Thursday 31 October 2013

Real Bale Bernabeu Double

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Gareth Bale scored twice as Real Madrid claimed an emphatic 7-3 win over 10-man Sevilla in La Liga.

The Wales international, making his first start at the Bernabeu, opened the scoring with a smart finish, before adding a second soon after.

Bale, 24, also provided two assists as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, while Karim Benzema grabbed two goals.

Ivan Rakitic scored two and Carlos Bacca got one for Sevilla, who had Stephane Mbia sent off.

Real are six points behind leaders Barcelona after the win and two off second-placed Atletico.

The two goals took Bale's total for Real Madrid to three goals in six games since his £85m move from Tottenham on 1 September.

It was the ideal response to a low-key performance by Bale in the 2-1 El Clasico defeat by Barcelona on Saturday, when he was making only his second start of an injury-hit season.

An added boost for manager Carlo Ancelotti was that Bale completed 90 minutes for the first time since joining Real.

His first goal against Sevilla was one of quality as he powerfully swept the ball into the top corner of the net after being set up by Benzema.

Bale doubled Real's lead just before the half hour mark when his free-kick took a huge deflection off the Sevilla wall to loop into the net.

The hosts then looked to be in control when Ronaldo confidently dispatched a penalty after Isco was brought down inside the area.

But Sevilla fought back before the break as Sergio Ramos was judged to have pushed Diogo Figueiras in the box and Rakitic scored the spot-kick.

Bacca then rolled the ball into the net from Vitolo's pass to pull the visitors to within one goal of Real.

A sweeping counter by the hosts after the break made it 4-2 when Benzema side-footed in from a pass by Bale, who then provided the assist for Ronaldo to convert from a similar position.

Rakitic curled in a third for Sevilla but victory was assured for Real when Ronaldo completed his hat-trick with a deflected effort.

A difficult match got worse for the visitors 15 minutes from full-time when Mbia earned his second yellow card of the game for his part in a clash with Luka Modric.

The man disadvantage left a tired Sevilla side exposed and Real pushed forward in the closing stages looking for more goals.

Their seventh arrived 10 minutes from the end of the game when Benzema headed in Marcelo's cross.

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Red Sox World Champs at Fenway

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David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox capped their remarkable turnaround by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday night to win their third World Series championship in 10 seasons.

When it was over, Ortiz took a microphone on the field and addressed a city still reeling from the marathon bombings about a mile away in April.

"This is for you, Boston. You guys deserve it," said Ortiz, the Series MVP. "We've been through a lot this year and this is for all of you and all those families who struggled."

Shane Victorino, symbolic of these resilient Sox, returned from a stiff back and got Boston rolling with a three-run double off the Green Monster against rookie sensation Michael Wacha.

John Lackey became the first pitcher to start and win a Series clincher for two different teams, allowing one run over 6 2-3 innings 11 years after his Game 7 victory as an Angels rookie in 2002.

With fans roaring on every pitch and cameras flashing, Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter for the final out. The Japanese pitcher jumped into the arms of catcher David Ross while Red Sox players rushed from the dugout and bullpen as the Boston theme "Dirty Water" played on the public-address system.

"I say I work inside a museum, but this is the loudest the museum's been in a long time," outfielder Jonny Gomes said.

And the Red Sox didn't have to fly the trophy home. For the first time since Babe Ruth's team back in 1918, Boston won the title at Fenway Park. The 101-year-old ballpark, oldest in the majors, was packed with 38,447 singing, shouting fans anticipating a celebration 95 years in the making.

There wasn't the cowboy-up comeback charm of "The Idiots" from 2004, who swept St. Louis to end an 86-year title drought. There wasn't that cool efficiency of the 2007 team that swept Colorado.

This time, they were Boston Strong -- playing for a city shaken by the marathon bombings in April.

David Ortiz lifts Koji Uehara into the air after the closer sealed the Red Sox's third title in the last 10 years.

After late-season slumps in 2010 and 2011, the embarrassing revelations of a chicken-and-beer clubhouse culture that contributed to the ouster of manager Terry Francona, and the daily tumult of Bobby Valentine's one-year flop, these Red Sox grew on fans.

Just like the long whiskers on the players' faces, starting with Gomes' scruffy spring training beard.

"As soon as we went to Fort Myers, the movie's already been written," Gomes said. "All we had to do was press play, and this is what happened."

Ortiz, the only player remaining from the 2004 champs, was the MVP after a Ruthian World Series. He batted .688 (11 for 16) with two homers, six RBIs and eight walks -- including four in the finale -- for a .760 on-base percentage in 25 plate appearances.

