Vonn claims bronze in farewell race as Stuhec wins downhill

Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec swept to gold in the women’s downhill at the Alpine Ski World Championships on Sunday, but her victory was eclipsed by a bronze medal for American Lindsey Vonn in the final race of her glittering career.

Corinne Suter of Switzerland took silver, but it was Vonn who hogged the headlines as she brought the curtain down on almost two decades in which she became one of the most successful skiers of all time.

Vonn announced earlier in the week that Sunday’s downhill would be her final race after several years spent battling a succession of injuries.

Having crashed out spectacularly in the Super-G competition on Tuesday, Vonn was third out on the shortened course and turned back the clock to give the crowd a final glimpse of her superb skill, balance and concentration.

After a somewhat slow start, the 34-year-old picked up speed as she went, burning up the middle of the course and cruising across the finish line to snatch the lead from Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg in a time of one minute and 02.23 seconds.

There to greet her with a bunch of flowers in the finishing area was Swedish ski legend Ingemar Stenmark, whose record of 86 World Cup wins was long a target for Vonn. In the end she had to settle for 82 victories of her own.

Vonn looked set for a fairytale ending to her career, but a flawless run by 2017 world champion Stuhec resulted in a time of 1:01.74 to put her in the lead by almost half a second.

Suter managed to nip in between the pair to claim silver, 0.23 seconds after Stuhec, but the event will be remembered for the worthy send-off for Vonn as she added the bronze to her haul of three Olympic and seven World Championship medals.

Hat-trick for May as six-try England crush sorry France

Winger Jonny May scored a hat-trick in the first 30 minutes as a scintillating England ripped through a sorry France for a 44-8 victory at Twickenham on Sunday to put them top of the Six Nations table after two rounds.v

After claiming an unexpected bonus point victory over Ireland last week, the extra point was in the bag by halftime as Eddie Jones’s team exposed France’s ragged defence again and again with a relentless deluge of kicks of every description.

The irrepressible May bagged the first three and Henry Slade the fourth as England forged a remarkable 30-8 halftime lead.

A penalty try and one for Owen Farrell put the game to bed early in the second half.

England top the standings with 10 points from two bonus-point wins, with Wales - who they face next in Cardiff - on eight after their two opening victories.

It was their second-highest margin of victory over the French, a point shy of their 37-0 win in 1911.

“When you’ve got a bonus point after 30 minutes, you’ve done pretty well but I thought our second half performance was even better,” said Jones. “Our focus and discipline to keep France scoreless was outstanding.”

France, who beat England in Paris a year ago, have now lost 15 of their last 19 games and have managed only two championship victories at Twickenham in 30 years.

They had no answer to England’s relentless attacks, particularly their array of kicks that had them turning, retreating and tying themselves in knots from start to finish.

“At the moment we are having a great deal of success with our kicking and if you chase well it’s difficult to counter,” said Jones. “If teams defend as they do now, there’s space in the back field.”

QUICK OFF THE MARK

The die of England’s go-to attacking tactic was cast in the opening exchanges and France failed to find any answers.

For the fifth game in a row, England had a try within the first three minutes. A mazy run and kick through by Elliot Daly set up a mismatch between some lumbering blue shirts and the quicksilver May, which England’s winger won with embarrassing ease to touch down after 67 seconds.

The second came with echoes of Jason Robinson as May stuttered and dummied to somehow create space from nothing to zip past Damian Penaud to score his second.

His third was a far easier finish after Chris Ashton joined the kicking gang, nudging a perfect grubber into the same left corner to send Twickenham wild as England led 23-8 with less than half an hour gone.

A great run by Yoann Huget sent Panaud over for France but they then immediately failed, yet again, to deal with a huge Farrell up and under and prop Kyle Sinckler spun a pass to Slade to dance over for a 30-8 halftime lead.

They stretched that with a penalty try after Gael Fickou dragged down Ashton as he bore down on another kick through by Slade and Farrell added the sixth, chasing his own kick after he took a quick tap and go on the halfway line.

England then showed terrific focus to defend their line and keep their shape amid the usual influx of replacements as France drifted to yet another defeat.

“We got spanked,” said lock Arthur Iturria, summing up another day to forget a week after his team blew a 16-0 halftime lead to lose at home to Wales

Coach Jacques Brunel could not say he did not know what was coming after England had used the kick and chase with such success in Dublin last week and he will have more questions to answer after picking a back three of players all operating out of their usual positions.

“England put us under pressure throughout the game and we just could not deal with it,” he said, having failed to stem the tide with the second-half introduction of uncapped fullback Thomas Ramos. “They had an excellent kicking game and continually took advantage of the space.

