Portugal overcomes Ronaldo’s absence, beats Azerbaijan 3-0

Portugal overcomes Ronaldo’s absence, beats Azerbaijan 3-0
Portugal players celebrate after Diogo Jota scored his side’s 3rd goal during the World Cup 2022 group A qualifying match against Azerbaijan at the Olympic stadium in Baku on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 07 September 2021

Portugal overcomes Ronaldo’s absence, beats Azerbaijan 3-0

Portugal overcomes Ronaldo’s absence, beats Azerbaijan 3-0
  • Bernardo Silva, André Silva and Diogo Jota scored a goal each to give Portugal a two-point lead
  • Ronaldo was serving a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards

BAKU, Azerbaijan: Portugal overcame the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo to comfortably defeat Azerbaijan 3-0 and take the lead in its World Cup qualifying group on Tuesday.
Bernardo Silva, André Silva and Diogo Jota scored a goal each to give Portugal a two-point lead over Serbia, which conceded late in a 1-1 draw at Ireland in the other Group A match. The away victory gave Portugal 13 points from five matches.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic gave Serbia the lead in Dublin with a 20th-minute header off a corner kick but the hosts equalized with an 87th-minute own-goal by defender Nikola Milenkovic.
Ronaldo was serving a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. He was released from the squad after netting his 110th and 111th goals in Portugal’s 2-1 win over Ireland last week, becoming the men’s all-time top scorer in international soccer. He had been tied with former Iranian striker Ali Daei at 109 goals.
“We could have scored more goals, we created several chances,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “If we had been more efficient in front of the goal, the score would have been even better.”
Bernardo Silva opened the scoring from inside the area in the 26th minute by flicking the ball into the top corner with the outside of his left foot. André Silva, playing in Ronaldo’s position up front, added to the lead from close range five minutes later, and Jota sealed the victory with a header in the 75th.
In the final minutes of the match, some fans entered the field and took photos with Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
Winless Azerbaijan stayed in last place in the group with one point from five matches. It hosts Ireland in the next round in October.
Serbia will next visit Luxembourg, which is also Portugal’s next opponent. Luxembourg is third in the group with six points from four matches.


Liverpool beat Brentford to move up to second in the table

Liverpool beat Brentford to move up to second in the table
Updated 16 sec ago

Liverpool beat Brentford to move up to second in the table

Liverpool beat Brentford to move up to second in the table
  • Reds cope without the absence of key players Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool kept their slim hopes of reeling in Manchester City at the top of the Premier League alive by seeing off Brentford 3-0 at Anfield to move up to second in the table on Sunday.

Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino scored the goals as the Reds coped without the absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Victory lifts Jurgen Klopp’s men to within 11 points of the runaway leaders, but they also have a game in hand on City.

Liverpool failed to take advantage of an extra man for over an hour as Thursday’s League semifinal, first leg against Arsenal ended 0-0, sparking fears of how they will cope for the rest of the month without two of their main sources of goals.

But a Brentford side that have not won a league game away from home since early October never threatened to cause an upset.

Klopp made just two changes from the Arsenal stalemate as Curtis Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain were recalled to add extra creativity and dynamism to the midfield.

He was rewarded with a bright start as Diogo Jota headed over, Trent Alexander-Arnold flashed a shot just off target and Alvaro Fernandez made a brilliant save to deny Virgil van Dijk.

However, the crowd were growing restless until Brentford allowed Alexander-Arnold’s corner to bounce inside the area and Fabinho headed in at the back post. The Bees went toe-to-toe with Liverpool in a pulsating 3-3 draw when the sides last met in September.

But the visitors only created one big chance to get back in the game when Bryan Mbuemo turned Joel Matip and shot inches wide.

Jota hit the post and then should have scored when firing too close to Fernandez in a one-on-one.

There was no doubt over the outcome, though, once Oxlade-Chamberlain’s diving header turned Andy Robertson’s perfect cross into the bottom corner.

Brentford were architects of their own downfall for the third goal as Fernandez’s pass out from the back was seized upon by Roberto Firmino and he teed up Minamino to slot home from close range. The home fans could relax for the final 15 minutes and pointedly took the chance to chant the name of former manager Rafael Benitez, who was sacked by rivals Everton on Sunday.

The Toffees are in danger of falling into a relegation battle after one win in 13 league games.

Brentford, by contrast, still enjoy a 10-point cushion over the bottom three in their first season in the top-flight for 74 years but remain in 14th.


