Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series

Joel Embiid of the 76ers draws a foul as he drives against the Atlanta Hawks during the first Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on June 11, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2021

Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series

  • Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta

ATLANTA: Joel Embiid scored 27 points and the Philadelphia 76ers rode a dominant third quarter to a 127-111 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Embiid, playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee, added nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots.
Tobias Harris had 22 points and Ben Simmons added 18 to help the 76ers end Atlanta’s streak of 13 home wins. The 76ers have taken the series lead with back-to-back wins.
The 76ers played up to their No. 1 seed, taking a lead of 22 points and keeping the advantage in double figures most of the second half. The Hawks played from behind after their last lead at 11-10.
Trae Young led Atlanta with 28 points. John Collins had 23 and Bogdan Bogdanovic 19.
Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.
After leading 65-60 early in the third period, Philadelphia took command with an 11-0 run. The 76ers outscored the Hawks 34-19 in the third period.
Simmons had two baskets during the run, including a jam for a 76-60 lead.
Atlanta couldn’t regain the momentum as the 76ers stretched the lead to 20 points, 93-73, late in the period.
Embiid, who faced constant double-teams from Atlanta’s defense, made 12 of 16 free throws.
Embiid had a scare in the third quarter when he limped and appeared to be in pain after grabbing a rebound. Embiid appeared to step awkwardly on Clint Capela’s foot and he remained in the game.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan asked for a strong start that eluded his team in its Game 2 loss. Instead, Philadelphia relied on an unlikely scoring source to grab the early lead.
Furkan Korkmaz, who scored a combined seven points in the first two games of the series, scored 11 points in the opening period while making two 3s. He added another 3 in the fourth for 14 points.
The 76ers stretched the advantage to 11 points in the second period before settling for a 61-56 halftime lead.

TIP-INS
76ers: G Danny Green suffered a right calf strain less than four minutes into the game and did not return. Matisse Thybulle replaced Green. ... Harris hit the back of his head on a camera while falling on the baseline with 9:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. Harris walked off after being checked by trainers and returned to the game.
Hawks: Atlanta’s last home loss was April 15 against Milwaukee. The 13-game home winning streak was the NBA’s longest active streak. ... F Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) has participated in two-on-two and three-on-three drills but has not yet moved up to full five-on-five sessions. Reddish, who ultimately could help fill the void left by De’Andre Hunter’s season-ending knee surgery scheduled for Tuesday, does not appear likely to return against the 76ers.

Jumping to his own defense
76ers coach Doc Rivers says he always “feels great” when he returns to Atlanta, where he began his playing career as the Hawks’ point guard. He reminded reporters before the game he still holds the Hawks’ career assists record.
Rivers felt compelled to mention his link to one of the game’s all-time greats, Julius Erving — better known as Dr. J — when defending his talents to his skeptical players.
“They don’t believe I could jump at all,” Rivers said before the game. “... I said, ‘You guys do know I’m named Doc. It’s not after a doctor. It’s after a guy who could jump.’”
Rivers had 3,866 assists with Atlanta from 1983-91. Mookie Blaylock is second with 3,764.


FIFA intensifies push to stage men’s World Cup every 2 years

Updated 16 September 2021

FIFA intensifies push to stage men’s World Cup every 2 years

  • In its latest survey, FIFA players all agreed it was a good idea to double the number of men’s World Cups in each four-year period
  • Staging more tournaments would increase opportunities and enthusiasm in most of the 211 member countries, says FIFA chief

