Lukaku revives Chelsea’s title bid at Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings challenges for the ball with Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku during their Premier League match at Villa Park in Birmingham on Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 26 December 2021

Lukaku revives Chelsea’s title bid at Aston Villa

  • Lukaku was one of Chelsea's absentees due to a positive test for draws against Everton and Wolves last week
  • The Belgian's blistering run then won a second Chelsea penalty in stoppage time

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Romelu Lukaku came on to score his first Premier League goal since September to keep Chelsea in the title race as the European champions came from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-1.
Reece James’ own goal put Villa ahead, but Jorginho quickly levelled from the penalty spot in a clash between two of the many English sides hit by cases of coronavirus.
Lukaku was one of Chelsea’s absentees due to a positive test for draws against Everton and Wolves last week that saw them lose ground in the title race.
But he made his return off the bench at the break and made an almost instant impact to head home Callum Hudson Odoi’s cross.
The Belgian’s blistering run then won a second Chelsea penalty in stoppage time that Jorginho slotted home.
Thomas Tuchel’s men move level on points with Liverpool, who have a game in hand, and back to within six of Manchester City, who were 6-3 winners over Leicester earlier on Boxing Day.
Villa’s own Covid outbreak saw manager Steven Gerrard forced into isolation after he tested positive on Christmas Day.
Gerrard has made a big impression since taking over in November, but this was another lesson in the gap he has to bridge to the Premier League’s top three after defeats to City and Liverpool.
The home side got off to the perfect start when James flicked Matt Targett’s effort over his own goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to open the scoring on 28 minutes.
However, the lead lasted just six minutes due to Matty Cash’s rash challenge on Hudson-Odoi inside the area.
Jorginho was Chelsea’s top league scorer last season despite all of his goals coming from penalties and the Italian international is his side’s leading marksmen in all competitions thanks to nine spot-kicks this season.
Lukaku will expect that to change over the coming weeks as the club’s record signing finds his form after a disrupted start to his second spell at Stamford Bridge.
He is still yet to start in the Premier League since suffering an ankle injury in October, with his positive test for Covid coming just as he was returning to full fitness.
But a Lukaku in form is what Chelsea need if they are to mount a serious title challenge with clashes against Liverpool and City to come in January.
The former Manchester United striker took just 11 minutes to make the difference as he timed his run perfectly to meet Hudson-Odoi’s cross and powered a header low past Emiliano Martinez.
Chelsea should have run out more comfortable winners as Mason Mount dragged his shot wide with the goal gaping after rounding Martinez.
The Argentine then spread himself to deny Hudson-Odoi when one-on-one.
But the only way Ezri Konsa could stop Lukaku as he powered his way through the Villa defense late on was by hauling him down and Jorginho got the better on Martinez once more from the spot.


Elon Musk says he was joking about buying Manchester United

Updated 17 August 2022

Elon Musk says he was joking about buying Manchester United

  • ‘No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams’
  • Elon Musk has a history of being unconventional and posting irreverent tweets

 Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, said early on Wednesday that he was joking when he tweeted hours previously that he was going to buy currently struggling English football club Manchester United.

“No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams,” Musk posted when asked by a user if he was serious about buying the club. “Although, if it were any team, it would be Man U,” he added, “they were my fav (sic) team as a kid.”

Musk originally tweeted: “I’m buying Manchester United ur (sic) welcome,” without offering any details. Some Manchester United fans, disgruntled by their club’s declining fortunes of late, had previously urged Musk on Twitter to consider buying the club.

The tweet turnaround comes as Musk seeks to exit a $44 billion agreement to buy Twitter only four months after announcing on the platform he would buy the social media company, which has taken him to court.

Musk has a history of being unconventional and posting irreverent tweets, making it difficult sometimes to tell when he is joking.

“Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in,” he tweeted on April 27, two days after Twitter’s board accepted his unsolicited offer to buy the company.

Referring back to that post, on Wednesday he tweeted: “And I’m not buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in, despite the extreme popularity of such a move.”

Musk’s tweets about potential acquisitions have landed him in hot water with US regulators in the past.

In 2018, he tweeted that there was “funding secured” for a $72 billion deal to take Tesla private, but did not move ahead with an offer. Musk and Tesla each paid $20 million civil fines — and Musk stepped down as Tesla’s chairman — to resolve US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims that Musk defrauded investors.

The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Musk’s tweet that he was buying the club outside usual business hours.

Musk’s ambitions range from colonizing Mars to creating a new sustainable energy economy, and in the process he has built the most valuable car company in the world, electric vehicle maker Tesla, rocket company SpaceX, and a slew of smaller firms. One is a tunnel maker called the Boring Company.

Manchester United is one of the most famous names in world football but is currently in crisis on the field amid angry calls from fans for the club’s current owners, the American Glazer family, to pull out.

Clamour from fans and pundits for a change of ownership at the three-time winners of the European Cup, the most prestigious club competition in the global game, is intensifying amid a lengthening run without winning major titles.

