Bayern beat Lewandowski’s Barca; Liverpool get late winner

Bayern beat Lewandowski’s Barca; Liverpool get late winner
Bayern Munich's German midfielder Leroy Sane (front) and Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona in Munich on Sept. 13, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2022

Bayern beat Lewandowski’s Barca; Liverpool get late winner

Bayern beat Lewandowski’s Barca; Liverpool get late winner
  • Sporting Lisbon also moved to six points in Group D after netting two late goals to beat Tottenham 2-0 at home

LONDON: It doesn’t seem to matter which shirt Robert Lewandowski is wearing — Bayern Munich just keep getting the better of Barcelona either way.

Bayern extended their recent dominance over the Spanish giant with a 2-0 win in the Champions League on Tuesday to show they can cope quite well without Lewandowski, who left to join Barcelona in the offseason.

It started out as a friendly homecoming as Lewandowski walked down the familiar steps of the Allianz Arena players’ tunnel before kickoff, hugging every one of his former teammates along the way.

Bayern’s players didn’t extend the same level of hospitality once the game started.

After Lewandowski missed several good chances to score in the first half, Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane scored within a five-minute span in the second as Bayern took control of Group C with two wins in two games.

“Luck wasn’t on his side,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said about Lewandowski. “For Lewi, it’s an emotional game, here, a bit like coming home.”

Sporting Lisbon also moved to six points in Group D after netting two late goals to beat Tottenham 2-0 at home. The other group game between Marseille and Eintracht Frankfurt was marred by fan disturbances before kickoff, forcing riot police to intervene when opposing supporters launched flares and fireworks at each other. Frankfurt won the game 1-0 thanks to a first-half goal from Jesper Lindstrøm.

Liverpool needed an 89th-minute goal to get their first win of the European campaign. Joel Matip headed home a corner to give last year’s runner-up a 2-1 home win over Ajax, bouncing back from a 4-1 loss to Napoli in the opening round. Napoli’s game at Rangers was postponed until Wednesday because of limited police resources in Scotland following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

A period of silence was held before Liverpool’s game, while Bayern fans showed their displeasure with UEFA allowing the British monarch’s death to disrupt the schedule by holding up a banner reading: “Last minute match delays and bans because of a royal’s death? Respect fans!”

SAME OLD BAYERN

After losing 3-0 to Bayern in both group meetings last season — and with the 8-2 drubbing in the 2020 quarterfinals still fresh in memory — there was hope among Barcelona fans that things would be different with Lewandowski on their side.

Instead it was just more of the same.

After the Poland striker was uncharacteristically wasteful in the first half, Hernandez did his best Lewandowski impression when the defender popped up at the near post to head home a corner in the 50th minute. It was the kind of goal his former teammate scored so many of during his Bayern career, when he netted 344 in eight years.

Sane then pulled off a great solo effort for the second just four minutes later, bursting into the area and rolling a calm finish inside the far post.

In the other Group C game, Edin Džeko got the better of Viktoria Plzeň again.

Džeko had one goal and an assist as Inter Milan beat the Czech club 2-0 in the other Group C game. The Bosnia international now has 10 goals in nine matches against Plzeň, and nine in the last six.

LIVERPOOL LEAVE IT LATE

Liverpool got the win it so badly needed, but it was another performance that highlighted that Jurgen Klopp’s team is no longer the high-scoring machine it once was.

Liverpool struggled to convert its possession into goals in the second half and then needed the aid of goal-line technology to show that Matip’s late header crossed the line before cleared by a defender.

“Coming back from the horror show in Naples, it was important we showed a reaction,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said. “It wasn’t easy … but it’s something to work on.”

Mohamed Salah had earlier ended his run of seven Champions League games without a goal by putting the team ahead in the 17th, but Mohammed Kudus equalized when he created space in the area before smashing an unstoppable shot in off the underside of the crossbar in the 27th.

Klopp had urged Liverpool fans to show respect during the tribute to the queen, who died last week at the age of 96, after some of the club’s supporters booed the national anthem ahead of the FA Cup final last season. And the period of silence was respectfully observed, except for a few random shouts that were quickly hushed.

