‘Stupid’ Jokic ejected as Spain stun Serbia at Basketball World Cup

Nikola Jokic was ejected for “a stupid reaction” in the third quarter. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2019

‘Stupid’ Jokic ejected as Spain stun Serbia at Basketball World Cup

  • Spain and European rivals Serbia had already qualified for the last eight

WUHAN, China: All-Star Nikola Jokic was ejected for “a stupid reaction” in the third quarter as strongly fancied Serbia were stunned 81-69 by Spain to blow the Basketball World Cup wide open on Sunday.
Led by Ricky Rubio of the Phoenix Suns, Spain set up a quarter-final meeting with surprise packages Poland on Tuesday while Serbia will need to pick themselves up quickly for Argentina on the same evening.
Spain and European rivals Serbia had already qualified for the last eight in China but Group J supremacy and a supposedly easier game in the next round was at stake.
Serbia, the reigning world and Olympic silver medallists behind the Americans, had looked imperious in their previous four matches, but this loss will raise questions about their title credentials.
Coach Sasha Djordjevic said Spain were the better team and refused to use the loss of Jokic — turfed out after yelling at a referee — as an excuse.
But he hard harsh words for his key man, saying: “I did not like the stupid reaction of my player, who should be on the floor.
“We can even lose with him, why not if the other team is better? But he should stay on the floor and be one of the leaders.”
In one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the tournament so far, Spain surged back from a slow start in the first quarter to lead by eight points at half-time in Wuhan.
Serbia, who had looked the chief threat to the young roster of reigning champions the US, were rattled for the first time in China and on their way toward a first defeat.
Midway through the third quarter, their chances of making a comeback suffered a fatal blow when Denver Nuggets’ Jokic — one of the World Cup’s biggest names — was thrown out.
The 24-year-old was irritated initially by the close attentions of Spain’s defense and made his feelings clear to the officials.
The plain-speaking Djordjevic said he had already spoken to Jokic about the incident.
“We don’t have time for long meetings, he knows (he was wrong),” said Djordjevic.
“He’s a tough kid, one of the greatest right now, (so) we need him on the floor.
“I hope it won’t happen again and this is a moment for him to grow.”
Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings was again key for Serbia, keeping them within range of Spain with 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Rubio racked up 19 points for the Spanish while veteran Marc Gasol had six rebounds and six assists.
“They really kicked us today,” said Bogdanovic, who has been in sparkling form at the World Cup and was unlucky to be on the losing side.
Spain coach Sergio Scariolo was full of praise for the 27-year-old Bogdanovic, calling him “ridiculous” and “an unbelievable player.”
Argentina topped Group I — and teed up a meeting with Serbia — after a dominant 91-65 victory over Poland. Both had already reached the last eight.


Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

Updated 18 February 2020

Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

  • Headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire ensured the win

LONDON: Manchester United threw open the race for the final Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League by beating fourth-place Chelsea 2-0 thanks to headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire on Monday.
With 12 games remaining, seven points separate Chelsea and 11th-place Burnley, with the team finishing fifth also set to earn a place in next season’s Champions League following UEFA’s decision to punish Man City for serious breaches of financial regulations by handing the English champions a two-year European ban.
Martial glanced in a header off a right-wing cross by Aaron Wan-Bissaka to give United the lead in the 45th minute at Stamford Bridge, before Maguire planted home a corner from January signing Bruno Fernandes in the 66th.
Maguire, United’s captain, was perhaps fortunate to still be on the field, with the match officials opting not to punish the England defender for appearing to kick out at Michy Batshuayi after tumbling off the playing surface in front of the dugouts.
“I know I caught him but I felt like he was going to fall on me and the natural reaction was to straighten my leg so that if he was to fall on me, to hold him up,” Maguire said. “It probably looks worse than it was.
“I did catch him ... but I knew at the time I had no intent to hurt him or kick him.”
Chelsea was on the wrong end of two other decisions by VAR, firstly disallowing a volleyed goal by Kurt Zouma in the 56th because of a push by Cesar Azpilicueta on United left back Brandon Williams. Azpilicueta seemed to have been pushed a split-second earlier by Fred.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, substitute Olivier Giroud had a goal ruled out by VAR for a tight offside, leaving Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looking thoroughly glum as he sat in his technical area.
Chelsea has long been in fourth place, but has only won three of its last 11 games in the league to give a slew of rivals clubs hope of catching up.
One of them is United, which climbed to seventh place with this win — three points behind Chelsea and two adrift of fifth-place Tottenham.
“This season, we have been far too inconsistent,” Maguire said. “We have won at Manchester City, beat Chelsea at home, got a point against Liverpool, but we have let ourselves down against the teams where the pressure is on to break them down.”
Injury problems are starting to bite at Chelsea, too. Top scorer Tammy Abraham and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi missed the game because of injury, while central midfielder N’Golo Kante lasted 11 minutes before hobbling off. Center back Andreas Christensen didn’t come out for the second half after sustaining a knock to the head late in the first period, just before Martial beat the Denmark defender to a header for the first goal.
Lampard’s main gripe, though, was his team’s failure to finish off chances once again. Batshuayi was the biggest culprit, spurning two great chances in the first half in his first start in the league this season.
“We are fourth because of some of the good stuff we’ve done and because of the nature of the league, everyone taking points off each other,” Lampard said. “But there’s a lot of work to do because you can see the problem — that’s putting the ball in the back of the net.
“I feel like a broken record. We have to put things to bed by scoring goals.”
Chelsea hosts Tottenham on Saturday and would finally get overtaken with another loss.
“The season starts here,” Lampard said.
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, who signed for United on deadline day in the January transfer window, came on in second-half stoppage time for his debut and had a late chance saved by Willy Caballero, who again started in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Two players struck the post from free kicks in the second half, Fernandes for United and Mason Mount for Chelsea.