Benitez sacked as Everton manager

Benitez sacked as Everton manager
Updated 16 January 2022

Benitez sacked as Everton manager

Benitez sacked as Everton manager
  • Benitez was an unpopular appointment in June last year after his long spell with Everton’s Merseyside rivals Liverpool
  • Former Everton forward Wayne Rooney, currently impressing as manager of second tier Derby, is the bookmakers’ favorite to replace Benitez

LONDON: Rafael Benitez was sacked as Everton manager on Sunday after just 200 days in charge of the struggling Premier League club.
Benitez was an unpopular appointment in June last year after his long spell with Everton’s Merseyside rivals Liverpool.
The Spaniard paid the price for a dismal run of nine defeats in Everton’s last 13 league matches, culminating in a 2-1 loss at lowly Norwich on Saturday.
“Everton Football Club can confirm the departure of Rafael Benitez as first-team manager,” a club statement said.
“Benitez, who joined Everton in June 2021, has left the club with immediate effect.
“An update on a permanent replacement will be made in due course.”
Former Everton forward Wayne Rooney, currently impressing as manager of second tier Derby, is the bookmakers’ favorite to replace Benitez.
Rooney is a boyhood Everton fan who had two spells at the club as a player either side of his successful time at Manchester United.
He has kept Derby competitive in the Championship despite dealing with a pair of points deductions and the club’s descent in administration.
Rooney’s former Everton team-mate Frank Lampard, sacked by Chelsea last year, is another contender for the job.
Brighton boss Graham Potter and Paulo Fonseca, whose last job was with Roma, could also be in the running.
Under Benitez, Everton earned just 19 points in 19 league matches, their lowest tally at the halfway stage of a season since 2005-06.
Everton fans had made clear their desire for Benitez to be axed during the limp loss at Norwich.
They chanted for his dismissal and held up a banner reading ‘Benitez get out of our club’, while one supporter invaded the pitch in an attempt to confront the former Real Madrid boss.
Everton held an emergency board meeting on Saturday evening to discuss Benitez’s future, with the talks leading to his departure on Sunday.
Benitez’s controversial appointment to replace Carlo Ancelotti after the Italian’s move to Real Madrid was a major gamble by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri.
Benitez had infuriated Everton fans by describing them as a “small” club during his time at Liverpool, who he led to a Champions League final triumph against AC Milan in 2005.
Merseyside police investigated a threatening banner near Benitez’s house which read: ‘We know where you live, don’t sign’ before his appointment.
Last month, Moshiri stood by Benitez, claiming the 61-year-old would be given time to get things right with new signings and injured players coming back.
But Everton’s results have shown no signs of improving and, with the mood among the fans increasingly toxic, it was clear Benitez would have to go.
Across Stanley Park, Liverpool fans celebrated their rivals’ latest woes by chanting Benitez’s name when news of his sacking reached Anfield during Liverpool’s match against Brentford.
Benitez leaves Goodison Park with Everton languishing in 16th place, just six points above the relegation zone.


Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia a win-win for football officials of both nations

Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia a win-win for football officials of both nations
Updated 16 January 2022

Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia a win-win for football officials of both nations

Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia a win-win for football officials of both nations
  • Television revenue and prize money from competition provide major financial boost for ailing Spanish clubs, while the Kingdom offers another global event that allows fans to see some of the world’s finest athletes up close

It is hardly surprising that Saudi Arabian football fans have embraced the Spanish Super Cup taking place in Riyadh. This is far more than just another sporting event.

Tickets for the first semifinal between Real Madrid and Barcelona — arguably the two most popular foreign clubs among football followers in the Kingdom — sold out within an hour of going on sale, which confirms that this tournament could well become part of the fabric of the Saudi Vision 2030 launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

As part of several local and international sporting events held in the country, it was agreed in 2019 to hold the Spanish Super Cup over a period of three years in Saudi Arabia.

The decision backed by Prince Mansour bin Khalid Al-Farhan, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Spain; Yasser Al-Mishal, president of the Saudi  Arabian Football Federation; Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation; and parties from Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well representatives of other elite clubs in Spain.

The move was not without controversy, however, with Spanish fans and media expressing resentment that the mini-tournament had been taken abroad.

Nevertheless the decision will benefit Spanish football financially — helping stave off bankruptcy for some clubs — and in terms of global exposure.

The Spanish Football Federation earns more than $8 million per year from television broadcasting rights, which means that in a four-day tournament, it will receive about $24 million from the agreed three editions.

The 2020-21 edition of the competition did not take place in Saudi Arabia due to the pandemic, but was held in Andalusia, with the final played at Seville’s La Cartuja stadium behind closed doors.

For 2021-22 Saudi Arabia was again able hold the tournament, prompting the president of the Spanish federation to announce the renewal of the current contract until 2029, which means that the Royal Andalusian Football Federation will receive between $274 million and $365 million.

