By Pritha SarkarIt was “a weird match with a weird ending” but all Eugenie Bouchard cared about was the split-second in which she saw Simona Halep’s lunging service return spinning into the net.It was the moment that confirmed her 7-6(5) 6-2 victory over the Romanian third seed at Wimbledon on Thursday.More importantly, it was the moment that had been 15 years in the making as she became the first Canadian – man or woman – to reach a grand slam final.The fact that she had set a final date with 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in an arena she calls the “Temple of Tennis” should have sparked some joyous celebrations.But there were no tears, no leaps of joy and no sinking to the knees. She briefly raised her arms, blew some kisses and then strode out with the air of a champion-in-waiting who knew her “job was not done yet”.“It’s not a surprise for me. I expect good results like this. I totally feel like I belong. But I still have another match so it’s not a full celebration yet,” said the remarkably self-assured 20-year-old.It was a sentiment shared by Kvitova after she came out on top of a semi-final between two Czechs – and two lefties – by subduing Lucie Safarova 7-6(6) 6-1.“Still one more to come. I want to be focused on that now,” said the sixth seed whose career has somewhat plateaued since her breakthrough win here three years ago.Following the heart-pumping and nerve-jangling excitement of the previous 48 hours, when Rafael Nadal and champion Andy Murray departed after being thumped by the ‘generation-next’ of brazen big hitters, Thursday’s two semi-finals seemed rather anti-climactic.Neither contest scaled the heights of a Wimbledon blockbuster but that mattered little to Kvitova or Bouchard.What Kvitova cared about was that she was now two sets away from shedding her one-hit wonder tag.“These three years was really up and down… but I’m definitely ready for a final and I’m going to try the best,” said the 24-year-old, who went from carefree wannabe to angst-ridden champion.Since that 2011 triumph, very little has changed in Kvitova’s life. One of the few luxuries she has allowed herself is to trade in the Skoda she was driving for a BMW.Bouchard, in contrast, has been on the fast lane to success since winning the junior title at Wimbledon in 2012.In only her second year on the professional tour, she reached the semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens and is now a win away from living up her billing as the “next Maria Sharapova”.“I see it as a compliment to be compared to someone like Sharapova who has won five slams. She’s a great champion,” said Bouchard, who is seeded 13th this year, just like the Russian was when she captured hearts with her 2004 triumph.“But I’m my own person. I don’t want to be the next someone else. I want to be the first of me.”Her steely resilience and powerful baseline game means she has more in common with her one-time idol than just long blonde hair and glamorous looks.Her ability to put “blinders on” when things go awry was clear for all to see during Thursday’s 94-minute tussle which John McEnroe described as being “a weird match with a weird ending”.Just four games into the contest, proceedings were interrupted by a medical time out taken by Halep to have her left ankle strapped after she stumbled on the grass lunging after a Bouchard winner.Fears that the injury might force Halep to throw in the towel early proved to be unfounded as the world number three went toe-to-toe with the hard-hitting Bouchard right into the tiebreak.But when Halep went up 3-2 with a mini-break, confusion reigned around Centre Court. French umpire Kader Nouni suddenly clambered down his chair and ran to the opposite tramlines.He had spotted that a spectator had fallen ill in the stands and the players were forced to take another timeout as the ailing woman received medical attention before being led away.Rather than being annoyed by the unscheduled distraction, it sharpened Bouchard’s focus.“It’s pretty tough to stop in the middle of a tiebreak. It was intense, and then to just kind of not play tennis for three minutes messes up the rhythm. But I took it as a challenge,” she said.A lucky netcord allowed the Canadian to draw level at 4-4 and she then finished off the set with a brutal drive volley that left Halep swinging her racket in vain.That appeared to take the wind out of Halep and her bid to become the first Romanian to reach a Wimbledon final since 1970s bad boy Ilie Nastase achieved the feat in ’76 quickly faltered.She did, however, save three match points on her serve at 5-1 down, one of them with an ace which Bouchard felt was unfair.“When Simona tossed I heard someone scream in the crowd. I didn’t feel prepared to return. So I put my hand up,” said Bouchard.“The umpire told me he heard it as well, but he just didn’t see my hand go up. I felt like we should have replayed the point, but he said, no, it was her point.“I took it as a challenge.”One game later, it was all over.“It was a little crazy. I have never ended a match like that. I’m happy I kept my focus…and played well in the last game.”After such a calm and composed performance, there is only thing that she now craves.“I’m waiting for a big moment to go nuts,” she said.
