Saturday 31 March 2012

Chiefs Get Better of London Irish

Exeter Chiefs ran in a try in each half, Gonzalo Camacho getting his first for the club, to see off London Irish.

James Hanks went over for the Heineken Cup spot-chasing Chiefs to give the hosts a 10-point lead at half-time.

Irish came right back into it with Tom Homer's try but winger Camacho eased the Chiefs' worries when he went over.

Exeter's victory could have been more comfortable but fly-half Ignacio Mieres missed five penalty kicks and one conversion attempt.

The Chiefs applied the early pressure and Richard Baxter made an excellent break, with the ball being worked across field and outside centre Bryan Rennie, who just failed to squeeze in at the corner.

Exeter's pressure was rewarded when Baxter set up a drive to the line and Hanks went over for his first try of the season from close range.

Irish hit back when a clever grubber kick allowed Homer to collect wide on the left and dot down in the corner.

Exeter were stung into action and, after a series of phases, Camacho collected the ball at speed and went over for his first try for the club.

Exeter coach Rob Baxter:
"Every Premiership win is very important and hard fought so you take the points when you can. I thought we showed tremendous endeavour, but we also missed gilt-edged opportunities.

"We did miss a couple of opportunities to run in tries and we did fail to collect points through Ignacio Mieres' boot, which is quite unusual for us. If those had come off then it would have been a relatively comfortable win.

"London Irish have enough quality and enough game-breakers in their team to really hurt you, but we kept them out of the game by playing ourselves. We have just got to keep getting better and taking the opportunities.'

"I think that we can look towards a Heineken Cup place now because we would have to have a pretty poor run of games, and the results go the way for other teams, for people to go above us.''

London Irish coach Toby Booth:
"We can look at missed opportunities having been inside their 22 three times in the last seven minutes and you have to come away with things. We went for broke and last week against Leicester it cost us, and it cost us again this week.

"If you said that you could get a losing bonus point away to Exeter you wouldn't have been too disappointed. But you are always a little disappointed when you've seen opportunities to get more.

"We need to be a little more clinical and manage the game better, but those are just the little margins. Again we are on the wrong side of the scoreline and that has happened too often. We've got to seriously look at it because it is not from the lack of effort.''

Exeter: Dollman; Camacho, Rennie, Shoemark, Jess; Mieres, Thomas; Tui, Whitehead, Mitchell, Hayes (capt), Hanks, Johnson, Scaysbrook, Baxter.
Replacements: Clark, Moon, Budgen, Muldowney, White, Barrett, Steenson, Naqelevuki.

London Irish: Homer; Yarde, Ansbro, Shingler,Tagicakibau; Jarvis, Allinson; Corbisiero, Paice, Rautenbach, Kennedy (capt), Evans, Danaher, Garvey, Gibson.
Replacements: Buckland, Lahiff, Ion, Casey, Gray, Treviranus, Armitage, Hodgson.

Radwanska Wins Sony Ericsson

Maria Sharapova lost her serve in the final game of each set Saturday and again fell short in a bid for her first Sony Ericsson Open title, losing to Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-4.

Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam champion, fell to 0-4 in Key Biscayne finals. She was also the runner-up in 2005, 2006 and last year.

Radwanska, ranked a career-best No. 4, earned her ninth career title and fourth since last summer. She's 0-4 in 2012 against top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and 26-0 against everyone else.

The match was 72 minutes old before Radwanska hit her first baseline winner. She was content to play steadily and extend rallies until the more aggressive Sharapova would make a mistake.

Sharapova finished with 45 unforced errors, many from the backhand side. Radwanska committed only 10 unforced errors and erased all three break points she faced.

On a sunny, 85-degree afternoon, the South Florida crowd was divided in its support.

"Vamos Maria!" one spectator hollered for the Russian.

"Vamos Agnes!" another shouted for the Pole.

Sharapova draped a rolled-up cold towel around her neck during changeovers, but the heat didn't seem to faze either player. But the pressure to hold serve made Sharapova wobble twice.

Serving at 5-6 in the first set, she committed four unforced errors -- including a blown overhead -- to lose the set.

The pattern was similar in the second set, when Radwanska had only one break point -- the last point of the match. Sharapova sailed a forehand long, and Radwanska lifted her arms in triumph.

