Six of the Champions League best for City, Liverpool edge Milan thriller, PSG held by Brugge

Jack Grealish (L) scored and set up City's first goal; Mohamed Salah levelled the scores at 2-2 for Liverpool (Top, R) while Lionel Messi finally made his first start for PSG. (Reuters/AFP)
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Updated 16 September 2021

Six of the Champions League best for City, Liverpool edge Milan thriller, PSG held by Brugge

LONDON: Jack Grealish scored a superb first Champions League goal as Manchester City survived Christopher Nkunku's hat-trick to beat RB Leipzig 6-3 in a pulsating Group A opener on Wednesday.
Grealish admits the lure of playing on the Champions League stage convinced him to leave his boyhood club Aston Villa to join City in a club record £100 million ($138 million) move in the close-season.
The England winger made the most of his first taste of the tournament's bright lights with a brilliant solo effort in the second half at the Etihad Stadium.
Grealish also set up City's first goal for Nathan Ake with a pin-point corner.
While City were snubbed by Cristiano Ronaldo when the Portugal superstar opted to join Manchester United, Pep Guardiola believes the younger Grealish is more than ample compensation and this influential display underlined why.
Nordi Mukiele's own goal had doubled City's lead before Nkunku got one back on a memorable personal evening for the French winger.
Riyad Mahrez's penalty made it 3-1 and Nkunku netted again before Grealish's moment of magic.
Nkunku's third was followed by Joao Cancelo's rocket and a red card for Leipzig's former City defender Angelino.
Gabriel Jesus rounded off the goal-spree as City celebrated Guardiola's 300th game in charge in fitting style.
There was more good news for Guardiola as Kevin De Bruyne impressed in his first game back from the ankle injury which had sidelined him since August 15.
Guardiola led City to their first Champions League final last season, but the Premier League champions were denied a maiden European Cup crown in a limp 1-0 loss against Chelsea.
Guardiola insists that defeat will serve as the "motor" driving City's challenge this term and they wasted little time seizing pole position in Group A.


Jordan Henderson's stunning strike ensured Liverpool came from behind to beat AC Milan once more with a pulsating 3-2 victory at Anfield to get their Champions League campaign off to a winning start.
The Reds famously came from 3-0 down to beat the Italian giants on penalties in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, but should have made far easier work of disposing of Stefano Pioli's men on their return to top level European football.
Seven-time winners, Milan were playing their first Champions League match for seven years and were given a rude awakening to the step up in class but for a two-minute spell before half-time that threatened to take the game away from Liverpool.
Fikayo Tomori's early only goal was scant reward for the home side's early dominance as Mike Maignan saved Mohamed Salah's penalty.
But goals from Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz turned the game on its head completely against the run of play.
Salah levelled the scores once more before Henderson's thunderous finish proved a deserving winner 21 minutes from time.


Lionel Messi finally made his first start for Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday but the French giants had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Club Brugge in Belgium to start their Champions League campaign.
Ander Herrera gave PSG an early lead at the Jan Breydel Stadium only for Hans Vanaken to equalise for the home side, who were excellent and thoroughly deserved their point.
Messi — who had played just 24 minutes as a substitute prior to this game — is still looking for his first goal for his new club although he hit the bar in the first half and tested Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet after the break before picking up a yellow card for a foul on Mats Rits.
However it was not a convincing performance from the Parisians as coach Mauricio Pochettino lined up his star attacking trio of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe together for the first time.
Mbappe came off hurt in the second half and PSG, despite building a team with the aim of winning the Champions League for the first time, have already complicated their chances just of making it out of a difficult Group A.


Inter Milan were made to pay for their profligacy as a late goal from substitute Rodrygo saw Real Madrid snatch a 1-0 win in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.
Rodrygo scored in the 89th minute with what was only Madrid's second shot on target. Inter had peppered their opponents' goal but were denied by a string of fantastic saves and some wayward finishing.
It was a first Champions League match back in front of their fans for Inter with more than 37,000 at San Siro, which is allowed to be at 50% capacity for games.
Sheriff Tiraspol lead Group D after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 on their Champions League group-stage debut earlier.

