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Update December 2017

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

Update December 11, 2017

Record-setting City win derby for 11-point lead in EPL

Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi, right, scores his side's second goal during the English Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, Sunday, Dec. 10. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Steve Douglas

Manchester, England (AP) — Surely nothing can stop Manchester City now.

The race for the Premier League title is turning into a procession after City beat fierce rivals Manchester United 2-1 on Sunday, extending their lead to 11 points in a record-breaking start to the season.

This 14th straight victory for City is a record run in a single top-flight season. No team has ever had this many points — 46 — after 16 games in the Premier League. To put City's form into context, 46 points would have secured eighth place in the league last season.

It's only early December.

Pep Guardiola's team is doing it in style, too. Having already beaten Liverpool 5-0 and overwhelmed Chelsea in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge, City came to Old Trafford to play the other member of the current top four and had 65 percent possession and almost twice the number of shots.

For most of the first half and in the final stages of the second half, United were overrun in a stadium where they hadn't lost in any competition since September 2016 — against City, 41 home games ago.

Given their eye-catching style of play, the irony was that City's two goals couldn't have been scrappier. Both came from defensive mistakes from United striker Romelu Lukaku at set pieces, with David Silva (in the 43rd) and Nicolas Otamendi (in the 54th) the gleeful recipients with close-range finishes.

Marcus Rashford equalized in first-half injury time, also benefiting from a defensive mistake from Otamendi, and United manager Jose Mourinho was left to bemoan the failure of Michael Oliver to award a penalty for what he thought was a trip by Otamendi on Ander Herrera. Instead, Herrera was booked for simulation.

"We can speak about anything you want," Mourinho said, "bring any football theory, bring any stats, ball possession, you can bring anything you want. But like last season, there is a huge penalty (not awarded) in a crucial moment of the game."

Guardiola, unsurprisingly, saw it differently.

"We won," Guardiola said, "because we were better."

And in a nod to his critics, Guardiola added: "I am happy because so many people say you cannot win in England playing like this."

In the other neighborly rivalry on derby day in the Premier League, Wayne Rooney converted a penalty to earn Everton a 1-1 draw at Merseyside rivals Liverpool. Arsenal scored in the 88th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw at Southampton in the day's other game.

Both fourth-place Liverpool and fifth-place Arsenal can only realistically think about second place now, which says a lot considering the Premier League hasn't even reached the busy festive period yet.

That is the standard being set by City.



Set pieces were supposed to be United's strength and City's weakness. So even Guardiola accepted the peculiarity of City's goals coming from that route.

For Silva's opener, Lukaku was tussling with Otamendi at a corner and only succeeded in deflecting Kevin De Bruyne's inswinging delivery right into the path of Silva to dispatch from inside the six-yard box.

Rashford equalized after Otamendi failed to deal with Marcos Rojo's long ball forward and ended up flicking a header into the path of the United striker.

Otamendi made amends — but again Lukaku was at fault. His attempted clearance from Silva's free kick struck the back of teammate Chris Smalling and fell to Otamendi, who slammed the loose ball home.

City were grateful to goalkeeper Ederson Moraes for producing a brilliant double save, off Lukaku then Juan Mata, in the 84th minute to preserve their lead and win 2-1 at Old Trafford in the league for a second straight season.



An innocuous push by Dejan Lovren cost Liverpool dear in a Merseyside derby that they had dominated.

The center back gave Dominic Calvert-Lewin a nudge in the back when Everton's striker was heading away from goal and Rooney converted the penalty after lots of complaints from Liverpool's players.

Liverpool took the lead through Mohamed Salah's league-high 13th goal of the season and had chances to wrap up the win before Lovren's mistake.

Everton still haven't won at Anfield since 1999, but remained unbeaten in three matches under new manager Sam Allardyce.



Olivier Giroud made the difference off the bench again for Arsenal.

The France striker scored an 88th-minute equalizer for his 17th goal as a substitute in the Premier League. That matches a record he holds with former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Giroud, on as a 72nd-minute replacement, glanced home Alexis Sanchez's left-wing cross as Arsenal's late pressure told at St. Mary's Stadium. Charlie Austin gave Southampton the lead in the third minute.


Lomachenko stops Rigondeaux to win match of Olympic greats

Vasyl Lomachenko, left, punches Guillermo Rigondeaux during the third round of their WBO junior lightweight title bout Saturday, Dec. 9, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Brian Mahoney

New York (AP) — Vasyl Lomachenko doesn't just beat fighters. He makes them quit.

Even Guillermo Rigondeaux, who had never even lost a fight as a pro.

"I guess I should change my name now to NoMaschenko," Lomachenko said.

Lomachenko won their bout Saturday night when Rigondeaux's corner stopped the fight after six rounds because the boxer was complaining of pain in his left hand.

