Chelsea win again, Liverpool lose at Bournemouth in Premier League

Chelsea's Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic (C) celebrates scoring the team's third goal during the English Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on Saturday. (AFP)
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Updated 12 March 2023
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Chelsea win again, Liverpool lose at Bournemouth in Premier League

  • Manchester City again looked far from their best but still kept the pressure on leaders Arsenal by beating Crystal Palace 1-0 away

LONDON:  Chelsea might finally be finding their stride under Graham Potter while Liverpool’s up-and-down season took another nosedive in the English Premier League on Saturday.

Chelsea made it three straight wins in all competitions for the first time since October by beating Leicester 3-1 away, another sign that the expensively assembled team is starting to gel under Potter.

Liverpool, though, followed their record 7-0 win over archrival Manchester United by losing 1-0 at relegation-threatened Bournemouth — a team they beat 9-0 at home in August.

Manchester City again looked far from their best but still kept the pressure on leaders Arsenal by beating Crystal Palace 1-0 away thanks to a second-half penalty by Erling Haaland. That cut Arsenal’s lead to two points ahead of its visit to Fulham on Sunday.

Liverpool’s surprising loss threw away much of the momentum they had generated recently after a woeful first half of the season, and Jurgen Klopp’s team are six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham in the fight for the final Champions League place, albeit with a game in hand.

“This game was a massive knock,” Klopp said. “You know how it is with knocks, you have to take them and see how big the scars are and go from there.”

Tottenham beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 at home after Harry Kane scored twice in the first half.

Bournemouth began the day in last place but climbed up to 17th, with Everton also leaving the relegation zone after Dwight McNeil scored just 35 seconds into a 1-0 win over Brentford.

Leeds fell to 19th place despite rallying for a 2-2 home draw against Brighton.

The battle against the drop is exceedingly tight, though, with only four points separating Leeds from 12th-placed Crystal Palace.

Manchester City visited Palace in the late game trying to keep up the pressure on leaders Arsenal, who play at Fulham on Sunday.

CHELSEA THRIVING, LIVERPOOL STUMBLE

After knocking out Borussia Dortmund from the Champions League to reach the quarterfinals, Chelsea followed with a first away win in the league since Oct. 16.

“It’s been a really good week,” said Potter, whose job looks a lot more secure than it did last weekend.

Kai Havertz netted one of the best goals of the day to make it 2-1 just before halftime by volleying in a delicate lob over the goalkeeper after being teed up in the area by another lofted ball from record signing Enzo Fernandez.

Ben Chilwell put Chelsea ahead in the 11th minute after meeting a high cross into the area with a low first-time shot from a difficult angle. Patson Daka equalized in the 39th. Mateo Kovacic added the third for Chelsea in the 78th.

Chelsea remained in 10th place but just five points behind fifth-placed Liverpool after Klopp’s side showed their inconsistency once again.

Philip Billing scored the only goal in the 28th minute after being teed up in the box by Dango Ouattara and Bournemouth managed to contain a Liverpool attack that was rampant against United last weekend.

Mohamed Salah summed up a frustrating afternoon for the Reds when he missed a penalty in the 70th by sending his effort wide, the first time he has missed the target from the spot in the Premier League.

HAALAND SCORES AGAIN

For 77 minutes at Selhurst Park, it looked like Palace manager Patrick Vieira could have a big say in the title race between his two former clubs and tilt the balance further in Arsenal’s favor by taking points off City.

But after defending resolutely for so long, Palace came undone at a corner and gave away a cheap penalty when Michael Olize clumsily clattered into Ilkay Gundogan in the area.

Haaland made no mistake from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way for his 28th league goal to make up for having missed a stellar chance in the first half.

Palace’s lack of attacking threat at the other end was evident once again. Vieira’s team has not won a single game in 2023, and this was the third league match in a row when it didn’t manage a single shot on target.

LINEKER OFF AIR, IN THE STANDS

Taken off the air, Gary Lineker went into the stands.

Lineker attended the Leicester-Chelsea game amid a growing crisis at the BBC after the popular presenter of the highlights show “Match of the Day” was suspended by the broadcaster for comments criticizing the British government’s new asylum policy.

Lineker, the former England captain who began his professional playing career at Leicester, watched his former team in the stands and posed for photos with fans while the BBC scrambled to stem the fallout from the decision to take him off the air.

The broadcaster said it would air only “limited sport programming” over the weekend after hosts of many of its popular sports shows declined to appear, in solidarity with Lineker. The BBC’s Premier League coverage was especially affected as lunchtime TV program “Football Focus” and the early evening “Final Score” were both replaced with other programs, and Saturday’s edition of “Match of the Day” — the late-night soccer show that has been a British institution for 60 years — was set to be reduced to just a 20-minute compilation of match footage with no studio punditry and no player or manager interviews.

 

 


Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

Updated 58 min 5 sec ago
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Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

  • The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013
  • “An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton says his switch to Ferrari programmed for 2025 will add a brand new chapter to his sparkling career, but insisted he hopes to leave Mercedes on a high.
The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013, but recently activated a break clause to seal a move to the Italian team in 2025.
“An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said, describing the decision as the hardest he’d ever faced.
“We have had an incredible journey together, created history within the sport and it is something I take a lot of pride in,” he said.
Hamilton — without a win in two years — won six of his record-equalling seven world championships with the Silver Arrows.
“This chapter is still not finished and I am still 100 percent focused on delivering for this team,” he insisted Friday.
Mercedes have struggled to match their rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull since Hamilton missed out on what would have been a record eighth world championship in 2021 in controversial fashion.
Current Formula One world champion Verstappen won 19 out of last season’s 22 races as he surged toward a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship.
The opening Grand Prix of the F1 season is set for Bahrain on March 2.


Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16

Updated 23 February 2024
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Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16

  • Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will be strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals
  • Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, are unbeaten in 32 matches in all competitions this season, and will again face Qarabag

NYON, Switzerland: Three-time winners Liverpool were drawn to face Sparta Prague in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, while unbeaten Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen will take on Azeris Qarabag.
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will be strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals as they bid for a quadruple in the German's final season before stepping down as manager.
The first leg will be played in the Czech capital on March 7, with Anfield hosting the return game a week later.
Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, are unbeaten in 32 matches in all competitions this season, and will again face Qarabag, having already seen off the Azeri champions twice in the group stage.
Also renewing acquaintances will be last year's Europa Conference League winners West Ham and Freiburg, after David Moyes' side's brace of victories against the Bundesliga club in Group A.
"It's kind of stupid that you can come back against your group opponents in the round of 16," said Freiburg captain Christian Guenter.
"You could already tell that some of us were upset."
Seven-time European champions AC Milan continue their bid to win a maiden Europa League title against Slavia Prague after their knock-out round play-off win over Rennes.
Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers, losing finalists in 2022, take on Portuguese Primeira Liga pace-setters Benfica, still chasing a first European trophy since 1962.
Premier League club Brighton continue their first ever European adventure at last season's runners-up Roma.
First legs to be played on March 7, second legs to be played on March 14.

Full last-16 draw
Sparta Prague (CZE) v Liverpool (ENG)
Marseille (FRA) v Villarreal (ESP)
Roma (ITA) v Brighton (ENG)
Benfica (POR) v Rangers (SCO)
Freiburg (GER) v West Ham (ENG)
Sporting Lisbon (POR) v Atalanta (ITA)
AC Milan (ITA) v Slavia Prague (CZE)
Qarabag (AZE) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER)


Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman

Updated 23 February 2024
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Saudi golfer Faisal Salhab has impressive opening round at $2m International Series Oman

  • Fellow Saudis Othman Almulla, Saud Al-Sharif also enjoy solid starts in Muscat

Muscat: On a tricky Al-Mouj Golf Club course in the opening round of the $2 million International Series Oman, Saudi Arabia’s Faisal Salhab got off the mark with a solid 1-under par 71 round.

There were two annoying bogeys – one of them a three-putt on the par-3 eighth green that tested everyone in the field with its severity – but Salhab also hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation and missed only two fairways all day.

Saud Al-Sharif and Othman Almulla, the other two Saudi professionals in the field, had impressive starts too.

Al-Sharif was 1-under par for his round through 15 holes, before a double bogey on the seventh hole pushed him to 1-over par. Almulla started with three bogeys in his first four holes, but came back to make 12 straight pars before an unfortunate triple bogey on the difficult 16th hole saw him finish at 6-over par.

After signing his card, Salhab, 27, flashing his trademark wide smile, predicted that 2024 would be a year of change for Saudi professional golfers.

He said: “It’s so good to see that the things I’ve been working hard for in the offseason with my coach (Jamie McConnell), with other members of the team like my psychologist (Andrea Debellis), Saudi Golf, and the other pros, is showing early results.

“This was a good start, but hopefully, a lot more to come this year. I honestly think this could be a breakthrough year for us Saudi professional golfers. We have been given this incredible opportunity to play the International Series events and on the Asian Tour, and we are on the verge of showing positive results. We have all had good spells and we only need to string it together for a longer period.

“The mentality is back to trying to win — trying to do well. We do not want to try making cuts anymore. These last couple of years have shown us that we have the game. I’ve seen it playing against these guys. They’re excellent players. But we’re very good as well, and we need to believe that more.

“We’re getting that mentality this year of not having any fear — become a kid again. We’ve been dreaming all our lives of playing with these guys. Now that we are here, why are we being timid? It’s completely wrong.

“So, this is a year of what can we do, rather than putting ceilings on ourselves,” Salhab added.

That fearlessness was very evident during Salhab’s round, when he bounced back with a birdie on the 17th hole after making a couple of unforced errors to wind up with a bogey on the previous hole.

He said: “I hit a good drive and then a 3-wood to about 40 yards. The chip went over the green, and then I did not have a great return chip before my par putt from 10-12 feet lipped out.

“But that’s where I think I showed good attitude and some of the talks that I had with Andrea paid off. I spoke to my caddie and told him, ‘let’s forget about the bogey. We’re good enough to birdie any hole here.’ I just hit a couple of good shots after that and made a 15-foot birdie putt.”

Salhab has had better rounds as a professional – his best was a 4-under par 68 in Indonesia last year. But he was pleased with his 71 in Muscat, especially because Al-Mouj was decidedly playing tougher.

“Hundred percent this was better. Even though the scorecard would say the round in Indonesia was better by three shots.

“This was solid. I kept hitting good shots and finding fairways and I stuck to my processes. I was happy with how I thought on the golf course and how I kept pushing myself.

“I just need to keep doing this. I need to keep working hard and believe in myself,” Salhab added.


Kenya bids solemn farewell to marathon sensation Kiptum

Updated 23 February 2024
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Kenya bids solemn farewell to marathon sensation Kiptum

  • World marathon record-holder was killed in a late-night car crash on February 11
  • Kelvin Kiptum’s Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana also died in the crash

CHEPKORIO, Kenya: Top athletes and dignitaries led hundreds of mourners at the funeral Friday of Kenya’s world marathon record-holder Kelvin Kiptum in the nation’s athletics heartland where he was born, trained and died.
Kiptum, a 24-year-old father of two, was killed in a late-night car crash on February 11, just months after shattering the marathon record in Chicago.
President William Ruto and World Athletics head Sebastian Coe were among those attending the funeral in the Rift Valley town of Chepkorio.
“Kelvin’s achievements were extraordinary. That he should have scaled such heights at such a young age in itself is almost unique,” Coe said Thursday after his arrival in Kenya.
Kiptum ran the Chicago race in October in two hours and 35 seconds, slicing 34 seconds off the previous fastest time set by his Kenyan rival, the marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.
While Kiptum only competed in three marathons, he won all of the races, posting three of the seven fastest times in history for the event.
His sudden death has left Kenya, and the wider athletics community, reeling.
“Fare thee well champ,” was the front-page headline on Kenya’s leading Daily Nation newspaper.
Mourners, including 1,500m record-holder Faith Kipyegon, started arriving at the funeral venue at dawn, some wearing black T-shirts with a picture of Kiptum emblazoned across the front.
They viewed the body, laid out in a half-open casket on a red carpet, as a choir sang religious songs.
Four giant screens were mounted to stream the event for the many villagers gathered outside the venue.
Hundreds of people had turned out Thursday as Kiptum’s coffin was taken from the Rift Valley town of Eldoret to his home village of Chepkorio.
And in the nation’s capital Nairobi hundreds of people joined a solemn candlelight vigil, paying an emotional tribute to the rising star who had been the overwhelming favorite for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
After the funeral ceremony, Kiptum will be laid to rest in Naiberi, near Eldoret, where the government has built a new home for the family of the national hero.
Police said Kiptum was driving near Eldoret at around 11:00 p.m. on February 11 when his car careered off the road into a ditch and hit a tree.
Kenya’s chief government pathologist, Johansen Oduor, said on Wednesday the results of an autopsy showed Kiptum had suffered severe head injuries.
Toxicology tests were still under way, he added.
Kiptum’s Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, 36, also died in the crash.
Hakizimana, who had trained Kiptum since 2019, was laid to rest in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Wednesday.
Known for maintaining a gruelling training schedule that sometimes topped 300 kilometers a week, Kiptum had recently announced he was hoping to smash the mythic two-hour mark at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.


Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

Updated 23 February 2024
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Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

  • In low-scoring match, Rilee Rossouw holds his nerve with 34-run inning to guide Quetta to victory
  • Gladiators’ Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim take three wickets each to keep Islamabad at bay

ISLAMABAD: Despite a valiant fightback by Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators continued their impressive run of the tournament by beating the former by three wickets at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Thursday.

“Continuing our winning streak,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after the match ended.

Batting first, United scored a lackluster 138/9 at the end of their 20 overs courtesy of a stellar bowling performance from the Gladiators. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/18 while Mohammad Wasim finished with 3/20. Akeil Hosein finished with 2/32 while pacer Mohammad Hasnain returned figures of 1/35.

United’s only resistance in the batting department came from Agha Salman, who top-scored with a decent 33-run knock from 23 balls while opener Alex Hales scored 21 from nine deliveries.

What should have been an easy chase for the Gladiators turned into a difficult one when United took quick wickets to put the pressure back on Rossouw’s squad. United skipper Shadab Khan returned figures of 2/24 while pacer Naseem Shah finished with 2/34.

Rumman Raees and Hunain Shah took a single wicket each before Rossouw guided United to victory with a composed 34-run innings that came off 38 balls and featured only three boundaries.

Opener Jason Roy provided the Gladiators an impressive start to the game by smashing 37 runs off 18 balls while Sherfane Rutherford held his nerves to score 29 runs from 23 balls before Naseem rattled his stumps.

The Gladiators and table-toppers Multan Sultans both have three wins from the tournament so far. Islamabad, with a single win and two losses, is at number three on the PSL points table.