England unfazed by Australian banter ahead of Ashes opener

Joe Root (Reuters)
Updated 14 November 2017
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England unfazed by Australian banter ahead of Ashes opener

SYDNEY: England cricket captain Joe Root has dismissed suggestions his team “feared” Australia’s fast bowlers, saying his players were fully prepared for a hostile Ashes series.
Root said some English players had been taken aback by the level of aggression shown by their hosts when they lost 5-0 on their last tour of Australia four years ago, but insisted they were ready this time.
“Last time that caught us out, but we are a bit wiser this time,” Root said Tuesday on the eve of England’s third and last warm-up match for the first test in Brisbane.
“It’s making sure we are absolutely prepared for any scenario and absolutely ready for that first game, whatever they do throw at us,” Root said. “We expect it to be hostile. We expect it to be a very loud and rowdy atmosphere at the Gabba.
“We are in a good place and ready for that. We have got our heads around what to expect.”
Root also brushed off suggestions the Australians planned to specifically target him after he managed just one half-century and averaged less than 28 with the bat on his previous tour of Australia in 2013-14.
In 2015, Root made amends with two centuries and an average of more than 57 as England bounced back on home soil to regain the Ashes.
“I’ve heard a lot of chat about targeting me, in particular,” Root said. “From our point of view, we’ll be targeting every single one of them — we won’t be singling any one out. But you want that competitive element to it, and those little in-house rivalries.”
England is unbeaten in its two warm-up matches so far in Australia and aiming to continue its bright start during the four-day game against a Cricket Australia XI, starting in Townsville on Wednesday.
With the first test starting on Nov. 23, the tourists have made no secret of their plans, sticking with the same top six batsmen they used in the previous game. Mark Stoneman will again open with Alastair Cook, with James Vince batting at three ahead of Root.
Dawid Malan comes in at five with wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow at six. Allrounder Moeen Ali returns at seven.
Cricket Australia on Tuesday said it would announce a squad for the first two tests on Friday, amid growing speculation about the makeup of the team.
Several positions appear undecided with most questions surrounding who will open the batting with Dave Warner, who will bat at No. 6 and who will be picked as wicketkeeper.
Matt Renshaw is the incumbent opener but has been struggling for runs recently while Cameron Bancroft, his main rival for the job, enhanced his credentials with a double century on Tuesday.
The No. 6 slot is shaping as a choice between the hard-hitting Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright, while Matthew Wade and Peter Nevilleare are vying for the wicketkeeping duties.


River edge out Boca after extra time to win Copa Libertadores

River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after the first leg finished 2-2. (AFP
Updated 10 December 2018
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River edge out Boca after extra time to win Copa Libertadores

  • River Plate came from behind to beat bitter Argentine rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 in extra time
  • The fixture postponed on three occasions and then relocated from Buenos Aires to Madrid

MADRID: River Plate won the Copa Libertadores by beating their fiercest rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 after extra time on Sunday, bringing an end to a final tainted by violence and moved more than six thousand miles away from Argentina.
Boca took the lead through Dario Benedetto but Lucas Pratto equalized before Juan Quintero and Gonzalo Martinez scored in extra time, aided by Wilmar Barrios being sent off, to win a fittingly dramatic contest for River.
It means River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after the first leg finished 2-2 and the club reclaim the trophy they had last won in 2015, lifting it for the fourth time in their history.
“The only thing I feel is sadness for not winning the cup and giving it to the people of Boca,” Boca coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said.
“It is difficult to say to people that we haven’t won, especially those that made so much effort to come from Argentina.”
Postponed on three occasions and then relocated from Buenos Aires to Madrid, the supporters of these two great clubs showed in the Santiago Bernabeu why this fixture had been billed as one of football’s greatest ever.
Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin were among the 62,200 in attendance.
But, despite the bouncing huddles in the streets, the plumes of blue and red smoke, the swinging scarves, fluttering flags and fans that were chanting in their seats three hours before kick-off, there was nothing to extinguish the lingering sense of regret.
There was no repeat of the scenes that cast a shadow over Argentinian football and saw the original game at River’s El Monumental on November 24 postponed, when around 50 fans attacked Boca’s team bus and left some of their players injured.
Madrid, which will also host the Champions League final in June, was chosen in part because of its record of hosting major events and the security, which included around 2,500 police officers, did its job before kick-off.
Fans were separated into zones either side of the stadium and had to go through checks even to enter the area immediately surrounding it.
The shame was only that the operation was not as thorough 15 days ago and that a minority decided to take advantage.
Both clubs were allocated 25,000 tickets, with 5,000 of those reserved for residents of Argentina. The fear had been most of those buying would be tourists and neutrals, but the atmosphere suggested different.
Both teams had initially refused to play in Spain’s capital but as the losers, Boca’s sense of grievance will now become more entrenched.
They felt River were responsible for the chaos two weeks ago and should have forfeited the trophy. They took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the appeal was rejected on Saturday.
When the players shuffled out two hours before kick-off to inspect the pitch, they held up their phones to capture the thousands already inside and the view of a stadium most of them had never played in before.
The cheers grew louder when they came out for kick-off. Then there were whistles as the teams swapped ends and each were greeted by their opponent’s fans behind the goal.
Jonatan Maidana was playing for Boca when they last won the Copa Libertadores 11 years ago and, now in the red and white of River, he almost gave his former club an early lead, slicing just over his own crossbar.
The game lacked quality but came alive one minute before half-time. Nahitan Nandez’s superb pass split two River defenders and Benedetto kept a cool head, guiding into the corner, before taunting the beaten Gonzalo Montiel.
River had been inferior but improved. Their first real attacking move was also a brilliant one as Leonardo Ponzio and Quintero exchanged passes before the latter pulled back for Pratto to sweep home.
The game meandered toward full-time and seemed destined for penalties until Barrios was shown a second yellow card for a tackle on Exequiel Palacios and soon after, Quintero struck.
It was a goal worthy of winning the tournament, as he collected 25 yards out, glanced up and whipped the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.
Leonard Jara almost snatched a late Boca goal but his shot nicked the outside of the post. Then, with Boca’s goalkeeper Esteban Andrada up for a corner, River added the final touch.
Martinez ran the ball into the empty net and River’s substitutes and staff were already pouring onto the pitch to begin the celebrations.