* With AFP and AP

Pogacar pulverises opposition at Tour de France

Updated 10 sec ago

Pogacar pulverises opposition at Tour de France

  • The Slovenian dropped the last of his rivals with five kilometers to go after five more Pyrenean peaks
  • The 25-year-old racked up a second straight iconic mountaintop triumph and a 14th Tour de France stage win

PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France: Tadej Pogacar extended his overall lead at the Tour de France to more than three minutes on Sunday with a convincing second-straight stage win in the Pyrenees.
The Slovenian dropped the last of his rivals with five kilometers to go after five more Pyrenean peaks. A valiant Jonas Vingegaard could only finish 1 minute and 8 seconds adrift in second, with Remco Evenepoel in third at 2min 51sec on the day.
As Pogacar crossed the line at the magnificent Plateau de Beille deep in the Pyrenees, resplendent in his yellow outfit, he had racked up a second straight iconic mountaintop triumph and a 14th Tour de France stage win aged just 25.
The overall leader expressed surprise at Vingegaard and his team.
“Jonas did most of the work,” Pogacar said after Visma hogged the front of the peloton most of the day.
“With today being the 14th of July you might have expected a French win, but Visma went at it very strong.”
“I wasn’t sure myself I’d be able to keep up the pace, but this year I’ve adopted a different approach and it seems to be working,” said Pogacar, munching on a candy bar.

The Team UAE leader’s audacious bid for a Tour de France and Giro d’Italia double in the same season seemed closer after a third stage win on this year’s Tour lifted him comfortably clear.
The last man to win such a double was Marco Pantani in 1998. On his way to his French triumph, the Italian also won a stage ended on the Plateau de Beille.
Pogacar on Sunday ascended the mountain over four minutes faster than Pantani.
“That’s a very good sign,” Pogacar’s team director Mauro Gianetti said.
There are two murderous mountain slogs to go in the Alps, where the weather will likely be much hotter, which Pogacar dislikes.
The final-day lottery is a fearsome 34km individual time trial on the corniche between Monaco and Nice.
For now, the sun shines on the Slovenian as he leads the two-time defending champion Vingegaard by 3 minutes 9 seconds with the young Belgian Remco Evenepoel on his first Tour de France third at 5min 19sec.
Evenepoel also looked happy with his day’s work after he arrived for his debut Tour de France stating he was targeting the best young rider’s jersey, which he looks good for now.
“I felt it was a mistake to try and follow them when they went. It was a race between them two,” he said.
“I kept going at my steady rhythm. it was a good weekend for us.”

Evenepoel is third overall, five minutes clear of Mikel Landa, and leads the young rider category by six minutes from Carlos Rodriguez.
Vingegaard and Evenepoel were both involved in a bone-breaking crash in March, and it remains to be seen how their stamina stands up in the third week. After Monday’s rest day the race rushes back to the Alps, where tradition holds that the Tour is won.
Pogacar agreed with that Sunday.
“Only when I cross the finish line will I believe I have won,” said the 2020 and 2021 champion.
The weekend crowds were well-behaved Sunday. A roadside spectator who threw crisps in the faces of Pogacar and Vingegaard on Saturday was charged with violent behavior Sunday morning, after spending a night in the cells to sober up.
The Tour de France also stepped up protective measures to “limit health risks” with the reintroduction of the dreaded face masks due to a resurgence of Covid-19.
Monday is a rest day.
“We go into Monday with a big smile,” said Pogacar.
The fans watching roadside or in armchairs also likely left with a smile.


Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

Updated 12 min 25 sec ago

Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

  • Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time

BERLIN: Spain won a record fourth European Championship title on Sunday after Mikel Oyarzabal’s 86th-minute goal clinched a 2-1 victory over England, whose painful decades-long wait for a major trophy goes on.
Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time after the latest show of resilience by England at the tournament.
Substitute Cole Palmer equalized for England in the 73rd minute to cancel out Nico Williams’ opener in the 47th from 17-year-old prodigy Lamine Yamal’s pass.
Spain also won the title in 1964, 2008 and 2012.
“I did my job and what I had to and was lucky enough to score the goal for the win,” said Oyarzabal, who came on as a substitute for captain Alvaro Morata. “When you are among the 26 names to be picked, that is special enough, but then to get to help the team like I did, that is the most important part.”
England men’s team has now lost back-to-back Euro finals and is still without a major title since winning the 1966 World Cup.
It is another agonizing loss for one of the world’s most underperforming national teams, this one coming in front of Prince William and Spain’s King Felipe at the venue built for the 1936 Olympics.
“This time it just wasn’t meant to be,” the prince wrote on social media. “We’re all still so proud of you.” 

