Fernando Torres capitalised on a defensive blunder to score a last-minute winner and secure Chelsea a 2-1 Premier League victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.The Spain striker, who set up Andre Schuerrle’s first-half goal, gleefully fired into an empty net after a mix-up between City defender Matija Nastasic and Joe Hart.Sergio Aguero had levelled soon after halftime for City as victory lifted Chelsea back up to second place, level on 20 points with Liverpool and two behind leaders Arsenal.Roberto Soldado’s 80th minute penalty secured Tottenham Hotspur a 1-0 home win over Hull City and moved them up to fourth, while Sunderland moved off the foot of the table after substitute Fabio Borini lashed in a superb late winner in a 2-1 derby victory over Newcastle United.Italian Borini, on loan from Liverpool, lifted the gloom at the Stadium of Light when he thundered a 25-metre rocket past a flailing Tim Krul six minutes from time.Swansea City and West Ham United drew 0-0 in Sunday’s other game.
By Igor Nitsak and Jahmal CornerUkraine’s soccer friendly against the United States on Wednesday in Cyprus will be played under the slogan “Peace for Ukraine!,” the Football Federation of Ukraine said on its website on Tuesday.Federation president Anatoliy Konkov earlier said Ukraine had changed its mind about cancelling the match as a sign of respect for the United States.“After announcing our intention to cancel the flight to Cyprus for a friendly against the U.S. soccer team and with regard to the military aggression of Russian Federation in Ukraine’s autonomous region of Crimea, I received numerous phone calls from public and football representatives who expressed various views on this decision,” Konkov said.Konkov held a series of meetings with team coach Mykhaylo Fomenko and Minister of Youth and Sport Dmytro Bulatov.“As a result we arrived on a common idea we should play the scheduled friendly with U.S. soccer team as they represent the country that stood up to defend our national interests and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Konkov said.“This is a very important decision to raise the patriotic spirit of the Ukrainian people. It must unite the country and show the whole world how high our flag waves and how proudly sounds the anthem of the independent state.”Konkov had said on Monday that Ukraine would not travel to Cyprus for the friendly, originally scheduled to be played in Kharkiv but moved because of Ukraine’s unstable political situation and following U.S. requests.“We cannot hold the national championship so what kind of football can we talk of at all? If we do not have an opportunity to play on home soil, why shall we go to Cyprus in these troubled times for our country?” Konkov said.“We play for our people and country. Our team do not fly to Cyprus and stay at home,” he told the ICTV channel.Ukraine’s Premier League has postponed the restart of the domestic championship after the mid-season break following Russia’s military intervention.Russian President Vladimir Putin received permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force in Ukraine. The stated purpose was to protect ethnic Russians following the ousting of Ukraine’s Russian-backed president a week ago.Putin got the green light from parliament after Russian forces had already gained control of Crimea, an isolated Black Sea peninsula with an ethnic Russian majority and where Moscow has long had a naval base.The United States is preparing to impose sanctions on Russia for its military intervention in Crimea, although no decision had yet been made, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.
By Martyn HermanThe memory of the opening 45 minutes of England’s brief World Cup adventure in steamy Brazil when Roy Hodgson’s young cavaliers tore into Italy with joyful abandon now seems like a figment of the imagination.Despite that encounter in Manaus ending in a rather undeserved 2-1 defeat, the mood afterwards was upbeat with talk of new dawns and an England side packed with pace and movement that could only get better.A subsequent defeat by Uruguay and a stultifying 0-0 draw with Costa Rica meant England returned crestfallen, although they were spared the usual media backlash, probably because a thrilling tournament was providing other distractions.The long period of goodwill Hodgson has enjoyed hitherto in his reign appears to be running out, however.Wednesday’s 1-0 win at home to Norway in a dire friendly played out in a half-empty Wembley stadium was greeted with a chorus of disapproval and for the first time Hodgson is beginning to come under attack from media and fans alike.The clash with a limited Norway side was supposed to be a fresh start before a routine-looking Euro 2016 qualification campaign begins in Switzerland on Monday.Instead, it highlighted just how far England’s stock has fallen. Lacking creativity, self-belief and saddled with an archaic 4-4-2 system after halftime, Hodgson’s side looked exactly what they are – a mediocre international team.From the all out attack against Italy, Hodgson’s side were hesitant in possession and lacking rhythm while the manager himself appears to have gone on the defensive, both tactically and with his spiky demeanour.