UEFA Champions League final moved from Istanbul to Porto due to UK-Turkey travel restrictions

The match has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao, home of FC Porto, to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters/File Photo)
The match has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao, home of FC Porto, to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 13 May 2021

UEFA Champions League final moved from Istanbul to Porto due to UK-Turkey travel restrictions

The match has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao, home of FC Porto, to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • The match on May 29 has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao to allow English spectators to attend

PARIS: UEFA announced on Thursday that the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea had been moved from Istanbul to Porto.

The match on May 29 has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, European football’s governing body announced up to 6,000 supporters from each club will be able to attend.

“We accept that the decision of the British Government to place Turkey on the red list for travel was taken in good faith and in the best interests of protecting its citizens from the spread of the virus but it also presented us with a major challenge in staging a final featuring two English teams,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement.

“After the year that fans have endured, it is not right that they don’t have the chance to watch their teams in the biggest game of the season,” he added.

UK citizens returning from red list countries are required to quarantine at a government-approved hotel for 10 days.

Earlier this week, newspaper reports claimed the match would be played at Wembley Stadium.

Supporters groups from the Blues and City had requested the game be moved to England.

The UK’s Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he would have welcomed the fixture being played in London.

“The difficulties of moving the final are great and the FA and the authorities made every effort to try to stage the match in England and I would like to thank them for their work in trying to make it happen,” Ceferin said.

UEFA said coronavirus rules in the UK made it difficult to hold the fixture in the English capital.

“UEFA discussed moving the match to England but, despite exhaustive efforts on the part of the Football Association and the authorities, it was not possible to achieve the necessary exemptions from UK quarantine arrangements,” it said.

The final capacity at the ground in northern Portugal is still to be set.

Last season’s final as well as a ‘Final 8’ tournament for the quarter-finals were also held in Portugal, but in the capital Lisbon.

“Once again we have turned to our friends in Portugal to help both UEFA and the Champions League and I am, as always, very grateful to the FPF (Portuguese Football Association) and the Portuguese Government for agreeing to stage the match at such short notice,” Ceferin said.

The last round of the country’s top-flight Primeira Liga will see spectators return to stadia on May 19, with a limited number of people permitted, the league said on Wednesday.


Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again

Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again
Updated 12 June 2021

Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again

Five things we learned from penultimate World Cup qualifiers as Gulf’s main challengers win again
  • Saudi Arabia left it late against Singapore while UAE cruised against Indonesia, but neither can afford any slip-ups on the final matchday

Friday was another good evening for Arab teams in the penultimate set of matches in the second round of 2022 World Cup qualification. The big teams all won but then so did most of their group rivals to set up a what is sure to be tense final matchday.

Here are five things we learned.

1. Relief for Renard and all of Saudi Arabia

A 3-0 win for Saudi sounds comprehensive but it was scoreless heading into the final 10 minutes and Singapore, determined and resolute in defense and unusually cynical in terms of running down the clock, had just hit the post. There were nerves in Riyadh, and fans who had expected a regulation win against a team that had lost 5-0 to Uzbekistan and 4-0 to Palestine in the past eight days were suddenly checking the rankings of the best performing second-placed teams.

Saudi Arabia were starting to run out of ideas — and not beating Singapore would have been a huge blow to confidence as well as chances of reaching the next round — when the main man Salem Al-Dawsari popped up with a goal six minutes from time. Then the fleet-footed Fahad Al-Muwallad took advantage of a mistake and all was well with the world. He helped spare coach Renard a very difficult time with one consolation being that Uzbekistan also struggled in their Yemen clash. It will be forgotten if the right result is collected against Uzbekistan on Tuesday.

2. As expected, it comes down to the final game for UAE

After successive defeats at the hands of Thailand and Vietnam all the way back in 2019, the UAE would surely have settled for going into the final game still in control of its own destiny and that is the case.

Once again, Ali Mabkhout and Fabio Lima got on the scoresheet in a comprehensive 5-0 win against Indonesia to make it three wins out of three in the last week or so. Vietnam will be a tougher test of course and the two-point advantage the Golden Stars have is crucial. It is not just that the Reds can afford to draw, but that position means that Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo, Mr. Pragmatism, will love nothing more than being able to sit back, let the UAE do the running and hit on the counter-attack. It could be a frustrating 90 minutes for the Emiratis. 