Bastareaud back as France turn on power against England

Mathieu Bastareaud has been named in France’s starting line-up for their Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham on Sunday, in an acknowledgement that they will need power in the centre.

Head coach Jacques Brunel on Friday made six changes to the team who threw away a 16-0 halftime lead in a 24-19 defeat to Wales in the championship’s curtain-raiser last Friday, with Bastareaud pushing the lighter Romain Ntamack to the bench.

The Toulon powerhouse, who did not feature in the squad against Wales, will start alongside Geoffrey Doumayrou, who replaces the injured Wesley Fofana.

“We know the impact he can have against the power of the England centres, notably Manu Tuilagi,” said Brunel, who dismissed suggestions that he was changing his overall strategy.

“We have three players injured. Nothing serious, but they needed eight days of rest and we didn’t want to take any risks,” he explained.

“We still want to put speed in our game. We managed to do it in the first half last week. It remains our main goal.”

With Maxime Medard injured, Yoann Huget, whose mistake led to Wales’s second try at the Stade de France, moved down to fullback, leaving the wing position to Gael Fickou.

Huget was preferred to the 23-year-old Thomas Ramos as Brunel believes France will also need experience against England: “We didn’t want to expose him early in the game as we know it’s going to be a bit complicated.”

Brunel also reshuffled his pack. Demba Bamba will start at tight-head prop after Uini Atonio suffered a knee injury while flanker Yacouba Camara took over from Wenceslas Lauret and lock Felix Lambey replaced Paul Willemse.

Scrumhalf Morgan Parra and flyhalf Camille Lopez will start together again while scrumhalf Antoine Dupont will take Baptiste Serin’s place on the bench.

England started their campaign with a 32-20 away win against Ireland last Saturday, while France have lost seven of their last eight matches.

“England always impose their power. They’re back to their best, as the game against Ireland showed. I was very impressed by their performance,” said Brunel.

Team:

15-Yoann Huget, 14-Damian Penaud, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11-Gael Fickou, 10-Camille Lopez, 9-Morgan Parra, 8-Louis Picamoles, 7-Arthur Iturria, 6-Yacouba Camara, 5-Felix Lambey, 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3-Demba Bamba, 2-Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1-Jefferson Poirot

Replacements:

16-Pierre Bourgarit, 17-Dany Priso, 18-Dorian Aldegheri, 19-Paul Willemse, 20-Gregory Alldritt, 21-Antoine Dupont, 22-Romain Ntamack, 23-Thomas Ramos

Liverpool report world-record £125m profit for 2017-18 financial year

.Champions League football helped beat Leicester’s £92.5m
.Reds reinvested £190m in players, including agents’ fees

Liverpool broke the world record for the biggest pre-tax profit made by a football club during the 2017-18 financial year, the club’s latest accounts have revealed.

 

Champions League qualification, progress to the final in Kiev and the £142m sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona were instrumental in producing a pre-tax profit of £125m, eclipsing the £92.5m made by Leicester City in 2016-17.

The profit after tax was £106m and £190m was reinvested in Jürgen Klopp’s title-chasing squad, a sum that includes agents’ fees and associated costs. Money has also been invested in a £50m training complex under construction in Kirkby, and the overall wage bill increased to £263m.

Turnover for the year ending 31 May 2018 increased by £90m to £455m, with media revenue rising by £66m to £220m in the second year of the three-year Premier League broadcasting deal. Commercial revenue was up £17m to £154m and match revenue increased £7m to £81m.

Champions League football helped drive the increases on 2016-17, when Liverpool did not qualify for any European competition but posted a pre-tax profit of £40m, with the new main stand generating the extra match-day revenue. The outstanding loan on the main stand, provided by the owner Fenway Sports Group, is £100m with £10m in capital paid off over the year. The club’s external debt stands at £56m.

Liverpool made £72m from last season’s Champions League campaign. The latest accounts include the signings of Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke. They do not account for last summer’s club record spend on Alisson, Naby Keïta, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri, signed for a combined total of £174m.

 

Courtesy: The Guardian

 

‘The lesson is never give up,’ says Pep Guardiola after Manchester City go top

•‘It’s the best we can do,’ says City manager
• City pip Liverpool on goal difference: next up Chelsea

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City’s return to the top of the Premier League was reward for their refusal to concede the title to Liverpool but warned his team face “a final” against Chelsea on Sunday.

City returned to the summit for the first time since mid-December with a 2-0 victory at Everton courtesy of goals from Aymeric Laporte and the substitute Gabriel Jesus. They lead Liverpool on goal difference and have played one game more. But having faced the possibility of losing touch when they met on 3 January, Guardiola insisted the recovery demonstrated the indefatigable spirit of his champions.

