Ajax held away to PAOK in Champions League qualifying

Ajax held away to PAOK in Champions League qualifying
PAOK fans in full voice during the Champions League third qualifying round, first leg football match between PAOK FC and AFC Ajax, at Toumba Stadium in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki. (AP Photo)
Updated 06 August 2019

Ajax held away to PAOK in Champions League qualifying

Ajax held away to PAOK in Champions League qualifying
  • Dutch champions Ajax came within seconds of reaching the final last term but again must come through a series of qualifiers despite landing a 34th national title in May
  • Veteran striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar grabbed a fortuitous equalizer on 57 minutes when an attempted clearance smacked into his shin and rolled into the net

PARIS: Last season’s Champions League semifinalists Ajax recovered to earn a 2-2 draw on their trip to PAOK Thessaloniki in Tuesday’s first leg of the third qualifying round.
Dutch champions Ajax came within seconds of reaching the final last term but again must come through a series of qualifiers despite landing a 34th national title in May.
Hakim Ziyech put Ajax ahead on 10 minutes in Greece when his devilish free-kick grazed the head of a defender and flashed beyond PAOK goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis.
Former Arsenal youngster Chuba Akpom levelled for PAOK, who went unbeaten last season on their way to winning the Greek title for the first time in more than three decades.
Defender Leo Matos powered home a header to give PAOK the lead before half-time against an Ajax team that is rebuilding after losing Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus and Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona this summer.
Veteran striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar grabbed a fortuitous equalizer on 57 minutes when an attempted clearance smacked into his shin and rolled into the net.
The two sides will meet in Amsterdam for the return leg next week, with the winner facing Azerbaijan’s Qarabag or APOEL of Cyprus in a playoff for the group stage.
Two-time European champions Porto travel to Krasnodar on Wednesday, while 1967 winners Celtic take on Romania’s CFR Cluj in the first leg of their third round tie.


Bucks beat Nets 104-89, force Game 7 in NBA semifinals

Khris Middleton drives between James Harden (13) and forward Jeff Green (8) during Game 6 of the Bucks-Nets semifinal round playoffs on Thursday. (Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)
Khris Middleton drives between James Harden (13) and forward Jeff Green (8) during Game 6 of the Bucks-Nets semifinal round playoffs on Thursday. (Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 18 June 2021

Bucks beat Nets 104-89, force Game 7 in NBA semifinals

Khris Middleton drives between James Harden (13) and forward Jeff Green (8) during Game 6 of the Bucks-Nets semifinal round playoffs on Thursday. (Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)
  • Game 7 will be Saturday night in Brooklyn
  • The home team has won each of the first six games in this series

MILWAUKEE: Khris Middleton scored 38 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 30 and the Milwaukee Bucks never trailed in a 104-89 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night to force a decisive seventh game in their second-round playoff series.
Game 7 will be Saturday night in Brooklyn. The home team has won each of the first six games in this series.
“Both teams, it’s win or go home,” Middleton said. “That’s what Game 7’s all about. That’s what players love about it. I’m sure the fans love it, too.”
Milwaukee never trailed and broke the game open by going on a 14-0 run that started with less than 8 ½ minutes left.
Middleton answered every Brooklyn comeback attempt and had 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals to go along with the highest scoring total of his playoff career.
“He did a little bit of everything,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Antetokounmpo had 17 rebounds.
The Bucks shot just 7 of 33 from 3-point range but made up for it by outscoring the Nets 26-4 in fast-break points.
“We definitely were out of sync,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “We didn’t play the way we wanted to play offensively. We just didn’t have our best stuff tonight. We have a Game 7 on our home floor.”
Milwaukee bounced back two nights after blowing a 17-point lead in a 114-108 Game 5 loss at Brooklyn that featured an epic 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist performance from Kevin Durant.
Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds Thursday. James Harden added 16 points but still looked as though he was at far less than full strength in his second game since returning from a hamstring injury.
Harden left Game 1 in the opening minute with right hamstring tightness and returned in Game 5 but shot 1 of 10 and scored just five points.
The Bucks owned a 14-point lead early in the second half before Durant again sparked a third-quarter comeback, scoring 10 straight Nets points during one stretch.
Brooklyn cut Milwaukee’s lead to 72-67 with 1:27 left in the third when Harden made two free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point shot. Middleton restored Milwaukee’s double-digit advantage by scoring the last six points of the third quarter, including a putback at the buzzer.
Milwaukee extended the lead to 15 early in the fourth quarter, but Brooklyn stormed back again with 10 straight points, as Joe Harris’ 3-pointer made it 82-77 with 8:41 left. Middleton again responded, drawing a foul on Harris while shooting a 3-pointer and making all three free throws.
Those free throws started a 14-0 run that included seven points from Antetokounmpo. The two-time MVP capped the spurt by converting an offensive rebound into a dunk with 6:24 left.

