defeat by West Bromwich Albion and a run of just three Premier League wins in their last 12 games. The 34-year-old Portuguese only took over as manager in June 2011. Former Chelsea midfielder Roberto di Matteo has been put in charge as first-team coach on an interim basis until the end of the season.

A statement on the club's website read: "Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season. "The club is still competing in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup, as well as challenging for a top-four spot in the Premier League, and we aim to remain as competitive as possible on all fronts.

"With that in mind, we felt our only option was to make a change at this time." Chelsea are facing two tough games in the FA Cup and Champions League over the next 10 days. They visit Championship side Birmingham for an FA Cup fifth-round replay on Tuesday and the following week they must overturn a 3-1 deficit against Italian side Napoli at Stamford Bridge to avoid exiting the Champions League at the last 16 stage.

Villas-Boas first came to Chelsea as a scout from 2004-2007 during Jose Mourinho's tenure, and five major domestic trophies were won in that period. He also assisted Mourinho at Porto and Inter Milan, and worked in a similar role under Sir Bobby Robson during the former England manager's spell in charge of Porto.

His first club managerial role was with Portuguese side Academica in October 2009, but after moving to Porto the following summer he won the Portuguese League and Cup double plus the Europa League. Since Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, the club has captured three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups but have not won a trophy since Carlo Ancelloti led them to the League and FA Cup double for the first time in their history in 2010.

After being recruited by Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich in what was thought to be an attempt to implement a more attractive style of play, Villas-Boas suffered early defeats against Manchester United and Arsenal and questions were raised about his tactical strategies. Villas-Boas also appeared to have a difficult working relationship with senior players at Chelsea, several of whom were only slightly younger than him. Nicolas Anelka, 32, and experienced defender Alex left the club early in his reign and after Frank Lampard, 33, was left out of the team he said playing under Villas-Boas had "not been ideal."

Villas-Boas admitted in December that the Blues could no longer win the Premier League after they were left 11 points adrift of the leaders following a 1-1 draw with Fulham on Boxing Day. After Saturday's defeat at the Hawthorns he said: "It's not been good enough for some time. We're fifth and if that is the case, something's wrong. Every defeat piles more pressure on any Chelsea manager. We don't win enough and that does not make us proud."

Di Matteo, 41, played for Chelsea from 1996-2002 and won two FA Cups, scoring inside 42 seconds in the 1997 final against Middlesbrough, the fastest goal in a final at the old Wembley. He also won the League Cup, the Uefa Cup, the Uefa Super Cup and the Charity Shield whilst at Stamford Bridge. His managerial career began at Milton Keynes Dons in 2008 and he guided them to the League One play-offs in his first season, losing to Scunthorpe on penalties in the semi-finals.

Having moved to West Brom he secured promotion to the Premier League in his first season as the Baggies finished runners-up to Newcastle but his team were thrashed 6-0 in their first match in the top flight, coincidentally at Chelsea, and he was sacked in February 2011. Four months later Di Matteo was named as assistant to Villas-Boas before their partnership was ended, in another ironic twist, following defeat at the Italian's former club.


BBC Sport


Stuart Pearce waits to name new captain


Stuart Pearce will not name England's new captain until hours before the Netherlands friendly on Wednesday.

It had been thought that caretaker manager Pearce would reveal the skipper at a news conference on Tuesday. Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard and Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart are among those in the frame. "The captain will be announced when the team is announced. There's no doubt there's several candidates, but I have made my mind up," said Pearce.

Tottenham's Scott Parker and Hart's Manchester City team-mate James Milner have also been mentioned as possible candidates to lead the country, but Pearce is happy to delay identifying the new owner of the armband. "When I bear in mind it might be a one-off scenario, the captain has got to be somebody who is in the starting line-up, somebody who's got the respect of the other players in my eyes and someone who is unselfish and puts the group above himself," added Pearce.

"That's a vital commodity as captain." John Terry lost the England captaincy because he is due to stand trial in July over racial abuse allegations after an incident with QPR's Anton Ferdinand. The Chelsea defender, who lost the captaincy once before over issues in his personal life , has entered a plea of not guilty to the charge. After the decision on Terry, Fabio Capello resigned as England manager, disagreeing with the Football Association's stance on the matter.

Rio Ferdinand also led England during Capello's reign after Terry lost the captaincy for the first time before the Chelsea defender was reinstated . Gerrard stood in as captain during World Cup 2010 when England were beaten 4-1 by Germany in the second round . Pearce reiterated he is available to help England at Euro 2012 and revealed he had received a text message from Capello wishing him luck ahead of the Netherlands game at Wembley.

"I received a text from Fabio on Monday wishing me all the best for the game. I've got a great deal of respect for the man," said the former Manchester City manager. "My services will be available if the FA want me to go to the Euros and help out." "I have spoken to my bosses at the organisation and when asked the question I have given an honest answer in the press conferences.

"I am filling the breach while a new manager is found. The preparation is done for the summer, that's where we are at the moment. "It buys us time to find the right man to fill the void." Meanwhile, Hart said it would be "amazing" to be named captain of England but suggested there were more experienced candidates for the job. "I think I can speak for everyone in this room who is English and likes football that to captain your country would be amazing and a great honour," said the 24-year-old.


BBC Sport


Guus Hiddink signs for Anzhi Makhachkala


Guus Hiddink has signed a contract to become the new manager of Anzhi Makhachkala, can reveal. The Dutchman has agreed an 18-month deal to take over the wealthy Russian club, which is his first permanent club post in six years.

It is expected that the appointment will be announced within the next 24 hours and that Hiddink will join up with the Anzhi squad at a training camp in Turkey. This is likely to have considerable repercussions for the security of Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas, as it ends the availability of someone trusted by Roman Abramovoch to take over at short notice.

Hiddink has been in Moscow to thrash out the details of the package, which reports in Holland have suggested will be worth €10 million-a-year (£8.3m) net of tax, with Anzhi chiefs. It is understood that one of the sticking points when the two parties held talks before Christmas was Hiddink's insistence that the club put in place a youth academy.

But that hurdle has now been cleared and Hiddink, who is comfortable with life in Russia after managing the national team for four years, will be handed a vast budget to bring in the players to win the Russian league and make an impact on the European stage.

Hiddink has been out of the game since stepping down as Turkey manager last November following the country's failure to qualify for Euro 2012.

One of the most successful Dutch coaches in history has been in demand in recent weeks, with PSV, where he had two trophy-laden spells, keen to make him an offer to return in the summer for a third time. Chelsea and England had also been monitoring his availability.


Wembley feels Redknapp's presence


Harry Redknapp may have been in his trademark pose, conducting interviews out of an open car window many miles away - but in spirit he was almost in the room with the Football Association's delegation at Wembley.

Fabio Capello's decision to quit as England manager brought the world's media to FA headquarters as chairman David Bernstein led the response with a detailed timeline of four hours on Wednesday that ended with the Italian walking away from his £6m-a-year post. And throughout what was a measured response, Tottenham manager Redknapp played the part of the elephant in the room.

The current wisdom is that there are now no obstacles to Redknapp becoming Capello's successor. He has been cleared of tax evasion - and decks and diaries have been cleared at the FA as Friday morning marks the start of the process to find the man to take England to Euro 2012. The route to Capello's resignation was, in many respects, a peculiarly modern one.

The catalyst was a Youtube clip followed by allegations that the then England captain John Terry made racist remarks to QPR's Anton Ferdinand, charges he denies. Capello's very public disagreement with the FA board's decision to strip Terry of the captaincy then led to his departure and a fast-moving bandwagon backing the installation of Redknapp, heavily portrayed as the people's choice.

The chain of events moved with such speed that Bernstein was forced into a powerful defence against charges from the assembled media that the FA had allowed chaos to cover English football months before a major tournament. To lose a manager in such circumstances may be regarded as careless, but there is a growing school of thought that the FA has actually been presented with an unexpected opportunity to land on its feet.

Even Bernstein, despite having to explain the disappearance of a manager at such a crucial stage, unwittingly hinted at such thinking when he said: "We are actually in a much better place than we appear to be." For all the dignified words from both the FA and Capello, there did not appear huge regret from either party. Bernstein and his FA cohorts met Capello for an hour on Wednesday to discuss recent developments, gave each other an hour's thinking time and then came to the parting of the ways.

Redknapp, looking tired but relieved as he gazed out of that familiar rolled down window, insisted he had not thought about England. But the rest of England, it seemed, was thinking about him and inside Wembley it was no different. If he had strayed into Bernstein's thoughts, the FA chairman was keeping it to himself - at least until he gets behind closed doors with Club England managing director Adrian Bevington, director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking and FA general secretary Alex Horne on Friday.

Bernstein delivered a slight smile when Redknapp's name was finally mentioned before producing the sort of straight bat that would have been the envy of Geoffrey Boycott. Will England's next manager be English? "He will not definitely be English but we do have a preference for an Englishman." No-one ruled in. No-one ruled out. A shrewd starting position for negotiations at least. Inside and outside Wembley, where foreign television crews unable to gain access asked passers-by for a crash course on Redknapp, the Spurs manager seemed to be the only name in the frame.

The timing of approaches and appointments remained unclear, but as Bernstein outlined the qualities required to take over from Capello the image of Redknapp - already beaming from many television screens inside Wembley - came into even sharper relief. Bernstein stressed: "There is a preference for an Englishman or a British person, but at the end we want the best person so we don't want to rule out anyone. At this stage an English or British person would have a good start."

He added: "I imagine that any manager would have detailed knowledge of English players. I would expect an experienced top man would be able to pick up the reins very quickly. So while it won't be today, we will be in a good place in quick time and the new manager of course will make his own call on the captain." Providing his choice is not, of course, John Terry.

Redknapp, with the public support of players such as Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, is currently being carried along on a wave of public and professional goodwill. Bernstein admitted the feelings of fans will be considered but will not automatically drive Redknapp into Wembley. And as Bernstein reeled off the characteristics required by the man who will occupy Capello's old office, ticks appeared alongside Redknapp's name. The mood music around Wembley struck a serious chord but hardly a sombre one.

Bernstein was respectful to Capello - although he revealed telephone conversations with the Italian, whose command of the English language was not the greatest, were "not the easiest". He stressed, in the light of Capello's public insubordination over Terry on Italian television, that this was a time when the FA "had to step up to the plate when strong leadership was required".

He did not believe mistakes had been made, either in hiring Capello or in the manner of his leaving. Indeed, he delivered what may come to be regarded as Capello's England managerial epitaph when he said: "It was certainly expensive but it wasn't a mistake." With Sunderland's Martin O'Neill emphatically ruling himself out, genuine rivals to Redknapp appeared in short supply.

Guus Hiddink, as ever, was mentioned while West Bromwich Albion's Roy Hodgson got the vote of some traditionalists - although his chances appear remote, especially after his harrowing experience at Liverpool. So on Friday morning, four men will gather to formulate the short-list of potential successors. Inside Wembley on Thursday it seemed many had already reduced the list to one man.




Alonso: Title challenge is a must


Fernando Alonso has insisted that Ferrari must fight for the world titles this season as they seek to put a difficult 2011 behind them.

The Scuderia finished a distant third in the Constructors' Championship last year, with Alonso claiming their only victory at Silverstone.

Ferrari were hampered by an inability to get heat into their Pirelli tyres in qualifying, with their woes leading to the fall of technical director Aldo Costa.

He was replaced by former McLaren man Pat Fry, who stated at the time of his appointment that one of Ferrari's shortfalls was their design approach.

Fry said they needed to be more aggressive - with the resulting F2012 launched on Friday.

 "(The car) looks very different from what we have seen in the past two years," Alonso said of the new car, which features a 'boxer' nose.

Speaking via weblink, the double World Champion added: "I am going to start with the same strength, determination. I want to do great.

"Of course it will be quite competitive for the whole season, but we want to see red cars on the podium. We start next week in Jerez and we keep working together. I am sure we will do well this year.

"I really believe in the skills we have here in Ferrari. We have to be optimistic. We have two months to get ready for the first race in Australia.

"We have to fight for this title, we have to get as many points as possible at every race.

"We want to win the Drivers' and the Constructors' Championships. I'm sure we will be able to get great targets even if I feel great responsibility driving a Ferrari."


Victoria Azarenka hails 'dream' Australian Open triumph


Victoria Azarenka believes there is no limit to what she can achieve in tennis after hailing her Australian Open triumph as a "dream come true".

The 22-year-old beat Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0 to secure her maiden Grand Slam title and the world number one spot. "I feel there is no limit," she said. "I really have to keep this mentality. "It's a dream come true. I have been dreaming and working so hard to win a Grand Slam, and being number one is a pretty good bonus for that."

Azarenka's triumph, in her first major final, saw her replace Caroline Wozniacki at the top of the rankings. After overturning an early break of serve, the Belarusian never looked back, completely outplaying Sharapova to win in 88 minutes.

The last five Grand Slam events have now been won by different players. Kim Clijsters emerged victorious at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, Li Na lifted the French Open, world number two Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon and Sam Stosur shocked Serena Williams at the US Open.

"I think it's a great thing for women's tennis," said Azarenka. "We have good rivalry. "With Petra we had amazing matches, Maria is playing really well now, Serena is back and Kim is still there. "With Li Na and Sam Stosur winning Grand Slams, it's great competition and we can really look forward for the women's game. It's at a great level."

Sharapova was contesting her third Grand Slam final and, despite the defeat, looks to have finally put her shoulder problems behind her. Asked if she felt her best tennis was still to come, the 24-year-old replied: "I believe it is, absolutely. "I believe there's still a lot of work that I can do to improve. That's why I'm still playing.

"I think if an athlete wakes up, no matter what sport they're in, and thinks they can't be better or they're not going to have good days ahead of them, it's pretty tough to put in the work. "I didn't know what to expect from myself coming into this event. I didn't play for so many months and I had a pretty tough injury.

"It's pretty unusual to come into the first tournament of the year having it be a Grand Slam. I'm certainly happy with the level I produced. "Everything is still a work in progress. "Whether I won today or not, it's still a moving train." The Russian, one of six women who came into the Australian Open in contention for the top ranking, agrees with Azarenka that the women's game is in good shape.

 "There's a lot to look forward to," Sharapova added. "We also have the Olympics this year. "Personally, that's something I've been look looking forward to for a long time, and it's a big goal of mine."


BBC Sport


London 2012 - GB nearly upset Russia


British captain Fran Leighton refused to be downbeat after her team almost pulled off a shock victory over defending champions Russia at the water polo European Championships.

Great Britain are competing at the event for the first time in 15 years and more than matched last year's World Championship bronze medallists before going down narrowly 15-10 in Eindhoven.

It was a much improved display from their defeat to Hungary, leaving head coach Szilveszter Fekete brimming with self-belief that his youthful team of quick learners will not be out of the depth at London 2012.

“I’m pleased with the team’s performance. We played very well and it gives us some confidence for the upcoming six months until the Olympics," said Leighton.

“Rosie Morris, our goalkeeper, was very good, and we were a bit unlucky with shots on post and bar.”

Russia beat hosts and Olympic champions the Netherlands in their first game and seemed a little stunned by the resilience displayed by Great Britain, for whom Frankie Snell, Ciara Gibson-Byrne and Leighton all scored doubles.

"We have shown that we can play water polo,” said Fekete. “My team performed well although they did not have much international practise during the preparation.


F1 driver Sutil to stand trial over nightclub fracas


Former Force India driver Adrian Sutil is to stand trial in Germany over an incident in China which left the owner of another Formula One team injured.

The German driver is charged with causing grievous bodily harm in the incident involving Renault F1 executive Eric Lux, who suffered cuts.

Mr Sutil has issued an apology over the incident, which happened in a Shanghai nighclub last April. Prosecutors are requesting a year's suspended sentence for Mr Sutil.

Munich court spokeswoman Ingrid Kaps said two trial days had been set - 30 and 31 January. Both Mr Lux and Mr Sutil were among guests at a party to celebrate Lewis Hamilton's victory at the China Grand Prix in Shanghai last April.

Mr Sutil's manager told reporters that the driver was looking forward to seeing the truth of the incident come out in court. The Renault team has since been renamed Lotus. Force India have already announced Germany's Nico Hulkenberg as Mr Sutil's replacement.


BBC News


Khan - Peterson: WBA orders rematch, promoter says


The World Boxing Association has ordered an immediate rematch between Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson, according to Khan's promoters.

Khan lost his WBA and IBF titles to Peterson in December but has questioned a number of aspects of the fight. One claim is that an unknown man, who has now apparently been identified, was seen "interfering with" a WBA official. "The WBA... will order an immediate rematch," said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.

"We received a verbal confirmation today [Saturday] and we will get a written confirmation by next Tuesday. "That means that no fighter can take an interim fight, that the next fight for Peterson would be a rematch. "We hope that the IBF will follow because that's the least they can do. The ruling of the WBA to order an immediate rematch should put additional pressures on the IBF."

Earlier, WBA president Gilberto Mendoza told BBC Sport: "It generates a lot of controversy. There should be a rematch. "The [Washington DC] Commission did not behave properly in this fight." Olympic silver medallist Khan lost his light-welterweight titles on a split decision after being deducted two points for pushing but has appealed against the verdict. Judges George Hill and Valerie Dorsett scored the fight 113-112 in favour of Peterson, with Nelson Vasquez giving the bout to Khan 115-110.

Hill's card looked to have originally given the seventh round to Khan but appears to contain amendments that resulted in Peterson taking it 10-8. On Thursday, Khan accused the previously unidentified man of "interfering" with officials and the judges' scorecards by posting a number of images from the bout on his Twitter page.

The Bolton fighter claimed the man talked to WBA supervisor Michael Welsh and also celebrated with Peterson after his win. When contacted by BBC Sport, Welsh refused to answer any questions about the mystery man or what was said. However, Schaefer claims the man has now been identified as Mustafa Ameen, an IBF official who was given accreditation for the fight, although not directly involved in it.

"The IBF have confirmed to us his name, and they have confirmed to us that he's involved in an official capacity with the IBF," Schaefer told Sky Sports News. "He was not in Washington in an official IBF capacity, but the IBF asked the Washington commission to issue him a credential so that he could attend the fight." Meanwhile, Mendoza said Welsh was ignored when he raised concerns about the individual at ringside.

"Welsh was concerned about the gentleman being around him and couldn't get the co-ordination to do his job properly during the fight," said Mendoza. "He said he was totally ignored by the commission in Washington." Schaefer has demanded the result of the bout be changed to a no-contest. "What I think would be the right thing to do would be a no-contest and therefore Amir would retain both titles," he said. "I do believe there is enough controversy to warrant the no-contest decision."

On Friday, Khan's business manager, Asif Vali, said that they had written to the boxing authorities for explanations to several areas of concern. "We did the table plan with Golden Boy Promotions [Khan's promoter] and the WBA official was already in his seat and the IBF official was already in his seat, so who is this person?" he asked.

"What's he doing talking to the WBA? Why is he handling the slips? "These are legitimate questions and if they give us sufficient reasons for it then I'll accept it. I want to see what the reasons are. "We're not saying there is foul play involved in any way, shape or form. I just need the answers for the sequence of events that have taken place. Nothing else. "I'm not accusing any of the bodies. Lamont Peterson is the champion and good luck to him for 2012."

  Khan - Peterson: WBA orders rematch, promoter says  

BBC Sport


McDonnell links up with Sanders


Jamie McDonnell has linked up with new trainer Kevin Sanders as he builds toward a bantamweight world title shot in 2012.

McDonnell is edging closer to a fight against the division's top names after his September win over Stuart Hall secured the European, British and Commonwealth titles.

And the Doncaster man has now brought Sanders into his corner ahead of his European title defence against Malik Bouziane on 18 February.

Sanders, who trained Nigel Benn and Matt Skelton, told the Peterborough Evening Telegraph: "Jamie is a very accomplished fighter.

"He's got everything. He can box and he's a puncher but just needs to be taught a few more things to take him up to world title level.

"I've got to get him there and I am confident I can do it. We'll start work together early in January, initially in Peterborough and take it from there.

"Dennis Hobson looked at loads of trainers to do the job, but at the end of the day approached me and that's flattering."


Foden - Euro exit could help


Saints full-back targeting domestic glory after European exit.

Ben Foden believes that Northampton's premature exit from this season's Heineken Cup could yet prove a blessing in disguise for their domestic ambitions. Last year's beaten finalists provided one of the major shocks of this season's competition with their early elimination, surrendering their chances of progressing from the pool stages after losing all three of their opening games against Munster, Scarlets and Castres.

Foden admits their demise was all the harder to take having come so close to winning the trophy in what was a dramatic final against Leinster. However, the England full-back is remaining philosophical and believes the termination of their European ambitions could aid the Saints' chances of scooping the Aviva Premeirship crown come the end of the season.

"We are disappointed because we reached the final stages last year and we had such an impressive run to it that, to start the campaign with three losses, is a bit disheartening," Foden told Sky Sports News. "But we'll learn from it and we can focus our attention on the Premiership now and it's probably the first occasion we've been able to do that with other competitions running. "So this year we'll really knuckle down and hopefully you'll see us in the top four and then, hopefully, the final."

Foden's club and international colleague Courtney Lawes echoes those sentiments, adding: "We're a little bit disappointed with what's happened in the Heineken Cup, but there's nothing we can do now. "We've just got to crack on and there's a lot of belief still in the squad, we've got some players back this weekend and we're looking to just crack on in the Premiership."


Barcelona win Fifa Club World Cup


Barcelona were crowned Fifa Club World Cup winners when they thrashed Brazilian side Santos 4-0 in Japan.

The win capped a remarkable year for the Spanish side in which they also won the La Liga title, the Champions League and the Spanish Super Cup. Argentine Lionel Messi scored two impressive goals with Xavi and former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas also on target for Barcelona. The win confirms Barcelona's standing as the best club team in the world.

"We played a complete game," captain Carles Puyol said. "It was a good game, an intense game and we're very happy with the result." The match between the European and South American champions in Yokohama had been billed as a showdown between Messi, widely acknowledged as the best player in the world, and 19-year-old Brazilian star Neymar, who has been linked with a transfer to both Barca and Real Madrid.

But it was no contest - with Messi the star of match - and named the tournament's most valuable player - as Barcelona won the competition for the second time in three seasons. His first goal was an exquisite chip and his second saw him skilfully round the Santos keeper Cabral.

Santos were better in the second half and Neymar should have scored when put through with only Victor Valdes to beat, but was denied by the Barcelona goalkeeper. "Barcelona deserved to win. They are the best team in the world and we learned an important lesson," said Neymar.

Qatari team Al Sadd, who lost 4-0 to Barcelona in the semi-finals, beat Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol 5-3 on penalties to take third place at the annual intercontinental tournament.


BBC Sport


Petukhov takes gold in Davos


Alexey Petukhov demonstrated his sprinting prowess as he claimed his first FIS Cross-Country Skiing World Cup gold in Davos, Switzerland.

The last sprint event in Germany saw the Russian forced to settle for silver but he made amends in the 1.5km sprint by crossing the line first. In the sprint standings Petukhov has now opened up a 33-point lead over Sweden’s Teodor Peterson, who was forced to settle for silver in Davos, while fellow Swede Emil Joensson completed the podium in third.

In the overall men’s World Cup standings two-time Olympic Petter Northug holds onto top spot and moves onto 500 points as he finished fifth. The nearest challenger is Dario Cologna who moved onto 322 points as he finished seventh in front of his home crowd.

In the women’s 1.5km sprint, American Kikkan Randall raced to her second consecutive victory to consolidate her position on top of the sprint World Cup rankings. Randall now sits on 240 points and extends her lead over Russian Natalia Matveeva, who had to settle for a second consecutive sprint silver, while bronze went to Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla.

In the overall World Cup standings, Norwegian Marit Bjoergen extended her lead at the top with a seventh-place finish, moving onto 582 points. Compatriot Vibeke Skofterud is the nearest challenger on 411 points as she ended up 12th in the Czech Republic, while Randall’s gold moves her third overall on 393 points.


Mark Allen rediscovers passion for game after depression


Mark Allen is targeting victory over Adrian Gunnell in the first round of the UK Championship as he continues his recovery from depression.

The 25-year-old from Antrim revealed he was suffering from depression before the World Championship in April.

"It's a complete contrast from six months ago, when I didn't want to look at a snooker table," said Allen.

"Things are a lot better now. I'm enjoying playing and my form is slowly but surely coming back."

He added: "As long as I can enjoy snooker as much as I did when I was young, then that's half the battle."

The world number 12 believes it was the right decision to make public his struggle with the illness.

"I think it was right to come out publicly about my depression because there was then a lot of people who helped me come through it," he said.

"Things are also going well away from snooker. My private life is a lot better, things are going well financially and my family is a lot happier - everything is coming into place.

"I still have to watch for signs of it creeping up again, but I think I know what to look for now."

Allen starts his challenge at the Barbican Centre against English opponent Gunnell on Monday.


Djokovic confident of carrying on good form into 2012


One of the greatest individual seasons in tennis history came to an end on Friday as Novak Djokovic was eliminated from the ATP World Tour Finals.

Djokovic's defeat by Janko Tipsarevic, coupled with Tomas Berdych's victory over David Ferrer, meant the 24-year-old Serb could not reach the semi-finals. However, he ends the year in possession of the number one ranking, three of the four Grand Slam titles and a 70-6 win-loss record. "I had an unbelievable year," said Djokovic.

"Nothing can ruin that. I will always remember this year as the best of my life." Djokovic started 2011 by lifting his second Australian Open crown with victory over British number one Andy Murray and remained unbeaten until he fell to Roger Federer in the French Open semi-finals. It ended his winning run at 43 matches dating back to Serbia's triumph in the 2010 Davis Cup final, and 41 for the year. He was one victory short of equalling John McEnroe's best ever start to a year of 42 wins, and three behind Guillermo Vilas's all-time record run of 46 matches.

Djokovic recovered to win Wimbledon, becoming world number one for the first time, and then triumphed in the US Open. He beat 10-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in both finals and ended the campaign with 10 titles. "He won everything a person can win," said fellow-Serb Tipsarevic. "He had the best season in the history of the sport."

After the US Open, Djokovic was troubled by back, abdominal and shoulder injuries, playing only eight matches between Flushing Meadows and the year-end championship at London's O2 Arena. He scraped through his opening group match against Berdych before losing to Ferrer and Tipsarevic. "My body says that it's overload," stated Djokovic.

"It's been too much this year. Mentally I feel a little bit drained. "I just don't have the freshness in my mind for the matches and I don't have the dynamics that I had in all 10 months of the year. "But this is something to be expected after the year I had and now I just want to prepare well for 2012." Djokovic will take some time off before beginning his preparations for 2012, with his first goal the Australian Open from 16-29 January.

"I will have a couple of weeks' rest and preparation," he added. "I'm playing a couple of exhibition matches in Abu Dhabi and maybe some in Australia, then getting ready for Melbourne. "I think I have more than enough time to get my old strength back and prepare well. So I'm sure that if I have as good preparation as I had last year, I'm confident I can do well in Australia."


BBC Sport


Suzuki confirm MotoGP withdrawal until at least 2014


Suzuki has confirmed that it will not compete in next year's MotoGP championship for financial reasons.

The Japanese factory saw lone rider Alvaro Bautista finish 13th this season but have now ended their 37-year stay. "Suzuki Motor Corporation has decided to suspend temporarily its participation in MotoGP from the 2012 season.

"Having an eye on returning to MotoGP in 2014, Suzuki will now focus on developing a competitive new machine."

Bautista had already announced that he has joined Gresini Honda for next season as a replacement for the late Marco Simoncelli. Suzuki's withdrawal leaves just Honda, Yamaha and Ducati as manufacturers with full factory teams on the grid for 2012.