By Iain RogersLIONEL Messi will have another chance to match or surpass Telmo Zarra’s six-decade-old La Liga scoring record of 251 goals when Barcelona host promoted Eibar on Saturday.The Argentina captain and four-time World Player of the Year has netted 249 times in the Spanish top flight since he played his first match exactly 10 years ago on a Thursday aged 17.Messi’s goals – he has 361 overall in 434 official games – have helped the Catalan club win 21 trophies during the past decade, including six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns.Widely considered one of the best players in history, the 27-year-old has been showered with praise in the run up to the anniversary although his father Jorge insists his son is unaffected either by acclaim or criticism.“There are times when there is too much praise and other moments when the criticism is excessive,” Jorge Messi said in an interview with Spanish radio on Thursday.“You have to stop somewhere in the middle and simply look forward,” he added.“He (Lionel) reads and listens to everyone and I don’t know how he does it but he doesn’t attach much importance to either the good or the bad.“People don’t know him. He is a very normal lad, like any other. He spends time with his family, he has fun, he tries to enjoy life. He isn’t any different.”If Messi fails to equal or overtake Zarra’s mark on Saturday, his next chance will be in the La Liga ‘Clasico’ at Real Madrid a week later.The match falls the day after Luis Suarez’s ban for biting an opponent at the World Cup expires and the Uruguay forward could make his official Barca debut at the Bernabeu.Barca are looking to bounce back this season after missing out on major silverware last season for the first time in six years.They have made a solid start under new coach Luis Enrique and are two points clear of Valencia at the top of the standings after seven matches.Messi has six goals in those seven outings and it is a measure of how high he has set the bar in recent years that his tally this term is considered a meagre one by his standards.Cristiano Ronaldo, who ended Messi’s four-year reign as World Player by winning the latest award, has a jaw-dropping 13 goals in six La Liga appearances for Real and will be gunning for more when they visit Levante on Saturday.Real, who appear to have recovered from an early-season wobble, are four points behind Barca in fourth place, with Valencia, who play at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, in second and Sevilla, who are at Elche also on Sunday, third.Champions Atletico Madrid are fifth, five points adrift of Barca, ahead of their game at home to Espanyol on Sunday.Diego Simeone’s side slipped to a 3-1 reverse at Valencia in their last match, their first defeat of the campaign.
Harry Kane’s prolific form continued when he struck two second-half goals to inspire Tottenham Hotspur to a 2-1 win over fierce rivals Arsenal and lift them into the Premier League’s top four on Saturday.The 21-year-old striker cancelled out Mesut Ozil’s early goal for Arsenal with a calm finish at the far post and his majestic header four minutes from time sent the White Hart Lane crowd into raptures.Ozil had opened the scoring against the run of play when he volleyed in Oliver Giroud’s miscued shot from close range after 11 minutes.The visitors then stood firm in the face of continuous Tottenham attacks but Kane broke their resistance with his 21st goal in all competitions this season 11 minutes into the second half after Arsenal had failed to clear a corner.The dominant hosts poured forward in search of a winner and Kane duly obliged, the striker planting a brilliant header beyond the desperate dive of David Ospina to secure a famous victory for Spurs.Tottenham climbed above Arsenal and Southampton into fourth place in the table, a Champions League qualification spot.England manager Roy Hodgson was at White Hart Lane and will have been given plenty to ponder by the uncapped Kane whose second-half performance proved the difference.Arsenal took the lead when Germany’s Ozil, who looked to be fractionally offside, neatly volleyed from close range to score his third goal in as many games.The tension between the sides was palpable at the halftime whistle as a confrontation between Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck and Spurs fullback Danny Rose flared up.Wales rugby union captain Sam Warburton, a Spurs fan, was presented with a number 50 shirt at the interval to mark his appearances landmark in his side’s 21-16 home defeat by England in the Six Nations opener on Friday.His presence on the pitch was not out of place at a derby that often matched the intensity of the battle at the Millennium Stadium.Kane levelled when Ospina failed to deal with a corner, tipping the ball into the path of the lively striker who gleefully slotted it low into the net.The in-form forward was not finished yet, however, rising highest to head his 12th league goal of the campaign.
