Evergreen Sainz holding back the sands of time to lead Dakar

Team Audi Sport’s Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz in action in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Team Audi Sport’s Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz in action in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2024
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Evergreen Sainz holding back the sands of time to lead Dakar

Evergreen Sainz holding back the sands of time to lead Dakar
  • Sainz has summoned all his guile and expertise to put himself in a prime position for a fourth overall title

RIYADH: Spanish sexagenarian Carlos Sainz is having the time of his life at this year’s Dakar Rally.
The 61-year-old three-time winner of motorsport’s toughest endurance test leads this year’s edition after a stamina-sapping first week in the Saudi Arabian sand by over 20 minutes.
Sainz has summoned all his guile and expertise to put himself in a prime position for a fourth overall title after the inaugural 48-hour two-part stage six in the kingdom’s Empty Quarter.
The father of Formula One driver Carlos Sainz finished the stage second to Sebastien Loeb to top the standings ahead of his Audi teammate Mattias Ekstrom to make him the man to beat going into the second week.
On Saturday’s rest day in Riyadh he told AFP he was “proud and happy” after his performance behind the wheel of his Audi Hybrid since the start of the 2024 Dakar on January 5 in Al-Ula.
“We are better prepared than last year, the main priority is reliability,” he noted, in reference to his team’s problem in that department over the past two Dakars.
“When we have such a complex car it’s only normal to worry about something going wrong.”
While Sainz sailed through the Empty Quarter, the vast expanse of desert proved catastrophic for the title prospects of three of his arch-rivals: defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, the Qatari’s Prodrive teammate Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al-Rajhi, and record 14-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel, a Frenchman who drives for Audi.
“Anything can happen so quickly, you can easily lose half an hour,” said Sainz.
“If you are behind a rival it’s easy to make up a lot of time on him by taking risks.
“But it’s also a certainty that due to my experience, sooner or later you’re going to make a mistake or crash,” he noted.
Sainz, a former Spanish squash champion, won two world rally titles before retiring from the WRC in 2005 to embark on a second career in off-road rallying.
He took 11th on his Dakar debut in 2006, winning in 2010, 2018 and 2020.
Despite all his success, he is on more than nodding terms with the flip side of the event, having to abandon it on no fewer than seven occasions, including last year.
While Peterhansel may hold the record for number of titles Sainz holds a proud record of his own. In 2020 aged 57 he became the oldest ever winner — a milestone he is hoping to break when this year’s edition wraps up in Yanbu on the Red Sea next Friday.
“We all want to win the Dakar,” observed Sainz.
“I imagine that for Mattias (Ekstrom) or Sebastien (Loeb), who have never won it, finishing second or third is worth nothing in their eyes.
“I am sure they will take risks, that they will put a lot of pressure on me. I will defend as best as possible.”
He rates Loeb, runner up in the last two years, as “one of the best drivers in history“
“It is clear that one day or another he will win the Dakar, we have to postpone that moment,” added the man nicknamed ‘El Matador’.
After their well-earned time-out on Saturday, Sainz and company will fire up their engines again on Sunday for stage seven which includes a 483km special as they head to Al-Duwadimi.


Nelly Korda ties LPGA Tour record with 5th straight victory, wins Chevron Championship for 2nd major

Nelly Korda ties LPGA Tour record with 5th straight victory, wins Chevron Championship for 2nd major
Updated 22 April 2024
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Nelly Korda ties LPGA Tour record with 5th straight victory, wins Chevron Championship for 2nd major

Nelly Korda ties LPGA Tour record with 5th straight victory, wins Chevron Championship for 2nd major
  • The world’s No. 1 player hasn’t lost a tournament since January, and now she’s a two-time major champion
  • Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events

THE WOODLANDS, Texas: Nelly Korda couldn’t have imagined the incredible run she’s put together this season while at home recovering from a blood clot that required surgery in 2022.

“Because obviously then I was just more scared for my health,” she said. “Competing was kind of on the back seat. I was not thinking about competing at all. But I think all of the sad times and the health scares that I have gone through have made me who I am today.”

Fully healthy now, Korda is seemingly unstoppable. The world’s No. 1 player hasn’t lost a tournament since January, and now she’s a two-time major champion.

