Barcelona see off Mallorca to retake second in La Liga

Barcelona’s Spanish coach Xavi gestures during their Spanish League against Mallorca at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 1, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 02 May 2022

Barcelona see off Mallorca to retake second in La Liga

  • The Catalan giants move two points ahead of Sevilla

MADRID: Barcelona took a big step toward securing a place in next season’s Champions League as a 2-1 victory over Real Mallorca on Sunday saw them reclaim second spot in La Liga from Sevilla.
Goals in either half from Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets put Xavi Hernandez’s men in control and they took the three points despite Antonio Raillo’s effort for their relegation-threatened opponents at the Camp Nou.
The Catalan giants move two points ahead of Sevilla and nine clear of fifth-placed Real Betis, who have a game in hand, with four matches to play this season.
Barca took the lead in the 25th minute as Memphis Depay made a clever run to collect Jordi Alba’s pass before thumping a fine half-volley into the bottom corner.
The Dutchman has scored 11 league goals since joining Barcelona from Lyon last summer, despite having struggled for a regular starting spot since the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Arsenal in January.
The hosts doubled their advantage nine minutes after the break as Sergio Busquets drove a low shot from the edge of the box into the net to score for the third time this season in all competitions, equalling his previous best goalscoring campaign.
Barca thought they had added a third in the 73rd minute, but Ferran Torres’ effort after a desperate goalmouth scramble was ruled out for an offside earlier in the move.
There was more to cheer for the home fans shortly afterwards as Ansu Fati came off the bench to make his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury in January.
Mallorca ensured that their opponents would at least endure a nervy finale to the match, as Antonio Raillo pulled one back with 11 minutes remaining.
But Barcelona held on, leaving Mallorca only one point ahead of 18th-placed Granada, who drew 1-1 with Celta Vigo, in the fight to beat the drop.
Earlier, Real Sociedad suffered a blow in their bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League, as Radamel Falcao grabbed Rayo Vallecano a 1-1 draw.
La Real looked set to move within three points of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid with four matches remaining when Alexander Sorloth gave them a first-half lead.
But Colombian veteran Falcao came off the bench in the 77th minute and scored less than a minute later to leave Sociedad five points off the top-four pace.
It was Falcao’s sixth league goal of an injury-hit season as the 36-year-old made his first appearance for Rayo since February.
Visitors Sociedad remain in sixth place after a third straight game without a win.
Real Betis can cut the gap to Atletico down to a single point on Monday when they travel to Getafe.
Real Madrid wrapped up the title on Saturday, ahead of their Champions League semifinal second leg against Manchester City in midweek.


Juventus newcomer Di Maria sidelined by thigh injury

Updated 59 min 41 sec ago

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.


Murray downs Wawrinka in Cincinnati battle of veterans

Updated 16 August 2022

Murray downs Wawrinka in Cincinnati battle of veterans

  • The third set featured another pair of early service breaks; but Murray brought an end to hostilities with a break for 6-5 followed by a labored concluding hold of serve

CINCINNATI: Andy Murray won his first hardcourt match of the summer on Monday, defeating Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (7/3), 5-7, 7-5 in the opening round of the ATP/WTA Cincinnati Masters.
The 35-year-old Scot was facing his 37-year-old Swiss rival for the 22nd time with both treble Grand Slam champions still coming back to full form after long-term injuries over the past few seasons.
Murray lost in the first round at Washington and last week in Montreal while Wawrinka’s last win came on grass two months ago at Queen’s Club, London; he has not won on cement since the Australian Open last year.
Murray needed four match points to advance at a tournament he has won twice, in 2008 and 2011. The veteran was competing here for the 17th time.
“We’re not young anymore,” Murray said. “Both of us gave our best right until the end.
“Matches like this are a lot tougher than when we were in our mid-20s.
“Both of us love this sport, we’ve had our issues with injuries the last few years.
“The sport has been a huge part of my life, I started playing when I was four.”
Compatriot Cameron Norrie joined Murray in the second round with his 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 defeat of Dane Holger Rune.
The Scot began to well up as he described his love for the game.
“When I was out injured and not sure if I would be able to come back, I remembered the reasons why you play the game,” Murray said.
“It’s taken a lot of effort and struggles to get back (after two hip surgeries) and play at this level again.
“I want to make the most of it while I’m still able to.”
Murray claimed the opening set in the tiebreaker as he faced his longtime rival.
The Scot went down a break in the second set but got it back before finding himself at a set apiece after being broken in the final game.
The third set featured another pair of early service breaks; but Murray brought an end to hostilities with a break for 6-5 followed by a labored concluding hold of serve.
In the closing stages, Murray loudly chastised himself as his grip on the set threatened to slip away against the Swiss whose best showing here was a semifinal a decade ago.
The contest was punctuated repeatedly by visits from the trainer for both men.
Other winners on opening day included 2016 champion Marin Cilic, who defeated Spain’s Jaume Munar 6-3, 6-3, and American John Isner, the 2013 finalist against Rafael Nadal, who advanced past France’s Benjamin Bonzi 7-6 (13/11), 3-6, 7-6 (7/4).
In the WTA draw, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina defeated Egyptian Mayar Sherif 6-3, 6-2.
The world number 25 set up a second-round clash with eighth seed Garbine Muguruza, title-winner here in 2017.
The 23-year-old Kazakh lifted her game in the second set to end with five aces and 13 winners against Sharif.
“I was slow at the beginning but I got my rhythm and served well,” Rybakina said. “But my serve always helps me.”
The newest Grand Slam champion said she is trying to look ahead in her career as she adjusts to her status.
“Wimbledon gave me confidence but now I’m focusing on my other tournaments and trying not to think of the past,” she said.
American Amanda Anisimova beat ninth seed Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-4.


Morata scores twice as Atlético debuts with win at Getafe

Updated 16 August 2022

Morata scores twice as Atlético debuts with win at Getafe

  • Morata scored twice on Monday as Atlético began its Spanish league campaign with a 3-0 win at Getafe

MADRID: The decision to keep Álvaro Morata is already paying off for Atlético Madrid.
Morata scored twice on Monday as Atlético began its Spanish league campaign with a 3-0 win at Getafe. Antoine Griezmann also scored coming off the bench, with João Félix setting up all three goals for the visitors.
There had been doubts about whether Atlético would keep Morata after his two-year loan with Juventus ended. Some teams, including Juventus and Manchester United, reportedly had shown interest.
But Morata impressed in the preseason — which included a hat trick against Juventus — and Atlético ultimately decided it was worth keeping the 29-year-old striker.
“I don’t need to send any messages,” Morata said. “I have to keep working for myself and for my team. It was important to start with a victory. I think it’s going to be a great year.”
It didn’t take long on Monday for Morata to show Atlético was right. He scored with a well-placed low shot from the top of the area after a nice one-touch pass by João Félix in the 15th minute, then picked up another superb assist from the Portugal youngster to hit the top of the net from inside the area in the 59th.
“He is doing well, he works hard,” Atlético coach Diego Simeone said. “Everyone at the club hopes he will stay with us.”
Griezmann came off the bench and sealed the victory with a shot from outside the area in the 75th.
Atlético finished third in the Spanish league last year, behind Barcelona and champions Real Madrid.
Madrid won 2-1 at promoted Almería on Sunday, while Barcelona drew 0-0 at home against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

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FIFA suspends India’s national soccer federation

Updated 16 August 2022

FIFA suspends India’s national soccer federation

ZURICH: FIFA suspended India’s national soccer federation late Monday “due to undue influence from third parties,” the sport’s governing body said.
The suspension of the All India Football Federation threatens the country’s hosting of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup scheduled for Oct. 11-30.
FIFA said the suspension was effective immediately and that the transgression “constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes.”
“The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF executive committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs,” FIFA said.
The Under-17 Women’s World Cup “cannot currently be held in India as planned,” FIFA said.
“FIFA is in constant constructive contact with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India and is hopeful that a positive outcome to the case may still be achieved.”


Lawyers appeal US basketball star Brittney Griner’s Russian prison sentence

Updated 15 August 2022

Lawyers appeal US basketball star Brittney Griner’s Russian prison sentence

  • On Sunday, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks have been conducted

MOSCOW: Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner on Monday filed an appeal against her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported Monday.
Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted on Aug. 4. She was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
Griner played for a women’s basketball team in Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
Lawyer Maria Blagovolina was quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying the appeal was filed, but the grounds of the appeal weren’t immediately clear.
Blagovolina and co-counsel Alexander Boykov said after the conviction that the sentence was excessive and that in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.
Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but said she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.
Before her conviction, the US State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly in July that the US had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner home home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
Blinken didn’t elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to free Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US and once earned the nickname the “Merchant of Death.”
On Sunday, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks have been conducted.
“This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and US citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our presidents,” Alexander Darchiev, head of the Foreign Ministry’s North America department, told state news agency Tass. “These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals, proceeding from the ‘do not harm’ principle.’“