3. Iraq set themselves up for a huge test

The 2007 Asian champions have slipped under the radar a little but have been in great form and the 1-0 win over Hong Kong was a 19th game without defeat. It wasn’t a vintage performance, but sometimes there are games in which you just have to win by any means and this was one of those. Iraq has become adept at grinding out results and may need to do something similar against Iran on Tuesday.

Despite the great form, Iraq will face their toughest test for years and they may well need that two-point advantage if they are to finish first — though it may well be the case that second will be enough. Iran has won all three of their games in Bahrain and have real momentum. They also have players such as Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi who are coming off great European seasons and look like scoring every time they get the ball. It is a huge game for both teams.

4. Yemen did Saudi Arabia, and themselves, proud

If Uzbekistan thought all it had to do was turn up against Yemen to take the three points it was very much mistaken. The veteran defender Ahmed Wahid was everywhere in the middle, intercepting, instructing and tackling and just using all of his 35 years to keep the men from Sanaa in the game. Yemen has played little football in recent years due to the conflict in the country but pushed Uzbekistan all the way. Indeed, the Central Asians only won due to a first-half penalty. 

The stage is not over for Yemen. The team may be bottom of the group but if they defeat Palestine on Tuesday then they will finish third behind Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, two powers of the Asian game, and that will be a success and something to be proud of. It would also be a huge step toward another appearance at the Asian Cup.

5. Kuwait and Jordan trip each other up

These two second-tier West Asian powers have had a disappointing campaign so far with neither really suggesting they are ready to move up to the next level; Kuwait especially because it has had home advantage since the second round resumed but failed to score a single goal against Australia and Jordan.

The 0-0 draw between the two on Friday has surely ended the hopes of both teams and even if Jordan defeat Australia on Tuesday, it is unlikely that it will be enough to finish as one of the best four runners-up. Both will look back and wonder if they could not have done more.


Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series

Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series
Updated 12 June 2021

Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series

Embiid, 76ers beat Hawks 127-111 to take 2-1 lead in NBA series
  • Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta

ATLANTA: Joel Embiid scored 27 points and the Philadelphia 76ers rode a dominant third quarter to a 127-111 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Embiid, playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee, added nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots.
Tobias Harris had 22 points and Ben Simmons added 18 to help the 76ers end Atlanta’s streak of 13 home wins. The 76ers have taken the series lead with back-to-back wins.
The 76ers played up to their No. 1 seed, taking a lead of 22 points and keeping the advantage in double figures most of the second half. The Hawks played from behind after their last lead at 11-10.
Trae Young led Atlanta with 28 points. John Collins had 23 and Bogdan Bogdanovic 19.
Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.
After leading 65-60 early in the third period, Philadelphia took command with an 11-0 run. The 76ers outscored the Hawks 34-19 in the third period.
Simmons had two baskets during the run, including a jam for a 76-60 lead.
Atlanta couldn’t regain the momentum as the 76ers stretched the lead to 20 points, 93-73, late in the period.
Embiid, who faced constant double-teams from Atlanta’s defense, made 12 of 16 free throws.
Embiid had a scare in the third quarter when he limped and appeared to be in pain after grabbing a rebound. Embiid appeared to step awkwardly on Clint Capela’s foot and he remained in the game.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan asked for a strong start that eluded his team in its Game 2 loss. Instead, Philadelphia relied on an unlikely scoring source to grab the early lead.
Furkan Korkmaz, who scored a combined seven points in the first two games of the series, scored 11 points in the opening period while making two 3s. He added another 3 in the fourth for 14 points.
The 76ers stretched the advantage to 11 points in the second period before settling for a 61-56 halftime lead.

TIP-INS
76ers: G Danny Green suffered a right calf strain less than four minutes into the game and did not return. Matisse Thybulle replaced Green. ... Harris hit the back of his head on a camera while falling on the baseline with 9:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. Harris walked off after being checked by trainers and returned to the game.
Hawks: Atlanta’s last home loss was April 15 against Milwaukee. The 13-game home winning streak was the NBA’s longest active streak. ... F Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) has participated in two-on-two and three-on-three drills but has not yet moved up to full five-on-five sessions. Reddish, who ultimately could help fill the void left by De’Andre Hunter’s season-ending knee surgery scheduled for Tuesday, does not appear likely to return against the 76ers.