“Don’t hit me with statistics,” Hodgson barked at journalists who pointed out that England had managed only two shots on target – one of them Wayne Rooney’s successful penalty.EXCESS BAGGAGE“We can’t get rid of the baggage,” Hodgson added in British media on Friday. “We can’t change the fact that we’ve had a bad World Cup. We can’t play those games against Italy and Uruguay again but I think you have to give me the entitlement (the right to do the job) at least.”While the link-up play between Liverpool duo Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge offered some bright moments, Hodgson is hardly blessed with a raft of exciting talent – no so-called golden generation about to break through.The paucity of the depth of real international class in English football was evident in Hodgson’s assertion that “the fact of the matter is we haven’t got many more.”“There are four or five very good players who are not here because of injury,” he said.“Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw in defence, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana in central midfield. There are people like Jon Flanagan at right-back. We have long-term injuries with Jay Rodriguez. They are youngsters.”True, but none of the names he reeled off are established internationals and have only a smattering of England caps between them and virtually no experience in the pinnacle of world club football, the Champions League.There was a weariness to some of Hodgson’s comments following the Norway match – an echo of some of his predecessors such as Graham Taylor, Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello, all of whom came under attack from the media at various times during their spells in charge.His view of the game appeared at odds with that of most observers who feel England are regressing.“If we’d have played badly, if a lot of players had had really poor performances, if the quality of our passing and movement was nothing like I wanted to see, if our defending wasn’t as compact, aggressive or organised as it was for long periods, I’d be the first to say so,” Hodgson said.“But I’m not going to say it’s that just because we had a bad World Cup.”All is not lost for Hodgson but the warning signs are there after a meagre seven wins from their last 18 matches – a run that has seen them drop to 20th in the FIFA world rankings.Adopting the kind of siege mentality Hodgson appears to be slipping into usually alienates the trigger-happy media.Another poor performance against ninth-ranked Switzerland on Monday would give plenty more ammunition to the snipers and leave Hodgson facing his first real crisis since taking over from Capello shortly before the Euro 2012 finals.
By Ed OsmondIreland ruthlessly wore down Scotland in a commanding 40-10 victory at Murrayfield on Saturday that lifted them above Wales at the top of the Six Nations standings on points difference.Ireland will win the title for the second year in a row unless England beat France by 26 points in the final match of the tournament at Twickenham later on Saturday.“It just feels really awkward, you win in Murrayfield with a 30-point differential and nobody is celebrating,” Ireland coach Joe Schmidt told Irish television.“We’ve got the dinner now and I’m going to try to switch away from it and not watch it, and someone will let me know and I’ll be either delighted or broken.“It’s a bizarre feeling. To go back to back would be incredible but I think it would be merited by this group. Right here right now, we’d be desperate to get the right result coming up this evening.“We just wanted to keep building, we wanted to stay dynamic and hopefully the points will look after themselves. I think the players did incredibly well.“Some of the frustrations from last week came out today in the energy that was displayed and in some of the accuracy that was demonstrated as well.”Ireland captain Paul O’Connell crashed over from close range to score an early try and flanker Sean O’Brien surged across the line to put the visitors 17-3 ahead.But Scotland regrouped and flyhalf Finn Russell scampered over in the left corner to reduce the deficit to 20-10 at halftime.Ireland dominated possession and were rewarded when centre Jared Payne scythed through the Scottish defence to touch down with Scotland in chaos.Scottish hopes took another hit when prop Geoff Cross was sent to the sin-bin but Ireland flyhalf Jonny Sexton missed two straightforward penalties.Sexton re-adjusted his radar, however, to extend the Irish lead to 33-10 and man-of-the-match O’Brien burrowed over from close range seven minutes from time.Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg failed to ground the ball over the line under heavy pressure from Jamie Heaslip and although Ian Madigan missed a late penalty to extend the lead, Ireland were left to celebrate their record victory at Murrayfield.Scotland’s fifth successive defeat in the tournament left them bottom of the Six Nations standings after another depressing campaign.