Radwanska beat Venus Williams en route to the final and won every set she played. She improved to 2-7 against Sharapova, with her other victory at the 2007 U.S. Open.

Sharapova was trying to extend her streak of winning at least one title for a 10th consecutive year. Instead she settled for her third runner-up trophy in 2012 -- she also lost finals at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, both to Azarenka.

Cavendish Checks Out Course

Britain's first medal contender at this year's Olympics, Mark Cavendish, has been making the most of home advantage by secretly recceing the road race course in Surrey.

The world champion took to Box Hill, the climb which is set to split the road race in the Games' first event, for his fourth Olympic-specific training session on Friday.

Accompanied by his Team Sky and GB team mate, Luke Rowe, Cavendish completed six laps of the circuit he'll have to conquer nine times on the way to the Olympic finish line.

As important as getting to grips with the climbs and corners of the course, is understanding the feel of the race route.

As Cavendish told me, it "gets hard round the circuit as it's pretty relentless", while "heavy tarmac in bad condition makes for a slow ride".
Fast race

However talk of slow speeds is relative.

Friday saw Cavendish and Rowe average a speed of 38 kph behind the scooter of coach Rod Ellingworth.

As an average speed, with six climbs en route, it is hardly surprising that Cavendish declared it to be "fast for training", and that the Olympic event itself "will be a fast race".

While conceding that "nine circuits will really get tough by the end" the sprinter, who has already established himself to be one of the finest in the sport's history, will relish the 50km from the last climb to the finish.

As long as Team GB are still in the mix, that is when we will see the goosebump-ing, heart-pumping effort to bring the Manxman to the line, and to do his thing.

There should certainly be enough support cheering on the ''Manx Missile', who is hotly tipped to win Team GB's first medal of the Olympics after winning over the same course in the test event last summer.

Despite attempting a low-key ride on the Olympic roads, Cavendish and Rowe found there were "lots of club riders out, and lots of support for us at the top of Box Hill".
Dummy run

While Friday's recce was fairly relaxed, the final dummy-run of the Olympic course will mimic all aspects of the event itself, with the week beforehand planned to imitate exactly what Cavendish and his team mates will go through in the week after the Tour de France.

Speaking at a training camp earlier this year, Cavendish's coach, Rod Ellingworth told Sky Sports: "It's not just a dress rehearsal of the Olympic course, we'll be doing that final week with similar food and have everything quite well monitored to see what changes we'll need to make for the actual final week."

The team will stay in the same hotel, eat the same food, and do the same training as they will in the week before the Olympic road race.

Explaining the strategy Ellingworth said: "We'll be training the guys... on the course so Mark will know exactly how fast he can go around that course for nine laps.

"It's a huge challenge that Olympic road race. The course challenges Mark just on its own with the amount of climbing that they've got to do.

"I feel quite confident that we'll be planned and organised enough."

Monterosso Wins Dubai World Cup

Monterosso has won the $10m (£6.3m) Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse race.

The Godolphin-owned horse, ridden by Mickael Barzalona, finished third in 2011 but showed a burst of pace to move away from favourite So You Think, who started strongly alongside Transcend.

Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation enjoyed a one-two as Capponi finished second, albeit a long way behind the five-year-old.

Planteur was third, half a length back.

Daddy Long Legs won the $2m (£1.25m)UAE Derby earlier on Saturday, with better-fancied stable companion Wrote third in the Group Two race at Meydan.

Colm O'Donoghue sent the Aidan O'Brien-trained Daddy Long Legs into the lead as the field turned for home after Helmet had set a scorching pace.

Ryan Moore followed him through on Wrote but could not close the gap and had to settle for third, with Yang Tse Kiang filling second spot.

Cirrus Des Aigles held off a late challenge from his main rival St Nicholas Abbey to win the $5m (£3.1m) Dubai Sheema Classic , while Cityscape took the $5m (£3.1m) Dubai Duty Free , setting a course record to beat Mutahadee and City Style by more than four lengths.

Previous Dubai winners
2011 - Victoire Pisa
2010 - Gloria de Campeao
2009 - Well Armed
2008 - Curlin
2007 - Invasor

Thorbjørn Olesen Sicilian Leader

Thorbjørn Olesen has a golden opportunity to break his European Tour duck after a brilliant round of 67 at a wind-swept Sicilian Open.

