Barcelona concede late equalizer to Granada after Gavi red card

Barcelona concede late equalizer to Granada after Gavi red card
Barcelona’s Dutch forward Luuk de Jong celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Spanish league football match between Granada FC and FC Barcelona at Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium in Granada on Saturday. (AFP)
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Updated 09 January 2022

Barcelona concede late equalizer to Granada after Gavi red card

Barcelona concede late equalizer to Granada after Gavi red card
  • Luuk de Jong put the Catalans in front at Los Carmenes, heading in a cross from 38-year-old Dani Alves
  • Gavi was shown a second yellow card in the 79th minute and Granada equalised in the 89th

MADRID: Barcelona squandered the chance to climb back into La Liga’s top four on Saturday as Granada scored a late equalizer to snatch a 1-1 draw after Barca’s 17-year-old midfielder Gavi was sent off.
Luuk de Jong put the Catalans in front at Los Carmenes, heading in a cross from 38-year-old Dani Alves, who was making his first La Liga appearance since May 2016.
But Gavi was shown a second yellow card in the 79th minute and Granada equalized in the 89th, Antonio Puertas rifling a shot into the corner to deny Barcelona victory.
“We needed to have patience, to keep the ball and play in the opposition’s half, but we lost silly balls, it was our mistakes,” said Xavi Hernandez. “Before the sending off we had to kill the game. It should have been 2-0. We have to be self-critical and grow.”
Barcelona could have moved into the Champions League qualification spots for the first time since September but instead they stay sixth, level on points with Atletico Madrid, who are still to face Villarreal on Sunday.
Real Sociedad sit fourth after they had earlier won 1-0 at home to Celta Vigo.
Xavi said he was “annoyed” after losing “two vital points.” He admitted Gavi’s red card “changed the game” but was critical of the whole team’s management of the second half.
Gavi’s mistake gave Granada impetus at a crucial moment but Barcelona’s lack of goals means they are constantly vulnerable to the slightest error. They have won only one game by more than a single goal since October.
Alves’ last league game for Barcelona came five years ago, also away at Granada, and he also claimed an assist that day as Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick and Barca won the title.
Now 14 points behind leaders Real Madrid, Alves has rejoined a team competing not for the title but a place in the top four, with Champions League qualification this season crucial to the club’s hopes of recovery.
A breathless first half saw De Jong head into the corner but Gavi was just offside while Granada went close at the other end, Darwin Machis driving low and forcing an excellent save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Granada deserved to be level at half-time but parity only lasted 12 minutes after the restart as Alves collected the ball on the right and swung a deep cross into the penalty area. De Jong backtracked behind Victor Diaz to make space and headed in past the diving Luis Maximiano.
Barcelona were never comfortable though and when Gavi slid in late on Alex Collado, an equalizer felt inevitable. A Granada corner brushed the thigh of Sergio Busquets and dribbled loose in the area. Puertas adjusted, swivelled and lashed his shot into the corner.
Granada almost won it in injury-time when Ter Stegen scuffed a clearance and Luis Milla attempted a well-placed lob. Ter Stegen recovered just in time.


Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League

Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League
Updated 25 September 2022

Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League

Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League
  • Spain failed to disturb the Swiss in attack and their defense conceded two goals on corner kicks featuring Swiss defender Manuel Akanji

BARCELONA, Spain: Diogo Dalot helped Portugal take control of its Nations League group by scoring his first two international goals in a 4-0 rout at the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Spain blew their lead of Group A2 after flopping in a 2-1 loss to Switzerland in front of their disappointed fans in Zaragoza.

Portugal moved two points ahead of Spain before the neighbors meet in Braga on Tuesday in a winner-take-all clash to see which advances to the tournament’s final four next June.

While his Portugal rolled in Prague, Cristiano Ronaldo had a rough night, first enduring a nasty blow to his face that made his nose bleed and required a small bandage. International soccer’s all-time leading scorer with 117 goals also committed a penalty that, fortunately for him, the Czechs failed to convert with the score 2-0.

