Morocco into Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final after dramatic Nigeria win

Morocco into Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final after dramatic Nigeria win
Morocco continued to break new ground as they moved into the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. (ENMaroc)
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Updated 19 July 2022

Morocco into Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final after dramatic Nigeria win

Morocco into Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final after dramatic Nigeria win
  • Atlas Lionesses’ 5-4 penalties victory followed controversial 1-1 draw as opponents had 2 players sent off in Rabat

RIYADH: Morocco continued to break new ground on Monday night as they moved into the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations with a dramatic and controversial win over Nigeria in Rabat.

The Atlas Lionesses had already made history by getting this far and qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and now only South Africa in Saturday’s final stand between them and national glory.

After 120 minutes of semi-final football ended 1-1 and with Nigeria fielding nine players after receiving two red cards, Morocco won 5-4 on penalties to become the first Arab team to reach the final of the tournament.

Rosella Ayane, who plays her club football in England with Tottenham, scored the winning kick after Ifeoma Onumonu had missed.

Nigeria, continental champions in 11 out of 13 previous tournaments, came into the game as favorites and had the best of the first half. A red card for Halimatu Ayinde just four minutes into the second half after a rash tackle gave Morocco, who last appeared at this tournament in 2000, a numerical as well as home advantage and the North Africans began to pile on the pressure in front of more than 45,000 fans.

Yet it was Nigeria who took the lead just after the hour. After Onumonu’s header had come back off the post, Uchenna Kanu was on hand to open the scoring from close range. It was a short-lived lead as just four minutes later, Ayane broke down the right. Her low cross was palmed away by Chiamaka Nnadozie only for Sanaa Mssoudy to fire the rebound home.

Soon after that, it got worse for Nigeria as Rasheedat Ajibade was red carded as the Atletico Madrid forward brought down Zineb Redouani, the virtual assistant referee overturning the original yellow card.

Morocco had their chances to prevent the game from going to penalties, but the nine women of Nigeria defended resolutely and even hit the woodwork in extra-time through substitute Gift Monday.

The Super Falcons were delighted however to take the game into a shootout. When Khadija Er-Rmichi pulled off an excellent one-handed save from Onumonu then the pendulum swung in the favor of the hosts and there was huge delight when Ayane scored the final kick to take Morocco into the final.

Morocco’s coach Reynald Pedros said: “We played against a team that we knew was strong and then there are some game incidents that are in our favor. We were a bit rushed with the final passes and crosses and lacked a little fluidity but of course we are very happy with the outcome of this semi-final.”

There was plenty of controversy. It was clear that the Nigerian kick-takers not only had to deal with the pressure of a semi-final’s all-or-nothing situation, but lasers from the stands were being shone into their eyes. It was something that goalkeeper Nnadozie also had to deal with. The red cards will be debated too and there was no hiding the disappointment from the Super Falcons.

Nnadozie, who was named player of the match, said: “The whole Moroccan team know that Nigeria is a great team, so to beat us they had to distract us. They did everything they did just to distract us. Since I have been playing football, this is the worst match I have ever played in my life.

“They won but this is not winning for me. The officiating was not really okay. If they were good enough, we were nine players against 11, they would have scored and won. That is to show you how great we are.”

Such discussions about the lasers and officiating will not worry the hosts too much. Not only are they the first Arab team to get this far in the continental tournament but just by reaching the last four, they qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup – again the first Arab team to do so.

This could be a turning point for football in Morocco, North Africa, and the Arab world. Lifting the trophy at the weekend would be huge but appearing at the World Cup, to be co-hosted in Australia and New Zealand next summer, is also a major prize. A year of preparation, interest, investment, and excitement should take the women’s game in Morocco to the next level.

The country is already basking in the success of the Atlas Lionesses.

“It’s something incomparable when we all feel the passion of the fans in the stadium and we hear all these people supporting us, they were the 12th, 13th, and 14th man tonight. It was fantastic. We dedicate this victory to them and the spectators who all came very early to the stadium,” Pedros added.