With just five shots separating the 65 players who made the cut, ‘moving day’ was always going to be significant at Verdura Golf Resort & Spa near Sciacca, Sicily, and so it proved as 22 year old Olesen moved into a three shot lead.

The Dane had three runner-up finishes in his rookie campaign last season, but is in prime position to go one better after following a bogey at the sixth hole with four birdies and an eagle at the long 14th hole.

Only 18 players were able to break par in the third round, and Olesen’s best-of-the-day round was matched only by Canadian Andrew Parr, who shares second place with big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.

At one point, the wind was so strong that Olesen’s hat blew off, but he defied the blustery conditions to birdie the 18th hole – the scourge of plenty of players this week.

“It’s definitely one of the toughest holes on the course, especially in the wind,” he said. “It’s important to hit a good tee shot, and luckily I managed to get a great drive down the middle of the fairway. I had a nine iron for my second shot, managed to put it pretty close and hole the putt, which wasn’t easy in the wind. So it was a great finish to the day.

“I struggled a little bit on the front nine, but managed to hang in there and was pleased to pick up two shots after making a bogey on the sixth hole. That got me going a little bit and I was able to take a few more chances on the back nine.

“Sometimes the gusts were so strong, especially on the coast, that you just got blown away. It was tough just to stand up sometimes, let alone play golf.”

Olesen came into the week with some solid form behind him, having notched two top-ten finishes in six starts, with just one missed cut in that run.

But the World Number 154 will not be taking anything for granted come Sunday afternoon.

“I know that I’m going to have to play very well tomorrow, because there are a lot of great players up there and you can’t win on The European Tour by playing average golf,” he added.

“My confidence is very high at the moment because of the way I’m playing, and hopefully I can finish the job off. With a bit of luck, the wind will be a little calmer tomorrow. Either way, my short game is going to have to very good.”

Parr was one of only three players to complete a bogey-free round, as he looks to continue the good form he showed when finishing 13th at the Joburg Open in his only previous European Tour appearance this season.

“I think the key to playing well in the wind is hitting solid shots, and luckily enough I managed to do that today,” said the 28 year old. “I kept it in play off the tee and hit a lot of good iron shots, which set up a few birdie chances and I managed to take five of them.”

Colsaerts mixed six birdies with three bogeys in his round of 69, while Lloyd Saltman, Søren Kjeldsen and Peter Lawrie – a leader after the first and second rounds – share fourth place on eight under par.

“Before you hit every shot you’ve got to really think about it for a couple of minutes,” said Colsaerts. “One minute the wind’s blowing sideways, the next minute it’s straight into your face. So it’s very tough to get your club selection right. But hopefully it’ll be a bit calmer for the final day – I’m really looking forward to it.”

The six halfway co-leaders endured mixed fortunes. Lawrie and Simon Wakefield (74) are the only two in the top ten, as Pelle Edberg (75), Maarten Lafeber (77), David Lynn (79) and Jamie Donaldson (80) slipped into the chasing pack.

Real Respect for Osasuna

Marcelo says Real Madrid have "a lot of respect" for Osasuna ahead of Saturday's game and has backed team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo to continue to score the goals to fire them to the Primera Division title.

Madrid travel to Pamplona to take on sixth-placed Osasuna looking to maintain their six-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the table.

The hosts are still very much in the race for Champions League qualification, but Jose Mourinho's men are unbeaten in their last 19 away games in all competitions, dating back to September.

The latest was a 3-0 Champions League win over APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus, a rare game in which Ronaldo did not score.

But the Portuguese has already netted 35 times in the league this season, becoming the fastest player to 100 goals in La Liga when he reached 101 in just his 92nd game in last weekend's 5-1 success over Real Sociedad, and left-back Marcelo feels there are plenty more to come.

"Cristiano has already made history at Real Madrid, " the Brazilian was quoted as saying by Madrid's official website.

"Now he has 35 goals and there are still nine games to finish the league. Hopefully he can score a lot more and help us win trophies."

