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MADRID: Atletico Madrid warmed up for their Europa League clash with Arsenal by playing out a 0-0 draw with in-form Betis in La Liga on Sunday, a result that left Barcelona closer still to the Spanish title.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico moved 11 points behind Barcelona with four games remaining and the unbeaten leaders need one more point to win the title.
With the Europa League semi-final first leg at Arsenal on Thursday in mind, Simeone rested forward Antoine Griezmann and midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, before sending both on as second-half substitutes. Defender Diego Godin never left the bench.
“The team is heading into Thursday’s game really well,” Simeone said. “We made important changes and the players responded, I had to rotate to ensure we had fresh players.”
Betis, who had won their previous six games, remained in fifth place and on course for the Europa League next season.
“It was an evenly contested match and for us that is enough,” said Betis coach Quique Setien.
LAS PALMAS DOWN
Elsewhere on Sunday, Las Palmas had their relegation from La Liga confirmed following an emphatic 4-0 defeat at home to Alaves.
The club from Gran Canaria needed a win to keep alive their slim hopes of staying in Spain’s top flight for a fourth straight season.
However, they suffered a fifth successive defeat in front of a sparse crowd on a wet Sunday in the Canary Islands, with Barcelona loanee Munir El Haddadi’s second-half brace having Alaves in control before Alvaro Medran and Ruben Sobrino added late goals.
Last-placed Malaga, who had already been relegated, beat Real Sociedad 2-0 with goals by Adrian Gonzalez and Youssef En-Nesyri.
Deportivo La Coruna are currently in the remaining relegation spot.
Gerard Moreno scored two goals as Espanyol won 2-0 at Girona to damage their Catalan rivals dreams of finishing in a Europa League spot. The result left Girona ninth and Espanyol 16th in the standings, 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018
LAHORE: Pakistan claimed second place in the 8th South Asian Senior Judo Championships in Kathmandu by bagging two gold, three silver and as many bronze medals in the individual events, according to the information released by the Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF).
On day one, Pakistan secured two gold and as many silver medals. Olympian Shah Hussain Shah and emerging judoka Qaiser Khan secured one gold medal each, whereas Maryam and Humaira Ashiq won a silver medal each.
Shah defended his title in weight category of +100kg by defeating an Indian rival in the preliminary round, then beating a Nepalese opponent in the semi-final before winning the final against a Sri Lankan judoka.
Qaiser, a talented 17-year-old from Fata, clinched gold in -90kgs category. His opponents were an Indian in preliminary round, a Sri Lankan in the semi-final and a Nepalese in the final.
In women’s event, Maryam clinched silver medal in -52kg by defeating Bangladeshi opponent in the first round, a Nepalese in the semi-final, while she lost to an Indian in the final.
Humaira upstaged a Sri Lankan in the first round, a Bangladeshi in round two a Nepalese in the semi-final but she lost to an Indian in the final.
On the second day, Babar Hussain bagged a silver medal in the -66kg category, while Nadeem Akram (-73kg), Mohammad Abbas (81kgs), and Beenish Khan in (-78kg) earned bronze medals.
In the men’s team event, Pakistan first defeated Bangladesh and Nepal in the semi-final but lost the final against India. While Nadeem Akram and Shah Hussain Shah won their bouts but Qaiser lost it in the final.
In the women’s team event, Pakistan lost to India in the semi-final to earn bronze medal.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018
TURIN: Second-placed Napoli threw the Serie A title race wide open in dramatic style on Sunday when Kalidou Koulibaly scored with a towering header in the last minute to give them a famous 1-0 win at leaders Juventus.
Napoli cut the gap between themselves and the Turin side to one point with four matches to play, setting up a dramatic finale to the Serie A season especially as Juve, chasing a seventh successive title, have to visit Inter Milan and AS Roma.
Napoli dominated the match but seemed to have run out of ideas and energy until the final minute when Jose Callejon’s outswinging corner was met by Senegal international Koulibaly with a monstrous header which left Gianlugi Buffon helpless.