"This suspension is to cope with tough circumstances mainly caused by the prolonged recession in developed countries, a historical appreciation of Japanese Yen and repeated natural disasters," Suzuki said.

Suzuki first competed in the top class of grand prix racing in 1974, and saw British legend Barry Sheene take two world championships in the 1970s. Kenny Roberts Jr was the last Suzuki world champion, taking the 500cc title in 2000.


BBC Sport


Marquez deserves Pacquiao rematch


The immediate prospect of a long awaited mega-fight between American Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao seemed to recede after the Filipino's controversial majority decision over Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Pacquiao had been widely expected to win his third fight against the Mexican in convincing style but the nail-biting outcome, ruled by one of the three judges as a draw, persuaded his trainer to consider a fourth meeting between the fighters. Freddie Roach, a shrewd tactician who has been uncannily accurate with his fight predictions, had forecast a Pacquiao victory well inside the distance on Saturday and he was amazed to be so far off the mark.

"I was very surprised," Pacquiao's trainer said. "I had predicted my fighter would win in six rounds and I was way off. It was a very competitive fight and it could have gone either way. "I thought Manny edged it out in the last two rounds. It was the kind of fight I don't want to do again but I think we have to. "He (Marquez) has given us problems three times now and he is very good at what he does. I do think he deserves a re-match first."

Pacquiao, who clinched his 15th successive win by beating Marquez on Saturday, was happy to take on the Mexican for a fourth time while he also laid down the gauntlet to Mayweather. Asked if he would consider a fourth bout with Marquez, the Filipino southpaw replied: "Any time, any time. I am a fighter and my job is to fight in the ring."

As for Mayweather, he said: "Well, let's get it on. Make the fight happen and let's give the people a good fight." A duel between the defence-minded Mayweather and the aggressive Pacquiao, the two biggest drawcards of their generation, would decide the mythical title of the world's best pound-for-pound fighter.

Five-division world champion Mayweather had been expected to meet Pacquiao last year until negotiations collapsed over the American's demand for random drug testing. American Shane Mosley then stepped in to take the Filipino's place but he was outclassed by Mayweather in a non-title welterweight bout.

Mayweather improved his perfect professional record to 42-0 by claiming the WBC welterweight title from compatriot Victor Ortiz in September and Roach has long eyed the chance for Pacquiao to take on the unbeaten American.

"I hope that fight does happen," the bespectacled Roach told Reuters. "I think it would be the best fight in the world and I would love to see it. "Mayweather is a very good defensive fighter and he's a very good counter puncher. It's not an easy fight, I know that, but I look forward to challenges and he is the biggest challenge out there for us."

Marquez, who was outclassed by Mayweather over 12 rounds in a non-title welterweight bout two years ago, felt Pacquiao would struggle against the American. "Commercially speaking it would be a huge fight but boxing is about styles and the style of Mayweather will get very complicated for Pacquiao," the Mexican said.

Pacquiao, however, has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions to cement his status in the eyes of many as the best pound-for-pound boxer.


Czech Republic wins Fed Cup title


The Czech Republic won its first Fed Cup title in 23 years on Sunday after Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke beat Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-2 in the decisive doubles match to secure a 3-2 win over Russia in the final.

It was the sixth title in the competition for the Czechs but their first since 1988, when it competed as Czechoslovakia and beat the Soviet Union 2-1 in the final. The victory also caps a breakthrough season for second-ranked Petra Kvitova, who won both of her singles matches for the Czechs. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova then beat Czech No. 2 Lucie Safarova to set up the decisive doubles. "Petra won two points, but we needed one more," Czech captain Petr Pala said.

"I'm glad we've managed to [get] the third one. We all won it because victory is made of small pieces you have to put together. It's team work." Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev also praised Kvitova. "The Czechs won thanks to Kvitova's superb play," Tarpischev said. "She was just great." The Russian pair broke early for a 4-2 lead, but the Czechs won four consecutive games to take the first set and then jumped to a 5-2 lead in the second. The Russians saved three match points on Vesnina's serve before she sent a shot wide on the fourth.

"The Czechs played unbelievably well, they dominated the game and left us no chance," Vesnina said. "It was tough to get something going today, but we fought until the very end." Earlier on Sunday, Kvitova rallied to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova then replaced Kirilenko and kept the Russians' hopes alive by beating Safarova 6-2, 6-4.

Pavlyuchenkova won five consecutive games in the first set and broke decisively in the fifth game of the second to serve out the match at love, closing it with an ace. Pavlyuchenkova also helped Russia get out of the first round against France in February, when she won the first reverse singles to start Russia's comeback from 2-0 down. In their first ever meeting, Kvitova and Kuznetsova traded breaks three times in the first set before the Czech, 5-4 down on her serve in the 10th game, saved a set point before netting a backhand to go 1-0 down in the match.

But the Wimbledon champion won five consecutive games in the second set and, trailing 3-0 in the decider, went on to win the rest of the games and close the match with a backhand winner on her second match point. "I wasn't playing my tennis in the first set, making too many mistakes, while Svetlana moved and returned very well," Kvitova said.

Kvitova, who made 19 unforced errors, said she had forced herself to begin playing cross-court shots instead of her favourite flat drives in the second set and it paid off. "It was tough to come back into the match in the second set, " Kvitova said. "In the third set I was 3-0 down and I didn't think I could still win. I managed to come back on Svetlana's [Kuznetsova] serve and it was a very important moment in the match." Kvitova remained unbeaten in six Fed Cup matches this season.

The victory was her 12th in a row after winning back-to-back titles in Linz, Austria, and the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul last weekend. "She [Kvitova] began to play much better after she fell behind 3-0 in the third set," Kuznetsova said. "I was just unlucky on some points. The difference between us today was that she had played so many such matches this season, while I rarely had such intriguing matches." Kvitova won six titles this season and moved to No. 2 in the rankings. "I played well today, but she was just a bit better on key moments," Kuznetsova said.

Russia was without its top players. Maria Sharapova has an ankle injury and wasn't selected for the final, while Vera Zvonareva was forced to pull out on Friday because of shoulder injury. Tarpischev said Zvonareva's late injury forced him to make some emergency decisions and call up Kirilenko, who was already on vacation. Russia has won the Fed Cup title four times since 2004 and was unbeaten at home in 10 ties since losing to France in the semifinals in 2003.


Gas-powered Russians target track domination by 2016


Heiko Salzwedel has been told to return Russia to cycling supremacy. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, the Soviet Union topped the cycling medal table.

Twenty years later, in Beijing, Russia placed 16th in the sport. Salzwedel, formerly a coach for Britain and Australia among others, took charge of Russia's track cyclists in the aftermath of the Beijing Games.

Russia subsequently won a medal at the 2011 World Championships in its flagship event, the men's team pursuit, for the first time since 1999. They took silver, behind Australia but ahead of Olympic champions Great Britain.

"Russia has a big tradition in the team pursuit. Back in the times of the Soviet Union, between 1975 and 1990, they were on the podium 14 times in 15 years - seven of those in first position," said Salzwedel during a break at last week's European Track Cycling Championships, in the Netherlands.

"Then, after perestroika, Russian track cycling went downhill in a big way. There were individual results here and there but, in the team pursuit, they had two medals in 20 years - one in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics and one in 1999.

"With no results, interest in the sport dropped in the last 20 years. Now we have a concept to promote track cycling in a big way - we're getting 10 new velodromes and all the necessary publicity - and we have a strategy." Russia also has money, and ambition.

The Russian cycling federation's president, Igor Makarov, has set Salzwedel the target of making Russia the world's foremost cycling nation by the time of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. To back this up, unprecedented funding is being poured into the programme.

Current prime minister Vladimir Putin and Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, have made plain their desire to restore the country's national sporting pride - particularly after the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, from which the Russian team returned home in disgrace having finished a meagre 11th. Russia's industrial giants, many operated by oligarchs with political fortunes to preserve, are now spending increasing sums on sport.

Alongside his leadership of Russian cycling, Makarov has spent 20 years as the head of Itera, a gas conglomerate closely tied to Gazprom, the country's largest company. Both Gazprom and Itera sponsor the Russian Katusha cycling team, and Itera's logo is as prominent on the Russian track cycling team's bodywear as the Sky logo is on that of Britain's riders. "I get every support from the federation and also from some rich private backers of the sport," said Salzwedel.

"And I make no secret of the fact that Russia, and especially Igor Makarov, has a clear goal - to be the number one cycling nation by 2016. He hopes I'll play a big part in it and I'm more than happy to share the ambition with him." "I have a lot of problems implementing that. There is a lot of resistance from the old coaches, back from the Soviet Union days. Ironically, whereas at British Cycling I was one of the oldest coaches, now I'm one of the youngest - and I'm 54.

" In two years, Salzwedel has done enough for Russian cycling to figure prominently once again. Five years remain to reach that lofty target. Hunt sees similarities in Britain's story. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Britain and Russia both won two cycling gold medals. Four years later, Britain won eight and Russia none.

For London 2012, the proven leadership of performance director Dave Brailsford is partnered with the commercial backing of Sky, and the world expects GB to challenge in all of the 10 Olympic events. "It's the same as us five or six years ago. When we said we wanted to be number one by 2013, everyone laughed at us and said we'd never do it," said Hunt.


BBC Sport


Pedrosa claims Sepang pole


Dani Pedrosa took only his second pole of the 2011 MotoGP season in Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying, after a huge fight with his Honda team-mates Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso.

Despite dominating practice, Pedrosa had to dig deep in qualifying - and gave himself an early headache when he fell at the final corner just 12 minutes into the session. The crash was a minor one, and he quickly rejoined. As the likes of Dovizioso and Gresini Honda's Marco Simoncelli took turns on provisional pole, it took until 38 minutes into the hour before Pedrosa returned to the top spot he had held for so much of the weekend.

He did not stay there for long, with Dovizioso getting back ahead going into the last 13 minutes. Then Stoner - who had been a low-key fifth - vaulted to provisional pole with a time 0.061 seconds quicker than Dovizioso. Finally going into the last runs Pedrosa put himself to the head of the field with a 2m01.462s. Stoner closed right in, but had to settle for second, 0.029s adrift, during their final showdown, with Dovizioso completing the front row.

A superb performance by Colin Edwards saw the Tech 3 Yamaha beat Simoncelli to fourth. Edwards' best qualifying result of the year was also some comfort for Yamaha, as its works bikes ended up 16th and 17th. While Jorge Lorenzo's stand-in Katsuyuki Nakasuga's last position was little surprise, Ben Spies joining him on the back row came as a shock.

Struggling with discomfort from heavy bruising after his Phillip Island crash, Spies' body took another pounding when he crashed at Turn 10 late on and tumbled through the gravel. Even before the accident he had looked unlikely to get into the top 10. Valentino Rossi also crashed at the same spot, but quickly rejoined on his spare bike to take ninth, three places behind an impressive run from his Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden.


Rugby World Cup 2011 semi-final: New Zealand - Australia


New Zealand moved a step closer to ending their 24-year World Cup wait as they overpowered arch-rivals Australia with a controlled semi-final display.

 The Wallabies had beaten the All Blacks in the semis of both 2003 and 1991 but were rocked by a blistering start and never truly recovered. An early try from Ma'a Nonu and six points from the misfiring boot of Piru Weepu gave the home side a 14-6 lead at the interval. And with the All Blacks forwards in the supremacy and Australia's key men Quade Cooper and David Pocock unable to exert a decisive influence, two second-half penalties sent a capacity Kiwi crowd away into the Auckland night in delight.

New Zealand will now meet France in Sunday's final, and on the evidence of this weekend should start as hot favourites to win their first World Cup since 1987. The Wallabies were immediately on the back foot when Cooper put the kick-off directly into touch and then watched as Weepu drilled a low kick into the corner to pile on the pressure.

It was all New Zealand, Cory Jane and Israel Dagg both threatening with scything runs, and it was a burst through midfield from the impressive Dagg that brought an inevitable first score - Rocky Elsom was handed off, O'Connor unable to prevent a wonderful off-load as Nonu came up inside to power over in the corner. Weepu missed the conversion and then a straightforward penalty after Pocock - ominously for Australia - was pinged for going off his feet.

A side-stepping run from Digby Ioane set up a penalty for James O'Connor on Australia's first foray into opposition territory but Cooper then spilled an up-and-under to cede possession again, Weepu making it 8-3 with a simple penalty but then missing an even easier one. Aaron Cruden, third choic

e fly-half a fortnight ago, was orchestrating the attacks well and nailed a drop-goal from distance to dispel any fears that the occasion might be too much for him. Australia lost tight-head prop Sekipe Kepu to injury but then finally began to get into the game. A series of drives from the forwards gave Cooper the opportunity to pop over a drop-goal, but a daft offside from Adam Ashley-Cooper allowed Weepu to extend the lead to 14-6 with a penalty from 40 metres just before the interval.

The Wallabies had missed 15 tackles in the first period, and they slipped further behind almost immediately as Pat McCabe held on in the tackle and Weepu stroked over his third penalty. Neat footwork from their much-vaunted backs gave them good field possession but handling errors repeatedly took the wind from the green and gold sails. Cooper was being booed and jeered with every unhappy touch, Pocock having nowhere near the same success against Richie McCaw at the breakdown as he had in the quarter-final win over the Springboks.

The All Blacks forwards' increasing dominance at the scrum gave Weepu a long-distance pot which fell short before Dagg sliced a drop-goal attempt horribly. But the Wallabies' tight five were being mangled at every set piece. When another scrum collapsed under intense pressure, Weepu - back on as a blood replacement for Andy Ellis - made it 20-6. Although replacement Sonny Bill Williams spent the last five minutes in the sin-bin for a shoulder charge on Cooper, the tired Wallabies could make no impact with the extra man.

As the final whistle sounded the home crowd celebrated by bellowing "Four more years!" in happy reference to Wallaby scrum-half George Gregan's famous taunt after that 2003 Wallaby win.


BBC Sport


Murray triumphs in Tokyo


British number one Andy Murray snapped a five-match losing streak against rival Rafael Nadal to lift the Japan Open title in Tokyo.

The 24-year-old took a giant step towards leapfrogging Roger Federer as the new world number three after coming from behind to win 3-6 6-2 6-0 on Sunday. The win, Murray's 12th in a row, secures back-to-back ATP Tour titles for the Scot following his victory in Bangkok one week ago. But the win in Japan came following a remarkable turnaround from Murray, who reeled off eight consecutive games after losing a tightly-contested opening set.

Nadal, who knocked Murray out of three of the four 2011 grand slams at the semi-final stage, looked set to continue his dominance over the Scot when he broke early in the first set. Murray's serve was shaky throughout the opener, although Nadal failed to cash in and took it with just the solitary break.

Something happened to Murray during the end-of-set break, though, and he left his chair for the second seemingly a different player. After adjusting some strapping on his ankle he began to dominate Nadal from the baseline and move him around, breaking through in the fourth game of the set.

Nadal, looking for a first hard court title since he won this event a year ago, then earned himself three break points at 0-40 but three aces from Murray saw him off and he then broke again to take the set and level the match.

What materialised in the third set simply does not happen to Nadal, though, as the Majorcan was forced to watch on as Murray struck winner after winner from the baseline. Murray broke three times to whitewash Nadal in the final set, before heading off court to prepare for the doubles final with brother Jamie.

"I played some great tennis, especially in the third set," Murray told afterwards. "There was a lot of close games towards the end of the first set and beginning of the second and I managed to get the momentum and didn't give him many chances after that.

"For sure in the third set it was some of the best tennis I've played against him. I was very consistent, didn't make too many mistakes and kept a cool head in the important moments."




Button warns Red Bull ahead of Suzuka


Jenson Button has warned Red Bull not to underestimate McLaren's potential for the Japanese Grand Prix, even though the circuit will play to the strengths of the reigning champions' cars.

F1 is heading to Suzuka fully expecting Sebastian Vettel to secure the single point he needs to clinch the world championship. But, although that means Button's title hopes will be officially over, the Briton still thinks he and his team can put on a fight in Suzuka. "In the last few races, I think we've shown that we have extremely good pace and that we've been the team most able to take the fight to Red Bull," said Button.

"On paper, I think it's a circuit that will suit the Red Bulls, particularly in the high-speed sweeps that make up the first sector of the track, but I certainly don't think people should underestimate our package. "We showed at Spa that we have a car that's very effective in high-speed corners. We've also improved our straight-line speed and we have a more efficient rear-wing for qualifying, so I think we're feeling positive about the weekend."

 Team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who is keen to bounce back from recent disappointment, hopes that his aggressive style that has caused him trouble this year could actually be a benefit this time out. "I think Suzuka will play to my strengths: it's a track that really requires you to drive in an attacking way to be able to get a good lap time," he said. "It's an uncompromising place.

"But that's when the thrill of driving a Formula 1 car is at its highest; when you know you can't afford a single mistake and where driving on the absolute limit is the only way to get the best time. In that sense, it's a lot like Monaco, and maybe that's why I like the place so much - it's unique.

"I think we're headed there in pretty good shape: we know that the Red Bulls will be strong – but we also have a very quick car, and we can make it work on different kinds of circuit."


Rooney facing spell out


Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that Wayne Rooney is likely to be sidelined for 'more than a week' after being forced to miss Manchester United's match against Stoke on Saturday.

The in-form striker was a notable omission from the visitors' line-up at the Britannia Stadium, but it was initially thought that he was only absent because of a minor hamstring problem. Ferguson confirmed after the 1-1 draw that the injury was 'not serious', but indicated that Rooney could be set to sit out a couple more games.

United face Basel in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday before tackling Norwich in the Premier League at Old Trafford next Saturday. There is then an international break and Fabio Capello will be concerned by the news regarding Rooney ahead of England's final Euro 2012 qualifier against nearest rivals Montenegro in Podgorica on 7th October.

When asked about Rooney's condition after the match at Stoke, Ferguson told MUTV: "It is difficult to say. It's a hamstring. It is not a serious one, it is a mild one. "I don't think he will be available for next week. It will be more than a week out."

Rooney had earlier tweeted that he was 'gutted' at being unable to play, but hoped he would be fit to feature in the Champions League clash with Basel in midweek.


Shanghai Open final to be investigated


Snooker chiefs are to investigate an incident involving Mark Selby and Mark Williams in the Shanghai Open final.

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association has launched an inquiry into a snooker that Williams laid in the 17th frame.

Williams, who lost 10-9, was convinced Selby fouled, insisting he struck the pink, but referee Eirian Williams said Selby hit a red first.

"I was robbed. The referee made such an appalling decision," said Williams. The WPBSA made clear the result of the match would stand, regardless of the inquiry.

At the time of the incident, the Welshman led the best-of-19-frames match 9-7 and was 48-5 ahead in the 17th, but lost the frame in question and the last two of the match.

 "It was plain to see that he hit the pink. We didn't need to play it back," added Williams. But slow-motion replays were inconclusive and there was no freeze-frame option available at the tournament.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson will lead the inquiry along with former referee Alan Chamberlain, with finalists Williams and Selby and referee Williams to give statements.

"I want to make very clear from the outset that this inquiry is not part of any disciplinary procedure and has no effect on the outcome of the match," said Ferguson.

"Mark Selby is a deserving champion and won the match fair and square. Our rules state that any decision by the referee is final.

"However, through this inquiry, we will look to establish tighter guidelines for referees when such difficult decisions need to be made."


BBC Sport


Good Week/Bad Week


Another entertaining week of sport passes us by, and as usual there are plenty of intriguing storylines that have come out of it. From the triumphant history-makers to the tormented tantrums, has run the rule over the biggest winners and losers of the past seven days. Check out our pick of the bunch and have your say using the feedback form below.

 Farah finished as Britain's most successful athlete at the World Championships in Daegu after adding a thrilling 5,000 metres gold to his silver in the 10,000m. One week after falling agonisingly short in the 10,000m, the 28-year-old became the first British man to win a global distance running title as he held off Bernard Lagat on the home straight. Farah will now head into the London Olympics with three major championship gold medals in the past two years and has cemented himself as one of the home nation's star names ahead of the Games.

There was further endurance-related British success over the past seven days as Team Sky duo Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome took the second week of the Vuelta a Espana by storm. Froome took over the overall leader's jersey in a time trial at the start of the week before Wiggins overtook him in the mountains as their spectacular double act distanced many of the race favourites. Juan Jose Cobo eventually grabbed the lead on the absurdly steep Alto de L'Angliru but Froome and Wiggins now sit second and third, with the former still in with a good chance of becoming the first British rider to win a Grand Tour.

Dougherty's torrid run of missed cuts finally ended at 21 after he finally managed to stay for the weekend at the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland. The Englishman shot a brilliant first round of 63 to take a two-shot lead after the opening day before safely making the cut after carding a second round of 72. Although he could not reproduce the fireworks in the remaining two rounds, Dougherty's 45th-place finish must be viewed as a big step forward.

Scotland's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 are hanging by a thread after they could only manage a controversial 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic at Hampden Park. The result left a bitter taste as Jan Rezek admitted he dived to win a crucial penalty, while the hosts were denied a spot-kick of their own in the dying stages when Christophe Berra had a solid claim turned down. Craig Levein's side now face a must-win clash with Lithuania on Tuesday, although they will have to cope without midfielder Charlie Adam and striker Kenny Miller.

Sharapova has been enjoying a return to top form this year after fully recovering from her injury nightmare, but could not make it past the third round of the US Open. The third seed was pushed all the way by Britain's Heather Watson in the opening round before crashing out at the hands of Italian Flavia Pennetta. The Wimbledon finalist was made to pay the price for several unforced errors as she became the highest seed in either the men's or women's draw to fall in the opening week.

The reigning Aviva Premiership champions suffered opening-day embarrassment at Twickenham as they were condemned to a 20-15 defeat by Wasps. Sarries became the ninth team in 11 years to begin the defence of their title with a loss after a second-half try from Tom Varndell proved to be the difference between the two London teams. Five penalties had allowed Saracens to edge ahead in the contest but Wasps, who outscored their opponents by two tries to none, defended with determination and grabbed the win thanks to some glimpses of attacking flair.

The big striker seems destined never to play for League Two Swindon Town again after being involved in a highly-publicised touchline bust-up with manager Paolo Di Canio. Clarke took exception to words from his boss after a League Cup tie against Southampton, with the pair rowing at the side of the pitch and continuing their physical altercation in the tunnel. The Italian coach subsequently vowed never to pick the former QPR man again and produced the put-down of the season so far by calling Clarke "absolutely a lazy person", leaving the 26-year-old firmly out in the wilderness at the Robins.


Bolt back on top of the world


Usain Bolt successfully retained his 200m title at the World Championships with an impressive victory in a rapid time of 19.40 seconds.

The Jamaican put the devastation of his 100m disqualification behind him to beat American Walter Dix into second place with Cristophe Lemaitre of France taking bronze.

Bolt was not exactly slow out of the blocks after his false start in the 100m but he took most of the bend to close down nearest rival Dix.

But once in line for the tape Bolt cruised clear, for once running right through the line to clock the fourth fastest time in history - only Michael Johnson has run faster.

The Jamaican dragged Dix to a season's best of 19.70 while European champion Lemaitre also smashed his lifetime best and his national record, clocking 19.80secs.

It was Dix's second medal of the championships after he claimed the silver behind Bolt's team-mate Yohan Blake in the 100m.


La Liga strike to go ahead as talks collapse in Spain


Players in Spain's top two divisions will strike on the first day of the season after Friday's negotiations with clubs on wage guarantees collapsed.

The Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) is demanding players be allowed to break their contracts if they are not paid for three consecutive months. "Our positions are very far apart," said Professional Football League chairman Jose Luis Astiazara. "We are concentrating now on being able to save the second day."

The Spanish league had been scheduled to start this weekend but around 200 players in the top two divisions have not been fully paid by cash-strapped clubs, some of which are in bankruptcy protection. Players are said to be owed up to £43m in unpaid salaries. Both parties plan to continue talks on Saturday and Monday with next weekend's second round of games still under threat.

The season had been scheduled to start with three-time defending champions Barcelona at Malaga and Real Madrid playing Athletic Bilbao. When the postponed games would be replayed is uncertain with no free dates for rescheduling on the Spanish calendar before May.

Clubs involved in European competitions will continue playing with Villarreal facing a Champions League qualifying game next week and Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid all playing Europa League matches.


BBC Sport


England on top of the world


England wrapped up victory over India in the third Test at Edgbaston by an innings and 242 runs inside two sessions on day four.

Their reward is an unassailable 3-0 lead in the four-match series and the ICC number one ranking as the best Test side in the world. England seamer James Anderson finished with figures of 4-85 and despite some late defiance from the tail, India were skittled out for 244 in their second innings. The series loss is Mahendra Singh Dhoni's first as India skipper and he will now have to pick his dejected side up for the fourth and final Test at The Oval next week.

Following a Graeme Swann maiden, Anderson needed just one ball at Gautam Gambhir as England made a blistering start to the fourth day. The left-hander nibbled at one slanted dangerously across him and edged low to second slip, where Swann made no mistake away to his left. Sachin Tendulkar was therefore needed much earlier than India would have wished, and he nearly made a swift return to the pavilion as Anderson beat his outside edge with another perfect away swinger. India badly needed Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid to take the sting out of the situation, as England sensed a quick kill under cloud cover.

But 'The Wall' crumbled in strange circumstances when on only 18, as Anderson struck for a second time in the morning. It looked, and sounded, as if Anderson had found Dravid's edge through to Matt Prior, however replays failed to detect any contact with bat on ball. Had Dravid opted to use DRS, the decision may well have been overturned. Anderson had to wait another six overs to claim his fourth wicket, another vicious outswinger seeing off VVS Laxman caught behind.

After a spell of 6-2-17-3 in the morning, Anderson gave way to Tim Bresnan - and discovered soon afterwards that he would not be taking all 10 wickets, when Swann ended a minor counter-attack from Tendulkar and Suresh Raina by trapping the left-hander lbw pushing forward to a straight-on delivery. Swann was to have a hand too, literally, in the next wicket as Tendulkar, who had serenely moved along to 40, was dismissed in the most unfortunate of circumstances.

Backing up at the non striker's end, Tendulkar was run out when Swann got a touch on a powerful straight drive from Dhoni. Dhoni and Amit Mishra trudged off for lunch with India in dire straights on 116-6 and the end was nigh when Swann dismissed the latter shortly after the interval. Praveen Kumar joined his skipper in the middle and, just as they had done in the first innings, the pair launched a spirited counter-attack with a 50-run partnership off only 28 balls.

Kumar smashed Swann for successive sixes as he raced to 40, however his attempt to score the fastest Test half-century of all time fell short when he sliced the returning Broad straight to Ravi Bopara in the covers. That dismissal ended an entertaining 75-run partnership in only eight overs and Broad swiftly followed that wicket up by trapping Ishant Sharma lbw. Dhoni continued to swing the bat in defiance, but he was left stranded on 77 when Sreesanth was the last man out, edging Bresnan to Kevin Pietersen in the gully.


Tiger Woods slips back in WGC Invitational second round


Tiger Woods found the second round harder going in his return to action at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

The former world number one followed up his opening 68 with a round of 71 to slip to one under for the tournament. Overnight leader Adam Scott could not match his first round of 62 and remains tied for the lead in a group of four players on eight under.

Scotland's Martin Laird was a shot back at seven under par after birdieing his last three holes for a 67. "I came into this week feeling fresh and on a high," said Laird, who got married last Saturday in Colorado. "Sometimes it's amazing when you have no expectations how well you'll play."