Jumping to his own defense
76ers coach Doc Rivers says he always “feels great” when he returns to Atlanta, where he began his playing career as the Hawks’ point guard. He reminded reporters before the game he still holds the Hawks’ career assists record.
Rivers felt compelled to mention his link to one of the game’s all-time greats, Julius Erving — better known as Dr. J — when defending his talents to his skeptical players.
“They don’t believe I could jump at all,” Rivers said before the game. “... I said, ‘You guys do know I’m named Doc. It’s not after a doctor. It’s after a guy who could jump.’”
Rivers had 3,866 assists with Atlanta from 1983-91. Mookie Blaylock is second with 3,764.


Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020

Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020
Updated 12 June 2021

Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020

Italy convincing in 3-0 win over Turkey to open Euro 2020

ROME: Italy waited a long time for this European Championship to start and then showed Friday just how eager the team was to play the tournament opener.
After humiliatingly failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy was already back on track with a perfect qualifying campaign of 10 wins in 10 matches. Now Roberto Mancini’s team has begun its first major international tournament in five years with a convincing 3-0 win over Turkey.
“It was important to start well and it’s satisfying for us, for the crowd and for all Italians,” Mancini said. “It was a wonderful evening and I hope there will be many more.”
Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne both scored after an own-goal from Turkey defender Merih Demiral had given Italy the lead — all in the second half.
Demiral redirected a cross from Domenico Berardi into his own net after attempting to intercept the pass. Immobile then poked in a rebound of a shot from Leonardo Spinazzola on another play that began with Berardi, and Insigne later curled one in after a failed clearance by Turkey goalkeeper Uğurcan Çakır.
Italy dominated from the start but was denied in the first half by a superb save from Çakır and a decision by the referee not to award a penalty for an apparent handball.
The victory extended Italy’s unbeaten run to 28 matches and boosted the Azzurri’s status as a title contender.
“We played a great match and we didn’t permit Turkey to play, and they are not a weak side,” Mancini said.
The tournament, which is still being called Euro 2020, began a year late because of the pandemic.
The Stadio Olimpico was still only 25 percent full because of coronavirus measures and fans sat in small groups safely distanced from one another. Still, the crowd of about 16,000 was the largest gathering in Italy since the pandemic took hold.
Wales and Switzerland, the other teams in Group A, will play in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Saturday.
Italy appeared energized from the start and dominated possession while Turkey sat back and waited for rare counterattacks.
In the first half alone, Italy produced 13 attempts and Turkey none.
Midway through the first half, Çakır made an acrobatic save to deny Giorgio Chiellini. The Italy captain was left unmarked on a corner and directed a header toward the target before Çakır leaped up, extended his right arm high into the air and pushed the ball over the bar with his fingertips.
Italy protested vehemently for two handballs in the match but Dutch referee Danny Makkelie ruled to play on.
First, Immobile’s shot appeared to be knocked down by a defender’s arm. Then Turkey defender Zeki Çelik stuck out his hand and stopped a cross from Spinazzola.
Çelik himself appeared to feel guilty, quickly pulling his arm behind his body after making contact with the ball. There was a VAR check several moments later but the decision to play on was upheld.
In the next set of group matches, Italy stays in Rome to play Switzerland while Turkey travels to Baku to play Wales.


Djokovic beats Nadal in French Open classic

Djokovic beats Nadal in French Open classic
Updated 12 June 2021

Djokovic beats Nadal in French Open classic

Djokovic beats Nadal in French Open classic

PARIS: Novak Djokovic came from a set down in a spellbinding French Open semifinal to inflict only a third ever defeat on the Parisian clay for Rafa Nadal, moving through 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) 6-2 in front of raucous crowd on Friday.
Nadal, bidding for a record-extending 14th French Open title, won the first five games of the match as he looked on course to repeat his drubbing of the Serb in last year’s final.
But world number one Djokovic seized the momentum, winning the second set and then edging a pulsating 97-minute third set on a tiebreak, having saved a set point.
The soccer-style atmosphere created by a crowd of around 5,000 inside Court Philippe Chatrier reached a crescendo toward the end of the third set as the Paris COVID-19 curfew loomed.
Thankfully, the Parisian authorities granted an extension to the 11pm cut-off meaning the magnificent contest could continue to be graced by a live audience.
But there was no reprieve for the 35-year-old Nadal as his seemingly inexhaustible resolve was finally broken.
He hung on like the true champion he is but Djokovic, looking fresh despite nearly four hours slugging it out with the world’s greatest ever claycourter, ruthlessly closed in.
After breaking for a 4-2 lead the end came quickly as he inflicted first defeat on Nadal at the French Open since he beat him in the 2015 quarter-final.
Djokovic will play Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final with the chance to move to 19 Grand Slam titles, just one behind the men’s record 20 held by Nadal and Roger Federer.