Dalot put Portugal ahead in the 33rd minute when the right back scored from a pass by Rafael Leão.

Bruno Fernandes doubled the lead in first-half injury time moments before Ronaldo was guilty of the handball inside his own area. But Patrik Schick wasted the penalty kick by sending it onto the crossbar.

Dalot put the result beyond all doubt in the 52nd with a curling shot into the corner.

Ronaldo finished with an assist for Diogo Jota to take a fourth goal in the 82nd.

Spain flops

Luis Enrique, who last year guided Spain to the semifinals of the European Championship and the final of the Nations League, is known for making unpopular decisions and sticking to them.

And, once again, he surprised by starting Marco Asensio, who has been relegated to a substitute role at club Real Madrid, as a false nine while leaving pure strikers Álvaro Morata and newcomer Borja Iglesias on the bench.

Spain failed to disturb the Swiss in attack and their defense conceded two goals on corner kicks featuring Swiss defender Manuel Akanji.

Akanji struck with a great header in the 21st when he outjumped his marker and drove the ball off the turf and into the top corner of the net.

Asensio finally managed to pick apart Switzerland’s defense in the 55th when he dribbled past four players before laying off for Jordi Alba to rifle in the equalizer.

But Switzerland hit right back three minutes later when Akanji was left unchecked at the near post to use one touch to redirect a corner kick into the six-yard box where Breel Embolo nudged it over the line.

“They said that it was easy to beat Switzerland and we have seen that is not true in the least,” Luis Enrique said. “They stopped us from playing our game, and you have to add to that our very sloppy first half. We improved in the second half, showed more precision, but just when we scored, we conceded another goal from a corner. Now we have to go to Portugal and win.”

Iglesias and 20-year-old Nico Williams debuted for Spain as substitutes. Nico’s older brother and clubmate Iñaki Williams debuted for Ghana on Friday after he changed allegiance from Spain.

Switzerland hosts the Czech Republic in St. Gallen on Tuesday to decide which avoids relegation. Switzerland has two more points than the Czechs in last place.

Portugal, Spain and Switzerland will all play in the World Cup in November.

League B

Israel were promoted from Group B2 after it beat Albania 2-1 thanks to a goal by Tai Baribo in injury time.

It is all level between Serbia and Norway atop Group B4 ahead of their game in Olso to see which joins League A.

Erling Haaland scored for Norway but Slovenia fought back for a 2-1 home win, while Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic netted a hat trick to lead a 4-1 victory over Sweden in Belgrade.

Scotland remained in charge of Group B1 after edging Ireland 2-1 in Glasgow. Ukraine is two points behind after routing Armenia 5-0 before it plays the Scots in Krakow.

League C

Greece earned promotion from Group C2 despite losing to Cyprus 1-0 thanks to Northern Ireland’s 2-1 comeback win over Kosovo.

Friendlies

Senegal prepared for the World Cup by beating Bolivia 2-0 in a friendly in Orleans, France.


US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark

US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark
Updated 25 September 2022

US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark

US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark
  • The Internationals split the morning matches, and the way this Presidents Cup has gone for them, not losing ground felt like a win

CHARLOTTE, US: The Americans have a juggernaut in Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas that moved them closer to another victory in the Presidents Cup on Saturday.

The International team has a spark plug in 20-year-old Tom Kim, who delivered the emotion and big putts that made it clear the Americans will have to work for it.

The day started with the Americans having a mathematical chance to clinch the cup. It ended with them holding an 11-7 lead, with 12 singles matches left on Sunday.

Spieth and Thomas became only the second US partnership to win all four team matches in the Presidents Cup, handily winning their foursomes match in the morning and their fourballs match in the afternoon.

The Internationals split the morning matches, and the way this Presidents Cup has gone for them, not losing ground felt like a win.

And then it got better.

They rallied over the final hour in two matches to turn deficits into 1-up wins, taking the afternoon session by winning three of the four matches.

The star was Kim, the youngest player at Quail Hollow and perhaps the biggest personality. He started the comeback with a 55-foot eagle putt on the par-4 11th hole against Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.

