AZ Alkmaar rally from a goal down to upset Lazio in Europa Conference League

AZ Alkmaar's Milos Kerkez scores their second goal during the Europa Conference League round-of-16 first leg match against Lazio on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 March 2023

AZ Alkmaar rally from a goal down to upset Lazio in Europa Conference League

  • The rest of the matches in the third-tier Europa Conference League will take place on Thursday with the return leg on March 16

ROME: Dutch club AZ Alkmaar rallied from a goal down to upset Lazio 2-1 in their Europa Conference League round-of-16 first leg on Tuesday.

Lazio, who beat Serie A leader Napoli last weekend, took the lead in the 18th minute with a strike from former Spain forward Pedro Rodríguez, playing in a face mask after breaking his nose.

The visitors, who have lost just one of their last 12 games in all competitions, recovered from a slow start and Vangelis Pavlidis netted the equalizer shortly before halftime.

Defender Milos Kerkez scored the winner in the 62nd minute.

“This was a bit of a fluke result because we created a lot of chances and conceded from both of theirs,” Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri said. “The string of missed chances tonight is too long.”

AZ coach Pascal Jansen added, “I’m not surprised because I know what my team can do.”

The rest of the matches in the third-tier Europa Conference League will take place on Thursday with the return leg on March 16.

Lazio’s match was on Tuesday because Roma will play at home in the Europa League on Thursday in same stadium.

Cricket World Cup picks up where it left off, with England against New Zealand

Updated 7 sec ago

Cricket World Cup picks up where it left off, with England against New Zealand

  • New Zealand and England were part of the most dramatic finish ever to a cricket World Cup final in 2019
  • Both sides will face each other on Thursday at the 134,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad

AHMEDABAD: After combining to produce the most dramatic finish ever to a Cricket World Cup, England and New Zealand will meet again this time to open the 2023 edition in India.
England was awarded its first title four years ago at Lord’s on a contentious countback against the New Zealanders after the final finished tied and a so-called Super Over also failed to separate the teams.
The tiebreaker was a heavily derided and subsequently dumped countback of boundaries, giving England the narrowest of victories as it hosted the pinnacle competition in cricket’s one-day format for the fifth time.
The defending champions and runners-up will get the six-week tournament started Thursday at the 134,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. This same venue will host the highly anticipated India-Pakistan showdown on Oct. 14 and the final on Nov. 19.
Top-ranked England arrived in India aiming to be just the third team — following West Indies (1975 and ‘79) and Australia (1999, 2003 and ‘07) — to win back-to- back ODI World Cups.
Jos Buttler has taken over from 2019 skipper Eoin Morgan, but England’s attacking approach – high risk, high reward – remains the same.
Ben Stokes returned from his short-lived ODI retirement to rejoin the likes of Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes – all players who can play multiple rules, thus allowing the batting to run deep.
England is coming off a series win over New Zealand at home last month, and a four-wicket win over Bangladesh in an unofficial warmup at Guwahati on Monday.
“We had a valuable outing in terms of bowlers getting to bowl and some batters getting time in the middle,” Ali said after the win over Bangladesh. “We are ready. It’s going to be a massive game (against New Zealand) ... They’re a dangerous side.”
Stokes is back as a specialist batter. Slotting in at No. 4, Stokes scored 182 from 124 balls in the series-clinching third game against New Zealand last month at The Oval, where England won by a thumping 181 runs.
Stokes was the key player in England’s victory in the 2019 final and his return to ODI duty only bolsters his team’s chances of back-to-back titles. However, he is not certain to play against New Zealand because of a sore hip.
Buttler, speaking ahead of his side’s final training session, said: “He’s got a slight niggle with his hip, but fingers crossed that it’ll be good news for us. We’ll see.”
England is spoilt for choices in terms of batting power, with Harry Brook’s chances of breaking into the starting XI linked to Joe Root’s form. The veteran Root has been a long-term leader in the England lineup but has posted only one half-century in his last nine ODI innings.
In its last ODI outing in India, back in March 2021, England lost a three-match series 2-1. It posted totals of 251, 337-4 and 322-9 in those three games at Pune, and Buttler’s lineup will be aiming to replicate those last two scores on a regular basis in this tournament.
For New Zealand, this tournament presents a chance to go one step further, without worrying about the boundary countback.
A simpler rule has replaced it: this time tied finalists will keep contesting Super Overs until there is a clear winner. But it’s too early for the Black Caps to be thinking about that, particularly after a run of injuries.
Veteran pace bowler Tim Southee’s thumb injury is likely to keep him on the sidelines until later in the tournament.
Kane Williamson, who scored 54 and 37 in the two warmup games, also won’t play the opener against England because he needs more time to recover from a long-term knee injury.
“I’m really fortunate to be a part of this World Cup. Five months ago, that didn’t seem a possibility,” he said after New Zealand’s warmup win over Pakistan. “There is still some time to go (to full fitness), and it is great to get through some batting in the middle.”
Tom Latham will lead the Black Caps in Williamson’s absence which, in turn, will allow both Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman to feature in the game.
The middle-order duo has become a vital cog for New Zealand in ODI cricket over the last two years, as they make good use of the last 20 overs with some impressive power hitting.
New Zealand also has Devon Conway to share Williamson’s run-scoring burden. The 32-year-old left-handed opener made his ODI debut in 2021 and averages 46 in 22 matches since. Conway also has extensive experience of Indian conditions, given he is a vital batsman for the IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings.
New Zealand is also well rounded in the bowling department, with spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner expected to perform will in the conditions. Left-arm pacer Trent Boult is part of the mix, despite relinquishing his full national contract, and it is surely to be his last World Cup for the Black Caps.
Since 2015, New Zealand has qualified for the semifinals of every ICC white-ball tournament, and reaching the last four would again be a minimum expectation for its golden generation of cricketers.

Bellingham leads youth movement at Real Madrid as Modric takes a diminished role

Updated 50 min 48 sec ago

Bellingham leads youth movement at Real Madrid as Modric takes a diminished role

  • All three of Madrid’s players who helped produce goals in their 3-2 comeback at Napoli in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday were 25 years old or younger
  • Bellingham, Vinícius and Valverde were accompanied by other younger players

BARCELONA, Spain: Led by Jude Bellingham playing with a style and self-confidence far beyond his 20 years, a new generation of Real Madrid players has stepped forward at the 14-time European Cup winners.
All three of Madrid’s players who helped produce goals in their 3-2 comeback at Napoli in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday were 25 years old or younger. And they did so with their veteran teammates now providing supporting roles.
Bellingham set up 23-year-old Vinícius Júnior to cancel out Napoli’s opener before the England midfielder made a spectacular solo run to put the visitors ahead in the 34th minute.
After Napoli had pulled level, Madrid’s 25-year-old midfielder Federico Valverde unleashed a rocket of a shot that ricocheted off the bar and Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret before eventually going in for the 78th-minute winner.
Bellingham had scored several big goals already for Madrid this season, but his overall performance at Napoli’s Stadio Diego Armando Maradona was his best so far.
He started by robbing the ball from Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo and sliding it to Vinícius for the Brazil winger to slot home the equalizer from an angle. Bellingham topped that by slaloming past two defenders as he dribbled into the area.
Bellingham said that the victory was about decision-making, including when he saw Napoli’s defenders giving him that small bit of space he needed.
“As I was getting closer and closer to the goal I was trying to look for (Vinícius or Rodrygo), and when I saw the gap open I just decided to keep running with it,” Bellingham said. “I am always confident that I can go around (defenders) and find a yard. I managed to do it for that one and found the corner.”
Bellingham, Vinícius and Valverde were accompanied by other younger players. Eduardo Camavinga, a versatile workman in the midfield is only 20; forward Rodrygo is 22; and holding midfielder Aurélien Tchouameni is 23. Éder Militão (25), who is out for several months with a serious leg injury, is Madrid’s best central defender.
The victory at the Italian champions came after a summer when veteran striker Karim Benzema, Madrid's most prolific scorer since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure five years ago, was lured away to the Saudi Arabian league.
Nor were most of the other pillars of Madrid’s most recent European successes on the field in Napoli. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is injured, while Luka Modric, now 38, was again left on the bench by Ancelotti until he went on as a late substitute. The only long-time veterans to start were Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal.
Ancelotti acknowledged that Modric, who signed for another season this summer with Madrid, was upset about not playing more. Ancelotti had benched him at halftime during a recent 3-1 loss at Atletico Madrid and did not use the former Ballon d’Or winner at all in the following two matches.
“He did what we asked him to do. He went on and showed his experience and gave us control of the game,” Ancelotti said about Modric’s steadying hand in the second half at Napoli. “He can contribute. That is what I ask of a player who is not playing and is a little angry.”
While Vinícius and Valverde have been starters for several seasons now and played key roles in helping Madrid win their most recent Champions League title in 2022, Bellingham’s impact on the team since his arrival this summer has surprised everyone, including his coach.
“I’m surprised he’s only 20 years old because he looks like he’s 30 because of his character and attitude,” Ancelotti said. “He is always focused on the game and knows what he has to do. It’s unusual for a 20-year-old. He has a lot of quality, physical strength and skill.”
Bellingham has scored eight goals in nine games overall so far with Madrid. That includes a Spanish league-leading six goals to help keep Madrid in first place and a late winner to edge Union Berlin 1-0 in their Champions League opener last month.
Compare that to his 14 goals in 42 appearances for Borussia Dortmund in Germany and it is clear that Bellingham has taken his game to a new level in Spain.
Vinícius' goal was only his second of the season after he missed several games with a leg injury. Once he is back to full form and fitness, his alliance with Bellingham promises to be lethal.
“Bellingham linked up well with (Vinícius) and they both have a lot of creativity,” Ancelotti said. "Having both of them positioned on our left flank certainly creates a lot of danger.”
Madrid face Spanish league games against Osasuna and Sevilla before they visit Portuguese side Braga in the Champions League on Oct. 24. Four days after that, Bellingham will get his first taste of a league “classico” at Barcelona.

Twins end historic playoff win drought as Major League Baseball post-season begins

Updated 04 October 2023

Twins end historic playoff win drought as Major League Baseball post-season begins

  • Minnesota’s victory ended the epic post-season futility run 
  • Twins get 1-0 lead in the American League best-of-three first round series

WASHINGTON: Royce Lewis smashed home runs in his first two playoff opportunities and the Minnesota Twins snapped the longest post-season win drought by games in American sport history, defeating Toronto 3-1 on Tuesday in a Major League Baseball series opener.

The Twins had lost 18 consecutive playoff contests, the most in any major North American sports league, since beating the New York Yankees in the first game of the 2004 American League division series.

They were also swept out of the MLB playoffs in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2017, 2019 and 2020.

Minnesota’s victory ended the epic post-season futility run and gave the host Twins a 1-0 lead in the American League best-of-three first round series, which continues on Wednesday.

“It means a lot,” Lewis said of snapping the historic drought. “And it means a lot that the fans encouraged us and they had that energy for us. They brought it and we brought it for them.”

Also winning their AL playoff opener were the Texas Rangers, who blanked host Tampa Bay 4-0 as US pitcher Jordan Montgomery struck out six without allowing a walk over seven shutout innings.

National League first-round openers later Tuesday find Arizona at Milwaukee and Miami at Philadelphia.

Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and the defending champions Houston all received first-round byes.

Minnesota’s Lewis, the 2017 MLB Draft top pick, blasted a two-run homer in the first inning off Toronto starter Kevin Gausman and tagged him for a solo homer in the third for a 3-0 Minnesota edge.

The 24-year-old US third baseman, who recovered from a sore hamstring just in time for the playoffs, matched Gary Gaetti from 1987 as the only Twins with two homers in a playoff game.

“This crowd was special,” Lewis said. “We’re just going to feed off that energy and keep going tomorrow.”

Toronto pulled within 3-1 in the sixth when Bo Bichette singled, advanced on a walk to Alejandro Kirk and scored on a Kevin Kiermaier single.

But Twins outfielder Michael Taylor leaped high above the outfield wall and grabbed an inning-ending out to deny Toronto’s Matt Chapman a three-run homer that would have put the Blue Jays ahead.

Minnesota reliever Jhoan Duran entered in the ninth, struck out Kiermaier and Chapman then walked Whit Merrifield before George Springer grounded out to first for the last out to complete the historic triumph, touching off an emotional on-field Twins celebration.

At Tampa Bay, left-hander Montgomery scattered six hits to baffle Rays batters in the fourth scoreless outing from his past five starts.

“I think he had everything,” said Texas slugger Corey Seager, who had two hits, scoring one run and driving in another.

“He had them off balance. He was just really impressive to be able to come out here and shut that lineup down at home.”

Tampa Bay made three fielding errors in the first three innings and fell behind early.

“We did take advantage of the mistakes they made and got the win,” Seager said.

Texas opened the scoring in the second inning when Nathaniel Lowe singled up the middle, took third on a Leody Taveras single to right and scored on Josh Jung’s sacrifice fly.

The Rangers doubled their lead in the fourth when Seager doubled, took third on an Adolis Garcia single and scored on a wild pitch by Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow.

Texas made it 4-0 in the sixth when Evan Carter and Marcus Semien walked and Seager drove in both with a single up the middle and throwing error by Rays centerfielder Jose Siri.

It was the first shutout playoff victory since 2011 for the Rangers, who missed out on a first-round bye and division title with a loss on the final day of theå regular season.

Mbappe dazzles Newcastle but United are not just making up Champions League numbers, says PSG boss

Updated 04 October 2023

Mbappe dazzles Newcastle but United are not just making up Champions League numbers, says PSG boss

  • Tyneside besotted by the man many consider the best player in the world, but Paris Saint-Germain manager Luis Enrique is aware of the challenge his side faces on Wednesday
  • Kieran Trippier, the player tasked with neutralizing the Mbappe threat says he does not fear the Frenchman and always relishes the chance to play against the world’s top players

NEWCASTLE: Cameras flashed, phones lit up and the cries of “Kylian” and “Mbappe” echoed into the Tyneside night from the huddle of fans who had gathered beside the players’ entrance under the famous old Milburn Stand at St James’ Park, home to Newcastle United.

This was not a Hollywood premiere, though it certainly might have felt a bit like like one to the young Newcastle fans. No, this was just the world’s best player, arguably, leaving their ground the day before he faces their team, on their turf.

You might pardon such “small club mentality” when it has been such a long, long time since this little part of the North East of England last hosted stars such as those who will don the bleu et rouge of Les Parisiens on Wednesday night in the Champions League.

The last time Newcastle experienced this level of European football before this season was 2004. That year the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus came to town. This time, it is the turn of Paris Saint-Germain to enjoy a Geordie welcome on Wednesday night, followed in the weeks ahead by Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan.

United fans have been captivated by their visitors from France, with hundreds enjoying a Sela-sponsored drone show that lit up the gloom on Monday night, greeting the PSG players on arrival at their Quayside hotel on the banks of the River Tyne, or lining up at the entrances and exits to St James’ Park on Tuesday night in hope of catching a glimpse of the French champions, who were training on the pitch.

While the build up might have something of a “summer friendly” feel about it, things will get serious very quickly as kick-off approaches, with Mbappe set to play and looking to dent Newcastle’s Champions League hopes.

The question on everyone’s lips this week has been, “How do you solve a problem like Kylian Mbappe?” The Magpies kindly gave the media the chance to ask the man tasked with doing precisely that, Kieran Trippier.

Trippier, who was set to hand over the captain’s armband to returning Jamaal Lascelles against PSG after Sven Botman was ruled out, said he feels no fear about taking on the man many people consider the best in the business.

“I’ve played against him on his debut for Monaco, when I was at Spurs. I played against him for England on my debut, quite a few years ago,” said the 33-year-old, who was the first signing made by the Saudi Public Investment Fund following their takeover of the club.

“He’s a fantastic player. You want to play against the best in the world. It will be a great occasion for the club and a game we think we can win.

“He’s been incredible but every single game we always prepare how we can win the game and hurt the opposition. Tomorrow is no different. You always have to respect the opposition but you have to find a way to win.

“It’s a challenge I’m ready for. I’ve played against plenty of good wingers and tomorrow is no different. The Champions League is where I want to play.”

It was clear that Trippier was keen to move the conversation away from Mbappe and onto the magic surrounding Newcastle being back in the competition for the first time in two decades. The journalists had different ideas.

As he fielded yet another Mbappe-themed query, Trippier said: “This is football. This is the level you want to play at. You want to be against the best players and the best teams.

“Paris have got unbelievable players. Mbappe is one of the best in the world but they’ve got quality all over the pitch. (But) on our day, we can hurt anyone.”

Trippier went on to reveal that even his own son has not stopped talking about the player who will be looking to run his dad ragged on Wednesday.

“I was having banter with him last night,” he said. “He wants to walk out with him tomorrow night and not me. I’m not happy. I’ve told him if he gets to walk out with him, don’t look at me in the tunnel.”

Of course, one player or one duel will not determine who wins or loses this encounter. Newcastle know they need to be at their very best, unlike their opening game, when they drew a blank in a goalless draw in Milan. The big difference this time is that they will be on home turf, with the backing of 52,000 Geordies.

That point is not lost on PSG boss Luis Enrique, himself no stranger to the magic that can happen at St James’ Park. In 1997, he scored against United there but a Faustino Asprilla hat-trick gave the Magpies a 3-2 victory in their first-ever game in the Champions League proper.

“We’re coming to St James’ Park and it’s a hostile atmosphere, but hostile from a sporting point of view,” he said. “It’s a spectacular place to come and play and it will be good to see what our players are made of playing here.

“I’m envious of my players because they’re going to get to experience that firsthand out on the pitch tomorrow.”

Recalling his visit in 1997 as a player, he said: “It was a tough game — 26 years ago seems a lifetime. I was certainly a lot younger than I am now. It is true that I scored in the 3-2 but they had great players and a great atmosphere. It wasn’t easy then and it won’t be easy tomorrow.”

While Group F has been dubbed the “Group of Death,” Enrique does not consider Newcastle the weak link in danger of elimination. In fact, he said, they are the team everyone else hoped to avoid.

“They are the team in the fourth pot that no one wanted,” he said. “We know they play at a high level. They are a complete football team and they will be playing in front of extremely passionate supporters as well.

“All teams can go far in the Champions League and there’s no reason why Newcastle can’t go far. No one wanted to play them because we saw how well they played last season.”

Referees governing body announces changes to VAR protocols after fallout from Diaz’s disallowed goal

Updated 04 October 2023

Referees governing body announces changes to VAR protocols after fallout from Diaz’s disallowed goal

  • PGMOL said a new VAR Communication Protocol would be developed to improve communication between the referee and the VAR team
  • A win would have seen Jurgen Klopp’s team move to the top of the Premier League

MANCHESTER, England: The governing body for England’s referees will introduce changes to VAR following the errors that led to Luiz Diaz’s disallowed goal for Liverpool against Tottenham last weekend.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) has completed a review of the incident in Liverpool’s 2-1 loss at Spurs on Saturday.

It had already admitted its mistake after Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Darren England failed to award Diaz’s goal, despite replays clearly showing the forward was onside. On Tuesday, it revealed new protocols that will be put in place to avoid a repeat in the future.

“We recognize standards fell short of expectations and acknowledged the error to Liverpool immediately after the conclusion of the fixture,” the PGMOL said. It added that it had made “key learnings to mitigate against the risk of a future error.”

PGMOL said a new VAR Communication Protocol would be developed to improve communication between the referee and the VAR team.

The VAR will also have to confirm the outcome of its check with the assistant VAR before informing on-field officials of the final decision.

The PGMOL also said it would reiterate that the speed of decision-making must not be at the expense of accuracy.

Liverpool had raised questions about “sporting integrity” after the loss. A win would have seen Jurgen Klopp’s team move to the top of the Premier League.

The club issued a statement on Sunday saying it would “explore the range of options available given the clear need for escalation and resolution.”

“It is clear that the correct application of the laws of the game did not occur, resulting in sporting integrity being undermined,” Liverpool said. “We fully accept the pressures that match officials work under but these pressures are supposed to be alleviated, not exacerbated, by the existence and implementation of VAR.”

Saturday’s error appeared to have been one of concentration and communication, with the VAR believing Diaz’s goal had initially been given. Upon review the verdict was to say the check was complete, meaning it was correct for the goal to stand.

But as the original on-field decision was to adjudge Diaz offside, the response of “check complete” appeared to confirm the offside decision was correct.

VAR Darren England and his assistant Dan Cook were stood down from further duty over the weekend and will not officiate any games during the next round of fixtures.

PGMOL said a detailed report, including audio between officials, had been submitted to the Premier League and subsequently shared with all of the top-flight clubs.

“PGMOL are committed to enhancing VAR performance through a new training program which started this season and focuses on process and best practice for all VARs, AVARs and Replay Operators in their specific roles,” the governing body said.

It said work was being done to create a dedicated pool of VAR specialists and added that, along with the English Football Association, it would review the policy allowing officials to officiate matches outside of FIFA or UEFA appointments.

It emerged that England and Cook had both officiated a game in the United Arab Emirates on the Thursday prior to the Tottenham and Liverpool match.