“It’s much better,” said the City manager of the league table. “It’s the best we can do. The reality is we could have been 10 points behind one month ago when we played Liverpool. A few days ago we could have been seven points behind. Now we are top of the league.

“The lesson is never give up. That is a lesson for all athletes. Try to win the games, because life can change immediately. Now we must prepare and recover well for Chelsea.

“There are a lot of contenders to fight for the title and there are a lot of games to go. We will drop points and hopefully our opponents will also. With the amount of games we have in our legs we cannot give days off, so to be this consistent means a lot.

“We came from 100 points and champions [last season] and then we are in a situation where we could have given up [this season] but it didn’t happen. We gave an incredible game against Liverpool. These players have shown incredible desire and performances for the last two years. How could I question them?”

Guardiola lamented the lack of recovery time between this game and hosting Chelsea but believes this could prove a significant week in the title race should City claim a third successive win. He said: “We have started well. Arsenal and now here, which we knew would be tough, and now comes a big test; a big goal. Chelsea are an exceptional team, who have had seven days to prepare. We have to prepare well. It really is a final for us. If we are able to take these points, it is a huge step forward.”


Courtesy: The Guardian

West Ham and Met police investigating alleged Islamophobic abuse of Salah

• Egyptian targeted in video taken during Liverpool draw
• Police say they are reviewing footage of incident

The Metropolitan Police and West Ham United are investigating a video in which a supporter can apparently be heard aiming Islamophobic abuse at Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah at the London Stadium on Monday night.

The incident was captured in a video posted on Twitter and the alleged abuse appeared to occur as Salah took a corner for Liverpool during the first half of his team’s 1-1 draw away to West Ham in the Premier League. In the footage, recorded in a home area of the ground, someone is heard shouting “Salah, you fucking Muslim, fucking Muslim cunt” at the Egyptian forward.

Kick It Out, football’s anti discrimination charity, expressed its dismay at “yet another high-profile incident of discrimination in English football”, while the Met said they were aware of the video and were in the process of reviewing the footage. “No arrests have been made and enquiries continue,” a statement added. “Anyone who witnesses inappropriate behaviour during a match is urged to bring it to the attention of a steward or police officer.”

West Ham are examining the ground’s CCTV footage and are working with the police as they attempt to identify the perpetrator. The club has vowed to take firm action against anyone found guilty of racial abuse.

A West Ham United spokesperson said: “At West Ham United, we have a zero tolerance policy to any form of violent or abusive behaviour. We are an inclusive football club. Regardless of age, race, religion or belief, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment or disability, everyone is warmly welcomed at London Stadium.

“Anyone identified committing an offence will have their details passed to the police and will face a lifetime ban from London Stadium. There is no place for this kind of behaviour at our stadium.”

English football has been plagued by several racism controversies this season. In December a Chelsea fan was accused of aiming racial abuse at Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge and a Tottenham fan was arrested after throwing a banana skin at Arsenal’s Pierre-Aubameyang at the Emirates Stadium, while The Football Association is also investigating of reports of racist chanting from Millwall fans during the south London club’s FA Cup win over Everton last month.

Kick it Out added: “We are pleased that West Ham officials have already expressed their determination to identify the supporter and take firm action – this type of behaviour is simply unacceptable and must be challenged swiftly and decisively.”

Courtesy: The Guardian

Davis Cup champions Croatia among six seeded nations for finals

Davis Cup champions Croatia have been seeded second for the revamped 18-team finals week that will take place in Madrid in November.

Last year’s runners-up France were named top seeds on Monday while Belgium and the United States were also seeded alongside wildcards Britain and Argentina.

The six nations will occupy the first slots across Groups A-F when the draw for the finals week is made in Madrid on Feb. 14.

The seedings are based on the current Davis Cup Nations Ranking, with teams ranked seven to 12 - Spain, Serbia, Australia, Italy, Germany and Kazakhstan - set to be drawn into the second slot in the groups.

The remaining nations ranked from 13 to 18 - Canada, Japan, Colombia, Netherlands, Russia and Chile - will be drawn into the third slot in the groups.

The winners of each group will advance to the knockout phase along with the two second-placed teams with the best percentage of sets, games and points won.

The 12 losing nations from last weekend’s qualifiers will be part of the Zone Group competition draw on Wednesday, with their Davis Cup rankings deciding the group allocation.

Six seeded nations for the finals:

1. France

2. Croatia

3. Argentina

4. Belgium

5. Britain

6. United States

Halep appoints Belgian Van Cleemput as new coach

Former world number one Simona Halep has appointed Thierry Van Cleemput as her new coach and will officially begin working with the Belgian at next week’s Qatar Open.