Scott hit a level-par 70 and was caught by two of the early movers on day two at the Firestone Country Club, Americans Ricky Fowler (64) and Ryan Moore (66), who joined the Australian on eight under. Keegan Bradley of the United States hit a fine 65 to move alongside the leaders, but Australia's Jason Day failed to make it a group of five when he bogeyed the 18th to end the day of seven under with Laird and Sweden's Robert Karlsson.

World number two Lee Westwood looked set to challenge at six under but four bogeys in the last six holes saw him slip to two under. Open champion Darren Clarke, playing alongside Woods, could only manage a 74 and finished on a humbling 11 over after two rounds, while fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy carded a second 68 to go four under par, one clear of world number one Luke Donald (69). Woods - a seven-time winner at Firestone - was playing for the first time in 12 weeks after injury.

He made four birdies to three bogeys, but a double-bogey six on the sixth hole cost him dear, although he took comfort from what he felt was a second strong day in terms of driving. "I didn't putt as well as I did yesterday, and consequently I just never got the round going," said the 14-times major champion.

"I know my stats don't show it, but just the way I'm driving the golf ball - I'm so close to putting the ball on a string, so it's coming." He added: "I got so much more compression and the ball is just going. I've just got to get used to that and trust the number. I'm hitting the ball numbers I've never hit before."


BBC Sport


Serena Williams captures 1st title in comeback


Serena Williams smashed one final serve, dropped her racket, clenched her hands together and raised her arms in triumph.

At long last, a champion again. After blood clots in her lugs and two foot operations threatened her career for nearly a year, Williams captured her first tournament title since returning with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Marion Bartoli in the Bank of the West Classic final Sunday.

“Coming back and hearing the claps when I walk out there are moments that I truly missed,” Williams said. “It’s so awesome to be back and to be a part of those moments. Not everyone can be a sports, I don’t know if `star’ sounds full of myself, but I’ve worked hard for that title.

“So, yes, I say it and I take pride in it.” The 13-time major champion overcame two breaks in the first set to rally for a dominating finish. She went ahead 5-0 in the second and left no doubt. The victory was even sweeter because the ninth-ranked Bartoli beat the former world No. 1 in straight sets in the fourth round at Wimbledon this year.

The finals appearance was the first for Williams since winning at the All England Club in 2010 and her best showing this year. Williams also became the first American woman to win on home soil since she won the 2008 U.S. Open. While she entered the tournament unseeded and ranked 169th, the victory will vault Williams into the top 80. “I hated those triple digits,” she said, chuckling.

“Now I’ve got to get to single digits.” She’s well on her way after this week. Williams handled the competition with relative ease, including a 6-1, 6-3 thumping of Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals. She capped it off with a vintage performance against a well-rested Bartoli, who advanced when Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova withdrew in the other semifinal because of a strained abdominal muscle. Bartoli was bothered by a bruise in the center of her right hand that began to swell in the middle of the opening set. She said the injury loosened her grip but didn’t cost her the match. Williams was too good for that.

“Serena, she already can improve from one day to the other,” Bartoli said. “So you can imagine from one match to the other. I knew before the match started it was different than Wimbledon.” Sporting a long-sleeve green shirt and black skirt, Williams’ conservative outfit—by her sister Venus’ standards, anyway—was matched only by her strategy. She was calm and cool behind Bartoli’s go-for-broke shots—including a second serve topping 100 mph—but a harder time with the elements.

Williams struggled serving into the sun on a crisp and clear day at Stanford, even hitting a few serves with a shortened toss and awkward delivery. She was broken in the third game of the match and went down 4-2. Williams saved two break points and moved back to 4-4 with a break, pumping her fist in celebration. Bartoli broke back and served for the set at 5-4, first requesting a trainer to deal with the bruise. After a long rally on set point for Williams, somebody in the crowd yelled “out” while Bartoli returned a ball near the baseline. The French woman kept playing before Williams unleashed a forehand winner for the set. Bartoli argued unsuccessfully with the chair umpire to replay the point, and she requested a trainer between sets. In the end, she said, none of it mattered against her opponent.

“I’m sure she’s going to tell you that she can play even better,” Bartoli said. “And I’m sure that she will.” Such a small victory for Williams might never have meant so much. After winning Wimbledon in July 2010, she was out for nearly a year recovering from various health scares. The worst were two foot operations and blood clots in her lungs that left her depressed and “on my deathbed,” as she put it, much less wondering if she could ever play again.

Now Williams is not only back but ready to make more runs on the hard-court series this summer and at the U.S. Open beginning in late August. She said her stamina is back and her game is getting sharper by the day, a scary thought for opponents heading into Flushing Meadows. Even if she’s not ready to tab herself the favorite. “I haven’t thought about (the U.S. Open). Right now, I just put myself right at the bottom,” Williams said.

“I feel like I just want to start and go in. My confidence is better, which is what I was planning for. I don’t even think like that. When I get there, I’m going to have the same chance as everybody else.”


Cavendish secures green with Paris win


Mark Cavendish won the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris to become the first Briton to win the green jersey competition.

HTC sprinter Cavendish outsprinted Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Germany's Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to take his third successive victory on the famous cobbles of the Champs Elysees - and his fifth stage win of this year's Tour. With green jersey rival Jose Rojas (Movistar) of Spain nowhere to be seen, Cavendish secured his - and Britain's - first ever win in the race's points competition with the 20th Tour win of his career.

Australian Cadel Evans (BMC) safely finished in the peloton to become the first rider from the Southern Hemisphere to win cycling's most prestigious three-week race. A near-flawless performance on Saturday's deciding 42.5km time trial in Grenoble saw 34-year-old Evans leap-frog the Schleck brothers of Leopard Trek the GC and move into the race lead on the eve of the finish in Paris.

Luxembourg's Andy Schleck took second place, one minute and 34 seconds behind Evans, while Schleck's brother Frank completed the podium, 2:30 down after more than 3,500 kilometres in the saddle. "I couldn't be any happier. A few people always believed in me. I always believed in me. And we did it," said a tearful Evans on Sunday.

"The real highlight was the last three to four kilometres of the time trial yesterday because I knew we were on the right track." Cavendish's win was his team HTC-Highroad's sixth in the race following Tony Martin's victory in Saturday's time trial - and the Isle of Man sprinter's four previous scalps.

Once again, the "Manx Missile" profited from an excellent lead out by his team, who had sent German Lars Bak forward in a six-man breakaway which formed on the first of eight laps around the centre of Paris. Bak was the last man in the break to be reeled in, with under 3km remaining until the famous finish on one of the world's most famous streets, the Champs Elysees.

With three teammates leading him out after the final crossing of the Place de la Concorde, Cavendish managed to hold off the challenge of double stage winner Boasson Hagen and a late surge from third-place Greipel, the stage 10 winner. American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) could not repeat his stage-winning heroics of Independence Day and crossed the line in fourth ahead of Swiss powerhouse Fabian Cancellara of Leopard Trek.

With a maximum 45 points at the finish - and nine points for seventh-place in the intermediate sprint - 26-year-old Cavendish finished the Tour with 334 points to Rojas' 272 points and secures the green jersey for the first time in five attempts. Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) won the polka dot jersey as best climber after a second place ride to Alpe d'Huez and a memorable victory atop Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees.

France's Pierre Rolland (Europcar) finished the race in the white jersey as the best young rider following his astonishing win on Alpe d'Huez, which came on the back of supporting teammate Thomas Voeckler during his memorable 10 days in yellow. Voeckler finished the race in fourth place after the best Tour of his career.

Reigning champion Alberto Contador, who entered with race on the back of a winning performance in May's Giro d'Italia, struggled to find his form in France and finished in fifth place. It was the first Grand Tour in seven attempts that the Spaniard had failed to win.

"It's different coming into Paris when you are not the winner but you can't always have what you want all the time," said Contador, who is awaiting a decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport for failing a drugs test for the banned substance Clenbuterol during last year's winning performance.


David Haye has winner's mindset


Wladimir Klitschko's trainer Emanuel Steward has conceded his charge has not met anyone with David Haye's confidence and belief for almost six years. Briton Haye, the WBA champion, and the Ukrainian IBF and WBO title-holder meet in Saturday's heavyweight fight.

"Haye brings to the ring, speed, power and the mindset of a winner," Steward told BBC Sport in Hamburg. "He's confident and that's something Wladimir hasn't experienced since his first fight with Sam Peter [in 2005]." Steward added: "There's a whole new energy that Haye brings that Wladimir has not had to deal with since then." Klitschko was knocked down three times by Peter, before going on to outpoint the Nigerian, but the 35-year-old three-time world champion has won nine of his 10 fights since inside the distance.

The two protagonists engaged in media workouts on Wednesday, where the psychological warfare continued. Klitschko's camp arrived earlier than planned and attempted to block Haye's path to the venue, which led Haye's camp to seek out an alternative entrance. There followed the bizarre sight of Klitschko's entourage watching ringside as Haye went through a light workout, during which the Englishman, a right-hander, was throwing punches from a southpaw stance. Earlier, Haye continued his campaign to wind up Klitschko by tweeting a link to a film featuring Adolf Hitler, with mock subtitles added which refer to preparations for their bout.

Haye, 30, has continually sought to goad his rival in the build-up with various tasteless comments and stunts - and Haye claims the gamesmanship has got to Klitschko. "I'm in a good place but Wladimir looks rather wound up," Haye told BBC Sport. "He's never cussed me in the past but on Monday [at the head-to-head news conference] he was effing and blinding, which was nice, it showed he was out of his comfort zone.

"Everything I've done has worked perfectly. Even Manny Steward was real riled up and had to take a back seat. Their whole team seems rattled and Wladimir's going to get rattled on Saturday night, I'm sure." But Steward said he was confident Klitschko, who has 55 wins and 49 knockouts from 58 pro bouts, would keep his cool at the Imtech Arena, where 50,000 are expected on fight night.

"Wladimir being more motivated and emotionally charged for this fight is something I enjoy," said Steward, who also trained Lennox Lewis and Thomas Hearns, among many others. "He will not get away from his boxing strategy, it just means he will let his muscles go a lot faster than in the past.


BBC Sport


Stoner ready to attack in Italy


Australia's Casey Stoner will be back in attack mode at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello. The 2007 world champion eased ahead in the standings at the expense of rival Jorge Lorenzo after the Dutch GP - but had to consciously hold himself back in the race.

Stoner was chasing four wins in succession for the first time in his career and was given a clear pathway to a comfortable edge when Lorenzo was taken out early at Assen.

However, American Ben Spies set the pace and went on to win the race. Stoner had to continually remind himself to maintain second place - and the points that went with it - instead of being tempted into chasing down Spies. As it was the Honda rider managed to take the runner-up spot and opened up a 28-point lead in the series over Lorenzo - 136 to 108. Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar. End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar. With Lorenzo out of the running after a first lap tangle with Marco Simoncelli, Stoner was forced to concentrate on the 20 points which went with second.

"The way the race unfolded I thought this result is falling into my lap, so let's not be greedy and take too big a risk and have it all collapse on me,'' Stoner told "I brought it home but Ben was riding so well and so fast and it would have (needed) a big effort to pull him back.He was running some pretty good times. "This was the day to think a lot about the championship.

"After a first lap incident like that and with my bad start and then have this result come my way, it's good for the championship," he said. Stoner was hampered by a sore shoulder following a practice session crash on Friday but admitted he could not have caught Spies. "We lost a big amount of time to Ben in those first laps and by the time I got into second he had a huge gap and I tried pushing early on and sort of made a few mistakes," he said.

"Every time I made a little mistake the championship would pop up in the back of my mind and I'd just sort of back it off a little bit. "Unfortunately at about halfway through the race my shoulder started getting pretty tired and I tried not braking quite as hard and carrying a bit more corner speed, but with the soft front tyre it couldn't handle it. "So I had to change my riding style but by that time Ben had really got into his rhythm, started pulling some really good lap times and pulling a gap.

"I kept him under pressure a little bit but I wasn't going to chase him down."


Jagr’s NHL return on track


If his agent is to be believed, 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr wants to play in the NHL and there's a "really, really good chance" it'll happen for the 2011-12 season.

The latest on the return of Mario Jr., via Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, is that agent Petr Svoboda has indicated the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and "another team" he declined to name as the three options. Per LeBrun, it would be a 1-year deal and that a decision for Jagr could come this week. (No word if the KHL is still in the bidding process, for all of you who think this is just some price-inflating gambit by Jagr and his reps.)

Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review has more on the Penguins' side of the negotiation: Regarding the Penguins, Svoboda said the appeal to Jagr is returning to his NHL roots playing with centers Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes) and "being part of the professional, winning organization Ray has built." Shero is not the only Penguins' official on Jagr's mind. "I talked to Jaromir yesterday about Pittsburgh. He is a fan of the city and of the organization," Svoboda said. "I also spoke with (former Penguin) Robert Lang(notes) and he told me Mario Lemieux is trying to reach Jagr right now to talk." Alas, Jagr sold his cell phone for a $300 buy-in at a Texas Hold'em Tournament in Prague (unconfirmed). So the dance continues, as do the concerns.

How much will he cost? Can his 39-year-old body hold up to the rigors of the NHL when one great Alex Ovechkin(notes) hit in the Olympics seemed to sap him of this mojo? At what point does he have to begin prepping his coif for a proper Jagr mullet? Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette harbors (most) of those concerns and one more:

That Jagr will be the same sulking, gamblin' dressing room distraction he was during his days in Pittsburgh. In a way, they're all issues with maturity, whether physical or emotional. When he left the New York Rangers at age 36, Jagr still had this nagging ambition to be THE GUY for that team, both in ice time and in salary. He's older now, perhaps a bit humbler. He demanded $7 million from Glen Sather in 2008; had he done the same in 2011, Ken Holland and Ray Shero would have texted each other with "LOL" and then given him Dale Tallon's FAX number in Florida.

We don't see Jagr as a locker room cancer or anything of the like. The real issue, and perhaps the only one worth debating for Penguins and Red Wings and Devils Mystery Team fans: Can Jaromir Jagr help my team on the ice in 2011-12, or is this just a momentary lapse in which nostalgia conquers logic? Because that highway's crammed with broken heroes like Mike Modano(notes) in Detroit, Peter Forsberg(notes) (again and again) in Colorado and Alex Kovalev(notes) in Pittsburgh and ...


Rain delays Queen's final


The AEGON Championships final between Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has been postponed until Monday due to persistent rain.

The match, which will be only the third-ever Monday final in the history of the event, has been rescheduled to start at 12.30pm at Queen's Club.

Tournament director Chris Kermode said: "It has been a very frustrating day for everyone, particularly our ticket-holders but we will be giving everyone with a ticket today a full refund and an opportunity to buy tickets for the final weekend next year.

"We still have a fantastic day to look forward to on Monday and the weather forecast looks promising."

The tournament has had a Monday final twice before, when John McEnroe won in 1979 and when Boris Becker beat Jimmy Connors in 1987.

Tournament organisers initially moved the final forward to mid-day from 2pm in the hope of finding a break in the forecast bad weather.

The covers were removed for a brief period in the middle of the afternoon and the lines painted - but the rain soon returned and the players did not make it onto court.

Play was officially called off for the day at just after 5.30pm.


French Open: Li Na seals historic win over Schiavone


Li Na made history as the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title with a straight-sets win over defending champion Francesca Schiavone in the French Open final.

The 29-year-old, ranked seventh in the world, made up for defeat in January's Australian Open final by beating the Italian fifth seed 6-4 7-6 (7-0). Dominant on serve and consistently threatening from the baseline, Li overcame a late wobble to take away Schiavone's title in one hour and 48 minutes. The pair had met four times previously, with two wins apiece and Schiavone winning the last on her way to the title at Roland Garros last year, making her the slight favourite in many people's eyes. Li had never been a fan of clay in the past, whereas Schiavone's heavy topspin, vicious kick serve and sweeping single-handed backhand, has proved perfect for moving opponents out of position on the red dirt.

That was the theory; in practice the match set off on a different path and only rarely deviated. Li's cross-court forehand, which would prove a key shot, earned her a break point in the opening game that went begging, before doing the job in game five for a 3-2 lead. The Chinese player then went on to close out the set magnificently, getting to set point with another of those forehands, this time played while edging backwards under pressure, and after 39 minutes she had dropped just six points on serve. With the predicted showers not on the horizon on a muggy Paris afternoon, Schiavone would have to dig herself out of this hole, but she was losing the baseline battle and failing to mix up the pattern of play with enough drop shots and dashes to the net.

The Italian pulled a forehand down into the net to give up a break at the start of the second set and, after playing a beauty of a drop volley to earn a break-back point in the next game, could only stand and watch as a Li ace whistled down the centre line. Li had lost to Kim Clijsters in the final set in Melbourne, and Schiavone's best hope appeared to be an attack of nerves from the seventh seed if she could prolong the contest. There were signs of that happening as two more break points came and went for Li, the first an inviting mid-court forehand smashed into the net, and game eight finally saw the cracks begin to appear as four forehand errors brought Schiavone level at 4-4.

With her confidence returning, the champion was suddenly dictating matters and looked the more likely in the closing stages of the set, but Li held on for the tie-break and played it superbly. She opened with a dart to the net of her own and an angle forehand volley, a fabulous high backhand drive-volley put her 4-0 up, and Schiavone then netted a volley and sent one long to trail 6-0. Victory was now assured and the only moment of doubt remaining came when, preparing to serve, a Chinese shout from the crowd disturbed Li and she had to compose herself. The mind was clear enough, however, and when Schiavone fired over the baseline tennis had a new champion, and a new nation on the Grand Slam roll of honour.




Barcelona wins Champions League final


The debate is over now. Barcelona is on the list of soccer's all-time greatest teams. Led by another dominant performance from Lionel Messi, the Catalan club beat Manchester United 3-1 on Saturday to earn its third Champions League title in six seasons and No. 4 overall.

"I feel privileged," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "You always want to win, but the way we have won is what I am most proud of. This is the way we want to play football. "Lionel is the best player I have seen and probably the best I will ever see." Messi was typically subdued in his celebration.

"I'm very happy about the match," Messi said. "We were the better team. We deserved to win." Messi put Barcelona ahead to stay with his 53rd goal and helped create another score to give the Spanish league champion some breathing room. Barcelona dominated play at Wembley Stadium with its trademark one-touch passing, but it needed the Argentine striker to conjure a 54th-minute solo strike from the edge of the penalty area to take the lead for the second time.

There seemed to be no space as Messi was tracked by fullback Patrice Evra. But the two-time world player of the year spotted a gap between the central defenders and hit a shot down the middle, beating goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. Messi added a fake and run that led to David Villa taking possession on the edge of the area. From there, the Spain striker curled a shot into the top corner of the net. "They do mesmerize you with their passing and we never really did control Messi," United manager Alex Ferguson said.

"But many people have said that. "In my time as manager, it's the best team I've faced." Soccer commentators had said before the game that Barcelona, which already had won a third straight Spanish league title, would be ranked among the sport's truly great teams with a victory over United. Now, with four European titles, only Liverpool, AC Milan and Barcelona's fierce rival Real Madrid have won more.

Barcelona's performance was so comfortable that Guardiola was able to bring on regular captain Carles Puyol for the last few moments, giving the oft-injured defender the chance to play a part in a memorable triumph. But in a gesture symbolizing Barcelona's team ethic, Puyol handed the armband over to Eric Abidal. His place on the team had been in doubt after he had surgery this season to remove a liver tumor — and the France defender lifted the famous trophy.

"Players are human beings," Guardiola said. "Carles has made a great gesture and it has made us stronger." After a shaky opening, Barcelona simply outclassed the English champions. Xavi, standing in as captain for Puyol, orchestrated play from in front of Sergio Busquets, while Andres Iniesta and Messi hurt United with pinpoint passing.

"This is the reason I came to Barcelona," Villa said. "I'm very happy, very satisfied. We have a team with ambition, a team with the will to win." United could do little to disrupt Barcelona, the prevailing force of European soccer. "They were the better team so we can't really argue," United's Rio Ferdinand said. "They're a great side with great players."




Just one in 20 will get to see Bolt fly


LONDON 2012 chiefs have received more than one MILLION requests for tickets for the Olympic men's 100 metres final.

The session, with Usain Bolt hoping to defend his title at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday August 5 next year, is one of the most sought after of the London Games.

As SunSport revealed, Bolt is unlikely to run in this country before London 2012 because of draconian tax laws. He has opted to snub this summer's Grand Prix at Crystal Palace where fans who miss out on Olympic tickets would have had the chance to see him in action.

Only 40,000 seats are available for each session at the Olympic Stadium after the capacity was halved through sponsors, VIPs and the media. Applicants will find out by June 24 whether they have got any of the total 6.6 million Olympics tickets available. Some 1.8 million people applied, with a total of 20 million ticket applications.

Such was the level of demand for the 100m final in the recent ballot for tickets that the Olympic Stadium in east London could have been sold out more than 20 times over. The price of Olympic tickets ranges from Ј20 to Ј725 for the showpiece 100 metres final, and reaches Ј2,012 for the opening ceremony on 27 July.


Mancini targets title tilt


Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has already set his sights on bringing the Premier League trophy to Eastlands.

City ended a 35-year wait for silverware on Saturday as the club defeated Stoke City in the FA Cup final at Wembley thanks to Yaya Toure's decisive strike. Mancini is now plotting to challenge bitter rivals Manchester United for the Premier League crown. United sealed their record 19th league crown this weekend, but affluent City have plans to build on their recent success, after also booking their place in next season's UEFA Champions League.

Italian coach Mancini said: "We want to try now for the title. "It's now better for all the people in Manchester tonight and next year we will see. "We can try to play for the top with the other teams. It was time for that banner to come down. It was also important to start to win.

"We got into the Champions League and that was our first target. Now we have won the FA Cup. "In England there are three competitions - the Premier League, FA Cup and Carling Cup. We have won the FA Cup but we need to improve more to go to the next step. "The first step is always the hardest. We can now say congratulations to all of our players for everything they have done this year. "We now have two more games and we would like to see if it was possible to get third position. "But will I have a drink tonight? No, no. No drinks. And the players know we should play in three days. "It is important to finish third in the Premier League."

Mancini also reserved praise for striker Mario Balotelli, who put in an impressive performance against Stoke to silence some of his critics. He added: "Balotelli played very well. This trophy will be important for him because it can help him improve as a man, as a player. "It was difficult for Mario. I said to him before the game that if he was nervous we would play him for 50 minutes and then take him off the pitch. "He is a big talent. He can't lose that big talent"


Novak Djokovic ends Nadal's run on clay in Madrid


Novak Djokovic inflicted the first clay-court defeat on Rafael Nadal in nearly two years and maintained his own unbeaten start to 2011 as he won the Madrid Open final in straight sets.

The Serbian came through 7-5 6-4 at the Caja Magica to extend his record in 2011 to 32 consecutive victories - the second best start to a season behind John McEnroe's 42 in 1984. And having ended Nadal's run of 37 straight wins on clay, stretching back to the 2009 French Open, McEnroe's record no longer looks so out of reach. "Unbelievable," said Djokovic, whose winning streak totals 34 matches including last year's Davis Cup final.

"I stepped onto the court today believing I could win. I needed to be aggressive and it was a great match." Madrid has never been Nadal's favourite clay-court venue because of the faster pace caused by the high altitude, and he will hope that conditions favour him more at next week's Rome Masters and, more importantly, Roland Garros later this month. "I came up against a great player obviously - he's having a monster year," said Nadal.

"He was better, you have to accept that." Djokovic dictated play for the most part in Sunday's final, his backhand especially impressive, and the rumours beforehand that the 23-year-old was struggling physically proved completely unfounded. Nadal went into the match having been beaten just six times on clay in 196 matches dating back to 2005, and to beat him on the surface has required a level of physical and mental strength allied to consistent accuracy that has generally eluded all-comers.

Djokovic has been a man transformed this year, however, matching the Spaniard physically but having an extra attacking edge to his game as he won the Masters 1000 finals in Indian Wells and Miami. He picked up where he had left off in the US by storming into a 4-0 lead only for a first sign of nerves to flicker with a routine backhand into the tramlines when serving for the set at 5-3, 30-30. Nadal sensed his moment and unleashed a barrage of forehands to get the second break back, and his home crowd roared in anticipation of their man finally taking control.

The Djokovic of 2011 is a winning machine, however, with five titles to his name already, and the pressure points no longer affect him as they once did. Nadal fought off three more break on his way to levelling at 5-5 but Djokovic remained unruffled, racing through his next service game and then powering to 0-40 and three more set points. He was helped out by a couple of net cords as he broke for the set but the jeers of the Madrid crowd rang hollow as there was no doubt who was in charge.

And Nadal later insisted that Djokovic will at some stage in the near future replace him as world number one. "The number one ranking is not in danger - it's finished," said the 24-year-old. "Let's not lie to ourselves, that's the reality. Nobody likes to lose. "I have to see what's missing and working with a cool, open mind to decipher things and find the solutions. To try to do a little better next time." On the number one ranking, Djokovic responded: "If I keep winning I'll get closer but I'm trying not to think about that. I just started the clay-court season.

"It was a perfect start with the two tournaments that I won and I need to stay dedicated and focused on the upcoming events because if I want to reach number one I have to play consistent, because that's what Rafa will do and the rest of the players. "It has changed, I have a different mindset right now, I'm more stable and I know how to think right."


BBC Sport


England's Lee Westwood is golf's new world no.1


England's Lee Westwood spoke Monday of his pride at regaining the world number one spot after a thrilling weekend of play that saw his compatriot Luke Donald stumble in his bid for the top ranking.

Westwood, who held the top spot for 17 weeks before being deposed by Germany's Martin Kaymer, won the Indonesian Masters on Sunday but had to rely on Donald's playoff slip-up at the US PGA Heritage Tournament to steal the coveted position. "Being top of the official world golf ranking makes me feel very proud," Westwood said, ahead of this week's Ballantine's Championship near Seoul.

"I'm delighted to be coming to the Ballantine's Championship as World No.1. I'm very much looking forward to the tournament and hopefully I'll give the galleries plenty to cheer about in the coming days." The Englishman held the top ranking from November last year until February 28, when Kaymer leap-frogged him to the top of the golfing ladder. Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar. End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

Westwood's three-shot win in Indonesia was enough to regain the accolade after Donald lost out in a play-off in South Carolina to Brandt Snedeker. Golf fans have been gripped by a fierce tussle for the top spot since Tiger Woods surrendered the position six months ago.

While Westwood and Kaymer have traded the top slot, Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Donald have all been within striking distance, while a winless Woods, now ranked 6th, has slipped back amid a struggle for consistency. The Ballantine's Championship, a co-sanctioned European Tour, Asian Tour and Korea PGA event, starts on Thursday at the Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul.


El Clasico enters new dimension


One of the world's great sporting rivalries enters a new dimension on Saturday when Real Madrid play Barcelona in La Liga to kick off the first of four meetings in just over two weeks.

After Saturday's match the two clubs meet in the Copa del Rey final on 20 April, which will be followed by their two-legged Champions League semi-final - with the first game at Real's Bernabeu stadium on 27 April and Barca hosting the second on 3 May. Both teams have a chance of winning the Treble, a feat only achieved in Spanish football history by Barca two years. However, Real are eight points behind the defending Spanish champions with only seven games to go and as Madrid's coach Jose Mourinho admitted after the recent defeat by Sporting Gijon, mathematically the league might not be lost, but "in practical terms it is".

