Japan’s Momota wins at All England after virus delay

World No. 1 Kento Momota of Japan is off to a winning start at the All England Championships on Wednesday with a victory over Parupalli Kashyap 21-13, 22-20 in a first-round tie in Birmingham. (AFP)
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Updated 19 March 2021

Japan’s Momota wins at All England after virus delay

  • Indonesians withdraw after a passenger on their flight to Britain tested positive for COVID-19

LONDON: Badminton world number one Kento Momota made a winning return to international action at the Covid-affected All England Open Wednesday, but Indonesia’s team were forced to withdraw after a passenger on their flight to Britain tested positive for the coronavirus.
The 26-year-old from Japan defeated India’s Kashyap Parupalli 21-13, 22-20 in a first-round match played without fans in Birmingham.
Momota, who made a successful return to domestic badminton by winning the All-Japan Championship in December, was playing his first BWF world tour match since a January 2020 car crash in Malaysia, in which he suffered a fractured eye socket and his driver was killed.
“I was very nervous. I’ve been away for such a long time,” he told the BWF website. “I wasn’t confident about winning this match, but finally I could win it and I’m very happy about that.”
Momota missed out on his planned comeback to the international tour in January after testing positive for Covid-19, which led to the Japan squad pulling out of three events in Thailand.
The start of the prestigious All England Open was delayed on Wednesday after a number of Covid-19 tests yielded both “positive” and “inconclusive” results.
All were retested and proved negative, allowing the event to begin five hours late at 2pm (1400 GMT) with all participants cleared to play.


The All England Championships is Kento Momota’s first international tournament since fracturing his eye socket in a crash that killed his driver following victory in the Malaysia Masters in January 2020.

But Indonesia’s badminton team were later forced into isolation by UK coronavirus contact-tracing rules, forcing the team out of the event.
“In accordance with UK Government requirements, the entire team will self-isolate for 10 days from the date of their inbound flight after a person traveling onboard tested positive for Covid-19,” said a statement issued just before midnight UK time on Wednesday.
“All Indonesian players will not be able to compete in the current or next round of the tournament and have therefore been withdrawn from the All England Open 2021.”
Several Indonesian players enjoyed successful opening matches on Wednesday, including men’s fifth seed Jonatan Christie and men’s doubles top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.
The Indonesian players’ opponents in the next round have been given walkovers.
The All England was the final event on the BWF calendar to be played last year before the sport shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
International competition resumed in Denmark in October, but was suspended again until January when three tournaments, including the World Tour Finals, were staged in a biosecure “bubble” in Thailand.
With the all England Open not counting toward Olympic qualification, leading Asian badminton nations China, South Korea and Taiwan had opted not to travel because of virus restrictions.
The loss of the Indonesia team is a further blow to an event already shorn of women’s Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain, who withdrew because of injury.
England’s Gabby Adcock had already pulled out from playing in the mixed doubles with husband Chris because of long-term Covid.
The 30-year-old, who first became ill at Christmas, told the BBC: “I don’t want to step on court when I’m not conditioned to win.”

Frank Williams, F1 pioneer who fought adversity to build dominant team

Updated 11 sec ago

Frank Williams, F1 pioneer who fought adversity to build dominant team

  • Williams’ dry wit and charm, indefatigable spirit and resilience served him well on his journey from being a trainee sales rep for Campbell’s soup, to the pinnacle of the high-octane world of F1
  • Frank Williams: ‘It’s been a great journey, one I’d love to do again if I was younger. I wouldn’t try and do anything different except try and avoid the accidents’