SPORTING

Tottenham had not lost a game in any competition this season before a pair of Sporting substitutes ended that unbeaten run.

Paulinho glanced in a header from a corner in the 90th minute and Arthur Gomes added the second in the third minute of stoppage time when he cut in from the left wing, darted between two Tottenham defenders and shot between the legs of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

In Marseille, Lindstrøm took advantage of a defensive error in the 43rd minute to score the winner for Frankfurt. Tottenham and Frankfurt have three points, with Marseille last on zero.

BRUGGE CONTINUES TO SURPRISE

Group B is throwing up some surprising results so far, with Club Brugge atop the standings after routing Porto 4-0 away for its second straight win.

Forward Ferran Jutgla had a goal and an assist for Brugge, which saw four different players score. It was Porto’s fourth straight loss in the Champions League going back to last season.

Struggling Bayer Leverkusen upset Atletico Madrid 2-0 for just its second win of the season after six defeats in eight games across all competitions. Robert Andrich and Moussa Diaby scored late for the German team.


Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success

Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success
Updated 13 sec ago

Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success

Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success
  • Horses from 8 countries will clash in 7 races at Meydan this weekend

Rain did its best but didn’t manage to stop play at Meydan last week, although it was undoubtedly a soggy affair.

This played to the strengths of the visiting Europeans, however, who managed two wins.

First came the Irish-trained Coachello in the Dubai Sprint, while Good Fortune now owns a slice of history, having become the first Denmark-trained horse to win at the Carnival. A big well done to his trainer, Soren Jensen, who managed the win with just his second-ever runner in the UAE.

On to this week, when there are horses from eight countries clashing across seven races. It’s a very strong card, featuring the G2 Maktoum Challenge Round 2, which should throw up some horses to take their chance in the $12-million Dubai World Cup in March.

The connections of Algiers have that race firmly on their agenda after the gelding’s impressive win in Round 1. He runs here due to not having received an invitation to The Saudi Cup, as yet, and Riyadh’s loss will be Dubai’s gain as he will be hard to beat, although Remorse and Salute The Soldier will be among those trying their best to do just that.

The Group 2 Singspiel Stakes looks a fascinating race, with four Godolphin horses locking horns, including Valiant Prince who beat several of these rivals in the Al-Rashidiya last time out. For the last two years this race has been won by Lord Glitters and his trainer, David O’Meara, has Shelir here.

A fast-finishing second in the Zabeel Mile last time out, the extra 200 meters this time should suit the 7-year-old, so he gets my vote. Another one to watch is Sifting Sands, one of three runners on the night for US trainer Doug O’Neill. Connections have been purring about him and he runs here with a view to switching to dirt later in the Carnival.

Twelve fillies clash in the Group 2 Cape Verdi, among them four for Godolphin who have Group race winners With The Moonlight and Wild Beauty on their side, while Soft Whisper beat several of these in the Ipi Tombe Stakes last time. I can’t choose between them, so maybe it goes to Spain who have Samedi Rien, a closing third to Soft Whisper, in the lineup for trainer Guillermo Arizkoretta. It’ll be tough for her, but these races are meant to be.

The Group 3 Al-Shindagha Sprint will give us a contender for the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night. There isn’t much between the 12 who line up, but Doug Watson has issued a positive bulletin about Mubakker, so he’s my pick. Bhupat Seemar’s Freedom Fighter is another interesting one if able to overcome his wide draw in 13.

Watson could have a good evening as he also runs Legend Of Dubai in the closing handicap. The 5-year-old is a two-time winner in the UK and runs here for the first time, but is well-regarded by his handler and could be hard to beat. Ouzo, trained in the UK by Jamie Osborne, is another who should run well, having finished a close third over course and distance three weeks ago.

It’s nice that Vazirabad, a three-time winner of the G2 Dubai Gold Cup, is being recognized with a race named after him and the 2,410-meter handicap, race two, is a competitive affair. There’s no standout pick, for me, but Final Dance is an eight-time winner on turf in Turkey and should love this extra distance. He’s better than he showed when only eighth behind Algiers last time, so perhaps he can cause an upset in this lower grade.