Halep had planned to fly solo for the first few months of 2019 after former coach Darren Cahill left to spend more time with his family in Australia.

French Open champion Halep began speaking with Van Cleemput at last month’s Australian Open after he split with world number 21 David Goffin midway through the tournament, according to a report on the WTA website.

Van Cleemput had worked with his compatriot for the last five years, overseeing Goffin’s rise to the top-10.

World number three Halep, whose pre-season was shortened due to a back issue, made the fourth round at Melbourne Park where she lost to American Serena Williams in three sets.

Halep will represent Romania in their Fed Cup tie against Czech Republic in Ostrava this weekend before tournaments in Doha and Dubai.

Patriots beat Rams to win sixth Super Bowl title

The New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 on Sunday in the lowest scoring Super Bowl played to capture the National Football League championship for a record-tying sixth time.

The victory, which moves the Patriots into a share of the all-time mark with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was also a record sixth Super Bowl triumph for Tom Brady, who at 41 became the oldest quarterback to win the championship game.

Brady was joined in the record books by 66-year-old Bill Belichick who becomes the oldest coach to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy.

“It’s sweet,” said Belichick. “Everybody counted us out from the beginning of the season, the mid-season but we’re still here.”

Brady again orchestrated the victory finally cracking open a tight 3-3 defensive battle late in the fourth quarter when he hit Rob Gronkowski with a 29-yard pass to set up a two-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel.

The Rams looked likely to hit right back when Jared Goff marched Los Angeles into New England territory only to be intercepted on the four-yard line with four minutes to play.

Brady moved in for the kill with another drive to set up kicker Stephen Gostkowski who nailed a 41-yarder with 72 seconds remaining to clinch New England’s third Super Bowl since 2015.

Until the final few minutes the most spectacular moment of an uninspiring contest came when the $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s ocular eight-pedal retractable roof opened to a massive roar.

That moment aside fans of attacking football had little to cheer with Gostkowski’s 42-yard field goal accounting for all the first half scoring.

The Rams high-powered offence, which averaged nearly 33 points a game during the regular season, failed to fire and managed just 57 total yards and two first downs in the first half and 260 for the game.

Brady, however, had the New England offence on the move ringing up 407 yards of offence but were their own worst enemy committing uncharacteristic errors.

“We had a lot of resolve the last couple of weeks,” said Brady, who completed 21 of 35 pass attempts for 262 yards. “I wish we had played a little bit better on offence but we won.

“I can’t believe it, we are Super Bowl champs.”

For a team that rarely beats themselves the Patriots did a pretty good job of it in the opening quarter when Brady had his first pass intercepted to snuff out a promising scoring drive and then on their next possession Gostkowski missed a 46-yard field goal to squander another opportunity.

It was the first missed field goal inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season.

Despite the costly miscues, New England continued to move the ball and Brady dove them to the Los Angeles 24 with the help of a 25-yard pass to Julian Edelman where Gostkowksi atoned for is earlier miss to send the Rams into the break up 3-0.

Edelman pulled in 10 catches for 141 yards to be named the Super Bowl’s most valuable player.

“I wasn’t focussed on that (having an MVP performance),” said Edelman. “I was just trying to have a good week or practice and do my job and sometimes the cookie crumbles that way.”

The Rams sputtering offence finally began to get in gear late in the third quarter as Goff engineered a modest 10-play drive that ended with Greg Zuerlein connecting on a 53-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.

But points were still hard to come by as two teams reached the final quarter without a touchdown for the first time in a Super Bowl, the six points the fewest ever after three quarters.

Wehrlein and Hartley join Ferrari in simulator roles

Ferrari have hired ex-Formula One drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Brendon Hartley to help develop their 2019 race car in the simulator.

The pair were among four simulator drivers named on Monday to work at the Italian team’s Maranello factory in support of racers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

Wehrlein, who last year ended ties with Mercedes, drove for now-defunct Manor and Sauber in Formula One in 2016 and 2017 and the German is now racing for the Mahindra team in the all-electric Formula E series.

New Zealander Hartley, a two-times world endurance champion who won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche in 2017, competed for Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso last year.

Italians Antonio Fuoco and Davide Rigon were the other two drivers appointed.

“Our team has taken on four undoubtedly talented drivers, who possess innate feeling, with a strong understanding of race cars and tracks,” said team principal Mattia Binotto in a statement.

“These are exactly the qualities required in the skilful role of driving in a simulator, one of the vital pieces of equipment in the Formula One of today.”

Russian Daniil Kvyat and Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, who performed simulator duties for Ferrari last year, are racing this season for Toro Rosso and Sauber respectively.

The season starts in Australia on March 17.

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