Juve, themselves famed for pulling off wins from similar situations, were left shattered after seeing their 20-match unbeaten league run ended while Napoli’s players celebrated a famous win.
“We have always believed in the title and now we believe in it more than ever,” Koulibaly said. “We played really well this evening. It was one of the most important goals of my career. Juventus are a really strong team but we showed we are up to the challenge. We believe in our football.”
Juve have 85 points from 34 games with Napoli, bidding for a third Scudetto after 1987 and 1990, on 84. It was Juve’s first league defeat at home since a 2-1 loss to Lazio in October. Their last Serie A defeat in Turin before that was in August 2015.
“Winning here was practically mission impossible, we can be happy because we have played against a great team which hasn’t lost at home for so long,” Koulibaly said.
“The city fired us up over the last few days and when we see all those fans accompanying us to the airport, it makes us very happy. We want to thank them and the best way of doing that was to win the game.”
Around 2,000 fans had escorted the team bus to the airport in Naples on Saturday.
“Tonight is a feeling that only those who have been with us since yesterday can fully understand,” Sarri said. “It’s an enormous satisfaction. We are the only team which represents an entire population, because we are the only one which comes from a big city that only has one team.
“We gave our fans a huge joy today that goes above and beyond the standings. It was not the perfect match but it was a great match: we did not concede anything to Juventus and the victory was a logical consequence of this attitude. Juventus are still ahead, we just have to think about the next game.”
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri described it as “a poor match by both sides with only a few shots on goal”.
“It was a terrible game from both teams with zero shots on goal,” said Allegri. “We had some difficulties, but we could have closed it with a draw, unfortunately on the corner we did not mark and they got the goal.
“Napoli did what they had to, they held the ball, and they deserve credit for their victory. It was a head-to-head that was decided by a single incident. We weren’t as sharp as usual.
“We’re still top of the table, we still have the advantage. There are four games to go, two at home and two away, so we’ll see what happens. It’s true that Napoli are favourites because of the fixture list but matches have to be won. I have seen a lot in football ... anything can happen.”
Juve had to reshuffle their defence after Giorgio Chiellini limped off injured in the 11th minute although they nearly went ahead with a Miralem Pjanic free kick which was deflected on to the post.
The Allianz Stadium was briefly silenced shortly before halftime when Lorenzo Insigne had the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for offside.
The game appeared to be petering out into a draw that would have suited Juve until Insigne’s shot was turned around the post by Buffon for the decisive corner.
After all their sophisticated passing, it was an old-fashioned central defender’s header which finally broke Juve’s resistance.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018
LIVERPOOL: When AS Roma agreed to sell Mohamed Salah to Liverpool last June they could well have anticipated that the Egyptian would go on to be a big success with the Premier League club.
What they surely didn’t expect would be that Salah and Liverpool would stand between them and a place in the Champions League final.
But in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final, first leg at Anfield Roma’s primary task will be to stop the prolific Salah from adding to his impressive 41 goals in all competitions.
The Italian side are a surprise arrival in the last four of Europe’s premier club competition after a stunning comeback against Spanish giants Barcelona in the last round.
Liverpool pulled off their own surprise as Salah, voted Player of the Year by England’s Professional Footballers Association (PFA) on Sunday, scored in both legs of his team’s 5-1 aggregate quarter-final win over Premier League champions Manchester City.
Juergen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, expects Roma’s defenders to give Salah an early reminder, if any were needed, that friendships end once the players are on the field.
“I am pretty sure the Italian defenders are famous for not having friendly games, so I think Mo will feel early in the game that they are not his team-mates anymore and then he can strike back in a football way,” the German said.
Salah left Roma for Liverpool for an initial 42 million euros (37 million pounds, $52 million). In an offseason when the Premier League spent record sums and Neymar would soon go on to change the sport’s financial landscape by joining Paris St Germain for 222 million euros, Salah’s transfer wasn’t unnoticed but was hardly agenda-setting.
It has proved a significant piece of business.