The juxtaposition of three Cup games makes you wonder whether pragmatism and pride will dictate that Mourinho puts out a weaker team than he might have done on Saturday in a bid to salvage something from Real's season. Will he rest the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo or will the special demands of an El Clasico match ensure Mourinho has no alternative but to throw them into the fray and hope that they survive for that trio of Cup games. Both men started Wednesday's game against Spurs but neither looked as though they had fully recovered from their recent injuries, with their return to action being precipitated in time for the first leg in the Champions League quarter-final against Spurs.

The same question could also be asked of Barca coach Pep Guardiola, who might feel that with such a cushion at the top of the table it might be a valid strategy to leave the likes of, who else, Lionel Messi, on the bench. All of which has prompted many pundits in Spain to wonder whether this might turn out to be the most diluted El Clasico in recent memory. Nevertheless, this quartet of matches could have a profound effect on the future of both coaches, which means that full-strength sides, with patched-up star players, may yet be the order of the day.

After eliminating Spurs, Mourinho maintained that he was likely to put out his 11 best men on Saturday: "Each of the Clasicos will be completely independent of each other in this context. Each one will not have any significance in relation to the one before or the one after." Nevertheless, most people believe that whoever gets the upper hand on Saturday will also get a psychological boost for the other three games. For Real there is also the matter of laying to rest the ghost of their dismantlement by Barca in that humiliating 5-0 defeat in the Nou Camp last November.

Speculation persists in Spain that Mourinho might yet leave in the summer if he and Real were to suffer the blow of four poor results against Barca, let us say two draws in the Bernabeu and a couple of defeats in the other games. Personally, I don't think that will happen because Mourinho and Real have individually and collectively backed themselves into a corner. Just like the oft-quoted statistic that the Spanish economic recession has led to fewer divorces but more couples sleeping in separate bedrooms under the same roof, neither Mourinho and Real have anywhere else to go, at least for another season.

They must make the most of their marriage made in relative haste last summer. Mourinho has an estimated salary of £11.5m and plenty of influence behind he scenes at the Bernabeu now that he has managed to partially mould Real in his own image and neuter his rival for influence, general director Jorge Valdano. Likewise, who would Real turn to if Mourinho is unable to deliver a record 10th European Cup?

More importantly would they want to pay off the remainder of his contract? Financially, of course, Real could find the money but it would be a ruinously expensive public relations exercise, though it would confirm Real's Florentino Perez as the ultimate hire them and fire them president, after dismissing seven previous coaches in seven years during two stints in his current role. Over in Barcelona, Guardiola does not believe that Mourinho and Real are the underdogs that the European media have portrayed them ahead of these four games.

"It's the chance to compete with one the strongest teams around," said Guardiola. "We shall accept the challenge and go for it. It doesn't matter what condition we are in. What matters is mentality and desire." Conversely, if Real do rise to the occasion and grab their first Copa del Rey since 1993 - the longest period in their history that the club have gone without winning the Spanish Cup - and then eliminate Barca from the Champions League, it might have the reverse effect and lead to Guardiola contemplating his future.




Michael Katsidis loses world title fight to Robert Guerrero


Australia's Michael Katsidis lost his interim lightweight world title fight against American southpaw Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero on a unanimous points decision.

The taller Guerrero, 28, used his physical advantage to dominate the bout at the MGM Grand Casino's Garden Arena in Las Vegas, repeatedly thundering Katsidis with straight left hands.

It was the fourth loss of the Toowoomba 30-year-old's professional career. Midway through the second round Katsidis hit Guerrero with a left hook, buckling the American.

Guerrero's right glove touched the canvas, but referee Russell Mora mistakenly declined to call it a knockdown. Katsidis unleashed a ferocious body attack in the eighth round, but Mora stopped the round twice, deducting two points from Katsidis for low blows.

In the ninth round Guerrero had a point deducted for hitting Katsidis with a low blow. Guerrero now holds the interim World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organisation lightweight belts, giving him a shot at the division's super champion Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez. Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar. End of sidebar.

Return to start of sidebar. If Marquez opts against fighting Guerrero and pursues a $10 million-plus mega fight with the world's best boxer, Manny Pacquiao, Guerrero will likely inherit the WBA and WBA belts.


KHL. Players of the Semis


With the end of the Conference semi-finals, the KHL has named the best players of the round in four categories.

* Best goaltender went to Erik Ersberg (Salavat Yulaev). In his five games he celebrated four wins, including one shutout victory, allowed an average of 1.65 goals per game and achieved a save percentage of 94.3.

* Best defenseman went to Karel Rachunek (Lokomotiv). In five games he scored four goals, assisted on three more, and merited a rating of +6.

* Best attacker went to Alexander Galimov (Lokomotiv, pictured), who in five outings scored 7 points (5 + 2) and earned a rating for the round of +5.

* Best rookie went to Metallurg Magnitogorsk attacker Pavel Zdunov, who featured in six games in the series against Avangard, spending an average of approximately eight and a half minutes on the ice.




Unbeaten Solis hopes to upset Klitschko


FRANKFURT, Germany (AP)—Former Olympic champion Odlanier Solis challenges WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in Cologne on Saturday with an unbeaten record and in his best physical shape in years.

Solis is nine years younger than 39-year-old Klitschko, whose record is 41-2, with 38 knockouts. “My boxer is at the ideal weight to beat Vitali Klitschko. No more, no less. Just enough,” Solis trainer Pedro Luis Diaz said.

Solis, also a three-time amateur world champ, has struggled with weight problems since he defected from Cuba in December 2006. Diaz said it was different this time. “Solis’ preparation has been designed and prepared, down to the smallest detail. Vitali does not know what kind of trouble he is in for. Odlanier is in the prime of his career.”

Solis weighed in Friday at 112 kilograms (246.9 pounds), while Klitschko was 113.2 kilograms (249.5 pounds). The 2004 Olympic champion has a 17-0 record, with 12 KOs. But Solis also gives away 15 centimeters (six inches) in height to the Ukrainian champion.

“Solis is one of the strongest opponents in my career,” Klitschko said. Klitschko’s only previous experience with an Olympic champion was a defeat against Lennox Lewis in 2003. “We’ve reviewed Vitali’s opponents over the years and saw that none of them have the quality of Solis,” Diaz said.

 “Not in speed nor movement, nor the boxing IQ. On Saturday there will be a surprise.” The champion did not seem worried. “I can fight 12 rounds at a high tempo but the fight won’t last 12 rounds,” Klitschko said.

“There are good amateurs from Cuba but it’s different in the professional game.” Solis was just as confident of winning the fight. “I’ll win in the 12th, maybe earlier. I’ll win in any case,” Solis said.

Solis’ promoter Ahmet Oner said his fighter was interested in the title and not the money, “unlike most of the recent opponents of the Klitschko brothers.” “Solis knows this is the chance of a lifetime,” Oner said. Vitali’s younger brother Wladimir, the IBF and WBO champ, fights WBA belt-holder David Haye in June or July.


Six Nations: England 22-16 Scotland


England moved within one victory of a first Grand Slam since 2003 as they finally saw off battling Scotland.

A tight first half ended 9-9, with three Toby Flood penalties cancelled out by two Chris Paterson penalties and a Ruaridh Jackson drop-goal. Flood put England 12-9 up as Scotland lost John Barclay to the sin-bin. England added a converted Tom Croft try and although Max Evans grabbed a converted try for the Scots, a Jonny Wilkinson penalty confirmed victory. England went into the game as big favourites, with both form and history right on their side, but they struggled at the breakdown, lacked punch with the ball in hand until Matt Banahan came on at the break and committed far too many errors.

Open-side flanker James Haskell was one of the few players to shine for England, and in the end their superiority in the scrum and the line-out, plus their solidity in defence, was the difference between the two sides. Manager Martin Johnson will take the win, but his side's inability to put away the Six Nations' bottom side will not inspire confidence ahead of the trip to face Ireland in Dublin on the final weekend. The visitors had suffered three defeats in a row but they looked far more fired up than England and flew into the rucks to prevent the hosts getting any momentum in the first 40 minutes.

It was a mirror image of England's flaky display in the opening half of the win against France last time out, but whereas they produced a much improved second 40 minutes against Les Bleus, this time it was only inside the final quarter of the game England established control. The hosts conceded an early penalty for going off their feet at a ruck and veteran Scots full-back Paterson slotted the kick from wide out on the left to give the visitors just reward for a bright start. Scotland lost their first two line-outs and although they won a penalty at the first scrum, England marched the visitors back 10 yards to win a penalty at the next engagement.

Flood pulled his penalty attempt to the left of the posts but the hosts were soon awarded another scrum penalty and this time the England number 10 made no mistake to level the scores. It was to turn into a tit-for-tat half as England, despite their greater territory and possession, struggled to make it tell on the scoreboard. Scotland soon went back in front through a second Paterson penalty and although England's struggles at the breakdown continued as they committed too few players, they created enough pressure for Flood to land two penalties and put the hosts ahead for the first time on the half hour mark.

It looked as though England were set to pull away but Scotland refused to back down and they built a platform for Jackson to pop over a drop-goal on the stroke of half-time to make it 9-9. England took off captain Mike Tindall at the break, who received treatment on an ankle injury, and replaced him with Bath behemoth Banahan at outside centre. The 6ft 7in powerhouse soon made an impact, embarking on a thunderous charge which resulted in Scotland number eight Kelly Brown being stretchered off injured. It was a worrying moment but Brown was moving his arms and conscious as he left the pitch, to the relief of the hushed crowd.

England came within inches of scoring from the move which resulted in Brown being injured, with Nick Easter setting Chris Ashton off on a trademark break through midfield, but the move ended with Tom Wood being hauled down just short. England went back in front after 56 minutes when Barclay was sin-binned for infringing at a ruck after Johnson's men finally mounted a second threatening attack of the half. Flood landed the penalty to make it 12-9 before Scotland saw replacement fly-half Dan Parks drag a drop-goal attempt wide.


BBC Sport


Arsenal 0 - 0 Sunderland


Arsenal missed the chance to close the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United to one point after being held to a goalless draw by resilient Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners knew that with United away to Liverpool on Sunday they could take a potentially significant stride towards a first top-flight title since 2004. Instead, they will be frustrated that they stand three points behind their rivals after being denied victory by a mixture of questionable refereeing decisions and poor finishing.

Andrey Arshavin was involved in the two key incidents in the game. The Russian had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside and was denied a penalty when Titus Bramble appeared to push the forward as he was about to shoot. Arsenal also missed chances as Samir Nasri had his free-kick parried by Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Marouane Chamakh was thwarted by the crossbar and Arshavin shot tamely from 12 yards.

It might even have been worse for Arsenal as Sunderland, who had lost each of their previous four matches, came close to snatching a late winner through Danny Welbeck. Arsene Wenger's men must now shake off their disappointment and turn their attention to Tuesday's critical Champions League last-16 second leg against Barcelona - where they will aim to defend a 2-1 lead.

Cesc Fabregas is likely to recover from a hamstring injury in time to start at the Nou Camp but in his programme notes the Gunners captain urged Arsenal to focus solely on Sunderland with the title race "in our hands now". Focus was indeed a key requirement for them in the early stages as Sunderland enjoyed plenty of possession, passing and moving with confidence and intent.

Johan Djourou needed to be alert to clear a low Jordan Henderson cross with Asamoah Gyan ready to pounce, while Phil Bardsley drilled narrowly wide from 20 yards. Both sides were set up in 4-2-3-1 formations yet it was the visitors, winless in the league at Arsenal since 1983, who carried the greater threat going forward. Lacking the calming influences of Fabregas and Robin van Persie, the hosts were forced to play largely on the counter-attack in the first half and the home supporters were soon murmuring in frustration.

A sliding Nicklas Bendtner almost connected with Gael Clichy's cross from the left but they had still yet to test Mignolet when Stephane Sessegnon saw a powerful effort repelled by Wojciech Szczesny at the other end. Eventually Nasri began to drift infield from his position on the right of midfield and it seemed to help Arsenal settle into something resembling their usual rhythm.


BBC Sport


Blues earn Wembley glory


Birmingham shocked Arsenal in the Carling Cup final as Obfemi Martins capitalised on a defensive mix-up to secure a last-gasp 2-1 victory at Wembley.

With extra time looming, a header from Nikola Zigic caused panic in the Arsenal box and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny gifted the ball to Martins, who supplied the simplest of finishes. Robin van Persie's equaliser had earlier cancelled out Zigic's opener in a pulsating encounter full of chances and controversy. Arsenal's quest for a first major trophy in almost six seasons had dominated the build-up to the Wembley showpiece but it was Birmingham, without any significant silverware since 1963, who started the brighter.

There was a major talking point after just a couple of minutes when Szczesny brought down Lee Bowyer in the box but the flag had already been raised, incorrectly, for offside. Alex McLeish's Blues were finally rewarded with the opening goal in the 28th minute as Roger Johnson headed a corner towards goal and the giant Zigic nodded home.

Zigic was denied by Szczesny when one-on-one with the goalkeeper moments later before Arsenal finally started to discover some fluency and equalised on 39 minutes. Jack Wilshere struck the woodwork but the rebound fell to Andrey Arshavin, who did well to set up Van Persie for a fantastic volleyed finish.

Arsenal looked more settled at the start of the second period than they had in the first but were unable to take firm control against a Birmingham side playing positively and working hard. The danger posed by Birmingham was evident just before the hour mark as Keith Fahey's low shot ricocheted agonisingly off the post.

Ben Foster then kept Birmingham level with a series of fine saves and it looked as though extra time would be needed to settle the sides until substitute Martins slammed home the winner in the 89th minute.


Superb Higgins ends Carter hopes in Wales


John Higgins is one win away from retaining his Welsh Open title after a dominant display saw the world number one down Ali Carter 6-2 in the opening semi-final at the Newport Centre.

Carter opened the afternoon with a rousing break of 118 before enduring some frustrating times. He has yet to record a win against Higgins in their six meetings in ranking events. Four of those victories have been recorded at the Welsh Open.

Higgins defeated Carter 9-4 in the final of last year's event, and was quick to pick up on any mistake by the Essex man. He punished his opponent's failure to score in the second frame of the day as a run of 71 allowed Higgins to level at 1-1. Carter broke down on 31 in the third frame with a 76 break enabling Higgins to edge 2-1 clear before a 49 saw Carter restore parity at 2-2 heading for the mid-session interval.

"I was delighted to be 2-2 at the interval because Ali had chances to lead," said Higgins. "After that I played very solid snooker. I tried force mistakes from Ali and managed to clear up a few times. His eye was in, so I had to keep him under pressure. "There were a few years where my worst was very bad and I wasn't competing for titles. But in the last three or four years, even my bad game has been difficult to beat. The tables we play on now are harder than they used to be, and I think to be doing well, you need to have a good all round game.

" That was as good as it was to get for Carter, who failed to replicate the form that carried him to the World Championship final in 2008. Higgins highest break of the tournament remains a knock of 93, but he simply ran away with the match after the players resumed as Carter's mistakes continued to mount in the final four frames. Higgins, playing at his first tournament since the death of his father John Sr to cancer, moved 3-2 ahead with a break of 69 in the fifth frame.

A delightful 55 gave the Scot a 4-2 lead as Carter began to cut a forlorn figure in his seat. The three-times world champion continued to apply the pressure and modest runs of 37, 27 and 28 were more than enough to seal his spot in the final. Carter contributed only 15 points in the last two frames of the day to illustrate his toils. Higgins is bidding to win the Welsh Open for a third time following his successes in 2000 and 2010 in what will be his 37th ranking final. He will chase his 23rd title against Mark Selby or Stephen Maguire in the final. They begin the second semi-final at 7pm.


Mosley wants "exciting" fight


Shane Mosley paid tribute to May 7 opponent Manny Pacquiao as the pair discussed their fight in Los Angeles.

Pacquiao will defend his WBO welterweight title against the 39-year-old veteran, who was dominated by Floyd Mayweather last spring before fighting an unconvincing draw with Sergio Mora. Both boxers are renowned for their aggressive come-forward style in the ring, but are just as reluctant to engage in trash-talking out of it.

"Manny is a special fighter because he goes out there and he puts 100 percent into what he is doing," said Mosley. "People, they feel it and they see it when he is out there working in the ring. He always tries to fight, tries to win and tries to knock the guy out. He has a love of the sport.

"We are very similar and I think that's what is going to make this fight very exciting. I want to win, he wants to win and it will be a fight to the finish." Pacquiao has dominated the fight scene for the past few years, beating allcomers while moving through the weight classes. Yet the 32-year-old remains keen to entertain his legion of fans around the world - winning is simply not enough for the Filipino.

"I am excited about this matchup," said Pacquiao. "We both like to keep coming forward in the ring and we like to entertain the people who love boxing. "I have to train hard because I don't want to disappoint them, the people who will watch the fight. "I know it's more responsibility for me and that's why I have to train hard and get myself in 100 percent condition so that I won't let down the fans."






World number one John Higgins his withdrawn from the German Masters in Berlin following the death of his father.

John senior passed away on Friday morning following a long battle with cancer, with his son pulling out of the competition as a result. "I am very sorry to have to withdraw from the event but I hope the German fans understand my decision as family comes first," Higgins said.

The Scot had booked his place in the last 16 with a 5-3 win over Snooker Shootout runner-up Robert Milkins, including a break of 143. "On behalf of World Snooker I send deepest sympathies to the Higgins family at this sad time," said chairman Barry Hearn.

Higgins' opponent in the next round, Marco Fu, will receive a bye following his 5-1 win over Mark King. Fu was rarely troubled by King as he rattled off four frames in a row after a tight opening, posting a highest break of 91.

He was in no mood to celebrate afterwards, though, saying: "After finding out the news about John's father, it puts things into perspective and all the players will be thinking of him and wish him well." In the day's other early games, Mark Williams beat Anthony McGill 5-1, while Stephen Maguire overcame Daniel Wells 5-2.


Australian Open: Kim Clijsters beats Li Na in final


Kim Clijsters beat Li Na in a pulsating final to win her first Australian Open and fourth Grand Slam title.

 Li had made history by becoming China's first Grand Slam singles finalist and made a strong start, but Clijsters powered back to win 3-6 6-3 6-3. It is the first time that three-time US Open champion Clijsters has won a major title outside of New York. The 27-year-old has now won back-to-back Grand Slam titles and will rise to second in the world rankings.

She made a typically fast start to Sunday's final, reeling off the opening nine points in a row to grab an early break of serve as Li looked nervous in her first major final. But the Chinese ninth seed had repeatedly shown her fighting qualities over the past fortnight and headed into the final with an 11-0 record in 2011, and having beaten Clijsters to win the Sydney title on the eve of the tournament She quickly settled into the rhythm of heavy hitting off both sides that had seen off world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals and began to dominate again.

Five games in a row gave Li the first set, which she sealed with a rasping forehand winner past a stranded Clijsters, and the Belgian looked momentarily lost for answers. A double fault from Li gave Clijsters a much-needed break at the start of the second set and it prompted a run of four successive breaks as the momentum swung from side to side, with both women under huge pressure on serve.

This time it was Clijsters who took the initiative with a run of five straight games as Li struggled to keep the error count down, but the Chinese player stopped the rot by breaking back with a blistering return to trail 2-1 in the decider. A nail-biting final set appeared to be unfolding but it was Li who buckled under the pressure, giving up another break of serve with a double fault and a wayward backhand in game four, and Clijsters pumped her fist as she closed in on victory.

When it was required, the former world number one showed her mettle with two quickfire holds of serve to stand on the brink of the title, before closing it out to love and dissolving into tears as the achievement began to sink in.


BBC Sport


Roger Federer & Novak Djokovic progress at Aussie Open


Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic produced contrasting displays as both secured their spots in the Australian Open quarter-finals in Melbourne.

Federer, world number two and defending champion, was given a scare by Tommy Robredo before stumbling through 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-2 after 40 unforced errors. Third seed Djokovic had an easier day with a crushing 6-3 6-4 6-0 triumph over Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. Djokovic will play Tomas Berdych who beat Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-2 6-3.

Federer will next face Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka after he disposed of American Andy Roddick in straight sets. Wawrinka, 25, comfortably defeated the former Grand Slam winner 3-6 4-6 4-6 with a superb performance, playing excellent tennis, to set up a last-eight clash with Federer. "I played an unbelievable match, I was ready for a big fight and I'm very happy with how I played tonight," said Wawrinka. "I wanted to play aggressively, especially on my serve, and it worked. I am excited about the possibility of playing Roger. There was a great atmosphere in here tonight and I hope it will be the same on Tuesday."

In seven matches Wawrinka - who has known Federer since he was 16 - has only beaten his compatriot once. "We know each other pretty well, so we'll see how it goes." Earlier Federer survived a loss of form in a scrappy second set before finally coming through in four sets against Robredo, world number 52 and a quarter-finalist in this tournament four years ago. "I was able to get off to a good start but it was always going to be tough," said Federer, who secured his 27th consecutive last-eight spot in a Grand Slam to equal Jimmy Connors' record. "Robredo makes you work. He moves extremely well and it was extremely hard. I'm sweating bullets and happy the match is over and really excited to be in the next round."

The last time the 29-year-old, eyeing a fifth title in Melbourne, failed to reach the quarter-finals in a Grand Slam was at the 2004 French Open, and all went to plan with a comfortable first set, starting in blistering style with three aces. But with the 28-year-old Spaniard breaking to lead 5-3 in the second set, Federer looked stunned and as his uncharacteristic errors showed no sign of stopping, the match was soon level at one set all. The Swiss admitted afterwards he had struggled with his return and lacked rhythm but despite facing a number of break points his back-hand and deft touch at the net remained his most potent weapons as he edged a nervy third set.

Still the mistakes continued, with several returns flying off his racquet frame, but Federer stayed calm in sweltering conditions to wrap up his 10th win in 10 matches against his opponent as a weary Robredo flicked a forehand well wide. In complete contrast, it was a devastating performance by Djokovic who has now reached the last eight at 13 of his last 15 Grand Slam events. With the 2008 champion losing at the quarter-final stage in the last two years at Melbourne Park, the Serb looked in determined mood and broke as early as the fourth game against Almagro to set him on the way to taking the opening set in 31 minutes.

 Desperate to progress beyond the fourth round in this tournament for the first time, Almagro did his best but rarely threatened as he was decimated by an opponent dictating from the baseline and serving up 12 aces. He was broken again in the fourth game of the second set and soon had to watch Djokovic dish up a pair of aces to open up a two-set advantage. The demolition continued and after another break immediately at the start of the third set, the Serb raced away to secure his spot in the last eight. "That was a higher standard than my previous matches and it's a big positive for me heading into the quarter-finals," said Djokovic who reached the quarter-finals in all four Grand Slams last year.

"I have the game to win a Grand Slam, I just have to believe in myself and be mentally strong." The sixth-seeded Berdych, runner-up at Wimbledon last year, was another in cruise-control in a straight-sets triumph over Spaniard Verdasco, ranked nine, in a match that last just under two hours. Verdasco racked up 39 unforced errors and struggled with his opponent's serve throughout - his receiving points won stood at just 17% - as the Czech booked his place in the quarters for the first time at the Australian Open. In the first round of the Junior Boys singles, Britain's George Morgan and Kyle Edmund enjoyed mixed fortunes. Morgan, ranked fourth, survived a first set tie-break to defeat Brazilian Thiago Moura Monteiro 7-6 (7-3) 6-4. But Edmund was beaten 6-4 7-6 (7-2) by Mac Styslinger of the United States.


BBC Sport


Chisora confident of victory


Dereck Chisora says he cannot wait to take on Wladimir Klitschko after being given a second chance to face the world heavyweight champion.

WBA title holder David Haye had been tipped to fight IBF and WBO champion Klitschko after the latter was forced to pull out of his original fight with Chisora due to injury. However talks between the two camps broke down, with Klitschko opting to take a rearranged bout with Chisora on April 30 instead. Chisora is delighted to be given another chance of upsetting the odds and the 14-fight novice is not deterred by his underdog status.

"I can't wait to get into the ring and smash the living daylights out of Wladimir," he said. "He has so many weaknesses. I don't care how many fights I've had. I would have taken him on in my first fight." Chisora's promoter Frank Warren said that the Ukrainian had no obligation to take a rescheduled fight and believes Haye and manager Adam Booth are at fault for stalled negotiations over the unification bout. "The contract between ourselves and Wladimir had a get-out clause in it that said he could fight someone else if he pulled out," Warren said.

"It was no secret that they were talking to Haye but thankfully, true to form, Adam Booth and David Haye made it an easy decision for them. "I read some of the things that have been said from Adam Booth and David Haye about how difficult the Klitschkos were, but I have dealt with them on two occasions and I can honestly say that Adam Booth is without a doubt the most difficult person I've ever had to deal with in boxing. "What is he (Haye) doing fighting Audley Harrison when he could have fought Klitschko? "You have to be an idiot not to know that they (the Klitschkos) want to make the (Haye) fight."

Verbal sparring
Meanwhile, Klitschko has continued the war of words with Haye, claiming that the British fighter has not been telling the truth about the negotiations. "He's telling everyone, 'I'm going to retire by the end of the year and I will have my legacy'. He's going to have a legacy for the Audley Harrison fight - the most exciting heavyweight fight in history," he told ESPN.

He added: "This guy will eventually fight me. He will eventually fight me because everything coming out of his mouth is a lie. But if he does retire, he'll be a loser with no legacy in the heavyweight division at all."

  Chisora confident of victory  



LA Galaxy star David Beckham to train with Tottenham


Former England captain David Beckham has agreed to train with Tottenham until 10 February but will not play for the Premier League club on loan.

BBC Sport understands that insurance premiums have made a short-term loan deal for the LA Galaxy midfielder too complicated. "Tottenham are delighted to announce that David Beckham will train with the first-team squad," said the club. Earlier, manager Harry Redknapp had said the loan move was a "no-goer".

"He will be a great influence around the place and I am sure we will all benefit from his winning mentality," Redknapp said in a statement. "I think everyone will enjoy having him here. We'd love to have him here for longer but respect his commitments to LA Galaxy. They wanted him back in early February so that made it difficult to do a playing deal on the basis of three weeks."

Galaxy demanded the insurance fee after Beckham picked up an Achilles injury during his last spell on loan in Europe with AC Milan last season. That injury ruled the former Manchester United player out of the 2010 World Cup. It will come as a blow to the 115-cap midfielder, who had been hoping to catch the eye of England manager Fabio Capello with a two-month loan spell at the Premier League side.

Capello last fielded Beckham in the 3-0 win over Belarus in October 2009 and recently urged him to return to Europe to prove his fitness. Italian Capello had previously stated that Beckham was "too old" to be considered for future England teams, but subsequently suggested the player could force his way back into his plans. Beckham, who was born and raised in London, has plied his trade abroad since leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid in June 2003.

 The six-time Premier League champion has not previously been tempted by offers of a return to England, turning down the chance to discuss a similar deal with Everton in November while stating that, as a Manchester United fan, such a move was "too close to home". He also denied any interest in a move to West Ham in July and rejected the chance to be reunited with former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson at Championship side Leicester in December.

 But Beckham recently told BBC Sport there was an outside chance of appearing for a different English club to United, and that he hoped to continue playing for two or three more years. "David will train with the club until 10 February when he will be required to return to LA Galaxy ahead of the start of the MLS season," added the statement on Tottenham's website.


BBC Sport


Sepp Blatter proposes Fifa anti-corruption committee



Fifa president Sepp Blatter says he wants to set up an anti-corruption committee to police world football's governing body.

The move comes after allegations of corruption dogged Fifa throughout the bidding process and voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Blatter said: "This committee will strengthen our credibility and give us a new image in terms of transparency. "I will take care of it personally, to ensure there is no corruption at Fifa." Blatter told Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung the committee would consist of seven to nine members "not only from sport but from politics, finance, business and culture". And the Swiss confirmed he would not sit on the committee himself as he wanted to guarantee its independence.

In 2010, Fifa's executive committee members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii were suspended over allegations they offered to sell their votes during bidding for the World Cup, something the pair vehemently denied. They both subsequently missed December's ballot in which Russia was chosen to host the 2018 tournament and Qatar the 2022 event, following a secret vote by the remaining 22 committee members.

During the bidding process for the World Cups, Fifa was also forced to investigate rumours of collusion between member associations and their bid committees in relation to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process. At that time, Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke warned all countries that mutual voting deals were against Fifa rules.

The 2018 Spain-Portugal and 2022 Qatar bids were cleared of collusion in the investigation. A BBC Panorama programme broadcast three days before the World Cup vote alleged three Fifa officials took bribes in the 1990s. One of the accused, vice-president Issa Hayatou, strongly denied the Panorama claims. Fifa said at the time the case was "definitely closed" as allegations had already been investigated in Switzerland, with no Fifa officials being convicted.


BBC Sport


Serie A - Inter appoint Leonardo


Last season's AC Milan coach Leonardo was named manager of city rivals Inter Milan in a move which has stunned the football world despite the Italian game's celebrated eccentricities.

The Brazilian succeeds Rafael Benitez, who left the world, European and Italian champions on Thursday after just six months in charge following a poor domestic spell and his public attack on Inter for not investing in new players. "Welcome, Leonardo is the coach of Inter," a statement said on Inter's website just hours after president Massimo Moratti had said there would be no announcement until December 27 at the earliest.

 "A few minutes ago an agreement was signed which will tie him to the club until June 30, 2012." Leonardo failed to shine in his only season in management with Milan last term, leading the Rossoneri to third place in Serie A and the Champions League last 16. The 41-year-old also played for Milan before becoming technical director there and has no prior links to Inter, making the decision to appoint him all the more strange to the hordes of baffled Tweeters and newspaper columnists.

"Unbelievable", "traitor" and "downright weird" were just some of the terms used on Twitter to describe the move. Players and coaches switching allegiances between big rivals is nothing new in Italy, even if the idea of Arsenal's Arsene Wenger succeeding Manchester United's Alex Ferguson would bring howls of derision in England. Spain is more similar to Italy with former Barcelona assistant coach Jose Mourinho now the Real Madrid boss while Portugal's Luis Figo signed for Real from Barca in 2000.

Giovanni Trapattoni famously managed Milan, Inter and the third Italian giant Juventus while Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played for all three. Indeed Milan have been the side most guilty of signing ex-Inter names with Ibrahimovic, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and former forward Ronaldo all having previously turned out for the Nerazzurri among others. Moratti, whose side won an unprecedented treble last term under Jose Mourinho, is still taking a big gamble by naming Leonardo with fans likely to give him a little lukewarm reception at first.

Given Leonardo left Milan after a bust-up with owner Silvio Berlusconi, hands-on Moratti risks similar issues if Inter do not quickly start rising up from seventh in Serie A and lose to Bayern Munich in their Champions League first knockout round. The appointment of Marcello Lippi in 1999 just after he had left rivals Juve was also disastrous for Inter and will prey on some fans' minds while Leonardo himself had indicated he wanted some time away from game to be with his family in Brazil.

On the other hand, pundits such as Gabriele Marcotti have argued that choosing Leonardo is a masterstroke from Moratti given he has had a season to hone his management skills, knows current league leaders Milan inside out and will have good relations with Inter's large contingent of South Americans. Benitez's outburst means he will not get the chance but Leonardo may have some new signings on board for when Inter host second-placed Napoli on Jan. 6 as Serie A resumes after amid-season break. Inter are interested in Genoa centre back Andrea Ranocchia with Walter Samuel out for the season but few other rumours have leaked out about Moratti's targets.




Inter claim world crown


Inter Milan have been crowned Club World Cup winners after seeing off Africa's TP Mazembe 3-0 in Abu Dhabi.

Rafa Benitez's side never looked troubled against Congolese opponents and were able to take the title with consummate ease. Goran Pandev put them on their way on 15 minutes and Samuel Eto'o all but ended the game as a contest two minutes later. Inter were unable to build on that early advantage as quickly as they would have liked, but wrapped things up five minutes from time when Jonathan Biabiany added a third.

The comfortable win sees the reigning Italian and European champions secure the title of the world's best side for a third time, having previously won the Intercontinental Cup in 1964 and 1965. Success in such a prestigious tournament also helps to ease some of the pressure which had been mounting on Benitez's shoulders over recent weeks. No upset Mazembe, who had stunned Brazilian club Internacional to earn their place in the final, never threatened another upset.

Eto'o, who had been expected to miss the match, laid on the 13th-minute opener for Pandev with a defence-splitting pass, and then got on the end of a pass from the outstanding Javier Zanetti to grab the second. Inter had further chances to finish off their Congolese opponents, but Diego Milito fluffed his lines after breaking the offside trip in the 24th minute and Muteba Kidiaba, who has enjoyed such a strong tournament, made the save. T

he goalkeeper would deny Milito again just before half-time before Mazembe enjoyed their best chance, Dioko Kaluyituka's powerful shot being blocked by Ivan Cordoba. In the second half, Maicon made a charging run only to see his shot strike the outside of the post. Kaluyituka then had another chance to halve the deficit but while attempting to round Julio Cesar, he was forced wide and the angle became too acute. He then forced a good save from Cesar with a strong volley, in what would prove to be Mazembe's final chance. I

t was left to Inter to wrap things up, substitute Biabiany doing just that, timing his run superbly before beating Kidiaba.


Sky Sports


John Higgins eases past Mark Allen to reach UK final


John Higgins produced a superb second session of snooker to book his place in the UK Championship final with a 9-5 win over Northern Ireland's Mark Allen.

The players went into the final session tied at 4-4 before two-time winner Higgins took the first two frames, the opener with a break of 59. Allen reduced the deficit by edging a tight 11th frame but Higgins hit back with a 68 to regain a two-frame lead. The Scot then hit 100 in the 13th frame before closing out the match with a 73. Although Higgins dominated the latter stages of the match, the earlier session had thrilled the Telford crowd with both players in fine form.

Higgins, in his first tournament in Britain since a six-month ban for bringing the game into disrepute, took advantage of an Allen miss to open with a break of 96 before the 24-year-old hit back with a break of 130 to level. The lead then ebbed and flowed, with Allen winning the seventh frame to open up a 4-3 lead before Higgins won the final frame of the first session with breaks of 40 and 47 to level. From there, the 35-year-old was not to look back during a superb evening performance.

"I am feeling good about my game and it's great to be back," the Scot said. "I suppose it is a fairytale when you think about it, winning the first PTC event back [n Hamm, Germany, last month] and then my performance in this championship." Higgins, who will be back to world number one if he wins the title, said the other semi-final between Mark Williams and Shaun Murphy was too close to call.

"Mark and I played each other in the final 10 years ago [when Higgins won 10-4]," he added. "We are a little bit fatter, a little bit older, we've got more lines on our faces and less hair. "But I think we're still up there. Mark is one of the best players ever to pick up a cue. "Shaun is one of the new breed coming through. He fancies potting everything, so that will be an interesting match." However, Allen believes that Higgins will emerge victorious regardless of who he meets in the final.

"John showed how good he is at closing out matches and that's something I have to learn," the 24-year-old said. "I can't see anyone beating John in the final."


BBC Sport


FA faces questions over 2018 World Cup bid


Roger Burden is seen by many as a principled man.

The acting FA chairman was also seen as the favoured candidate to land the job full time early in the new year. His decision to withdraw his application because he feels he cannot trust Fifa in the wake of England's failed bid for the 2018 World Cup is entirely understandable in the circumstances. His sour views about the Fifa members who betrayed the England bid will also be shared by many other football leaders and fans in the country.

But if he or the FA think that it will make even the slightest difference to the way Fifa works then they are likely to be disappointed. And as the FA attempts to put pressure on Fifa, some may reflect that it is exactly this type of attitude that has made English football an outsider in the world governing body's corridors of power.

So, as the FA tries to keep the focus on Fifa's shortcomings, questions are beginning to be asked about its own role in Thursday's humiliation. Of course there is little anyone can do if someone says they are going to vote for you and then place a cross against another country's name. But were the bid team naïve to believe that just because members told them they were going to vote for them that they would actually go through with it?

Exactly the same thing happened in the failed 2006 bid. Why weren't the mistakes of that campaign learned? Given how strong the anti-English feeling in Fifa was, how did England's bid team come to believe they had a chance in the last two days before the decision - especially after the Panorama programme exposing alleged corruption by three members of the Fifa executive committee? Did they risk humiliating Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William by thinking they could really win?

Did they misread president Sepp Blatter's power within Fifa and his clear desire to give the World Cup to Russia? And did they fail to understand Russian Prime Minsiter Vladimir Putin's decision not to come to Zurich before the vote? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, and while no one can fault how hard they worked in the last few weeks, it does seem the bid team have some questions to answer.




Murphy to meet O’Sullivan


Shaun Murphy will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in a re-run of last year’s Premier League final at the Potters Leisure Resort in Norfolk on Sunday.

Holder Murphy defeated Marco Fu 5-2 in front of a capacity crowd, while O’Sullivan reached his seventh consecutive Premier League final with a 5-1 triumph over world champion Neil Robertson. Murphy won five successive frames and scored 465 unanswered points, just 32 off Ding Junhui's world record.

Fu was unable to pot a single ball for an astonishing 47 minutes and 29 seconds after knocking in fine breaks of 83 and 45 to move into a 2-0 lead at the outset. Runs of 82, 139, 102 and 77 gave O’Sullivan victory as Robertson was left helpless after completing a 65 break to level at 1-1.

“I’ve been playing really well in the past three or four weeks and practice has been good, which is something I’ve not felt for a couple of years. I’m coming into matches now thinking I can play well and win,“ said O’Sullivan. “Shaun is a form player and if he is playing well he can blow you away. Hopefully I can give him a better game and entertain the fans."


India gets taste for Premier League


Are you spitting feathers about the poultry sum an Indian chicken company has paid for those cocks of the north, Blackburn Roosters, or do you want me to stop scratching around and get on with it?

 I am guessing it's the latter so no more yolks, sorry, they're not funny and this story deserves better because it signifies the end of one era and beginning of another, for the club, the Premier League and possibly the Indian subcontinent. OK, that last statement is a bit OTT but news that an unheralded, family-run business from India has just bought a founding member of both the Football League and its mega-bucks off-shoot, the Premier League, tells us something significant about that region and our own. India's burgeoning middle-classes are not only beginning to share western appetites for delicacies like chicken nuggets (a trend Venky's knows well), they are also devouring televised sport.

Cricket and Formula One have already witnessed the emergence of private Indian wealth, football is next. That, however, does not answer three big questions: Why Venky's? Why Blackburn Rovers? Why now? The last of those is the easiest and goes some way to answering the second, so let's start there. The Lancashire giants won their seventh FA Cup in 1928 and then...didn't do a great deal for almost 70 years.

Relegated from Division One in 1966, Rovers would spend the next 26 years trying to return without ever really convincing they would make it. And then everything suddenly became so much easier. Jack Walker, a local boy made very good, started to invest his steelworks millions in his hometown club. At first, it was a loan here and a contribution there, but by the end of 1991 he was in charge and money was no longer an issue. It might seem a piffling sum in today's Abu Dhabi/Russian oligarch era but £25m was invested in the likes of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, and manager Kenny Dalglish was given free rein and open chequebook to win silverware. He did not disappoint.

Promotion was secured in 1992 and three years later Rovers hit the jackpot, Premiership glory. The years since then have been less dramatic. There was a relegation in 1999 and a promotion in 2001, but it is Walker's death in-between that is most significant in terms of Rovers' history. A canny businessman, Walker had already transferred his wealth to tax-efficient Jersey and his final move was to place his Rovers shares in the family trust. But with Jack not about, the Walker support ceased to be unconditional.

Never blessed with the huge crowds or marketing muscle of many of their rivals, Rovers required regular subsidy, and by 2007 the trustees of the Jack Walker Settlement Trust had decided it was time to cut the cord. In some ways, the biggest surprise is it took the trust and its investment bank advisor, Rothschild, three years to sell a solid Premier League club with relatively tiny debts and a fit-for-purpose stadium. But Rovers, like so many other clubs, have had their share of timewasters. Finding the "right buyer" was also perhaps more important to this seller than is always the case.

So is the Rao family, the dynasty behind Venky's and its parent company the VH Group, that buyer? The only fair answer at the moment is that the people who Walker left in charge of his affairs certainly think the Indians are right for Rovers. Paul Egerton-Vernon, the trust's chairman, said he was "very pleased" to be handing over to the Raos, and John Williams, Rovers chairman, praised the "determination and enthusiasm" of the new owners. And well he might, he is going to be working for them until at least next summer. But his presence is not the only concession to tradition.

Contained within Venky's 19-page offer document (most of which is for the benefit of the owners of the 7,000 shares the trust did not own, shares worth a whopping £1,245 in total) are a number of other continuity pledges. First, there is the time-honoured commitment to the existing coaching staff (and Sam Allardyce could not have been more fulsome in his welcome to the Raos), then there is the promise to maintain Rovers' community programmes, and finally there is a pledge to look after Walker's statue and not rename his stand without trust permission.

What's really interesting, however, is the new stuff - a bigger push on the commercial side, "brand awareness" in Asia and improvements to the club's media platforms - and that answers the "why Venky's" question. The Raos are not the Abu Dhabi royal family or another Abramovich. They're possibly not even a Whelan from nearby Wigan. But they are on the up. When this deal was first mooted last month there was some wildly inaccurate reporting of their wealth, largely because of a western unfamiliarity with the Indian "numbers" the crore and lakh: rogue zeroes appeared to raise giddy expectations in east Lancashire.

The truth is Venky's is just the publically-traded part of the family's VH Group. Its profits last year were about £10m on turnover of £100m. Not bad but nowt special. Numbers for the rest of the company are harder to come by - a best guess is a turnover of £300m or so - but the ambition is clear. Already India's biggest chicken firm, VH Group is diversifying and opening businesses from Bangladesh to Switzerland. With a Premier League club to their name now, the Raos are unlikely to go under the radar ever again.

Will this mean a Walker-style shopping spree? Probably not. The family's matriarch, Anuradha J Desai, has talked about £5m being made available in January and she was including wages. She also discussed "leasing players", so the loan market might be Big Sam's high street. But this brings in a relatively under-reported part of the deal. Mrs Desai's brothers Balaji and Venkateshwara are the football fans in the family - and have spent Rao money on sponsoring India internationals - but they are not experts. They will be guided at Blackburn not only by the existing board but also by football marketing firm Kentaro and player-agent partner the Sports Entertainment and Media Group (SEM).

The involvement of these two firms gives Rovers access to an international network of agents, clubs and scouts. Add that to the prospect of turning India into a nation of Blackburn fans (easier said than done, admittedly) and you have got quite a proposition. Not bad for £23m in cash to buy the shares and £20m or so to clear the debt. The passing of the Walker era, and the security it provided, is undoubtedly a time for reflection at Ewood Park, but what happens next will not be boring.


BBC Sport


Premier League round-up


On a day when Manchester United left it late to rescue a point at Aston Villa rivals Manchester City were frustrated by Birmingham at Eastlands and Tottenham beat Blackburn 4-2. A thriller ensued at Molineux as Bolton saw off Wolves 3-2, Wigan edged a tight affair with West Brom, while West Ham and Blackpool and Newcastle and Fulham could not muster a goal between them.

An enthralling second half ensued in the Midlands after what was an insipid first period as Manchester United fought back from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa. A young Villa side repeatedly knocked at the door prior to Ashley Young's opener from the penalty spot with 18 minutes left as Gabriel Agbohlahor struck the base of the post and James Collins rattled the bar with a powerful header.

Wes Brown's awkward challenge from behind on Young gave the Villa winger a chance he gleefully dispatched from 12 yards before a fine break from the home side saw them double their advantage. Young played in Stewart Downing down the left and his perfectly executed low cross was stabbed in from close range by Marc Albrighton. There looked to be no way back for United but with under ten minutes left substitute Federico Macheda slammed a fine snapshot beyond Brad Friedel from just inside the box. In the 85th minute it was left to skipper Nemanja Vidic to keep United's unbeaten record this season intact with a clever far post header from Nani's whipped in delivery.

Tottenham got back to winning ways at White Hart Lane as they recorded a handsome 4-2 defeat of Blackburn. Gareth Bale has now added headed goals to his armoury as his bulleted near post effort from Rafael van der Vaart's corner flashed past Paul Robinson. Roman Pavlyuchenko was guilty of criminal profligacy as he fired over when clean through before shooting wide from the penalty spot after Jermaine Jenas was awarded the softest of spot-kicks after going down under a challenge from Christopher Samba. The Russian was not to be denied though as Bale's darting run and cross presented him with the straightforward task of nodding in from close range. Peter Crouch profited from some rank Rovers defending to put the game beyond doubt from close range after the break, leaving it to man of the moment Bale to grab Spurs' final goal with a scuffed finish from around eight yards.

Ryan Nelsen netted a consolation for Blackburn when David Dunn's drive deflected off him, before at the death a goalkeeping gaffe from Heurelho Gomes allowed Gael Givet's tepid shot to pass him. Manchester City continue to struggle for goals as Roberto Mancini again endured criticism from the home crowd following a goalless draw with Birmingham. A dull first half at Eastlands was punctuated by just one real talking point as Carlos Tevez saw a goal chalked off for handball; a decision that led to a booking as he took his protest too far. It didn't get much better after the interval either as Mancini made the remarkable decision to substitute Tevez for Gareth Barry when chasing a winner with seven minutes left.

Molineux was the place to be in terms of goals as Owen Coyle's Bolton left the Midlands with a 3-2 victory in the bag. Wolves experienced a nightmare start as Richard Stearman put past his own goalkeeper from close range when under pressure from Matthew Taylor. It was a lead extended after the interval when Johan Elmander bamboozled Wolves' backline with some stunning footwork and a smart finish, before Stuart Holden made it three from Lee Chung-yong's cute pull-back. Wolves' bid to earn an unlikely point saw Kevin Foley bend an effort beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen, before Steven Fletcher stooped low to expose some awful Bolton defending from a corner.

Wigan claimed a massive three-point haul at home to West Brom as Victor Moses netted the only goal. Charles N'Zogbia was the architect as his run from the halfway line combined power and pace before he slipped in his team-mate, whose angled finish was immaculate. West Ham and Blackpool played out a remarkable goalless draw that saw both sides create, and squander, a plethora of chances. Carlton Cole was perhaps the guiltiest party as he hit the post from just a couple of yards. It was a similar tale of poor finishing at St James' Park as a hard-working Fulham left the North East with a point following another goalless stalemate with Newcastle.




Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson find tai chi to be a delightful workout


Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer do just what you'd expect when they arrived in Shanghai: they did a little tai chi.

They're playing in this week's HSBC Champions tournament there with a change in the world's No. 1 ranking a possibility.

  Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson find tai chi to be a delightful workout


Why Rooney changed his mind


Wayne Rooney's remarkable decision to change his mind and stay at Manchester United hung on a phone call with co-owner Joel Glazer.

The discussion, which took place on Thursday afternoon, was reminiscent of a conversation John Terry had with Roman Abramovich when the Chelsea captain was talked out of leaving for Manchester City last year and it saw Rooney finally receive the assurances he required over future investment in the club's squad. The phone call between star player and owner could be the most important element of a traumatic week for Sir Alex Ferguson, if it does indeed usher in a renewed period of spending by the club despite its £720m debts.

The first seeds of a U-turn were sown earlier that day, when Rooney spoke to Ferguson at Carrington, United's training complex. Prior to that, events the previous night had given the player pause for thought. On Wednesday evening, Rooney had overshadowed the Champions League match against Bursaspor by confirming in a staggering statement his desire to leave United. It publicly disputed his manager's version of events, and effectively accused the club of stagnation.

Sources close to Rooney suggested there was no going back, and the statement seemed to confirm it. However, fierce anti-Rooney banners in the stands during the game, the sinister visit of a gang of hooded members of the Manchester Education Committee group of hardcore fans to his Prestbury mansion, and an ominous death threat scrawled over the facade of a local Nike store had made Rooney think hard about his stance, and the consequences of a mega-money move to arch-rivals Manchester City.

For the first time since contract talks had stalled in August, Rooney was prepared to at least look at what United would offer him to stay. At 1145 BST on Thursday, having persuaded Rooney to reconsider and talk directly to the most senior member of the Glazer family once Florida had woken up, Ferguson drove out of the Carrington training ground past the ranks of camera crews and journalists camped outside. Rooney went home via a discreet back entrance to the training ground and asked his agent, Paul Stretford, to attend meetings at Old Trafford with Ferguson and chief executive David Gill.

A conference call with Joel and Bryan Glazer was set up to inform them of events. Ferguson stayed at Old Trafford for little more than an hour before leaving Gill and Stretford to thrash out the deal. Negotiations did not take long because Gill had prepared the deal back in August. This, however, was the first time Stretford and Rooney had given the club a chance to put a contract on the table. Win bonuses and other variables mean the five-year contract is worth between £150,000 and £180,000 a week.

Rooney then spoke directly to co-Chairman Joel Glazer, who told him United would remain in the market for the world's best players despite the departures of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo last year. Having had the conversation, Rooney told Stretford of his desire to change his mind. With solicitors from Manchester-based firm Brabners Chaffe Street working on the legal aspect of contract overnight, a holding statement was issued by the club at 1900. The deal was finalised on Friday morning, with United confirming the news at 12.37 before Rooney signed the contract at Old Trafford and told the fans of his astonishing change of heart via MUTV.

The precise details of Rooney's chat with Glazer and the promises he was given by the American owner will remain a mystery, but having appeared to hold the club to ransom in such an apparently ruthless fashion, all but written off his team-mates, and accused his manager of getting his facts wrong, Rooney could now struggle to repair the damage done to his reputation, a reputation already stained by allegations of lurid off-field antics, and a dramatic loss of form. Rooney had a point when he voiced concerns over United's ability to compete with richer, less indebted rivals. But by performing his volte face so swiftly, he leaves himself wide open to accusations of greed and brinkmanship.




Henry backing Hodgson


New Liverpool owner John W Henry has backed manager Roy Hodgson and his players to turn their form around this season. Hodgson has come under pressure since taking the reins at Anfield in July, with the club suffering a desperately poor start to the season that has seen some question his ability to manage the troubled club.

 Defeat to Blackpool at the start of October left the Reds with their worst start to a season since 1953 and in the Premier League relegation zone. But going into what will be an intense Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, Henry, who stated that he has no plans to attend the game, insists that Hodgson is the man to turn things around.

"We know it's been an uncertain time. We talked to the players today and we talked to Roy. And I think our message was simple: 'We're here to support you and encourage you'," he told the News of the World. "Our feeling is we're here to stabilise and to answer questions that might be lingering, and to just come in and have the same attitude we had in Boston.

"That is to be smart managers and to listen. Our first intention is under-promise but over-deliver." Henry is keen to emphasise his previous success with the Boston Red Sox, turning them from a faded giant into an established force in Major League Baseball in the USA. And he feels that he can achieve the same with the Reds, ensuring that they rekindle their status as one of English football's best teams.


Great chance
Henry said: "We bought Liverpool because this is our chance to compete at the highest level in the world's most popular sport. You don't get that very often. "We know it's about revenue and about generating the revenue to compete. "In Boston we've gone toe-to-toe with the New York Yankees which is the same as going toe-to-toe with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. It's a huge challenge but we're aware how much work it's going to take to do that.

" Despite Henry being the figurehead of the takeover, the club's new chairman is Thomas Werner, who has echoed Henry's sentiments regarding Hodgson. "I think it's been a very interesting rollercoaster but now our focus is on stabilising the club," he said. "We've been with the players this morning (Saturday) and the manager and we introduced ourselves, told them that we're here to be supportive, to be constructive and we have a great history in Boston of providing the resources to win and we expect to do the same."

Werner added on the club's official website: "We look forward to spending the next few days here talking to various stakeholders and telling them about a little bit of our track record and how we're going to go about our business. "I think that Liverpool is one of the great clubs in all of sport, it's history, it's tradition, it's fans - in some ways it's similar to the fans of the Boston Red Sox in that they're loyal, they're passionate and it's our good fortune to be stewards and we hope that we will take care of this extraordinary club and provide it with the resources and the commitment to win in the near future and hopefully restore some of its lustre."

Sky Sports


Nadal triumphs in Japan


World number one Rafa Nadal claimed his seventh title of 2010 with victory over Gael Monfils in the final of the Japan Open in Tokyo.

Nadal overpowered Monfils 6-1 7-5 in a dominant display, during which the Frenchman failed to force a single break point. The Spaniard took control from the outset and quickly had his opponent under pressure with some powerful hitting from the baseline.

He wrapped up the first set with a ferocious forehand down the line and, with Monfils struggling to win even his own service points, looked set to complete a near-whitewash. But the Frenchman raised his game in the second set until his luck ran out when a net cord gave the Spaniard break point, enabling him to edge into a 6-5 lead.

Nadal clinched the victory with a big serve to the body in the next game to seal his 43rd career title and improve his 2010 tour-best record to 66-8. Tough "I want to finish the season well and winning titles is a prefect way to finish," he told reporters after the win.

"It's difficult to keep winning. I have to enjoy these moments because you never know when they will end. "I'm going to try to keep it going in Shanghai (next week) and the rest of the season and in London (ATP Tour Finals) -- the most difficult tournament for me.

"Gael is a great player. He beat me in 2009 and we had a tough match at the U.S. Open the same year. But I played really well today." Monfils added: "I think Rafa likes my type of game and I didn't find a solution to give him any trouble. Rafa is so tough to play against."




Neil Robertson beats Ronnie O'Sullivan in World Open


World champion Neil Robertson showed why he is the new world number one with a 5-1 win over Ronnie O'Sullivan in the final of the World Open in Glasgow.

He claimed his sixth ranking title with an assured display, capitalising every time O'Sullivan made an error. After losing the first two frames, a 72 break gave O'Sullivan the third and he looked good in the fourth before a slip let in Robertson to win. The Australian made it 4-1 and won the title by edging a nervy sixth frame. Robertson said the confidence boost of being world champion had transformed his game.

"Ronnie didn't play that well but I still had to pot the balls that were in front of me," he told BBC Sport. "Being world champion has given me huge confidence, I go into finals knowing I can win under the most amount of pressure." O'Sullivan, meanwhile, was gracious in defeat and had no dispute with the result. "He's world champion and world number one, and he dispatched me like world champions and number ones do," he said.

Anyone expecting fireworks was in for a surprise as both players took a measured approach in the opening session. O'Sullivan played cautiously, but any time he made an error Robertson pounced. The Aussie won the first frame but the second looked to be O'Sullivan's as he made a break of 43, before an in-off foul let in his 28-year-old opponent, who went on to clinch it. A break of 72 helped O'Sullivan pull the score back to 2-1 and he seemed to have his eye in again in the next frame, only to miss a fairly easy long pink and scatter the reds, allowing Robertson to make a break of 59 and go into the interval 3-1 up.

 O'Sullivan broke off after the restart but had only scored one point when an unlucky cannon off two reds allowed Robertson in to make a break of 66 to move within one frame of victory. Both players showed nerves in what proved to be the final frame, making encouraging-looking breaks only to stumble. But when O'Sullivan fouled by potting the white and yellow with two reds left on the table, Robertson held his nerve to clear the colours and win the frame, and with it the match.


BBC Sport


Injured Serena Williams pulls out of China Open


World number one Serena Williams has pulled out of October's China Open because she is still not fully recovered from a foot injury.

The 28-year-old American has not played since cutting her right foot on broken glass in a restaurant in July. On Thursday, she withdrew from next week's Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo and has now decided not to play in Beijing.

"While I have continued to make progress in my recovery...I am still not ready to compete," she said. "These are both fantastic events, with loyal fans, that I hope to be able to compete in next season.

"In the meantime, I am focused on my rehab programme and remain optimistic to return to competition this season." Williams, who was in London this week to attend a fashion show, suffered the injury shortly after winning her fourth Wimbledon title and underwent surgery in Los Angeles on 15 July.

The two Far East tournaments are the fifth and sixth she has missed since then, a list which also includes the US Open. She described having to miss the 2010 season's final Grand Slam event at Flushing Meadows as "one of the most devastating moments of my career". Victories in this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon took her career record to 13 Grand Slam titles.


BBC Sport


Nadal agrees Queen's return


World number one Rafael Nadal has confirmed he will play in the AEGON Championships at Queen's Club next June.

Nadal won the Wimbledon warm-up event in 2008 and has gone on to reach the men's singles final at SW19 after all four previous appearances in West Kensington.

And the Spaniard, who recently became the first man to win consecutive French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles since Rod Laver achieved the feat in 1969, is looking forward to returning.

"I love playing at the Queen's Club because it is a traditional club," said Nadal.

"Every time I have played there I have felt very welcome because of the British people and their support, and because of the tournament organisers who are so good at their job.

"After the French Open, it is very important for me to feel the grass under my feet as soon as possible."


Sky Sports


Djokovic beats Federer to meet Nadal in final


Novak Djokovic fought off two match points with huge winners en route to a thrilling 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5 upset of five-time U.S. Open winner Roger Federer on Saturday to reach the final of the year's last grand slam.

The third-seeded Serbian had been eliminated by the Swiss master in the three previous U.S. Opens, but he returned the favour by winning a nail-biting fifth set in the semi-final to reach the championship match against top-seeded Rafa Nadal. Djokovic, runner-up in 2007 and a semi-final loser the past two years, dropped to his knees and kissed the court after the second-seeded Federer's forehand landed wide on match point.

"It was just a big pleasure playing in this kind of match," the 23-year-old Serb told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd after the intense, three-hour 44-minute battle. "It's one of those matches you'll always remember in your career. I'm just so thrilled to be in the final." Nadal routed 12th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-3 6-4 in the other semi-final to book a spot in the final where he will look to complete a career grand slam.

Djokovic was on the ropes at 15-40, facing double match point, serving at 4-5 in a final set that had gone on serve. With everything on the line, the slender Serb saved the first with a forehand drive volley winner and then rifled a topspin forehand into the corner to bring the game to deuce. "To be honest I was just closing my eyes and hitting forehands as fast as I can on the match points," said Djokovic, looking for a U.S. Open crown to put on his resume next to the 2008 Australian Open title.

"If it goes in, it goes in. If it goes out, you know, another loss to Federer in the U.S. Open. I managed to come back. I was very lucky." After surviving that challenge, Djokovic broke a deflated Federer in the next game when the Swiss hit a forehand wide up the line to grab a 6-5 lead. Serving for the match, Djokovic fought off a break point at 30-40 when Federer sent a forehand long. The second seed then netted a forehand to set up match point.

"I feel somewhat empty at the end," said Federer, last year's runner-up to Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, whose string of six successive U.S. finals was stopped. "You tried everything. "Obviously you feel like you left something out there if you lose a match and had match point." Federer said the only saving grace in defeat was that it did not come in the final, which would have hurt even more. "It was electric," he said about the quality of play and the response from the crowd.


Roger Federer sails through to fourth round in New York


Five-time US Open champion Roger Federer cruised into the fourth round with a 6-4 6-3 6-3 win over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in New York. Federer, 29, did not have to be at his best as he reached the last 16 in total control at Flushing Meadows.

Third seed Novak Djokovic proved too strong for crowd favourite James Blake as he secured a 6-1 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win. The pair were joined in the last 16 by Robin Soderling after the Swede eased past Thiemo de Bakker 6-2 6-3 6-3. Second seed Federer revealed he had found the blustery conditions problematic on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"Playing in the wind was so hard," said Federer. "Against the wind it only takes a little bit of a bad serving game and the other guy is back in the match. I think I did a good job on that front. "I was taking chances and playing safe when it was important, so under the circumstances I was able to mix it up quite well, even though it was hard to time the ball. "I think he found it really hard towards the end and that was good for me. After the first set I was able to break his will a little bit."

Blake, whose popularity at Flushing Meadows was ensured by a run to the last eight as a wildcard in 2005, looked destined for a swift defeat when Djokovic rattled through the opener in 22 minutes. But the 30-year-old showed the shot-making that once helped him to fourth in the world, and some gritty determination, to make the second set a real fight.

The American even stole ahead with a break in the sixth game, but Djokovic immediately responded in kind and the Serb proved the stronger in the tiebreak despite the crowd's noisy support. Djokovic's relentless accuracy kept his serve secure and his solitary break in the fourth game was never in danger. "It was a big mental struggle just to stay on the court and stay focused. If James had won the second set it could have been a different match," said Djokovic.

Soderling remains on a course to meet Federer - who he beat in the French Open quarter-finals - in the last eight, but with a tie against Spain's Alberto Montanes coming up he is not looking beyond that. "Everybody has been telling me since the draw came out I'm playing Roger in the quarters. It's still far ahead," said fifth seed Soderling.

"It's always difficult to play against Roger and I have played him a lot of times. In any tournament they play, Roger and Rafa will be the favourites, but there are a lot of players who can beat them." Montanes was the beneficiary of Kei Nishikori's misfortune as the Japanese world number 147 retired with a groin injury at 6-2 2-1 down.

Before Federer can contemplate revenge for his Roland Garros reverse, he must defeat 13th seed Jurgen Melzer. The Austrian enjoyed a 7-5 6-3 6-1 win over former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, seeded 22nd. French 17th seed Gael Monfils earned a third successive fourth-round berth with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 victory over Andy Roddick's conqueror Janko Tipsarevic.

That set up an all-French last-16 battle with Richard Gasquet after the 24-year-old beat South Africa's Kevin Anderson 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-5. Mardy Fish, one four Americans to reach the third round, was made to work hard for his place in the last 16 by France's Arnaud Clement. After his form collapsed in the fourth set, the 19th seed recovered to take the match 4-6 6-3 6-4 1-6 6-3 and will face Djokovic next.


BBC Sport


Stakhovsky wins in New Haven


Sergiy Stakhovsky continued his amazing record of never failing to win a tournament once he's reached the semi-finals with victory in the ATP Pilot Pen.

The Ukrainian sealed his second title of the year with a hard-fought 3-6 6-3 6-4 triumph over Denis Istomin in New Haven, Connecticut.

Stakhovsky is now unbeaten in all four finals he has appeared in, including his success at the event in Hertogenbosch earlier this year.

"I'm really glad to win this title," he said. "It pushed me to another level again." The 24-year-old needed just two breaks of serve to become the first Ukrainian to win two tournaments in the same season since Andrei Medvedev in 1994.

Istomin was bidding to become the first player from Uzbekistan to win a title on the ATP Tour. He had made a late decision to play in New Haven after suffering an ankle injury in Cincinnati recently.




Brave Cottagers hold United


Brede Hangeland scored in both ends late on as Fulham twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Craven Cottage.

United piled the pressure on the hosts early on and didn't have long to wait for an opener as veteran Paul Scholes gave them the lead with a trademark strike on 11 minutes.

It was the in-form midfielder's 150th goal for the club and followed his man-of-the-match display against Newcastle last Monday.

The away side failed to build on their early breakthrough, though, and allowed the hosts back into the game, with Edwin Van der Sar called into action on numerous occasions for the remainder of the first half.

Fulham continued to pressurise in the early stages of the second period and were rewarded for their efforts on 57 minutes as Simon Davies finished off a flowing move.

United regained the lead, however, and it came via an own goal courtesy of Hangeland, who inadvertently deflected an attempted clearance into his own net six minutes from time.

Substitute Nani then had a penalty saved by Fulham keeper David Stockdale after Damien Duff accidentally handled inside the area in a frantic end to an entertaining game.

The save proved vital as Hangeland made amends for his error in the 89th minute when he rose highest from a Duff corner and powered home a header to square up the sides once more.




Rory McIlroy chases Nick Watney in USPGA final round


American Nick Watney will begin Sunday's final round of the USPGA with a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits.

The 29-year-old Watney raced four clear before dropping a shot at the last to end with a 66 for 13 under after three rounds as his pursuers both carded 67s. China's Liang Wenchong set a course record of 64 to join Martin Kaymer (67) and Jason Day (66) on nine under. Tiger Woods (72) ended three under as Phil Mickelson took 73 for one under. Half the 156 starters were forced to complete their seconds rounds on Saturday after almost six hours were lost because of fog over the first two days on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The cut fell at one over, leaving 72 players to contest the final 36 holes, and Watney quickly passed second-round leader Matt Kuchar with two opening birdies. Watney, who was seventh at both the Masters and the Open, tying for highest-placed American at St Andrews, forged to five under for the round after seven. And despite tripping up with a bogey on the eighth, he made further birdies at 11, 14 and 16 to go four clear before slipping back on the last. "I am going to go out there tomorrow, put a tee in the ground on No. 1 and just focus on that shot," Watney said. "It is going to be a long day and a tough day but I am really looking forward to it."

The 21-year-old McIlroy will go into Sunday in the penultimate group with Liang and with a very real chance of claiming his maiden major title - at a younger age than Woods was when he clinched the first of his 14 major titles aged 21 at the Masters in 1997. "It'll be my first time in contention going into the last day [of a major] and hopefully I'm up for the challenge," said McIlroy, who tied third in last year's USPGA and also came third at the Open in July.

"I'm not going to be over-aggressive and stupid, but you are going to have to give yourself plenty of chances." American Johnson, who is coached by Woods's old guru Butch Harmon, holed out before McIlroy in round three and will therefore partner Watney in the last group. The big-hitting Johnson, 26, also led the US Open by three shots going into the final round before combusting at Pebble Beach in June. "I think maybe at Pebble Beach I got maybe a little impatient, started moving a little too fast and on Sunday I'm really just going to focus on being patient and hitting quality golf shots." None of the top six have ever won a major and five of the last six major champions were winning a major for the first time.

Woods closed to within five of the lead after completing his second round but went back out in 39 and had to finish birdie-birdie just to end with a level-par 72. "Ironically I hit the ball better today than the other two days but I putted atrociously and didn't get any momentum," said Woods, who is one over for the four par fives this week. Woods, who slumped to a career-worst 18 over total to finish last but one in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last week, is likely to have to finish inside the top seven to have any chance of squeezing back inside the automatic US Ryder Cup spots on Sunday night. The 34-year-old, who has been working with coach Sean Foley this week after Hank Haney quit earlier this year, added: "Things are starting to solidify, which is good. That's what I'm pleased about. It's not like I'm working on eight different things.

It's just a couple key things, and it feels a lot better." Back on eight under and not without a chance are 1995 champion Steve Elkington of Australia, 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson and fellow Americans Jason Dufner and 2003 US Open champion Jim Furyk. Masters winner Mickelson squandered another chance to pass Woods as world number one with four bogeys and three birdies. Englishmen Simon Dyson and Simon Khan are both back on six under, while Ernie Els bounced back from his second-round 74 with a 69 to finish five under. But England's Ian Poulter ended last of those who made the cut after slumping to a 77 for five over.

The winners of the last two majors, South Africa's Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Northern Ireland's US Open winner Graeme McDowell, as well as last year's winner YE Yang of South Korea, all missed the cut. Ireland's 2008 champion Padraig Harrington also missed out on the last two rounds by one shot after double-bogeying the final hole when he was distracted by a photographer, jeopardising his chances of making the European Ryder Cup team. "It's very disappointing, but it would be silly to think that my last shot is going to cost me my place," said Harrington. "The Ryder Cup does come first. I made out my schedule to peak for the four majors and the Ryder Cup and I'm going to stick with it. "If I get picked I want to be ready to play."


BBC Sport


Keeper Paul Robinson retires from England duty


Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson has pulled out of the England squad for Wednesday's friendly with Hungary and retired from international football.

The 30-year-old played at the 2006 World Cup but had drifted off the scene until his recall for this game. "Only now have I been able to make this decision as previously I haven't been in contention for selection," he said. "I don't see myself as a number three or four keeper and find that role very frustrating."

The former Leeds and Tottenham goalkeeper made his England debut in 2003 against Australia and won 41 caps, including playing in all five of England's games at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But he paid the price for costly errors as England failed to reach Euro 2008, most famously failing to connect with a Gary Neville back pass which resulted in an own goal in the 2-0 defeat in Croatia.

His last appearance for England was a 2-1 defeat against Russia in 2007, where he could only palm a long-range shot into Roman Pavlyuchenko's path to set up Russia's winning goal. Robinson was not selected by England for two years after that, and only earned a recall to the squad when David James was injured for the World Cup 2010 qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Andorra.

Since moving to Blackburn two years ago, he seemed to have rediscovered his form, saving two penalties in a Carling Cup shoot-out win over Chelsea as Blackburn reached the semi-finals of the competition. Rovers manager Sam Allardyce touted him for a place in this summer's World Cup squad, but having fallen behind the more experienced James and the younger Joe Hart and Robert Green in the international pecking order, he was never a likely contender for a place in the party.

He was named in England coach Fabio Capello's first squad since the disappointment of South Africa, but with Hart and Ben Foster also included - and more likely starters - Robinson has announced his decision. "I haven't had the opportunity of anything other than [not being first choice] in recent years therefore I feel it is in the best interest of myself and my club Blackburn Rovers that I concentrate solely on my club football."

The news is an embarrassment for Capello as he looks to make a fresh start after the let-down of South Africa, but the Football Association says it has no plans to replace Robinson in the squad.


Ebdon's form warning


Former world snooker champion Peter Ebdon has strangely released a statement warning of his lack of form heading into the upcoming Shanghai Masters qualifying tournament.

The 2002 Crucible winner is thought to have made the unusual move to play down his chances of winning in order to give bookmakers and possible punters notice of his form heading into the match. Ebdon will play a qualifying match for the Roewe Shanghai Masters in Sheffield next week, but is keen to point out that he has not practised as he would have liked and feels he is way off form. The 39-year-old fell out of the world's top 16 at the end of last season and is now ranked 18th, and is due to marry this weekend before heading to Sheffield.

With the John Higgins saga still fresh in the minds and a couple of other snooker betting scandals still rumbling on, Ebdon has moved to publicly describe his current form and state of mind ahead of the game. Form "I would like to make it known that I consider that I will not be in a position to play to the best of my ability in my Roewe Shanghai Masters qualifying match in Sheffield next week," Ebdon said in his statement.

"This is down to personal circumstances, including the fact that I am getting re-married in Hungary this weekend. "Since playing in a recent tournament in Thailand I have not been able to practise, and by the time the qualifiers come around I will not have played for 10 days or more. "I know just how bad I can be when I don't feel properly prepared as I am the type of player who needs to practise hard in order to play to a reasonable standard. "

As always, I will be doing my utmost to win what is a very important match for me but in truth, my levels of expectation will not be very high." Due to his ranking, Ebdon goes straight into the final round of the qualifying competition which takes place from Monday to Thursday next week. He will face one of Michael White, Liu Chuang, Michael Judge and Dominic Dale.




Suarez - My Hand of God


Luis Suarez says he now has the 'Hand of God' after his controversial handball helped Uruguay reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Ajax striker Suarez's deliberate handball on the goal-line in the final minute of extra-time prevented Dominic Adiyiah's header from sending Ghana through to the last four.

Suarez was sent off for his action and then danced with glee on the sidelines when Asamoah Gyan smacked the resultant penalty against the crossbar.

Uruguay went on to prevail 4-2 in the shoot-out to set up a semi-final clash with Holland and Suarez's handball drew comparisons to Diego Maradona's infamous goal against England at the 1986 finals.

Prolific front-man Suarez is now claiming the 'Hand of God' mantle for himself and insists he had no choice but to block Adiyiah's header.

 "This was the end of the World Cup. I had no choice. I have the 'Hand of God' now," said Suarez. "I did it so that my team-mates could win the penalty shoot-out. When I saw Gyan miss the penalty it was a great joy."




Wimbledon 2010: Serena Williams battles into final


Defending champion Serena Williams overcame an unexpectedly tough test to reach her sixth Wimbledon final.

Vera Zvonareva stands between Williams and a fourth title after the world number one battled past unseeded Czech Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-5) 6-2. Kvitova, in her first Grand Slam semi-final, became the first player to break Williams' serve at the tournament. But the world number 62 let slip a first-set lead and the top seed's experience told. After a tussle lasting one hour and 32 minutes, Williams celebrated with a curtsey for the Centre Court crowd.

"It wasn't easy, I worked really hard," she told BBC Sport. "I didn't expect to get this far the way I started at the beginning of the tournament. I just felt off, but I'm happy to still be here. It's such a blessing to just be in the tournament." The 28-year-old has now hit 80 aces during the tournament, which puts her streets ahead of her female rivals and would place her seventh on the men's list. "I didn't hit that many aces today but honestly I've never served that many aces," she said.

"It's weird and exciting. I've always relied on my serve to be good and strong but in the eve of my career it's just got better. "It took me a while to get used to her serve but I try not to worry too much out there, it's not the time. I think that I took my opportunities better in the second set." Williams' route to a fourth title, and a 13th Grand Slam success, looked relatively simple after her sister Venus and Kim Clijsters were beaten in the quarter-finals.

Zvonareva was the only one of the three semi-finalists to have won a match against the defending champion, and all were making their debut in the last four of Wimbledon. Kvitova had never even won a match on grass before arriving at the All England Club this year, and the 20-year-old admitted before her first Grand Slam semi-final that she did not think she could beat her experienced opponent. But her performance, certainly in the early stages, belied that statement, a magnificent low volley setting up break point at 2-2 before Williams netted a forehand to find her serve broken for the first time in the tournament.

Kvitova even had a point for a 5-3 lead, but three forehand errors allowed Williams to get back on level terms. Still, the Czech refused to roll over completely, fighting back from 4-0 down in the tie-break and saving two set points before Williams delivered a crunching first serve to take the first set by the narrowest margin in just under an hour. Williams found the second set a little easier to negotiate, but Kvitova still provided flashes of brilliance for an appreciative crowd.

Trailing 4-2 and break point down, the pair played out a thrilling 19-shot rally, Kvitova somehow scrambling back a lob before finally firing a forehand past an exhausted Williams. The effort, though, was apparently too much for the 20-year-old and she double-faulted on the next break point to allow Williams to come through, although the American had a lucky netcord to thank on match point. Kvitova, meanwhile, believes she can build on her All England Club run.

"It was a great match for me and it was close in the first set," she said. "I will take a little bit of confidence and I'm happy I was in the Wimbledon semi-finals. I hope to be seeded for the US Open and I hope I can improve more."


BBC Sport


Andy Murray to play in front of Queen


Andy Murray will have the added pressure of playing in front of the Queen when he takes to Centre Court for his second round match at Wimbledon.

The Queen will visit the All England Club on Thursday for the first time since the ladies' final in 1977. Murray, the British number one, will open play on Centre Court at 1300 BST against Jarkko Nieminen. World number one Rafael Nadal and women's third seed Caroline Wozniacki are also on the Centre Court schedule. It is 33 years since the Queen presented the Venus Rosewater trophy to Britain's Virginia Wade on her last visit to Wimbledon in Silver Jubilee year. She will begin Thursday's visit with a walk past Aorangi Terrace, commonly known as Henman Hill, before watching a display of junior tennis. Players past and present will then meet the Queen in the members' enclosure before she takes her place in the royal box on Centre Court.

"I hope it doesn't affect me in the match," said Murray. "I think it's one of those things when you get out there, you're aware of it, but then it is our job to be able to concentrate and to focus, not let things that are going on off the court distract you. "I've been doing it for the last five, six years, getting used to playing in big stadiums with people watching and various distractions. You just need to stay focused." The 23-year-old expects that both he and his opponent will bow to the Queen on their arrival on Centre Court, and is hopeful of meeting her after the match.

"I don't know what I'll say exactly - I'll probably be a little bit nervous, understandably," he admitted. "I guess I don't want to mess up at all. But the plan was to bow to the Queen, as everybody would. It's just you wanted to get the right etiquette for what we were doing on the court." The royal visit has overshadowed the fact that Murray faces a difficult second-round match against the experienced Nieminen. Murray has beaten the 28-year-old Finn in both their previous meetings but the last of them was three years ago, and Nieminen is a former quarter-finalist at Wimbledon.

"He has a lot of experience," said the Scot. "He had a really good chance to beat Andy Roddick at the French Open a few weeks ago. He's a tough player. He's obviously a lefty, which can make it tricky. "He's a very solid player, he doesn't hand matches to you. You have to go out and beat him. He's not going to make many mistakes." Wozniacki will play Kai-Chen Chang in the second match on Centre Court before Nadal completes the line-up as he takes on Dutchman Robin Haase in the third match. "It's a pleasure to have the Queen here at Wimbledon," said the Spaniard.

"That's very good for the sport. And for me it's not an extra pressure, it's just an honour to see the Queen in the royal box. "I would love to have the chance to say hello to her." Defending champion Serena Williams has been practising her curtsey for the royal visitor but she will be out on Court Two when she takes on Russia's Anna Chakvetadze. Robin Soderling and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova are among the star attractions on Court One, while Nicolas Mahut and John Isner will resume the longest tennis match in history at 59-59 in their final set in the third match on Court 18.


BBC Sport


South Africa: Most unsafe World Cup ever?



JOHANNESBURG – At some point people have to realize this World Cup is not safe, that South Africa, in its valiant attempt to host soccer’s biggest tournament, is unable to guarantee a team won’t be attacked or that fans won’t be harmed in the streets, their hotels or the stands. The latest hole to appear in the porous security appeared in Cape Town when a fan left the stands at the end of England’s match with Algeria, walked through several lines of security wearing his England shirt and right into the team’s locker room only moments after Princes Harry and William had departed. 

The fan encountered David Beckham, who eventually encouraged him to leave, but not before exposing to all involved – the police, FIFA and private security firms – that they are unable to protect much of anything at the World Cup. To show just how meager the security has become, the fan – after walking into the locker room and confronting the English players – then walked back out the door and disappeared into the night without being stopped by FIFA or the police. And this was supposed to be one of the most secure matches, one of 11 identified by authorities before the tournament as having the highest risk of terrorist attack. But apparently all you have to do to gain admission to the inner sanctum, the most protected place at the World Cup, is to wear an England jersey. You’ll slip right in. 

Who knows where to direct the blame? As with every other incident here, from the near stampede at a friendly between Nigeria and North Korea the week before the World Cup to the robberies of several visiting journalists to riots involving striking workers, nobody wants to accept responsibility. They point fingers, they argue, they make statements and they call press conferences. And as they do, safety deteriorates. It’s to the point where you are surprised if a police officer actually stops someone from going into an unauthorized place. Mostly, nobody seems to know what is restricted and what isn’t, who can enter a locked area and who is forbidden. Rules mean nothing. 

 Which is why many American visitors have hired private security firms to take them around Johannesburg. The other day, workers contracted to provide security at several of the stadiums went on strike, demanding better pay and more hours from their bosses. The security companies responded by firing the strikers, leaving some World Cup venues almost completely unprotected. Workers interviewed on television describe getting hired in the days before the World Cup, being handed a uniform and receiving no training. 

They were simply thrown onto the job with promises of riches that never came. The morning after the firings, Yahoo! Americas editor Martin Munoz and I walked into the International Broadcast Center without FIFA credentials. We were in search of a FIFA office and unsure where exactly to go, but neither of us possess the ubiquitous press pass that everyone must wear in order to be allowed into the broadcast center. Over the years, IBC’s at World Cups and Olympics have come to be mini-fortresses, almost impossible to be breached. 

Usually reporters are forced to run their bags through X-ray machines, walk through metal detectors and have their credentials examined by police or security. On this day we ambled past a small group of policemen huddled in a corner talking and through the metal detectors without question. It wasn’t until we had reached the deep insides of the IBC, where the international networks keep their offices, that it came clear how serious a security breach this was. It’s a fact that was confirmed by a woman from FIFA who encountered us and looked stunned when we told her we had walked in unchecked. 

We left immediately, unsettled. The job of protecting most of the World Cup’s stadiums has now fallen to South Africa’s police force. Already the police have been stretched thin, bringing in detectives and undercover officers to work at the stadiums. Not that it has done a great deal of good. On the day the U.S. played England in Rustenburg, a match attended by vice president Joe Biden, at least two vans of journalists without proper parking credentials raced by at least three checkpoints until they were inside the final ring of security. 

Fortunately nothing happened, but with rumors that president Barack Obama might make a visit depending on how far the U.S. team advances in the World Cup, how can South Africa ensure his safety? How can it for anyone? If a fan can walk into the locker room and confront David Beckham after a match marked for the highest level of security, what else can happen?


Blackhawks win first Stanley Cup since 1961


PHILADELPHIA – For a moment, Patrick Kane was the only one who knew the Chicago Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup. As he skated to the other end of the ice, his teammates quickly joined in the celebration that ended 49 years of frustration for the Blackhawks without a title.

Kane sneaked the puck past Michael Leighton 4:06 into overtime and stunned Philadelphia to lift Chicago to a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 on Wednesday night for their first championship since 1961. No one but the Blackhawks appeared to realize what was going on for a few frozen moments. Kane and his linemates knew the puck had found the side of the net. The goal light never went on, but that didn't stop most of the Blackhawks from storming the ice and mobbing each other in celebration.

"I tried to sell the celebration a little bit," Kane said. "Everyone came down, and I think some of the guys were still kind of iffy to see if the puck was in the net." Oh, it was in, a brief video replay confirmed — and the Blackhawks revival from the bottom of the NHL to the elite was complete. "I believed in him," said captain Jonathan Toews, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP. "I don't think he would have thrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 percent sure." Kane will go down as scoring one of the biggest goals in team history. He raised his arms right away and skated behind the net, knowing the goal was good.

While the Flyers sat on the bench in stunned silence with confused looks, the Blackhawks began to celebrate in their own end around goaltender Antti Niemi. "I was just hoping to God it was just an actual goal or we would be celebrating for nothing," Toews said. Before reaching the group hug, Kane stooped to pick up some loose ice shavings — looking like a mischievous kid on Christmas ready to throw a snowball in the backyard.

"There's so many great things about winning a Stanley Cup. This is it," Toews said. "This is the best feeling you can ever get. I just can't believe it's happened." Toews was first to touch the Cup, taking it from commissioner Gary Bettman and hoisting it above his head in triumph. Marian Hossa, whose last two attempts at a title were denied the last two years with Detroit and Pittsburgh, was next. He lifted it and bench-pressed the big trophy, snapping his head back in exhilaration.

"I put it on my shoulder. What a relief," Hossa said. Chicago won its first Stanley Cup since Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita led the way 49 years ago. It ends the longest active championship drought in the NHL. Kane is the first player to score the Stanley Cup clinching goal in overtime since Jason Arnott did it for New Jersey at Dallas in 2000. "I heard the sound, it was a funny sound," coach Joel Quenneville said of the Cup-winner. "Nobody knew where the puck was. Kaner thought it was in." Leighton stopped 37 shots — just not the last one. "I went to the corner and saw a guy drive the net," he said. "I thought he was going to pass it but he threw it at my feet and it went underneath me." Fitting in a series where neither team had much wiggle room, this one needed OT.

