Willian stars for rampant Arsenal who crush Fulham as Premier League returns

Fulham's goalkeeper Marek Rodak, left, kicks the ball past Arsenal's Willian during the English Premier League soccer match between Fulham and Arsenal in London. (AP)
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Updated 12 September 2020

Willian stars for rampant Arsenal who crush Fulham as Premier League returns

  • Arsenal’s free-flowing attack was too incisive for promoted Fulham
  • With former Chelsea winger Willian providing a pair of assists on his debut, it was the ideal way for Arsenal to start a season that appears full of promise after last season’s FA Cup triumph

LONDON: Arsenal made a flying start to the new Premier League season as Gabriel Magalhaes grabbed a debut goal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a stunner in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Fulham.
Just 48 days after last season’s delayed conclusion, the Premier League is back and Arsenal hit the ground running with the kind of confident display that has become their hallmark since Mikel Arteta took charge.
Arsenal’s free-flowing attack was too incisive for promoted Fulham and Alexandre Lacazette gave the visitors an early lead at Craven Cottage.
Brazilian defender Gabriel scored Arsenal’s second after the break in his first appearance since his close-season move from Lille.
Aubameyang added the final flourish with a typically eye-catching strike that emphasised why Arsenal are so desperate for the Gabon forward to sign an extension to the contract which expires at the end of the season.
Arteta has said that fans concerned Aubameyang will leave can “relax” because he is “very optimistic” his captain will agree a new deal soon.
With former Chelsea winger Willian providing a pair of assists on his debut, it was the ideal way for Arsenal to start a season that appears full of promise after last season’s FA Cup triumph.
Although their eighth-placed finish in the Premier League ranked as Arsenal’s lowest final position since 1995, Arteta had little to do with that after taking charge in December following the dismal reign of Unai Emery.
The former Manchester City assistant coach has been a much-needed breath of fresh air for Arsenal and pushing for a place in the top four should not be beyond his revitalized team this term.
While the continued absence of fans due to the coronavirus and shorter than usual break has taken a little anticipation away from the new campaign, Arsenal were keener than most to get back in action after beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
The Gunners had underlined their rapid improvement by defeating Premier League champions Liverpool on penalties in the Community Shield last month and Fulham were no match for them.
The only dark cloud for Arteta was a pre-match spat between Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah.
The pair had to be separated by Arsenal team-mates after Nketiah reacted to an aggressive challenge from Ceballos while a group of players were exchanging passes in the warm-up.
Arteta must have been alarmed when Ainsley Maitland-Niles hit a weak back pass that caused confusion between Gabriel and recalled keeper Bernd Leno early on.
Aboubakar Kamara nipped in but Leno managed to save at his feet before the Fulham forward could get a shot away.
Arteta’s worries were eased when Lacazette netted in the ninth minute.
Granit Xkaha’s strike forced a miscued clearance from Tim Ream and Willian pounced with a close-range shot that Fulham keeper Marek Rodak could only push out to Lacazette, who slotted home from virtually on the goalline.
It made Lacazette the first player to score the opening goal of a Premier League campaign twice after the French striker also bagged the opener in 2017-18.
Willian was denied a debut goal when his low free-kick cannoned off the base of the post.
Gabriel was enjoying a composed debut and the 22-year-old showed he can be a goal threat as well when he doubled Arsenal’s lead in the 49th minute.
Willian swung over the corner and Gabriel showed his desire as he rose above Michael Hector for an attempted header that hit his shoulder as it flashed into the net.
Fulham’s defense was crumbling like the recently demolished Craven Cottage stand and Aubameyang finished them off in the 57th minute with a carbon copy of his Community Shield goal against Liverpool.
Just as at Wembley, Willian’s superb cross-field pass picked out Aubameyang and he was allowed to advance unchecked into the area before bending a fine finish into the far corner.


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.