AFCON hosts Cameroon labor to beat Comoros side deprived of goalkeeper

Comoros’ midfielder Youssouf M’Changama celebrates his goal during the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 match against Cameroon, Stade d’Olembe, Yaounde, Jan. 24, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 25 January 2022

AFCON hosts Cameroon labor to beat Comoros side deprived of goalkeeper

  • Comoros had to play left-back Chaker Alhadhur between the posts in Yaounde
  • To add to their woes, they had captain Nadjim Abdou sent off after just seven minutes

YAOUNDÉ: Hosts Cameroon are through to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations but only after laboring to a 2-1 win over a Comoros side who were forced to start an outfield player in goal and played most of the game with 10 men.
The Comoros started with left-back Chaker Alhadhur between the posts in Yaounde after two of their three goalkeepers were ruled out due to Covid-19 while the other was missing due to injury.
They then had captain Nadjim Abdou sent off after just seven minutes, and Karl Toko-Ekambi put Cameroon in front before skipper Vincent Aboubakar netted his sixth goal of the tournament.
Despite that it was a heroic performance from the Comoros, who kept the tie alive until the end thanks to Youssouf M’Changama’s stunning late free-kick.
The Indomitable Lions keep their dream of winning the Cup of Nations on home soil alive as they advance to a last-eight tie against Gambia on Saturday, yet this was the Comoros’ night, despite the outcome.
The tiny Indian Ocean island nation qualified for the last 16 in their first ever appearance at the Cup of Nations after finishing as one of the best third-placed teams in the group stage.
However, their dream turned to a nightmare as a total of 12 players and staff tested positive for Covid-19 two days before the tie, including goalkeepers Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini.
Their other goalkeeper, Salim Ben Boina, was injured but they had hoped Ahamada would be able to start after he tested negative on the day of the game.
The 30-year-old Ahamada flew from Garoua, where he had been isolating, to Yaounde on Monday afternoon in the hope of being able to play, only for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to decide otherwise as his positive result had come just two days earlier.
Alhadhur, a reserve left-back for French Ligue 2 side Ajaccio, wore the gloves, with tape used to mark out his number three on the back of his goalkeeper’s jersey.
It was a farcical scene, and the Comoros’ plight worsened when Abdou was shown a straight red card for a foul on Moumi Ngamaleu after the Ethiopian referee went to review images of his challenge.
Rather than give up, the Comoros kept going and they only fell behind in the 29th minute when Aboubakar teed up Toko-Ekambi to slot home.
The islanders, whose coach Amir Abdou was among those missing after testing positive, almost equalized shortly after as Ahmed Mogni forced Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana into a fine save.
Aboubakar had a second-half effort disallowed for offside before making it 2-0 with 20 minutes left, finishing excellently after being picked out by Martin Hongla.
Yet there was no collapse from the Comoros, who pulled one back courtesy of M’Changama’s piledriver from 35 meters and go out with their heads held high.


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.


Asian pole vault king Obiena sets SEA Games record

Updated 16 May 2022

Asian pole vault king Obiena sets SEA Games record

  • Obiena eclipsed his own previous Southeast Asian Games record 5.45m he set in winning gold in 2019
  • The 26-year-old Filipino is ranked sixth-best men’s pole vaulter in the world

HANOI, Vietnam: Asia’s top pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena set his sights on the World Athletics Championships in July after retaining his SEA Games title by easily clearing a Games-record 5.46m on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Filipino, ranked the sixth-best men’s pole vaulter in the world, eclipsed his own previous Southeast Asian Games record 5.45m he set in winning gold in 2019.
But in hazy conditions at My Dinh National Stadium in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Obiena fell short of bettering his Asian-record 5.93m.
“I wanted to beat the Asian record. You never know how many chances I get, I wanted, I really wanted it today,” he told reporters afterwards, having failed three times at 5.94m.
But he was nevertheless feeling “positive” about the World Championships in Oregon in two months’ time.
“The first battle is I need to make sure I get in there. (First) I get selected to compete and the next one is perform well,” said Obiena, who was joint 11th at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
“That’s why I’m here. I’m preparing.”