By Brian HomewoodLuis Suarez scored a hat-trick, including an exquisite second goal, as Barcelona strolled into the Club World Cup final with a 3-0 win over Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande on Thursday in Yokohama.Guangzhou gave the European champions a couple of scares in the first half but the Chinese side were utterly outclassed by the end of a match that often resembled an attack-versus-defence training session.Zou Zheng also suffered a horrific injury in the first half, appearing to break his leg as he fell awkwardly to the clear distress of his team-mates.Even without Lionel Messi, who was taken ill just hours before the game, and the injured Neymar, Barca enjoyed more than 70 per cent of possession as they claimed a place in Sunday’s final against South American champions River Plate.It was Guangzhou’s first defeat under Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari who took over in June.Barca needed 39 minutes to break down the defence, Suarez pouncing to tuck in the rebound after goalkeeper Li Shaui failed to hold Ivan Rakitic’s long-range drive.The Catalans had a lucky escape just before that when Brazilian Elkesen just failed to make contact with Zheng Zhi’s cross.Javier Mascherano also twice made last-ditch tackles to prevent Guangzhou players having a clear run at goal, firstly on Ricardo Goulart and then Zheng Zhi, while Claudio Bravo made his only save just before halftime to tip away Elkesen’s header.The game was settled as a contest after 49 minutes when Andres Iniesta sent a beautifully-weighted pass into the area and Suarez caught it on his chest before volleying past Li in one movement.The Uruguayan completed his hat-trick by converting a penalty in the 67th minute.
Two games that may go a long way this weekend in deciding who will claim the title for the 2015-16 season. On Saturday leaders APOEL are at home to their arch rivals Omonia while the two teams just off the top, AEK and Anorthosis, clash the following day in Larnaca.Despite leading the race APOEL go into this game with one very worrying trend. So far, in their five games against the so-called ‘big teams’ they have yet to record a win, losing three and drawing the other two.APOEL’s Georgian coach Getsbaia is expected to make just one (enforced) change to the side that defeated Ethnikos last week with Mario Sergio coming in for the injured Marios Antoniades. Cypriot striker Pieros Sotiriou is set to retain his place at the top of the attack at the expense of star signing Cavengahi.Omonia has its own shortfallings to overcome as they have not defeated their local rivals in ten attempts. The last time they did was back in April of 2013 when APOEL’s Efraim, then of Omonia, scored twice in a 3-0 win.With Nuno Asis back from suspension and Sheridan and Kirm back to full fitness Omonia’s coach Vladan Milojevic is faced with a pleasant selection headache. Asis is expected to take his place in the starting eleven while Skembri and Badibanga should keep their places up front.AEK entertain Anorthosis at the Antonis Papadopoulos the following day with both teams vying for the three points.AEK is fully aware that their recent drubbing of Anorthosis in the cup will count for nothing especially as they will be without the suspended Catala, Tetey and Marciniak while their talisman, Tomas, will face a late fitness test with the odds not being in his favour.Following a run of poor results, Anorthosis’ coach Andre Paous wants to get his team back on track and a win against AEK will see them move into (at least) second place.No major injury concerns for the Famagusta team with their top scorer Ndlovou expected to retain his place in attack and Holgersson and Laifis returning at the heart of the defence following their one match ban.At the other end of the table things are even more complicated.Six points separates six teams, from eighth to thirteenth, with the team occupying the thirteenth place at the end of the regular season relegated along with Ayia Napa.Paphos FC, currently occupying the second relegation slot, is expected to take all three points against Ayia Napa while Enosis, level on points with the Paphos team, has a tougher tie against sixth placed Nea Salamina.AEL, four points off the automatic relegation slot are at home to mid-placed Doxa while Aris are at home to Ethnikos Achnas.The final game of the round will take place on Monday between Ermis Aradippou and Apollon.Saturday: APOEL vs Omonia (15.00), Enosis vs Nea Salamina (17.00), AEL vs Doxa (19.00)Sunday: AEK vs Anorthosis (15.00), Paphos FC vs Ayia Napa (16.00), Aris vs Ethnikos (18.00)Monday: Ermis Aradippou vs Apollon (19.00)
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has been charged with violent conduct over an incident involving West Ham United defender Winston Reid, the FA said in a statement.The Argentine international now faces a three-match ban that would see him miss Premier League games against Manchester United and Bournemouth and a League Cup third-round tie against Swansea City.Aguero appeared to elbow Reid in the head on Sunday, a Premier League game City won 3-1. The incident was not seen by match officials so the FA has taken retrospective action.On Monday, Aguero withdrew from the World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela due to a calf injury.Argentina host Uruguay on Thursday and then visit Venezuela five days later.