The evening starts with the Purebred Arabians’ version of Maktoum Challenge Round 2, a Group 1. Watch out for Hiab Al-Zaman, a Grade 1 winner in America, who makes his local debut here for trainer Fawzi Nass.


Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
Updated 32 min 12 sec ago

Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
  • New WTA-500 tournament takes place at Zayed Sports City from Feb. 5-12

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu is delighted to finally see the UAE capital added to the WTA calendar with the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open —a contest that would “mean a lot” to her if she became its first winner.

The 22-year-old Canadian is among the top stars set to compete at the inaugural WTA-500 level event from Feb. 5-12 at the International Tennis Centre in Zayed Sports City.

With the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open being the latest elite tennis event in the city following the 2021 WTA Women’s Tennis Open and the annual exhibition Mubadala World Tennis Championships, Andreescu is relishing the opportunity of returning to the Emirate after being impressed by what she saw during a day trip back in December 2020.

The 2019 US Open champion said: “Whenever there’s a chance that I can play a tournament, I will but specifically for this tournament it’s a WTA 500 and is being staged in a great location in Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve been there before and I always wanted to go back. During my pre-season in December 2020, I traveled to Abu Dhabi for one day and I visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which was amazing.

“It’s really nice that tennis is spreading all around the world and Abu Dhabi is a really nice place. I’ve always thought about why WTA doesn’t have a tournament on its calendar but now it’s here with the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open. To be one of the first players to play in the tournament is always nice so I’m very excited to play there.”

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open has attracted a strong field including recent Australian Open finalist and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, Russian world No. 8 Daria Kasatkina, world No. 9 Belinda Bencic, Russian No. 11 Veronika Kudermetova as well as three-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza.

Andreescu, who comes into Abu Dhabi following the Hua Hin Championships in Thailand, is fully aware of the stern competition she faces if she wants to claim her fourth WTA title.

“It will be very tough but I am looking forward to it,” said Andreescu, who reached a career high of fourth in the world rankings in 2019. “All of these wonderful women on the tour give me motivation and inspiration to be where they are and where I was before. To be competing alongside them gives me that extra motivation as I do like to play my best tennis against top players. I think I can do well given it’s on hard court, which is a surface I love.”

She added: “I have had a few good matches at the start of the year and played in the Thailand Open this week so hopefully I can continue to do well and get some good matches under my belt and carry that on to the Abu Dhabi tournament. I think right now it is about gaining as many matches as I can since I’ve not played the amount of games that I would I have liked to have played.

“Maybe next week might be my chance. It’s the first edition (of the tournament) so winning it would mean a lot.”

Whether she makes history by becoming the inaugural champion of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open or not, Andreescu insists the tournament will serve as an important platform for the rest of 2023 and has set her sights on adding to her Grand Slam triumphs.

“I would love to win another Grand Slam and another WTA 1000 event,” she said. “I know that it’s possible because I’ve done it before and hoping this year is my year. I don’t want to be too picky but the Australian Open would’ve been nice.

“But looking ahead I’ve always wanted to win the US Open and the next one after that would be Wimbledon. I don’t have the most experience on grass yet but last year I showed some dominance on it so hopefully I can do well in that this year.”


Saudi Cup sees Pogo and Garrus clash in 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc

Saudi Cup sees Pogo and Garrus clash in 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc
Updated 46 min 53 sec ago

Saudi Cup sees Pogo and Garrus clash in 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc

Saudi Cup sees Pogo and Garrus clash in 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc
  • British trainer oversaw arguably the two horses’ best seasons in 2022

If there is one trainer who knows how to get the best out of sprinters, it is Charlie Hills, and the British handler is hoping his two contenders in this year’s Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc at The Saudi Cup meeting on Feb. 25 can show why he has become such an expert with horses over shorter distances.

Hills saddles Pogo and Garrus in the contest, both of whom enjoyed arguably the best seasons of their careers in 2022, and Hills reports the pair are in great form ahead of their seasonal debuts in Saudi Arabia.

“Both horses are in great form and I couldn’t be much happier with them,” he said. “The plan has always been to start both in the race in Saudi and I’m really looking forward to running them as they seem in really rude health.

“The facilities for the horses out there are fantastic and it’s one of those events that you want to be having runners at, so it’s great we’ve got two heading over with live chances.”

