Maurizio Sarri praises back-up players as Chelsea labor to win over Fulham

England international Loftus-Cheek finished a lovely move by driving into the net from the right-hand side of the penalty area in the 82nd minute to seal the win for the Blues. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2018

Maurizio Sarri praises back-up players as Chelsea labor to win over Fulham

Chelsea got back on track after their first Premier League defeat of the season last weekend with a 2-0 win over local rivals Fulham on Sunday, with goals from Pedro and Ruben Loftus-Cheek putting the gloss on a mixed performance.
Chelsea dominated possession at Stamford Bridge and scored early through Spanish forward Pedro but struggled to find their rhythm and looked shaky until substitute Loftus-Cheek settled their nerves with a late second.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri enjoyed a dream start to his tenure in England but a chastening 3-1 defeat to Tottenham last week stung him badly, prompting a series of post-mortems with individual players.
“We can’t do much about the game against Tottenham — we played very badly and lost the game. Today was difficult, we started well and we had a good level of application,” Sarri said.
“We created some opportunities for 2-0 but missed them — we were in control of the match and I was afraid only because I saw that the team were a bit tense. The last 15 minutes could have been a problem but then we scored.
“Ruben Loftus-Cheek played very well in the Europa League and I am very happy with him. Today Mateo Kovacic had a knock to his ankle so he came on, it is not a problem to play with him. He is improving and he will be very important for us in the future.”
The home side welcomed former manager Claudio Ranieri back to Stamford Bridge in the Fulham dugout, but his side were quickly on the back foot inside four minutes.
N’Golo Kante — publicly criticized by his manager for his positioning in the match against Spurs — was instrumental in the opening goal, dispossessing Jean Michael Seri in the middle of the pitch and feeding the ball to Pedro on the right side of the penalty box.
The winger stepped inside onto his left foot and fired the ball into the far corner.
Pedro’s strike was Chelsea’s 1,000th Premier League goal — they are the third club to reach the landmark after Manchester United and Arsenal.
Fulham started the match rooted to the foot of the table but lifted by last week’s victory in Ranieri’s first match as boss, which followed six straight Premier League defeats.
And Ranieri, who managed Chelsea between 2000 and 2004, believed his team deserved a draw.
“We wanted to play football but we made mistakes and against big champions you pay everything for that,” Ranieri told BBC Sport.
“In the second half we changed system and maybe we deserved to draw the match. I am satisfied with how my players made decisions with the ball. We played together strongly and created good chances.
“We played so-so in the first half, we made a mistake for the first goal but we were much better in the second. We made chances but when you play big champions they can do that. It was a positive match for us, we are improving.
“It will be very emotional for me to play Leicester on Wednesday, but it is very important for us. I am positive.”
Late on, Pedro, who had missed a glorious chance, was spared embarrassment when England international Loftus-Cheek finished a lovely move by driving into the net from the right-hand side of the penalty area in the 82nd minute to seal the win for the Blues.


Two more foreign cricketers positive for virus in Pakistan 

Updated 02 March 2021

Two more foreign cricketers positive for virus in Pakistan 

  • They bring to four the number of known infections in Pakistan Super League 
  • Pakistan Cricket Board official says league will continue with testing every three days 

KARACHI: Two more foreign cricketers and one staffer tested positive for the coronavirus in the Pakistan Super League on Tuesday. 
One unnamed player was from Islamabad United, while the other two’s names and teams were not identified by Pakistan Cricket Board media and communications director Sami Ul Hasan.

They bring to four the number of known infections in the league after Australian leg spinner Fawad Ahmed tested positive on Saturday. His Islamabad side had its scheduled game against Quetta Gladiators on Monday postponed to Tuesday.

Hasan said that game will go ahead, and the league will continue with testing every three days. Spectators will also continue to be allowed.

All four people who tested positive are in 10-day isolation. 


Sister act as Korda romps to Gainbridge LPGA win

Updated 02 March 2021

Sister act as Korda romps to Gainbridge LPGA win

  • Three birdies in her opening six holes gave her a healthy cushion at the top of the leaderboard, leaving her five shots clear at one stage

MIAMI: Nelly Korda produced a flawless final round to claim a three-shot victory at the Gainbridge LPGA tournament in Florida on Sunday.

Korda — whose elder sister Jessica won the LPGA Tour’s previous event, the season-opening Tournament of Champions in January — fired a three-under-par 69 to finish on 16 under.

The 22-year-old, whose father is former Czech tennis star Petr Korda, had opened up a one-shot lead on Saturday with a four-under-par 68.

On Sunday at Orlando’s Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, she picked up where she left off in the third round.

Three birdies in her opening six holes gave her a healthy cushion at the top of the leaderboard, leaving her five shots clear at one stage.

She then reeled off 12 consecutive pars to remain in control and close out the fourth LPGA Tour victory of her career with her parents and sister Jessica rushing to congratulate her on the 18th green.

“Honestly I did not play very good golf today,” Korda told a television interviewer moments after clinching her first career win on US soil.

“I just stayed really solid. I honestly don’t know how I did it. It was definitely very stressful.

“Winning in front of my parents was a first too, so that was really nice.”

Korda’s 72-hole aggregate 272 left her three clear of Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko who finished tied for second on 13 under.

Thompson had closed to within three of Korda with a brilliant eagle three at the par-five 11th, but a bogey on the following hole stymied her chances of mounting a charge down the stretch. Thompson finished with a four-under-par 68.

New Zealand’s former world No. 1 Ko stormed up the leaderboard at the start of the back nine with four consecutive birdies starting on the 12th hole, eventually carding a three-under-par 69.

World number one Ko Jin-young meanwhile finished five off the lead in fourth place on 11 under. Ko posted a one-under-par-71 after an erratic final round that included four birdies and three bogeys.

There was disappointment for Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, who had started the day one off the lead.

The 21-year-old rookie faded with a two-over-par 74, with two bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine dropping her out of contention.

Tavatanakit finished on 10 under alongside Australia’s Sarah Kemp, who shot a three-under-par 69.

Meanwhile, LPGA great Annika Sorenstam, who parred her final hole on Friday to make the cut in her first tour start since 2008, closed with a four-over-par 76, propping up the leaderboard on 13 over.


Australian player positive for COVID-19 while playing in Pakistan cricket league

Updated 01 March 2021

Australian player positive for COVID-19 while playing in Pakistan cricket league

  • Australian leg spinner Fawad Ahmed has been put in isolation
  • Pakistan Cricket Board says all remaining members of Islamabad United tested negative

KARACHI: Australian leg spinner Fawad Ahmed tested positive for COVID-19 while playing in the Pakistan Super League and has been put in isolation, his club said Monday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said all remaining members of Islamabad United have tested negative.
“One of our players, Fawad Ahmed tested positive ... and was immediately put in isolation two days ago,” Islamabad said in a statement.
In his only appearance in PSL this year, Ahmed took 1-40 against Peshawar Zalmi on Saturday. Islamabad lost by six wickets.
Two-time champion Islamabad was due to meet Quetta Gladiators at 7 p.m. on Monday, but the PCB said the match will be delayed for two hours.
It’s the first COVID-19 positive test in Pakistan’s premier twenty20 league, which began on Feb. 20.
On Feb. 21, Peshawar Zalmi captain Wahab Riaz and head coach Daren Sammy were allowed to rejoin their squad after their appeal against a quarantine for breaching COVID-19 protocols was accepted by the PCB.
Riaz and Sammy breached the team’s bio-secure bubble on Feb. 19 when they met with their team owner, who was not part of the bubble. But they rejoined the team following two negative COVID-19 tests after they were spared the three-day quarantine when their appeal was accepted by the PSL committee.


Police enter Barcelona’s stadium in search operation

Updated 01 March 2021

Police enter Barcelona’s stadium in search operation

  • Police said detentions were made but did not say who or how many people were taken into custody
  • The club said authorities were at the team’s headquarters but did not provide any more detail

BARCELONA: Spanish police entered Barcelona’s stadium and detained some people on Monday in a search and seize operation related to an investigation into club officials.
Police said detentions were made but did not say who or how many people were taken into custody.
The club said authorities were at the team’s headquarters but did not provide any more detail.
The operation was related to last year’s “Barçagate,” in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Barcelona had denied accusations that it hired — and overpaid — a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.
The company was accused of using fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures when they expressed views that went against the club. Some of the figures supposedly included players such Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué, as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.
The club later released an independent audit report showing that there was no wrongdoing.
Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year amid fallout from the controversy surrounding Lionel Messi. The club has been mired in political turmoil and debt prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The operation comes less than a week before presidential elections are to be held at the club.


Liverpool beats Sheffield United 2-0 to end EPL losing run

Updated 01 March 2021

Liverpool beats Sheffield United 2-0 to end EPL losing run

  • The 20-year-old academy graduate Curtis Jones made the breakthrough for Liverpool in the 48th minute when he fired in off Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected cross

SHEFFIELD, England: Liverpool halted a run of four defeats in the Premier League as it ended a miserable February with a 2-0 win over last-place Sheffield United on Sunday.
A series of fine first-half saves from Sheffield goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale kept the defending champions at bay in the first half. The 20-year-old academy graduate Curtis Jones made the breakthrough for Liverpool in the 48th minute when he fired in off Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected cross. There was a brief check for whether the ball had gone out of play in the buildup but there was no conclusive evidence that it had.
Oliver McBurnie sent a header wide in Sheffield’s best chance of leveling the score before Liverpool made it 2-0 in the 64th. Roberto Firmino weaved through the defense before hitting a shot which took a deflection before going past Ramsdale. The Premier League ruled it was an own-goal for Sheffield’s Kean Bryan, meaning Firmino went a seventh game without a goal in the league and Champions League.
The second goal took the game out of reach for a Sheffield team with just three league wins all season as Liverpool marked its first league game without conceding a goal since a 0-0 draw with Manchester United on Jan. 17.
However, it was not the kind of emphatic victory which might have boosted Liverpool’s confidence further after a miserable recent run which included last week’s defeat to rival Everton and losses to Manchester City and Leicester which buried an already ailing bid to retain the title.
Mohamed Salah missed from close range in the 80th and Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, standing in for Alisson Becker after his father died, stopped a late attempt from Oliver Burke.