White-hot Spurs beat Leicester to keep up Premier League title pressure

Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's third goal. (AP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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White-hot Spurs beat Leicester to keep up Premier League title pressure

LONDON: Tottenham kept their bid to gatecrash the Premier League title race alive after Davinson Sanchez’s first goal for the club and Hugo Lloris’s penalty save inspired a 3-1 win over Leicester City on Sunday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side took the lead through Sanchez’s first half header, but they were indebted to Lloris for keeping them ahead after he saved Jamie Vardy’s penalty just after the interval at Wembley.
Christian Eriksen netted moments later and although Vardy got one back for the visitors, Son Heung-min’s late strike ensured third-placed Tottenham clinched a fifth win in their last six league games.
“I feel very proud. I think it was a fantastic result,” Pochettino said.
“It was a tough game and Leicester played so well. You always have to fight to the end for big things.
“We were a little bit lucky today, but we deserved it because we fought. I need to congratulate my players because I thought they were fantastic.
“Sometimes you can win games not playing your best. We conceded more chances than usual, but I think the victory is fair,” Pochettino said.
“The effort was fantastic, with the circumstances that happened in this game and also this season,” he added.
The north Londoners are five points off the top of the table as they try to catch pace-setters Liverpool and Manchester City, who both won again this weekend.
While Tottenham are still outsiders to win their first English title since 1961, their ability to stay in contention, despite injuries to key players Harry Kane and Dele Alli suggests they should not be completely written off.
The battling win was good preparation for hosting Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last 16 first leg on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Leicester have lost four of their last five league games, increasing the pressure on under-fire boss Claude Puel.
“It’s disappointing and again we are left with not a good feeling. We should’ve had the game between our hands with a lot of chances,” he said.
“We created a lot of good moves with a lot of good intentions and we didn’t find good finishing. We had all the opportunities to win this game but we couldn’t finish.
“It leaves me with mixed feelings as we showed good quality but I’m very aggrieved with all these chances we had.”
Puel has reportedly lost the support of several influential players, including England striker Vardy, who was left on the bench for the first 60 minutes before coming on to miss the penalty with his first touch.
Insisting he was happy for Vardy to take the penalty, Puel said: “I gave him the opportunity. I said if he felt good he could take it.
“Maybe it was not a good thing, but we had a lot of chances, not just with this penalty.”
And the only blemish on Tottenham’s day was Son’s booking for simulation, the South Korean going down after an incisive raid, which left Tottenham furious when his penalty appeal ended in a booking for diving after Maguire stuck out a leg to halt him.
Still angry about the decision after the match, Pochettino fumed: “It’s unbelievable. I am a person who accepts the mistakes, but today it was so clear. I told Michael Oliver.
“If we are being targeted (by referees), I don’t understand why. We are nice people.”


Petra Kvitova makes her point with semifinal against Hsieh Su-wei next up

Updated 21 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova makes her point with semifinal against Hsieh Su-wei next up

  • World No. 4 looked close to her best as she demolished Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-0 at the Aviation Club.
  • Czech set to face Hsieh Su-wei in tough last-four battle.

LONDON: Petra Kvitova has been her own worst critic so far this week, but even she allowed herself a smile after the Czech finally illustrated she is a contender for the the title.
The world No. 4 beat Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-0 with the sort of display that was the polar opposite of her sluggish, flat displays earlier in the week.
Coming into the quarterfinal Kvitova looked anything but possible champion material. She was taken all the way by both Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady and admitted all was not well with her game.


On Center Court against Kuzmova, however, the 28-year-old looked more like the player who reached last month’s Australian Open final and a two-time Wimbledon champion. And after she had wrapped up the match, completed in just 62 minutes, Kvitova admitted she was finally feeling in good form.
“I am pleased. Definitely more than those two matches before,” she said.
“I didn’t give her any, like, time to do her job, maybe turn the match on her way.”
Having spent more than five hours on court in the first two rounds there was was finally some urgency about Kvitova. She admitted she came into the tournament undercooked and arrived in the last-eight tired. But against Kuzmova she dominated from the start and once she secured the first set — breaking in the decisive 10th game — there was only going to be one winner.
“Yeah, I was up pretty quickly, but I lost those games (in the first set),” Kvitova said.
“It was about that game when she was serving for five-all. She played the two double-faults. From that game, I think I was really fired up. “Even in the first game of the second set, I was already facing breakpoints again, which I didn’t want to. But it was probably the key game of the second set.”
Kvitova said she felt her game was on the rise again after losing the Australian Open final to Naomi Osaka and winning just one match a week later in Russia.
“Today was the first day of the better days on the court,” she said.
“It’s been tough since I came from Australia and St. Petersburg.
“I’m glad that it’s on the way up.”


Next up for her is a semifinal clash against Hsieh Su-wei. The world No. 31 from Taiwan won the last six games to beat fourth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.
Kvitova has won all four of her meetings against Hsieh, most recently at the Sydney International in January. But that will count for little and on current form Hsieh looks like she will take some beating, having staged a remarkable fightback to beat another Czech.
Pliskova had looked in command serving for the set at 5-1 and then 5-3.
The persistent Hsieh kept up the pressure, narrowing the gap and levelling with a second straight break at five-all.
Hsieh then held for 6-5 and clinched the upset a game later on a second match point after two hours.
“I’m so excited, I was screaming like a baby when I won,” Hsieh said. “It was a tough comeback.”
“She had a lot of aces (nine), I’m just happy I was able to make it back.”