Even slumping Stephen Drew delivered a big hit in Game 6, sending Wacha's first pitch of the fourth into the right-center bullpen.

By the time the inning was over, RBI singles by Mike Napoli and Victorino had made it 6-0, and the Red Sox were on their way.

And now, all over New England, from Connecticut's Housatonic River up to the Aroostook in Maine, Boston's eighth championship can be remembered for the beard-yanking bonding.

The win capped an emotional season for the Red Sox, one heavy with the memory of the events that unfolded on Patriots Day, when three people were killed and more than 260 wounded in bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox wore "Boston Strong" logos on their left sleeves and erected a large emblem on the Green Monster as a constant reminder.

A "B Strong" logo was mowed into center-field grass at Fenway.

"All those that were affected in the tragedy -- Boston Strong!" Victorino said.

Red, white and blue fireworks fired over the ballpark as Commissioner Bud Selig presented the World Series trophy to Red Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, leaving a smoky haze over the field.

"It was an awesome atmosphere here tonight," Lackey said.

Among the players blamed for the indifferent culture at the end of the Francona years, Lackey took the mound two days shy of the second anniversary of his elbow surgery and got his first Series win since the 2002 clincher. He pitched shutout ball into the seventh, when Carlos Beltran's RBI single ended the Cardinals' slump with runners in scoring position at 0 for 14.

Junichi Tazawa came in with the bases loaded and retired Allen Craig on an inning-ending grounder to first. Brandon Workman followed in the eighth and Uehara finished.

St. Louis had been seeking its second title in three seasons, but the Cardinals sputtered. Symbolic of the team's struggles, reliever Trevor Rosenthal tripped while throwing a pitch to Ortiz in the eighth, balking Dustin Pedroia to second.

Pedroia had brought back memories of Carlton Fisk's 1975 Game 6-winning home run, sending a first-inning drive about 10 feet foul of the Green Monster foul pole -- and waving his left arm once to try to urge the ball fair as he came out of the batter's box.

Lackey escaped a two-on, none-out jam in the second when he retired Matt Adams and David Freese on flyouts and, after a wild pitch, struck out Jon Jay.

Boston wasted a similar threat in the bottom half, then went ahead on the third.

Jacoby Ellsbury singled leading off and went to second on Pedroia's grounder. Ortiz was intentionally walked, Napoli struck out and Gomes was hit above the left elbow with a pitch, loading the bases.

Victorino, wearing red, white and blue spikes with an American flag motif, had been 0 for 10 in the Series and missed the previous two games with a bad back.

Dropped from second to sixth in the batting order, he took two balls and a called strike, then turned on a 93 mph fastball and sent it high off the Green Monster, the 37-foot-high wall in left. Gomes slid home as Yadier Molina took Matt Holliday's one-hop throw and applied the tag, then argued with plate umpire Jim Joyce.

Victorino, pumped with emotion, went to third on the throw and pounded his chest with both fists three times.

After Drew's homer, Lance Lynn relieved Wacha with two on, and RBI singles by Napoli and Victorino boosted Boston's lead to 6-0. Wacha entered 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his postseason career but gave up six runs, five hits and four walks in 3 2-3 innings, the shortest start of the 22-year-old's big league career.

Boston was a 30-1 underdog to win the World Series last winter but joined the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to win titles one season after finishing in last place. Now, the Red Sox will raise another championship flag before their home opener next season April 4 against Milwaukee.

The Red Sox had not played a Series Game 6 since that infamous night at New York's Shea Stadium in 1986, when Bill Buckner allowed Mookie Wilson's 10th-inning roller to get through his legs. And there had not been one at Fenway since Fisk's 12th-inning home run off the foul pole atop the Green Monster.

Following consecutive late-season skids, the Red Sox parted with Francona at the end of the 2011 season and reports emerged of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games.

Valentine took over as manager, injuries caused Boston to use a club-record 56 players, and the Red Sox skidded to a 69-93 record, their poorest since 1965.

John Farrell, Boston's pitching coach from 2007-10, was hired after a pair of seasons as Toronto's manager.

A roster turnover began in August 2012 when Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawfordand their big-money contracts were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that saved Boston just more than $261.66 million through 2018. The Red Sox restocked during the offseason by signing seven major league free agents for contracts of three years or fewer at a total of $100.45 million: Victorino, Napoli, Gomes, Drew, Uehara, Ryan Dempster and Ross.

After losing closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey to injuries early in the season, the Red Sox remained relatively healthy: Seventeen players wound up on the DL, down from 27. They finished 97-65 -- matching St. Louis for the best record in the major leagues -- and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They also became the first team since the 2005 Cardinals to navigate the season without losing more than three in a row.

After falling behind 2-1 in the Series, the Red Sox ended with three straight wins.

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Hesjedahl Admits Past Doping

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Ryder Hesjedal, winner of the 2012 Giro d'Italia, has admitted doping "more than 10 years ago".

The 32-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider responded to allegations by Dane Michael Rasmussen, who said earlier that he taught Hesjedal how to take the banned blood-booster EPO in 2003.

Rasmussen was at Rabobank at the time, while Hesjedal was a mountain bike rider in their development team.

"More than a decade ago I chose the wrong path," said Hesjedal.

"Even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since.

"I believe that being truthful will help the sport continue to move forward, and over a year ago when I was contacted by anti-doping authorities, I was open and honest about my past."

Hesjedal was one of several riders and managers called to testify by theUS Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) in the case against Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping.

Hesjedal was one of Armstrong's team-mates at U.S. Postal and Discovery Channel in 2004 and 2005.

However, he is confident the sport is now on the right path and his current team are backing their rider.

"As we have previously stated, our expectation is that anyone in our organisation contacted by any anti-doping authority must be open and honest with that authority," said a Garmin statement.

"Ryder is no exception and a year ago when he was contacted he cooperated fully and truthfully testified to Usada and CCES (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport).

"For this reason and because of our desire for 100% truth and reconciliation in the sport of cycling, we support him."

Rasmussen admitted earlier this year that he had doped throughout his 12-year professional career, from 1998 to 2010.

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USA Beat Cook Islands

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The USA created history by beating the Cook Islands for a debut victory in their first match at the Rugby League World Cup.

Former Castleford coach Terry Matterson's Tomahawks side ran in six tries at a wet and blustery Memorial Ground in Bristol.

Mark Offerdahl and Craig Priestly went over in the final eight minutes of a close encounter to seal victory.

Priestly and kicker Joseph Paulo, who kicked four goals, proved key figures.

The Cook Islands looked to have struck first after three minutes when Tinirau Arona went over the line, but the video referee decided he was held up.

However, on the next tackle, Brad Takairangi crashed over and Jordan Rapana's kick made it 6-0.

The USA got themselves into the game with forwards Clint Newton and Wigan-bound Eddy Pettybourne causing problems - and they went over twice in the space of three minutes.

Priestly's 40/20 set up Bureta Faraimo, who held off the challenge of Keith Lulia to score before a high kick from Priestly and a delightful pass from Michael Garvey allowed Matthew Peterson to go in. But Joseph Paulo missed both conversions.

Paulo was successful with a penalty to edge the USA 10-6 before Drury Low went over to level the match with a try four minutes before the break which Rapana failed to convert.

The USA started the second half strongly and Paulo put the Cook Islands under pressure before going over - but Lulia Lulia hit back to level the match again at 14-14.

Once again the USA took the lead through Tuisegasega Samoa and Paulo edged the kick in off the post only for Dominique Peyroux's try and Rapana's conversion to give the Cook Islands hope of victory.

But it was the USA who finished the stronger with Offerdahl going over and Paulo's high kick causing all sorts of problems for the Cook Islands defence, allowing Priestly to pluck the ball out of the air and score.

Paulo converted the Priestly try and with the Cook Islands beaten Paulo added a late penalty to secure the win in front of a crowd of 7,247.

The USA will next face Wales on Sunday while the Cook Islands' next game will be against Tonga next Tuesday.

USA: Freed, Faraimo, Garvey, Tagaloa, Petersen, J. Paulo, Priestly, J. Paulo, J. Luani, Pettybourne, Newton, Shipway, D. Howard.Replacements: Samoa, Offerdahl, S. Howard, Soloai.

Cook Islands: Low, L. Lulia, Gelling, K. Lulia, Rapana, Takairangi, John, Napa, Fepuleai, Tetavano, Taia, Peyroux, Arona. Replacements:Brunton, Mataora, Sopoaga, Tangata.

Referee: Ben Thaler (England)

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Wednesday 30 October 2013

Victorino Back for Red Sox

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Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino is back in the lineup for Game 6 of the World Series after missing the previous two contests with lower back tightness.

Red Sox manager John Farrell revealed his Game 6 lineup on Wednesday afternoon, with Victorino batting sixth in the order instead of his usual No. 2 spot.

In Victorino's absence, the Red Sox moved Dustin Pedroia (from third to second) and David Ortiz (from fourth to third) up a spot in the lineup.