Korda etched her name in the LPGA Tour record books Sunday, winning her record-tying fifth straight tournament with a two-stroke victory in the Chevron Championship.

Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events. Her previous major victory was in 2021 at the Women’s PGA Championship.

“It’s been an amazing feeling these past couple weeks knowing that I can go on this stretch and that if I stay in my bubble and I keep golf in a sense simple and let it flow, then I can have so, so much fun out here,” she said.

Korda shot a 3-under 69 in the final to outlast Maja Stark of Sweden, who birdied her final two holes to shoot 69 and pull within one. Korda stayed aggressive on the par-5 18th, easily clearing the lake in front of the green and setting up an easy up-and-down birdie for a two-shot victory.

She had a four-day total of 13-under 275 at Carlton Woods.

Korda nearly aced the par-3 17th, with her tee shot hitting the hole and hopping in the air before settling within 10 feet. She settled for par to maintain her two-shot lead.

Korda wowed the large crowd, which followed her throughout the day, by chipping into the wind for birdie on the par-4 10th hole to take a four-stroke lead. The 25-year-old raised her club above her head with one hand and pumped her fist after the ball rolled into the hole.

Her parents — former Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova — beamed as she was presented with the trophy.

“She had a difficult ‘22 and ‘23 in certain ways,” Petr Korda said. “She did not win a tournament in ‘23 and some things probably made her humble and (she) put a lot of work into where she is right now. Without the work and commitment, she would not be here. So seeing that, I’m very happy.”

Korda’s older sister, Jessica, is a six-time LPGA winner who’s taking a break from golf after giving birth to her first child.

Korda took home $1.2 million from a purse of $7.9 million, a significant increase from last year’s purse of $5.2 million. That brings her season earnings to $2,424,216 and her career earnings to $11,361,489.

Winners had been jumping into Poppie’s Pond off the 18th green at Mission Hills since 1988, and Korda became the second to do it in Texas by doing a cannonball off a small dock into brown-tinged water. World No. 2 Lilia Vu was first to jump into the pond here after her win last season. Vu withdrew from this year’s tournament before the first round after experiencing “severe discomfort” in her back during warmups.

While still shivering from her post-win plunge Sunday, Korda confirmed she’ll be competing in the JM Eagle LA Championship next week in Los Angeles. She was then asked about the possibility of becoming the first to ever win six straight LPGA tournaments.

“I’m going to enjoy this right now and then I’ll think about that,” she said. “But yeah, it’s been an amazing time. Hopefully keep the streak alive. But I’ve been so grateful to compete week in and week out and get the five in a row, too.”

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is on a similar tear, on his way to a fourth victory in five starts until rain interrupted the final round of the RBC Heritage. He couldn’t help but check in on Korda.

“I actually was checking the scores this afternoon when we were in the rain delay,” he said. “I’m extremely happy for her and proud of her. That’s some pretty special stuff. It’s been a treat to watch.”

Korda entered the last round one shot off the lead after completing the last seven holes of the weather-delayed third round early Sunday morning on a windy and unseasonably cool day. She was wiped out after her big win because she’d been up since 4 a.m. to prepare for the end of the third round.

She birdied two of her first four holes to take the lead. Lauren Coughlin birdied Nos. 13 and 14 to get within two strokes, but bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes put her four behind. She shot a final-round 68 to finish tied for third with Brooke Henderson.

Coughlin got emotional when discussing her best finish in a major.

“It’s really cool to see all of the work that I’ve put in, especially with my putting and my short game, and putting specifically showed off this week, as well,” she said.

Henderson was tied with Korda for second to start the last round after she shot a 64 in the third round to set a scoring record for the tournament since its move from Mission Hills, California, to Texas last year. But the Canadian, who has 13 LPGA wins with two majors, also faltered early in the final round, with a bogey and a double bogey in the first four holes.

Haeran Ryu of South Korea shot a bogey-free 67 to enter the final round leading Korda by one. But the 2023 Rookie of the Year bogeyed the first two holes of the fourth round. She closed with a 74 and finished fifth.

Eighteen-year-old amateur Jasmine Koo provided an unlikely highlight on the 18th hole. Her second shot bounced off the advertising board in the water and back into play. She ended up with a birdie to shoot 71.


Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
Updated 22 April 2024
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Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
  • Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals
  • Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest

LONDON: Liverpool got back on track after a miserable week as a 3-1 win at Fulham kept their Premier League title bid alive, while Nottingham Forest launched an astonishing rant at the officiating in their 2-0 defeat against Everton on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side crashed out of the Europa League quarterfinals against Atalanta on Thursday after suffering a damaging Premier League defeat at home to Crystal Palace last weekend.

The Reds’ hopes of giving Klopp a glorious farewell were dwindling but they climbed back into the title race with a much-needed first win in three league games.

Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals.

Next for Liverpool is the Merseyside derby at Everton on Wednesday, while Arsenal host Chelsea on Tuesday and City travel to Brighton on Thursday.

“Fulham usually cause us more problems so it was a good performance at the right moment,” Klopp said.

“We want to stay in that race, that’s clear. Arsenal won yesterday, Manchester City will win their game in hand, so we have to win games and that’s what we’ll try.”

Klopp responded to signs of fatigue from his team in recent weeks by dropping Mohamed Salah to the bench among five changes.

And Liverpool took the hint with a more cohesive display by the banks of the River Thames in west London.

Trent Alexander-Arnold put Liverpool ahead in the 32nd minute with a superb free-kick that flashed into the top corner.

Fulham defender Timothy Castagne levelled from close-range after Liverpool failed to clear in first half stoppage-time.

Ryan Gravenberch restored Liverpool’s advantage in the 53rd minute with a swerving blast from the edge of the area for his first Premier League goal.

Diogo Jota wrapped up the points in the 72nd minute, drilling a clinical low finish into the far corner.

Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest.

Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil scored the goals that took the Toffees five points clear of the relegation zone.

Forest remain just one point above the bottom three and were left dismayed at being denied three strong penalty appeals.

The club’s official account on social media platform X called into question the Premier League’s integrity by claiming the VAR official is a fan of relegation rivals Luton.

“We warned the PGMOL (referees’ governing body) that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him,” Forest said in a statement said.

“Our patience has been tested multiple times. NFFC will now consider its options.”

Aston Villa tightened their grip on Champions League football next season with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth.

Villa shrugged off the exertions of having to go to extra-time and penalties in midweek to book their place in the Europa Conference League semifinals against Lille.

Unai Emery’s men even had to come from behind after Dominic Solanke opened the scoring from the penalty spot.

Morgan Rogers’ fine finish just before half-time proved to be the turning point.

Moussa Diaby slotted in from Ollie Watkins’ pass to put Villa in front.

Watkins was the provider once more for Leon Bailey to tap in to seal the points 12 minutes from time.

Victory takes Villa six points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham.

Spurs have two games in hand but still have to play all of title challengers Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in their final six matches.

David Moyes’ future as West Ham manager looks more uncertain after they were thrashed 5-2 at Crystal Palace.

Michael Olize headed in the opener before Eberechi Eze’s spectacular acrobatic effort found the roof of the net.

Emerson Palmieri’s own goal made it 3-0 before Jean-Philippe Mateta struck twice for Palace either side of half-time.

Michail Antonio’s strike and a Tyrick Mitchell own goal was scant consolation for West Ham.


Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
Updated 22 April 2024
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Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
  • Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September
  • Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league

MADRID: Real Madrid took a huge step toward winning the Spanish league title after beating Barcelona 3-2 with a stoppage-time goal by Jude Bellingham in the final “clasico” of the season on Sunday.

Barcelona twice took the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium but Madrid came back to win for a comfortable 11-point cushion over their second-place rival entering the final six rounds.

Bellingham scored the winning goal from a difficult angle one minute into stoppage time with a left-footed strike into the top of the net after a cross toward the far post by Lucas Vazquez, who also scored and set up a goal by Vinícius Júnior.

It was the third straight win for Madrid over Barcelona this season. Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September.

The clasico came four days after Madrid eliminated Manchester City on penalties in England to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona had been eliminated a day earlier by Paris Saint-Germain after a loss at home, leaving the league as the Catalan team’s only title opportunity for the season.

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, the hero for Madrid in the shootout against City, miscalculated a cross into the area in Barcelona’s first goal and failed to fully clear a ball in front of the goal in the second.

