Chelsea break Cardiff hearts to save Maurizio Sarri’s blushes as Neil Warnock hits out at ‘worst officials’

Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrates scoring their second goal against Cardiff City. (Action Images via Reuters)
Updated 31 March 2019

Chelsea break Cardiff hearts to save Maurizio Sarri’s blushes as Neil Warnock hits out at ‘worst officials’

LONDON: Chelsea left it late to beat a desperately unlucky Cardiff City in the Premier League on Sunday as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s goal saw Maurizio Sarri’s side run out 2-1 winners.
Blues boss Sarri was on the brink of another defeat that would have piled on the pressure and pushed him closer to the Stamford Bridge exit after Victor Camarasa’s sweeping effort put relegation-battling Cardiff ahead early in the second half.
And Chelsea’s traveling support did not hide their displeasure, chanting “We want Sarri out” throughout the second half.
Sarri’s response was to send on Eden Hazard, and the Belgian was straight into the action as Chelsea looked for their talisman to turn things around.
The London club had to ride their luck before Cesar Azpilicueta headed in Chelsea’s equalizer, even though he was clearly offside, with just six minutes left.
And Loftus-Cheek’s goal in the 91st minute completed the turnaround.
Chelsea’s fightback was further boosted when it looked likely Antonio Rudiger would receive a red card for bringing down Kenneth Zohore but the referee refrained from sending the German off.
The pressure on Sarri will reduce somewhat with this victory, which keeps the Blues in sixth place in the Premier League table and in the hunt for Champions League football, but the performance was unconvincing.
And Sarri will be fearing another tight affair against another relegation-threatened team in Brighton on Wednesday.
“We did not play very well in the first half. In the second half (we got better) as usual. We conceded a stupid goal but today we reacted better.
“We were lucky for timing but in the end I think we deserved to win.
“I don’t know if the (equalizing) goal was offside, I have to see the situation. Sometimes we can be lucky,” the Italian said.
Meanwhile, Cardiff remain third bottom and boss Neil Warnock was visibly furious at the decisions that pushed his team closer to relegation.
“It hurts. The referee had a decent game but we didn’t get the major decisions. The linesman, though, it is so disappointing.
“Chelsea know they have got away with murder today,” Warnock said.
“It is difficult, because I am feeling a bit flat now, but I am so proud of my players because we wanted to give it a go.
“To get let down by the officials (again), roll on VAR. I might be too old by the time we get VAR, but that’s why we need it,” he said.
“The biggest and best league in the world but probably the worst officials at the minute.
“It doesn’t matter who you play at the minute, it is who has a flag in his hand and who has a whistle.
“The offside (for Azpilicueta’s goal) is not even close. We’ve worked three weeks for this, and we get let down by decisions.
“We felt that (Sean) Morrison could’ve easily had a penalty in the first half and the second half,” he added.
“It has been one kick in the teeth after another this season, but we have always bounced back, and we have got some great games left to play.
“I will probably play the U-23s on Wednesday against Manchester City and try to keep it down to 10 or 11,” Warnock joked.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."