Ivory Coast send reigning champions Algeria crashing out of Cup of Nations

An Algerian supporter waves his country’s flag as he invades the pitch after Algeria’s Group E Africa Cup of Nations match against Ivory Coast at Stade de Japoma in Douala on Thursday. (AFP)
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Updated 20 January 2022

Ivory Coast send reigning champions Algeria crashing out of Cup of Nations

  • Franck Kessie and Ibrahim Sangare scored in the first half for the Elephants in Douala
  • Riyad Mahrez hit the post with a second-half penalty before Sofiane Bendebka pulled one back for Algeria

DOUALA: The Ivory Coast crushed an abject Algeria 4-1 on Thursday with Nicolas Pepe among the scorers as the reigning champions crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations in the group stage.
Franck Kessie and Ibrahim Sangare scored in the first half for the Elephants in Douala, while Pepe and Sebastien Haller added further goals after the break as the Ivory Coast secured top spot in Group E.
Riyad Mahrez hit the post with a second-half penalty before Sofiane Bendebka pulled one back for Algeria with their first goal since arriving in Cameroon, but by then it was too late.
It is the fifth time in the last six Cups of Nations that the reigning champions have failed to make the AFCON knockout phase, but there has arguably never been a worse title defense.
Djamel Belmadi’s side came to Cameroon on an unbeaten run stretching back over three years but they were held by Sierra Leone in their opening match and then lost to Equatorial Guinea to suffer a first defeat in 36 matches.
Algeria would have qualified for the last 16 with a win against an Ivory Coast side already guaranteed their place in the knockout rounds, but that never looked like a possibility.
Their demise was lapped up by the fans at the Japoma Stadium in Cameroon’s economic capital, with the 50,000-capacity ground filling up as the game went on.
By the time the match was over it looked like fans had taken up more seats than the 60 percent capacity limit imposed as part of coronavirus restrictions, and many invaded the pitch in chaotic scenes of celebration.
The Ivory Coast clearly had the backing of the crowd and they will stay in Douala for a heavyweight last-16 tie next week against Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in a repeat of the 2006 final won by the Pharaohs.
Equatorial Guinea go through in second place in Group E after defeating Sierra Leone 1-0 in Limbe thanks to a superb first-half strike from Pablo Ganet.
Kei Kamara missed a penalty for Sierra Leone as they go out while Equatorial Guinea will stay in Limbe for a last-16 tie against whoever wins Group F between Gambia, Tunisia and Mali.
The Ivorians had conceded a stoppage-time equalizer in their last game to draw 2-2 with Sierra Leone following a comical mistake by goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare.
He then learned of the death of his father later that night, but he kept his place in an Elephants team missing Premier League pair Eric Bailly and Wilfried Zaha due to fitness problems.
They went ahead midway through the first half at the end of a great move as Pepe cut the ball back for Kessie to finish low into the corner.
It was 2-0 six minutes before the interval as the unmarked Sangare headed in a Serge Aurier free-kick.
Algeria did not come out fighting after the restart and they might have fallen further behind before Pepe finished superbly in the 54th minute to make it 3-0.
Mahrez then hit the upright on the hour mark from a spot-kick awarded for a soft foul on Youcef Belaili.
They did get a first goal in over four hours of football when Aissa Mandi turned the ball back across goal for substitute Bendebka to score in the 73rd minute, before Haller headed home at the death to compound their misery.


Rahm tells Spanish teen tennis star to embrace routine

Updated 18 May 2022

Rahm tells Spanish teen tennis star to embrace routine

  • Rahm’s advice was to stay with his regimen and work habits even if tempted to make changes in the wake of early success

TULSA, OKLAHOMA: Reigning US Open golf champion Jon Rahm of Spain has some advice for teen tennis star compatriot Carlos Alcaraz — embrace the routine and put in the work.

World No. 2 Rahm praised the 19-year-old Spanish sensation on Monday as he prepared for Thursday’s start of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

Alcaraz, who won his first ATP title in March at Miami, captured his second earlier this month at Madrid, defeating 20-time Grand Slam winners Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic plus third-ranked Alexander Zverev on his way to the crown and a jump to sixth in the world rankings.