They were all square going to the last, Si Woo Kim already out of the hole, and Tom Kim facing a 10-foot birdie putt for the win. He took a few steps back as the ball neared the hole, dropped his putter and slammed his cap to the ground in a raucous celebration.

“I wanted that putt more than anything in the world,” Kim said.

Moments later, Adam Scott and Cameron Davis rallied from 1 down with three holes remaining when Davis made a 12-foot eagle putt on the 16th and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to go 1 up.

On the final hole, Sam Burns hit his approach to 4 feet that gave him and Billy Horschel a chance to earn a halve. And then Davis made a 10-foot birdie for another point.

Every point is big for the International team, already depleted from four players who left the PGA Tour for Saudi-funded LIV, and already dealing with eight straight cup losses.

The Americans are still very much in control, needing only four wins and a halve from the 12 singles matches in the final session.

Spieth and Thomas have led the way. The only other US tandem in a Presidents Cup to go 4-0 was Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker at Harding Park in 2009. The Internationals had Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace do the same in South Korea in 2015.

Thomas and Spieth have been close friends for 15 years, dating to junior golf and international outings. This is the first time in a Presidents Cup that they have been paired together, and both are on their games. It a lethal combination.

Even so, the end of the matches gave Spieth pause.

“We’ve got to go get the job done tomorrow and win two more points for our team,” Spieth said. “I’d love to get a singles win, and I know Justin would, too. We’re going to be close enough where our two would be obviously extremely important.”

Kim won both his matches Saturday, teaming with K.H. Lee in morning foursomes to beat Burns and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1.

Scott is playing on his 10th team — eight losses and one tie — and was shut out until he and Hideki Matsuyama took down Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young in the morning, and Scott and Davis proved to be a great Australian duo in the afternoon.

“Any victory against the US team has got to be really hard fought,” Scott said. “So this feels good.”

Max Homa is still having the week of his life. After his late heroics the night before, he partnered with Tony Finau in a 4-and-3 victory over Si Woo Kim and Davis. Homa sat out the afternoon session. He is 3-0 in his debut playing in a cup.

Schauffele and Cantlay lost for the first time in three matches this week. They were 2 up after 10 holes and were 3 under the rest of the way, with Schauffele making a 40-foot birdie putt from short of the 15th green for a 1-up lead that looked like it would carry them to another point.

Instead, Si Woo Kim made a 4-foot birdie putt to square the match on the 16th, and a 5-foot par putt to keep it tied on the 17th. Tom Kim was so nervous he covered his eyes and was peaking through his fingers, pumping his fist when the putt dropped.

And then the 20-year-old Korean had the stage to himself at the end, and he delivered a winner. Left to be seen is what one putt — one point — can do for an International team that still has a four-point deficit to overcome.


Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations
Updated 25 September 2022

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations
  • Here we are, 20 years later, and Federer wound up with 20; Djokovic has 21; Nadal leads with 22

LONDON: Here is one way to look at what Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the now-retired Roger Federer accomplished: The group known as the Big Three of men’s tennis accumulated so many Grand Slam titles — 63 in all — that it seems unlikely anyone will reach the standards they set.

Not anytime soon, certainly.

Here was another way to think about things as the professional level of the sport began its post-Federer life on Saturday, following the last match of his career: What he and the other two members of that distinguished trio, along with Serena Williams, managed to do was demonstrate that it is possible to dominate for decades, not merely years, at a time.

And the 41-year-old Federer, for one, thinks up-and-coming players can learn from the way he and the others of his era went about it, from their self-belief and attitudes about setting goals to their training, nutrition and other methods of ensuring longevity.

He laughed when relaying a conversation with Bjorn Borg, who is the captain of Team Europe at the Laver Cup, about what life was like back when he was winning his 11 major championships from 1974 to 1981 before retiring in his 20s. During an interview with The Associated Press this week, Federer recalled a conversation in which Borg talked about getting one weekly massage and maybe the occasional hot bath during his time on tour.

Federer’s massage routine over his quarter-century as a player?