TIP-INS
Nets: The Nets used their 41st different starting lineup (Durant, Harden, Harris Blake Griffin and Jeff Green) of the season. They’ve used four different starting lineups in 11 playoff games. … Durant is one of only two players to score at least 30 points against the Bucks at least seven times in a season (regular season and playoffs combined). Michael Jordan had seven games of at least 30 points against Milwaukee in 1989-90.
Bucks: Middleton was 5 of 8 from 3-point range. His teammates were a combined 2 of 25. ... The Bucks are 5-0 against the Nets at home this season and own a 5-0 overall home playoff record. They’re 12-2 all-time in playoff games at Fiserv Forum. … Antetokounmpo has 10 straight playoff double-doubles and four consecutive playoff games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.


Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts

Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts
Updated 18 June 2021

Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts

Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts

AMSTERDAM: The Netherlands are through to the last 16 at Euro 2020 after Memphis Depay’s penalty set up a 2-0 win over Austria on Thursday, their second straight victory securing top spot in Group C as coach Frank de Boer declared there is much more to come from his side.
Depay made no mistake from the spot in the 11th minute in Amsterdam after David Alaba’s foul on Denzel Dumfries was spotted by the Israeli referee only after he came across to review the images.
Dumfries, so impressive in the thrilling opening 3-2 win over Ukraine, added another midway through the second half, his second goal of the tournament.
The Dutch were comfortable at home in the Johan Cruyff Arena and De Boer’s side are so far making a success of their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup.
That is great news for De Boer, whose predecessor as national coach, Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, was among the spectators.
“I know we can beat anybody when we are at our best but I think other teams are thinking the same so let’s go game by game and see where that takes us,” De Boer said.
The Dutch now cannot be caught at the top of the group after Ukraine beat North Macedonia earlier in Bucharest, with the Balkan outsiders already eliminated.
That means De Boer can rest players for the final group game against North Macedonia, safe in the knowledge that the Dutch will go to Budapest for a last-16 tie on June 27 against a third-place finisher.
“We need to decide how to prepare for the next game, whether to keep working on the system and improve that or give some players extra time off,” De Boer added.
He had said coming into the Euro that the 1988 champions were “between the fourth and eighth-best team” and already they can see their path opening up to the quarter-finals.
They will still need to improve if they are to go further, but they appear to be finding their feet in the 3-5-2 system that De Boer has controversially opted for.
Austria, after all, are a mediocre side and were not helped by the penalty given away by Alaba, their captain.
Franco Foda’s side were also handicapped by the absence of Marko Arnautovic, suspended for insulting an opponent after coming off the bench and scoring against North Macedonia.
Foda had said he was in line to start here.
Austria can nevertheless still qualify with a game against Ukraine to come.
“We knew we couldn’t completely stop the Dutch,” said Alaba.
“I am proud of the team. We will go to Bucharest to try to beat Ukraine and stay in the tournament.”
If the Dutch King and Queen were present at their first match, this time FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in the stands, as well as Koeman.
Depay, out of contract at Lyon, hinted before this game that he is set to team up with Koeman in Barcelona.
The ex-Manchester United man believes he is good enough to play for a club of Barcelona’s stature, and he confidently stroked home the early spot-kick awarded following a VAR review for Alaba’s foul on Dumfries.
He then missed a sitter before half-time, failing to hit the target after Wout Weghorst teed him up.
It was from a Depay corner that Weghorst nodded down for Stefan de Vrij to see his effort from point-blank range saved by Austria goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann on the hour.
De Boer then made a triple change, including sending on PSV Eindhoven forward Donyell Malen for Weghorst.
And midway through the second half Depay released Malen to run through and square for Dumfries, one of the stars of the tournament so far, to score.
Koeman will also have been impressed with another assured display by Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong in midfield, while Matthijs de Ligt cruised through the game in defense on his return from injury.


Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful

Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful
Updated 18 June 2021

Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful

Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful
  • Eriksen’s heart stopped in the middle of a Euro match on Saturday, casting a dark shadow over his career
  • "In my opinion, it's over," cardiologist Jeremy Descoux said

PARIS: Danish footballer Christian Eriksen is to be fitted with a type of miniature defibrillator to detect and correct heart rhythm disorders to prevent the repeat of a near-fatal heart attack.
The Inter Milan player had to be revived after his heart stopped in the middle of a Euro match on Saturday, casting a dark shadow over his career.
It is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD. Like its better-known cousin, the pacemaker, an ICD is made up of one or more leads and a small housing placed under the skin. The leads can be inserted through a blood vessel directly into the heart or placed under the skin, in contact with the chest wall.
Via the lead, the device detects heart rhythm disorders and corrects them if necessary. If the heart is beating too slowly, the ICD can send weak electrical impulses to speed it up. In this case, it works like a pacemaker. But unlike a pacemaker, the ICD can also prevent the heart from beating too fast.
“The idea is to prevent sudden death,” cardiologist Jeremy Descoux told AFP.
The device can determine whether the increased heart rate (tachycardia) is normal, worrying or even very dangerous. Based on this, it can trigger several responses.
“The therapy of last resort is an electric shock,” Descoux says.
This works as a miniaturised version of the defibrillators installed in public places in case of emergency.
The device can also send a series of rapid pulses to regain control of the heart’s rhythm.
“It can help you get over the hump without delivering an electric shock, which can be a bit traumatic,” Descoux says.
“In my opinion, it’s over,” Descoux says.
“Unless we find a pathology that caused (the accident) without any link to sport.”
Since Eriksen’s accident, the parallel has been drawn with Dutchman Daley Blind, who resumed his career after having a heart device fitted.
But Blind was diagnosed with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) in 2019 after suffering dizziness in the middle of a match. In 2020, he again collapsed during a match after his device failed. He left the field conscious and under his own power.
In Eriksen’s case, “the problem is that you have a player who has suddenly died... ‘Do I expose my patient to do again what was a problem the first time?’“


Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute

Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute
Updated 18 June 2021

Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute

Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute
  • It was Denmark’s first game since Eriksen’s collapse
  • 25,000 fans rose for a minute of thunderous applause in tribute to Eriksen

COPENHAGEN: Substitute Kevin de Bruyne set up one goal and scored the winner himself to give Belgium a 2-1 victory over Denmark in a European Championship.
The game was marked by an emotional tribute to Christian Eriksen in the first half.
De Bruyne came on after halftime for his first appearance since sustaining a facial fracture in the Champions League final and squared the ball for Thorgan Hazard to equalize in the 55th minute. He then scored in the 71st with a low shot from outside the area.
It was Denmark’s first game since Eriksen’s collapse, and the hosts started at a furious pace at a raucous Parken Stadium. Yussuf Poulsen scored with a low shot inside the far post in only the second minute.
Players from both teams then halted play after 10 minutes as the 25,000 fans rose for a minute of thunderous applause in tribute to Eriksen, who wears the No. 10 shirt for Denmark’s national team.
The players joined the applause as well, as did referee Bjorn Kuipers.
Eriksen remains in a nearby hospital after suffering cardiac arrest in the team’s opening game against Finland.
The victory give Belgium a spot in the round of 16. Denmark can still advance with a win over Russia on Monday if the Belgians beat Finland.
It had all started so well for Denmark.
Carried forward by the largest crowd in Denmark since the government eased pandemic restrictions, the hosts kept pushing forward in wave after wave after the early goal.
Play resumed at a more normal pace after the tribute to Eriksen, but Denmark still had the better chances in the first half.
Things changed completely when De Bruyne came on after the break.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand had said the team’s strategy for keeping Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku quiet was to make sure he didn’t get the ball in the first place. And Denmark largely succeeded until the 55th, when Lukaku burst forward down the right flank before passing to De Bruyne. The Manchester City midfielder went around a defender inside the area before teeing up Hazard, who slotted it past a scrambling Kasper Schmeichel.
Eden Hazard, Thorgan’s brother, then came on and set up De Bruyne for the second goal. De Bruyne ran toward the Belgium fans but didn’t celebrate the goal, pushing in hands down in a calming motion out of respect for Eriksen.
Martin Braithwaite had Denmark’s best chances for an equalizer, but his shot was saved by Thibaut Courtois in the 75th and his header glanced against the crossbar in the 87th.