Celtics eliminate NBA defending champion Bucks in Game 7

Updated 16 May 2022

Celtics eliminate NBA defending champion Bucks in Game 7

  • Boston face top seeds Miami in game one of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday, in a rematch of their 2020 series

BOSTON: Grant Williams scored 27 points as the Boston Celtics eliminated the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday with a 109-81 game seven victory in their NBA Eastern Conference series.
Celtics forward Williams produced a deadly display of scoring from three-point range at the TD Garden as Boston advanced to a conference finals showdown with the Miami Heat with a 4-3 series win.
Williams’s red-hot shooting from beyond the arc was emblematic of Boston’s superiority from the field as the Bucks missed a slew of wide open looks.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 25 points 20 rebounds and nine assists for Milwaukee.
But the Celtics’ three-point shooting accuracy proved the difference between the two teams as Boston completed a comeback from 3-2 down in the best-of-seven series.
Boston dropped 22 of 55 from downtown, in stark contrast to Milwaukee, who converted just four of 33 attempts from beyond the arc.
Williams led the three-point blitzkrieg with seven threes in his 27-point haul. Jayson Tatum made five-of-nine threes to finish with 23 points.

Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics in action during Game Seven of their semifinals playoff against the Milwaukee Bucks on May 15, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Getty Images/AFP)

Payton Pritchard also got in on the act, with four three-pointers from the bench in a tally of 14 points.
Only one Milwaukee player — Bobby Portis — made multiple three-pointers. Portis finished with two in his 10-point haul.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka revealed he had encouraged Williams to shoot more aggressively, suggesting the Bucks had “disrespected” the forward by allowing him so much room to operate.
“I told him let it fly. I said ‘They’re disrespecting you more tonight than earlier in the series,’” Udoka said.
“He missed a few and got hesitant and I basically said ‘shoot the ball, what else can you do?’“
Williams said he was only too happy to accept the challenge from Udoka and the rest of his Celtics team-mates.
“Everyone kept saying ‘Let it fly, keep shooting’. So I thought ‘All right, they’re encouraging it, might as well take advantage.’ As time went on each one got more comfortable. It was fun. It was just great that we got a win,” Williams said.
“I’ve worked on my shot enough to be confident enough to knock those down.
“My team-mates know that if I get 18 looks I’ll make 40 percent of them at least. It was just a matter of continuing to do what we wanted to do and keep getting those open looks.
“We hadn’t put a full game together this entire series. So we said, why not now? We just did what we were supposed to do.”
Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer made no excuses for the defeat, saying Boston had been the better team over the series.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Budenholzer said. “We’ve had a lot of success together, and tonight we hit a wall and met our end.”
Boston face top seeds Miami in game one of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday in a rematch of their 2020 series.
Miami won that series 4-2 to advance to the NBA Finals.


Penalty save denies City victory, keeps Premier League title race alive

Updated 15 May 2022

Penalty save denies City victory, keeps Premier League title race alive

  • City are now four points clear of Liverpool, who head to Southampton on Tuesday needing at least a point to take the title race to the final day
  • Leeds scored in the second minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw against Brighton and move out of the relegation zone

LONDON: A dramatic penalty save might have kept the Premier League title race alive.
When Riyad Mahrez stepped up to take an 86th-minute spot kick for Manchester City, he knew that converting it would virtually secure another league championship for his team.
It was saved, though, by West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and City had to settle for a 2-2 draw at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday — albeit from 2-0 down at halftime — to leave Liverpool still with hope.
City are now four points clear of Liverpool, who head to Southampton on Tuesday needing at least a point to take the title race to the final round next Sunday.
A win is probably required at Southampton, though, given City have a superior goal difference of 7 compared to Liverpool.
City finish at home to Aston Villa, managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, who was never able to win the league for Liverpool. He still could — but as a coach.
Liverpool host Wolverhampton in their last game.
City manager Pep Guardiola hardly flinched when Fabianski dived to his left and clawed away Mahrez’s penalty. After a few seconds, Guardiola scratched the side of his head and rubbed his face, and didn’t appear too disheartened at the final whistle as he shared an embrace with Mark Noble — West Ham’s long-serving midfielder who is retiring at the end of the season and was making his final home appearance for the club.
Mahrez had converted his previous seven penalties this season. His most high-profile miss from the spot was in the 2018-19 season — another City vs. Liverpool title race — when he skied a penalty late in the game in a 0-0 draw at Anfield.
It’s just as tense at the other end of the standings.
Leeds scored in the second minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw against Brighton and move out of the relegation zone at Burnley’s expense.
Pascal Struijk headed in the goal for Jesse Marsch’s Leeds, though it owed so much to a brilliant piece of skill on the byline by Joe Gelhardt before he crossed the ball over to Struijk to score at the back post.
Burnley lost 1-0 at Tottenham a few hours earlier — Harry Kane scored the winner from the penalty spot — and lie in third-to-last place, one point behind Leeds.
Burnley do have two games remaining while Leeds have one.
Everton will be safe from relegation by beating Brentford later Sunday.
Watford’s season is coming to a messy end under departing manager Roy Hodgson, a 5-1 home loss to Leicester leaving his team a point above last-place Norwich, who drew 1-1 at Wolves.
Norwich and Watford have already been relegated.
Aston Villa and Crystal Palace drew 1-1.
The race for Champions League qualification is also heading for the final day, too, with Tottenham climbing into fourth place — two points ahead of north London rivals Arsenal.
Arsenal have two games remaining compared to Tottenham’s one, the first coming at Newcastle on Monday.


