Hanyu triumphs, books spot in GP final

Updated 25 November 2012
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Hanyu triumphs, books spot in GP final

SENDAI, Japan: Japanese teenager Yuzuru Hanyu, who broke his own world record with a mark of 95.32 in Friday’s short program, won yesterday’s free skate at the NHK Trophy to secure a place in next month’s Grand Prix final.
The 17-year-old Hanyu opened his free skate with a quadruple toe loop and hit six triple jumps on the way to victory with a score of 261.03 points. He was unable to land the second quad — a salchow — and fell on his final jump, a triple lutz, but did enough to beat second-place finisher and compatriot Daisuke Takahashi by nearly 10 points. Ross Miner of the United States finished third with 235.37 points.
“I’m very happy to make the Grand Prix final,” Hanyu said. “Despite my mistakes in the free skate, I was able to score more than 160 points, so my training has paid off.” Mao Asada of Japan narrowly edged out compatriot Akiko Suzuki for the women’s title. Asada tallied 185.27 points to Suzuki’s 185.22. Mirai Nagasu of the United States finished third with 176.68 points.
Takahashi put on a lively performance to “I Pagliacci” and totaled 251.51. The result qualified Takahashi for his seventh GP final. Only Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, has made more GP finals with eight.
Takahashi, the 2010 world champion, began with a quad toe loop, but under-rotated when he performed one for the second time. The mistake took nothing away from the sublime show he put on, however, as he landed seven triple jumps and had the audience completely enthralled with his superior presentation skills.
“I feel good about making the final for a seventh time,” Takahash saidi. “I will give everything I have and go all out there.” Hanyu and Takahashi will be joined by compatriots Takahiko Kozuka and Tatsuki Machida at the GP Final in Sochi, Russia, giving Japan four of the six competitors in the men’s event.
Skating to “Swan Lake,” Asada doubled her opening triple loop, then later doubled a triple lutz and compounded her problems by singling a triple salchow, but her big lead over Suzuki from the short program was enough put her atop the podium.
“I feel a lot of disappointment,” Asada said. “I couldn’t execute any of my jumps. I can’t be satisfied with the way I performed.” Suzuki assured herself a spot in the GP final with a tremendous performance to “O” from Cirque du Soleil. The world bronze medalist landed six triple jumps and moved the audience with her program.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States retained their lead from the short dance to capture the title in ice dance with 178.48.
White and Davis, the 2011 world champions, beat Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (156.62) by nearly 18 points in notching the victory. Maia and Alex Shibutani, also of the United States, took third place with a total of 154.56 Davis and White, the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, locked up a spot in the GP final, which they have won the past three years.

The win marked the third time that Davis and White have captured the NHK Trophy and the eighth straight Grand Prix victory for the duo. The last regular GP event they entered and did not win was the Cup of Russia in 2008.
Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia hold a slim lead in pairs after the short program. The Russians top the field with 65.61, with Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch close behind at 65.14.
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (61.85) of the US are third.
The free skate in pairs is set for Sunday.


Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

Updated 45 min 58 sec ago
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Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

  • Both sides shocked more-fancied opposition to reach last four.
  • Tremendous atmosphere expected in first leg at Anfield.

If football is about guts and glory, about matches that linger in the mind long after the final whistle has blown, the Champions League fulfils a curious role. On the one hand it is both symbol and agent of much that is wrong in modern football, the corporate culture, the ludicrous inequality of resources that have rendered many domestic leagues processions. But on the other it does offer more chances for those immortal nights than any other competition — and perhaps particularly so when the teams involved are Liverpool and Roma.
Roma have not won Serie A since 2001; Liverpool have not won the English top flight since 1990. These are not sides who will take success for granted. Whatever happens in the remainder of this season, fans of both teams will remember their quarterfinals with fondness: Liverpool for the way their side twice beat the runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, a 20-minute blast in the first-half of the first leg in which they scored three times proving decisive; and Roma for their remarkable comeback from 4-1 down after the first leg to go through on away goals.
Roma again have the second leg at home, where they are yet to concede in the Champions League this season, having shut out sides of the calibre of not only Barcelona but also Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. That is, theoretically, an advantage but equally it is hard to conceive of this Liverpool side failing to score anywhere, which in turn means that Roma probably need a goal at Anfield. Liverpool themselves, for all their reputation for defensive fallibility, have kept clean sheets in each of their last four home Champions League games, and have generally been much improved at the back since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January.
That development is part of an overall sense of progress at Liverpool. In that regard, Jurgen Klopp is in a similar position to Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. It is evident that there has been an improvement in each year he has been at the club but there is a growing sense that it would be nice for that to be validated by a trophy. And if that trophy can be the Champions League, so much the better.
Perhaps there are still concerns that the midfield does not offer the central defenders quite the protection it could, particularly when the full-backs are as attacking as they are, but Liverpool now have options in that area — and will probably perm three from Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum — and have a unit that is quick, powerful and combative.
Given how Juventus wilted in the last 16 against Tottenham’s press, that physical advantage Premier League teams perhaps have over Italian sides, could be a major factor — particularly given the likelihood that Roma will start with the 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi as a fairly static playmaker behind Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan.
Against Barcelona, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for a back three for only the second time this season. That was probably a specific ploy to overman Barca’s 4-4-2 in the center. A return to the more familiar 4-3-3 seems likely here but one of the beauties of games at this stage, particularly in cauldrons like Anfield and the Olimpico, is that at least as important as the tactics are more visceral factors, like heart and courage.

KEY CLASH

MOHAMED SALAH v FEDERICO FAZIO

The first question any opposition manager has to answer when facing Liverpool is how to deal with Mohamed Salah who has scored 41 goals this season, cutting from the right into the space created when Roberto Firmino drops deep. One way to counter him might be to use a right-footed left-back to deal with those incursions inside, much as Rafa Benitez once switched Alvaro Arbeloa to the ‘wrong’ flank to deal with Lionel Messi. More likely here, though, is that the left-sided center-back Federico Fazio will be asked to guard against him, even if that means stepping out from the back-line. That, in turn, increases the defensive responsibility on Daniele De Rossi. There may even be a case for bringing in Juan Jesus, who did such a good job against Messi, either instead of Fazio or at left-back in place of the injury doubt Aleksandar Kolarov.