Chelsea gives United the FA Cup blues

Updated 05 April 2013
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Chelsea gives United the FA Cup blues

LONDON: Holders Chelsea kept one hand on the FA Cup by overcoming a lackluster Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge yesterday in their quarterfinal replay. Senegalese striker Demba Ba settled the tie with a memorable goal early in the second half to send Chelsea into the last four for the sixth time in eight seasons. Winners of four of the last six tournaments, Chelsea will play Manchester City in the semifinals at Wembley Stadium on April 14. Despite his unpopularity with the Chelsea fans, interim manager Rafael Benitez could yet end the season with two trophies, as Russians Rubin Kazan await in the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday. “It was a great win,” said Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, who produced a breath-taking save from Javier Hernandez to preserve his side’s lead. “We love Wembley, we respect the FA Cup as a whole and we always want to win. “For my save, it was a great ball into the box and I just went as fast as I could and let my left arm do the job. Luckily I was able to reach it.” United, meanwhile, have now gone nine years without winning the FA Cup, having seen hopes of a league, cup and Champions League treble evaporate in the space of a month. Their 15-point lead in the Premier League means they are virtually guaranteed to succeed City as champions, but manager Alex Ferguson faces the odd prospect of an end to the campaign with nothing to play for.
Benitez complained that Ferguson snubbed his offer of a handshake prior to the 2-2 draw in the sides’ first meeting, but the United manager put the matter to bed by offering Benitez a perfunctory handshake as the Spaniard emerged from the tunnel. Instead, the day’s first headlines were created by Ferguson’s team selection. With Wayne Rooney absent due to a groin injury and Robin van Persie on the bench, Danny Welbeck supported Javier Hernandez in attack, while Phil Jones bolstered the midfield. Benitez made six changes to the team beaten at Southampton on Saturday, and if there was unfamiliarity in the two line-ups, it told in a very cautious opening. Neither goalkeeper was tested until United number one David de Gea blocked from Ba in the 31st minute, by which time the hosts had already lost Ashley Cole to an apparent hamstring injury. United’s imprecision in attack forced them to rely on shots from range, with Nani drilling narrowly wide from 25 yards and Hernandez almost embarrassing Cech with a skidding shot that the Czech goalkeeper kicked away in unorthodox fashion.
The creative players were beginning to come into the game though, and at the other end Eden Hazard bent a shot over the bar from Oscar’s lay-off.
Juan Mata had been quiet, but four minutes into the second half he created the opening goal with a lofted pass that Ba hooked past De Gea with a sublime volley. 
A United equalizer seemed certain in the 61st minute when Hernandez ghosted in to meet Welbeck’s cross with a close-range header, but Cech showed astonishing reflexes to deflect the ball over the bar. Ferguson sent on van Persie, followed by Ryan Giggs, by which time Mata had threatened to extend the hosts’ lead by thrashing a shot into the side netting. United had another close shave moments later, with Hazard seizing on a loose pass from Michael Carrick and bearing down on goal, only to roll his shot wide from 12 yards. Ramires, Mata and Oscar also shot wide, while van Persie sent both of United’s best chances of an equalizer over the crossbar. Mata could even have made it 2-0 in the 89th minute, but after a neat exchange with Hazard, his shot was fielded by De Gea.


Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

Updated 28 min 12 sec ago
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Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

  • Afghan smashes four sixes and two fours off ten balls
  • Leggie then snares wickets of Uthappa, Lynn and Russell,

A couple of days before what was effectively an Indian Premier League (IPL) semifinal against a Kolkata Knight Riders side backed by over 60,000 raucous fans, Rashid Khan told Michael Clarke, former captain of Australia, that he wanted to be known as an all-rounder.
When he came into bat on Friday night, the Hyderabad innings was going nowhere — 134 for 6, with just 13 balls remaining. Off the ten that he faced, Rashid smashed four sixes and two fours to finish with 34 as an under-par score became a competitive one.
In the defense of that total, Kane Williamson opted not to bowl Rashid in the Power Play. By the time he came on, Kolkata had raced to 67 from six overs. His first over went for just three, and gave his teammates time to breathe.
By the end of the night, he had the vital wickets of Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, a run-out and two catches as Kolkata, who needed 82 from 60 balls at one stage, fell 13 short. Afterwards, as the praise rained down, he didn’t forget to dedicate his man of the match award to those in his home town who were killed by a bomb blast at a cricket match a few days earlier.
“Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format,” tweeted Sachin Tendulkar. “Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.”
It’s not even been three years since Rashid, who only turns 20 in October, made his debut for Afghanistan. He has already harvested 100 ODI wickets in just 42 innings, and has been the scourge of batsmen in Twenty20 leagues as far apart as Australia, the Caribbean and India.
His IPL numbers are outstanding. Last season, his first in the league, he took 17 wickets and was one of only two bowlers at the top of the charts to concede less than 7 an over. This year, his 21 wickets are second only to Andrew Tye (24), while his economy rate is the best of anyone in the top-10 wicket-takers’ list.
In the age of ultra-slow-mo video and extensive data crunching, Rashid’s bowling remains a mystery to many. He can not only rip his leg-breaks and googlies, but he bowls them at such a pace that playing him off the pitch is fraught with risk. In a league as frenetic as the IPL, where consistency is the biggest challenge for bowlers, this was the sixth time that Rashid had taken at least two wickets this season.
In every respect, Rashid is the first global superstar from an emerging cricket nation. The likes of Mohammad Nabi, his Hyderabad teammate, helped put Afghan cricket on the map, but it’s Rashid’s skill that has been instrumental in their acceptance at the top table.
By the time Sri Lanka got Test status in 1982, Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias were widely recognized as world-class batsmen. Zimbabwe’s promotion up the ranks was largely due to the all-round prowess of Duncan Fletcher at the World Cup in 1983 and a marvellous innings from Dave Houghton four years later. But none of them had millions watching their every move.
Rashid’s success will also inspire young men like Sandeep Lamichhane, who made a tremendous impact in the latter part of the season with Delhi Daredevils. Another gifted leggie with a beautiful action, Lamichhane knows that such displays can put Nepal cricket under the spotlight as he and the national team seek to mimic Afghanistan’s progress.
For a long time, Indian cricket board officials scoffed at the notion of players from such countries playing in the IPL. Now, after a season in which Rashid, Lamichhane and Mujeeb Zadran, the 17-year-old prodigy from Afghanistan, have all starred, it’s only a matter of time before the franchises spread their scouting nets even wider.
For Rashid, there’s the small matter of Afghanistan’s inaugural Test as well, a fortnight after the end of the IPL. India will be without Virat Kohli, and it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be dishing out a square turner to greet the new boys. Rashid’s prowess should see to that.