Tsitsipas tops Zverev in 5 at French Open for 1st Slam final

Tsitsipas tops Zverev in 5 at French Open for 1st Slam final
Updated 11 June 2021

Tsitsipas tops Zverev in 5 at French Open for 1st Slam final

Tsitsipas tops Zverev in 5 at French Open for 1st Slam final
  • Tsitsipas is the youngest man in the French Open final since Rafael Nadal won the 2008 title shortly after his 22nd birthday

PARIS: Stefanos Tsitsipas already had given away all of a two-set lead in his French Open semifinal when he double-faulted to trail love-40 in the opening game of the fifth.
Get broken there, and Friday’s match might completely slip from his grasp.
Tsitsipas steeled himself to win five consecutive points, including one with a cross-court forehand passing shot he celebrated by shaking his racket as the crowd chanted his last name. That hold pushed Tsitsipas back in the right direction and into his first Grand Slam final, thanks to a late surge that produced a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Alexander Zverev.
“I’m someone who fights. I was not willing to give up yet. I think I did few things right that worked in my favor,” said the fifth-seeded Tsitsipas, who entered the day 0-3 in major semifinals.
“It was a breath of fresh air, that first game,” he said. “I felt revitalized.”
Tsitsipas broke to go up 3-1 with plenty of help from Zverev, who double-faulted, then missed a backhand, followed by a forehand and another backhand. Zverev winced and Tsitsipas raised his right fist. Eventually, Tsitsipas served out the biggest win of his career, ending it after more than 3 1/2 hours on his fifth match point.
“It was a match full of emotions, full of so many different phases that I went through,” said Tsitsipas, a 22-year-old from Greece. “So at the end, it was just such a big relief I was able to close it in such a good way. It was just exhausting.”
He is the youngest man in the French Open final since Rafael Nadal won the 2008 title shortly after his 22nd birthday.
On Sunday, Tsitsipas will face 13-time Roland Garros champion Nadal or top-seeded Novak Djokovic for the trophy on the red clay. Nadal and Djokovic faced each other for the 58th time later Friday.
Tsitsipas regained control of his semifinal on a cloudy afternoon in the late going thanks to a combination of more solid returning by him and a succession of groundstroke unforced errors from the sixth-seeded Zverev, a 24-year-old from Germany.
“I started to play proper tennis in the third set. Against someone like Stefanos, it might be too late,” said Zverev, the 2020 US Open runner-up. “If I break him the first game of the fifth set, maybe the outcome would be different.”
This is not some out-of-nowhere ascension for Tsitsipas. He has been building toward this over the past couple of seasons, reaching three major semifinals in a row and leading the ATP in total match wins (39 now) and clay-court wins (22) in 2021.
Three of his seven career tour-level titles came on clay, including a pair this year — at the Monte Carlo Masters and Lyon.
Zverev’s loss makes him 0-10 against members of the Top 10 at Grand Slam tournaments, an especially confounding statistic when viewed in contrast to his 31-30 mark against such opponents in any other setting.
“I’m not at a stage anymore where great matches are something that I’m satisfied with,” Zverev said. “I lost. I’m not in the final. Was it a good match? Yeah. But at the end of the day, I’m going to fly home tomorrow. There’s nothing positive about that.”
He hadn’t faced a seeded player en route to the semifinals, including two matches against qualifiers and a quarterfinal victory over 46th-ranked Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, was a facing a fourth consecutive seeded foe, after wins over No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta and No. 31 John Isner.
Speaking before the Nadal-Djokovic semifinal was over, Tsitsipas looked ahead to facing a fifth seeded opponent over these two weeks.
“Both of them, it will have to be physical. Both of them, attention to detail, full concentration,” Tsitsipas said. “There isn’t much difference between those two.”