Mickelson mounts late-round rally to grab PGA lead

Phil Mickelson  chips to the 17th green during the second round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean Course on Friday. (AFP)
Phil Mickelson chips to the 17th green during the second round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean Course on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2021

Mickelson mounts late-round rally to grab PGA lead

Mickelson mounts  late-round rally to grab PGA lead
  • Mickelson is seeking his second career PGA Championship title and his first major since the 2013 British Open

KIAWAH ISLAND, US: Lefty is on top at the PGA Championship.

Phil Mickelson used another late-round rally to climb up the leaderboard after he appeared to be fading in the second round at the Ocean Course on Friday.

Mickelson made three bogeys on his first nine holes to fall back. But the 50-year-old, five-time major champion made five birdies on his last nine holes to move back up the leaderboard at 5-under par with a 69.

And when leader Branden Grace collapsed with a double-bogey, bogey finish to his second round, it was Mickelson alone in front with a two-shot lead.

Mickelson is seeking his second career PGA Championship title and his first major since the 2013 British Open.

Mickelson, trying to become the oldest major winner at age 50, plunked an approach into the water while sharing the lead and made bogey at the par-4 13th to fall back.

The US left-hander, a five-time major winner, would replace American Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.

Mickelson pitched inside three feet and birdied the par-5 11th, then missed a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-4 12th to match the leaders.

But Mickelson found a water hazard with his approach at the par-4 13th and dropped his fourth shot inches from the cup to salvage a tap-in bogey.

Corey Conners, a 29-year-old Canadian chasing his first major title, fired a five-under par 67 on Thursday to grab a two-stroke edge, but the world No. 39 made five bogeys in his first six holes Friday to drop off the pace.

Conners found sand on his approach at the 10th hole, his first of the day, and began with a bogey, then answered with a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-5 11th.

But Conners went over the 12th green and missed a nine-foot par putt, then found greenside rough at the par-4 13th, missed the green at the par-3 14th and botched the 15th as well.

The afternoon wave of competitors, which include two-time PGA winner Brooks Koepka at 3 under, are just starting their second rounds.


Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros

Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros
Updated 2 min 55 sec ago

Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros

Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros
  • Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny sent off in 2012, injured in 2016, now an own-goal at Euro 2020
  • He was also left helpless for Slovakia's winner by Milan Skriniar

ST. PETERSBURG: Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny doesn’t have much luck in his opening game at European Championships.
Sent off in 2012. Injured in 2016. Now an own-goal at Euro 2020.
The Juventus player became the first goalkeeper to score an own-goal at the tournament in Poland’s 2-1 loss to Slovakia on Monday.
Not that he could do much about it.
Szczesny had already committed himself to a dive in an attempt to save a shot from Slovakia winger Robert Mak in the 18th minute when the ball rebounded off his near post, onto his outstretched arm as he lay on the ground, and back into the net.
He was also left helpless for Slovakia’s winner by Milan Skriniar, barely moving as the center back hit a fierce, low shot into the corner in the 69th minute.
Szczesny has established himself as one of the most reliable goalkeepers in Europe, his reputation having soared since joining Juventus from Arsenal in 2017. Poland has long been well-stocked with keepers, with Lukasz Fabianski also a solid option, but Szczesny is the regular No. 1.
Major tournaments are not his friend, though.
In 2012, he was shown a red card in the opening game of a European Championship co-hosted by Poland, punished for a professional foul on Greece player Dimitris Salpingidis in the second half.
In 2016, and again in Poland’s opening match, Szczesny damaged a thigh muscle against Northern Ireland and wound up missing the rest of the tournament.
The pain isn’t just restricted to the European Championship.
In Poland’s opening match of the 2018 World Cup, Szczesny gifted M’Baye Niang a goal for Senegal, which went on to win 2-1.


Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return

Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return
Updated 14 June 2021

Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return

Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return
  • Schick headed the Czechs in front before the break and then doubled the lead on 52 minutes with an incredible strike from just inside the Scotland half
  • After a 23-year wait to qualify for a major tournament, Scotland’s hopes of making more history by getting out of the group for the first time now look slim