Pogo was one of the most improved horses in training on British shores last season having won three times at Group level, including the Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket, and his trainer is very happy with his charge.

Hills said: “He was absolutely brilliant last year and kept a really solid level of form the whole way through the campaign.

“I’ve always believed he was a really good horse as he’s always shown that at home and it’s great that he’s translated his work on the gallops to the track. He’s got a great constitution, takes his racing really well, and just didn’t stop improving.”

The 7-year-old took his form to a new level in 2022 and while Hills admits he did not do anything different with him, he feels a combination of increased maturity and confidence might have been the key.

“Some horses just take a bit longer to develop and he might be one of those,” Hills said. “He’s a real trier and there’s no doubt that last season showed he’s improved as he’s got older.”

Pogo finished fifth in this race 12 months ago and the 11-time Group 1-winning trainer hopes that with the horse in better shape this time around, he might be able to go a few places better.

He said: “The track and trip should really play to his strengths out there. He loves fast ground and hopefully this year’s race will be run a bit more to suit. We’ll probably ride him a touch more patiently this time and with any luck he’ll be bang there.”

Hills is also responsible for Garrus in this year’s 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc, another horse who improved hand over fist in 2022, and like his stablemate, he is in great form ahead of his seasonal reappearance.

“The trip and track should really suit him,” Hills added. “We’ve been really pleased with his run-up to the race, and it looks a really good place to start him off this year.

“The prize money is so good out there and given it’s a race we think should play to his strengths, we’ve had it lined up for a while for him.”


Tatum leads Celtic rout of Nets, Sixers bounce back against Magic

Tatum leads Celtic rout of Nets, Sixers bounce back against Magic
Updated 02 February 2023

Tatum leads Celtic rout of Nets, Sixers bounce back against Magic

Tatum leads Celtic rout of Nets, Sixers bounce back against Magic
  • Prolific Damian Lillard poured in 42 points for a second straight game as the Portland Trail Blazers downed Grizzlies 122-112

LOS ANGELES: Jayson Tatum scored 31 points as the Boston Celtics put the depleted Brooklyn Nets firmly in their place with a brutal 139-96 mauling on Wednesday.

The heavyweight clash between the two Eastern Conference rivals ended with the Nets reeling on the ropes as the Celtics laid down a marker with an emphatic wire-to-wire victory at the TD Garden.

Boston dominated from the outset, running up a remarkable 46 points in the first quarter alone, with Tatum contributing 18 points.

By halftime, the Celtics had raced into a 34-point lead against a Brooklyn side still missing the injured Kevin Durant.

Tatum’s 31-point haul included seven three-pointers from 12-of-19 shooting while Jaylen Brown provided scoring support with 26 points.

Six Boston players finished in double figures after a lopsided rout.

Kyrie Irving led the Brooklyn Nets scoring with 20 points.

“A couple of days off did us good, we felt refreshed,” Boston star Tatum said afterwards. “We have depth and a next-man-up mentality.”

Tatum reserved special praise for Robert Williams III, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds.

“On any given night, Rob might be the most important guy to our long-term success,” Tatum said.

“To get to where we want to get to, we need Rob on the floor and we need him healthy.”

Elsewhere, the Philadelphia 76ers bounced back from their upset loss to the Orlando Magic on Monday with a comprehensive 105-94 defeat of the Florida club.

The Sixers had been on a roll heading into Monday’s game with seven straight wins, but somehow squandered a 21-point advantage to crash 119-109.

A scheduling quirk meant the Sixers did not have to wait long to avenge that loss, and Philadelphia duly seized the opportunity on Wednesday.

A reinvigorated Sixers side turned the tables with a convincing victory thanks to 28 points from Joel Embiid and 26 points from James Harden.

Harden narrowly missed out on a triple double, finishing with nine rebounds and 10 assists, with a points tally that included six three-pointers.

Markelle Fultz topped the Magic scoring with 18 points.

In Memphis, the prolific Damian Lillard poured in 42 points for a second straight game as the Portland Trail Blazers downed the Grizzlies 122-112.

Lillard, who also had 10 assists and eight rebounds, is now tied with Shaquille O’Neal in 19th place on the rankings of players with the most 40-point games in NBA history.