First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats
Updated 17 June 2021

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats
  • In the second of his regular columns for Arab News, Jon Pike explains cricket’s different formats and how each can have its own world’s best

Cricket can be impenetrable for those who are new to it and seeking to understand its rules and conventions.

The scoring system, the idiosyncratic names given to positions in the field, strange signals made by umpires, the use of a literacy known only to cricket, outbreaks of applause for no apparent reason, and matches ending with no outright winner after days of play, all combine to create an arcane environment.

This is exacerbated by a variety of formats under which the game is played. Until the early 1970s, international cricket consisted of (generally) five-day Test matches, a term used to describe the contests in the very first visit by an England team to Australia in 1862-63.

After 1971, when Australia and England played a limited, 40 overs match because the Test at Melbourne had been washed out, one-day cricket gained momentum, with the first Cricket World Cup contested by eight teams in England in June 1975, based on a format of 60 overs per side in each match.

The popularity of the format, reduced to 50 overs in 1987, has been enduring, with the dramatic final between England and New Zealand at Lord’s in July 2019 set to last long in the memory. At the end of the 100 overs, the scores were tied, and the outcome was decided when England scored the most runs in one extra over of six balls per side.

Such gripping finales are rare, and cricket’s administrators have been concerned for decades about the game’s lack of attraction to younger people, fearing the universal appeal of football to them. This has been very much the case in the UK.

In 2003, the governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board, introduced a new format called Twenty20 (T20), in which each side was limited to 20 overs, having developed a format which was first trialed in New Zealand in the 1990s.

T20 cricket has attracted new audiences, no more so than in India, where the spectacular Indian Premier League (IPL) that began in 2007 has captured global attention and made rich men of many of the world’s leading cricketers.

The introduction in England in July of a new, even shorter competition called the Hundred will add further complexity to the game’s playing architecture, especially as each over will comprise of the delivery of 10 balls rather than the customary six.

It is the policy of cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), to have one pinnacle tournament for each of the three formats over a four-year period. World Cup tournaments have been in place for 50-over cricket since 1975 and for T20 since 2007, but not for Test match cricket.

It is usually clear which is the dominant team of the time in Test match cricket – for example, the West Indies in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by Australia until the late 2000s. Currently, it is arguable that it is India, a debate that is about to be tested between June 18 and 23 in Southampton, England, when India and New Zealand compete to be crowned champions in the first ever World Test Championship (WTC) final.

The two countries have earned the right to joust for the honor through a rankings system. These were introduced, through private endeavor, for Test cricket in 1987, with one-day international rankings being added in 1998. In 2005, the rankings were acquired by the ICC, who added them for women’s international cricket in 2008 and for T20 cricket in 2011.

The nature of Test cricket, in that it is played at differing times of the year in quite varying conditions, makes it difficult to compare performance on a common basis.

The ratings are based on matches played by 10 teams within a four-year cycle. The inputs into the calculations include points that reflect each team’s performance, the relative strengths of the two teams playing in each series of Tests and matches that have been played most recently.

Ultimately, the ranking is based on an average of the matches played and the points earned.

Annual updates are made every May, with the oldest of the results in the four-year cycle being replaced every calendar year. This system gave rise to a situation whereby the identities of the two finalists were not determined until early March, when it became clear that India had defeated England in a four-match series in India.

As a result, the final ratings in the four-year cycle saw India, with 121 points, just pip New Zealand on 120, followed by England with 109, and Australia with 108. The short lead by which India topped the rankings suggests that the match will be close run, especially in English conditions, with which New Zealand are more familiar, even more so as they have comprehensively outplayed England in a two-match series which ended on June 13 in Birmingham.

The build up to the WTC has not been receiving much coverage or attention, at least not in England, a factor not helped by the fact that it will be competing for space with the delayed Euro 2020 football tournament.

It remains to be seen if this inaugural event, designed to establish an outright champion Test playing team, will capture long-term interest.