Pulisic sinks Iran as US advance in World Cup duel

Christian Pulisic scores the winner for the US against Iran at Al-Thumama Stadium, Doha, Nov. 29, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 30 November 2022

Pulisic sinks Iran as US advance in World Cup duel

  • Christian Pulisic swooped to score the decisive goal in the 38th minute
  • The Americans will face Group A winners the Netherlands in the knockout phase

DOHA: Christian Pulisic fired the United States into the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday as the Americans downed Iran 1-0 in their politically charged grudge match.
Chelsea star Pulisic bundled home the do-or-die Group B game’s only goal on 38 minutes to set up a second round clash with Group A winners the Netherlands on Saturday.
The victory was no less than US coach Gregg Berhalter’s youthful side deserved in what was only the third international football clash between the bitter ideological rivals.
The build-up to a pulsating showdown had been marked by steadily escalating tension, with Iran’s Football Federation on Sunday demanding FIFA sanction US Soccer for posting a modified version of their country’s flag on social media.
But despite an electrifying atmosphere at Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium, Tuesday’s game played out without controversy as the US avenged their 1998 World Cup defeat to Iran to send the Asian qualifiers crashing out of the tournament.
Iran’s fans had roared their team onto the field at the start of the game amid a deafening cacophony of air-horns and cheers from the crowd of 42,127.
But despite the intimidating reception it was the Americans who looked more comfortable, quickly establishing their dominance.
US captain Tyler Adams and Juventus’ Weston McKennie controlled proceedings in midfield to leave Iran struggling to gain foothold.
The US signalled their attacking ambition after only two minutes, Pulisic surging forward menacingly before being dispossessed.
That was a shape of things to come as they laid siege to the Iranian goal.
Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah shot over the bar and Pulisic just failed to get enough power on a header after a cross from Antonee Robinson.
Fullback Sergino Dest was a constant threat down the right flank for the Americans, whipping a cross over in the 17th minute that Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand could only parry.
After sustained US pressure, the breakthrough finally came in the 38th minute.
A brilliant crossfield pass from McKennie picked out Dest down the right.
The AC Milan defender headed back across goal and Pulisic was on hand to bravely finish.
There was alarm for US fans with Pulisic needing sustained treatment after a heavy collision with Beiranvand but it was the Iranians and their noisy fans who were left winded by the goal.
The crowd instantly became more subdued and the US twice came close to doubling their lead before half-time.
Josh Sargent and Tim Weah combined well with a dazzling counter-attack but the final ball went astray.
Then in injury time McKennie’s sublime pass found Weah who finished brilliantly past Beiranvand only to be ruled just offside.
Knowing that an equalizer would send them into the second round, the Iranians stepped up the pressure in the second half.
But substitute Saman Ghoddos squandered two gilt-edged chances to get his team into the match, heading over from close range before blazing a shot over the bar on the 65th minute with the whole goal to aim at.
Saeid Ezatolahi curled a long-range shot over the bar soon afterwards as the Americans continued to live dangerously.
Iran threatened again inside the final 10 minutes when Ali Karimi just failed to get on the end of a teasing cross by Ezatolahi.
A diving header from Morteza Pouraliganji whistled just wide in injury time and then Mehdi Taremi had calls for a penalty after a tangle with Cameron Carter Vickers waved away as to leave American nerves jangling before their team hung on for a famous win.

Haaland a doubt for Man City’s match against Liverpool

Updated 31 sec ago

Haaland a doubt for Man City’s match against Liverpool

MANCHESTER, England: Erling Haaland is a doubt for Manchester City’s match against Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday as the striker recovers from a groin injury.
The 22-year-old Haaland withdrew from the Norway squad for their European Championship qualifiers against Spain and Georgia during the international break. His father, Alf-Inge, was quoted by Norwegian TV saying his son had traveled to Barcelona for treatment.
City manager Pep Guardiola said Friday he would make a decision on Haaland’s availability after the team’s final training session.
The team will definitely be without England winger Phil Foden, who underwent appendix surgery last weekend.
Guardiola said doctors told him that Foden would be out for “two-to-three weeks.”
Haaland’s fitness is more important, given he has scored 28 goals in the Premier League and 42 in all competitions during a prolific first season in English soccer.
City are second in the league, eight points behind Arsenal but with a game in hand.
The team have a busy April, including home-and-away games against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and an FA Cup semifinal match against Sheffield United, as it looks to remain in contention for three trophies.

Ex-England cricket captain Vaughan cleared of racism on ‘balance of probabilities’

Updated 31 March 2023

Ex-England cricket captain Vaughan cleared of racism on ‘balance of probabilities’

  • Vaughan was alleged to have used the term “you lot” when referring to players of South Asian ethnicity
  • In November 2021, Pakistan-born Azeem Rafiq accused English cricket of being “institutionally racist”

LONDON: Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan was Friday cleared “on the balance of probabilities” of using racist language before a match for county club Yorkshire in 2009.
The 2005 Ashes-winning captain was alleged to have used the term “you lot” when referring to a group of four players of South Asian ethnicity, including Pakistan-born Azeem Rafiq.
A Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) report said it was “not satisfied on the balance of probabilities” that Vaughan spoke the words he was alleged to have used.

Former England cricket team captain Michael Vaughan leaves the International Arbitration Centre, in London, United Kingdom on March. 3, 2023. (AP)

But it added that its findings “do not in any way undermine the wider assertions” made by Rafiq, who told lawmakers in November 2021 that English cricket was “institutionally racist.”
Vaughan, who appeared in person at a CDC hearing earlier this month, thanked the panel for “their careful attention in very difficult circumstances” in a statement on social media.

Medvedev and Alcaraz beat Americans to reach Miami Open semis

Updated 31 March 2023

Medvedev and Alcaraz beat Americans to reach Miami Open semis

  • Jose Alcaraz of Spain needed just 78 minutes to dismiss ninth-seed Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-2
  • Russian Daniil Medvedev ended qualifier Christopher Eubanks’ impressive run with a 6-3, 7-5 victory 

MIAMIA GARDENS, Florida: World number one Carlos Alcaraz and in-form Russian Daniil Medvedev booked their places in the Miami Open semifinals with convincing victories over American opponents at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday.
Alcaraz crushed ninth-seed Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-2, while Medvedev ended qualifier Christopher Eubanks’ impressive run with a 6-3, 7-5 victory in their quarter-final.
Alcaraz needed just 78 minutes to dismiss Fritz with the Spaniard yet again dominating with his big serve and attacking the American from the outset.
The powerful Alcaraz set the tone by breaking Fritz’s first service game and he did the same again at the start of the second set, winning the game to love.
The 19-year-old broke again to go 5-2 up and wrapped up the win without losing a point in the final game.
He will be up against Italian tenth-seed Jannik Sinner next as he seeks to complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ following his triumph over Medvedev at Indian Wells.
The 26-year-old Eubanks was playing in his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final after upsetting Frenchmen Adrian Mannarino and Gregoire Barrere and Croatia’s 17th-ranked Borna Coric.
The 6-foot-7 (2.01m), big-serving Eubanks showed no signs of nerves, holding his first two serves, but he was unable to take advantage of five break-points in a thrilling fourth game.
A half hour rain-break appeared to disrupt Eubanks’ momentum, however, and he was broken on his first service game after the resumption of play, going long and allowing Medvedev to take a 4-3 lead.
The Russian, who after the break noticeably stepped further into the second serve, broke again to take the first set, but Eubanks was not about to roll over against the world number five.
In the sixth game of the second set, Medvedev won a great rally at the net to go 4-2 up but Eubanks again showed his character to break back and keep his hopes alive.

Eubanks saved two match points as Medvedev looked to break him and avoid a deciding set, but then on the third match point he messed up a straightforward volley, putting it out and ending his resistance.
The American, who will move from 119th to 85th in the ATP rankings, said Medvedev had shown the ruthlessness that exists at the top level of the game.
“The mistakes are going to be amplified at this level. Little things, missed opportunities, that maybe in some tournaments I’ve played in the past or (against) some opponents don’t seem like such a big deal,” he said.
Medvedev has now won 22 of his past 23 matches, capturing titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai during that run and reaching the final in Indian Wells, where he lost to world number one Carlos Alcaraz.
“I have never had such a good start to the season. A lot of matches won, tournaments won. I am really happy,” Medvedev said.
“I was disappointed at Indian Wells when my streak ended but the only thing you can do is begin a new streak and I am happy I was able to bring my form into Miami.”
Medvedev, in the semifinals in Miami for the first time, will face fellow-Russian Karen Khachanov for a place in the final after the 14th seed beat Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo 6-3, 6-2.
Khachanov needed just 75 minutes to take care of business against Cerundolo despite a determined start from the Argentine.
Cerundolo broke the Russian to go 3-2 up but then lost his next two service games and was never able to recover.
Khachanov now faces a familar foe in Medvedev.
“We know each other from young age. We’ve been playing against each other since we were kids... we’re good friends outside, but we’re rivals on the court,” he said.

Wolfsburg sink PSG to set up Women’s Champions League semifinal against Arsenal

Updated 31 March 2023

Wolfsburg sink PSG to set up Women’s Champions League semifinal against Arsenal

  • Wolfsburg came into the match needing just a draw to progress, after a 1-0 away win in the first leg

WOLFSBURG, Germany: Wolfsburg will face Arsenal in the Women’s Champions League semifinals after beating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on aggregate following a 1-1 draw at home on Thursday.

Two-time Champions League winners Wolfsburg took an early lead through star striker Alexandra Popp but that was soon canceled out by a Kadidiatou Diani equalizer.

The Wolves were unable to strike the killer blow despite dominating the second half, with Popp missing several chances.

Wolfsburg manager Tommy Stroot enjoyed his side’s “extremely special” victory, saying “we made it, we’re proud of it — and now Arsenal waits for us.”

Three-time Champions League winner Popp told DAZN: “We are mega happy and mega proud. It was a hard fight but we dug in.”

Wolfsburg came into the match needing just a draw to progress, after a 1-0 away win in the first leg.

Stroot reacted by picking a more defensive line-up, benching tournament top scorer Ewa Pajor in favor of reinforcing the midfield with Sveindis Jonsdottir.

Seemingly stung by Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Bayern Munich, which saw Wolfsburg relinquish their lead atop the table, the home side started slowly, enduring wave after wave of PSG attacks.

The Wolves were lucky to have a 12th-minute Diani goal chalked off for a narrow offside and even luckier six minutes later when Popp curled in a shot from outside the box on Wolfsburg’s first foray deep into PSG territory.

With Wolfsburg building, PSG took their turn at scoring against the run of play, Diani heading in a looped cross from Sakina Karchaoui to level the scores and halve the deficit in the tie.

Diani went down clutching her shoulder late in the first half and played no further part, depriving PSG of a forward focal point.

Early in the second half, Popp had a chance to put the match beyond PSG’s reach but she blasted wide when presented with an open goal.

Watson, Reed say they expect no LIV-PGA tensions at Masters

Updated 30 March 2023

Watson, Reed say they expect no LIV-PGA tensions at Masters

WASHINGTON: Former Masters champions Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed said Wednesday they do not expect awkward moments and tension when LIV Golf and PGA Tour players meet at next week’s Masters.

Speaking ahead of this week’s LIV Golf League event at Orlando, they and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka said the world’s top players plan on routine situations at the year’s first major at Augusta National despite the ongoing feud.

The Saudi-backed LIV series lured several big names from the PGA, prompting the PGA to ban those who jumped to the global series for record $25 million purses and 54-hole events.

While a court battle is set to play out into 2024, major tournaments have not restricted qualifying, making them the only stage where LIV and PGA players will face each other.

“I’m going to be honest, man. It’s only awkward in the media,” two-time Masters winner Watson said. “I’ve talked to people that are going to be there.

“I’m going to sign up with (PGA players) Jason Day and Cam Young in the par-3. Some guys have already asked me to play some practice rounds.”

Watson says he’s trying “to beat them all” while Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, says there’s no battle for tour top honor, just the fight for the green jacket symbolic of Masters supremacy.

“The storylines are going to be obviously LIV versus PGA Tour and all that kind of stuff, but really at the majors, all the guys that come in, top players in the world are playing against each other no matter where they come from,” Reed said.

“It doesn’t matter what tour they’re on or anything. It’s the top guys going and trying to play for one of the most coveted events in the world.

“For us, at least for myself, it’s going to be business as usual going out and playing. Would I like to have LIV be up at the top? Of course.”

Koepka, still eligible for the Masters thanks to his most recent major triumph at the 2019 PGA Championship, said he often spends time with PGA major winners like Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy near their homes in Jupiter, Florida.

“That’s one of the big things,” he said. “Down in Jupiter, I was just with Rory and J.T. yesterday, and I think Keegan (Bradley) was there. We see each other quite a bit.

“There are a lot of conversations. I was talking with Rory for probably about 30 minutes... no one is angry at anybody from what I’ve seen.”

McIlroy has been a major supporter of the PGA Tour and the changes it has made to create more top-level events for bigger purses.

“Protecting his entity, man,” said Watson. “He’s protecting his business, which is fine.”

Opposite sides of a business decision, Koepka said, will not mean animosity at Augusta.

“I also don’t think that means anything personal with any of us,” Koepka said. “I’ve had relationships with them — I’ve known J.T. 13, 14 years old maybe. Rory for the last 10 years. It’s not anything (like) we don’t see each other normally.”