Just when it appeared the Flyers season was over, Scott Hartnell squeezed out another clutch goal. With the offense revved into desperation mode, Hartnell was leveled by Toews right in front of the crease as he knocked a loose puck in to make it 3-3 with 3:59 left in the third. He raised his arms while flat on his back. Knocked down, never out. The Flyers faithful turned their white towels into rally symbols only moments after they could have been used for surrender. The fans politely applauded when the game was over, but the few thousand who stuck around booed as the Blackhawks took their turns hoisting the silver trophy. A few hundred Blackhawks fans went wild as the team took a picture with the Cup.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette never saw the winning goal. "I saw one of their players skate across the ice like he had won something," he said. "I got a little pit in my stomach." The Blackhawks ruthlessly attacked the Flyers and it paid off with two should-have-been-stopped goals against Leighton. Leighton, who had been flawless at home this postseason, couldn't come up with two crucial saves and that helped put Chicago in the driver's seat. Andrew Ladd, an injury scratch the first three games, deflected Niklas Hjalmarsson's slap shot from the circle with 2:17 left in the second.

That made it 3-2 and nearly stood as the winner His goal followed Patrick Sharp's soft wrister that scooted under Leighton's left skate to tie it a 2 midway through the period. Sharp's 11th goal of the postseason came during a 4-on-4. Niemi was barely tested. Daniel Briere beat him for a 2-1 lead when he came streaking down the right side and went high glove side off a crisp pass from Ville Leino with 12 minutes left. There were 40 goals scored in the first five games, the most for a finals since 1981. This one was a goalie's duel early with only a power-play goal from each team in the first period.

Chicago pounded Leighton from all angles and were outshooting the Flyers 14-3 at one point late in the first. Chris Pronger, who had one of the worst playoff performances of his career in Game 5 (minus-5), was penalized twice in the first. His antagonistic actions came after a day after he was the subject of an unflattering picture of him in a skirt in the Chicago Tribune. Pronger's penalty for high sticking was still being announced when Dustin Byfuglien popped out to face the net and one-timed a pass from Toews past Leighton with 3:11 left. The Flyers didn't even attempt a shot on their first two power-play chances.

The special teams unit that had been so effective during their first Stanley Cup finals run since 1997 had suddenly gone dry. That is, until Hartnell bailed them out. He backhanded the puck through Niemi's legs with 26.5 seconds left to tie the game. Hartnell barked at the Blackhawks and a home crowd on edge suddenly roared back to life. This Flyers team had mastered the art of the comeback, starting all the way back on the last day of the regular season when a shootout win clinched a playoff spot. It became the third team in NHL history to win a series after losing the first three games when it eliminated Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and evened the Stanley Cup at 2-all after losing the first two games at Chicago. It wasn't enough and the Flyers are still looking for their first Stanley Cup since winning consecutive championships in 1974 and 1975.

"We just thought it was meant to be," Briere said. "We just thought it was a matter of time we would win in overtime and go back to Chicago."


 French Open. Schiavone seals historic title


Francesca Schiavone has become the first Italian woman to win a grand slam after a straight-sets victory over Sam Stosur in the French Open final.

 The 17th seed, who was the overwhelming underdog heading into Saturday's showpiece, has been crowned the 2010 Roland Garros champion after tactically outclassing the seventh seeded Australian to record a 6-4 7-6 triumph on Court Phillipe Chatrier. Victory made the 29-year-old the second oldest first-time major women's champion and it also shattered Stosur's dream of ending Australia's 30-year wait for a female champion at one of the four slams, a streak stretching back to Evonne Goolagong's 1980 Wimbledon win.

Schiavone, who had lost to Stosur in the first round here last year, got her tactics spot on, trumping the seventh seed's power game with clever variations of pace and movement. She took the ball early, stepped inside and utilised her greater confidence at the net and with her volley to ensure the 26-year-old Stosur was kept on the defensive.

Schiavone, one of the few women to still employ a one-handed backhand, carved out the only break of the first set in the ninth game before claiming the opener in the 10th when an unsettled Stosur netted a backhand return. The Australian, who had reached the semi-finals in 2009, made it to the final the hard way, having to defeat four-time French Open champion Justine Henin, world number one Serena Williams, against whom she saved a match point, and fourth seed Jelena Jankovic. But unlike her fellow grand slam final debutant, she was struggling to make any impression until her fortunes briefly turned.

Having fought off two break points in the third game of the second set, Stosur finally got the measure of her opponent to break and hold for a 4-1 advantage. However, 17th-seeded Schiavone bravely regained the break in the seventh game when Stosur went dramatically off the boil and backed it up with a hold for 4-4. The set was decided by a tiebreak and Schiavone went to four match points with a sweet drop volley which she converted into the title when Stosur unleashed the last of many untidy returns which ballooned into the stands. The emotional Italian collapsed to the ground in joy before, covered in the red dirt of Paris, she clambered up into the crowd to spark a wild celebration with family and friends.




Klitschko takes down Pole


Vitali Klitschko stopped Albert Sosnowski in the tenth round in Germany to retain his WBC world heavyweight title - and David Haye could be next in line for the Ukrainian.

European champion Sosnowski was giving away a huge height and weight advantage to the champion, and in the end it was all too much for the Pole.

Klitschko's victory was the 40th of his career, and his 38th knock-out, and it came in his fourth successful defence of the WBC belt he won back in 2008.

The 38-year-old did not look in the best of condition and was happy to take up the centre of the ring and allow Sosnowski to try and pick him off on the move.

Some big combinations started to get to Sosnowski though, and he was lucky the bell came to his rescue in the ninth round when he was trapped against the ropes.

A cut opened up above Sosnowski's left eye in the tenth, and with 29 seconds left of the round Klitschko finished the job as he sent his opponent to the deck.

 "I was in good form, Sosnowski was younger than me, but people saw that I did well against him," said Klitschko, who wants to fight either WBA champ Haye or Ruslan Chagaev next.

"He did everything to win this fight, but my experience got me through." Sosnowski was disappointed with the result but believes the experience will help him challenge for a world title in the future.

"I am a bit disappointed, because I thought I had a good chance of winning this fight," said Sosnowski.

"I am okay now, it was a hard punch, but I was also quite tired and I just didn't have the energy to get up. "I am grateful for this fight and I hope to have another shot at the title in future."

  Klitschko takes down Pole  

Sky Sport


Mourinho likely to quit Inter Milan for Real Madrid


Jose Mourinho says he is likely to leave Inter Milan for Real Madrid after guiding Inter to an historic Treble.

The Italian champions beat Bayern Munich to win the Champions League on Saturday, making Mourinho the third coach to win the prize with two clubs. But following the 2-0 victory at Real's Bernabeu stadium Mourinho said: "I'm so sad as almost for sure it's my last game with Inter. "If you don't coach Real Madrid then you always have a gap in your career."

The 47-year-old former Chelsea boss added: "It was difficult to leave Chelsea and it will be sad to leave Inter. Inter is my house in the same way Chelsea was my house. But that's life, that's football. "Now I have two houses, Stamford Bridge, San Siro and now a third house - probably the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Only Real are interested in me but I haven't spoken with anyone and I haven't signed anything. I promised I'd speak after the final. "I believe my target now is to win another championship that I've never won and win Champions League with a third club and then come back to England. "Everybody knows that English football is my passion and I will go back to England once." Mourinho, who joined Inter in 2008, has also won two Serie A titles and an Italian Cup.

"When I win I don't stop and here [in Italy] I have won everything. I've won the Champions League with two clubs and I can do it with three," he reflected. "There are many things [in Italy] that I haven't liked and for three to four months I've been thinking of going. "I've entered into Inter's history, I don't want to speak much because if I do I'll cry and I don't want to do that.

"I want a different challenge in my career, now is the time to decide. What's important for Inter is that [president Massimo] Moratti and [captain Javier] Zanetti stay." In all the post-match drama, it was easy to forget that Inter had become European champions for the first time in 45 years thanks to two goals from Argentina striker Diego Milito. And the goalscoring hero hailed his coach as the mastermind behind the Italian side's Champions League victory. "Mourinho deserves this the most. He is great coach and he deserves all of the credit for this success," the matchwinner stated.

"This is the team that he has made. He made many changes to the team that finished last year and we have come so far." Milito was one of the players brought in by Mourinho last summer after Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed for Barcelona. "I want to thank Inter, the president and the coach for wanting to sign me last summer - I am so happy to be here at Inter," Milito added. "What I feel now is a joy I have never felt before, an incredible joy.

I am so happy for Inter because we have been waiting for so long and we deserved this trophy." Meanwhile, Inter president Massimo Moratti has revealed Mourinho cried after the side's victory, but hopes the coach was not shedding tears ahead of an imminent departure. "I didn't cry, but Mourinho did and a lot - I hope they were not from a sense of guilt," Moratti said. "The players were wrapped up in joy; it's an infinite joy, it's marvellous."


Fabio Capello considers England formation change


Fabio Capello is thinking about playing with three central defenders during the World Cup, BBC Sport understands.

The England boss is considering a move to 3-5-2 from 4-4-2 if Manchester City's Gareth Barry is forced out of the tournament by his ankle injury. Capello has never played with three at the back since taking charge of the national squad in 2008. England played a similar system under Steve McClaren in 2006, when they went down 2-0 away to Croatia.

"England's World Cup starts four weeks on Saturday and there is a chance they could start with three central defenders against the USA in Rustenburg [on 12 June]," reported BBC Radio 5 live's Ian Dennis. "Capello has never played such a system with wing-backs in his time as manager, but I understand he will consider a change in formation if Barry doesn't recover from his injury. "Capello spoke of his plans to members of England's '66 World Cup-winning side, who were inducted into football's Hall of Fame on Thursday.

"England played with three at the back during the ill-fated Euro 2008 qualifiers, but at least Capello has weeks rather than days to work on the system, which worked well during Italia '90." A switch in formation would be a major change for the Italian, who has demonstrated his preference for 4-4-2 throughout his coaching career.

Four years ago England's deployment of a 3-5-2 formation ended disastrously against Croatia. Eduardo headed Croatia ahead in Zagreb, then Paul Robinson's air-kick after the ball bobbled on an uneven surface resulted in an own-goal for Gary Neville, with the Croats going on to win 2-0. Capello sprang some surprises in his provisional 30-man squad for South Africa on Wednesday, calling up Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher who retired from international duty in 2007.

Fellow central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Ledley King have both proved vulnerable to injury in recent years, while some critics have suggested former England captain John Terry has not been always been at his best this season. Barry played in eight of England's 10 World Cup qualifiers, and has won 20 of his 36 international caps under Capello.

The midfielder was named in the provisional squad and will have a fitness check on 24 May. Manchester City said on 7 May that his ankle injury would rule him out for four weeks.


BBC Sport


Tournament goes on minus Woods



Tiger Woods promised to put his free weekend to good use after missing the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship.

“It does bother me, no doubt,” Woods said. “But at least I get the weekend to watch and see how it’s done, how real players play golf.” Woods didn’t fit that category Friday with a shocking 79 that included a stunning meltdown on the back nine. Only a stroke off the cutline at the turn, Woods began the back with three straight bogeys to all but guarantee an early exit.

That’s when things turned disastrous for the world’s No. 1 golfer. He pounded a driver way right on the shortish par-4 14, then hit a high flop shot that rolled off the green and into the water. A drop, two chips and putt gave him double bogey. The low point came a hole later, the par-5 15th when Woods, hitting almost as soon as he arrived at his ball, four-putted the green from 30 feet for a second straight double bogey, and third in two days.

Woods did show some gumption down the stretch, parring out along Quail Hollow Club’s “Green Mile” of 16-17-18 to break 80. “It’s frustrating,” Woods said afterward. “I didn’t have much.” Woods’ 43 on the back matched his worst nine on the PGA Tour. It was just his sixth missed cut of his 14-year career. “It’s not like he completely packed it in, but you lose a little intensity out there when you’re five, six strokes out of the cut with three holes to play,” said Stewart Cink, the British Open champion grouped with Woods the past two days.

“It’s kind of natural to kind of get your thing over with and go and move on to next week,” said Cink, who also missed the cut. That leaves the third member of Woods’ group, Angel Cabrera in prime position at Quail Hollow. Cabrera paid little attention to Woods’ troubles in fashioning a 67 for a 7-under 137, a stroke behind leader Billy Mayfair.

“I’ve been working hard all year and been waiting for a round like this,” said Cabrera, who’s only two PGA Tour victories were at majors. Masters champion Phil Mickelson was already off the course and in at 6 under while Woods was playing out his round. Mickelson, after his 68, heads a group that includes Dustin Johnson (65), J.P. Hayes (64) and Paul Goydos (70). First-round leader Bo Van Pelt dropped back into a tie for 14th after a 76.

For Mickelson, it was another Masters victory lap around Quail Hollow. He was cheered at every tee, along each fairway and walking up every green. The loudest ovation came at No. 15, hours before Woods’ four-putt, when Mickelson rolled in an 8-footer for eagle and walked off with a happy grin. Mickelson says he’s over the illness—he said Friday he thought it was food poisoning—that saw him walk off the course during Wednesday’s pro am, and feel fatigued toward the end of his opening round.

“The weekend, though, I’m feeling much better,” Mickelson said. “I should be 100 percent, and will hopefully have time to work on my game, get a little practice in and shoot lower scores.” Woods is going to try that, too, only at home in Florida as he prepares for The Players Championship next week. If Thursday’s 74 came from wayward shots off the tee, his blowup Friday came around the green. “My short game was terrible,” Woods said. “I putted bad.” And often. Woods missed makeable putts for par on the 10th, 11th and 12th holes.

After a drop when he went in the water on No. 14, Woods chipped it off the green to result in a double bogey. And, of course, there were those four putts on No. 15. Woods’ plans to improve? “Practice a little bit,” he said. And there’s likely not a pro out there who doubts Woods’ eventual return to top form. “This is tournament number two of the year,” Cink said. “I’m sure it’s still in there and it’s just that he would like to uncover it, and he’ll probably do that by playing more.”


Davis Holds On To Advantage


Six times champion Steve Davis takes 9-7 lead over John Higgins going into the final session of their match in the World Championship Trailing 6-2 overnight to the six times champion Steve Davis, last years winner John Higgins made his intentions very clear from the outset, in their second session of this World Championship last sixteen tie.

The Scot stroked in his first attempt at a pot, a long red. Swinging the cue ball around three cushions retaining position on a baulk colour. With a stern gaze upon his face he reduced the deficit to three frames at 6-3 with a 78 break. In the next of the afternoon session, both players had chances but it was Higgins who stole it after he potted a long range yellow then cleared to pink. Clearly charged up for this match, Higgins left the arena scowling in approval of his success in taking the frame.

Higgins the 'Wizard of Wishaw' looked to be on course to close the gap to just one, until missing a routine red. Davis who dominated throughout the eighties and is simply introduced now as'Legend', by the MC Rob Walker,stepped up to the table and rolled back the years with a frame winning run of 83.To which he received generous applause yet again from this Crucible crowd. Davis clinched the last before the interval,restoring his four frame lead at the resumption of the match.

Eventually sealing the 26 minute frame with efforts of 25 and 30, going to the mid-session break by far the happier of the two players,leaving snookers' famous stage with the soldier-like Davis walk. Higgins who is thought to be one of the games best ever match players, has been in imperious form this season. And is guaranteed to be ranked the world number one next term, no matter how he or any other player performs. In the next he showed he was not going to let go of the world crown without a fight.

This years Welsh Open winner battled hard in a tough and scrappy frame, sealing the frame with a mere 17 break. In frame fourteen, Higgins produced the form which helped him lift the trophy last year. He recorded an excellent 106,his third century of this years event and increased the tournaments tally to 25.

A tenacious effort from Higgins in the next, saw the Scot draw within a single frame of the 52 year old Davis, who is making his 30th appearance at the Crucible. Both players were clearly fully aware of the importance of the final frame of the session.It was Higgins who looked to be favourite to restore parity in the match until missing a straight red.

Higgins sat down shaking his head in disgust, Davis dug deep and a solid 55 break helped him secure the last,finishing 9-7 up with nine frames still to play in this second round encounter. They resume Saturday morning at 10am with a place in the quarter finals at stake. Graeme Dott opened a commanding 7-1 lead over fellow Scot Stephen Maguire in their second round match at the World Snooker Championship.

The 2006 World Champion is looking in great shape and stands an outside chance of reclaiming his place in the Top 16 two years after he dropped out of the elite. After a re-run of that 2006 final in the first round when he beat Peter Edbon 10-5 to knock him out of the top bracket Dott has kicked on and was in great form in the opening session.

Runs of 43 and 94 put him 2-0 up before Maguire pulled back a frame. There after it was Dott, a break of 110 after the interval put him 4-1 ahead and breaks of 99 and 59 ensured he finished the session 7-1 ahead and leaves Maguire with a mountain to climb.


Mark Selby beats Ken Doherty in Crucible first round


Former Crucible runner-up Mark Selby had few problems in brushing aside 1997 winner Ken Doherty 10-4 to reach the World Championship second round.

The two-time Masters champion led 6-3 overnight and won three of the opening four frames with breaks of 82 and 81. Doherty struggled to contain the world number seven as Selby secured the win after missing out on a 147 maximum. Earlier, Mark Allen beat debutant Tom Ford 10-4 to set up a tie with Mark Davis or Ryan Day.

Selby was pleased with his first-round effort but rued his failure to finish off with a maximum. "The money's great if you get it but I was thinking about the history and being on the roll of honour, knowing that you've made a 147 at the Crucible," he said. "It would have been a massive achievement."

Selby is confident he can clinch his first Crucible title if he finds his best form. "If I was to ask 150 people, not everyone's going to say I'm going to win the World Championship, but as long as in myself I believe I can win the World Championship that's the biggest thing," he added. "If I play my own game and play to my capability then I know I've got every chance."

 Meanwhile, Allen, the world number 11 from Northern Ireland, needed only two frames after Saturday's session - and he also just missed out on a maximum 147. Ford won three of the four opening frames with breaks of 77 and 71 but last year's semi-finalist kept his cool to come through. Allen produced a stunning performance on the opening day of the championship at the Crucible to grab an overnight lead of 8-1.

After the 26-year-old Ford claimed his first frame of the tournament with a 107, Allen hit back to pot all 15 reds with blacks only to stop short on the green with a 122 break. It was an impressive battling display from Ford on Sunday morning but Allen, who dumped out Ronnie O'Sullivan in Sheffield last year, appears to be a serious contender for the trophy this year.

However, Allen believes he needs to improve markedly in order to be considered among the front runners. "I never felt comfortable today - I felt flat after doing all the work yesterday and I relaxed too much," said the Antrim player. "Usually I can feed off the nerves but today there was nothing and everything went wrong. I'm pleased to just get over the line.

"I need to be better than that. I never felt motivated today. If I played like I did yesterday I don't fear anybody though and think I'll have a chance to win the tournament. I need to cut out the slack session." On being five pots away from the 147, he added: "I was surprised I potted the balls because I thought my head was going to fall off I was shaking that much. It was a big moment for me." Ford was critical of his own performance and could not hide his dissatisfaction.

"I'm disappointed - I wasn't expecting anything special but I missed a lot of balls and made it easy for him," he said. "I didn't want it to finish with a session to spare so I did that. Even at 8-1 down I still enjoyed it. It was a good experience." Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Marco Fu takes a 5-4 lead into the final session of his match against England's Martin Gould on Monday and Ali Carter holds a 7-2 advantage over Jamie Cope going into their final session.

Fu was ahead 3-1 at the mid-session and hit a ton but back came Gould with his own century break, winning three out of five frames after the interval.


BBC Sport


Premier League - United slip up again as title hope fades


Manchester United's ailing Premier League title challenge sustained another damaging blow as they were held 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers.

With star man Wayne Rooney missing through injury, United lacked the sparkle and guile required to break down an organised but unambitious Rovers side at Ewood Park. Antonio Valencia missed a good opportunity late in the first half, and Dimitar Berbatov a decent opening with 10 minutes left, but otherwise the visitors were restricted to long shots and half-chances.

United were dominant statistically - enjoying over 60 per cent possession and depriving Blackburn a corner until the 77th minute, but their performance was anaemic and lacked genuine threat. There was further misery - and concern for England fans - as Rio Ferdinand first suffered a gruesome-looking broken or dislocated finger, then appeared to sustain a groin injury.

Sir Alex Ferguson sprung some major surprise with his team selection, as Patrice Evra was left out of the starting line-up for the first time in the league this season. Up top, teenage striker Federico Macheda got the nod to play alongside Berbatov in front of a very attacking midfield. Wingers Nani and Antonio Valencia flanked veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in a quartet lacking any ball-winning pedigree.

How would they fare against a notoriously physical and hard-working Blackburn engine room? Fairly well, as it turned out. United quickly asserted themselves by dominating possession, with Giggs and Scholes displaying a sprightliness that belied their combined 71 years. However, the problems were further forward where there was precious little end product, with Nani seeing plenty of the ball and wasting most of it.

The frustrating Portuguese, who scored twice against Bayern Munich on Wednesday, showed plenty of individual ability but had little to show for it as he misplaced his crosses and repeatedly shot wildly off target. Berbatov and Macheda dovetailed relatively well, but found space in the home box hard to come by.

The Bulgarian wanted a penalty when challenged by Ryan Nelsen as he attempted to jink into shooting position, but might have been better advised to get his shot away instead of crumpling to the floor. Nelsen was a first-half substitute for skipper Christopher Samba, who went off injured after registering the home side's only shot on target of the opening period; a diving header that forced Edwin van der Sar into a diving save away to his right.

Valencia should have broken the deadlock three minutes before the break when found by a perceptive Berbatov through-ball. The Ecuadorean spun past his marker to go clean through, but Paul Robinson stopped his shot with an outstretched leg. Rovers came into the game having won 16 points out of a possible 18 in their last six home games and showed exactly why they are so hard to break down, even when playing some way below their best.

They defended in numbers and challenged United to produce the quality required to cut them open. One such moment came in the 80th minutes when Scholes played a superb diagonal ball to Gary Neville who headed down to Berbatov, but the first-time shot flew straight at Robinson. At the other end, Steven N'Zonzi might have put United out of his misery but saw his goalbound shot superbly blocked by Neville.

United poured forward as time ran down, but still failed to test Robinson properly. Perhaps tellingly, Neville came closer than anyone as he hit a left-foot half-volley that bounced agonisingly wide. Ferguson's side are still only one point off the top, but have played a game more than both Chelsea and Arsenal, and need the leaders to slip up twice in the last five games to have any chance of winning a fourth consecutive championship.


Haye turns up heavyweight heat


"It was drilled into me the whole way through training camp - keep hitting. If he takes it, great, hit him again, hit him again, hit him again..."

David Haye Nasa might want to think about doing some tests on John Ruiz, because having had a close-up view of what he went through on Saturday night in Manchester, I'm not convinced there's a harder substance on the planet. "I could see he wasn't enjoying it," said the victorious David Haye after stopping Ruiz in nine brutal rounds, before realising the absurdity of his comment.

Fighters have a habit of making the savage sound positively humdrum, so that Haye might have been talking about a shopping trip round the Arndale. In defending his WBA heavyweight crown for the first time, Haye did to Ruiz what only one man had done before in 54 fights, namely get him out of there before the final bell had tolled.

The last time it happened was 14 years ago, and he's fought plenty of big hitters since then. When the 38-year-old challenger hit the deck just 25 seconds into the first round, it seemed we'd all be having an early night. But never underestimate the determination of the 'Quiet Man', Ruiz had warned us often enough. Afterwards, the challenger was clapped into the press room before being clapped out again. In between he clutched an ice-pack to his swollen face, answered questions politely and gave credit to his conqueror.

Courageous almost to a fault, the former two-time champion may not be pretty, but he deserves far more than fans' derision. "I expected it to go to the later rounds and it did," said Haye. "I knew he was tough, I knew he was durable and I knew he was going to be there. At no stage in the training did I envisage a quick blow out, I knew it was going to be a gruelling fight." We already knew Haye packed plenty of power, but against Ruiz he also answered lingering questions about his punch-resistance and stamina - to a certain extent.

The Klitschko brothers are infinitely more skilled, are much, much bigger and they hit far, far harder. But you can only perform against what's put in front of you, and for his part Haye would like us to see the Ruiz fight as a "measuring stick". "I was taking way too many shots, I like to land my shots and never get hit back," said Haye. "In the middle rounds I took my foot off the gas a bit to regroup, but I knew that if it had gone to 10 or 11 rounds, I could have picked it up again. "The more of these fights I have the better I'll become.

I'm nowhere near the complete article yet. But I'm getting here, I'm on the right road." Where that road might lead remains a mystery, because when Haye defeated Nikolay Valuev to claim the WBA belt last November, there was a rematch clause in the contract. "Sauerland Event [Valuev's promoters] didn't give us the WBA title shot for nothing," explained Haye's trainer and manager Adam Booth.

So when Haye said: "I'd like to fight who the fans want me to fight", what he really meant was, "sorry ladies and gents, I might actually have to run rings round that great big lump for 12 rounds again." Let's hope sanity prevails and that Valuev is offered some cash to step aside. Haye has blasted a lungful of air into the sport of boxing, but another match against Valuev would send the heavyweight division farting round the room like a fast-deflating balloon.

The Klitschkos will want Haye as much as he wants them, that's for sure. Their adoptive fans in Germany would turn up in their thousands to watch them engage in a food fight, but Vitali and Wladimir have egos too. Just as Haye talks about leaving a lasting legacy in the sport, Vitali, the WBC title-holder, and Wladimir, owner of the IBF and WBO belts, will know that unless Haye is disposed of, their own legacies will be tarnished.

"Who will rid me of this turbulent Englishman?" Not Valuev, not Ruiz, you're going to have to do it yourself, boys. And just like the 20,000 fans at the MEN Arena, the Klitschkos will be energised by Haye's presence in the division, his brio, his positive vibes. "I provide plenty of excitement," said Haye, "knockdowns, drama, something the heavyweight division hasn't had for a while." I wholeheartedly agree. Were you not entertained?


BBC Sport


Disqualification gives Dirrell win


Andre Dirrell won stage two of the Super Six World Boxing Classic after Arthur Abraham was disqualified for hitting the American while he was on the canvas in Detroit.

Armenian middleweight Abraham, 30, hit his opponent across the chin after he slipped to the deck, one minute and 13 seconds into round 11 of a contest Dirrell otherwise dominated.

"I was not looking at his feet, I was looking at his eyes," Abraham said afterwards. "I didn't see if he was down."

During the confusion after Abraham's illegal punch the ring filled with people, including Dirrell's brother Anthony.

“I just wanted to see if my brother was all right," Anthony Dirrell - who was restrained by officials - said. "I apologise for my actions. But I was just worried."

Dirrell was awarded two points for the win and moves joint second with Englishman Carl Froch and Andre Ward of the US.

Abraham leads with three points because of his knockout of Jermaine Taylor in the first round.

Dirrell is now 1-1 in the tournament, having lost a decision to WBC world champion Froch in Nottingham.

Next up in the challenge Ward faces Allan Green in Oakland, California.


Wladimir Klitschko retains world heavyweight belts


Wladimir Klitschko retained his WBO and IBF heavyweight titles by knocking out challenger Eddie Chambers in Germany.

There were only five seconds left in the 12th round when the Ukrainian sent Chambers to the floor with a left hook. It was the 33-year-old champion's 48th knockout win in 57 contests and he dominated the fight behind a solid jab against a defensively minded opponent.