GLASGOW: Scotland’s long-awaited return to a major international tournament was ruined by Patrik Schick’s slick finishing as the Czech Republic won 2-0 at Hampden on Monday to move top of Euro 2020 Group D.
Schick’s header just before half-time opened the scoring, but it was his stunning strike from just inside the Scotland half after the break that will live in the memory as one of the all-time great European Championship goals.
After a 23-year wait to qualify for a major tournament, Scotland’s hopes of making more history by getting out of the group for the first time now look slim.
Steve Clarke’s men face England next on Friday at Wembley before hosting World Cup finalists Croatia at Hampden on June 22.
Playing in front of fans at Hampden for the first time since November 2019 with 12,000 in attendance, Scotland made a nervous start.
David Marshall was the hero of penalty shootout wins over Israel and Serbia to qualify and was needed early on to turn Schick’s powerful effort at the near post behind.
The hosts were desperately missing the driving runs and poise on the ball normally provided by Kieran Tierney on the left side of a back three.
Clarke has settled on a 3-5-2 to make way for two of the Premier League’s best left-backs in the same team.
Without the Arsenal defender, Liverpool’s Andy Robertson was his side’s biggest threat with a series of rampaging runs.
His cross was turned narrowly wide by Lyndon Dykes at the near post before the Scotland captain was denied a moment to remember by Tomas Vaclik.
Robertson burst onto Ryan Christie’s pass but his shot that was headed for the top corner was tipped over by the Sevilla goalkeeper.
A cagey game of few chances burst into life after Schick’s towering leap put the visitors in front three minutes before half-time.
Scotland were slow to react after initially clearing a corner and the Bayer Leverkusen forward rose highest to flick home Vladimir Coufal’s cross.
Marshall was called into action to make two quick saves from Schick and Vladimir Darida in an explosive start to the second-half.
But twice Scotland were inches away from levelling when Jack Hendry’s dipping effort came back off the crossbar before Vaclik clawed away a mishit clearance from Tomas Kalas.
However, the home side were stunned by a moment of brilliance from Schick on 52 minutes as he spotted Marshall off his line from halfway and bent in an incredible shot from just inside the Scotland half.
Chances continued to come and go for Scotland as Stuart Armstrong’s shot was deflected onto the roof of the net and Vaclik’s outstretched leg denied Dykes from close range.
But it was Schick who had the best opportunity late on to complete a memorable hat-trick when he fired too close to Marshall.
Beating old rivals England would more than make amends for the Tartan Army’s disappointment, but Scotland now have a mountain to climb if they are to prevent their long-awaited adventure ending in familiar fashion.


Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark
Updated 14 June 2021

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark
  • Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen: Rarely has it been less important whether a football match was won or lost
  • Eriksen, widely regarded as Denmark’s best player, was resuscitated with a defibrillator and is in a stable condition in a Copenhagen hospital

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Interest in CPR and defibrillators has been pulling the attention of Danes away from soccer’s European Championship since the collapse of Christian Eriksen.
The tournament, with the national team playing all three of its group games at home in Copenhagen, was supposed to create a two-week party in the capital — with many hoping Denmark would be able to repeat its improbable triumph from the 1992 tournament.
But Eriksen fell face-forward onto the field with cardiac arrest during the team’s opening game against Finland on Saturday. And suddenly a large portion of Denmark’s 6 million people were watching live on TV as one of the country’s best-known athletes was given emergency CPR, his teammates standing around him with tears in their eyes.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called it “a national shock.”
“Rarely has it been less important whether a football match was won or lost,” Frederiksen wrote on Facebook.
Eriksen, widely regarded as Denmark’s best player, was resuscitated with a defibrillator and was in a stable condition in a Copenhagen hospital on Monday.
But the national shock hasn’t quite dissipated.
Eriksen’s collapse remains the talk of the nation. Many wonder how it could happen to such a healthy player. And a debate is still raging over whether the game should have been called off. It was suspended for about 90 minutes before resuming, having been stopped near the end of the first half. Finland went on to score in the second half and won 1-0.
The interest among Danes in learning CPR and how to use a defibrillator has skyrocketed. A national organization that puts up defibrillators across the country said more than 640 people have volunteered to learn how to use one since Saturday — compared to 90 the previous weekend.
There also has been widespread anger in Denmark toward European soccer governing body UEFA for only giving the players the option of either finishing the game on Saturday evening or resuming on Sunday at noon instead.
The players themselves on Monday said they didn’t want to resume but thought it was better to finish Saturday than to come back the next day.
“It was not our wish to play,” Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite said. “We had two options and would have liked a third option. But we were told we had to make a decision. ... There were many players who weren’t in a condition to play the match. We were in a completely different place.”
Another much-debated topic has been the impact on young viewers, who watched one of their sporting idols lying unconscious on the ground.
For unprepared children, seeing such pictures equals “a slap in the face,” said Ane Lemche, a psychologist with the Danish chapter of Save the Children.
“And children can also get confused, because he looks quite lifeless and that is uncomfortable for a child,” she told Danish broadcaster DR.
Boerns Vilkaar, a child counselling organization, posted advice for parents on its website, saying many children who watched were “scared, insecure and sad.”
The Danish soccer federation also tweeted a link to the organization’s advice.
“Those kinds of pictures can be hard to get out of your head,” the organization wrote. “Some children may think about it a lot and be affected by it for a long time.”


Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan
Updated 14 June 2021

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan
  • Saudi Arabia will confirm a spot in the final AFC qualifying round as long as it avoids defeat in Riyadh on Tuesday night

Tuesday’s crunch World Cup showdown between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan could hinge on one yellow card received and one escaped last Friday.

Salem Al-Dawsari broke the deadlock against Singapore to claim a vital win but also picked up a second booking to rule him out of the big game, while Al-Nassr star Jaloliddin Masharipov scored the only goal in Uzbekistan’s 1-0 win over Yemen, and despite concerns from his coach, escaped Al-Dawsari’s fate and will be raring to go in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia needs just a draw to be sure of a place in the third round of qualification and are playing at home, but such advantages mean that it has all the pressure too. A misstep could see dreams of a sixth World Cup appearance go up in smoke.

Al-Dawsari has saved Saudi Arabia before and should the Green Falcons go all the way to Qatar, fans will once again be in the debt of the Al-Hilal star. Last Friday, the country sat back and expected a regulation win over Singapore who had just lost 4-0 to Palestine and 5-0 to Uzbekistan, but with five minutes remaining it was 0-0. 

Then up stepped the captain to score and change the mood and send his team on the way to a 3-0 win and three vital points to ensure that avoiding defeat on Tuesday will be enough.

It was a frustrating evening for coach Herve Renard who was relieved with the end result but disappointed that, just before half-time, his main man picked up a second yellow card in qualification and will sit out the big game. 

“My message to Asian referees is to protect the players from rough play,” said the Frenchman. “Al-Dawsari and Abdulelah Al-Maiki got yellow cards because they reacted to that. We will miss them against Uzbekistan.”

Right-back Mohammed Al-Breik went off injured in the second half with a back injury and remains doubtful but there is better news in that Al-Hilal midfielder Abdullah Otayf is available after serving his suspension.

“All matches are difficult,” added Renard, who took Morocco to the 2018 World Cup. “Singapore were difficult and Uzbekistan had a difficult time against Yemen. We got the right result in the end and now we look forward.”

The Frenchman refused to be drawn on how he will approach a game in which he just needs to avoid defeat to go through to the third round of qualification — due to start in September — as one of the eight group winners. Should Saudi Arabia lose, however, it will have to progress as one of the best four runners-up and it is a route that can be complicated. 

It has become more complex in May after the withdrawal of North Korea from qualification, which means that the results against the fifth-placed teams are not counted. If Yemen finish bottom of Group D, this would be good news for Saudi Arabia as it would only lose four of the 17 points collected and a total of 13 would be more than enough. Yet if Yemen defeat Palestine then Singapore would drop into fifth and that would mean a loss of six points and then things really would get messy — much better to leave no room for doubt. 

A draw may be enough for Uzbekistan to finish as one of the four best runners-up, but it may not. The need to win may actually play into their hands. The White Wolves have a reputation for choking when the pressure is on after failing in the past despite being in good positions to qualify for the 2006, 2014 and 2018 tournaments. This time however, the Central Asians are not in pole position and have little room for error.  

“We know what we have to do,” said Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov. “Our objective when qualification restarted was not to lose before we head into the final game and we have done that.” In fact the team has won all three games without conceding a single goal.

Masharipov, loaned out last season by Al-Nassr to Dubai’s Shabab Al-Ahli, has been in sparkling form of late with three goals in the last two games. A sublime attacking performance against Singapore was followed by a more dogged display in the win over Yemen, in which he scored the only goal of the game. Despite picking up a yellow card earlier in qualification, Abramov admitted that he gambled on the 27-year-old not getting another one on Friday. 

“Masharipov was playing below his full potential today,” the coach said. “The caution associated with the yellow card has had its effect on him. I had to keep him on the pitch until the end of the match as things were close, but I knew he was a smart guy and wouldn’t get a yellow card.”

Herve Renard, and all Saudi Arabian fans, will be hoping that Al-Dawsari’s failure to do the same will not come back to haunt them.


Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market
Updated 14 June 2021

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market
  • Reigning Saudi champions have outstanding payments totaling $6.4 million

RIYADH: Al-Hilal’s management team was on Monday expected to settle all outstanding payments from April to secure a financial efficiency certificate allowing the club to take part in the summer transfer window, Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah reported.

The Saudi Ministry of Sports announced through a press statement from the financial efficiency committee for sports clubs, that the club had financial obligations amounting to $6.4 million.

A successful season for Al-Hilal saw the club claim a record-extending 17th Saudi Professional League title, and an historic 62nd trophy, as well as confirm progress to the knockout stages of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

According to Arriyadiyah sources, the outstanding amount covered the salaries of club employees, players of various sporting activities, and the agent of one of the football team’s players, and the cases would be closed once the payments were made.