Liverpool, Manchester City take first-leg lead in Champions League clashes

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Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Champions League quarterfinal footbal match against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain. (Reuters)
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Liverpool's Luis Diaz scores his side's third goal during the Champions League quarterfinal first leg football match between Benfica and Liverpool at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 06 April 2022

Liverpool, Manchester City take first-leg lead in Champions League clashes

  • Both City and Atletico have reached the Champions League final but have never lifted the trophy
  • Benfica, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 after eliminating Ajax in the last 16

MANCHESTER, LISBON: Kevin De Bruyne scored the only goal to give Manchester City a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday.

After a tight 70 minutes, City finally found their way through Atletico’s tough rearguard helped by Phil Foden's vision. Just 79 seconds after coming off the bench, Foden slid in a fine throughball and De Bruyne raced through to fire in a low shot from a tight angle.

“We knew it was going to be pretty tough to create some opportunities,” De Bruyne said. “The first half was tight, but we didn’t give anything away and in the second half had a couple of chances. It was good that we took one.”

Both City and Atletico have reached the Champions League final but have never lifted the trophy.

Atletico played their usual cagey game as coach Diego Simeone had promised.

The first half was played at a slow tempo with City controlling most of the ball but, despite having all of its outfield players in the final third at times, being unable to create openings.

De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo both had efforts deflected wide and Aymeric Laporte missed the target with a header.

Ilkay Gundogan shot well over and Rodri had a long-range effort blocked before De Bruyne had a penalty appeal turned down and John Stones also missed.

“It is very hard," De Bruyne said. “They played almost five at the back and five in midfield, it is very hard to find the spaces.”

It was not until the second half that the hosts tried to inject more pace into their play. That did open the game up slightly and Atletico almost capitalized with a couple of breaks from deep. Antoine Griezmann wasted one opening with a poor pass and Marcos Llorente chipped tamely at goalkeeper Ederson from another.

However, City also began to threaten more as Gundogan had an effort deflected wide and Laporte went close with a header.

City appealed for another penalty for a push by Reinildo on Sterling but it was not given. That proved Sterling’s final involvement as manager Pep Guardiola took him off in the move that changed the game.

Foden, who came on alongside Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, teed up De Bruyne for the goal.

Foden created another chance for De Bruyne soon after following a tricky run to the byline but this time Atletico had enough players back to block.

“The way we played was good because we didn’t give anything away,” De Bruyne said. “You need to be calm and patient, try to find the balls and the spaces because they were compact.”

Diaz stars on return to Portugal in Liverpool's victory

It just had to be Luis Diaz.

The Colombia winger was the last player Benfica supporters inside the atmospheric Estádio da Luz wanted to see race onto a throughball and produce an emphatic finish to complete a 3-1 win for Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.

After all, Diaz was playing for Porto, Benfica’s big rival in Portugal, until he was signed by Liverpool in January. No wonder he was whistled by home fans — and even targeted with objects thrown from the stands — as he wheeled away in celebration following his crucial third goal in the 87th minute.

It was a brilliantly taken goal, too, as Diaz latched onto Naby Keita’s deflected pass that split Benfica's defense before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting his finish into the unguarded net from a tight angle.

“He got a nice reception, didn't he?” Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson said, smiling. “It was a good finish for him and a really important goal for us. It gives us a two-goal cushion, which makes a difference.”

Diaz, who was jeered whenever he touched the ball, played a big part in Liverpool’s second goal, too, when he nodded down a pinpoint long pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold to allow Sadio Mane to tap home from close range in the 34th. That built on Liverpool’s opener scored by Ibrahima Konaté — the center back’s first for the club — off an outswinging corner from Robertson in the 17th minute.

Benfica, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 after eliminating Ajax in the last 16, could easily have been further behind by halftime as Liverpool pressed high and was much sharper with its passing. But the hosts took the game more to the six-time European champions in the second half and Uruguay striker Darwin Núñez capitalized on a mistake by Konaté to pull a goal back in the 49th.

Konaté blotted what was otherwise a strong defensive display by failing to clear Rafa Silva's cross from the right. The ball went through his legs and landed at the feet of Núñez, who took a couple of touches and delivered a composed, sidefooted finish beyond the sprawling Konaté and into the bottom corner.

There were a few more rocky moments for Liverpool — in one of them, goalkeeper Alisson Becker was almost dispossessed on the edge of his area by Silva — before Diaz’s strike ensured Jurgen Klopp’s team would clinch a fifth straight win in all competitions.

“Coming here and winning an away game in the Champions League is tough," Klopp said. “Benfica fought for their lives. We gave them a little bit too much but they deserved the goal as well."

