Ukraine’s Yarmolenko will ‘not be rushed back’, say West Ham

West Ham United's Declan Rice holds a shirt in support of Andriy Yarmolenko and Ukraine before their Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at London Stadium on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 March 2022

Ukraine’s Yarmolenko will ‘not be rushed back’, say West Ham

  • The 32-year-old winger was not part of the Hammers' squad for Sunday's 1-0 Premier League win over Wolves
  • "We won't rush him," said the Hammers boss

LONDON: West Ham manager David Moyes said Tuesday he would not rush Andriy Yarmolenko back into action after the club gave the Ukraine international time off following the invasion of his country by Russia.
The 32-year-old winger was not part of the Hammers’ squad for Sunday’s 1-0 Premier League win over Wolves.
Moyes, whose side return to action on Wednesday with an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Southampton, said Yarmolenko had done some light training on Monday.
“We won’t rush him,” said the Hammers boss. “I’ve asked him to come in today and see how he feels. If he feels fine and up to it then he’ll travel with the team. If he doesn’t, then we’ll give him some more days off.
“Things can change very quickly but we’ll give him the chance to go with his own feelings.
“He’s really upset — he’s got lots of family members in Ukraine and friends and he’s worried for everybody and realizes the difficulty that’s going on, and he’s a long way away and can’t do an awful lot about it.”
There was a strong show of support for Yarmolenko and Ukraine before West Ham’s match on Sunday — the players warmed up in T-shirts displaying his name and Declan Rice led the side out carrying Yarmolenko’s number seven shirt.
“We speak to him (Yarmolenko) most days,” said Moyes. “I have to say the players at the club were great with him (on Monday), they tried to get him back in, integrate him and make sure he felt really welcome and that we were thinking about him and his family.
“But there’s very little we can do — we just have to try to support him as best we can.”
Moyes, whose side face Sevilla in the Europa League’s last 16 next week, said he agreed with the suspension of Russian teams from FIFA and UEFA competitions.
“Football is such a powerful tool all around the world,” he said. “I think it’s really important we take action and make sure they (Russia) are isolated completely. I’m not a politician, but that’s how I feel about the football side.”


Chennai wins Indian Premier League in stunning finish against Gujarat

Updated 30 May 2023

Chennai wins Indian Premier League in stunning finish against Gujarat

  • Chennai Super Kings beat defending champions Gujarat Titans in thrilling last-ball victory by five wickets
  • Mohammed Shami bowled a brilliant penultimate over, leaving Chennai needing 13 runs off six balls

AHMEDABAD: The Chennai Super Kings have won the Indian Premier League for a record-equaling fifth time with a last-ball, five-wicket victory over the defending champion Gujarat Titans.

Ravindra Jadeja plundered a six and a four from the last two deliveries against Mohit Sharma to help the Super Kings chase down a revised target of 171 runs in 15 overs.

The IPL needed three days to complete the final. It was washed out on Sunday, started late Monday and finished after 1:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday. But it was worth it.

Chennai was squeezed by medium-pacer Sharma in the last over and the equation got to 10 runs required off two balls. Sharma got his length wrong and Jadeja hit a straight six. Sharma then got his line wrong and Jadeja hit a four to fine leg to complete a stunning win.

“I was just thinking I need to swing hard, as much as I can," Jadeja said. “Where the ball will go, I was not thinking about that. I was backing myself and looking to hit straight, because I know Mohit can bowl those slower balls.”

Chennai's record-equaling fifth title also gave retiring batter Ambati Rayudu a sixth IPL title, tying him with Rohit Sharma as the league’s most successful players.

“It's a fairytale finish,” Rayudu said. “I'm fortunate to have played in really great sides. I can smile for the rest of my life.”

Gujarat was sent in to bat first and posted 214-4 — the highest ever total in an IPL final — highlighted by 96 from Sai Sudharsan.

Rain halted Chennai’s chase in the first over for nearly 2 1/2 hours, and reduced the target and length of the innings. Chennai needed every single ball to make a thrilling 171-5.

A fantastic launch was shared by openers Devon Conway, 47 off 25 balls, and Ruturaj Gaikwad, 26 off 16. They raised a half-century stand within the four-over powerplay, including 17 runs in legspinner Rashid Khan’s first over.