British newspaper The Daily Mirror reported last year that the Glazers, who have faced widespread fan opposition to their stewardship since acquiring the club in 2005 for 790 million pounds ($957 million), were prepared to sell but only if they were offered in excess of 4 billion pounds.

In its annual rankings this year, Forbes rated Manchester United, with its huge global fanbase, the third most valuable football club in the world, worth $4.6 billion, behind only Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

But shares in the New York-listed football club have slid a quarter in the past 12 months, valuing it at just over $2 billion. The stock has rebounded in the past month, gaining 16 percent to close at $12.78 on Tuesday.

The northern England-based team has more than 32 million followers on its main Twitter account and Musk’s first tweet about the club had garnered more than 430,000 ‘likes’ on the platform within five hours.

Musk, who is worth $270 billion, according to Forbes, could certainly afford to buy the club.

Last week, filings revealed that Musk had sold $6.9 billion worth of Tesla shares, which he said could be used to finance a potential Twitter deal if he loses a legal battle with the social media platform.

In total, Musk has sold about $32 billion worth of Tesla stock in less than a year partly to pay tax obligations and finance a Twitter deal.

Musk and his lawyer did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on his original Twitter post before his message that he had been joking. The Florida-based Glazer family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Jacobs storms to Euro 100m crown as Ingebrigtsen and Perkovic shine

Updated 17 August 2022

Jacobs storms to Euro 100m crown as Ingebrigtsen and Perkovic shine

  • In a heady night of track and field at a packed Olympic Stadium, the raucous crowd went wild as unheralded home favorite Gina Lueckenkemper pulled off a shock by winning the women’s blue riband sprint
  • There was also drama in the decathlon as Germany’s Niklas Kaul snatched gold from Swiss rival Simon Ehammer on the back of a monstrous 76.05m in the javelin and a personal best of 4:10.04 in the strength-sapping final 1500m

MUNICH: Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs put an injury-ravaged season behind him to storm to gold in the 100m gold in the European Athletics Championships in Munich on Tuesday.

Jacobs, who was world indoor 60m champion in Belgrade in March, but withdrew before the semifinals of the 100m at last month’s world championships in Oregon, clocked a championship record-equalling time of 9.95 seconds.

Defending champion Zharnel Hughes claimed silver in 9.99sec with another Briton, Jeremiah Azu, taking bronze in 10.13.

“This was a difficult season with problems, with injury,” said the 27-year-old Italian, who has been beset by leg injuries and who competed with a heavily-strapped left calf in Munich.

“My leg is not good and I am not happy about how the race went technically, there were some problems.

“But I am over the moon with the gold medal. After Olympic gold, I’ve now got the European gold. I’ve got to get the world championship gold now.”

In a heady night of track and field at a packed Olympic Stadium, the raucous crowd went wild as unheralded home favorite Gina Lueckenkemper pulled off a shock by winning the women’s blue riband sprint.

The 25-year-old, who won 100m silver in the last European champs in Berlin in 2018 and 200m bronze in 2016, threw herself at the line to clock 10.99sec for a photo-finish victory over Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji.

Britain’s Daryll Neita took bronze with 11.00sec, while her teammate, defending champion Dina Asher-Smith, pulled up with injury halfway through the race and finished last.

A trio of proven performers had earlier showed off their prowess in perfect, balmy conditions, retaining their titles in no little style. 

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen celebrates winning the men’s 5000m final during the European Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. (AFP)

First up was Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who dominated the 5,000m to keep a repeat double bid on track.

The 21-year-old, crowned world champion over the distance at last month’s worlds in Eugene, timed 13min 21.13sec.

“I believe in myself and I believe in the things I have done before. It was amazing here today, it was a great race to be a part of,” said Ingebrigtsen.

“It feels great to be back and win, it is special.”

Greece’s defending long jump champion Miltiadis Tentoglou, the reigning Olympic and world indoor champion who won world silver in Eugene, then set a championship record to retain his Euro title.

The Greek soared out to 8.52m on his fourth attempt, bettering the previous best of 8.47m set by Germany’s Christian Reif in Barcelona in 2010. 

Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic during the women’s discus throw final at the European Athletics Championships. (AFP)

Then came the turn of the doyenne of the women’s discus, Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic.

The 32-year-old Croat left it late, going out to a winning 67.95 meters on her fifth attempt for gold.

It was a record sixth successive European title, the two-time Olympic and world champion having first won the continental competition in Barcelona in 2010.

“I just won my sixth European title here at this beautiful stadium in front of this amazing crowds, so I am so happy and proud tonight,” said Perkovic.

“I knew I was ready to do it and I think the fight was nice.”

There was also drama in the decathlon as Germany’s Niklas Kaul snatched gold from Swiss rival Simon Ehammer on the back of a monstrous 76.05m in the javelin and a personal best of 4:10.04 in the strength-sapping final 1500m.

After also registering 11.16sec in the 100m, 7.10m in the long jump, 14.90m in the shot put, 2.02m in the high jump, 47.87sec in the 400m, 14.45sec in the 110m hurdles and 41.80m in the discus, Kaul was left with 8,545 points.

Ehammer had to be happy with silver, just 77pts behind, while Estonia’s Janek Oiglane claimed bronze (8,346).