“Pretty impressive, especially in the world of tennis. He’s got some big shoes to fill,” Rahm said.

“Historically Spain has had great tennis players, and with Rafa out there it can be probably daunting yet really exciting too for somebody like him.

“He has got a great start. Hopefully he can keep it going and be a great champion.”

Rahm’s advice was to stay with his regimen and work habits even if tempted to make changes in the wake of early success.

“Believe in yourself and keep working, I would probably tell him,” Rahm said.

“You see a lot of people... they win a major championship and they decide they need to change things because they need it to get better.

“There’s a reason he’s gotten to this point. Just keep using that routine and keep getting better. Don’t need to do a complete 180 flip. Just keep believing in yourself, keep practicing and keep training and results will come.”

Rahm has done that this week in the hope he can add to his major title haul, which began last June at Torrey Pines.

The 27-year-old Spaniard comes in off a victory two weeks ago at the Mexico Open, Rahm’s seventh career US PGA triumph and first since last year’s US Open.

“I don’t know if I needed more confidence, but a win is a win. It was a good one,” Rahm said.

“Hadn’t had my best year so far. I had a couple of really good finishes, but since Torrey, I wasn’t really relevant on the leaderboard, so it was nice to be up there and get the win.”

Rahm says tee shots will be crucial to attack the course this week, but Southern Hills will test all facets of his game.

“If you’re in the rough, you might not be able to be aggressive toward the pins,” Rahm said. “You have to hit a lot of fairways out here.

“Everything needs to be good. Iron game, short game, putting, driving, everything — otherwise something really will have to excel for something else to be lacking.”


Medvedev rules himself out for French Open crown after loss in return from injury

Updated 18 May 2022

Medvedev rules himself out for French Open crown after loss in return from injury

  • Medvedev went under the knife after losing in the quarterfinals in Miami, meaning the Geneva loss was his only clay-court match ahead of Paris

GENEVA: World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday ruled himself out as a title contender at next week’s French Open after losing his first match back after an hernia operation.

The US Open champion, who underwent surgery last month, was beaten 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) by French veteran Richard Gasquet in the Geneva Open round of 16.

Medvedev said it was hard to look beyond Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as favorites to win the second Grand Slam of the year and said he would work further on sharpening up his game in the remaining days before Paris.

“I don’t play my best tennis on clay courts. I know that I’m capable of making some good results, as I did in the past. But for this I kind of need to be in the zone,” Medvedev told reporters.

“I don’t feel as confident on clay as on other surfaces, that’s why I lost 7/5 in the tiebreak finishing with a double fault. It’s disappointing but I’ve had tougher losses in my career.

“Physically I felt not bad. With more days of practice I should be ready for Roland Garros.”

The 26-year-old Russian reached the 2021 French Open quarterfinals.

“I haven’t played for a month and a half, two months. I’m going to try to work both physically and tennis-wise and hopefully I can find the game I had there last year — which is not going to be easy,” he said.

Medvedev went under the knife after losing in the quarterfinals in Miami, meaning the Geneva loss was his only clay-court match ahead of Paris.

“Clay for my body is the most dangerous surface. For me it’s clay courts — every time, every year I have some problems where I cannot be 100 percent,” he said.

“I’m not a favorite for Roland-Garros but I do want to play well. If I can find my level again, I can be dangerous.”

It was the first time 35-year-old Gasquet had defeated a top two player since beating Roger Federer in 2005 — his only other victory over a top-two opponent in 38 attempts.

“It’s a great victory for me and it’s incredible for me to win against Daniil, even if he’s coming back from injuries,” Gasquet said.

“It’s a great moment and that’s why I still continue to play and try to do well.”

The former world No. 7, who underwent hernia surgery himself in 2019, was surprised by the speed of Medvedev’s comeback.

“The first match after surgery it’s always difficult, so I knew it was tough for him but I know how good he is,” he said.

“He has come back quickly because two months off is not a lot after an operation. It’s impressive. It will take time for him to get back to his best.”

The world No. 75 faces Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Last year’s Geneva winner Casper Ruud, runner-up Denis Shapovalov and Reilly Opelka are the top 20 players still in the draw.


Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1, title race goes to the wire

Updated 18 May 2022

Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1, title race goes to the wire

  • The victory leaves Jurgen Klopp’s team a point behind Manchester City heading into the final round of a thrilling league campaign
  • Liverpool were 14 points behind City at one point in January, albeit with two games in hand

SOUTHAMPTON, England: The Premier League title race is going to the wire. Remarkably, an unprecedented quadruple is still on for Liverpool.

Tired and hit by injuries after winning the FA Cup final on Saturday, Liverpool fielded a second-choice lineup against Southampton and demonstrated a great mentality to come from behind to win 2-1 on Tuesday.

It leaves Jurgen Klopp’s team a point behind Manchester City heading into the final round of a thrilling league campaign. That’s on Sunday, when Liverpool are at home to Wolverhampton at the same time as City host Aston Villa — managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard.

“Whatever happens this season, we have done ourselves proud,” Liverpool midfielder James Milner said. “All we could do is take it to the last game and we’ve done that.”

City remain the favorite in their bid for a sixth league title in 11 seasons, but Liverpool have done their part by taking the defending champions all the way.

In fact, the Reds are taking every competition to the final game this season, with a Champions League final against Real Madrid still to come on May 28. They’ve already won both domestic cups in a season for the ages.

Joel Matip completed Liverpool’s latest comeback by unwittingly heading home the winning goal in the 67th minute at St. Mary’s Stadium.

Klopp’s team had also come from behind in its previous two league games, a 2-1 win against Villa and a 1-1 draw with Tottenham. It just doesn’t know when it is beaten.

“We keep going,” Klopp said. “We never give up. That’s how it is.”

The game came only three days after Liverpool’s energy-sapping FA Cup triumph over Chelsea, which went 120 minutes before the Reds won a penalty shootout. Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk were injured at Wembley Stadium and didn’t travel to Southampton. Fabinho was already injured. Andrew Robertson and Luis Diaz were unused substitutes.

Despite the slew of changes, Liverpool dominated a passive Southampton team with nothing left to play for this season but still fell behind in the 13th minute when Nathan Redmond cut inside from the left and sent in a shot that deflected off Milner and into the far corner.

Liverpool’s players kept their composure and replied 14 minutes later when Diogo Jota laid the ball off to Takumi Minamino, who displayed quick feet before firing a rising shot inside Alex McCarthy’s near post. The Japan forward was on loan at Southampton last season and hadn’t started a league game since then.

The rest of the match saw Liverpool camped inside Southampton’s half but only managing to create half-chances. The atmosphere was starting to get tense when Liverpool was gifted what proved to be the winning goal, after a corner by Kostas Tsimikas was glanced on at the near post by Southampton forward Mohamed Elyounoussi.

The ball flew across the area, skimmed off the head of Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters, hit the forehead of Matip and rebounded into the far corner beyond McCarthy’s despairing dive.

Liverpool were 14 points behind City at one point in January, albeit with two games in hand. Somehow, the title is still within reach with 90 minutes left to play. And Gerrard, who never won the league with Liverpool as a player, could yet have a decisive role in helping his former team win it this time.

“If we said in January it would go to the last game, we would have taken that,” Liverpool manager Jordan Henderson said. “Hopefully Stevie and Villa do us a favor.”


More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games

Updated 17 May 2022

More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games

  • Day of action resulted in podium finishes in athletics, swimming and shooting

The second day of the GCC Games taking place in Kuwait proved fruitful for the Saudi contingent with several more podium finishes in the athletics, swimming and shooting categories.

Saudi sprinter Mohammed Al-Maawi took silver medal in the 400 meter hurdles competition with a time of 50.6 seconds, while his colleague Moadh Al-Saad came in third place with a time of 53.34 seconds to secure the bronze.

On another day of fine results for Saudi’s athletes, Hassan Doshi claimed a gold medal in the triple jump competition with a distance of 16 meters, while teammate Mohammed Al-Yami came in fourth place with a distance of 14.61 meters.

Meanwhile, Osama Al-Aqili won the bronze medal in the discus with a throw of 51.97 meters.

The Saudi women’s 4×100 relay team missed out on a medal after finishing fourth in the final with a time of 53.52 seconds.

In the 10 meter Air Pistol competition, Saudi’s Atallah Al-Anzi snatched the gold medal at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Olympic Shooting Complex, and that was followed with silver for Abdul Aziz Al-Anzi in the 50 meter Rifle category.