South Africa will be another tough test but with a huge and passionate crowd again expected in Rabat, it will surely be an occasion to remember.

Pedros said: “I think South Africa are a great team and this match will be a great final. Each match is difficult. Since the start of this AFCON, there hasn’t been a team that stands out, there hasn’t been a team that has won by a wide margin. It’s hotly contested, and we saw it again today.

“We hope to have a good final and then try to win it for the country, for everyone, for the girls. But we have to get it out of our minds that it’s a final, we have to say that it’s our last game of the season and we simply have to win it.”

Morocco have already been a major success at the tournament, and Saturday should be a night to remember.


USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting

USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting
Updated 09 August 2022

USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting

USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting
  • RealResponse has developed technology that allows reporters to file reports about abuse via text and for those who receive the reports to follow up while the name of the reporter remains concealed
  • USA Swimming plans to make the technology available to its approximately 400,000 members

DENVER: USA Swimming has added technology to its abuse-reporting systems that will allow better communication between those coordinating investigations and reporters who want to remain anonymous.

The organization announced a deal with RealResponse on Monday, which is international Safe Sport Day.

One feature in RealResponse’s technology is the ability to exchange information with anonymous reporters via text without the reporters having to identify themselves. Though organizations can often act more decisively when victims or witnesses attach their names to reports, anonymous reporting is crucial because often victims fear retribution if their names become public.

RealResponse has developed technology that allows reporters to file reports about abuse via text and for those who receive the reports to follow up while the name of the reporter remains concealed.

“Previously, we could receive an anonymous report, but we had no way to follow up with that individual if we had additional questions or didn’t have enough information, or wanted to let them know what we were doing to follow up,” said Abigail Howard, who oversees the director of USA Swimming’s safe sport program.

USA Swimming plans to make the technology available to its approximately 400,000 members.

The national governing body is a defendant in several lawsuits claiming it failed to protect them from abuse by coaches. In 2010, USA Swimming’s former executive director, the late Chuck Wielgus, was accused of ignoring or downplaying dozens of cases of sexual abuse. Around 150 swimming coaches have since been banned by the US Center for SafeSport, which was created in response to cases in swimming, gymnastics and other Olympic sports.

Though not affiliated with the SafeSport center, RealResponse started offering its own technology five years ago to help organizations streamline reporting and keep better track of the way they process and resolve cases. At times, organizations get into legal trouble because there’s insufficient documentation to show how they responded when told about a case.

The mission, says the company’s founder, David Chadwick, is “providing a safe space for people to speak up and doing it in a really accessible and easy to use way and, frankly, helping leaders of these organizations identify issues faster before they become bigger crisis.”

RealResponse has deals with more than 100 college sports programs, a handful of NFL teams and the National Women’s Soccer League. In the Olympic realm, USA Swimming joins USA Track and Field, US Equestrian, USA Gymnastics and the US Anti-Doping Agency among the organizations that have signed on.


AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn

AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn
Updated 09 August 2022

AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn

AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn
  • The Athletic first reported details of the latest Durant-Tsai meeting

NEW YORK: Kevin Durant has again told Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai that he wants to be traded, reiterating a request he first made nearly six weeks ago, a person with knowledge of the matter confirmed Monday night.

Durant also told Tsai that he has concerns about the Nets’ direction under coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the perennial All-Star nor the team confirmed details of the talks publicly.

The Athletic first reported details of the latest Durant-Tsai meeting.

“Our front office and coaching staff have my support,” Tsai tweeted Monday night. “We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

This is the latest phase of a saga that began June 30, when Durant told the Nets he wanted a trade just as this summer’s free agent period was beginning. Durant isn’t a free agent; he has four years and $198 million remaining on his contract with the Nets, who will undoubtedly demand a haul of players and draft picks in any trade agreement for the 12-time All-Star, four-time scoring champion, three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time NBA champion.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has never been a fan of trade demands going public.