Barcelona, the defending league champions, came to the Spanish capital looking to revive their title chances and took an early lead with a header by Andreas Christensen six minutes into the match.

The hosts equalized with Vinicius converting an 18th-minute penalty kick before Barcelona went ahead again with Fermín Lopez’s goal from close range in the 69th. Vazquez, who was fouled after a run inside the area to prompt the penalty converted by Vinícius, evened the match again after a cross by the Brazil forward in the 73rd.

Vazquez was one of the changes made to the squad by Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after the match against City. He also used Luka Modric alongside Toni Kroos in midfield, and Aurélien Tchouaméni in the defense.

Barcelona loudly complained about the penalty awarded to Madrid and wanted one for themselves after a challenge on López in the second half. They also complained over a potential goal in the first half when it wasn’t clear if the ball crossed the goal line before Lunin batted it away. It took several moments before video review determined that it was not a goal.

It was likely the last clasico for Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez, who earlier this season said he will leave the club at the end of the season.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong left the field on a stretcher late in the first half after hurting his right leg in a clash with Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde.

The match marked the debut of the new state-of-the-art video screens at the renovated Bernabeu.

ATLETICO STRUGGLE

Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league, missing a chance to strengthen its hold on fourth place.

The defeat against 13th-place Alaves kept Atletico only three points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Bilbao in the fight for a Champions League spot next season. Athletic had been held to a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Granada at home on Friday.

Atletico failed to advance in the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 5-4 on aggregate following a 4-2 loss in Germany on Tuesday.

Alaves, which had lost three league matches in a row, won with goals by Carlos Benavídez in the 15th minute and Luis Rioja in second-half stoppage time.

In other results, sixth-place Real Sociedad were held 1-1 at midtable Getafe, while ninth-place Villarreal won 2-1 at last-place Almeria.


Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final
Updated 21 April 2024
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Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final
  • Red Devils win shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick

LONDON: Manchester United overcame an astonishing collapse to beat Coventry on penalties in an FA Cup classic on Sunday, setting up a second straight FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Erik ten Hag’s men won the shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick after the teams were level at 3-3 after extra time.

The game perfectly encapsulated a chaotic season for Ten Hag’s men, who are well off the pace in the Premier League and had a Champions League campaign to forget.

There was no hint of what was to come when United coasted into a 3-0 lead against their second-tier opponents in the London sunshine, with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

But they have made a habit of tossing away leads in recent weeks and the match against Coventry proved no different.

Second half strikes from Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare gave the 1987 FA Cup winners hope and Hajji Wright leveled from the penalty spot in the 95th minute, capping a scarcely credible comeback.

Coventry fans taunted Ten Hag with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as belief infused the massed ranks of supporters clad in blue.

Coventry manager Mark Robins famously played a key part in United’s FA Cup final win in 1990, a victory that launched two decades of success under Alex Ferguson.

But his team’s push to reach the Championship playoffs has faded in recent weeks and they traveled to Wembley as underdogs despite United’s stuttering season.

United, 12-time winners of the competition, settled early and took the lead in the 23rd minute after a fine move down the right.

Alejandro Garnacho fed the overlapping Diogo Dalot, whose cross went under the hands of the diving Bradley Collins and was tapped in by McTominay from close range.

Marcus Rashford forced a fine save from Collins late in the first half but United doubled their lead from the resulting corner, with Maguire heading home from Fernandes’ cross.

Coventry, who scored twice in stoppage time to beat Premier League Wolves in the quarter-finals, struggled to make inroads against an organized United team.

They looked brighter in the early stages of the second half.

But the wind was taken out of their sails when Fernandes’s shot found its way past Collins in the 58th minute, courtesy of a deflection off defender Bobby Thomas.

O’Hare headed over from an angle as Coventry continued to probe but they pulled a goal back when top scorer Ellis Simms connected with a cross from substitute Fabio Tavares in the 71st minute after United’s defense switched off.

They made it 3-2 in the 79th minute when O’Hare’s shot from just outside the box looped off Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s back and over Onana.

Coventry’s fans were now in full voice as their team mounted waves of attacks.