For Roma, it helped balance the club’s books, erasing a big chunk of its deficit at a time when the Italian side was facing potential financial fair play penalties from UEFA.
“Anyone who understands a bit of this business knows that that’s like having a sword pointed at your neck,” said Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez, Roma’s director of sport and essentially their mastermind in the transfer market.
Selling Salah was a wrench. He combined for 26 goals (scored 15, set up 11) in Serie A in the final season of his 18 months in the Italian capital, second only to Jose Callejon of Napoli. He had quickly become a fans’ favourite. The then-Roma coach, Luciano Spalletti, had helped develop Salah’s all-around game so he was more than just a speedy winger, but an efficient and creative one, too.
As it turned out, $50 million was a bargain as Salah has blossomed into a goalscoring machine very few saw coming at the start of the season.
“It wasn’t like a lot of other teams than Liverpool were banging down the door,” Roma’s American co-owner James Pallotta told the BBC’s World Football programme. “I think today a lot of teams are kicking themselves in the head that they didn’t take a closer look at him.”
In a nomadic career since moving to Europe as a 19-year-old, Salah was known for his pace and dribbling ability in spells at Basel and Fiorentina either side of a short time at Chelsea before moving to Roma.
However, the capability he has shown time and again this season to keep a cool head in front of goal used to so often fail him.
Liverpool manager Klopp has run out of superlatives to describe Salah but deserves credit for finding a way to get the best out of him.
Pallotta says that Klopp’s system of a fluid front three also including Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is what has brought the best out of Salah, who had to feed off the target man figure of Edin Dzeko at Roma.
“He’s obviously had an incredible year. I think the coach there has clearly figured out how best to utilise him, using him in a different position I would say to Roma because you’ve got Dzeko in the middle.”
The Italian side, now under coach Eusebio Di Francesco, have somehow managed to prosper without Salah, getting to the last four of Europe’s top competition for the first time since reaching the final in 1984. The opponent that year: Liverpool.
Di Francesco has tried several players in Salah’s role as an attacking winger on the right, with varying degrees of success: Gregoire Defrel, Stephan el Shaarawy, Gerson, Patrik Schick, Diego Perotti, Alessandro Florenzi and even Radja Nainggolan.
However, it is 20-year-old Cengiz Under who is proving a revelation in that role in the second half of his first season at the club.
Under struggled initially after his move from Istanbul-based side Basaksehir for 13 million euros ($16 million), and was not involved in any goals in his first 14 matches with Roma. Yet he scored six goals in February and March, and returned from injury by coming off the bench in the second leg of the quarter-finals against Barca and delivering the corner that set up Kostas Manolas’ goal to seal a 3-0 win and historic comeback from 4-1 down in the first leg.
“Imagine where Roma would be if they still had Salah,” Klopp recently said. Maybe in financial chaos and with UEFA-imposed limits on its wage bill, transfer spending and squad size in the Champions League.
Salah now is potentially worth four times more than Liverpool bought him for.
“I feel he is in a great place, with a great set of lads,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. “He is going in the right direction with us.” That direction is potentially the Champions League final in Kiev on May 26. Unless his old club can hatch a plan to stop him.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018
LONDON: A 29-year-old chef who collapsed on Sunday while running in the hottest London Marathon on record has died in hospital, event organisers said on Monday.
Matt Campbell went down 22.5 miles into the race and was treated immediately by doctors before being rushed to hospital.
Campbell, who completed the Manchester Marathon on April 8 in under three hours, was running in memory of his father Martin who died two years ago.
“Everyone involved in the organisation of the London Marathon would like to express our sincere condolences to Matt’s family and friends,” organisers said in a statement “The exact cause of death will be established by later medical examination.”
Campbell last year reached the semi-finals of the BBC television show “Masterchef: The Professionals”.
Campbell, from the Lake District in northwest England, was raising money for a youth charity and told his Instagram followers on the morning of the race he was running in honour of his late father.