Lomachenko was easily winning boxing's first pro match between two-time Olympic gold medalists when Rigondeaux and his trainers jointly called for the match to be stopped.

Promoter Dino Duva said Rigondeaux first felt pain in the second round and hurt it more significantly in the third. Duva said doctors believed the hand could be broken and were sending the 2000 and 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Cuba to the hospital for X-rays.

Duva said the injury came from a punch — though Rigondeaux certainly didn't hit Lomachenko with many of them.

"Where did he hurt his hand, in the dressing room?" promoter Bob Arum said.

Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) earned his seventh straight victory by stoppage and defended his WBO 130-pound title. And for the fourth straight time, his match ended with his opponent quitting.

Rigondeaux lost for the first time in his 18 pro fights and was loudly booed afterward by a crowd that was supporting both fighters early in the match.

But it was quickly apparent that the 2008 and 2012 gold medalist was too much for the 37-year-old Rigondeaux, the 122-pound champion who was moving up two weight classes for the historic match.

"I adjusted to his style, low blows and all," Lomachenko said.

Long one of boxing's best defensive fighters, even Rigondeaux couldn't find a way to defend himself against Lomachenko's onslaught.

"It just amazes me what this guy does to an opponent," Duva said. "He just frustrates his opponent so bad you don't even know what to do."

Lomachenko started cautiously but by the third round he had begun finding his way through Rigondeaux's defense.

He was leading 59-54 on two judges' cards and 60-53 on the other, and a fighter who does as little offensively as Rigondeaux was unlikely to make that up even if he could've continued.

"I'm going to come back and fight against anybody because there are no excuses," Rigondeaux said through a translator.

Rigondeaux would have liked the fight at a lower weight but the height difference may have been a bigger problem. Giving up three inches to the 5-foot-7 Lomachenko, he frequently was caught when he tried to lunge forward for shots and couldn't slip Lomachenko's accurate punches, and when he kept trying to duck lower and lower Lomachenko even hit him on top of the head.

It was tense in the fifth round, when Rigondeaux was warned for hitting on the break and they jawed at each other after the bell sounded to end the round. But Lomachenko came back and scored with some solid shots in the sixth, and it became a bigger round for him when Rigondeaux had a point deducted for holding.

Moments later, it was over.

Lomachenko won titles in two weight classes after just seven fights and it may not be long until he has a chance at another, possibly moving up to lightweight next year.

Former Olympic medalists Shakur Stevenson and Michael Conlan were among the winners on the undercard. Stevenson (4-0, 2 KOs) outclassed Oscar Mendoza (4-3) before referee Sparkle Lee stopped the featherweight bout midway through the second round. Fighting near his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, the southpaw who won silver in 2016 landed sometimes three or four punches in rapid succession before Mendoza could get out of the way.

Conlan (5-0) delighted the contingent of Irish flag-waving fans with a unanimous decision victory over Argentina's Luis Molina (4-4-1), winning every round of the six-round bout in his first pro victory that didn't come by stoppage.

Conlan peppered Molina with combinations to the body and left uppercuts to the chin in the arena where he made his professional debut last year on St. Patrick's Day. Arum also plans to have the 2012 bronze medalist from Belfast fight again next year on the March 17 holiday.

Sri Lanka trounce India by seven wickets

India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni, left, plays a shot during their first one-day international cricket match against Sri Lanka in Dharmsala, India, Sunday, Dec. 10. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Chetan Narula

Dharamsala, India (AP) — Sri Lanka beat India by seven wickets in the first one day international on Sunday to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Earlier, Suranga Lakmal picked up a career-best 4-13 as India were bowled out for 112 runs in 38.2 overs.

Chasing 113, the visitors rode Upul Tharanga's 49 runs to scale the target in 20.4 overs to secure the one-sided victory.

Defending the lowly total, India started well as Jasprit Bumrah (1-32) had opener Danushka Gunathilaka (1) caught behind.

A short time later, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1-42) bowled Lahiru Thirimanne for a three-ball duck as Sri Lanka were reduced to 19-2.

Bumrah also had Tharanga caught at gully in the sixth over, but his delivery was deemed a no ball. The batsman then stabilized Sri Lanka's innings and put on 46 runs with Angelo Mathews (25 not out).

Hardik Pandya (1-39) was taken for runs but he managed to get Tharanga caught behind.

Thereafter, Mathews added 49 runs for the fourth wicket with Niroshan Dickwella (26 not out) and took Sri Lanka home.

"We need to give 200 per cent credit to our bowlers. They bowled very well. This was an unplayable wicket and we didn't expect it to be so. Lakmal is our No. 1 bowler. He did well in the test series for us too," said Thisara Perera, the Sri Lanka skipper, after the win.

India started the match on the back foot and at one point were reduced to 29-7.

MS Dhoni scored 65 runs as he salvaged some pride for the hosts. Even so, this was India's lowest ODI total at home since 1993 when they were bowled out for 100 by the West Indies at Ahmedabad.

"We were not up to the mark today. There weren't enough runs on the board. If we had another 70-80 runs, we could have made a game out of it. But we will not get flat wickets every day and this will be a learning curve for us. We have to look forward to the two remaining matches," said Rohit Sharma, India's stand-in skipper, after the loss.

Put into bat, India started poorly as both openers were dismissed with the scoreboard on 2-2. Angelo Mathews (1-8) trapped Shikhar Dhawan (0) lbw, while Rohit Sharma (2) was caught behind off Lakmal.

Lakmal was nearly unplayable as the Indian top order struggled. Dinesh Karthik was out lbw for an 18-ball duck and Manish Pandey (2) was caught at slip.

Nuwan Pradeep (2-37) got into the act as debutant Shreyas Iyer (9) played on. Afterwards, Hardik Pandya (10) edged him to slip with India toiling at 28-6.

Lakmal bowled ten overs on the bounce and picked up Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0). He improved on his previous best of 4-30 against England at Pallekele in 2014.

Dhoni then came to India's rescue and scored his 67th ODI half-century off 78 balls. He anchored the innings with a 41-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Kuldeep Yadav (19).

Then he added another 17 runs with Jasprit Bumrah (0) and 15 with Yuzvendra Chahal (0 not out), pushing India past an unlikely 100 in the 37th over.

Two overs later, Dhoni was last man out, caught at deep cover off Thisara Perera (1-29). Overall, he faced 87 balls and hit 10 fours along with two sixes.

The second ODI is scheduled for Mohali on Dec. 13.

Marcel Hirscher comes from behind to win World Cup slalom

Austria's Marcel Hirscher competes during an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom, in Val D'Isere, France, Sunday, Dec. 10. (AP Photo/Shin Tanaka)

Val D'Isere, France (AP) — Marcel Hirscher quickly disappeared from the finish area after his disappointing opening run of a men's World Cup slalom on Sunday.

The Austrian star went back to the hotel, studied video footage of his run, changed his ski equipment, and beat the field by a large margin few hours later.

"After the first run I was in shock about how much I struggled. It wasn't easy for me," said Hirscher, who ended up beating his main slalom rival, Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, by 0.39 seconds, while Andre Myhrer of Sweden was another 0.01 behind in third.

"In the second run I wanted to try something different," Hirscher said. "We used a completely different setup, and it has worked out perfectly."

Hirscher and his team managed to adapt his skis better to the tough conditions on the Stade Olympique de Bellevarde course. Dense snowfall made for a slope with lots of soft spots, so Hirscher decided to use skis with less sharp edges.

It helped the six-time overall champion from Austria to overcome a deficit of more than half a second from the first leg, which Hirscher finished in eighth. It was the Austrian's 47th career win and first in a slalom race since breaking his left ankle in a practice run in August.

"My skiing is good again, but my looseness is still miles away from where it once was," said Hirscher, who trailed first-run leader Stefano Gross of Italy by 0.55 seconds after the opening leg.

Eyeing his second career win, Gross posted only the 20th fastest time in the final run and dropped to sixth. It was the fourth time that the Italian slalom specialist failed to capitalize on winning an opening run. His only triumph so far came in Adelboden, Switzerland, in January 2015. He also has 10 top-three finishes.

Many racers struggled on the course, which contained spots of slippery ice as well as soft snow, while snow on their goggles limited visibility. Before the start, course workers removed a 30-centimeter layer of fresh snow off the race line.

Kristoffersen, the second pre-race favorite alongside Hirscher, also improved after finishing 0.41 off the lead in fourth in the opening run.

"I had too many mistakes and I was at the limit so I am satisfied with second place," the Norwegian said. "I took a lot of risks, was very fast in parts. But Marcel is an incredible ski racer, hats off to him."

Kristoffersen also finished second in the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, in November, and has taken the lead in the discipline standings with 180 points, 46 clear of Hirscher.

Germany's Felix Neureuther, who won the race in Levi, is out indefinitely after damaging his left knee in practice.

The men's World Cup next travels to Val Gardena, Italy, for speed races on Friday and Saturday.

Update December 9 - 10, 2017

Elite thoroughbred race horses killed in California wildfire

Terrified horses gallop from San Luis Rey Downs as the Lilac Fire sweeps through the horse-training facility, Thursday, Dec. 7, in San Diego, California. (Paul Sisson/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

Andrew Dalton and Julie Watson

San Diego (AP) — Hundreds of elite thoroughbred race horses sprinted away from flames Thursday as one of California's major wildfires tore through a training center in San Diego County.

Not all made it.

There was no official count of how many animals were killed in the hazy confusion as both horses and humans evacuated, but trainers at San Luis Rey Downs estimated that at least a dozen had died, possibly far more.