Farrell, who made the revelation in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI, apparently liked what he saw from that order, which produced victories in Games 4 and 5.

First baseman Mike Napoli slides into the cleanup spot Wednesday in his first start since Game 5, with left fielder Jonny Gomes batting fifth.

Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will lead off, and rookie third baseman Xander Bogaerts, hortstop Stephen Drew and catcher David Ross round out the lineup.

The Red Sox lead the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 and are looking to win a World Series at home for the first time since 1918.

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Beckham Ponders MLB Franchise

Since leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy in December, and retiring from the game after a five-month stint at Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham has been mulling over the location for a prospective MLS franchise.

The former England captain has now made up his mind and he will pay a discounted rate of $25m (£16m) to start an MLS expansion team in Miami, someone with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because plans are not yet being publicly discussed.

The option of becoming a team owner was included in the MLS contract that Beckham signed when joining the LA Galaxy in 2007. "We know that Miami is one of the most passionate soccer markets in North America," the MLS executive vice president, Dan Courtemanche, said. "We have met with David Beckham regarding ownership of an expansion team, and we look forward to David one day owning an MLS club."

There are currently 19 MLS teams and the league commissioner, Don Garber, hopes to expand to 24 by the 2020 season. A 20th team is already in place to begin playing in 2015 after the Premier League club Manchester City and their partner, the New York Yankees, paid an expansion fee of $100m to launch New York City FC.

The MLS still has to give Beckham the go-ahead to make Miami the location of the franchise.

Beckham is looking to raise several hundred million dollars of investment to fund the setup costs, including putting together a squad of players and building a stadium, although the franchise could initially play in an existing venue.

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Tuesday 29 October 2013

Bale Joins Ballon d'Or Squad

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Gareth Bale is on the 23-man shortlist for the Fifa men's world footballer of the year award.

Wales forward Bale, 24, scored 26 goals for Tottenham last season before an £85m move to Real Madrid in the summer.

Five Premier League players in Eden Hazard, Mesut Ozil, Luis Suarez, Yaya Toure and Robin van Persie have also been nominated for the Ballon d'Or.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi will be looking to retain the award he has won for four years running.

Messi's club team-mates Andres Iniesta, Neymar - who moved to the Nou Camp from Santos in the summer - and Xavi also make the shortlist, as does Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney made the shortlist last year but has failed to do so this time, with no player from England, Scotland or Northern Ireland represented in the final 23.

Bayern Munich beat Barcelona on the way to winning the Champions League last season and they have six players up for the award.

The 23-man list will be whittled down to three in December before the winners will be announced on 13 January, 2014 in Zurich.

In terms of countries, Germany have the most players nominated with five, while Brazil, Netherlands, Spain and Uruguay have two apiece.

Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, France, Italy, Ivory Coast, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Wales each have one of their players in contention.

Bayern claimed the German league title and German Cup as they completed the treble in 2012-13 and their coach Jupp Heynckes, who has since been replaced by Pep Guardiola, is up for the coach of the year award.

Former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, Chelsea's Jose Mourinho and Napoli's Rafael Benitez are also part of the 10-man list in the running for coach of the year.

Benitez led Chelsea to the Europa League trophy last season before leaving for Napoli and being replaced at Stamford Bridge by Mourinho, who left Real Madrid in the summer after failing to win the La Liga or Champions League.

The winners will be voted for by the captains and head coaches of the men's national teams as well as by international media representatives selected by France Football magazine.

France Football started the Ballon d'Or to honour the European footballer of the year and England's Stanley Matthews was the first winner in 1956.

In 2007 the award became a world player gong and three years later it merged with Fifa's own world player honour.

Fifa world men's player of the year shortlist: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid/Wales), Edinson Cavani (Paris St-Germain/Uruguay), Radamel Falcao (Monaco/Colombia), Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Belgium), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St-Germain/Sweden), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona/Spain), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich/Germany), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund/Poland), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich/Germany), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich/Germany), Neymar (Barcelona/Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal/Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus/Italy), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/France), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich/Netherlands), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Portugal), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich/Germany), Luis Suarez (Liverpool/Uruguay), Thiago Silva (Paris St-Germain/Brazil), Yaya Toure (Manchester City/Ivory Coast), Robin Van Persie (Manchester United/Netherlands), Xavi (Barcelona/Spain).

Fifa coach of the year shortlist: Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid), Rafael Benítez (Napoli), Antonio Conte (Juventus), Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United's former manager), Jupp Heynckes (Bayern Munich's former coach), Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil), Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).

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