“This needs to be a two-way street,” Silver said last month. “Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players and the expectation is, in return, they will meet their end of the bargain. I’m realistic that there’s always conversations that are going to go on behind closed doors between players and their representatives and the teams. But we don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is.”

Durant has spent three seasons with Brooklyn, not playing in the first of those years while he recovered from a torn Achilles. He averaged 29.9 points in 55 games last season, after leading the US to Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games last summer.


Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties
Updated 09 August 2022

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties
  • The show, celebrating Birmingham’s rise from the wreckage of World War II and its emergence as a diverse and vibrant modern city, brought 11 days of sporting action to a close
  • Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished in first place in Glasgow

BIRMINGHAM: Legendary Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne brought the curtain down on the Commonwealth Games in spectacular style on Monday as dominant Australia celebrated finishing top of the medals table yet again.

Athletes swarmed Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium for a closing party that also featured UB40, Dexys and a tribute to Peaky Blinders, the global hit TV show about the city’s most notorious gang.

Birmingham-born Osbourne, known as the “Prince of Darkness,” brought the ceremony to a climax after emerging as the surprise act.

The show, celebrating Birmingham’s rise from the wreckage of World War II and its emergence as a diverse and vibrant modern city, brought 11 days of sporting action to a close.

Earlier, six-time defending champions Australia wrapped up their campaign in style, hammering India 7-0 in the men’s hockey final to end up with 67 golds overall.

Hosts England ended in second place with 57 golds, ahead of Canada on 26 and India on 22, with para sports included in the medal tally.

Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished in first place in Glasgow.

Australia hockey captain Aran Zalewski said winning the Commonwealth Games title is “harder than you think.”

“We have won seven, but it’s not as simple as coming out here and winning,” he said.

“There are so many challenges that go into winning a tournament of hockey.

“To finish off with a special performance like that, really clinical, was very nice.”

Elsewhere on Monday, Scotland’s James Heatly and Grace Reid won the mixed synchronized 3m springboard final, with England pair Noah Williams and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix taking gold in the 10m event.

India celebrated a golden double in badminton.

World No. 7 PV Sindhu won the women’s singles, overcoming Canada’s Michelle Li, while Lakshya Sen beat Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong to win the men’s gold.

India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta beat England’s Liam Pitchford 4-1 in the men’s singles table tennis gold medal match.

“The best two weeks of my 40 years of life,” said the winner, who won three golds and a silver in Birmingham. “It can’t get better.”

Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid told a briefing earlier that the Games had been a huge boost for the city and the surrounding area.

He said more than 1.5 million tickets had been sold, with most venues above 90 percent capacity.

“One of the goals at the outset was to put the city on the world map and instil that huge pride across everyone that lives in the region and I think we’ve achieved that,” he said.

“I think that can lead to much bigger and greater things.”

Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Katie Sadleir said there had been “huge engagement” with the Games globally.

She added a number of countries had expressed an interest in staging future Commonwealth Games, including African nations.

She said Birmingham, which already had many facilities in place, could be a blueprint for the future.

“It is definitely not something we want people to spend huge amounts of money and capital investment if it is not needed and desired by the long-term plans for the country,” she said.

The Birmingham Games made history in being the first to award more medals to women than men.

Australian swimming great Emma McKeon became the most decorated athlete in Commonwealth Games history, with 20 medals — including six golds in Birmingham.

And the tiny island of Niue won its first ever Commonwealth Games medal, a boxing bronze for Duken Tutakitoa-Williams.

Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin handed the flag to Linda Dessau, the governor of the Australian state of Victoria, which will host the 2026 Games.

Martin said Birmingham had put on an event “unlike any we’ve seen before.”

“We are emerging from one of the most challenging periods in modern history, where the Covid-19 pandemic has kept us apart,” she said.

“Birmingham 2022 proved to be a special moment when we reunited, when the power of sport to connect us came into sharp focus.”


Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves
Updated 09 August 2022

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves
  • Coady is the fourth player to arrive at Goodison Park during the current transfer window, following the Burnley duo of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil as well as Sporting Lisbon defender Ruben Vinagre

LONDON: England centerback Conor Coady has joined Everton on a season-long loan from Premier League rivals Wolves, it was announced on Monday.

The Toffees were left short of defenders after both Ben Godfrey and Yerry Mina were injured during a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in their opening match of the new league season on Saturday.

This move sees Wolves captain Coady, 29, returning to his home city eight years after leaving Liverpool, where he came through the Anfield club’s academy.

“It’s incredible to join Everton,” Coady told his new club’s website.

He added: “I’ve grown up around the city, I know the football club, how big this club is and what it means to the supporters.

“I’m someone who was desperate to come here, to play for this club. I’ve got family and friends who are massive Evertonians.

“I’m here to give absolutely everything I’ve got for this football club.”

Coady is the fourth player to arrive at Goodison Park during the current transfer window, following the Burnley duo of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil as well as Sporting Lisbon defender Ruben Vinagre.

“We are delighted to bring a player of Conor’s quality and vast experience to Everton and he fits into how we want to play as a team,” said Toffees manager Frank Lampard.

Coady was on the bench for Wolves’ first game of the season, a 2-1 loss away to Leeds.

He moved to Wolves from Huddersfield in 2015 and has played in 196 out of a possible 198 league games during the past five seasons for the Midlands club.

Just minutes after Coady’s move was announced, Wolves said they had signed Valencia forward Goncalo Guedes on a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee.

“We have been monitoring Goncalo for a long time and are very pleased to welcome him to Wolves,” said chairman Jeff Shi of the 25-year-old Portugal international, who was coached by Wanderers manager Bruno Lage at Benfica.

“He has natural talent and has performed very well across Europe and for his country, and we think he is well suited to the Premier League.

“Goncalo worked with Bruno at Benfica and played with many members of our squad previously, so we’re confident he will settle quickly into the group here.

“Now, we are delighted that Goncalo is a Wolves player and look forward to giving him a warm welcome at Molineux this Saturday.”


Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts

Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts
Updated 09 August 2022

Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts

Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts
  • Williams earned her first title in Canada in 2001 and her third and most recent nine years ago

TORONTO, Canada: Serena Williams stepped onto a hardcourt for the first time in a year and a half on Monday and fought through for a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz.
The 40-year-old American was competing in only her second match this season in defeating the 57th-ranked lucky loser to reach the second round.
Williams earned her first victory since last season at Roland Garros.
The opener took two hours, with the veteran winning a 25-minute game to level 4-4 in the second set.
She then served out victory as she plays the event for a 10th time.
Williams earned her first title in Canada in 2001 and her third and most recent nine years ago.
She defeated Diaz with seven aces and saved seven of the eight break points she faced.
Another multiple Grand Slam champion also advanced on a cloudy opening day, with Simona Halep sweeping the opening seven games on her way to a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Donna Vekic to also reach the second round.
Romania’s former number one and two-time Canadian champion lost no time in collecting her triumph over the number 82 qualifier in 62 minutes on a day where rain threatened.
Halep, ranked 15th, handed Vekic a 10th defeat in her last 11 matches against a top-20 opponent. The Croat last defeated a member of the ranking elite at the Olympics last summer when she put out No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka.
Halep added a 33rd match victory to her 2022 total as she advanced at one of the five WTA events she has won twice (2016, 2018).
The 15th seed leads the WTA with the most career wins at 1000-level tournaments on 180, ahead of Victoria Azarenka and now-retired Caroline Wozniacki on 177.
Reigning Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, playing only her second Canadian match, defeated Czech Marie Bouzkova 7-5, 6-7(3/7), 6-1.
2017 Roland Garros titleholder Jelena Ostapenko advanced past Anhelina Kalinina, overcoming 11 double faults in a 6-4, 6-2 decision.