By Iain RogersReal Madrid coach Rafa Benitez needs to improve his relatively poor record against Barcelona if he is to avoid the first genuine crisis of his tenure when he takes charge of his first La Liga ‘Clasico’ on Saturday.Benitez, who cut his coaching teeth in Real’s youth ranks after his budding playing career was ended by injury, promised entertaining, attacking football when he returned to take over from Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season.The much-travelled former Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli manager has struggled, however, to shed a reputation as a defence-minded tactician and ominous rumblings of discontent have been building in recent weeks.Real go into the clash at the Bernabeu three points behind leaders and champions Barca after they slipped to a 3-2 loss at Sevilla in their last outing. Defeat by their arch rivals on Saturday could spell the beginning of the end for the 55-year-old.Real’s deep-pocketed president Florentino Perez is not known for his patience – Benitez is the 10th coach the construction magnate has appointed during his two six-year stints at the helm of the world’s richest club by income.Ancelotti led Real to their 10th European title and the King’s Cup in his first season in charge in 2013-14 but was summarily dismissed after failing to win major silverware last term, when Barca won the treble.Benitez – who has won four, lost seven and drawn one of 12 matches against Barca over the past two decades with Real Valladolid, Extremadura, Valencia and Liverpool – knows a bare trophy cabinet this season will not be tolerated but the early signs are not good.As well as criticism of his tactics, reports in Spanish media have suggested his relationships with some of his key players, including FIFA Ballon d’Or holder and top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo and fan favourite James Rodriguez, are already starting to sour.Add to that Ronaldo’s recent poor run of form, at least by his high standards, and injuries to the likes of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos and Rodriguez, and it seems the football gods are lining up against Real and their coach.SEX VIDEOTo make matters worse, Benzema was put under formal judicial investigation this month in connection with an alleged attempt to blackmail his France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena with the use of a sex video.That kind of off-field distraction is the last thing Real need and it remains to be seen whether Benzema will be physically – and mentally – fit to face Barca.Chasing a sixth La Liga title in eight years, Barca smell blood and their former forward Julio Salinas said victory at the Bernabeu would deal a big blow to Real.Talisman Lionel Messi looks set to return from injury and fellow South American forwards Neymar and Luis Suarez have been in scintillating form in recent weeks.“Barca is coming into the match as leaders, with a three-point advantage, and with Neymar playing out of his skin and Messi fit again,” Salinas told reporters on Wednesday.“What’s more, Real Madrid have a lot of problems. If Barca win that could cause a great deal of damage.”Barca lead on 27 points after 11 matches, with Real on 24 in second and Atletico Madrid a point further back in third.
Manchester United fans turned on their own team after a Europa League defeat to Danish minnows Midtjylland, chanting obscenities that under-pressure manager Louis van Gaal admitted were justified.United’s travelling support sang their displeasure as the 2-1 loss on Thursday evening dented the team’s best hope of returning to the Champions League next season.Midtjylland were Danish champions last year but had won just one of their previous ten fixtures and not played a competitive match since December.Van Gaal, whose team trail fourth-placed Manchester City by six points in the Premier League, had played up United’s “positive” start to the year after they came through their first four games of 2016 undefeated.But United have now recorded just two wins in six since they beat Liverpool on Jan. 17, increasing the pressure on their manager once again.“The fans can criticise. They are disappointed, like we are,” the Dutchman said when told what supporters had been singing. “They can do because when you see the second half maybe they are right. We have to improve and then the fans shall support us again.”With keeper David de Gea injuring a knee during the warm-up to join a lengthy casualty list that includes captain Wayne Rooney, Van Gaal cited injuries as a factor in the defeat.“It is difficult to cope with such a list of injured players,” he said.That defence did not go down well at home.Columnists at the Manchester Evening News described the defeat as a “new low” and called for Van Gaal to be sacked, while many irate fans took to Twitter.“Please, please just sack Van Gaal he is the worst thing that has ever happened at United,” one user tweeted.“The level of @ManUtd’s uselessness is unmatched,” said another, while BBC Match of The Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: “It’s hard to comprehend how poor Manchester United are at present.”
Hunter, one of the Cook Islands’ top-ranked athletes in the discipline, believes the Pacific Games are as good as it gets for paddlers because va’a – or outrigger canoeing as it is also known – is not an Olympic sport.“For us, this is the big event. This is basically it. We all want to win here,” said Hunter, who used to compete internationally in triathlon.Hunter won the bronze medal in the women’s V1 500m race on Tuesday and will also be competing in the V1 10km on Friday and V6 20km on Saturday.When she talked about the competition for her and other Cook Island paddlers at Port Moresby 2015, she said that all countries entered were looking strong.“We’ve pretty much medalled at all previous Games for canoeing,” she said.“So, we’re coming here pretty focused, but I have to say by the level of competition at these Games, everyone has really stepped up their game.”While Hunter was playing down her chances of winning gold in Port Moresby, she did finish sixth in her debut at this year’s Molekai solo in Hawaii.The Molekai solo is a gruelling 55km outrigger race starting from the island of Molekai and finishing on Oahu.As the first Cook Island women to compete in the race, Hunter said it was a real challenge.“I took me just under five hours,” recalled the two time Cook Island sportswoman of the year.“It was just a goal, I’ve been paddling for about 10 years, so Molekai solo is always like the big holy grail and something you want to do at some stage.”So, as Hunter continues to stay focused for her next races at Port Moresby 2015, she was keeping mum on whether she would do the Molekai race again.“I would not say never say never,” the 43-year-old said with a chuckle…..PACNEWS