“Every day, probably. Sometimes I would get tired of them, so I would say, ‘Can we skip a day today?’ You know what I mean? I will not miss those. I mean, I loved my massages from time to time, but come on; number 1,423 gets a little bit like, ‘Jesus. I’d rather do something different,’” Federer said, then added through a self-aware grin: “Complaining at a high level here.”

When Pete Sampras won the 2002 US Open in his last match, he collected his 14th Slam trophy, two more than any other man in the history of tennis to that point. Indeed, there were those who wondered at the time whether that mark would ever be broken.

Seems quaint now. Here we are, 20 years later, and Federer wound up with 20; Djokovic has 21; Nadal leads with 22. The latter two are still adding to their counts: Nadal, 36, won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June; Djokovic, 35, won Wimbledon in July.

“No. 1, it’s easier nowadays to run through different surfaces. Pete only made one semi at the French. Borg never went to Australia. ... And,” Federer said, “it was less professional back in the ‘70s.”

Federer also made this point: He, Nadal, Djokovic and Williams, and the rise of social media, all contributed to a change in the paradigm of Grand Slam importance vis a vis other tournaments and made chasing those records — and talking about chasing those records — more widely accepted and matter-of-course.

“It’s a different world now,” Federer said.

In bygone days, he said, “It was not about records. This whole record thing started, I’d say, with Sampras wanting to surpass the 12 of (Roy) Emerson. This is what set up this generation that we see with Novak and Rafa right now. For me, I don’t remember much, when I came up in the ‘90s, about all these records. I remember Pete was kind of chasing them, but I was not aware of it. They just said, ‘Oh, you play like Pete, so you’re going to be ‘the next Pete Sampras.’ I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’”

With that, he rolled his eyes.

Then Federer continued discussing Sampras: “I don’t even remember how many Slams he had at that time. I don’t even remember where he passed that record. It was a big moment, I’m sure, but I, a historian of the game, don’t really remember it.”

Players have changed. Media coverage has changed. Fans’ attention has changed.

“We behave different, in the process, as well, and we are driven in a different way. I don’t think you were planning years ahead: ‘OK, I have 10 years ahead, so let’s break it down. What do I have to do to achieve such a thing?’ Back in the day, it was ‘OK, what are we playing next week?’” Federer said. “I just think it’s different and that’s why I think we’ll see more successful players in the future and they’ll be able to play longer, because they’ll maintain their bodies.”

For the current crop of new talent, including US Open champion and No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz, who is just 19, or French Open and US Open runner-up Casper Ruud, who is No. 2 at age 23, the example is there.

Now the question is: Can they follow it?

“They brought it to a whole different level and showed that anything is possible. Just imagine if one of the three was not there, how many the two other ones would have. They would probably be close to 30. ... It gives young players like myself and the younger generation inspiration to see how well it’s possible to play,” Ruud said. “I don’t think that record will be broken, ever, but let’s see in the future. Anything can happen.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime, a US Open semifinalist at age 21 last year, agrees that having something to aspire to is helpful.

As is having role models, which Team World vice captain Patrick McEnroe pointed out the Big Three are in terms of sportsmanship and the “way the game is actually played on the court.”

“Now the younger players are training hard, always trying to improve, being more and more professional,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It does raise the bar of the level and the competitiveness of the sport, which I think pushes the sport forward.”


Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace

Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace
Updated 25 September 2022

Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace

Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace
  • Portugal lead Group 2 on 10 points, two ahead of Spain who were stunned by Switzerland 2-1 at home on Saturday
  • Ronaldo failed to improve his record tally of 117 international goals and was left with a bloodied face after a clash with Vaclik early in the game