Still, the Reds passed the latest test in their bid for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies, with the semifinals now in sight. They have already won the English League Cup, are in the semifinals of the FA Cup, and are one point behind leader Manchester City in the Premier League.

Klopp even took the option of bringing off star attackers Mane and Mohamed Salah in the 61st minute, perhaps with the league showdown against City on Sunday in mind.

City also will go into that game on the back of a win in Tuesday's other quarterfinal, 1-0 over Atletico Madrid.

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England remove centurions Shafique and Haq as Pakistan reach 298-3

Updated 6 sec ago

England remove centurions Shafique and Haq as Pakistan reach 298-3

  • Will Jacks dismissed Shafique for 114, while left-armer Jack Leach had Haq for 121
  • Pakistan still need 160 runs to avoid follow-on after England finished with 657 Friday

RAWALPINDI: England spinners removed Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq after they scored centuries Saturday as Pakistan reached 298-3 at lunch on the third day of the opening Test in Rawalpindi. 

Off-spinner Will Jacks dismissed Shafique for 114, while left-armer Jack Leach had Haq for 121. 

Pakistan still need another 160 runs to avoid follow-on after England finished with 657 Friday, their highest total ever against the home team. 

Despite three wickets falling in Saturday's first session, the much-criticised Rawalpindi Stadium pitch offered little to the bowlers. 

At the break, skipper Babar Azam was on 28 and Saud Shakeel yet to score. 

Azhar Ali was trapped leg-before by Leach on 27, but he could have gone more cheaply had Zak Crawley not dropped a sharp chance to his left at leg slip from pacer James Anderson's first over of the morning. 

The centuries by Shafique and Haq meant for the first time in 146 years of Test cricket the openers of both teams reached three figures in the first innings. 

Their 225-run opening stand -- a Pakistan record against England -- is also the first time in Test history that two 200-plus opening partnerships were made, following Crawley and Ben Duckett's 233-run partnership for the visitors. 

Pakistan started the day on 181 without loss and Shafique, 89 overnight, was the first to three figures with a sharp single off Joe Root. 

Haq, who started the session on 90, followed with a boundary off the same bowler to complete his century. 

They both now have three Test centuries and successive hundreds at the venue, having also reached three figures against Australia in March this year. 

The three-match series is England's first in Pakistan for 17 years. 


Scheffler makes a late bid to return to No. 1 

Updated 03 December 2022

Scheffler makes a late bid to return to No. 1 

  • Scheffler spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone this year, which earns him the Mark H. McCormack Award

NASSAU, Bahamas: The degree Masters champion Scottie Scheffler earned from the McCombs School of Business at Texas did not equip him with the skills to figure out the new formula for the Official World Golf Ranking.

He is No. 2 in the world. He can go back to No. 1 if he wins the Hero World Challenge, simple as that.

“I don’t like being No. 2,” he said. “I don’t like finishing second.”

Scheffler took a step in that direction in the relentless wind at Albany. He ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine for a 4-under 68, leaving him in the group one shot behind defending champion Viktor Hovland.

Hovland knows a little about wind. The Norwegian saw enough of it during his amateur days across Europe, and then he starred at Oklahoma State.

Hovland made eagle for the second straight day — the other 19 players have combined for one eagle this week — had three straight birdies on the back nine and had a 70. He was at 5-under 139.

Scores typically are much lower in the holiday event Tiger Woods hosts for a 20-man field of elite players in the Bahamas. The course was soaked and played long on Thursday. It dried out in 30 mph wind on Friday.

Xander Schauffele leaned on exquisite wedge play for a 68 and joined Scheffler, Cameron Young (69) and Collin Morikawa (71) in the group one shot behind.

Tom Kim dropped two shots on the final three holes and that gave him a 72, leaving him two shots behind. That’s not the reason the 20-year-old South Korean raised both arms after he had signed his card. Scrolling through his phone, he learned South Korea had advanced to the knockout stage in the World Cup.

“Goose bumps,” Kim said as he stretched out his arms.

Scheffler spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone this year, which earns him the Mark H. McCormack Award. That was a product of four wins against strong fields in the spring, including his first major. The Masters was his last win.

Rory McIlroy replaced him with a win in South Carolina in October, and now Scheffler has a chance to grab it back, even if for a short time. McIlroy is expected to be No. 1 when the year ends regardless of what happens in the Bahamas.

The model went from rating the top 200 players in a field based on their world ranking to rating everyone in the field using the “strokes gained” formula, which measure actual scores and adjusts for relative difficulty of each round.

It favors deeper fields, regardless of how many of the top players are there. And it won’t be fully integrated until next August.

But there has been no shortage of complaints, with even Woods weighing in this week that it’s a flawed system. Some of the criticism stems from the new formula not giving as much credit to smaller fields compared with full fields.

“I think now I would say the top players are not bringing as much weight to events as they should,” Scheffler said.

The Hero World Challenge has 15 of the top 20 in the world. It also has only 20 players, and so the winner will get slightly fewer points than the winner of the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

“But it’s also really tough to rank golfers when they’re not playing the same schedule,” Scheffler said. “So I think as we all start to play together more often and you get the best players playing together more often, it’s going to be much easier to rank those guys.

“It’s a tough system. It’s not something that’s easy to get right,” he said. “In other sports, you have a record and golf is not necessarily a record. It’s a challenging system. I think they went from one extreme to the other, and we’ll meet in the middle, hopefully, and find something that’s a little bit better.”

The ultimate measure remains the low score, and that belongs to Hovland. Woods, who is not playing this week because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot, is the only player to have won the World Challenge in consecutive years.

He’s not sure how he’s getting it done, especially in this wind.

“It’s kind of strange, like I knew it was windy and I feel like I missed so many putts,” Hovland said. “And I still don’t feel like I’m hitting it very good. I’m not comfortable over the ball, but the ball’s going straight and I’m giving myself looks.”
 


Cameroon beat Brazil 1-0 in final group game at World Cup

Updated 03 December 2022

Cameroon beat Brazil 1-0 in final group game at World Cup

  • Aboubakar was sent off with a second yellow card for taking off his shirt during his celebration
  • Brazil finished with six points, the same as Switzerland

LUSAIL, Qatar: Vincent Aboubakar scored with a header two minutes into stoppage time in Cameroon’s 1-0 win over Brazil at the World Cup on Friday, a result that still allowed the five-time champions to win the group and eliminated the Africans.
Aboubakar was then sent off with a second yellow card for taking off his shirt during his celebration.
Brazil, which had already reached the knockout stage after victories over Serbia and Switzerland, will face South Korea in the round of 16.
Brazil finished with six points, the same as Switzerland but the South Americans had a better goal difference. The Swiss also advanced and will face Portugal. Cameroon ended with four points and Serbia one.
Coach Tite rested nearly all of his regular starters and made 10 changes from the win against Switzerland on Monday.
Brazil was still without the injured Neymar, but the star forward was at Lusail Stadium to watch the match with his teammates.


Switzerland beat Serbia 3-2 to reach last 16 of World Cup

Updated 03 December 2022

Switzerland beat Serbia 3-2 to reach last 16 of World Cup

  • Remo Freuler scored the winning goal just after halftime as the Swiss secured second place in Group G
  • They will next face Portugal on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium

DOHA: Switzerland advanced to the last 16 of the World Cup for the third tournament in a row after a 3-2 win over Serbia on Friday.
Remo Freuler scored the winning goal just after halftime as the Swiss secured second place in Group G. They will next face Portugal on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium.
Xherdan Shaqiri put Switzerland ahead early in the first half before Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic responded for Serbia. Breel Embolo evened the score just before halftime.
Switzerland needed a win to guarantee themselves a place in the knockout round after beating Cameroon and losing to Brazil in their opening two games. The team reached the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and again four years later in Russia. They lost 1-0 in both matches, to Argentina and Sweden, respectively.
Against Portugal, the Swiss will be looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since hosting the competition in 1954.


Ronaldo ‘insulted’ by South Korean player in World Cup loss

Updated 02 December 2022

Ronaldo ‘insulted’ by South Korean player in World Cup loss

  • The 37-year-old skipper looked miffed and ambled off slowly when his number went up in the 65th minute
  • "He was angry with the player from Korea and everyone saw that," Santos said

DOHA: Cristiano Ronaldo was “insulted” by a South Korean player as he was substituted during Portugal’s 2-1 World Cup defeat on Friday, coach Fernando Santos said.
The 37-year-old skipper looked miffed and ambled off slowly when his number went up in the 65th minute.
Santos denied that was because he was upset at being hooked.
“He was angry with the player from Korea and everyone saw that,” Santos said after his side topped Group H despite conceding in injury time to fall to defeat for the first time in Qatar.
“The player was insulting him, telling him to go away (get off the pitch) so that’s why he was angry and everyone saw that.
“I saw the interaction with the Korean player and have no doubt about it.”
Becoming irritated by the line of questioning, Santos added: “He (the Korean player) was not aggressive, he was verbally aggressive.
“He was speaking in English to Cristiano and Cristiano said, ‘Well, perhaps he did not have a good day.’“
South Korean midfielder Hwang In-beom attempted to play down the controversy.
“I didn’t see it, I was too tired,” he said. “I was looking at the ground, so I didn’t see it and I have nothing to say.”