Saudi Arabia reach 2022 World Cup in Qatar after Japan beat Australia

Update Saudi Arabia reach 2022 World Cup in Qatar after Japan beat Australia
Japan’s Wataru Endo, top, challenges Australia’s Bruno Mezza during the Qatar World Cup 2022 Asian zone Group B qualification football math in Sydney on March 24, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 24 March 2022

Saudi Arabia reach 2022 World Cup in Qatar after Japan beat Australia

Saudi Arabia reach 2022 World Cup in Qatar after Japan beat Australia
  • Crushing blow for an understrength Socceroos who now face a perilous play-off to keep alive their hopes of making Qatar
  • The Saudis face China in Sharjah later Thursday but are assured of their place

Saudi Arabia qualified for the 2022 World Cup on Thursday without even playing a game thanks to Japan’s 2-0 win over Australia in Sydney.

Two late goals from Kaoru Mitoma not only gave Japan a deserved win after an entertaining game but also meant Japan go top of Group B with 21 points, two ahead of the Green Falcons who take on China later today.

Crucially however, Saudi Arabia are four points clear of Australia in third and as the Socceroos have just one game remaining – in Jeddah next Tuesday – the race for the two automatic qualification spots in the group is over.

While it is good news for Saudi Arabia, it means that the third-place team from Group A, currently the United Arab Emirates, are going to face Australia in the continental play-off. The winner of that will take on South American opposition for the final place in Qatar.

The possibility of play-offs is no longer a concern of Herve Renard. A sixth World Cup is a just reward for an excellent qualification campaign but also means that the games against China in Sharjah today and against Australia next week mark the start of preparation for the big event.

Whatever happens in Sharjah however – and the French boss has already said that he wants to finish in first place – today will be a day of celebration in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia.


Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime

Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime
Updated 11 sec ago

Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime

Embiid leads 76ers over Nuggets, Celtics outlast Lakers in overtime
  • Embiid, who also missed out on selection as an All-Star Game starter this week, downplayed the idea of a personal rivalry with Jokic

LOS ANGELES: Philadelphia 76ers big-man Joel Embiid outdueled Denver’s two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the Boston Celtics edged the Los Angeles Lakers 125-121 in overtime as rivalries took center stage in the NBA on Saturday.

Embiid, who finished runner-up to Jokic in voting for Most Valuable Player honors the past two seasons, poured in 47 points to lead the 76ers to a 126-119 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Cameroon’s Embiid also grabbed 18 rebounds to help the Sixers erase a 15-point halftime deficit on the way to a seventh straight victory.

Embiid, who also missed out on selection as an All-Star Game starter this week, downplayed the idea of a personal rivalry with Jokic, saying the contest was about the 76ers testing themselves against the Western Conference’s top team.

“I love the big fella,” he told broadcaster ABC of Jokic. “I’m a big fan.”

“I think he’s more of a motivation to go out and try to win the whole thing,” Embiid said. “I guess that’s the only way I’m probably going to get that respect.”

Embiid was everywhere in the second half, his step-back jumper knotting the score at 110-110 with 5:48 remaining.

After his block on Jamal Murray, Embiid scored on the fastbreak to put the 76ers up for good, and he drained a step-back three-pointer over Jokic that pushed Philadelphia’s lead to 125-117 with 30.1 seconds to play.

Jokic led the Nuggets with 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.

The 76ers improved to 32-16, and they were two and a half games behind the league-leading Celtics after Boston rallied to beat the Lakers in a game that featured 19 lead changes.

The Lakers led by seven midway through the fourth quarter, but Jaylen Brown converted a three-point play to tie it up at 105-105 with 4.1 seconds left.

He went on to score 11 points in the extra session after LeBron James’s drive to the basket at the end of regulation ended in a miss, with James and the Lakers pleading for a foul call after Jayson Tatum appeared to brush his arm.

The call didn’t come and Boston prevailed, withstanding a 41-point performance from James to end a three-game skid.

