Urawa’s twin rockets shoot down Cannavaro’s Guangzhou

Guangzhou's defender Deng Hanwen, center, touches the ball with his hand from a shot by Urawa's forward Takahiro Sekine, right. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

Urawa’s twin rockets shoot down Cannavaro’s Guangzhou

  • The Japanese team are now favorites to reach the final from the East Zone

SAITAMA, JAPAN: A screaming first-half strike from Fabricio and a near-carbon copy rocket from Takahino Sekine 15 minutes from time gave Urawa Red Diamonds a deserved 2-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande in their AFC Champions League semifinal first leg on Wednesday.

The battle of the Asian giants was sparked into life by the 19th-minute, 30-yard right-foot thunderbolt unleashed by Brazilian midfielder Fabricio that flew past Zeng Cheng into the top-right corner.

And it was wrapped up by Sekine’s low-drilled bullet — this time to the bottom-left corner through a crowd of players from another unerring 30-yard shot —  to the delight of the home fans in the 30,068 crowd at Saitama Stadium.

The pair of East Asian heavyweights have won three of the last six AFC Champions League titles. China’s Guangzhou lifted the trophy in 2013 and 2015, and Japan’s Urawa added the 2017 title to their 2007 triumph.

Before kickoff, Fabio Cannavaro had urged his stuttering Guangzhou side to break out of an alarming recent slump and recapture the goalscoring form that had taken them to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

But his pleas fell on deaf ears with an uninspired Brazilian three-pronged attack of Paulinho, Elkeson and Talsica managing just three shots at goal all night in their side’s first semifinal appearance since 2015.

When Evergrande substitute Wei Shihao did finally hit the net with six minutes to go, he had strayed offside in the buildup.

Fast-fading Guangzhou are now without a win in six matches in all competitions and have seen their Chinese Super League lead shaved to a single point after back-to-back defeats.

Cannavaro’s side only just squeezed into the last four with two draws, 0-0 and 1-1, to end Kashima Antlers’ reign as Asian champions on away goals.

Guangzhou’s toothless attack have now managed just three goals in their last 540 minutes of football and their Champions League hopes hang by a thread after being utterly dominated by their Japanese opponents.

The only slight concern for Urawa coach Tsuyoshi Otsuki will be that his side should be taking a bigger lead to the second leg at the Tianhe Stadium in three weeks’ time after squandering a series of chances.

Daiki Hashioka stumbled past goalkeeper Zeng in the 26th minute only to see his tumbling, scuffed shot cleared off the line by Gao Zhunyi.

Sekine missed two gilt-edged chances to extend the lead either side of half-time before he finally found his range in spectacular style.

And substitute Yuki Muto almost scored with his first touch, a right-footed sweeping volley in the 68th minute, then saw his free-kick from the edge of the box clear the wall but slide wide with 10 minutes to go. Urawa are now favorites to reach the next month’s final from the East Zone after the second leg on Oct. 23.

There they will probably face the West Zone’s Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia, who beat Spanish great Xavi Hernandez’s Al-Sadd 4-1 in Qatar in the other semifinal first leg on Tuesday.


Federer tops list of world’s highest-paid athletes

Updated 1 min 37 sec ago

Federer tops list of world’s highest-paid athletes

  • The bulk of Federer’s haul in the past 12 months was from appearance fees and endorsement deals
  • Next on the list was Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo at $105 million, $60 million in salary

NEW YORK: Roger Federer topped the 2020 Forbes magazine list of highest-paid global athletes announced Friday, leading the lineup for the first time with pre-tax earnings of $106.3 million (95.5 million euros).
The Swiss tennis legend, a men’s record 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, becomes the first player from his sport atop the annual list since its 1990 debut, rising from fifth in 2019.
Federer’s haul over the past 12 months included $100 million from appearance fees and endorsement deals plus $6.3 million in prize money. His previous best showing was second in 2013.
“His brand is pristine, which is why those that can afford to align with him clamor to do so,” University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told the magazine.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that shut down sports worldwide caused the first decline since 2016 in the total income of the world’s 100 top-paid athletes, a 9% dip from last year to $3.6 billion. Another plunge is expected next year from the shutdown.
Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo was second on the list at $105 million, $60 million in salary and $45 million from endorsements, with Argentine football hero Lionel Messi third on $104 million, $32 million of that from sponsorship deals.
Messi and Ronaldo, who have traded the top spot three of the past four years, saw their combined incomes dip $28 million from last year due to salary cuts when European clubs halted play in March.
Brazilian footballer Neymar was fourth overall on $95.5 million, $25 million from endorsements, while NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was fifth on $88.2 million, $60 million of that from endorsements.
NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was sixth on $74.4 million with former teammate Kevin Durant next on $63.9 million.
Tiger Woods, the reigning Masters champion and a 15-time major winner, was eighth on the list and tops among golfers at $62.3 million, all but $2.3 million from sponsor deals.
Woods topped the Forbes list a record 12 times before an infidelity scandal helped end his run.
Two NFL quarterbacks rounded out the top 10 with Kirk Cousins ninth at $60.5 million and Carson Wentz 10th on $59.1 million.
The top 100 featured athletes from 21 nations and 10 sports. More NBA players made the list than those from any other sport at 35, but 31 NFL players made the cut, up from 19 from last year, and they pulled down the most money of any league, aided by finishing the season before the deadly virus outbreak.
Major League Baseball, whose start to the 2020 campaign was postponed by the virus outbreak, put only one player on the list after 15 in 2019. The lone MLB player was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who was 57th at $27.3 million with only $750,000 from endorsements.
Spanish footballer Sergio Ramos, the Real Madrid captain, was last among the 100 on $21.8 million, including $3 million in endorsements.
Two women, tennis stars Naomi Osaka of Japan and Serena Williams of the United States, made the list, the most females on it since 2016. Osaka ranked 29th overall on $37.4 million ($34 million in endorsements), four spots ahead of Williams with $36 million ($32 million in endorsements).
Federer, 38, boasts the biggest sponsorship lineup among active athletes with Moet & Chandon and Barilla among those paying from $3 to $30 million to link him with their brands.
Federer, who spent a record 310 weeks as world number one, reached 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals from 2005-2010.
Only Woods has joined Federer in making $100 million in sponsor deals in a single year.
Federer’s newest deal is with Swiss running shoe On, where he is an investor, but several sponsors have been with him for more than a decade, including Rolex, Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz and Wilson.
A split with Nike in 2018 opened Federer to Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo’s 10-year deal worth $300 million.