GENEVA: FIFA intensified its push for hosting the men’s World Cup every two years on Thursday by garnering support from soccer fans around the world to help combat resistance from Europe and South America.
The latest public relations tactic came in the form of an online survey commissioned by FIFA. The Associated Press does not routinely report the claims of opinion polls conducted over the Internet.
FIFA claimed its findings from more than 15,000 respondents aged at least 18 identified in 23 countries showed “considerable differences between the so-called traditional markets and the developing football markets” and younger fans more enthusiastic than older ones.
A follow-up survey involving 100,000 people in more than 100 countries is now being done, FIFA said.
European soccer body UEFA and South American counterpart CONMEBOL oppose FIFA’s plan and have threatened to boycott additional World Cups. Europe and South America combine for 65 of the 211 FIFA members — fewer than the one-third total likely needed to block any proposal.
The governing bodies of the six continental soccer federations all stage their own championships, with Europe hosting its tournament every four years halfway between the World Cups. Adding an extra World Cup in every four-year cycle would likely cut into the European event’s revenue stream.
The women already have two major world tournaments in every four-year cycle because the top teams and best players compete at the Olympics as well as the Women’s World Cup.
FIFA’s latest survey follows one week after it hosted about 80 former international players, including several World Cup winners, for a two-day meeting in Qatar — the 2022 World Cup host country.
The players reported they all agreed it was a good idea to double the number of men’s World Cups in each four-year period.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino believes staging more tournaments would increase opportunities and enthusiasm in most of the 211 member countries, many of which never qualify to play at the World Cup.
Expanding the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 starting at the 2026 tournament in North America was one of the biggest early decisions of Infantino’s presidency, which began in 2016. FIFA also wants to distribute extra World Cup revenue to improve talent development and help national teams globally close the gap on Europe.
European teams have won the past four World Cups and filled 13 of the 16 semifinal slots. The other three semifinalists from 2006-18 were from South America.
The UEFA-backed Football Supporters Europe group also opposed the biennial World Cup plan, claiming it would distort the balance between domestic and international soccer, and club and national teams.
Global players’ union FIFPRO has also warned of burnout in the increasingly congested soccer schedule.


PSG coach Pochettino must work on weaknesses as stars flop

Updated 16 September 2021

PSG coach Pochettino must work on weaknesses as stars flop

  • “Fantomatique” — or "Ghost-like — was the headline in French sports daily L’Equipe on Thursday
  • PSG's performance highlighted that the team still has glaring shortcomings despite being able to field three of the world's best forwards

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain was able to start its superstar attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the first time on Wednesday in the Champions League.
Instead of fireworks, though, they only produced a big thud as PSG drew 1-1 draw against modest Belgian side Club Brugge.
“Fantomatique” — or “Ghost-like — was the headline in French sports daily L’Equipe on Thursday.
While 2020 champion Bayern Munich and last season’s runner-up Manchester City won and scored freely, PSG’s performance highlighted that the team still has glaring shortcomings despite being able to field three of the world’s best forward.
The fact that Keylor Navas was the busier goalkeeper on the night — and PSG’s best player — should be of concern to coach Mauricio Pochettino ahead of playing much tougher teams in the competition.
“We’ve got a magnificent squad, but we need to find balance,” Pochettino said.
But given PSG’s remarkable summer recruitment drive, Pochettino knows he has little room for error in a season where the Qatari-backed club has been touted by many observers as the favorite to win the Champions League.
Behind the veneer of Messi’s arrival, the reality is that the midfield and defense still look very vulnerable, and allowed a modest side like Brugge to muster 16 shots at goal.
That is alarming considering that City is PSG’s next opponent in the group stage. Pep Guardiola’s side visits Parc des Princes on Sept. 28, giving Pochettino little time to make his team more solid.
PSG has a home game against Lyon in the French league on Sunday followed by a midweek trip to Metz before hosting Montpellier.
Pochettino also has a thorny goalkeeping dilemma to resolve — whether to stick with Navas or start Italy’s European Championship star Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Last season, Navas rescued PSG with outstanding performances against Barcelona and Bayern in the knockout stages before PSG’s limitations were exposed by City in the semifinals.
PSG would likely have lost against Brugge without Navas who, through no fault of his own, now finds himself fighting for the No. 1 jersey. Pochettino sounded evasive when asked after the Brugge game if Donnarumma would play against Lyon.
“Anything’s possible,” Pochettino said. “Decisions will be made game after game with regards to the performances.”
But rotation could also work against Pochettino, for he needs a settled goalie to take command of a brittle defense that was too easily exposed by Brugge.
Even the signing of Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Italian league champion Achraf Hakimi at right back did little to stop the waves of Brugge attacks.
Wijnaldum lost a surprising number of tackles and was not helped by Leandro Paredes, who failed to control a simple pass early on as it rolled under his foot and led to a yellow card as he then fouled a Brugge player breaking through.
Wijnaldum and Paredes were both replaced by Pochettino, whose midfield clearly struggles when Marco Verratti is absent. The Italy star’s ball retention and distribution is superior and takes pressure off his teammates.
With Messi and Neymar up front, PSG also has a forward line that isn’t known for tracking back to defend, which can lead to the midfield getting overrun and the defense being exposed as a result.
Central defenders Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe looked exhausted at the end on Wednesday, as they often did last season when PSG lost eight games and the league title to Lille.
Messi’s positioning on the right of the three-man attack offers little protection to the midfield or to Hakimi, who by nature is a very attacking player and leaves space behind him where the opposition is free to counter.