Lillard, who also scored 42 points in a win over Atlanta on Monday, now has 49 40-point games.

The Blazers talisman chipped in with nine points in the final quarter while Anfernee Simons dropped in 14 as Portland outscored Memphis 38-22 in the fourth to claim victory.

Ja Morant finished with 32 points for Memphis, who at one stage led by 12 points before Portland clawed their way back into the contest.

“We were down, and they’re a great team, but we’re a team that’s dealt with a lot this season and we feel like we felt the bottom,” Lillard said.

“And the one thing we do have is our togetherness. We’ve learned to fight our way out of things and I think we’ve learned to fight out of a tough place.

“We were put in a position with our back against the wall tonight and we responded the way real connected teams do.”

Lillard led Portland’s scoring while Simons finished with 26 points and Jerami Grant 18.

Portland improved to 25-26 with the win, putting them just outside the play-in positions in 11th place in the Western Conference.

In Minneapolis, meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves avenged their biggest defeat of the season with a 119-114 overtime victory against the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors had thumped the Timberwolves 137-114 in November but found the going harder on Wednesday.

Although Stephen Curry bagged 29 points for Golden State, Minnesota ground out victory thanks to big contributions from D’Angelo Russell (29 points), Anthony Edwards (27) and Naz Reid (24).


Golf rankings becoming ‘obsolete’, says LIV player Cameron Smith

Golf rankings becoming ‘obsolete’, says LIV player Cameron Smith
Updated 02 February 2023

Golf rankings becoming ‘obsolete’, says LIV player Cameron Smith

Golf rankings becoming ‘obsolete’, says LIV player Cameron Smith
  • The Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) Board received an application from LIV Golf in July last year, but is yet to make any announcement

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: British Open champion and LIV Golf player Cameron Smith claimed Wednesday that the world golf rankings are becoming “obsolete” as a consequence of the sport’s civil war.

The 29-year-old Australian joined the breakaway series last year after rising to No. 2 in the world.

That followed a series of spectacular performances, including winning the 150th British Open at St. Andrews, the Players Championship, the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and the Australian PGA Championship. He has, however, slipped to No.4 in the rankings.

The Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) Board received an application from LIV Golf in July last year, but is yet to make any announcement.

In the meantime, former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson has fallen to 46, Bryson DeChambeau has slipped from 24 to 96, while Phil Mickelson is 254th compared to 38th at this time last year.

“I’ve tried not to take it that badly, to be honest,” said Smith on Wednesday as he prepared to play the Asian Tour’s $5 million season-opener, the Saudi International which features a host of LIV players.

“I think when you rock up at a tournament, you know who you have to beat, whether there is a world ranking or not. There are generally seven-eight guys that are in that field that you know are going to put up a pretty good fight.

“For sure, it hurts. I feel as though I was really close to getting to No. 1, and that was definitely something I wanted to tick off. However, the longer this stuff goes on, I think the more obsolete those rankings become.”

Smith said it would be difficult to replicate a season like 2022, but he is hoping he can make a similar start like last year when he won the Tournament of Champions with a record score of 34-under par.

“I think 2022 probably would be a really tough one to back up,” said Smith, who started his professional career with a season on the Asian Tour before securing his card on the PGA Tour.

“It’s just about keeping the same processes going, really digging deep, working hard on my game. I think that is really what I need to do. Everything becomes easy when you’re playing good golf.”

There is a question mark over Johnson’s participation this week. On Wednesday, he pulled out of the ProAm for unspecified reasons and his scheduled press conference was canceled as well.

Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia is also in the field, returning following a right-knee operation in November.

“It went well. It feels probably about 95 percent. It doesn’t bother me to swing anymore. Now it is just a matter of getting used to walking holes over and over again,” said 43-year-old Garcia, who is also playing the Asian Tour International Series Oman in Muscat next week.

“After three months off, I want to get some rounds in me. We are going to play these two tournaments and then we have the LIV opener in Mexico before we head to Orlando.

“I will have those four tournaments heading into Augusta, and it is just a matter of getting in a good rhythm and get to the Masters in as good shape as I can.”