PARIS: Frank Williams was a colossus of Formula One, but lurking beneath all the success the British racing legend’s life was touched by tragedy.
Williams, who died on Sunday aged 79, was left a tetraplegic and confined to a wheelchair after a road accident in France in 1986.
The courage, energy and determination with which he dealt with this cruel roll of fate’s dice drew admiration from his family, friends, colleagues and the wider public.
With technical guru Patrick Head he created, from scratch, one of the greatest Formula One teams of all time.
Williams captured seven drivers’ titles, the last claimed by Canadian Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, while the team’s nine constructors’ crowns places Williams second only to mighty Ferrari.
His noted dry wit and charm, indefatigable spirit and resilience served him well on his journey from being a trainee sales rep for Campbell’s soup earning £10 a week, to the pinnacle of the high-octane world of F1.
Francis Owen Garbett Williams was born in South Shields in northeast England on April 16, 1942.
In his early days in motor racing, he had to conduct business from his local red telephone box when cash wasn’t flowing.
He established Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966, competing in F3 and F2, and F1 with a borrowed chassis from 1969.
The death of his first driver Piers Courage, driving for Williams at the Dutch GP at Zandvoort in 1970, was said to have marked him for life.
The first all-Williams built F1 car had an inauspicious start, when with Henri Pescarolo at the wheel, it was destroyed in a crash in 1972.
With funding an ever-present problem and having lost control of his company he left, with Head, to set up the team that is still racing today, in 1977.
Clay Regazzoni drove a Cosworth-powered Williams to its first F1 success, fittingly at the British Grand Prix, in 1979.
Australian Alan Jones won the team’s first drivers’ title the following season. Williams also collected the constructors’ championship that year.
Keke Rosberg took the 1982 title, with five more captured in a golden period between 1987 and 1997, all after Williams’ ill-fated 1986 dash to catch a flight in France that led to the car crash.
“I was late for a plane I didn’t need to be late for, I got the French time mixed up with the English time,” he was to recall.
Williams lost control of the rental car, causing it to leave the highway and drop 2.4 meters into a field. Williams suffered a spinal fracture between the fourth and fifth vertebra after being pressed between his seat and the crushed roof.
Williams was consigned to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
“But life has to go on,” he said. “I was able to continue in the business I was already in, but generally speaking it’s been a handicap in the true sense of the word.”
At the height of their powers, Ayrton Senna, who had won three titles with McLaren, came on board for the 1994 season, only to perish in a horrific high-speed crash at Imola.
Williams had a deep connection with the Brazilian great and was never able fully to come to terms with his death.
“Frank had a love affair with Ayrton,” his daughter Claire, who would later head the team, told The Sun newspaper in 2019.
“He got into his heart, got into his mind, and he always wanted to put him in his race car. Dad’s wish then came true, but it ended in the worst possible way.”
Not for the first time personal anguish failed to diminish Williams’ single-mindedness to succeed, with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve capturing the 1996 and 1997 world championships. He was knighted in 1999 and became Sir Frank.
“It’s been a great journey, one I’d love to do again if I was younger. I wouldn’t try and do anything different except try and avoid the accidents,” Williams told the BBC in 2010.
His death comes after his family ended 43 years of involvement in the team in September 2020, following its sale to Dorilton Capital.
Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told AFP shortly before the sale that the team had lost its raison d’etre when Williams stepped down from the board in 2012.
Both of them were among the co-founders of the Formula One Constructors’ Association in 1974.
“Dear old Frank had to work so hard to make sure the team competed and that happened,” he said.
“Frank was hands-on in the way he managed the team.
“He could get things done.”

Formula 1 teams arrive in Jeddah as the final countdown begins for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Updated 29 November 2021

Formula 1 teams arrive in Jeddah as the final countdown begins for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

JEDDAH: The final countdown for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix began in earnest as Formula One teams arrived to a colorful welcome at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport on Nov. 28.

Teams were greeted by Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation “meet and greet” team, and were assisted with arrival formalities in a specially constructed lounge reception area.

The Formula One event — the Kingdom’s biggest global sporting showcase — will be staged at the specially built Jeddah Corniche Circuit from Dec. 3-5.

More F1 drivers are due to arrive in the coming days as the grand prix countdown continues. The Alpine F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari are among teams that have already begun preparations in Jeddah.

Airport lounges have been decorated with Formula 1 flags and logos, models of F1 racing cars, and images of competing teams and drivers.

Jeddah Municipality has also decorated the King Road and the Corniche with Formula 1 flags and slogans, including the area surrounding the circuit and the waterfront.