Spinner Noor Ahmad removed both openers in the same over but Chennai kept coming hard. Ajinkya Rahane added 27 off 13, and Rayudu struck Mohit Sharma for 6-4-6 in the 13th over before the bowler responded with consecutives wickets.

He took a return catch to dismiss Rayudu and had Chennai skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni caught at extra-cover for a first-ball duck. That left Shivam Dube, who scored an unbeaten 32 off 21, with Jadeja.

Dhoni, who has led the Chennai franchise since the start of the IPL, said he'd be prepared to continue after guiding the team to 10 finals.

“The easy thing for me to say is, ‘Thank you,’ and retire,” the 41-year-old former India captain said. "But the hard thing to do is to work hard for nine months and try to play one more IPL season. … The amount of love I have received from CSK fans, it would be a gift for them to play one more season.”

Mohammed Shami bowled a brilliant penultimate over, leaving Chennai needing 13 runs off six balls. Mohit Sharma, who ended up with 3-36, conceded just three runs off the first four deliveries until Jadeja's last-gasp heroics.

Earlier, Chennai’s early lapses in the field gave Gujarat momentum. Deepak Chahar missed catching chances against Shubman Gill and Wriddhiman Saha.

Gill, who top-scored in the tournament with 890 runs, made 39 off 20 before he was stumped by Dhoni. Saha made 54.

Sudharsan shared two half-century stands; 64 with Saha and 81 off 33 with Titans captain Hardik Pandya.

Sudharsan smashed eight boundaries and six sixes and dominated the late overs. He was in sight of a deserving century in the last over until pacer Matheesha Pathirana pinned him with a superb yorker.

“We tick a lot of boxes and we play with our heart,” Pandya said. “We’ve always been a team that has stood together and no one gave up. We win together and we lose together, maybe one of those games today.

“I’m very happy for (Dhoni). Destiny had this written for him. If I had to lose, I don’t mind losing to him. Good things happen to good people.”


Spalletti confirms he’s leaving Serie A champions Napoli and taking year off

Updated 30 May 2023

Spalletti confirms he’s leaving Serie A champions Napoli and taking year off

  • In his second season at Napoli, the 64-year-old Spalletti coached the team to their first Serie A title in 33 years
  • Former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrique is reportedly being considered to replace Spalletti, as is former Napoli coach Rafael Benitez

NAPLES, Italy: Luciano Spalletti has confirmed he is leaving Serie A champions Napoli and will not coach next season.

“I need to take a year off. I’m a bit tired and I want to be with my daughter Matilde,” Spalletti said on the sidelines of a transfer market symposium on Monday.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis revealed on RAI state TV on Sunday that Spalletti requested a sabbatical year.

“He’s a free man. After 50 years in the film business, when someone comes to you and says, ‘I’ve given my all, a part of my life is ending, I still have a contract with you but I would prefer to take a sabbatical year,’ what do you do? Do you stand in his way?” De Laurentiis posed. “You’ve got to be generous in life. … He’s given a lot and I thank him for that. Now it’s only fair that he does what he wants to do.”

In his second season at Napoli, the 64-year-old Spalletti coached the team to their first Serie A title in 33 years. They won with five rounds to spare.

Spalletti still has one more match with Napoli against Sampdoria on Sunday, after which the team will be presented with the Serie A trophy — their third in club history after Diego Maradona led the team to the 1987 and 1990 titles.

Spalletti becomes the second coach in three years to leave a team that has just won the league — after Antonio Conte parted ways with Inter Milan after the 2021 title.

Napoli sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli — the man who overhauled the squad by signing Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Kim Min-jae — is also reportedly leaving and could join rival Juventus.

The Serie A title was the one big trophy missing in Spalletti’s career after previously managing Roma and Inter Milan and winning the Russian league with Zenit St. Petersburg.

“Sometimes you leave someone you love,” Spalletti said. “A city like Naples deserves much more than the norm. … You’ve got to ask yourself if we’re still up to the task or not. And since I don’t think that will be the case, I’m taking a step back.”

Former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrique is reportedly being considered to replace Spalletti, as is former Napoli coach Rafael Benitez.