This year, Real Madrid and Barcelona received $7.8 million each, while the other semifinalists, Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid, took only $913,000, with the difference explained by the popularity and history of the former two clubs.

Tournament prize money will reach $16 million, with the winner getting $4.3 million and the runner-up $3.2 million. The losing semifinalists will receive $913,000.

Should Real Madrid win the title, total earnings could reach $13.7 million, given the commercial and advertising revenues.

Rubiales has said more than once that the arrangement with Saudi Arabia will help save Spanish football, in economic terms, especially following the outbreak of the global pandemic.

The Kingdom’s leadership and sporting officials are keen that the Spanish Super Cup is integrated into the Vision 2030 plan and the “Quality of Life” program for Saudi fans, especially as it comes during the Riyadh season, which is organized and managed by Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the Entertainment Authority.

Since the announcement of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has hosted a growing number of international sporting events and competitions.

The Italian Super Cup preceded its Spanish counterpart, while motorsports also have thrived, with the Dakar Rally, Formula E and, most recently, the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix all here to stay.

Many other sports, from golf to WWE and horse racing’s Saudi Cup, have become annual events, too.

The high profile of the Spanish Super Cup fits in that calendar.

For the Spanish authorities the competition offers a financial boost for the game and its clubs, while for Saudi Arabia’s sporting leadership it is about bringing entertainment to the people of the Kingdom.


Aussie jockey Caitlin Jones relishing Dubai opportunity 

Aussie jockey Caitlin Jones relishing Dubai opportunity 
Updated 16 January 2022

Aussie jockey Caitlin Jones relishing Dubai opportunity 

Aussie jockey Caitlin Jones relishing Dubai opportunity 
  • Rider will partner He’s A Balter for trainer Will Clarken at the Dubai World Cup Carnival

A trip to the UAE will be a whole new experience for Australian jockey Caitlin Jones, who is set to partner He’s A Balter at the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

The 32-year-old is based at Morphettville in South Australia and took over from jockey Linda Meech for He’s A Balter’s most recent run, when the Will Clarken-trained gelding finished third in the Listed Christmas Handicap at Morphettville on Dec. 11.

That run set He’s A Balter up perfectly for the trip to Dubai, where he will be aimed at the carnival’s lucrative turf sprint program.

Jones is excited about the opportunity.

“I have never been to Dubai but certainly had it as one place to travel to in the future,” she said. “Meydan is a world-class racecourse.”

She added: “The best jockeys from around the world go to Dubai to race and it will be a privilege to be among them. I’m excited to see the training facilities and the outstanding grandstand in real life, not just looking at pictures. I want to make the most of my days by learning about the culture and the making of such a fascinating city. And, of course, meeting so many new people who all have such a passion and respect for horse racing.”

Jones has an extensive background in horses. “I was in the stables in my pram at just a few days old,” she said.

The leading rider has racked up 274 winners so far, including a pair of Listed successes. Over the past six months she has built a stronger association with the Clarken stable, which will also send seven-year-old gelding Parsifal to Dubai.

“Since becoming a senior rider, I have tried to establish a place in a few stables at Morphettville as it is very competitive,” she said.

“I would say it is only over the last six months that I have got more involved with Will Clarken’s stable and try to ride as much as I possibly can for him. Todd Pannell is stable rider for him and his team, and deservedly so.”

He’s A Balter represents managing owner Anthony Panozzo, who previously traveled to Dubai with another sprinter, Illustrious Lad, which ran fifth in the 2008 Al-Quoz Sprint. That will be the ultimate target for He’s A Balter, assuming the gelding progresses through the carnival.

“There is really only one word for He’s A Balter — gentleman,” Jones said. “He’s a pleasure to ride and to be around in the stables. He enjoys pats and cuddles, but is very genuine in his efforts out on the racetrack.”

There will be plenty of pats and cuddles if He’s A Balter can bring about a famous Aussie success for his enthusiastic connections.


Djokovic loses deportation appeal in Australia

Djokovic loses deportation appeal in Australia
Updated 16 January 2022

Djokovic loses deportation appeal in Australia

Djokovic loses deportation appeal in Australia
  • A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia: Novak Djokovic’s hopes of playing at the Australian Open were dashed Sunday after a court dismissed the top-ranked tennis star’s appeal against a deportation order.
Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made on Friday by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds.
The decision likely means that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain in detention in Melbourne until he is deported.
A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.
The minister canceled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and “may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia.”
Djokovic’s visa was initially canceled on Jan. 6 at Melbourne’s airport hours after he arrived to compete in the first Grand Slam of 2022.
A border official canceled his visa after deciding Djokovic didn’t qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors.