Wednesday 16 July 2014

Tony Gallopin to Stage 11 Victory

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Tony Gallopin, of Lotto-Belisol, won stage 11 of the Tour de France from Besancon to Oyonnax.

Gallopin broke away with about 1.5km to go and stayed clear with German John Degenkolb claiming second place in a sprint ahead of Italian Matteo Trentin.

The top of the general classification leaderboard remained unchanged.

Astana's Vincenzo Nibali keeps the yellow jersey as the overall leader - two minutes and 23 seconds ahead of Team Sky's Richie Porte.

Garmin-Sharp team leader Andrew Talansky, who won the Criterium du Dauphine last month and had been considered an outside contender for the Tour before its start, came close to being eliminated however.

The American, suffering with an injured back, was left behind by the peloton with about 80km to go and stopped by the roadside for several minutes to discuss the possibility of abandoning with Garmin-Sharp manager Robbie Hunter.

Talansky continued in tears and, encouraged by shouts from the team car and spectators, completed the rest of 187.5km (116.5 miles) alone, finishing inside the time limit, but 32 minutes and five seconds after the victorious Gallopin.

He is now more than 47 minutes adrift of Nibali overall.

Cannondale's Peter Sagan had seemed well set as the day's racing reached its final kilometres, but a stage win, to add to his huge lead in the green jersey standings, continues to elude the Slovakian.

After a game attack by Irish Tinkoff-Saxo rider Nicolas Roche had been swallowed up, Sagan was in a three-man group that caught leader Gallopin with less than five kilometres to go.

Stage 11 result
1. Tony Gallopin (France / Lotto-Belisol) 4:25:45
2. John Degenkolb (Germany / Giant) same time
3. Matteo Trentin (Italy / Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
4. Daniele Bennati (Italy / Tinkoff - Saxo)
5. Simon Gerrans (Australia / Orica)
6. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar)
7. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium / BMC Racing)
8. Samuel Dumoulin (France / AG2R)
9. Peter Sagan (Slovakia / Cannondale)
10. Kevin Reza (France / Europcar)

General classification after stage 11
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Astana) 46:59:23
2. Richie Porte (Aus/Team Sky) +2mins 23secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +2mins 47secs
4. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +3mins 01secs
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra/Lotto-Belisol) +3mins 12secs
6. Thibaut Pinot (Fra/FDJ) +3mins 47secs
7. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC) +3mins 56secs
8. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra/AG2R) +3mins 57secs
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Belkin) +4mins 8secs
10. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel/Lotto-Belisol) +4mins 18secs

Friday 11 July 2014

Messi Sets Barca Goal Record

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Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to become Barcelona's all-time record goalscorer as they cut the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid to four points ahead of their meeting next weekend with a 7-0 thrashing of Osasuna.

After a slow start, the hosts were sparked into life by Messi's opening goal as he flicked home at the near post from Alexis Sanchez's cross.

Sanchez was next on the scoresheet as he finished off a similar move involving Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba before Iniesta's wonderful strike from 25 yards made it 3-0.

Messi then broke another record by registering his 370th Barca goal to overtake Paulinho Alcantara as the club's record marksman before rounding off his hat-trick in between further strikes from Cristian Tello and Pedro Rodriguez.

"The victory is very important because we remain four points behind Madrid," Sanchez told Canal Plus.

"We played a great game and I am happy with my performance as I scored and provided an assist."

Next up for Barcelona is a trip to the Santiago Bernabéu next Sunday and Sanchez is sure they can get themselves back into the title race by ending Madrid's five-month unbeaten run in all competitions.

"I think we can beat Real Madrid in the Bernabéu and that would put us right in the fight for La Liga.

"Both teams will see themselves as favourites, they are the two biggest clubs in the world and it will be a great game. We are going to the Bernabéu with only the intention of winning."

Amazingly, Barca had to withstand a bright opening from Osasuna as Victor Valdes produced a great save to deny Emiliano Armenteros and Oriol Riera was rightly flagged offside as he put the rebound into the net.

However, the Catalans opened the scoring 10 minutes later when Sanchez was fed by Xavi and Messi got across his man to delicately touch home the Chilean's low cross.

Sanchez should have doubled his side's advantage two minutes later when he chipped over with just Andres Fernandez to beat, but the former Udinese man made amends when he side-footed home after a lovely one-two between Alba and Iniesta opened up the Osasuna defence.

Iniesta then made it 3-0 with just his second goal of the season 11 minutes before half-time with a sweetly struck left-footed effort that flew into the top corner.

Fernandez was forced into fine saves from Dani Alves and Xavi to ensure Barca didn't go in even further ahead at the break.

Osasuna should have got themselves back in the game early in the second-half as Riera and Roberto Torres failed to hit the target when presented with clear sights of goal.

They were soon further behind, though, as Messi slammed home Iniesta's cutback just after the hour mark to surpass Alcantara's 369 goals in 357 games between 1912 and 1927.

Substitute Tello got his side's fifth goal with virtually his first touch as he whipped the ball into the far corner from just outside the area.

Messi fittingly sealed his hat-trick as he received Dani Alves' pass before easily side-footing in from close range for his 31st goal of the season.

And Messi then teed up Pedro to make it 7-0 in stoppage time with a neat low finish past Fernandez.

24 Teams at EURO 2016

A UEFA official has claimed expanding the European Championship to 24 teams will not spoil the tournament or dilute its quality but it will allow more major soccer nations to take part.

After a group stage that went down to the wire in Poland and Ukraine, with even favourites Spain and Germany only squeezing through at the last minute, the worry is the expanded version in France in four years' time will not be as closely contested.

UEFA president Michel Platini defended the decision to expand earlier this week and reporters pressed 2012 tournament director Martin Kallen on the issue at a news conference on Friday.

"At the moment we have the best teams here, but there are great teams who are not," Kallen said, listing Switzerland, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovenia and Norway as examples.

"The Scots are also not here - they bring a lot of emotions, a lot of atmosphere with them. We need to see how 2016 will be. For sure this tournament will be more and more looked at because more nations can participate," added Kallen.

He also batted back questions about empty seats at a number of games in Poland and Ukraine, where interest in the tournament has taken a battering by the elimination of both host nations at the group stage for the second tournament running.

Kallen said that all games played so far had been sold out and that any gaps in the stadiums were due to fans who had bought tickets not being able or choosing not to travel. This was always a problem at tournaments, he said.

"If you have a team or both (host) teams which go to the quarter-finals of course that is better," he said.

"Here the two hosts were very close to getting out of their groups - in Switzerland and Austria, they were a little bit less close. But from our side it is not a point where we will award the Euros to countries that will go the quarter-finals."

He also said the economic crisis engulfing a number of nations whose teams are competing in this year's championship had clearly had an effect on the number of fans travelling.

"On the financial crisis, in terms of income we (UEFA) have recorded very high levels, if you look at the sponsorship and broadcast side in 2008, and 2004, and you cannot always have much more income on that side," he said.

"What we can see (is) that with certain countries in economic crisis less fans were travelling to Poland and Ukraine because they do not have the financial means to come here."

UEFA expects Euro 2012 to generate about €1.345bn in revenue, down slightly from the €1.351bn recorded from the finals in Austria and Switzerland.

Monday 7 July 2014

Alfredo Stefano di Stefano 1926 -2014

Alfredo Di Stéfano, probably the greatest player in Real Madrid’s history, has died at the age of 88.

The former Argentina, Colombia and Spain international suffered a heart attack in the street near Real Madrid’s Bernabéu stadium on Saturday – the day after his birthday – and had been in an induced coma in intensive care at Gregorio Marañon hospital in the centre of Madrid. 

Di Stéfano – who is Real Madrid’s honorary president – was attended to by emergency medical services before being transferred to hospital. The cardiac arrest lasted 18 minutes, according to the emergency services.

Di Stéfano has had several health scares in recent years and underwent a quadruple aorta-coronary bypass with a pacemaker implanted in December 2005 after suffering a myocardial infarction. After joining Real in 1953, he helped turn them into one of the world’s leading sides, winning five straight European Cups and scoring in each final between 1956 and 1960.

The Argentina-born forward also won eight Spanish league titles and was voted European player of the year in 1957 and 1959. 

He left Real in 1964 at the age of 38 having scored more than 300 goals across 11 seasons. Di Stéfano played at international level for three countries but never appeared at the World Cup.

He won six caps for Argentina and played four times for Colombia during a spell in that country’s league. However, his Colombia caps are not officially recognised by Fifa. Fifa said in 1954 he could not play for Spain but reversed that decision in 1957 after he gained citizenship and he went on to win 31 caps, scoring 23 goals.