"I don't think he ever really hit me, but it wasn't easy. I wanted to be too perfect maybe," Klitschko commented. The American challenger, known as 'Fast Eddie', had only lost once in 36 previous contests but was conceding five ins in height and 35 lbs in weight.

After an unremarkable opening round, the second saw Chambers, 27, duck and hoist Klitschko on his shoulder before dumping him on the canvas.

The champion responded with a big right later in the round but but was unable to finish the job and the pattern was set for a largely dull encounter with Klitschko, who was in the ring for the first time in 10 months, using his left jab as his main weapon.

Chambers did land a good right in the fifth but it had little effect on the champion and he was content to try and limit the damage, much to the annoyance of his corner.

There was a break at the end of the ninth to allow Chambers to change a split right glove but the breather seemed to benefit Klitschko more.

He pursued Chambers round the ring in the final round looking to land a knockout punch and finally succeeded with a looping left, the referee not even bothering with the formality of a count.

 "I have to give him credit, he was fast," Klitschko said. "He doesn't have much punching power and his game plan was gone by round six."


BBC Sport


Boxing. Pacman too hot for Clottey


A dominant display from Manny Pacquiao saw him retain his WBO welterweight title with comprehensive points victory over Joshua Clottey.

Although Pacquiao was unable to become the first man to stop the Ghanaian, he was simply too slick throughout to be awarded the fight by scores of 120-108 and 119-109 twice. The reigning P4P king was the aggressor from the first bell, with Clottey happy to work behind a 'peak-a-boo' defence.

Pacman, though, was still able to land several shots to the body while a heavy jab rocked Clottey in the opening round. The challenger began to grow in confidence in second round, while he was able to catch Pacquiao on the way in - including a one superb uppercut.

However Pacquiao continued to throw the cleaner shots and by the fourth round he had forced Clottey back on to the defensive. And despite words of encouragement from his corner to the contrary, Clottey was clearly beginning to struggle as the number of heavy shots took their toll. Pacquiao was able to fire off a number of combinations, with little coming back from Clottey.

And by the ninth and 10th rounds, Clottey was just holding on for survival - with Pacquiao launching an all-out assault, however he couldn't find the punch to stop the fight. Clottey managed to land two big uppercuts in the 11th to shock Pacman, but it was the champion who finished the round on top.

And Pacquiao kept alive hopes of a mega-money showdown with Floyd Mayweather as he rounded off a dominant display with more telling blows in the 12th. "Clottey is not an easy opponent he is very strong," Pacquiao said.

"He took a lot of punches and was never hurt. "He's a very good defensive fighter. I was looking for a strategy to beat that defence, like body shots, uppercuts. It worked." The Filipino's trainer Freddy Roach was upset by Clottey's negative display.

"World title fights come once in a lifetime. If you don't have the balls to take it, and you just want to survive...well," Roach said. "Why not go for it and put it all on the line? I'm frustrated that he didn't try to win the fight."

Pacquiao predictably called out Floyd Mayweather Jnr, who apparently refuses to take the fight unless Pacquiao meets a stringent drug testing regime. "I want that fight, the world wants that fight, but it's up to him," Pacquiao said. "I'm ready to fight any time."


Sky Sport


Real Madrid back coach Manuel Pellegrini


Under-fire Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini has received the backing of director general Jorge Valdano after the club's Champions League exit.

The nine-times champions of Europe failed to reach the quarter-finals for the sixth year in a row after Lyon beat them 2-1 on aggregate in the last 16.

"We will respect Pellegrini because we believe in his work," said Valdano. "He has a contract for next season and the plan is that he will continue being our coach."

He added: "The season hasn't finished and there are still things to fight for." Pellegrini is Real Madrid's ninth different coach since Vicente Del Bosque left the club in 2003.

Questions were asked about the 56-year-old's credentials earlier this season in the wake of the Spanish giants' Copa del Rey humliation - they were dumped out of the competition 4-1 on aggregate by third-tier outfit Alcorcon.

And the spotlight has once again fallen on him in the wake of their failure to get the better of Lyon after Miralem Pjanic's 75th-minute half-volley at the Bernabeu gave the French side, leading 1-0 from the first leg, a 1-1 draw and their place in the last eight.

Valdano added: "This project (under president Florentino Perez) has only just started and this was a sad night because we had placed a lot of hope in this competition.

"We need to be more united than ever, to encourage the players and show our personality, to get over this situation and face the criticism that will come."

The loss will be especially painful for Real Madrid given that the final will be held at their home ground, the Bernabeu, on 22 May.


BBC Sport


Schumacher raring to go


Michael Schumacher has likened his expectation ahead of the new Formula One season to "a child looking forward to Christmas".

Just a week remains until the new season gets underway, with the opening two practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix set for next Friday.

And seven-time champion Schumacher, who confirmed before Christmas he was ending three years in retirement to make his comeback at the age of 41, is desperate to return to the grid. Comeback "Finally the season will start," said Schumacher.

"The decision to make my comeback feels like a long time ago now and I can hardly wait for the season to get under way in Bahrain.

"It's funny to think I will be competing in Formula One again when just a few months ago, I would have categorically declined the opportunity.

"But sometimes things change and the right circumstances come together. Now I feel fresher than I have for many years. I am perfectly prepared physically, and most importantly my energy is back completely.

"When I retired from racing in 2006, my batteries were simply empty. Now they are totally recharged and I am ready for the challenge."

Schumacher's new Mercedes team, formerly Brawn GP, have performed particularly well in the pre-season.

However, less than three tenths of a second separated McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Mercedes on the final day of testing in Barcelona on Sunday, and Schumacher insists it is too early to call who has the advantage.

Competitive "It is always difficult to predict the form in pre-season testing, this year more than ever," added Schumacher. "But the final test in Barcelona proved to us that we should be competitive.

"We know we will have more new parts in Bahrain which should bring extra performance to the car. "It's important to be in the leading group from the start of the season, and I am confident we will be there."




South Africa ready for Cup - FIFA


Sepp Blatter says there is "no doubt" South Africa is ready to host the World Cup as Fifa begins the official 100-day countdown to the tournament.

Blatter said in Durban: "It's not so much that there's pessimism, but that it's always being thrown into doubt. "It's bad. When there's doubt, there's no confidence. For me and Fifa, that bothers us sometimes."

Fifa insisted 2.2m of the 2.9m World Cup tickets have already been sold despite reports of slow ticket sales. South Africa is equipped to deal with around 450,000 foreign visitors, but Fifa accepts the actual number could be lower, with many fans overseas still recovering from the shock of the global recession.

Blatter spoke after a tour of South Africa's 10 stadiums that will host the month-long tournament. Construction is complete at all the stadiums, and only two are yet to host games to try out the new facilities.

South Africa has poured 33bn rand (£2.9bn) into preparations for the tournament. Major upgrades to airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein are complete, while Durban's new airport is set to open on 1 May.

The country is also trying to reassure fans about security in a nation with one of the highest crime rates in the world, averaging 50 murders each day. An extra 41,000 police have been recruited for the tournament. Celebrations were planned in all of South Africa's main cities to mark 100 days until the event.

Schoolchildren were invited to ditch their uniforms for football jerseys, while Johannesburg planned a street party in the Sandton business district to teach people the "diski", a dance inspired by football moves that is the centrepiece of the country's marketing campaign.

Officials in Durban deployed teams to taxi ranks and train stations across the city to pass out 100-day badges, while in front of City Hall a pile of 100 footballs was set out, with one to be given away each day until 11 June.




Canada outclass US to take gold in ice hockey


Hosts Canada secured their eighth gold medal of the Games with a memorable 2-0 win over the United States in the final of the women's ice hockey.

Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice in the first period to give the partisan local fans something to shout about. And an inspired display by goaltender Shannon Szabados, who made 28 saves, saw Canada win the title for a third straight Olympics.

Earlier, Finland beat Sweden 3-2 in overtime to take bronze. But that match was little more than a warm-up for the main event, at least as far as most of the thousands of fans - including Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky - packed into Canada Hockey Place were concerned. And their team delivered with a superb display to gain revenge for defeat by the US in the world championship.

"It was special to do it at home," said Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser, a veteran of all three gold medal-winning teams. "They have all been sensational. This one wasn't pretty but we gutted it out and we got the job done."

Poulin opened the scoring after 13 minutes and 55 seconds into the first period off a pass from Jennifer Botterill and found the net again just 2:55 later to put her side firmly in charge. And try as they might, the US could not find a way past Szabados with Canada seldom looking in any real danger of missing out on the gold.

"I looked up in the stands and saw a sign that said, 'Proud to be Canadian,' and that's what I am today," said Szabados. "My team-mates were unbelievable today. We played a great game, and this is an incredible moment."

US coach Mark Johnson added: "We have no excuses. They played well. "Their young goaltender played well. She didn't give us many second opportunities. She came in with the pressure of a nation on her and she never cracked."

In the bronze medal match, the sides were tied after the third period but it took less than three more minutes for Karoliina Rantamaki to score the game-winner. Goaltender Noora Raty made 16 saves and Finland, who led 2-1 after the second period, before Danijela Rundqvist equalised for the Swedes.


BBC Sport


Ski jump double for Swiss Ammann


Switzerland's Simon Ammann became the most successful ski jumper in Olympic history after winning gold in the individual large hill in Vancouver.

The 28-year-old, who won the normal hill event earlier in the Games, becomes the first ski jumper to win four individual golds.

 He completed the same golden double in Salt Lake City back in 2002. Poland's Adam Malysz, 32, won the silver medal and Austria's Gregor Schlierenzauer, 20, took the bronze.

Ammann recorded jumps of 144m and 138m for a total of 283.6 points to beat Malysz (269.4pts) and Schlierenzauer (262.2pts). It was the same podium finish as last Saturday's normal hill contest, with Malysz becoming the oldest Olympic medal winner on the large hill.

"I'm speechless," said Ammann, who surpassed the achievements of Finnish ski jump legend Matti Nykanen, who won four gold medals, in 1984 and 1988, but one of those came in the team event. "What can I say? I was so nervous. It was a nerve-wracking experience. I had this magic force to jump far. This is truly great.

" There had been controversy over Ammann's modified boot bindings, with Austria threatening to launch a protest after the first round. The bindings supposedly made the Swiss's position through the air more aerodynamic, but the International Ski Federation (FIS) said they were legal.




American Evan Lysacek wins men's figure skating title


Reigning world champion Evan Lysacek of the United States has won the men's figure skating gold.

Russia's defending champion Yevgeny Plushenko took silver while Daisuke Takahashi gave Japan their first ever men's podium finish with the bronze.

Plushenko was favourite but several wobbles in his free programme opened the door for Lysacek whose artistic performance won over the judges.

His overall score of 257.67 eclipsed Plushenko by 1.31 points.

It was America's first gold in the event since the Olympics were last held in Canada when Brian Boitano won in Calgary in 1988.

With Plushenko coming out of retirement, intent on winning a second straight Olympic gold medal, Lysacek knew he would have to find something special to break the Russian dominance of the event.

And the 24-year old did just that, wowing the judges with an artistic performance to Sheherazade which brought the crowd to their feet.

Unlike Plushenko, Lysacek did not attempt any quadruple jumps in his routine but was rewarded for his clean jumps and exquisite choreography.

"I had so much fun tonight. I love this crowd, I love this ice, it was definitely my best. Mission accomplished.

I was feeling more relaxed after the first jump," said Lysacek.

"I couldn't have asked for much more than that. To get a personal best in the most important moment of my life, you dream about it.

"That's my best free programme this season. "I tried not to get too excited after each jump. I wanted to pump my fist every time."


BBC Sport


Lewis Hamilton sets the pace at Jerez test for McLaren


Lewis Hamilton produced the fastest lap of the rain-hit second winter test on the final day in Jerez. McLaren's 2008 champion clocked one minute 19.583 second during a spell of dry running after Force India's Adrian Sutil had led for much of the day.

Michael Schumacher's Mercedes, Felipe Massa of Ferrari and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel all stopped on the track but resumed later with no issues. The 10 teams will stay in Jerez for the third test which starts on Wednesday.

The new Lotus team will join them after launching their 2010 car on Friday, which means only US F1 and Campos Meta, of this season's four new entrants, have yet to show their hand. US F1 are expected to do their pre-season running close to their base in Charlotte, North Carolina but there are question marks over Campos's participation as they struggle to raise the required funding. Rain dampened three of the four testing days in Jerez which clouded the comparative performance of the teams still further.

The ban on refuelling during races means testing provides vital time for experimenting with differing fuel loads but the teams do not release information on how much fuel they are carrying. "It's very tough to understand the order of the teams just yet as everyone can play so much with the fuel loads," added Michael Schumacher, who finished fifth fastest for Mercedes on Saturday.

"So there is a lot of speculation going on but it's very interesting." Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn added: "It's been a difficult week weather-wise for all of the teams out in Jerez. "However, we have achieved a significant amount of mileage in both the wet and dry conditions and completed some important test items on our pre-season testing programme."

Hamilton set his leading time when the track had completely dried out in the late afternoon. With a fresh set of tyres, the 25-year-old strung together a succession of hot laps to finish more than half a second clear of Sutil and eclipsing Toro Rosso driver Jamie Alguersuari's previous best mark, set on Friday, by just under four-tenths of a second.

Felipe Massa clocked up the miles for Ferrari as he drove an exhausting 160 laps - 47 more than Hamilton, who along with Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa were the only other drivers to top 100 laps on Saturday. "I never drove as many kilometres as today, either in an F1 car nor anywhere else," Massa told Ferrari's Twitter page.

Newcomers Virgin Racing were also able to gauge the performance of their debut F1 car on Saturday after a dismal first three days in Jerez. Timo Glock only ran five laps on the opening day before the front wing fell off the car on Thursday, ending his session. After a wait for new parts to be flown in, Lucas di Grassi only managed eight laps on Friday.

The Brazilian rookie notched up 63 laps on the final day of the test, posting the ninth fastest time of 1:22.912. "After three days of very little running, in the space of one day we have completed lots of mileage in the dry," said Di Grassi. "The car was behaving much better after the work we did since Friday and what we have achieved is a very good start for our team."

Red Bull, meanwhile, completed their first winter test following the launch of the RB6 on Wednesday. Vettel lost three hours of running time on Saturday because of a fuel pump failure but still notched up 90 laps.


BBC sport


Brazil star Ronaldinho doubtful for World Cup squad


Ronaldinho could miss the World Cup after being omitted from Brazil's final warm-up friendly ahead of the summer tournament in South Africa.

He will not face Ireland at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in London on 2 March.

The AC Milan star, 29, has not played for Brazil since the start of 2009, but his improved recent form has encouraged supporters to call for his return.

But coach Dunga has resisted pressure from the fans and local media in Brazil to recall the ex-Barcelona forward.

The 1994 World Cup winning captain has kept faith with Michel Bastos (Lyon), Juan and Doni (both Roma), Kleberson (Flamengo) and Gilberto (Cruzeiro).

Former Manchester City forward Robinho, who is now on-loan at Santos, has been included in the squad as has Liverpool midfielder Lucas.

But there is no place for Manchester United midfielder Anderson.

Ronaldinho won the World Cup in 2002 and famously knocked out England at that tournament after lobbing keeper David Seaman with a second-half free-kick.

Brazil legend Pele was another who called for Ronaldinho to return to the fold. Ronaldinho has appeared 87 times for his country, scoring 32 times.

He was also twice named World player of the year in 2004 and 2005 and has won the prestigious Ballon d'Or (european player of the year) once.


BBC Sport


Ferrari and McLaren off to a flying start at first F1 test


Ask one of the Formula 1 teams at this week's opening winter test in Valencia how fast their car is compared to their rivals, and the most likely response is: "It's too early to say."

It's fair to say none of the teams are going to know all of the answers after just three days' running their 2010 cars, built to accommodate maximum fuel loads following the banning of in-race refuelling for the first time in 16 years and, in some cases, to atone for last season's disastrous design flaws. But engineers from all the teams pore over the lap times set by all the cars, and from that mountain of data they were able to extrapolate the first clues to form ahead of Bahrain's opening grand prix on 14 March.

Ferrari's red machines looked consistently impressive and topped the timesheets for three days. That will please the Italian team immensely after they endured their worse start to a season in nearly 30 years in 2009. New recruit Fernando Alonso clocked the fastest time of the test on its final day as he scorched round Valencia's Ricardo Tormo track in one minute 11.470 seconds, to eclipse Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa's best mark of 1:11.722 by 0.252 seconds. Alonso's best lap was set during a period when he was running with low fuel levels - but not low enough to take anything away from his pace. Given the brilliant Spaniard's fiery determination to win a third world championship title now he has finally arrived at Ferrari, his immediate pace looks potentially ominous for those trying to stop him. Ferrari will also have been encouraged by Massa's performance.

Six months on from his horrific crash at the Hungarian Grand Prix, when he fractured his skull and narrowly avoided permanent damage to his left eye, the Brazilian racked up a massive 226 laps over two days. On Monday, when the track was still 'green' - dirty and without any rubber laid down to increase grip - Massa strung 10 laps together and nailed 1:13 on every single one, suggesting early on that Ferrari had genuine pace. Ferrari appeared to be running with average 2009 fuel loads on Monday - as were most teams - so they could gather a baseline of data to compare last season's car with their 2010 version.

Things became even more interesting over the last two days when teams began experimenting with the amount of fuel on board in preparation for 2010's rule changes. The ban on refuelling during races means the teams must learn how to eke out maximum performance from a car loaded to the hilt with fuel at the same time as developing pure pace with light fuel on board for the qualifying shoot-out that defines grid positions - as well as managing the transition between the two during the race.

On Tuesday, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton strung together a 24-lap run and set his fastest lap of 1:12.256 during the middle of that spell. That is revealing because Hamilton would have needed enough fuel on board to stay out for that distance. So to set a fastest time when he was carrying a not insignificant amount of fuel shows the McLaren, like the Ferrari, is in good shape. On the face of it, Jenson Button's performance on Wednesday was not one you would expect from the reigning world champion. He finished fifth in the timesheets, 0.695 seconds adrift of team-mate Hamilton's best time - and nearly 1.5secs slower than Alonso.

However, his times suggest the 30-year-old was running within a medium fuel load, making super- fast times less likely, and given he has only had a month with McLaren compared to Hamilton's decade, Button should be satisfied. Button's former boss, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, has already admitted that his team are slightly behind Ferrari and McLaren.

"We are reasonable but not as quick as Ferrari," Brawn surmised. "Lewis (Hamilton) looked quick, so it looks like we've got a bit of work to do. "On full tanks we were the same pace as the Ferraris but on low fuel they were quicker. That's slightly strange but it may be the issues we have with the car, which we can fix for (the next test in) Jerez." The encouraging news for Mercedes is that their new driver line-up of Nico Rosberg and the returning seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher appears to be settling in nicely.

Schumacher, 41, got up to pace after just 20 laps, which is testament to his natural talent after three years out of the cockpit. The best time set by Schumacher over his day and a half in the cockpit of 1:12.438 was more than 0.4 seconds faster than Rosberg's best - 1m12.899. The Mercedes team-mates were running similar programmes in Valencia and, although Schumacher was slightly faster than Rosberg, they were both consistent over long runs.

Overall, Ferrari and McLaren showed early signs of being back to their best in the build-up to 2010 with Mercedes, who hold the constructors' title in their former guise of Brawn, just behind. With the trio heading the seven-strong field in terms of pace, Sauber and Renault appeared to be early contenders for best of the rest. Sauber rocketed up the timesheets as between them Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi finished runners-up to Ferrari on all three days of the test. The Swiss-based team are certainly showing signs of competitiveness but their times are tempered by the fact that they were not set during longer runs on the track, which could mean they had less fuel on board.

Renault, on the other hand, signalled their competitiveness when lead driver Robert Kubica set out on Tuesday for a long run with heavy fuel on board while still managing to bang out consistent times. Williams also put Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg, newly-promoted from reserve driver to the race seat, through their paces by sending them out for lengthy stints on the track. Remarkably, Barrichello notched up 256 miles on Tuesday.

A normal race distance is around 190 miles - no wonder the 37-year-old looked shattered. The teams will be joined by Red Bull, who ended the 2009 season as the fastest team on the track, for next week's second test in Jerez. If Valencia is a sign of things to come, the 2010 season could be very close indeed.


EURO 2012 qualifying draw approaches


Holders Spain will be among nine top seeds in the UEFA EURO 2012™ qualifying draw at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw on 7 February

Draw procedure
Nine groups will be formed in the qualifying draw including six sections of six sides and three of five, as teams chase 14 finals places alongside co-hosts Poland and Ukraine. The seeding pots are formed on the basis of the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system, finalised after the completion of FIFA World Cup qualifying, with the reigning European champions automatically top seeded. All groups will contain one nation from the first five pots and six sections will also include a team from Pot 6.

Qualifying competition
Sides in each group will play one another on a home-and-away basis, with qualifiers scheduled according to the international match calendar between September 2010 and October 2011. The nine winners and the runner-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their group qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining runners-up contest play-off matches in November 2011. 

 Seeding pots
Pot 1: Spain (holders), Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Croatia, Portugal, France, Russia
Pot 2: Greece, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Serbia, Turkey, Denmark, Slovakia, Romania
Pot 3: Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Pot 4: Slovenia, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Belarus, Belgium, Wales, FYR Macedonia, Cyprus
Pot 5: Montenegro, Albania, Estonia, Georgia, Moldova, Iceland, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein
Pot 6: Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Malta, Faroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino.


UEFA helps Malta celebrate centenary


Despite being a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta is extremely proud when it comes to the game of football and Maltese football history.

Impressive milestones
This season the Malta Football Association (MFA) and everyone involved in the game on the island are celebrating an impressive set of milestones. It is 100 years since national football competitions were first played in the country, the national league having kicked off in 1909/10, and the current campaign also marks the 50th anniversary of the MFA's membership of both UEFA and FIFA.

Festivities planned
Celebrations to recognise these landmark dates are being organised by the MFA and comprise a variety of activities spread over several sporting, administrative, educational and cultural events. UEFA will be joining in with the festivities this week, with the UEFA Executive Committee, chaired by the UEFA president, Michel Platini, holding its first meeting of the year in Malta on Thursday and Friday (click here for details).

 Distinguished officials
Throughout the years, the MFA has produced a number of distinguished officials who have filled prestigious posts for UEFA. The association's current president, Dr Joseph Mifsud, is a long-serving member of the UEFA Executive Committee and now a UEFA vice-president. Born in Qrendi and trained as a lawyer, Dr Mifsud was first elected to the UEFA Executive Committee at the UEFA Ordinary Congress in Vienna in April 1994, and is presently serving a four-year term of office until 2011. He also served on the FIFA Executive Committee from 1998 to 2000.

In Malta, Dr Mifsud was elected to the head of the national association in 1992 and has represented the island's football affairs with distinction for the last 18 years. "The MFA is proud to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Malta National Football League during the 1909/10 season," he told "Since then, the number of participants in the national league has increased from five to 52 clubs. The national league has been held 95 times, including the current season. Nine clubs and the King's Own Malta Regiment have won the title. The most successful club have been Sliema Wanderers FC, champions 26 times, followed by Floriana FC with 25 titles.

European places
"Since 1962, the champions have represented the MFA in the European Champion Clubs' Cup and UEFA Champions League, and, depending on the number of places to which the MFA is entitled, the second and third-placed clubs enter the UEFA Europa League, previously the UEFA Cup," he added.

Anniversary Cup
The MFA has enjoyed full FIFA and UEFA affiliation since 1960, paving the way for the association to participate fully at international level. All in all, the football community on the island has plenty to celebrate and one of the highlights of the MFA's programme of events is the 100th Anniversary Cup, a knockout competition featuring all 52 clubs and due to run until the final on 14 April. A more imminent engagement is the concert and gala dinner that will take place tonight for representatives of the Maltese and European football families, while next week Malta will host the UEFA winter referees' courses, to be attended by the continent's leading match officials.

Full part
The MFA has done much sterling work in promoting football and communicating the joys of the sport throughout the country, and has always been grateful for any technical and material support received from UEFA and FIFA. In geographical terms Malta may be small, but it has played its full part in the success story of European football.


Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal into fourth round


Defending champion Rafael Nadal advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-2 2-6 7-5 win over German Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The second seed's serve was put under pressure and he needed some inventive shots to win in three-and-a-half hours. Fourth seed Juan Martin del Potro survived some anxious moments before beating the unseeded Florian Mayer. The 21-year-old US Open champion served 11 aces but was guilty of 46 unforced errors in a 6-3 0-6 6-4 7-5 victory.

Nadal extended his record against Kohlschreiber to 5-0 but it was their closest match to date, and in statistical terms only eight points separated them over the 38 games. "Well, the most important thing is I won, so I'm happy for that," the 22-year-old said. "I am less happy about my game, what I was practising. But everybody has not very good days. "I think I played much better the fourth set. The second set for a few moments I played well, too. But the first set and the third, I played bad and I need to play a little bit more aggressive for my next match."

That will be against the gargantuan Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who beat compatriot Ivan Ljubicic 6-3 3-6 6-3 7-6. "He's always a really difficult opponent because the match is decided on a few points," said Nadal, who has won both his previous matches against the 6ft 10" Karlovic. "So the thing is to be very concentrated with my serve all the time and try to convert the small opportunities that I have on the return. That's it." It was another hard-fought victory for Del Potro, who will face Marin Cilic in the fourth round, after the Croatian beat Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-3.

Del Potro needed four sets to get past American Michael Russell in the opening round and five to overcome another American James Blake in the second. Having beaten Mayer in straight sets in the second round at last year's Championship, he found him a much tougher proposition this time, and was only 118-117 ahead on total points won. Mayer took all three of his break point chances to win the second set to love in only 28 minutes before Del Potro clinched the match following two keenly-contested closing sets.

"Especially in the second set, I felt very confused with my game," he admitted. "But I improved a little bit and in the end I finished the match playing some very good points." Giant American John Isner secured a fourth-round match against Britain's Andy Murray after a gruelling 6-1 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) victory over 12th seed Gael Monfils. The towering 6ft 9" 24-year-old was given the last seeding for the tournament after Frenchman Gilles Simon withdrew. It was therefore regarded as a shock defeat on paper, but Isner, who had won two of his three previous matches with Monfils, fired 26 aces and hit 73 winners.

"I was just kind of riding a wave of momentum, and I still am," he said. Isner won his first ATP title last week at the Auckland Open and said: "I've worked hard in the off season, I know that much. I put in the time so I guess I kind of deserve to be where I am now." The North Carolinan has now served a total of 81 aces in the tournament but insisted there was more to his game than a powerful serve. "Just the way I won that match and kind of the stage I won it on, it showed me that I belonged in the top 20 players of the game," he said. "I'm really proud of how I played in the clutch moments.

I kept coming forward. I played to win. Kind of forced the issue in those two tiebreakers. I was real proud of that." Isner beat Andy Roddick in a fifth-set tie-break at last year's US Open and said: "After beating him there, there's nobody I'm scared to play. If I play my game and I play well, I like to think I can beat anybody." Roddick, four times a semi-finalist in this event, set up a fourth-round tie with 2007 finalist Fernando Gonzalez with a 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-3) victory against tenacious Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

Roddick, who has an 8-3 career advantage over Gonzalez, won in straight sets the last time they met in the round of 16 at the 2008 US Open. Gonzalez, supported by a throng of exuberant, flag-waving Chilean fans on Show Court Two, beat Evgeny Korolev of Kazakhstan, who likened the experience to being at a football match, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. "It was exciting to play in front of this crowd ... big support far away from home," said Gonzalez.


BBC Sport


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