In the men’s swimming competitions, Ahmed Al-Hashem took bronze in the 1500 meter freestyle, while the Saudi team came third place in the 4x100m medley relay race, securing bronze medals for Al-Hashem, Mohammed Al-Muhr, Youssef Buarish and Ali Al-Issa.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Saudi Arabian men’s basketball team went down 67-63 to the United Arab Emirates.

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Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash

Updated 16 May 2022

Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash

  • Both clubs have huge fan bases, and tens of thousands are expected to swarm into southern Spain this week to try to see their team succeed again

LONDON: Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers will get a chance to end decades of despair when they meet in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

For Frankfurt, it will be an opportunity to win their first European trophy in more than 40 years. For Rangers, a chance for their first continental title in 50 years.

Triumph in the second-tier competition in the Spanish city of Seville will also guarantee the winner an automatic spot in the group stage of next season’s Champions League.

“For Eintracht, for the fans, for the club, for the players, (winning again after 42 years) would be the most important thing ever,” Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner told UEFA.com. “It has extraordinary significance, great significance, and that’s why we’re going to try our best so that we come home with the trophy and spend one or two nights celebrating with our fans.”

It will be Frankfurt’s first European final since beating Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1980 in an all-German matchup in the UEFA Cup, the predecessor to the Europa League.

Rangers were close to European glory when they played in the UEFA Cup final in 2008, but they lost to Zenit St. Petersburg. The Scottish club is looking for their first European trophy since earning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972.

Both clubs have huge fan bases, and tens of thousands are expected to swarm into southern Spain this week to try to see their team succeed again, prompting concern from local authorities and UEFA.

There had been fan violence involving visiting fans in Seville when local clubs Sevilla and Real Betis hosted matches earlier in the competition. Before the semifinals between Frankfurt and West Ham in Germany, more than 30 arrests were made after supporters of both clubs clashed in several locations in Frankfurt.

Fans of the German club also attracted headlines when more than 30,000 made their way into the Camp Nou in Barcelona for the second leg of the quarterfinals.

UEFA has asked for fans without tickets not to travel to Spain for Wednesday’s final, and warned about the dangers of purchasing tickets on the secondary market.

More than 40,000 seats will be available at Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium, but only about 10,000 tickets were allocated to each club. Seville city officials planned to open fan zones to accommodate those not able to make it to the game.

The match will pit two physical and high-intensity teams with impressive runs to the final.

Rangers, led by captain and top scorer James Tavernier, lost their first two group games but eventually gained momentum. It will be boosted by having already eliminated two German clubs — Borussia Dortmund in the first knockout round and Leipzig in the semifinals.

“When you’re in the knockout stages, it’s all or nothing, and the character of my players has been outstanding,” said Rangers coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who was hired in November after Steven Gerrard joined Aston Villa. “To be able to win against those strong opponents is really good, so we have the character to play this final, we have the qualities, and we also have the belief. That’s the most important thing, to have the belief that you can achieve.”

Frankfurt, led by veteran goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, made it to the final unbeaten after eliminating some strong opponents — Real Betis in the round of 16, Barcelona in the quarterfinals and West Ham in the semifinals. Frankfurt are trying to become the third unbeaten team to win the title in the Europa League era, after Chelsea in 2019 and Villarreal in 2021.

“Every team that gets to the final has earned it because it’s a long road. You have to win a lot of matches,” Glasner said. “Rangers eliminated two top teams from the Bundesliga over two legs. That shows they’re very good and also shows they’re well equipped for German football, so I’m expecting a very even, hard-fought contest.”

The last encounter between the two clubs was painful for Rangers. The Scottish club conceded six goals in each of the two legs of the European Cup semifinals in 1960, being deprived of an opportunity to play a home final in Glasgow. Frankfurt went on to lose the final to Real Madrid 7-3.

Frankfurt have not made it back to Europe’s top club competition since that final, while Rangers made their last appearance in the group stage of the Champions League in the 2010-11 season.

The last time the UEFA Cup final was played in Seville, in 2003, Rangers’ Scottish rival Celtic lost the title to José Mourinho-coached Porto.