“The best player on Earth can’t get a call – it’s amazing,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham, who spoke of the “agony” of losing such a huge game.

“I don’t understand it,” James said, adding that he didn’t think it was the first time a non-call proved costly to the Lakers this season.

Brown preferred to focus not on officiating or the rivalry but on Boston’s quest to remain the dominant team in the East.

“It was a much-needed win,” he said. “We lost the last three, so we wanted to come out and get a win today.”

Ham noted that any game between the Celtics and Lakers — who have faced each other a record 12 times in the NBA Finals — is “always hotly contested.”

Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said that “generational” rivalry made his team’s crosstown rivalry with the New York Knicks look puny — an impression that only increased when the Nets notched a ninth straight win over the Knicks, 122-115.

With superstar Kevin Durant and teammate Ben Simmons sidelined by injury, Kyrie Irving scored 32 points, coming alive with 21 fourth-quarter points as the Nets held on, even after the Knicks — who trailed by as many as 19 — cut the deficit to three points with 3:07 to play.

Irving posted his sixth straight game of 30 or more points.

Elsewhere, Chris Paul scored 31 points and Mikal Bridges added 25 as the Phoenix Suns spoiled San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s 74th birthday with a 128-118 overtime victory over the Spurs.

Phoenix never trailed, but the Spurs forced overtime with a late surge in regulation before Bridges and Paul scored eight points apiece in the extra session and the Suns escaped.

In Atlanta, Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points and Paul George added 23 to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a fifth straight victory, 120-113 over the Hawks.


Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead

Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead
Updated 29 January 2023

Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead

Wehrlein takes double at 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix and championship lead
  • German wins both night races, battling from back on the grid

DIRIYAH: Pascal Wehrlein of TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team steered his 99X Electric GEN3 car to a second win in as many days at the 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix.

Wehrlein once again piped Avalanche Andretti Formula E Team driver Jake Dennis to the line, while Rene Rast secured a first podium for NEOM McLaren in Formula E.

Qualifying in fifth rather than Saturday’s ninth, Wehrlein made things easier on himself ahead of round three under the magical lights of Diriyah. More than 35,000 fans attended the race weekend events and saw the Middle Eastern debut of the all-new GEN3 car — the world’s fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race vehicle.

From fifth the German always looked a threat to those ahead. Mitch Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing had taken the lead from polesitter Jake Hughes of NEOM McLaren through the first corner on the opening lap, before Hughes and Rast managed to pass the Jaguar driver during ATTACK MODE.

Rast then briefly took the lead through his first round of 50 kW boosts before Wehrlein stepped up a gear, having bided his time behind the lead trio and managing his energy. Passes on Hughes then Evans just a lap apart, each down at turn 16, put him right with race leader Rast before Wehrlein undercut the McLaren driver through ATTACK MODE and skipped into a two-second lead.

Dennis and Bird were making moves of their own as Wehrlein clambered into the lead. The Avalanche Andretti driver took fifth from Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) on lap 21, while Bird following suit thanks to an audacious trademark maneuver at the final corner.

Just a lap later, pre-race standings leader Dennis sliced by Hughes for fourth and in quick succession saw off Evans and made it three on the spin by taking second from Rast, with the Jaguar of Bird matching Dennis up to take third.

Wehrlein had by then drawn out a lead and looked peerless. A late-race safety car could have thrown a spanner in the works but there were no such problems for the Porsche driver who stretched his legs again to win by a margin of just over a second and become only the fifth driver to win both races of a Formula E double-header.

Bird had looked to be in the box seat for third, but lost the position and could not gain it back after taking ATTACK MODE and not converting a late attempt to usurp Rast out of position.

Hughes could not quite capitalize from taking pole but yet again scored good points to maintain his consistent start to the campaign with fifth. Sebastien Buemi of Envision Racing needed no second invitation to steal sixth from Mitch Evans of Jaguar after the Kiwi scuppered a move on Hughes over the line —getting caught with the McLaren and allowing the Swiss to nip in.

Sacha Fenestraz produced the best drive of his rookie season with eighth for the Nissan Formula E Team, while Edoardo Mortara got points on the board with ninth — something to show for Maserati MSG Racing’s tireless efforts on a testing race weekend. Dan Ticktum brought home his NIO 333 in 10th for his first points of the season — well deserved given the squad’s pace over a lap in Diriyah.

The next race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is the 2023 Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix on Saturday Feb. 11.


Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes
Updated 29 January 2023

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes
  • Homa closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 13-under 275

SAN DIEGO: Southern California native Max Homa came from five shots off the lead to win the Farmers Insurance Open by two strokes over Keegan Bradley on Saturday at Torrey Pines, where Jon Rahm imploded early and missed a shot at winning his third straight start and moving to No. 1 in the world.

Homa reeled in Sam Ryder, who was trying for a wire-to-wire win, and then held off Bradley and Collin Morikawa for his sixth PGA Tour win and fourth in his home state. He took the Genesis at Riviera in 2021 and has won the Fortinet Championship in Nampa in consecutive years.

Homa closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 13-under 275. He made a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 and pumped his right fist before greeting wife Lacey and infant son Cam just off the green.

Bradley also shot a 66 on the South Course. Morikawa shot 69 and finished at 10 under. Ryder shot 75, his worst round of the week, and tied for fourth with Sahith Theegala (70) and Sungjae Im (70) at 9 under.

Rahm shot a 74, his worst round of the week, and tied for seventh at 8 under with Jason Day (68), a two-time Farmers winner. Rahm got his first PGA Tour win here in 2017 and then won the US Open in 2021 at the municipal course that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Rahm won The American Express at PGA West last weekend and at the Sentry Tournament of Champions three weekends ago at Kapalua.

Homa, playing in the group ahead of Ryder, Rahm and Tony Finau, took the lead at 12 under by curling in a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th after a 226-yard tee shot. Ryder, who wore magenta joggers, had a double-bogey 6 on the 15th to drop to 10 under.

Ryder, who eagled his first hole of the tournament, was in a three-way tie for first after the opening round and had sole possession of the lead after the second and third rounds.

After making an impressive run up the leaderboard on Friday to move into sole possession of second place, two shots behind Ryder, Rahm bogeyed No. 1 and missed a birdie putt by inches on No. 4 before his round fell apart on the par-4 No. 5.

Rahm drove into a fairway bunker and then flew the green into the thick rough. It took him three shots to chop his way out of the rough and by the time he sank a nine-foot putt, he had tumbled into a tie for fifth.

DIVOTS: San Diegan Phil Mickelson, a defector to the LIV Tour, took a shot at Ryder’s pants when he tweeted: “The Tour doesn’t allow shorts but does allow this week’s leader to wear joggers with ankle socks? Showing 4 inches of ankle? I’m no fashion guy, never will be, but there are some things I won’t ever understand.”


Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts
Updated 29 January 2023

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts
  • The Montreal-based Russian dropped Yarde with a right hand and the Londoner survived the 10-count in the second minute, but his corner threw in the towel

LONDON: Artur Beterbiev successfully held his WBC, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight belts when he stopped English challenger Anthony Yarde in the eighth round on Saturday.

Beterbiev improved his record to 19-0 with his 19th knockout after taking charge from the seventh round at Wembley Arena.

The Montreal-based Russian dropped Yarde with a right hand and the Londoner survived the 10-count in the second minute, but his corner threw in the towel.

Yarde impressed in the first three rounds while Berbetiev’s class was just beginning to emerge. Beterbiev pinned Yarde in the fourth but Yarde hung on with hooks and uppercuts while a cut developed under his left eye.

Yarde lost his second world title shot and dropped to 23-2.

Beterbiev has held the IBF title since 2017, the WBC title since 2019 and added the WBO version last June when he stopped Joe Smith at Madison Square Garden.


Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup
Updated 29 January 2023

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup
  • The Brazil international struck twice in four second-half minutes as United won against second-division Reading 3-1

MANCHESTER, England: Casemiro was a serial winner with Real Madrid and on Saturday he kept Manchester United’s trophy hunt going strong in the FA Cup.

The Brazil international struck twice in four second-half minutes as United won against second-division Reading 3-1 and progressed to the fifth round.

On Wednesday, Erik ten Hag’s improving team put a foot in the League Cup final by beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

There is growing belief among United fans that a six-year wait for a trophy will come to an end this season, with the club also still in the Europa League where a much-anticipated clash with Barcelona is coming next month.

If Ten Hag is to lift silverware in his first season as manager, Casemiro will be pivotal to that success.

The midfielder won five Champions Leagues and three Spanish titles with Madrid but left last summer for a new challenge in England.

Ten Hag wanted to add his winning mentality to a team that had seen Manchester City and Liverpool dominate the Premier League in recent years. His influence was evident against a Reading team that withstood United’s dominance until the 54th minute.

It was a performance that underlined how much Casemiro was missed when he was suspended for the 3-2 loss to Arsenal last week, which left United 11 points behind the league leader.

With Casemiro in the starting lineup, United have lost only two of 21 games in all competitions, compared to four of 11 without him.

While he is better known as a midfield enforcer, he has showcased his other attributes in his short time at Old Trafford, including his impressive range of passing.

Against Reading, it was his clinical finishing that broke the visitor’s resistance.

First came a delicate chip to lift the ball over goalkeeper Joe Lumley after racing onto Antony’s pass into the box. Then, in the 58th, he let fly from around 25 meters to double United’s lead.

His mastery was evident when Reading forward Andy Carroll’s frustration boiled over and he was sent off for a second yellow card after a wild challenge on Casemiro in the 65th.

Another Brazilian, Fred, came off the bench to add a third for United with a backheel a minute later.

Amadou Mbengue scored a consolation for Reading, but there was never any danger of a comeback.

While they are fighting for survival in the league, Leeds, Leicester and Southampton are advancing in the cup.

Securing top-flight status remains the priority for all three, but the cup is providing welcome relief from their battles against relegation.

Leeds won against third-tier Accrington Stanley 3-1, Leicester overcame fourth-tier Walsall 1-0, and bottom-of-the-league Southampton won against second-division Blackpool 2-1 on Saturday.

Goals from Leeds’ Jack Harrison, Junior Firpo and Luis Sinisterra ended any chance of a miracle for Accrington in front of its home fans at Wham Stadium. Leslie Adekoya, however, gave them something to cheer with a late consolation goal.

It was only Leeds’ second win since Nov. 5, both of them coming in the FA Cup.

Leicester — cup winner in 2021 — needed a late goal from Kelechi Iheanacho to end Walsall’s resistance in a match that also saw Youri Tielemans miss a penalty.

Leicester’s only other win since Dec. 20 was in the previous round of the cup.

Romain Perraud scored twice in Southampton’s win. Charlie Patino pulled one back for Blackpool.

Sunderland 15-year-old substitute Christopher Rigg thought he scored a famous winner against the Premier League’s Fulham, only to see his effort ruled out for offside.

Rigg struck in time added on at Craven Cottage, but the second division team’s celebrations were soon cut short.

Sunderland took an early lead through Jack Clarke, and Tom Cairney equalized for Fulham to set up a replay.

There will also be replays for Sheffield Wednesday and Fleetwood (1-1), Ipswich and Burnley (0-0), Luton and Grimsby (2-2) and Blackburn and Birmingham (2-2).

Second division Bristol City was through to fifth round after beating West Brom 3-0.

New Tottenham signing Arnaut Danjuma scored on his debut as Spurs beat Preston 3-0.

Danjuma, who has joined on loan from Villarreal, struck late on after going on as a substitute.

Heung-Min Son had already set Tottenham on course for the next round with two second-half goals.