Thursday 27 March 2014

Madrid Add Sevilla Defeat

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Real Madrid suffered their second La Liga loss of the week and lost ground in the title race with a 2-1 defeat at fifth-placed Sevilla.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a deflected free kick for Real, who were beaten by Barcelona on Sunday.

Madrid missed a host of chances, which included Ronaldo hitting the post before the break.

Carlos Bacca equalised and superb play from Ivan Rakitic created Bacca's second.

The visitors still had their chances to take at least a point, with Ronaldo and Gareth Bale spurning chances.

The defeat, coupled with wins for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, means Carlo Ancelotti's side have dropped to third in La Liga.

They are three points behind leaders Atletico,who defeated Granada 1-0, and two below Barcelona, who beat Celta Vigo 3-0, with eight games to play.

It is the first time Real have lost two successive league matches since May 2009.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti:

"In one sense the defeat could be deserved because we didn't prepare well for the counter-attack which Sevilla had and they scored two goals.

"We conceded two goals in the same way on the counter-attack when we needed more balance.

"We need to concentrate on our own games, it is true we have lost two games in a row and that is not good at this point in the season.

"We need to believe that we can win it still. We are three points behind Atletico and two behind Barcelona, everything is still possible."

Real Madrid's remaining games
29 March v Rayo Vallecano (h)
5 April v Real Sociedad (a)
12 April v Almeria (h)
27 April v Osasuna (h)
4 May v Valencia (h)
7 May v Real Valladolid (a)
11 May v Celta de Vigo (h)
18 May v Espanyol (h)

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Griffiths Questions Welsh Union

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Saracens CEO Edward Griffiths has praised the Welsh regions for their role in brokering a new European deal but has questioned the role of the Welsh Rugby Union.

The new European competition which will replace the Heineken Cup is expected to be confirmed in the next couple of days. Reports say the French and Italians are the last to sign the new accord but a deal is still set to be announced imminently.

The news will bring to an end two years of discussions over the future of European rugby and while Griffiths praised the Welsh regions for their part in the talks, he seemed less impressed with the WRU.

"I think some of the Welsh Rugby Union's behaviour has been erratic and unpredictable," Griffiths told the BBC. "Maybe they've come round to see a little bit of sense."

The new competition will be a 20-team format with six representatives from the Aviva Premiership, six from the Top 14 and seven from the RaboDirect PRO12. The final place will go to either the seventh-placed side in the French league or the English top flight.

Griffiths claims the new competition is "good news" for European rugby.

"I think everybody should be happy," Griffiths said. "The Welsh regions have been clear and been clear-minded in the whole process and deserve a lot of credit for sticking to their guns. At the end of the day this isn't good news for just the English clubs, or the French clubs, or the Welsh regions, it's good news for European rugby.

"We've got a competition with a fairer format and with a fairer financial distribution, and in fact there's no reason why this format won't actually generate more money for everyone. So it is truly a win, win, win competition and I think once the egos got out of the way it was fairly easy to find a solution.

"At the end of the day it's our responsibility as rugby administrators is to put the best possible competition on the table for the coaches and players to play in and the supporters to watch."

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Moyes Greek Miracle Shortlived

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David Moyes is facing a mutiny among his Manchester United squad with the players increasingly at odds with their manager over his tactics and training methods, according to the Daily Telegraph.

United's owners, the Glazer family, have continued to offer their backing to Moyes despite the dismal 3-0 derby humiliation at the hands of Manchester City at Old Trafford.

Tuesday's defeat was United's sixth league loss at home this season and 10th overall, and the players are now said to be running out of patience with Moyes' approach to the job.

The Red Devils are seventh in the Premier League, 12 points adrift of Champions League qualification and 18 points off leaders Chelsea.

The Daily Telegraph claims that Moyes' squad are alarmed at the inability of their manager to halt United's slide, which has seen them lose eight of their 17 games in 2014.

Defeat to City was United's second consecutive home loss in the league after their comprehensive 3-0 drubbing by Liverpool earlier this month.

The newspaper claims that the defeats against the two rivals have raised concerns among United's squad that Moyes' cautious approach is not suited to the club's attacking traditions.

The players are said to be disgruntled with the Scot's focus on sessions centred around team shape and organisation, compared to the ball-related training they did during former manager Sir Alex Ferguson's reign with coaches Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan, who all departed the club last summer.

Following the Liverpool defeat, sources told ESPN FC that key boardroom figures had turned against Moyes, while the prospect of the manager getting sacked had been properly raised for the first time.

Ferguson came in for verbal abuse from irate fans near the directors' box at Old Trafford on Tuesday over his decision to handpick Moyes as the club's next manager.

Stewards were also forced to protect the “Chosen One” banner in the Stretford End that shows United fans' support for Moyes as Ferguson's successor. Supporters' group Stretford End Flags, who created the banner, has insisted it will remain on display at Old Trafford.

However, while senior figures at the club are concerned over recent results, the Glazers and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward are said to be determined to judge Moyes at the end of the season rather than act now.

United end their campaign at Southampton on May 31 and will finish with their lowest-ever Premier League points total.

Robin van Persie publicly questioned Moyes' tactics after the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Olympiakos last month, claiming his teammates were "occupying the spaces I want to play in."

The club denied reports that Ryan Giggs had had a bust-up with Moyes over his tactics and training methods earlier this month.

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Piri Weepu Suffers Stroke

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New Zealand scrumhalf Piri Weepu will miss at least four weeks of Super Rugby for hisAuckland Blues side as he recovers from a minor stroke.

The 30-year-old had a scan on Monday after complaining of migraine-like symptoms dating back to the start of this month, and will need further tests to determine the cause of the stroke, the club said today.