Former test cricketer Andrew Symonds dies in auto accident

Updated 15 May 2022

Former test cricketer Andrew Symonds dies in auto accident

  • Symonds has been described as ‘a cult hero’ and a ‘larger-than-life figure’ with a widespread fan base
  • Among his best innings was an unbeaten 143 from 125 balls against Pakistan at the 2003 World Cup

SYDNEY: Former Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds, who has died after a single-vehicle auto accident, was a big-hitting allrounder who built a credible test career and was an exemplar of Australian sport’s prized larrikin tradition. He was 46.
“Australian cricket has lost another of its very best. Andrew was a generational talent who was instrumental in Australia’s success at World Cups and as part of Queensland’s rich cricket history,” Cricket Australia chairman Lachlan Henderson said in a statement Sunday. “He was a cult figure to many (and) was treasured by his fans and friends.”
Cricket Australia reported details of Symonds’ death on its website, citing a police statement with details of the accident late Saturday night near the northeastern city of Townsville, Queensland state.
It described Symonds as “a cult hero” and a “larger-than-life figure who drew a widespread fan base during his peak years for not only his hard-hitting ways but his larrikin persona.”
Symonds’ wife, Laura, told the Courier-Mail newspaper that the family was in shock.
“He was such a big person and there is just so much of him in his kids,” she said.
Tall, broad-shouldered and dreadlocked, his face daubed in zinc cream, Symonds had an imposing physical presence. He was born in Birmingham, England to a father believed to be of Afro-Caribbean heritage. His adoptive parents moved to Australia when he was an infant.
Symonds was able to hit the ball exceptionally hard and some coaches early in his career dismissed him only as a big-hitter whose untempered appetite for sixes would limit his progress.
But he also could bowl sharp medium pace and off breaks and was an athletic fielder who was able to build a credible test career.
Symonds played 26 test matches for Australia from 2004-2008, posting two centuries, but he was better known as a limited-overs specialist. He played 198 one-day internationals for Australia and won World Cup titles in 2003 and 2007.
The 2007-2008 season was his most prolific in test cricket and was capped by a superb innings of 162 against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
It was the same year he famously felled a naked pitch invader during a one-day international against India at the Gabba ground in Brisbane, hitting him with a rugby-style shoulder charge.
He explained years later that he’d been raised not to take a backward step.
“In the heat of competition there’s a lot of adrenaline and when someone interrupts the match like that it can be frustrating,” he said.
Symonds was a fan of rugby league, and Australia’s National Rugby League planned to hold a minute of silence as a tribute to the cricket star ahead of its match Sunday between the North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers in Brisbane.
In one-day internationals, among his best innings was an unbeaten 143 from 125 balls against Pakistan at the 2003 World Cup when he was far from established in the Australian team. Australia went on to win the tournament.
After retiring as a player, Symonds became a popular commentator for cricket broadcasts.
Former Australian captain Allan Border said Symonds “hit the ball a long way and just wanted to entertain.
“He was, in a way, a little bit of an old-fashioned cricketer,” Border told the Nine Network. “He was an adventurer, loved his fishing, he loved hiking, camping. People liked his very laid-back style.”
Symonds famously attended an early contract meeting with Australian Cricket chief executive Malcolm Speed bare-footed and wearing a cowboy hat. He retained that disdain for convention throughout his career and that was part of his appeal to fans.
But he increasingly came into conflict with authority late in his career. In 2008 he missed Australia’s one-day series against Bangladesh after going fishing when he was required to attend a team meeting. He also was disciplined prior to the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup for breaching team rules around alcohol.
Early in his career he was a close friend and confederate of Michael Clarke who went on to become Australia captain. The pair fell out when Clarke denounced aspects of Symonds’ conduct and Symonds publicly criticized Clarke’s leadership.
“Some former teammates will take his side, and feed his conviction that I let him down and put ambition ahead of mateship,” Clarke wrote in his autobiography My Story. “I would say that he let me down too — that if he had understood mateship as a two-way street, he would have seen that I had to do what was right for the whole team.”
Symonds’ loss is another bitter blow for Australian cricket after the death in Thailand in March of legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne. Wicketkeeper Rod Marsh also died in March aged 74.