Madrid's win over Sociedad came after consecutive 1-1 draws in the league which let Barca back into the title race, and Marcelo knows how important another three points in Pamplona, where they have failed to win on any of their three previous trips, will be.

"It's always difficult to play there," he added.

"We have a lot of respect for Osasuna and we will go there to play our own game and try to win.

"We're doing fine and should carry on as we are. It will be very, very difficult because it is a tough place to go, but we will give everything to get the three points."

Osasuna too have plenty to play for, though, as their 2-0 win over fellow Champions League contenders Levante last time out left them just four points off fourth-placed Malaga.

Captain Patxi Punal, whose side have already beaten Barca this term, is aiming to give Madrid an uncomfortable evening.

He told Osasuna's official website: "The pressure is on them, but I think they are used to playing with pressure. They know they will face difficult opponents that will make them uncomfortable, run and press a lot.

"They know it is not easy to win games. At home teams are well prepared to counter their football and, although it is difficult, it is not impossible."

Nino scored his first goal in five months in the win over Levante and that should be enough to see him retain his place in attack, but coach Jose Luis Mendilibar will be forced into at least one change as Marc Bertran has been ruled out with a muscle injury.

For Madrid, Kaka could be handed a start after impressing after coming off the bench in the win over APOEL. Madrid thrashed Osasuna 7-1 at the Bernabeu in November, with Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick.

Gunners Defeated in Loftus Battle

QPR breathed new life into their relegation battle with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Arsenal at Loftus Road to end the Gunners' Premier League winning streak.

Former Tottenham midfielder Adel Taarabt had fired the hosts into the lead on 22 minutes with his first Premier League goal, but Arsenal levelled through Theo Walcott.

Rangers, though, snatched what could prove a priceless victory when Samba Diakite crashed in midway through the second half, but remain in the bottom three after Bolton won at Wolves.

QPR captain Joey Barton had used his pre-match programme notes to call for the Rs fans to get behind him after being booed off the pitch while being substituted during the win over Liverpool 10 days ago.

However, the controversial midfielder received a mixed reception when his name was read out ahead of kick off.

Walcott made early progress down the right channel, forcing a corner which was eventually hacked clear.

Arsenal continued to press without stretching the home side.

On seven minutes, Clint Hill bundled Walcott over to concede a free-kick just right of centre, 25 yards out.

Robin van Persie struck a low, curled effort goalwards, which Paddy Kenny gathered at the second attempt, with Walcott looking to pounce on the loose ball.

Rangers were soon on the offensive, with Alex Song needing to make a couple of important blocks as Bobby Zamora threatened.

The home side continued to push Arsenal back, and Zamora sent a free header over from 10 yards after a deep free-kick into the area.

The hosts had the lead on 22 minutes.

Taarabt collected a pass from the halfway line, before turning Thomas Vermaelen on the edge of the penalty area and dispatching the ball into the bottom corner.

Moroccan Taarabt marked his first Premier League goal by donning a fez that he then threw into the crowd, but referee Mike Dean took a dim view of his actions and brandished a yellow card.

Arsenal needed to regroup, but had been in this situation more than once recently and recovered to secure victory.

QPR, however, remained full of energy, with Taarabt enjoying plenty of the ball.

Arsenal were level on 37 minutes with their first real chance.

Van Persie made space on the edge of the area and stabbed the ball to Walcott.

The England winger cracked a first-time effort off the base of the far post, and was quickest to the rebound, hooking in his seventh Premier League goal of the season.

Arsenal now passed the ball around with confidence, Aaron Ramsey dragging a low shot from 20 yards across goal and wide.

The visitors pressed again at the start of the second half, as Bacary Sagna floated over a deep cross from the right which fellow full-back Kieran Gibbs nodded just wide.

QPR were now finding it difficult to retain much possession, and then gave the ball away when looking to build a break.

On 57 minutes, Kenny punched away an angled free-kick from Van Persie.

The Dutchman was denied again by the QPR keeper after spinning off his marker and racing into the penalty area.

QPR went ahead for the second time on 66 minutes.

Vermaelen slipped again, allowing Jamie Mackie to skip into the penalty and pulled the ball back for Diakite to slam home.

Arsenal needed another response and on 69 minutes, Gervinho replaced Ramsey.