Palmeiras retains Copa Libertadores title after extra time

Updated 28 November 2021

Palmeiras retains Copa Libertadores title after extra time

  • Palmeiras beat fellow Brazilian rivals Flamengo 2-1
  • Sao Paulo-based club gain their third title

Palmeiras successfully defended the Copa Libertadores title after beating Flamengo 2-1 in an all-Brazilian final that went to extra time on Saturday.
The third title from the Sao Paulo-based club kicked off street parties in the metropolis, regardless of new concerns about COVID-19.
The champion opened the scoring at Centenario Stadium in Montevideo through Raphael Veiga early. Flamengo, which started the final as favorite, levelled in the second half thanks to Gabriel Barbosa. Substitute Deyverson netted the winner in the first half of extra time.
Palmeiras became the first team in 20 years to win back-to-back titles. Boca Juniors won in 2000 and ‘01, the first of those titles against Palmeiras in the final prevented the Brazilian side from retaining its first Copa title.
A counterattack started by defender Gustavo Gomez found right back Mayke free and onside thanks to Flamengo defender David Luiz. Mayke’s low cross reached Raphael Veiga, and he put it past goalkeeper Diego Alves in the sixth minute.
Flamengo wasted opportunities in the second half, and didn’t level until the 72nd, courtesy of its its top scorer Gabriel Barbosa. Assisted by Giorgian de Arrascaeta, the man nicknamed Gabigol scored from close range against goalkeeper Weverton, who was not quick enough to block the shot.
Barbosa scored both Flamengo goals in the 2-1 final win against River Plate in its second and last Copa triumph in 2019.
The 1-1 looked fair at the end of regular time. But it didn’t take long for Palmeiras to regain the upper hand.
A slip by Flamengo midfielder Andreas Pereira in the 95th made the difference. Deyverson, who replaced a fatigued Veiga minutes before, carried the ball all by himself and calmly beat goalkeeper Alves.
Deyverson returned to Palmeiras in June after a loan to Alaves, and was in tears after his first goal in this Copa.
“I had ups and downs here, I made many mistakes, but I never stopped working,” the striker, once again in tears, said.
Deyverson signed a five-year contract with Palmeiras in 2017, but problems on and off the pitch led him to being loaned to Getafe in 2020 and Alaves shortly later. Many Palmeiras fans did not enjoy the news of his return.
Deyverson surprised fans and players alike near the final whistle when he fell to the ground after being lightly touched on the back by Argentine referee Nestor Pitana. Pitana laughed at the player’s reaction and told him to stand up. Deyverson’s rolls on the pitch went viral on social media.
Flamengo goalkeeper Alves said they must congratulate Palmeiras and keep their heads up.
“It hurts a lot to lose it like this. We didn’t give many opportunities to Palmeiras. They played in their style, we played in ours. It wasn’t meant to be,” Alves said, adding midfielder Pereira should not be blamed for the defeat.
Brazil also contributed both finalists in the Copa Sudamericana, won by Athletico. This year marked the first time all four finalists of both Copas came from the same country. Palmeiras’ success was the eighth since 2010 for a Brazilian club.
Palmeiras eliminated local rival Sao Paulo in the quarterfinals and advanced to the final on the away goal rule after drawing at Atletico Mineiro. This week, CONMEBOL scrapped the away goals rule for all future competitions.

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

Updated 28 November 2021

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

LISBON, Portugal: Portuguese club Belenenses started a league match against Benfica with just nine players after an outbreak of coronavirus in its squad on Saturday. It was later called off just after halftime.
With two fewer players, Belenenses was soon trailing. Benfica scored all goals in the 7-0 win in the first half.
The referee called the match off just after the start of the second half. Only seven players took the field for Belenenses, which soon lost another player when one dropped to the turf, leaving them with only six.
The laws of soccer allow for games to be played as long as each team has seven players, including a goalkeeper.
Club president Rui Pedro Soares said that despite having a decimated squad his club did not ask for the game to be postponed.

Arsenal brush aside Newcastle as Howe suffers first defeat

Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli celebrates with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after scoring against Newcastle United, Emirates Stadium, London, England, Nov. 27, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2021

Arsenal brush aside Newcastle as Howe suffers first defeat

  • Second half goals from Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli at the Emirates Stadium made it four wins for Arsenal from their last five league games
  • Eddie Howe was in charge of Newcastle in person for the first time after missing last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Brentford due to a positive COVID test

LONDON: The battle to find balance between attack and defence has been a five-year struggle on Tyneside — and is so far proving the impossible conundrum for Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.

It was an issue first flagged up by now Everton boss Rafa Benitez under the ownership of Mike Ashley. It’s an argument so often referred to as the “short blanket.”

