Australia women, South Africa men claim victories at Emirates Dubai 7s

Australia women and South Africa men jointly celebrate their victories at the Emirates Dubai 7s 2023. (Mike Lee/KLC fotos)
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Updated 04 December 2023
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Australia women, South Africa men claim victories at Emirates Dubai 7s

  • Opening round of HSBC SVNS 2024 season took place at Sevens Stadium in Dubai

DUBAI: Australia women and South Africa men claimed the first titles of the HSBC SVNS 2024 season with victories over Argentina and New Zealand respectively at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai on Sunday.

In the men’s final, South Africa’s Blitzboks overcame a spirited Argentina 12-7 to lift their fifth straight Emirates Dubai 7s trophy – equalling the record for successive titles at a single location. Although Argentina had to settle for silver it represented their best result in Dubai.

Impi Visser had already crossed for the Blitzboks when Shilton van Wyk, player of the final in 2022, went over in the fifth minute to take the score to 12-0.

Argentina’s Matias Osadczuk cut the deficit to five points early in the second half, after Ryan Oosthuizen was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle.

Rosko Specman came within inches of a spectacular score but lost the ball – and ploughed into a steward – in the corner, as South Africa held off the Argentinian fightback.

With the series heading to South Africa next week, their run to the title in Dubai could not have come at a better time. Fans will be hoping they can go back-to-back in Cape Town next weekend.

South Africa’s acting head coach Philip Snyman hailed his squad’s “amazing performances throughout the weekend.”

He said: “We said we wanted to leave everything on the field. It doesn’t matter what happens with the result – we want to look each other in the eye and have smiles on our faces.

“Even with the yellow card tonight, they really played each other, they played for their jersey, and they restored the pride in the Springbok Sevens jersey.”

South Africa started the day strongly with a 24-7 quarter-final defeat of Australia, before overcoming Fiji 14-7 in an intense semi-final.

Argentina overcame Samoa 21-14 in the quarter-final before narrowly beating New Zealand’s All Blacks Sevens 21-19 in a pulsating semi-final.

New Zealand recovered from the disappointment of their semi-final defeat to take home the bronze medals with a 17-12 victory over Fiji.

The women’s final was another epic encounter between the top two teams in the world. In a replay of last year’s final, Australia overcame their archrivals 26-19 to end New Zealand’s winning run on 41 matches, which spanned since their loss in the Dubai final last year.

Teagan Levi touched down either side of halftime as Australia ended New Zealand’s winning streak to claim their fourth consecutive title in Dubai.

Not to be overshadowed by her younger sister, Maddison Levi broke her own tournament try record, her 12th try of the weekend in the 13th minute was the decisive one.

The match kicked off at an astonishing speed – and did not let up. Bienne Terita scored the opening try with just 23 seconds on the clock to set Australia on the road to the title in the 23rd final meeting between the two sides.

But the Black Ferns Sevens made it difficult for the champions. Jorja Miller touched down twice in the first five minutes en route to a hat-trick in a losing cause, before Maddison Levi settled the tournament in the closing minutes.

Australia’s captain Charlotte Caslick said: “She’s (Maddison Levi) unbelievable. She’s had an amazing pre-season so we’re all just getting to see the hard work that she’s done this year.”

On the game plan for becoming the first team to beat New Zealand since last year’s final in Dubai, Caslick added: “We wanted to hold the ball as much as possible because we know when they touch it, they’re dangerous. That was key for us – restarts and holding on to the ball.

“We love coming to Dubai, we love the fans here, playing in front of you guys. It’s a great team and we’re so proud of them. We worked really hard for this, so it’s really special for us.”

New Zealand’s passage to the final saw them beat Brazil 26-14 in the quarter-final before overcoming Canada 21-19 in a nail-biting finish to an exhilarating match.

Australia began the day with a convincing 32-5 quarter-final win over the US before running out 21-14 winners against France in a high-quality semi-final.

Canada missed out on their first medal since winning silver in Sydney in 2020 as they were well beaten 26-5 by France who claimed the bronze medal and put in a strong performance throughout the weekend with the returning Anne-Cecile Ciofani contributing to building excitement ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris next July.