QPR soaked up plenty of pressure, but also looked dangerous on the break as Arsenal committed men forwards.

With 10 minutes left, Mikel Arteta was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marouane Chamakh came on for Gibbs.

Barton almost sealed it when his effort was tipped over by Wojciech Szczesny after another break by Mackie down the right.

The late Arsenal fightback never materialised as Rangers closed out four minutes of stoppage time to boost their hopes of staying up.

Petrov Receives Ovation at Villa

Fans have paid tribute to emotional Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov as he attended the home game against Chelsea a day after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

Supporters staged a standing ovation, while players from both sides wore "support Stan" messages in the warm-up.

His former club Celtic have announced they will repeat the gesture on Sunday.

Petrov, 32, who is due to start treatment on Monday said football would have "to take a back seat for a while".

In the 19th minute of the game, chosen to match Petrov's shirt number, the whole ground and both benches stood up in applause and chanted his name.

Petrov said before the match that he had taken strength from Fabrice Muamba's recent battle with ill-health, after the Bolton midfielder suffered a cardiac arrest during a game on 17 March.

The Bulgarian said he had seen a photo Muamba had asked his family to post on Twitter of him sitting up in bed at the London Chest Hospital.

"I saw the picture released yesterday by Fabrice Muamba, my fellow player, and it has inspired me as has all of the support in the past 24 hours," Petrov said.

"I would like to thank all of the people who have left messages of support. The response has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much.

"This is a difficult time for my family and myself and I ask people to respect my privacy.

"With the help and love of my family, my team-mates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa and all of the fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this."

A section of Villa fans also cancelled a planned protest before Saturday's game, with manager Alex McLeish calling for fans to be "united".

Petrov learned he had leukaemia on Friday after complaining of feeling unwell immediately after last week's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Villa manager Alex McLeish stated: "Stan came in to see us before the game, we gave him a hug and said it'd be nice to win it for Stan.

"'Stunned' is the word, you don't imagine something like that can happen to one of your fit players.

"We've got to support Stan, he's started his recovery, and I'm sure he can fight it and beat it."

Bolton midfielder Martin Petrov , a friend and Bulgaria team-mate, said: "I spoke to him yesterday and he told me. I was in shock.

"I made the decision this morning to play [against Wolves]. I lived with him for two years and we were team-mates."

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill , who coached Petrov at Celtic and signed him when he was Villa boss, commented: "I was devastated to hear the news.

"I've known him for a long, long time - he's a great footballer but more importantly a fantastic character.

"He's upbeat, very strong mentally and we all wish him the very, very best. It's a desperate blow."

Terry Suffers Bolton Molineux Win

Former Wolves player Mark Davies was at the centre of controversy after he won a penalty that sparked Bolton into claiming a 3-2 win at Molineux.

Steven Fletcher had three glorious opportunities to fire Wolves ahead in the first-half but it was Michael Kightly who put them in front after the interval.

Davies then won the penalty after he went down under Roger Johnson's challenge but replays showed very little contact.

Martin Petrov scored the spot kick as Marcos Alonso and substitute Kevin Davies made the points safe. Matt Jarvis notched a late goal to ensure a nervy finish but the game was already lost.

The result - Bolton's third win on the bounce against fellow strugglers after their league triumphs over QPR and Blackburn - means the Trotters move up a place to 16th in the Premier League, but remain a point clear of the drop zone.

The picture is more bleak for Wolves, who are now six points adrift of safety at the foot of the table and have taken only one point from a possible 18 under manager Terry Connor, suffering five losses in a row.

The midlands outfit's remaining home matches are against Arsenal, Manchester City and Everton and Connor's predecessor Mick McCarthy had described this contest as a "must-win" game.

Win they did not - although for long periods it seemed as if this was destined to be Connor's first victory.

Wolves made a positive start, with Kightly looking a threat down the right flank and a couple of corners causing panic in the Bolton box.

Kightly then lofted a free-kick forward which Fletcher did well to keep in and the ball came to Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who brought a save out of Adam Bogdan with a snap-shot.

The Trotters served a warning at the other end, Petrov seeing an effort blocked by Richard Stearman and miscuing an attempted volley moments later, but the hosts were soon back on the offensive as Fletcher headed Jarvis' corner wide before Ebanks-Blake drilled off target from distance.