Kyrgios overcomes tricky Davidovich Fokina in Cincinnati opener

Updated 17 August 2022

Kyrgios overcomes tricky Davidovich Fokina in Cincinnati opener

  • The Australian marched through with 29 winners — including 10 aces — and three breaks of the Spaniard’s serve to reach the second round

CINCINNATI: Nick Kyrgios began the last major US Open tune-up with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Tuesday at the ATP/WTA Cincinnati Masters.
The Australian marched through with 29 winners — including 10 aces — and three breaks of the Spaniard’s serve to reach the second round.
The 28th-ranked Kyrgios has won all 11 of his first-round matches this season and won his 22nd match since returning to the ATP in June after skipping the clay season.
He now faces good friend Taylor Fritz after the American crushed Sebastian Baez 6-1, 6-1.
“Physically, I didn’t feel the best, but you have to keep pushing, keep trying,” Kyrgios said.
“Alejandro’s a hell of a player, he’s got a lot of shots at his disposal. I had to serve well and dictate,” the Montreal quarter-finalist aded.
“It was tricky conditions out there, the courts are a lot more lively than Montreal, it was harder to control the ball.”
Kyrgios took 50 minutes to secure the first set, wrapping it up after a break in the penultimate game with back-to-back serve winners.
He went up an early break to start the second set but lost it three games later as the dissatisfied Australian kept up a frustrated gripe session with his three-strong support box as Davidovich Fokina made it 2-2.
Kyrgios struck straight back with a love break to regain control 3-2 and ran out the winner in 91 minutes on his second match point.
It marked a happy return to Cincinnati for Kyrgios, who was fined a record $113,000 during a spectacular meltdown at the tournament in 2019 when he smashed two racquets in the locker room in a loss to Karen Khachanov.
Kyrgios acknowledged his turbulent history at the tournament after Tuesday’s win.
“I’ve played some amazing tennis here and had some crazy outbursts,” he said.
“It’s a flip of the coin as to which Kyrgios shows up here.
“Hopefully this time around it’s just a calm, collected — I just want to have a good week before I continue on the good habits and give myself all the best for preparation for the US Open.
“I have been an emotional kind of tennis player my entire career. Ever since I picked up a racquet, my mum used to watch me throw tantrums and cry on the court and be emotional when I lost.
“That’s just me showing that I do care about the result — I think that’s important.


Pakistan beats the Netherlands by 16 runs in 1st ODI

Updated 54 min 50 sec ago

Pakistan beats the Netherlands by 16 runs in 1st ODI

  • Pakistan overcame a slow start and early loss of an opener to beat the Netherlands
  • Opener Fakhar Zaman led the recovery with 109 runs in 109 balls, including 12 fours and a six

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: Pakistan overcame a slow start and early loss of an opener to beat the Netherlands by 16 runs in their first one-day international on Tuesday.

Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat first. Only at 3-0 after four overs, it got worse for the visitors at 10-1 in six overs following Vivian Kingma's maiden wicket which claimed Imam-ul-Haq (2) leg before wicket on referral by the Netherlands.

Opener Fakhar Zaman led the recovery with 109 runs in 109 balls, including 12 fours and a six, before he was run out. Zaman and captain Babar Azam (74 in 85) shared a 168-run partnership for the second wicket, and Shadab Khan later smashed a 28-ball 48 not out as Pakistan posted a challenging total of 314-6.

Dutch pacer Bas de Leede took 2-42 in 10 overs.

In reply, the Netherlands came close with 298-8. Dutch captain Scott Edwards was not out on 71 in 60 balls. Opener Vikramjit Singh and No. 5 Tom Cooper both hit 65 runs each. Cooper scored at a much faster pace, needing 54 deliveries for his 65 compared to 98 balls for Singh.

Pakistan pacers Haris Rauf (3-67) and Naseem Shah (3-51) did most of the damage.

The second of three ODI matches is at Rotterdam on Thursday.


Juventus newcomer Di Maria sidelined by thigh injury

Updated 16 August 2022

Juventus newcomer Di Maria sidelined by thigh injury

  • Di Maria scored the opening goal in Monday's 3-0 win over Sassuolo in his first game for his new club
  • Juventus said scans showed Di Maria had suffered a "low-grade lesion" to his left thigh

ROME: Argentina winger Angel Di Maria faces a spell on the sidelines after picking up a thigh injury on his Juventus debut, the Serie A club said on Tuesday.
Di Maria scored the opening goal in Monday’s 3-0 win over Sassuolo in his first game for his new club after his move from Paris Saint-Germain.
The 34-year-old also set up Dusan Vlahovic for the second of his two goals but was substituted midway through the second half.
Juventus said scans showed Di Maria had suffered a “low-grade lesion” to his left thigh, adding that the injury would be re-evaluated in 10 days.
He will miss at least the next two league games against Sampdoria and Roma.
Juventus were already without Paul Pogba, who hurt his knee on a pre-season trip to the US after rejoining the Turin club following six years with Manchester United.
The France midfielder is undergoing a course of “conservative therapy” and could return in mid-September.