Club president Leo Chris made this clear today when announcing the 13 member committee at a press conference at Paddy’s Bar.The committee includes CEO of Motor Vehicles Insurance Ltd, Joe Wemin, Secretary of the Department of Finance, Dr Ken Ngangan and Oro Governor Gary Juffa.Chris said the land at Kone Tigers is alleged to have been sold 7 years ago.He said the squabble over the land is currently before the National Court and the working committee will actively pursue the case.“This committee wants to see this land being given back to the people to use because it is public property. It should not be there for private interest use.“We want to win it back and move on and develop this land,” said Ngangan.“We will also rebuild the foundation of the club and address all issues and resolve them to bring the club back to its glory days,” said Wemin.Kone Tigers is one of the oldest clubs in the country, having been formed in 1963.
The former Sydney Roosters and Penrith prop has spent the past two years with St Helens in the English Super League and believes his game has grown in leaps and bounds.But even Masoe was taken aback by his selection in Paul McGregor’s squad for the fast-paced Nines event.”It was surprising for myself because it’s not really meant to be for the bigger dudes,” the 199cm Samoa international said.”It’s more for the faster guys, so I’m quite stoked at being named.”It’ll be less people to tackle me, so I might get a few one on one situations, get a bit more space to target smaller guys.”Masoe’s size and strength have always left coaches salivating.But having struggled to live up to the potential seen when he broke through with with the Roosters in 2010, he reinvented himself in the UK and is grateful for a second chance in the NRL.”I’ve matured as a player and I picked up some useful things in England,” said Masoe.”And I’ve already picked up things here with the Dragons in terms of training and fitness.”The one thing that could keep Masoe from lining up at the Nines is a rib cartilage injury suffered at training last week.”It’d be good to play in the Nines, but if it’s not ready I don’t want to risk my season,” he said.”It’s just one of those annoying injuries and takes time to heal.”Masoe is one of several promising off-season recruits at the Dragons, who finished eighth last year, and the potential is there for a deep post-season run in 2016, but Masoe couldn’t be talked into a prediction.”We’ll keep ripping in and see how we go,” he said.”Maybe we’ll fly under the radar and see if we can get some teams, and try and make the eight like they did last year.”
Hunters Coach Michael Marum admitted after the match it will be a tough season for the team with a lot of young players adjusting to the high standard of competition.“The first few games will be tough on us. “This trial match has really helped the coaching staff in terms of player combinations, team weaknesses and strengths,” said Marum.He said one big weakness is goal conversions which was a huge worry when all three goals had unsuccessful conversions.“Ase Boas was a second choice goal kicker. He does well during training but I am not sure what went wrong with his kicks so we’ll have to work more on that before the season kicks off,” he said.Marum thanked the home crowd for their support adding the atmosphere was a big difference compared to the Sir John Guise Stadium.The team is looking forward to playing their games at the new National Football Stadium.The Intrust Cup 2016 season kicks off on March 6, with the opener against South Logan Magpies.
Isapea took a 10-4 lead over the Lahanis at half-time in today’s week five match of the Digital Cup competition.The visitors struck as early as the 6th minute when Isapea captain Jack Manda crashed over to score.Four minutes later it was second rower John Kai who put the lead out to 10-0.It was a very physical encounter as both sides were equally desperate for points.The Lahanis snuck in a try right at half-time when captain John Gand barged over to slam the ball down.Isapea halfback Japheth Olik was influential in the win, scoring twice in the 50th and 59th minute of the second half.Manda put the icing on the cake five minutes before full time, scoring to set up a comprehensive win, 24-4.