Bolton forward David Ngog sent a shot harmlessly wide just prior to the half hour mark and there was a nervier moment for Wolves soon after as Petrov just cleared the crossbar having cleverly flicked the ball over Johnson.

Bogdan then did brilliantly to claw away Fletcher's header, but the hosts were looking vulnerable at the back and after Trotters striker Ivan Klasnic was allowed to get a shot away, Wolves skipper Johnson and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey squared up to each other.

Referee Jon Moss did his best to calm the pair down and within moments, Fletcher had come close to scoring again, the Scotland international's header being cleared off the line by Ryo Miyaichi.

Fletcher then had another near miss just before the interval as he nodded Kightly's cross against the bar.

Wolves looked to pick up where they left off as the second half got under way and Johnson produced a header which was easily caught by Bogdan, but they then survived a scare as David Wheater glanced Miyaichi's cross just the wrong side of the post.

The hosts' dominance finally paid off eight minutes after the restart as Kightly received the ball from Ebanks-Blake, darted past Alonso and arrowed a shot beyond Bogdan into the corner of the net.

The home supporters breathed a sigh of relief, but within 10 minutes, Bolton had equalised as ex-Wolves man Mark Davies went down after being challenged by Johnson in the box and Petrov buried the resulting spot-kick.

As part of his celebration, the Bulgarian revealed a T-shirt displaying a message of support for his compatriot and namesake Stiliyan, the Aston Villa captain who has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

The Trotters wide man then almost added another, unleashing a stinging drive that Hennessey managed to save, and struck a free-kick at the goalkeeper moments later.

With just under 15 minutes to go, Jarvis blew a chance to put his side back in front by heading wide when he should have done better, and it proved costly.

Three minutes later Ngog headed Petrov's cross against the bar and Alonso had little trouble converting from close range.

Bolton then swiftly extended their lead as one substitute Chris Eagles had the space to find Kevin Davies who slotted past Hennessey.

Jarvis gave Wolves hope by pulling one back two minutes from time but it was too little too late.

City Say Ciao After Sunderland Draw

The Premier League title is now out of the hands of Manchester City after their comeback fell short against Sunderland on Saturday - throwing control of the championship firmly into Manchester United's possession. Arsenal, meanwhile, were also stunted in their pursuit of Champions League football by QPR, which allowed Chelsea to close the gap on their rivals with a thrilling victory at Aston Villa.

At the bottom, Wolves remain winless at the bottom under manager Terry Connor, while Wigan's recovery continues thanks to another success against Stoke.

Manchester City failed to move back to the top of the Premier League table and must now rely on results elsewhere if they are to win the title this season, after Sunderland ruined their impeccable home record with an incredible 3-3 draw at Eastlands. City could have applied pressure to rivals United ahead of Monday's trip to Blackburn had they maintained their 100 per cent home record, but goals from Sebastian Larsson(2) and Nicklas Bendtner put Sunderland 3-1 up, before Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov rescued a point for the hosts - leaving them two points behind United.

Sunderland made much the better start at the Etihad Stadium and City were initially grateful for a crucial last-ditch tackle from Micah Richards, denying Stephane Sessegnon a clear goalscoring opportunity, before moments later Craig Gardner fired wastefully wide.

City then should have led when Balotelli missed a free header from four yards, but instead it was Sunderland who struck first through a classy strike from Larsson. Faced with a defender on the edge of the area, Larsson simply opened his body and curled a silky finish beyond the unsighted Joe Hart for 1-0.

City's leveller came via a controversial penalty as Edin Dzeko appeared to fall extremely easily inside the area, allowing Balotelli to send Simon Mignolet the wrong way from 12 yards. But by half-time they were behind again as Bendtner steered a superb header into the far corner from Sessegnon's cross.

An expected siege from City failed to materialise in the second half and it was Sunderland who scored again, Bendtner running into acres of space in a disjointed City rearguard, squaring perfectly for Larsson to tap home his second of the afternoon.

A despondent Roberto Mancini threw on Carlos Tevez for David Silva, and City found a lifeline when Balotelli sent a curler past Mignolet. Seconds later Kolarov smashed a fierce drive through a crowd of bodies for 3-3, but City could not find a dramatic winner in a frantic finish.

Windies Square T20 Series

West Indies made sure the two-match Twenty20 series against Australia finished even thanks to a 14-run victory in Bridgetown.

The hosts managed to defend a total of 160 all out despite having seemed set at one stage to get to 200 and beyond after a fantastic start.

Dwayne Smith led an early onslaught with 63 from 34 deliveries but once he went to leave the score at 110-3 in the 10th over, West Indies slumped to such an extent that they were bowled out with two balls to spare.

Johnson Charles (37) helped put on 72 off 40 balls with Smith but Dwayne Bravo (23) was the only other home batsman to make it into double figures.

However Australia proved unable to repeat their successful run chase from the opening game, slipping from 133-4 to 146-9 by the end of their 20 overs.

Brett Lee dismissed the dangerous Kieron Pollard for a single and then claimed two late scalps to finish with impressive figures of 3-23.
Typically flamboyant

David Warner was typically flamboyant in making 58 from 43 balls at the top of the order at the start of Australia's reply, despite seeing opening partner Shane Watson fall in the first over.

The left-hander enjoyed useful partnerships with captain George Bailey (24) and Mike Hussey (14) but when he was run out by Dwayne Bravo, Australia never managed to regain the momentum he had provided.

Matthew Wade made 17 before giving Marlon Samuels a return catch, though the wicketkeeper-batsman was clearly disappointed that the full toss wasn't called a no ball for being above waist height.

With 25 needed at the start of the penultimate over, Australia lost two wickets in the first two balls, Daniel Christian getting caught at cover before Lee was emphatically bowled by the impressive Fidel Edwards (3-23).

When David Hussey was caught by a diving Pollard in the deep at the start of the final over, Australia's last hope of victory had perished.

The two teams, who have now tied both the one-day and Twenty20 series, now switch to Test cricket, with the first match starting on Saturday, April 5.

Maguire Makes China Open Final

Stephen Maguire reached the final of the China Open with a comfortable 6-2 victory over England's Stephen Lee.

The Scot moved into a 2-0 lead before Lee hit back to level the scores at the interval.

But 2008 winner Maguire responded to take the next four frames, clinching his place in Sunday's final with a break of 91 in the last frame.

He will face either home favourite Ding Junhui or Peter Ebdon, who meet at 1430 BST on Saturday.

Maguire enjoyed a much more straightforward passage than in the quarter-finals, where he beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-4 on a re-spotted black.

It is the second time he has reached the final of the Beijing tournament and his progress rarely looked in doubt.

He began confidently, a break of 76 enough to take the first frame before edging a scrappy second.

Lee looked to have the momentum as he levelled the match at 2-2 but Maguire responded with breaks of 53, 51 and 66 to win the next two.

A 48 from Lee in frame seven offered hope of a reply but he faltered and Maguire cleared to lead 5-2, before his highest break of the match earned his place in the final.

Previous China Open winners
2011 - Judd Trump
2010 - Mark Williams
2009 - Peter Ebdon
2008 - Stephen Maguire
2007 - Graeme Dott
2006 - Mark Williams
2005 - Ding Junhui

Davis Shares Shell Lead with Louis

Brian Davis changed his life last year, and he's finally seeing the adjustments translate to better golf scores.

Davis shot a 65 in his second round Friday and shares the lead at 11 under with Louis Oosthuizen at the rain-delayed Shell Houston Open.

The second round was suspended due to darkness at 7:36 p.m. local time with 70 players still on the course.

Houston resident Jeff Maggert was at 10 under, but he had eight holes left to play in his second round. Defending champion Phil Mickelson (70), J.B. Holmes (67), Tommy Gainey (67), and Greg Owen (69) finished their second rounds and were two shots behind the leaders at 9 under.

Three-time major champion Ernie Els, who must win to qualify for next week's Masters, was in the group at 5 under after a second-round 69.

A thunderstorm dumped 1 1/4 inches of rain Thursday, causing the backup. The players enjoyed sunny and calm conditions Friday, but the fairways were damp, and players were permitted to lift, clean and place.

Davis played a total of 32 holes on Friday, finishing a first-round 68 and then making seven birdies on his way to his best score of the year.