Boateng appeals assault verdict, 1.8 million euros fine

Updated 16 September 2021

Boateng appeals assault verdict, 1.8 million euros fine

  • A Munich regional court’s spokesperson said Boateng's lawyer and state prosecutor have contested the verdict
  • Boateng looked last week visibly shocked after being found guilty of assaulting and insulting his former

BERLIN: Germany’s 2014 World Cup winner Jerome Boateng has filed an appeal against his conviction for assault and 1.8 million euros ($2 million) fine, a court official in Munich confirmed Thursday.
A spokesperson for Munich regional court told AFP subsidiary SID that both Boateng’s lawyer and the state prosecutor have contested the verdict.
A week ago, Boateng looked visibly shocked after being found guilty of assaulting and insulting his former partner, the mother of his twin daughters, during a Caribbean holiday in 2018.
The prosecutor had asked the court to give Boateng a suspended 18-month prison sentence and a fine of 1.5 million euros, but the former Bayern Munich defender avoided a custodial sentence when the judge gave his verdict last Thursday.
The 33-year-old Boateng, who left Bayern Munich to sign for French club Lyon at the start of the month and made his debut off the bench last Sunday, denied the allegations.


Haaland scores as Dortmund beats Beşiktaş 2-1 away in opener

Updated 15 September 2021

Haaland scores as Dortmund beats Beşiktaş 2-1 away in opener

  • Jude Bellingham was outstanding as he scored the opener and set up Haaland for the Norwegian’s 9th goal in 6 games across all competitions
  • Haaland scored 10 in eight Champions League games for Dortmund last season

ISTANBUL: Erling Haaland scored again to help Borussia Dortmund to a 2-1 win at Turkish champion Beşiktaş in their Champions League opening game on Wednesday.
The 18-year-old Jude Bellingham was outstanding as he scored the opener and set up Haaland for the Norwegian’s ninth goal in six games across all competitions this season. Haaland scored 10 in eight Champions League games for Dortmund last season.
Beşiktaş made the much better start, roared on by vocal supporters, while the visitors seemed to struggle with the soft playing surface.
Former Dortmund forward Michy Batshuayi almost scored in the sixth minute when he drew a good save from Gregor Kobel.
It took 17 minutes before the visitors first showed a threatening sign, but the move between Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Haaland lacked precision and broke down.
Bellingham scored three minutes later when he took Thomas Meunier’s cross on his chest before firing the ball through goalkeeper Ersin Destanoğlu’s legs.
From then on it was all Dortmund, though the visitors had to wait before Bellingham set up Haaland for the second just before the break. The England midfielder moved past a defender by switching the ball from his right foot to his left before he picked out Haaland for an easy finish.
Destanoğlu stopped a central shot from Bellingham early in the second half, before Kobel did well to deny Batshuayi again at the other end.
Dortmund coach Marco Rose made three substitutions at once with 20 minutes remaining, with Bellingham among those to go off, before Destanoğlu saved another good chance from Haaland.
Ansgar Knauff came on for Haaland with five minutes of normal time remaining and grazed the crossbar in injury time.
Francisco Montero scored Beşiktaş’ consolation goal in the fourth minute of injury time with a header off Miralem Pjanic’s free kick.


Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality

Updated 15 September 2021

Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality

  • Barcelona couldn’t get a single shot on goal the entire match and saw Bayern constantly threaten the other way
  • “Poor Barça,” read a front-page headline from sports daily Marca on Wednesday and “The sad reality,” said the daily Sport

MADRID : Barcelona needs to brace for some tough times ahead while adjusting to the post-Lionel Messi era.
That message was clear after the 3-0 loss at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, the team’s first defeat since Messi left amid the club’s financial struggles.
“It is what it is, we are what we are now,” veteran Barcelona captain Gerard Piqué said after the Catalan club was outplayed from the start at the Camp Nou. “It’s a complicated season.”
Looking nothing like the team that used to thrive when Messi was on the field, Barcelona couldn’t get a single shot on goal the entire match and saw Bayern constantly threaten the other way.
“We would like to have competed better, but this is what we have right now,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said. “I can’t complain about our attitude, we tried our best. But there is a difference in talent and a difference between a team that has played a long time together and our team with lots of young players. It is difficult to accept, but we have to keep working.”
The loss came more than a year after the embarrassing 8-2 debacle against Bayern in the quarterfinals of the Champions League two seasons ago, a defeat that began exposing Barcelona’s struggles on and off the field.
“Poor Barça,” read a front-page headline from sports daily Marca on Wednesday.
“The sad reality,” said the daily Sport.
Koeman, who was hired shortly after the rout against Bayern, said it will take time for Barcelona to return to a top level.
“Our young players have a lot of potential, in two or three years they will be playing much better,” Koeman said. “But right now, it is what it is.”
Koeman also lost Antoine Griezmann in the transfer window last month, when the team’s main addition was Netherlands forward Memphis Depay. The club added veteran Sergio Aguero but he is among the several players recovering from injury, along with youngsters Ousmane Dembélé, Sergiño Dest and Ansu Fati. Koeman used 18-year-old Yusuf Demir and 17-year-old Gavi on Tuesday. Pedri González, also 18, was a starter.
“I look at the positive fact that we had some 18-year-old players coming into the match,” Piqué said. “It’s our reality now.”
Barcelona will have to rely a lot on its youngsters as it tries to recover from dire financial conditions caused by the pandemic and poor management. The Catalan club wasn’t able to hand Messi a new contract and saw him leave for free to Paris Saint-Germain, one of the main contenders for the Champions League title this season.
President Joan Laporta asked fans to keep supporting Barcelona and said he needs time to get the club back on track.
“I am upset and disappointed as all of you are,” he said in a video message. “I need to tell you that what is happening is one of the situations that we expected. And I ask for your patience, and that you continue supporting our team. I also ask for your trust in us, the people who are managing the club. We need your trust and time, and do not doubt that we will solve this situation.”
There were signs Barcelona fans weren’t too optimistic when they failed to buy all tickets available for Tuesday’s match, something that rarely happened when Messi was still around, especially in a big Champions League match.
Piqué said it was “hurtful” to hear jeers from the Camp Nou crowd for Sergi Roberto, who was singled out for his poor performance while playing improvised on the right flank.
To make things worse, Pedri and Jordi Alba sustained muscle injuries during the match and are expected to be sidelined for a while.
Piqué said the next few weeks will be key for Barcelona, a five-time champion in Europe’s top competition.
“We need to win our next matches in the Champions League and stay among the leaders in the Spanish league,” Piqué said. “Right now we are not considered favorites but we will see what happens at the end of the season. Chelsea also wasn’t the favorite to win the Champions League last season.”
Barcelona’s next match in Group E will be at Benfica later this month. Benfica opened with a 1-1 draw at Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday.