Motorcycling: Espargaro edges Marquez in Phillip Island practice

Spain’s MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro steers his KTM during the first practice session for the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island near Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Updated 20 October 2017
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Motorcycling: Espargaro edges Marquez in Phillip Island practice

PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia: Aleix Espargaro pipped world championship leader Marc Marquez to set the fastest time in Friday’s practice ahead of this weekend’s Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.
The Spanish Aprilia rider posted a quickest lap of one minute 29.225 seconds in second free practice on a dry track ahead of Sunday’s race.
Espargaro’s time, set on the fifth lap of his afternoon session, prevailed by just 0.005secs over Marquez, who almost bettered the time on his penultimate lap.
Marquez, who leads the world championship by 11 points with three races left, clocked 1:29.230 following his chart-topping 1:29.602 in the morning session.
Championship challenger Andrea Dovizioso was third quickest overall, finishing just 0.097secs behind Espargaro.
Ducati’s Dovizioso downed Marquez on the final lap to win last weekend’s rain-soaked Japanese GP and is second in the world championship.
Briton Cal Crutchlow, the winner of last year’s Australian race, was fourth fastest on a Honda, only 0.104secs down on the leader’s time.
Spain’s Maverick Vinales was fifth fastest despite coming off his Yamaha early in afternoon practice.
Australian Jack Miller, in his first MotoGP event back since breaking a leg during training, was sixth ahead of Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone.
Six-time premier class Phillip Island winner, Valentino Rossi, trailed in 12th place overall on his Yamaha, some 0.752secs behind Espargaro’s time.
The weather on the opening day was sunny, but the forecast for Saturday is for cooler temperatures and possible showers.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 31 min 47 sec ago
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.