The 37-year-old Englishman took a hard look at his life late last year after his father, Robert, died of cancer. He changed caddies, hired a sports psychologist and retooled his swing.

"Probably the highlight of the offseason and to this season was taking a look at everything I did on and off the golf course," Davis said. "I think I'm more prepared going forward now this year."

Davis, a father of three, also worked with sports psychologist Bob Winters on managing his time more precisely.

"I really struggle when my kids say, `Can we do this?' and I should be practicing," Davis said. "It's hard to juggle that around. You've got to give yourself some time as well. Obviously, we looked over that at the end of the last year and changed my practice routines, changed a lot of things."

Davis felt recharged at the start of the season, but missed the cut in three of his first four starts. He finally saw signs of improvement when he tied for 47th at the Honda Classic, then tied for 63rd in Puerto Rico the following week.

"It's one of them things, you've got to stay the course and keep at it," Davis said.

Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, is also making changes, though far less dramatic. He's tinkering with his swing and gone back to the driver he used when he won at St. Andrews.

The 29-year-old South African hit 11 of 14 fairways in his second round on his way to a 66.

"I hit it well at the Open in 2010, and I feel like I'm very close to hitting it like I did there," Oosthuizen said. "Swing-wise, I feel confident."

Mickelson finished a 65 on Friday morning and started his second round on No. 10 about an hour later. His afternoon round stalled after he birdied 13 and 15, the two par 5s on the back nine. He hit his tee shot over the green on the par-3 16th and bogeyed, then parred the next five holes.

"I played pretty well the second round, but I didn't get the score that I had hoped," Mickelson said. "I've got to light it up this weekend."

Mickelson played with Fred Couples, who won on the Champions Tour last week. Couples, who played at the University of Houston and has made 18 consecutive cuts at the event, is 4 under through two rounds.

Couples moved within two shots of the lead, but dropped back when he dunked his tee shot in the water on the 488-yard, par-4 18th hole and took a double bogey. The 52-year-old Couples shot a 73 in the afternoon.

The Shell Houston Open became the run-up event to the Masters in 2007. Despite the delay, tournament director Steve Timms is hoping to finish the tournament by 5 p.m. Sunday to accommodate not only television, but also the players heading to Augusta.

Like Els, Davis must win here to earn an invitation to the Masters next week. Davis has five runner-up finishes in seven years on TOUR, but he's never won.

"Obviously, I'm well aware that I need to start winning," Davis said. "It's one of those things where you can't force it. You've just got to keep putting yourself in position."

Mickelson says he's prefers playing a tournament the week before a major to get into a "competitive frame of mind." Last year, he shot 63-65 over the weekend to win by three strokes over Chris Kirk and Scott Verplank.

Tim Tebow is New York Backup

Tim Tebow maybe just the new backup quarterback for the New York Jets.

Tebow told 1050 ESPN Radio on Friday that he's "not sure" if he'll ever be a starting quarterback again, and that thought doesn't even concern him right now.

"I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future," Tebow said, referring to his strong Christian faith. "That's something that has always given me peace and comfort. That's why I don't have to worry about the future. I can just worry about today and worry about becoming better as a football player and a person."

Tebow was acquired from Denver in a trade on March 21 and introduced Monday at a news conference that included more than 200 media members. He said his only plan is to help his new team win games and "be the best quarterback, best teammate, best football player I can be and just be someone that adds something to that locker room."

Coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum repeatedly have said Sanchez is the unquestioned starter, with Tebow serving as the backup but having a significant role in the offense. Tebow has chosen his words carefully since arriving in New York, staying away from anything that could stir controversy.

He compared this situation to when he was a freshman at the University of Florida and backed up Chris Leak while seeing occasional snaps.

"Ultimately, it ended with a lot of success," Tebow said, "us winning a national championship."

Tebow said he has met several of his new Jets teammates, including Bart Scott, Matt Slauson and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and has spoken to Sanchez on the phone. He even defended Antonio Cromartie, who said on Twitter that he was against the trade for Tebow before it was made.

"It's great because he had his quarterback's back," Tebow said. "That's what you want. You want guys that are supporting your quarterback. I think that's great, and I commend him for doing that."