PRAGUE: Defender Diogo Dalot scored twice as Portugal eased past the Czech Republic 4-0 in Prague on Saturday to get within a point of reaching the UEFA Nations League play-offs.
Portugal, who won the first edition of the Nations League in 2019, lead Group 2 on 10 points, two ahead of Spain who were stunned by Switzerland 2-1 at home on Saturday.
Portugal host Spain next Tuesday in their final group game.
Dalot opened the scoring on 33 minutes as he nutmegged Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik from a cutback provided by Rafael Leao.
Dalot sprinted down the pitch, passed the ball to his right and dashed into the box to pick up Leao’s pass from the left following a cross narrowly missed by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bruno Fernandes made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time as Mario Rui found him facing Vaclik with a low cross from the left.
A minute later, the hosts squandered a penalty kick as Patrik Schick fired over the crossbar after VAR spotted Ronaldo handling the ball inside the box.
Dalot added a second as he stunned Vaclik with a low left-foot shot from outside the area on 52 minutes.
Second-half substitute Diogo Jota headed home a late fourth from close range following a corner and Ronaldo’s glancing header that found him at the far post.
Ronaldo failed to improve his record tally of 117 international goals and was left with a bloodied face after a clash with Vaclik early in the game.


Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on
Updated 24 September 2022

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on
  • Djokovic showed no signs of rust as he played for the first time since winning the seventh Wimbledon crown
  • The 35-year-old's dominant victory over Tiafoe put Team Europe 6-4 up at London's O2 Arena

LONDON: Novak Djokovic made an impressive return after two months out of action as the Team Europe star thrashed Team World’s Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3 with Roger Federer cheering him on at the Laver Cup on Saturday.
Djokovic showed no signs of rust as he played for the first time since winning the seventh Wimbledon crown of his remarkable career in July.
The 35-year-old’s dominant victory over Tiafoe put Team Europe 6-4 up at London’s O2 Arena, with Djokovic set to return to court with Berrettini for a doubles match against Sock and Alex de Minaur on Saturday evening.
Djokovic, a 21-time Grand Slam champion, missed the US Open in September due to his unvaccinated status, leaving him to take an enforced break from competitive action.
He was quickly back in the old routine against US Open semifinalist Tiafoe as he broke in the fourth game and again in the sixth to take the opening set in just 23 minutes.
Djokovic went for the kill as he landed yet another break in the first game of the second set and cruised to the finish line with Federer waiting to congratulate him at courtside.
Federer said a tearful goodbye to tennis late on Friday night when the 20-time Grand Slam champion and doubles partner Rafael Nadal were beaten by Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
The 41-year-old announced earlier this month that he would retire after the Laver Cup due to the knee problems that had kept him on the sidelines since Wimbledon in 2021.
Federer’s fitness issues meant he could only play one doubles match, so Matteo Berrettini was called into the Team Europe squad to replace the Swiss legend after the last game of his incredible career.
With Federer watching on, Berrettini proved a capable deputy as he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (13/11), 4-6, 10/7 in Saturday’s first game.
The 26-year-old Italian, who finished as the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up, had to dig deep to hold off a spirited challenge from Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old Canadian rising star.
On the first day of his life after tennis, Federer could have been forgiven for following Nadal’s example and heading off for a well-earned rest.
But Federer showed his passion for tennis is unlikely to fade anytime soon as he sat courtside to support Berrettini with the rest of the Team Europe squad despite the post-midnight finish to his emotional finale.
Federer, who was involved in setting up the Ryder Cup-style Laver tournament, had said “we can all party together” as the 17,500-crowd raised the roof with their acclaim for one of the sport’s all-time greats after his final match.
There was an inevitable hangover at the O2 Arena as the atmosphere during Berrettini’s clash with Auger-Aliassime struggled to live up to the great man’s swansong.
But Federer looked relaxed as he mimicked Berrettini’s clenched-fist celebration as the Italian took the first set after Auger-Aliassime saved five set points in the tie-break.
Auger-Aliassime was unfazed by losing that 75-minute opening set and levelled the match in the second set before Berrettini finally closed out the victory in the first to 10 points ‘Laver Breaker’.
In the day’s second singles match, Team World’s Taylor Fritz beat British world number eight Cameron Norrie 6-1, 4-6, 10/8.
Norrie was only playing because Nadal had opted to pull out of the rest of the tournament after the Federer doubles match for what organizers said were “personal reasons.”
The Spanish world number three has been struggling with an abdominal injury while his wife is heavily pregnant.