Sunday’s 38th London Marathon was the hottest ever recorded at 24.1 degrees Celsius (75.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018
JOHANNESBURG: Cricket South Africa (CSA) have announced their home schedule for the 2018-19 season that will see tours by Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, with the focus on One-day Internationals ahead of the World Cup next year.
South Africa will also host a total of five Tests, 13 One-day Internationals and nine Twenty20 Internationals against these three nations.
Pakistan will feature in the marquee Boxing Day and New Year Tests as they tour South Africa for the first time since 2013.
The first Test will be played in Centurion from Dec 26-30, before matches in Cape Town (Jan 3-7) and Johannesburg (Jan 11-15). The sides will also clash in five One-day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals that will follow the Test series.
There will be a just a week’s break before the end of Pakistan’s tour and the arrival of Sri Lanka for Tests in Durban (Feb 13-17) and Port Elizabeth (Feb 21-25).
The sides will also be involved in a series of five One-day Internationals and three Twenty20 fixtures that will finish on March 24.
After the busiest home season in South African history in 2017-18, which included 10 Tests — one of which was the first day-night, four-day long format fixture — South Africa will have much less of a workload next summer. They will only play half the number of Tests but more than double in ODIs and T20s, as preparation for the 2019 World Cup.
That means the five major Test venues receive one match each, with a significant change in the hosting of the Boxing Day Test. Centurion’s SuperSport Park has been selected as the venue for the fixture, which will move inland after several years of being played on the coast.
Previously, the match has alternated between Durban and Port Elizabeth, with the rationale that holiday-makers from up-country would fill the stadiums but poor crowds over recent years have forced a change.
Though many Highveld residents flock to the sea over the festive season, a large number remain at home over that period and CSA have long spoken about trialling the Boxing Day match there.
South Africa’s summer will get underway with a limited overs tour by Zimbabwe that will include three One-day Internationals and three Twenty20 fixtures between Sept 30 and Oct 14 at some of South Africa’s smaller cricket venues.
CSA’s acting chief executive Thabang Moroe said that the scheduled 13 One-day Internationals during the season would enable the national team to fine tune their preparations for the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.
“Following the outstanding Test match cricket played by the Proteas during the past season we can also look forward to plenty more world-class entertainment by our acknowledged stars during the five Test matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” Moroe said.
South Africa are ranked second in the world in Tests and ODIs, but only sixth in Twenty20 Internationals. Their next assignment is a tour of Sri Lanka that has matches in all three formats and starts in mid-July.
Zimbabwe in South Africa:
Sept 30: First One-day International (Kimberley).
Oct 3: Second One-day International (Bloemfontein).
Oct 6: Third One-day International (Paarl)
Oct 9: First Twenty20 International (East London).
Oct 12: Second Twenty20 International (Potchefstroom).
Oct 14: Third Twenty20 International (Benoni).
Pakistan in South Africa:
Dec 19-21: SA Invitation XI (Benoni).
Dec 26-30: First Test (Centurion).
Jan 3-7: Second Test (Cape Town).
Jan 11-15: Third Test (Johannesburg)
Jan 19: First One-day International (Port Elizabeth).
Jan 22: Second One-day International (Durban).
Jan 25: Third One-day International (Centurion).
Jan 27: Fourth One-day International (Johannesburg).
Jan 30: Fifth One-day International (Cape Town).
Feb 1: First Twenty20 International (Cape Town).
Feb 3: Second Twenty20 International
Feb 6: Third Twenty20 International (Centurion).
Sri Lanka in South Africa:
Feb 13-17: First Test (Durban).
Feb 21-25: Second Test (Port Elizabeth).
Feb 28: SA Invitation XI (Benoni).
March 3: First One-day International (Johannesburg).
March 6: Second One-day international
March 10: Third One-day International (Durban).
March 13: Fourth One-day International (Port Elizabeth).
March 16: Fifth One-day International (Cape Town).
March 19: First Twenty20 International (Cape Town).
March 22: Second Twenty20 International (Centurion).
March 24: Third Twenty20 International (Johannesburg).
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018