Alcaraz, Djokovic face brief trouble late in straight-set victories at French Open

Updated 30 May 2023

Alcaraz, Djokovic face brief trouble late in straight-set victories at French Open

  • Before the start of the tournament, Djokovic called Alcaraz the logical pick to take the trophy
  • Part of the group of past Grand Slam champions who won Monday were Stan Wawrinka and Sloane Stephens

PARIS: Pretty much everyone expects to see, and likely wants to see, Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic face each other in the French Open semifinals. There’s work to be done first, of course, and both began their journeys at Roland Garros with straight-set victories Monday against opponents making Grand Slam debuts.

These were supposed to be straightforward chances to ease into the clay-court tournament for the two popular picks to win the men’s trophy — and it turned out that way, other than a brief late blip for each.

Djokovic, a 22-time major champ seeded No. 3, was up first in Court Philippe Chatrier, facing 114th-ranked Aleksandar Kovacevic, a 24-year-old from New York.

Djokovic served for the victory at 5-4 in the third set but got broken there. Not surprisingly, he quickly righted himself and won 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (1).

“Made me work for my victory,” Djokovic said.

“I played really well and held things under control for 2 1/2 sets and then lost my serve and things got a little bit on a wrong side for me,” said the 36-year-old Serb, who can break the men’s mark for most Slam titles he currently shares with Rafael Nadal, the 14-time French Open winner sidelined by a bad hip. “But I managed to hold my nerves and played pretty much a perfect tiebreak.”

Next came Alcaraz, a one-time major champ seeded No. 1, in Court Suzanne Lenglen, facing 159th-ranked qualifier Flavio Cobolli, a 21-year-old from Florence, Italy.

Alcaraz held three match points to close things at 5-3 in the third set but couldn’t convert, then found himself at 5-all minutes later. Not surprisingly, he quickly righted himself and won 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

Before the start of the tournament, Djokovic called Alcaraz the logical pick to take the trophy, given his recent form on clay: 21-2 as of Monday, with three titles.

Hard to argue.

On the other hand, Djokovic also noted that he loves the best-of-five-set format of majors and not-so-accidentally mentioned the 22-1 gap in such championships.

Other seeded men advancing on Day 2 in Paris included No. 12 Frances Tiafoe, No. 14 Cam Norrie, No. 15 Borna Coric, No. 18 Alex de Minaur, No. 19 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 26 Denis Shapovalov. Among the seeded women moving into the second round: No. 5 Caroline Garcia, No. 14 Beatriz Haddad Maia, No. 20 Madison Keys and No. 22 Donna Vekic.

Seeds on the way out included No. 12 Belinda Bencic and No. 16 Karolina Pliskova in the women’s bracket and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 25 Botic Van de Zandschulp in the men’s.

Part of the group of past Grand Slam champions who won Monday were Stan Wawrinka and Sloane Stephens.

Wawrinka edged Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-7 (2), 1-6, 6-4 across more than 4 1/2 hours, while 2017 US Open title winner Stephens defeated two-time major finalist Pliskova 6-0, 6-4.

“One of the big reasons why I keep playing is to relive those emotions. It was special today again to be here, a lot of support, a lot of fans here. It helped me a lot today to stay in the match and to keep fighting for it,” said Wawrinka, a 38-year-old whose three major titles include the 2015 French Open but has dealt with a series of injuries in more recent years. “If I can stay five more minutes on court, I will do it.”


Mauricio Pochettino handed task of rebuilding Chelsea

Chelsea have hired Mauricio Pochettino as manager on a two-year deal with the option of another year.
Updated 29 May 2023

Mauricio Pochettino handed task of rebuilding Chelsea

  • The Argentine will take charge of a club that finished 12th in the Premier League
  • Pochettino's man-management skills will face a severe examination at Stamford Bridge

LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino is back in the Premier League with the tough task of putting the pieces back together after Chelsea's disastrous first season under their new ownership.
The Argentine will take charge of a club that finished 12th in the Premier League despite an eye-watering outlay of more than £550 million ($678 million) on new players under Todd Boehly's consortium.
Pochettino made his name in management by making the most of meagre resources at Espanyol, Southampton and particularly during a five-year stint at Tottenham.
Eighteen months at Paris Saint-Germain delivered the first silverware of the 51-year-old's career -- the Ligue 1 title and French Cup -- but he never appeared comfortable managing the egos of a star-studded squad before leaving in July 2022.
Pochettino's man-management skills will face a severe examination at Stamford Bridge as he tries to succeed where three managers have already failed under the new regime.
Thomas Tuchel, who led Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2021, was unceremoniously sacked by co-owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, of private equity firm Clearlake Capital, just seven games into this season.
At the time Chelsea sat sixth in the Premier League and few could have forseen the calamity that would follow the German's departure.
Graham Potter lasted less than seven months at Stamford Bridge, even though Chelsea paid more than £20 million to snatch the Englishman from Brighton.
Even worse was to follow as club great Frank Lampard returned as interim boss only to oversee six successive defeats in his first six matches.
All three bosses have faced the challenge of hands-on owners and a bloated squad.
Experienced defender Thiago Silva confirmed last month that the club had to extend the dressing room to accommodate a group of more than 30 players.
A major clearout is needed at the end of the season to give Pochettino a more manageable squad to work with and instill a team spirit that has been sorely lacking.
Chelsea's huge spending over the past 12 months may mean he has limited room for manoeuvre in the transfer market.
The Argentine faced a similar challenge at Tottenham, when the club punched above its weight to finish in the top four of the Premier League four times under his leadership.
The Blues' spending is under scrutiny due to financial fair play controls but much of their outlay was with one eye on the future.
Wesley Fofana, Benoit Badiashile, Enzo Fernandez, Mykhailo Mudryk, Carney Chukwuemeka, Noni Madueke, David Datro Fofana, Malo Gusto and Andrey Santos are all 22 or younger.
Chelsea have been ridiculed for putting some of those players on eight-year contracts, but the club's ownership are betting on Pochettino's record with young talent to prove them right.
He produced impressive results at Tottenham, helping turn young home-grown talents such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli into household names on a budget.
"I can't speak highly enough of him. He's a fantastic manager, a fantastic man," said England captain Kane, during their time together at Spurs.
"You just want to perform for him, work hard for him, win for him. He's very passionate. You can tell sometimes he wants to be out there himself, putting in tackles, running about.
"You respond to that. On nights like that, big occasions, you just want to do him justice."
Before appointing Pochettino, Spurs had only finished in the top four of English top-flight twice in 24 years.
He also inspired a run to the club's first-ever Champions League final in 2019 and Tottenham's struggles since his departure have led to a clamour from fans for his return.
Pochettino's reputation appears to be untarnished by his indifferent spell at PSG, given the French giants' struggles on and off the field this season.
Should he turn Chelsea's motley crew back into Premier League contenders, his status as one of the world's leading managers will be restored.

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ICC officials in Pakistan to secure participation in cricket World Cup in India

Updated 29 May 2023

ICC officials in Pakistan to secure participation in cricket World Cup in India

  • Bilateral cricket has been a casualty of soured relations between India and Pakistan over the last decade
  • India have declined to tour Pakistan for September's Asia Cup, want tournament be held in a neutral country

NEW DELHI: Senior International Cricket Council (ICC) officials have travelled to Pakistan to secure the country's participation in this year's 50-overs World Cup in India which has been in doubt for political reasons.

Bilateral cricket has been a casualty of the soured relations between India and Pakistan over the last decade and the neighbours play each other only in multi-team events at neutral venues.

India have declined to tour Pakistan for September's Asia Cup and want the entire tournament be held in a neutral country, which has prompted a tit-for-tat response from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Its chairman Najam Sethi told Reuters this month there was a "very real possibility" of Pakistan boycotting the World Cup in India should PCB's proposal to stage at least some Asia Cup matches on home soil not be accepted.

The PCB said in a statement ICC Chairman Greg Barclay and CEO Geoff Allardice would arrive in Lahore on Tuesday to meet Sethi and others cricket officials during their two-day visit.

"That's something that's obviously ongoing at the moment," ICC General Manager Wasim Khan told a virtual press conference on Monday when asked about Pakistan's participation in the World Cup.

"Geoff Allardice, our CEO, and Greg are in Pakistan at the moment discussing a number of areas with the PCB hierarchy.

"But that's certainly up to the two countries and the hierarchy within the ICC to discuss them and come to some conclusions," added former PCB CEO Khan.

Indian board secretary Jay Shah heads the Asian Cricket Council, which is likely to reveal the Asia Cup dates and venue this week.

Dates and venues for the World Cup, to be played in October-November, will be announced after the World Test Championship (WTC) final in London from June 7.