“Piri and his family have the full support of the organisation. He’s getting the best possible care and advice and we are grateful this has been picked up by our medical experts, as often minor strokes remain undetected,” Blues head coach John Kirwan said on the team’s website (

The stroke may have occurred before the team travelled to South Africa in early March.

“Piri presented with transient symptoms that could have been from a migraine before he travelled and was cleared by specialists to travel, as long as he was monitored,” team doctor Stephen Kara said. “He had no other symptoms to raise further concern while we were away.

“We took the precaution of getting an MRI scan for him this week and we are thankful we are now getting to the bottom of this issue. Having spoken to Auckland City Hospital specialists, we are very confident that Piri’s condition is not associated with any injury, in particular, any head injury.

“This was a minor stroke and he is expected to make a full recovery. However, any stroke is serious for anyone at any age and we must now take the time to fully understand the cause of it and the implications for Piri.”

Bryn Hall will start at scrumhalf for the Blues, who lie eighth in the southern hemisphere competition and take on New Zealand rivals the Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday.

Kirwan has also promoted explosive inside centre Ma’a Nonu and fellow All BlackJerome Kaino to the starting side from the bench as the players recover from injuries. Kaino starts at blindside flanker as Steven Luatua shifts to number eight to cover Peter Saili, who had suffered a sore foot and was unable to take full part in training.

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Wednesday 19 March 2014

Woods Unlikely for Masters

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Tiger Woods has admitted he is a doubt for the Masters after announcing he has withdrawn from this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando with a bad back.

The world No1 posted a statement on his website saying he told Palmer in person that he would not be able to defend the title he has won eight times, including the past two years.

"Unfortunately my back spasms and the pain haven't subsided," Woods said. "It's too early to know about the Masters and I will continue to be evaluated and work closely with my doctors. I feel badly that I won't be able to play in this great tournament this week."

"I personally called Arnold to tell him that, sadly, I won't be able to play in his tournament this year," Woods said. "I would like to express my regrets to the Orlando fans, the volunteers, the tournament staff and the sponsors for having to miss the event.

Woods has been plagued by back problems since last year but his condition has worsened. He failed to finish the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens earlier this month, quitting after 13 holes in his final round.

Then he tweaked his back again at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami a week later and is uncertain whether he will play at the Masters, starting at Augusta National on 10 April.

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Monday 17 March 2014

Last Ball Win for Ireland

Zimbabwe were going at almost 10 runs an over before being pegged back and they posted 163-5 from their 20 overs.

Paul Stirling's quick-fire 60 put Ireland in control and they required four runs from the final over to win.

Two wickets fell, and with a run needed from the last ball Stuart Thompson scampered through to take Ireland to 164-7 and a three-wicket win.

Ireland had appeared to be cruising towards their 164 target after opener Paul Stirling's 34-ball 60.

The Middlesex right-hander hit nine boundaries and a six and with captain William Porterfield (31) added 80 runs for the opening wicket but swing bowler Tinashe Panyangara brought Zimbabwe back in the game by taking two wickets in the 15th over.

Panyangara, who was taken for 18 in his first over by Stirling, also dismissed the dangerous Kevin O'Brien (17) in the 18th over and returned to bowl the final over of the innings with Ireland needing just four runs for victory.

In the final over, Ireland lost Ed Joyce (20) to Panyangara and Max Sorensen to a run out off successive balls but managed to scamper for a bye off the last delivery for the winning run with wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor missing a run out.

Earlier, captain Taylor hit six fours and two sixes in scoring 59 off 46 balls after Zimbabwe had been put in.

Elton Chigumbura hit 22 off 13 balls with two sixes in the last over to take Zimbabwe to a competitive total after Irish spinners George Dockrell (2-18) and Andy McBrine (2-26) restricted them in the middle overs.

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Saturday 8 March 2014

Two Macs in Cadillac Ranch

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Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are one shot off the lead at the halfway stage of the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson carded the low round of the day with a two-under 70 and is also one adrift at level par.

Americans Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Dustin Johnson - who was three clear at one stage - lead.

Tiger Woods is six shots adrift after a 73 on a day when gusting winds caused more than 100 shots to find water.

The world number one, declared "we've all got a shot at it now" despite his one-over-par round leaving him seven shots off the pace.

Woods, who earlier in the day completed a first-round 76, his highest score in 40 completed rounds at the formidable Blue Monster course, mixed five bogeys and four birdies, including a 91-foot effort at the par three fourth.

At the same stage in last year's tournament 43 players were under par.

But with 14 of the 18 holes at the redesigned Trump National lay-out featuring water, only Donaldson, McDowell (71) and American Chris Kirk, who shares 11th after a 71, returned under par second rounds on a day when the average score was four-over-par 76.

"It was just about playable," said McDowell, who dropped only one stroke in round two. "I can't remember playing in stronger winds, certainly on this side of the pond."

McIlroy, who began the round two shots off the lead after an opening 70, played the first nine in 40 after two bogeys and a double bogey but picked up his first birdie with a six-foot putt at the 11th.

At the 224-yard part three 12th he sent a five-wood to 18 inches to earn another birdie and, after dropping a shot at the 14th, he birdied the 16th having driven through the green at the par four hole.

Donaldson took his shoes and socks off and stood in the water to play out from the edge of a hazard during his round, which contained three birdies.

Open champion Phil Mickelson, playing alongside McIlroy, began his round with three successive double bogeys.

He recovered to compile five birdies and, with no cut in the event, Mickelson is in a group including Woods and Englishman Ian Poulter sharing 25th place at five over.

World number two Adam Scott, who can replace Woods at the top of the world rankings if he wins the event and the American finishes outside the top-10, is one shot better off in a tie for 21st at plus four after a second successive round featuring four birdies and two double bogeys.
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