The concept is a simple one. Pull the short blanket up at one end, your feet are open to the elements at the other, and vice versa. With limited resources, it is tough to provide quality and consistency at both ends.

Steve Bruce, never as eloquent as Benitez, suffered from the same problems. And just 180 or so minutes into his tenure at Newcastle, Howe knows that issue firsthand.

A defensively disciplined display at the Emirates, much more so than at St James’ Park last week, saw the Magpies blunted in attack and ultimately beaten by two moments of real quality.

Second-half goals by Bukayo Saka and his replacement off the bench Gabriel Martinelli ensured United remained at the foot of the Premier League, without a win in 13 in the top flight and with the worst goals against column as well as just six points to show for their early season “efforts.”

Making his debut in the United dugout after a bout of Covid, Howe made three changes from the side that drew with Brentford seven days previously.

Out went Ciaran Clark, Jacob Murphy and Karl Darlow, with Emil Krafth, Ryan Fraser and Martin Dubravka returning to the starting XI.

United were open and expansive against the Bees, but it was more a case of disciplined and compact at the home of the Gunners, as Howe made some tactical tweaks to the side who looked defensively suspect last time out.

And it’s fair to say — for 45 minutes at least — it worked, as United largely frustrated the home side, keeping them at arm’s length.

United’s record against Arsenal home and away is by Premier League standards awful.

They’ve won just once in 20 outings, and have to go back to 2010 for a victory in the red half of North London.

And to get a result against a traditionally difficult foe you have to ride your luck, or hope for players to stand up in the key moments. Luckily, as mentioned previously, Howe decided to make the crucial call to bring back Slovak Dubravka, and United needed their reinstated No.1 to produce a number of crucial stops to keep things equal at the break.

His first stop was to palm away a curling Martin Odegaard free-kick, which skirted over the heads of the United wall. The second, as incredibly reactive as it was, was followed by a miss of biblical proportions by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Some excellent work by Saka down the Arsenal left opened things up for Emile Smith-Rowe, whose header was cleared by Dubravka, only to fall to Aubameyang. But with the goal at his mercy, the Gunners’ skipper clipped on to the United post.

While the hosts were the better side, this wasn’t one-way traffic, however. United had some chances of their own.

A Callum Wilson break down the right unleashed Fraser, whose cross deflected into the path of Jonjo Shelvey, but his 25-yard shot was excellently tipped on to the bar by the outstretched arm of goalkeeping man-of-the-moment Aaron Ramsdale.

It wasn’t until added time in the first-half that Arsenal began to up the ante — and it was this increased intensity that carried through into the opening exchanges of the second-half, which bore fruit on 55 minutes.

The tempo upped, Saka linked up with Albert Sambi Lokonga, then on to Smith-Rowe who found Saka again as he rolled off the back of Emil Krafth and guided the ball into the bottom corner from the angle on the left for 1-0.

As resolute as United had looked, it was no less than the hosts deserved.

Then came some controversy — but as typically has been the case this season for the Magpies, it went against the Premier League strugglers. In fact, within seconds they were two goals down and with yet another top flight mountain to climb.

A direct ball over the top for Wilson split the Arsenal backline and just as he appeared certain to pull the trigger in the area, the slightest of shoves from Nuno Tavares was enough to see the United striker lose his balance but not enough to convince the referee or the VAR officials of a foul.

Almost instantaneously, a direct ball at the other end saw the home side’s lead doubled.

A pin-point pass in behind by Takehiro Tomiyasu picked out the freshly introduced Martinelli, who, with his first touch, guided the ball past the helpless Dubravka.

And despite some light sparring at both ends, the Brazilian’s strike was enough to end this encounter as a contest, ensuring the gloom remains on Tyneside.

No one expected a result at Arsenal, a place United lose at on an annual basis, but results are exactly what the Magpies need. Their predicament at the foot of the table is starting to look a little desperate, despite the signs of improvement under Howe.

What the manager needs to work out is whether he is going to try and play his way out of the situation, or solidify a creaking defensive unit and do it the “boring” way.

At the moment, it feels like this is neither.

Fellow relegation battlers Norwich City and Burnley come to St James’ Park in the next seven days — and it is starting to feel like this week is make or break for Newcastle’s Premier League future.