The Sharks headed to Melbourne last week with the chance of winning their first minor premiership since 1999.That chance slipped away as the Storm prevailed by 20 points. Making matters worse, Cronulla wouldn’t even finish second with the Raiders leapfrogging them less than 24 hours later after flogging the Wests Tigers 52-10.Canberra welcome back prop Junior Paulo (back) who will start instead of now 18th man Paul Vaughan as Ricky Stuart’s men look to make it a whopping 11-straight victories.The Sharks have lost Joseph Paulo (knee) for a couple of weeks but coach Shane Flanagan has welcomed back Ricky Leutele. Leutele starts in the centres and Gerard Beale returns to the bench and will be joined by 18th man Kurt Capewell. Watch out Raiders: Retiring Sharks hooker Michael Ennis has missed one game this season and not only did it coincide with the last time his side faced the Raiders, it also signalled the end of Cronulla’s unbeaten run of 16 games. Ennis has laid on 10 tries this year from dummy half and averaged 36.3 tackles per game. His work in the middle was sorely missed against Canberra six weeks ago as opposition rake Josh Hodgson ran rampant. Watch out Sharks: Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua have combined so well this year they now have their own couple name. ‘Leipana’ have scored just over a quarter of Canberra’s tries this year between them (Rapana 20, Leilua 11) while combining for 16 try assists and 245 tackle breaks. It spells bad news for Sharks’ left-edge players, particularly the competition’s biggest defensive battler James Maloney (99 missed tackles). Key match-up: Jack Wighton v Ben Barba. With Wighton cleared by the judiciary on Tuesday night, a highly-anticipated clash with Sharks counterpart Ben Barba beckons. Barba has been one of the NRL’s success stories in 2016. With 18 try assists and 15 tries to his name Barba has proved a perfect foil for Sharks halves James Maloney and Chad Townsend. Wighton benefits Canberra most as a running fullback (137.1 metres per game) but is more than capable of laying on tries with eight tries and 12 assists under his belt already this year. The history: Played 66; Raiders 31, Sharks 35. The Raiders and Sharks have traded wins in 2016. They last played in Round 22 when the Raiders prevailed by 16 points at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Since 2010 that these teams have traded two wins for two losses. What are the odds: Eighty per cent of money has been for the Raiders in the head-to-head market, and Canberra 13-plus is the best backed winning option with Sportsbet punters. Rapana is most popular in the first try scorer market ahead of skipper Jarrod Croker. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall. Sideline Officials: Rickey McFarlane and Jeff Younis.Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live Coverage from 2:25pm. The way we see it: There seems to be too many points in the Raiders to deny them the win on Saturday afternoon. The Raiders haven’t scored scored less than 20 points in a game since their last loss to the Broncos back in Round 14. Cronulla have managed to score more than 20 points just once in their past six games. Raiders by 10 points.
Morgan Ruig and Evan Shay, both 28, were on a polo trip in Beijing when they heard about the competition.They successfully applied to play as the Australian team and wore green blazers bearing the national logo.The men, who do not play professionally, left North Korea without problems after the event.The two-day tournament brought 85 participants from around the world to North Korea’s only golf course in Pyongyang.The Australian pair were chaperoned throughout their five-day trip which included a tour of the capital, where they placed a bouquet at a monument to the country’s leaders.”We were very nervous handing our passports over at the border. There are stories of people not coming home,” Mr Ruig told the Courier-Mail newspaper.North Korea’s later leader Kim Jong-il opened Pyongyang golf complex in 1987. It is claimed he shot 11 hole-in-ones on his first attempt at the sport.Mr Ruig and Mr Shay, who became friends at Brisbane Boys’ College, did not come close to beating the Supreme Leader’s supposed world-record 38 under par.”I hit 120 and my caddy told me I had bought great shame to my family,” Mr Ruig said.”We played very poorly… but we met some very interesting people.”Mr Ruig told Yahoo Sport that officials “thought it was quite funny”, and that they had no problems leaving the country afterwards.Despite their poor show, he said the whole trip was “character building”.”I wouldn’t recommend it to a light-hearted traveller. It was pretty hardcore but it was an amazing experience.”
The hosts’ Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau defeated Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot 7-6 5-7 7-5 7-5 in Rouen, eliminating Great Britain without the need for two scheduled singles rubbers on Sunday.Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund had previously lost singles matches on Friday, meaning Saturday’s doubles was a must-win for Great Britain but they were ultimately unable to keep the quarter-final alive into the final day.France, who haven’t won the Davis Cup in 16 years, asserted their dominance immediately on Saturday when Mahut and Benneteau snatched the opening set on a tie-break. Across the entire tie, it was France’s seventh consecutive set without Britain winning any.The rot was stopped, albeit briefly, by Britain’s doubles team when Inglot struck a majestic lob to gain control of the second set allowing Murray to serve his side onto the score-board. It would prove to be Britain’s finest moment of the quarter-final.Mahut, a former world No 1 at doubles, showed his class in the third set moments after wasting a set point by forcing another advantage for France, which they took to go 2-1 ahead.Mahut played a shot from the crowd’s side of the advertising hoardings in the stand-out moment of the final set, which France deservedly took to confirm a semi-final.