Milan beat Genoa to maintain 2-point lead after Inter win

AC Milan's Brazilian midfielder Junior Messias, left, shoots and scores his team's second goal during their Italian Serie A football match against Genoa at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium - also called San Siro in Milan, on April 15, 2022. (AFP)
AC Milan's Brazilian midfielder Junior Messias, left, shoots and scores his team's second goal during their Italian Serie A football match against Genoa at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium - also called San Siro in Milan, on April 15, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 16 April 2022

Milan beat Genoa to maintain 2-point lead after Inter win

AC Milan's Brazilian midfielder Junior Messias, left, shoots and scores his team's second goal during their Italian Serie A football match against Genoa at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium - also called San Siro in Milan, on April 15, 2022. (AFP)
  • Milan sealed the result three minutes from time. Genoa goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu parried Messias’ initial shot with a brilliant one-handed save but the Rossoneri forward fired in the rebound

MILAN: AC Milan maintained their lead in Serie A after beating relegation-threatened Genoa 2-0 on Friday.

Rafael Leao and Junior Messias helped Milan move back two points ahead of Inter after the defending champion won at Spezia 3-1 hours earlier.

Inter have played a match less than Milan as they still have to play a postponed match against Bologna.

The two Milan teams also meet on Tuesday in the second leg of the Italian Cup semifinals.

Genoa remained three points from safety.

Milan were again going through an injury crisis and struggling for goals ahead of the match against Genoa. It went in on the back of two straight goalless draws and only scoring four goals in its last seven matches

Veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic was out with a knee problem, the latest in a series of injuries this season.

Milan took the lead in the 11th minute when Pierre Kalulu put in a tantalizing cross from the right to the back post where Leão volleyed into the bottom far corner.

The Rossoneri had few more real goal-scoring opportunities but should have doubled their lead in the 57th when Olivier Giroud fired a cross from Alexis Saelemaekers over the bar from close range.

Milan sealed the result three minutes from time. Genoa goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu parried Messias’ initial shot with a brilliant one-handed save but the Rossoneri forward fired in the rebound.

Substitute Lautaro Martínez returned from suspension to score one goal and set up another as Inter kept up the pressure on its city rival.

The Nerazzurri struggled to get going on a balmy day in Spezia and almost conceded early but Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanović rushed off his line and grabbed the ball following a wayward interception from teammate Ivan Perišić.

Inter broke the deadlock in the 31st with its first shot on goal. Marcelo Brozović started and finished the move as he chipped a pass into the area to Danilo D’Ambrosio, who nodded it back for the Croatia midfielder to drive into the top left corner.

Martínez, who missed last weekend’s win over Hellas Verona due to suspension, came off the bench on the hour mark and doubled his side’s lead 13 minutes later.

Perisic ran onto a cross-field pass to the left flank and cut inside before whipping in a low cross which Martínez flicked into the far corner with his back to goal.

Spezia captain Giulio Maggiore set up a nervy finale when he halved the deficit with a fine strike into the top left corner in the 88th minute, but Alexis Sanchez secured the result in stoppage time.

The referee waved play on after a foul on Sánchez and the Inter forward got back up to fire a Martínez assist into the bottom left corner.

There was a somewhat bizarre incident involving Spezia forward M’Bala Nzola. He came on in the 60th but the referee spotted his large earring and ordered him to remove it. Nzola spent several minutes fiddling with it on the touchline, aided by Spezia staff, but couldn’t remove it and had to be substituted, 10 minutes after coming onto the field.


Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception
Updated 30 June 2022

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception
  • Denmark’ Crown Prince Frederick attended the official unveiling of the teams, two days before the 21-day Tour opens with a 13km time-trial, the first of three stages in Denmark

COPENHAGEN: Raucous crowds at the Copenhagen Tivoli theme park gave the Tour de France the kind of reception organizers could only have dreamed of on Wednesday.

The loudest cheers were for Danish riders such as Jonas Vingegaard and for the biggest names led by champion Tadej Pogacar.

Staff at the park said only rock stars had attracted such crowds before.

Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates’, said he was excited too.

“As a team we are ready, and me and as an individual I’m ready too, so I can’t wait to start of Friday with the time trial,” the Slovenian said.

Denmark’ Crown Prince Frederick attended the official unveiling of the teams, two days before the 21-day Tour opens with a 13km time-trial, the first of three stages in Denmark.

Tivoli Park has around 25 fairground rides. On Wednesday the 176 cyclists added one, riding round a special 1km track to be greeted by thousands of smiling, cheering and filming fans.

“I feel great, especially today with all these people in Copenhagen, you can only be happy.” said Pogacar.

Title challengers Primoz Roglic and Vingegaard, both of Jumbo Visma, said they believed their team’s two-leader strategy could finally deliver cycling’s most treasured prize.

Roglic, a Slovenian, came second in 2020 and Vingegaard in 2021, both times behind Pogacar.

“As long as we work together, doing as good as possible together, we believe that we can beat him,” Roglic said,

Roglic pulled out in week one last year afer a fall and on Wednesday denied feeling threatened by his junior partner Vingegaard, who shone in his absence.

“We make each other stronger. When you have strong individuals around, the whole team gets stronger,” said the 32-year-old triple Vuelta a Espana winner.

Vingegaard said he and Roglic enjoyed going for a beer together.

“Primoz and I are good friends also out of bike racing,” said the 25-year-old, , a former fish-factory worker from the small community of Hillerslev on Denmark’s North Sea coast.

Both Roglic and Vingegaard talked of surviving the first week.Team boss Merijn Zeeman rejected the notion.

“I don’t like the term ‘surviving’ because we are not afraid. We stay on the bike and stay up front,” Zeeman said of Jumbo’s tendency to race from the front.

“Surviving sounds like we are not sleeping at night because we are afraid of the first week.”

“In the best scenario, both of them are better than Pogacar.”

“It’s not a secret that Pogacar is the big favorite.

“We need everybody to be at his top level and we definitely need a two-leader strategy.

The once-mighty Ineos team last won the race with Egan Bernal three years ago.

On Wednesday, 2018 champion Geraint Thomas said he was more of a chaperone to Dani Martinez of Colombia and British rider Adam Yates as they chase Pogacar and Jumbo.

“Its going to be hard to beat them, but the vibe in the team is as good as ever, we have some good guys, there’s a good atmosphere and we are looking forward to getting stuck in,” said Thomas, who promised an aggressive race.

“Adam and Dani are the leaders of the team and I want to help them, so I’ll be swearing at them at 60kmph in the wind, and I’m going to enjoy that.”

Yates has just recovered from Covid-19, but was looking relaxed and happy.

“It’ll be every man for himself,” Yates said.

“Me and Poggo had some good battles. I just hope to be at my best.”

Later on Wednesday, the Tour teams were due to parade in central Copenhagen with excitement building toward Friday’s Grand Depart, with Ineos rider Filippo Ganna favorite in a downtown time-trial.

“It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey, nothing is easy but I want to try and put that in my museum,” the Italian said.

“We’ll see Friday if we can all celebrate together.”


How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore
Updated 30 June 2022

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore
  • The sport has long had a reticence to confront these concerns, and despite being better remunerated, players face greater pressure than ever before

On Friday, England will host India at Edgbaston, Birmingham, in a Test match which was initially scheduled to start last year, Sept. 10, at Old Trafford, Manchester, but had been delayed over COVID-19 concerns.

That game did not take place because of an overnight decision by the Indian party, fearful about COVID-19 spreading through its camp, to declare this had a significant impact on their ability to field a team. This was despite none of the players testing positive the day before the game. It was members of support staff who had done so, resulting in players isolating in their hotel rooms. Minutes before the gates were due to open at 9 a.m., news of the cancellation seeped out, to the dismay, disbelief and disappointment of all those involved, except the Indians, it seemed.

They left England over the following two days to fly to the UAE, where the Indian Premier League was due to resume on Sept. 19, having been curtailed halfway through in early-May because of COVID-19 concerns in India. The Indian team’s decision in Manchester split the cricketing world. One view was that, coming on top of months of isolation during the pandemic, the new isolation had been the straw which broke the camel’s back in terms of players having the mental ability to cope with the fatigue from yet another bio-bubble.

An alternative view, vigorously denied, was that the fear of catching the virus, so close to the resumption of the IPL, would mean that the players would not have been able to take their places in their team bubbles until after quarantine requirements had been satisfied in the UAE. The Board of Control for Cricket in India specified six days of quarantine. Thus, leaving England between Sept. 11 and 12 gave them just enough time to play in the IPL on Sept. 19, whereas leaving on Sept. 14 and 15 would not have allowed this. There were also issues over whether the cancellation, over COVID-19 concerns, would be covered by insurance; or if the game had to be declared forfeited.

Feelings ran high in both camps. It was not until Oct. 22, 2021, that a resolution was announced under which the match would be played between July 1 and 5, 2022 but at a different venue, Birmingham, rather than the original one in Manchester. The official reason was that, because of other events, there would be insufficient time to prepare a pitch at Manchester. The move also took out of the equation the possibility of any residual ill-will existing there. Nevertheless, it is scant consolation for ticketholders of the original match, who are not able to watch the rearranged one, nor local traders who lost business. Manchester will host South Africa in August.

There has been almost no public commentary on the substance of the negotiations between the Indian and English cricket boards, the implications of the agreement for insurance claims, and also the conditions under which India agreed to play. The match will complete the four-match series, with India holding a 2-1 advantage. Since September 2021, the two teams have undergone shifting fortunes. Both have different captains and coaches. After desperately poor performances in Australia and the West Indies, England have been re-energized by new management, having beaten New Zealand 3-0 in a Test series, which ended last Monday.

India was beaten 2-1 by South Africa in a three match Test series in December 2021/January 2022, after which its highly successful captain, Virat Kohli, resigned, following tensions with the BCCI. Under his successor, Rohit Sharma, India beat Sri Lanka in a two match Test series in February 2022. It is ironic that he has tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the upcoming Test and, with the appointed vice-captain ruled out by injury, the Indians have appointed a pace bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, as captain, in an unusual move.

What is clear is that COVID-19 continues to impact not only this series but cricket, in general. The mental health and well-being issues cited by the Indian camp last September have also applied to other cricketers during the pandemic. The new England captain, Ben Stokes, took a break from the game in July 2021 to deal with his own issues, thus missing the series against India. It is another quirk of fate that he joins the series for the final match.

By its very nature, cricket has long had an uneasy relationship with mental health and a reticence to confront it. Cricketers spend much time alone, both on and off the pitch, with ample opportunities for reflection and rumination. Worries about form, technique and injury can generate self-doubt, which can be preyed upon by opponents. This scope for introspection has received impetus from experiences generated by the pandemic. These have created abnormal relations with families, friends, teammates, spectators, opponents and media. They have been superimposed upon the normal issues which confront cricketers performing as individuals within a team environment.

Cricket has also attracted attention as a sport which, since the early 20th Century, has allegedly suffered a higher-than-average proportion of suicides by professional players. Studies of these cases have sought to uncover the role that cricket may have played. The evidence is inconclusive, because of small sample sizes, a lack of rigorous data collection and a lack of clarity about causes of death. The only linkages seem to be that the individuals had either depressive histories and/or health/financial problems in their post-playing days that brought them to their ultimate decision.

Cricketers are now better remunerated but the pressures to perform seem greater. Some former professional cricketers have talked openly about this subject, yet reluctance to reach out for help still appears to exist, despite increasing avenues of support becoming available. Although the extent that mental health issues contributed to the decision at Manchester last September remains opaque, a new awareness of their impact has been created. Acknowledgement should not be regarded as weakness. Cricket has a fresh opportunity to systemically address them across its realm.


Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship
  • First medal for the Kingdom in this age group

The Saudi Arabian youth bowling squad have claimed bronze in the team category of the IBF U-21 World Championship 2022 in Sweden.

The tournament took place from June 20 to 29 at Helsingborg’s Olympia Bowl. This is the country’s first ever team medal at this age group, following the individual bronze that Abdulrahman Al-Khelaiwi won in the 2017 edition of the competition.

Representing the team were Bandar Al-Yaba, Ahmed Abu Al-Rish, Muhammad Abu Al-Rish, and Ziad Al-Tuwairib.

Despite losing to their Czech counterparts in their last-four match of the team competition, the young Saudis still made the podium as joint third place finishers along with Australia.

The rules of the tournament state that both losing semifinalists be awarded bronze medals.


Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr
  • Champions Al-Hilal extends Jang Hyun-soo’s contract, with defender Ali Al-Bulaihi and keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf likely to stay
  • New management at runners-up Al-Ittihad possible after disastrous title bid

On Monday evening, Al-Hilal became champions of Saudi Arabia for the 18th time, defeating Al-Faisaly to finish first above Al-Ittihad, but the next day, rivals were already on the move, making plans for next season.

There is not much time for rest and preparation. The just-finished campaign lasted for 10-and-a-half months due to international breaks, continental club commitments, the AFC U-23 Asian Cup (which Saudi Arabia won earlier this month) and the postponement in May due to the death of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Those that start early will get the advantage and Al-Nassr, for one, are wasting no time. Head coach Miguel Angel Rosso was always going to be on his way at the end of the season, though the Argentine boss did manage to get the Yellows to third, just four points behind Al-Ittihad and six behind the champions. Bosses at the club had their eyes on another coach for some time, and on Tuesday announced that they had finally got their man.

Rudi Garcia is preparing to leave France and head to Saudi Arabia on a two-year contract.

“The first step to prepare for the next season is to contract with the coach,” Musalli Al-Muammar, CEO of Al-Nassr, said. “The negotiations were long and arduous but we got through the obstacles and difficulties. Garcia will be in Riyadh next week, to complete preparations and study the situation of the team.”

The Frenchman has a fine resume. He was linked in November to the interim Manchester United head coach position that eventually was filled by Ralf Rangnick. The 58-year-old was in charge of Lyon in 2020 when they knocked Juventus and Manchester City out of the UEFA Champions League and went all the way to the semifinals where they were eliminated by Bayern Munich. He took Roma to successive second-place finishes behind the dominant Juventus and now has a two-year contract to take Al-Nassr back to the top of Saudi football for the first time since 2019, when they won their ninth title.

First order of business for Garcia will be to keep Talisca, the Brazilian who scored 20 goals last season. There have been reports that he may be heading back to Europe, though recent comments from the man himself suggest that he may stay. Meanwhile, Vincent Aboubakar, looks to be heading to Qatar. The Cameroonian striker scored eight goals though was not quite as impressive after returning from the African Cup of Nations earlier this year as top scorer. Uruguayan forward Jonathan Rodriguez has already left. Argentine defender Ramon Mori is also likely to be surplus to requirements along with Brazilian midfielder Anselmo.

One benefit of getting a coach with recent experience at the top of the European game is the players he can bring in. Already French media is reporting that Al-Nassr are about to beat Lyon to sign Ghislain Konan, the Ivory Coast international left-back. He has been one of the most highly rated defenders in the French league and would be a fine addition to the SPL.

David Ospina has also been strongly linked with Riyadh. The former Arsenal goalkeeper has been released by Napoli and it was thought that he could be heading to Lazio but that was before Garcia took the job in Riyadh. It remains to be seen if one or both of those stars follow Garcia from Europe to Saudi Arabia but it is certain that there will be more talent to arrive at Al-Nassr in the coming weeks.

Like true champions Al-Hilal have not been standing still either and have already announced the extension of Jang Hyun-soo’s contract and it is likely that central defensive partner Ali Al-Bulaihi and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf will get the same treatment.

And what of Al-Ittihad? The Tigers, who led the SPL table so long but then let a 16-point advantage over Al-Hilal become a two-point deficit when it mattered, are licking their wounds. The pain will be there for some time to come but preparations for next season can’t wait. They are going to go ahead without Cosmin Contra. For much of the season it was questionable whether the Romanian boss needed to win the title to keep his job but the way it ended, with Al-Ittihad throwing it away and dropping 13 points from the last eight games, means that there will be a new coaching team in place. Club officials are hoping it is sooner rather than later.

There is plenty of talent in Jeddah with the prolific Romarinho in attack, the talented Igor Coronado and the commanding Ahmed Hegazi in defense. Winger Fahad Al-Muwallad is set to appeal the 18-month ban he received in May for testing positive for a banned substance, and his return would be a big boost. It may be harder to keep Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah who has been linked with a move to Europe. Most importantly however is getting the right coach in quickly.

Football never stops and last season is already history. There is a lot of work for title hopefuls if they are going to give themselves the best chance of stopping Al-Hilal making it four in a row. Al-Nassr are making the early running but all need to get their preparations in gear.


NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season

NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season
A person familiar with the situation said James Harden chose not to exercise his $47.4 million option for next season. (AP)
Updated 30 June 2022

NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season

NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season
  • The largest deal, in terms of actual dollars, coming in the next few days almost certainly won’t have anything to do with a free agent: All signs point to two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic being offered a supermax extension in the $260 million range

NEW YORK: Let the talking begin. The trading, too, and eventually the signing.

Free agency officially opens Thursday in the NBA, with teams able to begin negotiating at 6 p.m. Eastern with players who are not under contract — although, in reality, free agency and the slew of offseason movement is already off and running.

James Harden declined his $47 million option for next season with Philadelphia on Wednesday and became a free agent — but told the team he intends to stay on a new deal that will allow the 76ers the flexibility they need to sign other players this summer, according to a person with direct knowledge of that situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither Harden nor the 76ers confirmed those plans publicly.

And Harden’s decision came almost simultaneously Wednesday with another massive move — the San Antonio Spurs are trading All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for Danilo Gallinari and three first-round picks, according to another person with direct knowledge of the terms of that deal who spoke to AP with anonymity because the trade had not been announced by either side. ESPN first reported the completion of that deal, which pairs Murray with another All-Star in Trae Young in the Hawks’ backcourt.

Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook have already made their decisions; both could have been free agents this summer and found a combined 84 million reasons not to hit the open market — $47 million for Westbrook to opt-in for the last year of his deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, and nearly $37 million for Irving to do the same with the Brooklyn Nets.

Jalen Brunson will be in demand early, with the expectation that he’ll quickly agree to leave Dallas and become the new point guard in New York. And there will be players who might decide to look elsewhere, or accept huge $200-million-plus deals with their current teams — opportunities that are presenting themselves to Zach LaVine with Chicago and Bradley Beal with Washington.

The largest deal, in terms of actual dollars, coming in the next few days almost certainly won’t have anything to do with a free agent: All signs point to two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic being offered a supermax extension in the $260 million range by the Denver Nuggets. The only question there will be how quickly he finds a pen to put to that paper.

Minnesota can give Karl-Anthony Towns a supermax of about $210 million this summer, as can Phoenix with Devin Booker.

Other players are restricted free agents, meaning their current teams will have the right to match offers from other clubs. The most notable name on that list is Deandre Ayton, the Phoenix center who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft but watched others in his draft class get their first extensions last summer.

Some players will be free agents in name only. John Wall, for example, will get $41 million in a buyout from the Houston Rockets, and has already decided that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Clippers next season. The Clippers are expected to use a $6.4 million exception to sign Wall, and that figure matches the money that Wall gave back to make the buyout of what would have been the final year of his contract happen.

“We’ll see what happens as free agency opens up and everything else,” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said. “I think the sky’s the limit for our team. The sky is the limit. ... And of course, you’ve got to have a little bit of luck to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, which is what we’d really like.”

That will be everyone’s goal come 6 p.m. Thursday, to find ways to get closer to the Larry O’Brien, whether that’s in 2023 or beyond.

Such thinking even applies to the champion Golden State Warriors, who have a slew of rotation players — Kevon Looney, Otto Porter, Gary Payton II among them — who just last week were enjoying a parade through San Francisco and are now free to go elsewhere if the opportunities and dollars are right.

“We still do need to surround the team with vets and that’s the plan in free agency,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “It’s easier to get some of the older players, we think, in free agency than young players. Young players are probably the most in-demand in free agency.”

True, and that’s another element of this time of year: Young players, and not grabbing them in free agency this year, but keeping them out of free agency in future years.

Ja Morant will surely be offered a max rookie extension by Memphis, one that will kick in with the 2023-24 season. The Zion Williamson situation in New Orleans will be interesting, as the Pelicans decide how much to offer to — or safely structure a deal for — a No. 1 pick who has missed the majority of his first three NBA seasons because of injury issues. Miami is planning to offer sixth man of the year Tyler Herro an extension, though the Heat will have to determine what number makes the most sense for them going forward.

And, of course, there is a LeBron James angle: The Los Angeles Lakers were a disaster last season and will aim to revamp their roster, plus can give James a two-year extension in August worth nearly $100 million. But before he signs, they have far more pressing concerns.

Officially, it all starts Thursday. A new season is already here.