Substitute Victor Torp hit a stinging shot from the edge of the area with five minutes of normal time to go, forcing Onana into a sharp save.

But Coventry still were not finished. Wan-Bissaka was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area and Wright scored from the spot to take the match into extra time.

Coventry looked the more likely winners in 10 long minutes of stoppage time but could not find a winner.

United captain Fernandes rattled the crossbar in the fourth minute of extra time when set up by substitute Amad Diallo.

Simms then smashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar as time ran out.

Coventry thought they had won it in the dying moments when Torp poked the ball past Andre Onana but a VAR check ruled that Wright was marginally offside.

The Championship side drew first blood in the shootout when Casemiro’s weak penalty was saved by Collins.

But O’Hare and captain Ben Sheaf failed to convert, leaving Hojlund with the job of sending United through and he made no mistake.

Manchester City beat Chelsea 1-0 in the other semifinal on Saturday.


Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings

Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings
Updated 21 April 2024
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Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings

Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings
  • Kolkata, who jumped to second in the table with their fifth win in seven matches, started strongly with Salt’s explosive knock

KOLKATA: Kolkata Knight Riders survived a late charge by Royal Challengers Bengaluru batsmen to win by one run in an IPL thriller after Virat Kohli’s angry outburst at his dismissal on Sunday.
Bengaluru conceded 222-6 after electing to field first at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens with Phil Salt smashing 48 off 14 balls and skipper Shreyas Iyer hitting 50.
Needing 21 to win in the final over bowled by Mitchell Starc, Bengaluru’s number 10 Karn Sharma hit the Australian left-arm quick for three sixes before being caught and bowled.
Wicketkeeper Salt then ran out Lockie Ferguson on the last ball despite a wide throw by the fielder as Bengaluru were bowled out for 221.
Bengaluru slipped early in their chase when Kohli, who made a seven-ball 18, fell caught and bowled off Harshit Rana.
But the former India captain looked confident the high full-toss was above his waist as the umpires checked for a no-ball.
TV umpire Michael Gough declared it out after technology suggested the trajectory of the ball dipped below the waist of the batsman, who returned furious after exchanging words with the on-field officials.
“It was crazy. Rules are rules, Virat and myself in that space thought the ball was higher than his waist,” skipper Faf du Plessis, who was with Kohli at the other end when the drama unfolded, said.
“You always find one team happy and the other not so with such decisions.”
The drama did not help Bengaluru in their chase as the bottom-placed side in the 10-team table slumped to their seventh loss in eight matches.
Earlier Kolkata, who jumped to second in the table with their fifth win in seven matches, started strongly with Salt’s explosive knock.
Fast bowlers Yash Dayal and Cameron Green took two wickets each to dent Kolkata’s top and middle-order but Iyer kept calm to raise his fifty in 35 balls. He fell after a 40-run stand with Rinku Singh, who hit 24.
Andre Russell, who made 27 off 10 balls, and Ramandeep Singh, who hit 24 off nine, finished with a flourish in an unbeaten stand of 43.
Russell, who was named man of the match, then turned up with his pace bowling as he took three wickets and fellow West Indian Sunil Narine took two to dent the chase.
England batsman Will Jacks, who made 55, and Rajat Patidar, who hit 52, attempted to set up the chase in a 102-run third-wicket stand, which was broken by Russell.
Russell took down both the batsmen in one over and mystery spinner Narine came up with another double blow in one over including Green and Mahipal Lomror.
Dinesh Karthik with his 18-ball 25 and Sharma with 20 off seven balls tried their best to chase down the target but Kolkata held their nerve.
“We go through so many emotions, tough to stay calm,” said Iyer. “Elated to get these two points. I feel that every individual should take responsibility to deliver. Russell came on and completely changed the momentum.”
In the second match of the day, Gujarat Titans defeated Punjab Kings by three wickets after they bowled out the opposition for 142 in a low-scoring game.
Indian Sai Kishore returned figures of 4-33 and ably supported by fellow spinners Noor Ahmad, who claimed 2-20, and Rashid Khan, who had 1-15.
Gujarat looked in trouble at 103-5, but Rahul Tewatia steered the team home with five balls to spare as the left-handed batsman hit an unbeaten 36 off 18 balls.