There were joyous scenes after the final whistle among the Spanish players, with Williams putting his hands to his face before he was embraced by his teammates. Dani Carvajal slumped to the field and was piled on by jubilant teammates.
Yamal, Marc Cucurella and Dani Olmo were among the first to jump over the advertising hoardings to reach the Spanish fans in the stadium’s east end of the stadium.
It was fitting that Yamal and Williams combined for the crucial first goal as they are the poster boys of this exciting, multicultural team that mirrors the new reality in Spain.
Yamal’s mother is from Equatorial Guinea and his father is from Morocco, while fellow winger Williams has Ghanaian parents who made the long journey to Europe looking for a better life. To make it to Spain, they had to ride on the back of a crowded truck and walk barefoot through the Sahara desert.
“Euphoria! We are so happy. We deserved this,” said Williams, the player of the match. “This is for our fans and our parents, who have supported us throughout.”
Unlike his brother Inaki, who is a Ghana international, Nico chose to play for Spain and will now be regarded as a national hero there.
As, indeed, will Oyarzabal and the rest of the Spain team, who have won all seven of their matches at this tournament — an unprecedented feat — and beaten heavyweights Germany, France and England, back-to-back in the knockout stage.
Spain is back as a major player in senior soccer after winning both the Women’s World Cup and the men’s UEFA Nations League in 2023.
Since 2001, Spanish men’s teams have won 23 consecutive major finals in club and international soccer.

India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1

Updated 14 July 2024

India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1

  • Sanju Samson, who was part of India’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, hit four sixes to help India score 167-6 in 20 overs
  • In reply, Zimbabwe was bowled out for 125 runs in 18.3 overs with medium pacer Mukesh Kumar taking 4-22 from 3.3 overs

HARARE: Sanju Samson scored 58 as India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in their fifth Twenty20 on Sunday to win the five-match series 4-1.
Samson, who was part of India’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, hit four sixes in his 45-ball innings to help India score 167-6 in 20 overs after losing the toss and batting first.
In reply, Zimbabwe was bowled out for 125 runs in 18.3 overs with medium pacer Mukesh Kumar taking 4-22 in 3.3 overs.
Zimbabwe had won the first T20 by 13 runs, with India then rebounding with four consecutive wins. It won the second, third and fourth T20s by 100 runs, 23 runs, and 10 wickets, respectively.
India’s top-order batters got double-digit starts Sunday but couldn’t build on them.
Yashasvi Jaiswal, who scored 93 not out on Saturday, was bowled for 12 off five balls. Skipper Shubman Gill was caught for 13, while Abhishek Sharma was dismissed for 14 as India reached 40-3 in five overs.
Samson and Riyan Parag (22) added 65 off 56 balls for the fourth wicket and stabilized the innings as India crossed the 100-mark.
The acceleration came late and cost India a few wickets, with Samson holding ground at one end. Shivam Dube scored 26 off 12 balls, hitting two sixes, and putting on 30 off 19 balls for the fifth wicket.
Zimbabwe pacer Blessing Muzarabani finished with 2-19 in four overs.
Kumar disturbed Zimbabwe’s start as opener Wessly Madhevere was bowled for a three-ball duck. He also sent back Brian Bennett for 10 runs.
Zimbabwe fought back with a 44-run partnership between Tadiwanashe Marumani (27) and Dion Myers (34).
Washington Sundar (1-7 in two overs) got the breakthrough in the ninth over, while Dube (2-25) dismissed Myers.
The hosts couldn’t fight back thereafter, especially with captain Sikandar Raza run out for eight. Zimbabwe crashed from 85-3 to 94-7 in the space of 15 deliveries.
Faraz Akram scored 27 off 13 balls to take Zimbabwe past 100, but the hosts never looked like winning.
Gill was leading India this series for the first time. He called it an “excellent series” for the young side.
“The hunger that we showed after the first loss was phenomenal to watch,” Gill said. “A lot of our players weren’t used to these conditions, some of them were on long flights, and we adapted very well.”

Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Updated 14 July 2024

Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

  • Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under

LONDON: Carlos Alcaraz overpowered seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets to retain his Wimbledon title on Sunday in a brutal statement that the new era of men’s tennis has arrived.
The Spanish third seed produced a performance combining awesome power with delicate touch to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), collecting the fourth Grand Slam of his young career.
Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under, joining Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander.
And he is just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back.
Djokovic, 37, who had knee surgery just weeks ago, was aiming to win a 25th Grand Slam — which would have been a record in the men’s and women’s game.
But he had no answers in the Center Court sunshine as the electric Alcaraz pounded him from the back of the court and treated the crowd to an array of his trademark drop shots.
“Honestly, it is a dream for me winning this trophy,” said the Spaniard. “I did an interview when I was 11 and I said my dream is to win Wimbledon.
“For me this is the most beautiful tournament, the most beautiful court and the most beautiful trophy.”
Alcaraz paid tribute to his beaten opponent, who only found his range in the third set.
“Djokovic is an unbelievable fighter, I knew he was going to have his chances,” said Alcaraz who had needed five sets to defeat the Serb in the 2023 final.
“It was difficult but I tried to stay calm going into the tie-break and tried to play my best tennis. I was glad at the end I could find the solutions.”
Alcaraz seized the initiative in a first game of breathtaking quality lasting 14 minutes, taking advantage of his fifth break point.
The Spaniard settled quickly into his routine on serve and went up a double break when Djokovic double-faulted in the fifth game.
The shell-shocked Serbian, playing in his 10th Wimbledon final, held serve to love to close the gap to 5-2 but dumped the ball into the net to hand the Spaniard the first set.
Alcaraz was immediately on the front foot in the second set, forcing a break in the first game and fending off pressure on his own serve to take a 2-0 lead.
A Djokovic backhand into the net in the seventh game handed Alcaraz another break point and a double fault put the defending champion 5-2 up and on the cusp of a two-set lead.
The Center Court crowd, including Catherine, Princess of Wales, looked on in disbelief as their hopes for a titanic tussle evaporated.
The under-par Djokovic fended off another of clutch of break points early in the third set to stay alive and showed signs that he was finding his rhythm.
But Alcaraz broke for a 5-4 lead and moved to 40-0 on his own serve, only to suffer a wobble as Djokovic saved all three championship points, breaking for the first time in the match.
He recovered his composure quickly and the set went to a tie-break.
Djokovic went wide with a forehand to give Alcaraz a 5-3 lead and the Spaniard won the title with his fourth championship point, clambering up to the players’ box to celebrate with his family and coaching team.
The champion struck 42 winners to Djokovic’s 26 over the course of the match.
Princess Catherine, patron of the All England Club, handed over the trophy.
Last month she tentatively returned to British public life for the first time since her diagnosis, attending a military parade in London to mark King Charles III’s official birthday.
Djokovic, still without a title this year, will now turn his attention to the Paris Olympics as he seeks to win gold for the first time.
“It obviously was not the result I wanted but of course in the first couple of sets the level of tennis wasn’t up to par from my side,” he said.
“But credit to Carlos for playing elite tennis, especially from the back of the court, he had it all today.”

Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season

Updated 14 July 2024

Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season

  • Organized by Dubai-based Gallop Global, the event will feature 256 players in separate formats for male and female pairs

LONDON: Top level padel will be returning to Dubai as part of a newly unified 25-tournament season spanning 18 countries, it was announced on Sunday.

The Dubai Premier Padel P1 event will be held at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and feature the world’s best players. 

Organized by Dubai-based Gallop Global, the event will feature 256 players in separate formats for male and female pairs. The accumulated prize pool for both categories is €470,000 ($513,263).

The sport is coming to Dubai following a multi-year hosting agreement between the UAE Padel Association, the Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai Sports Council, Premier Padel, and Gallop Global.

“The support of the inaugural Dubai Premier Padel P1 from His Highness Sheikh Mansoor will be a significant motivating factor in organising more events in the country,” said Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum bin Juma Al-Maktoum, UAEPA president.

“Since the sport’s formal introduction to the UAE in 2013, the UAE leadership has supported various padel events, as well as other events that followed in subsequent years.

“For example, the World Padel Championship, hosted by Dubai in 2022, was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai. We thank the leaders for their invaluable support, which has led to the development of the sport in the emirate, as evidenced by the constantly growing infrastructure in line with the sport’s popularity over the years,” Sheikh Saeed added.

Saeed Mohammed Hareb, secretary-general of the Dubai Sports Council, said padel had experienced huge growth in the UAE, especially in Dubai.

Padel in the UAE is governed by UAEPA, which was founded in 2014 and is one of the first padel federations in Asia to be established. It has been affiliated with the International Padel Federation since 2016.

In 2014, the General Authority of Sports decreed the official recognition of padel as a sport with the government’s full support. Today, the UAE is home to 30 percent of padel courts in Asia and two percent of all courts worldwide.

“We have witnessed tremendous development and growth of padel in the UAE in general, and Dubai in particular, in terms of the number of practitioners and courts, as well as the organization of international tournaments, attracting top-ranked players in the world,” he said.
“This reflects the hard work of the UAE Padel Federation, headed by Sheikh Saeed and showcases the efforts to spread padel culture and the numerous benefits of playing the sport.

“This event plays a pivotal role in the growth of the padel community, not just in Dubai but also on a global scale, while also cementing Dubai’s position as a global hub for sports and events. Bringing world-class players to Dubai will also serve as a further catalyst for the growth of the sport and the emirate,” he added.