Haaland scores five goals in Man City’s 6-2 rout of Luton in the FA Cup

Updated 32 sec ago
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Haaland scores five goals in Man City’s 6-2 rout of Luton in the FA Cup

  • Haaland now has 27 goals in all competitions for the season after scoring 52 in his first year at the club

Erling Haaland looks determined to make up for lost time.
The Norway striker scored five goals to power Manchester City into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup in a 6-2 win against Luton on Tuesday.
It was his eighth hat trick in a season-and-a-half with City and the second time he has scored five in a single game for the club.
Perhaps more significantly, it was evidence that Haaland is fully back up to speed after recently returning from a foot injury that ruled him out for more than a month between December and January.
“My fitness is getting back to its best finally,” he said. “I feel good. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Haaland had scored only three goals in seven appearances since making his comeback on Jan. 31.
By his remarkable standards, that represented a relative drought, but he looked back to his devastating best at Kenilworth Road with a first-half hat trick and two more after the break. Four of those goals came from assists by Kevin De Bruyne, who has also missed large parts of the season through injury.
“It’s a pleasure playing with him,” Haaland said. “I think we know what we both want from each other, we look at each other and it clicks well.”
Mateo Kovacic added a sixth for City, while Jordan Clark struck twice for Luton.
Haaland was denied a possible double hat trick when he was replaced by Julian Alvarez in the 77th minute. It was the second time City manager Pep Guardiola substituted the striker after scoring five goals, having taken him off during the 7-0 rout of RB Leipzig in the Champions League last year.
Haaland now has 27 goals in all competitions for the season after scoring 52 in his first year at the club.
His performance and linkup play with De Bruyne will also fuel the belief City can emulate last season’s treble of trophies when it won the Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League.
“We’re coming. Exciting times (are) ahead,” Haaland said.
The forward completed his hat trick after 40 minutes, having opened the scoring in the third and adding a second in the 18th.
Clark pulled one back for Luton in the 45th and made it 3-2 with another seven minutes after halftime.
But Haaland quickly extended City’s lead with further goals in the 55th and 58th.
Kovacic completed the scoring with a long range effort in the 72nd.


Liverpool's injury list worsens after Ryan Gravenberch is ruled out

Updated 28 February 2024
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Liverpool's injury list worsens after Ryan Gravenberch is ruled out

  • Gravenberch sustained an ankle injury in the first half of Sunday’s English League Cup final
  • Endo left Wembley Stadium on crutches and wearing a protective boot

LIVERPOOL, England: Liverpool's injury crisis keeps on getting worse.
Ryan Gravenberch is the latest name to be added to an ever-lengthening list of players unavailable to the Premier League leader, while Wataru Endo is a doubt for Wednesday's FA Cup fifth round match against Southampton.
Gravenberch sustained an ankle injury in the first half of Sunday’s English League Cup final triumph against Chelsea and was taken off on a stretcher.
Endo left Wembley Stadium on crutches and wearing a protective boot.
“We need miracles with a few players,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said Tuesday. “I don’t want to rule them out for too long. But it is touch and go with a lot of players who were not available for the final: Darwin (Nunez), Mo (Salah), Dom (Szoboszlai) — we have to see what they can do."
Gravenberch has ligament damage that will keep him out for at least two games, Klopp said.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara and goalkeeper Alisson Becker are other key players Klopp has had to do without in recent weeks.
Yet Liverpool remain in contention for a quadruple of trophies after Sunday's 1-0 win against Chelsea.
The Merseyside club are one point ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table and still competing for the FA Cup and the Europa League.


Bundesliga boss says rejection of investor deal ‘bad for the league’

Updated 28 February 2024
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Bundesliga boss says rejection of investor deal ‘bad for the league’

  • Fans had littered pitches with everything from tennis balls to chocolate coins in opposition to the plan
  • German football has a notable commitment to fan control and involvement via a “50+1” rule

BERLIN: Bundesliga boss Hans-Joachim Watzke said Tuesday the rejection of a planned investor deal, shelved after widespread fan protests, was “bad for the league.”
Last week the German Football Leagues (DFL) which runs the Bundesliga abandoned a planned billion-euro investment deal, which had previously been approved by the necessary two-thirds majority of clubs, due largely to fan protests resulting in long delays at matches.
Fans had littered pitches with everything from tennis balls to chocolate coins in opposition to the plan to swap a portion of the league’s future media revenues for an upfront cash injection.
DFL chairman Watzke told AFP and other journalists on Tuesday that fans “in Germany have a problem with investors.”
“Germans are traditional, perhaps even a bit old-fashioned.
“In Germany, investor is perhaps not the best word.”
German football has a notable commitment to fan control and involvement via a “50+1” rule which restricts the degree of influence an external investor can have over a club.
The rule remains enduringly popular among German fans, many of whom value it more than domestic or international competitiveness.
The DFL had promised the new deal would include supporter-friendly protections against changes in kick-off times or moving competitive fixtures abroad.
“Our contract with the investor had clear red lines that nothing could happen which would be a problem for the fans, but the problem was that fans didn’t believe us.
“It’s actually a problem in German society. Every idea that you tell the public, the public says ‘not good’.”
Watzke said the protests did not reflect the opinion of the average fan.
“Five percent of the fans — which is not so much, but they’re the organized fans — were against it.
“The average fans had no problem, but they did not tell anyone.
“Maybe 500 or 800 in the stadium, the organized fans, they had a clear position — no investor.”
The 64-year-old said the protests had changed the atmosphere around the deal, with clubs getting cold feet.
“As the boss of the Bundesliga, I always had the feeling that the clear majority of clubs supported it, but in the past weeks that changed.
“When I recognized that the majority was not there, then I stopped it.”
Watzke said the result will hit mid-table teams the hardest, rather than those at the top of the tree.
“You can be sure that there’s no problem for Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
“It’s a problem for the other clubs in the league. The money from the investor would be perfect to help the whole Bundesliga grow.
“Bayern and Dortmund will make our own way if it’s necessary.”
Watzke is also CEO of Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund and he was speaking on Tuesday to announce the opening of Dortmund’s first office in New York, where fellow Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich have had a presence for a decade.


Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Updated 27 February 2024
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Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

  • Leg-spinner picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs

LAHORE: Usama Mir became the first spinner in Pakistan Super League history to grab a six-wicket haul as Multan Sultans beat Lahore Qalandars by 60 runs Tuesday, handing the two-time champions their sixth straight loss.
Leg-spinner Mir picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs.
Table-topper Multan posted this season’s highest score of 214-4 despite resting overseas players Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan and David Willey.
Usman Khan of the United Arab Emirates filled Malan’s shoes with a blistering knock of 96 off 55 balls and Iftikhar Ahmed provided a perfect finish by smashing unbeaten 40 off 18 balls.
Multan captain Mohammad Rizwan fell without scoring for the second time in the last three games when Shaheen Shah Afridi clean bowled him with a delivery that perfectly shaped into the batter in the first over.
But Usman kept counterattacking and hit 11 fours and two sixes as he capped his half-century stands with Reeza Hendricks (40), Tayyab Tahir (21) with a 60-run partnership with Ahmed off just 28 balls in the death overs.
Usman, who was dropped by Carlos Brathwaite on 89 at point, holed out to deep square leg in the last over to give Afridi (2-39) his second wicket.
Mir ran through Lahore’s middle-order in quick time when he had Rassie van der Dussen (30) caught in the deep, found the outside edge of George Linde’s bat and then bowled Jahandad Khan off a full pitched delivery in one over.
Mir claimed the last two wickets in his final over as Multan moved to the top of the table with five wins in six games.


Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title

Updated 27 February 2024
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Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title

  • Under new coach Montse Tome, Spain comfortably topped their Nations League group ahead of Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, and then defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in Seville in last Friday’s semifinal

SEVILLE, Spain: Reigning world champions Spain can claim another title on Wednesday when they face France in the final of the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League, while the Netherlands and Germany meet to decide who will join them in qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

Spain’s World Cup triumph in Sydney last August ended up being somewhat overshadowed by Spanish football federation boss Luis Rubiales’s forced kiss on midfielder Jenni Hermoso after the final against England.

Rubiales recently had a three-year ban from football upheld by FIFA and is also set to go in trial over the kiss, while the Spain team — led by Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati — have tried to keep the focus on football.

Under new coach Montse Tome, Spain comfortably topped their Nations League group ahead of Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, and then defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in Seville in last Friday’s semifinal.

Winning through to the final also allowed them to take one of two qualifying spots open to European nations for the women’s football tournament at the Olympics. It is the first time they have qualified for the Games.

However, star Barcelona midfielder Bonmati believes Spain’s World Cup success has not had the hoped-for impact on the women’s game in the country.

“Unfortunately I can’t say a lot of things have changed,” Bonmati said in an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe.

“We have the example of the English, when they won the Euro (in 2022). We saw a real change following their success at a nationwide level.

“It had repercussions, and there was more investment in the domestic league. The stadiums are full when England play. It makes me jealous because I can’t say the same thing has happened here.

“There are still so many things to do here and I have the impression that the World Cup has not served any purpose.”

She complained that the match against the Netherlands was moved at short notice from Cadiz to Seville, where the final will also be played.

“We were supposed to play in Cadiz and in the end we changed the venue to La Cartuja. That wouldn’t happen with the boys.”

France had already qualified for the Olympics automatically as the host country and Herve Renard’s team are now hoping to win a first international title in the Nations League to set them up for the Games.

The Netherlands entertain Germany in Heerenveen in the third-place play-off with the winner of that game also progressing to Paris 2024.

Germany lost 2-1 to France in Lyon in their semifinal last Friday and so must now overcome the Dutch if they are to go to the Olympics, in which they won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

After flopping at last year’s World Cup, in which they exited in the group stage, their form has improved under veteran interim coach Horst Hrubesch, who took Germany’s men to the final of the 2016 Olympics.

However, the Dutch — whose coach Andries Jonker used to manage Wolfsburg in the men’s German Bundesliga — are hoping to make the most of home advantage at the Abe Lenstra Stadion.

“We still have a chance,” of reaching the Olympics, said captain Sherida Spitse after the semifinal.

“We are very happy with that. We are playing at home with the crowd behind us.”