Horses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars who are usually carefully walked from place to place were simply set free and encouraged to run away as flames engulfed the center near Bonsall, which is just a few miles from where the fire broke out.

Mac McBride, who was working with the center's trainers, said it was "total pandemonium when several hundred horses were cut loose," but he believes most of the about 450 horses stabled there survived. McBride, who works at the Del Mar race track, said some horses were evacuated to the nearby track where many of them compete.

"There was so much smoke it was difficult to see," said horse trainer Dan Durham, who got his 20 horses rounded up and was loading them into vans to be evacuated. "Some of the horses were turned loose so they could be safe. They were scattered around."

San Luis Rey Downs is home to horses that run at nearby Del Mar and other top-flight California tracks like Santa Anita Park. Doug O'Neill, whose horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup races, is among the trainers who keep at least part of their stable there.

The sign at the front calls it "Home of Azeri," the now-retired mare who was the 2002 U.S. Horse of the Year who earned over $4 million in her career.

Los Alamitos Race Course, the track where Southern California's rotating thoroughbred circuit is currently running, canceled all races Friday so that the racing community can mourn.

Horse trainer Scott Hansen said he knows some of the 30 horses he had at the facility were killed.

"I don't know how many are living and how many are dead," Hansen said. "I guess I'll have to figure that out in the morning." For now, he said he was concentrating on getting his horses that survived to evacuation centers.

Another trainer, Cliff Sise, told KFMB-TV that he saw about 10 horses die, including his own filly.

"It was dark, everything was hot and she wouldn't come out. I opened the pen and tried to get behind her and get her out, and she wouldn't get out," Sise said. "She burned to death that quick."

Nadal and Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards


Garbine Muguruza of Spain. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

London (AP) — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation's player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men's world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

"Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me," said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. "(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain."

Better reliability and team harmony keys to Hamilton's title


Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is shown in this Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — Lewis Hamilton credits improved reliability from Mercedes and a better relationship with his teammate as key factors behind his fourth Formula One championship.

He scored points in every F1 race this year, a first for him. He won nine, and broke Michael Schumacher's record for pole positions. He has 72 to go with his 62 race wins, second only to Schumacher's 91.

"I'm incredibly grateful to the team, we've had the best reliability," Hamilton said on Friday. "I don't remember another team having this reliability."

Hamilton finished 46 points clear of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who won five races but capitulated in the second half of the season.

Hamilton has won the F1 title in three of the past four seasons with Mercedes, losing out to former teammate Nico Rosberg last year.

The two were teenage friends from their karting years, but the relationship turned increasingly sour from 2014-16. Rosberg was twice runner-up. Then, the German driver clinched his only F1 title in the final race of 2016.

Hamilton's bitterness toward Rosberg seemingly lingers. He described him in minimal terms on Friday as "a member of the team last year."

Hamilton much prefers fighting Vettel than Rosberg, who has retired.

"This year is the best year. I knew I would be fighting against Ferrari," Hamilton said. "I wanted to bring a positive, rebuilt (and) re-structured me into the team."

Rosberg stunned F1 by retiring days after securing his 2016 title, leaving Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff to scramble for a new driver. He hired Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas from Williams.

"For me it was a lucky moment," Bottas said on Friday at an event hosted by FIA. "I called Toto. I just wanted to make sure they knew I wanted to be in this team."

Hamilton claims to enjoy "perfect harmony" with Bottas. When asked to compare him with Rosberg, Hamilton was curt.

"I wouldn't compare them, I have no plans to," Hamilton said.

On Bottas, he added, "There's an incredible amount of respect between us. Ultimately we want to win the right way by being the fastest on the track. There's nothing happening in the background, he's not trying to do it any other way."

Bottas won three races and finished 58 points behind Hamilton in third place.

"He's very strong in his mind," Hamilton said. "I'm anticipating he's going to be even stronger next year, so I had better stay on my toes."

Although Hamilton's winning margin over Vettel was comfortable, the contest was tense until Vettel's unexpected dip.

Hamilton trailed Vettel at the summer break and, after moving narrowly ahead, looked set to fall behind again in September at the Singapore Grand Prix. Vettel was starting from pole alongside teammate Kimi Raikkonen on a sinewy street circuit more suited to Ferrari. Furthermore, Hamilton was starting fifth.

It was the perfect scenario for Vettel to regain the championship lead.

But Vettel crashed trying to cut off Max Verstappen, causing a four-car collision that took them both out along with Raikkonen and McLaren's Fernando Alonso.

It was the soccer equivalent of Vettel, a four-time F1 champion, scoring an own goal.

Hamilton won to move 28 points ahead overall. Vettel was then hampered by reliability woes, finishing fourth in Malaysia and failing to score in Japan.

"I don't know whether or not if we would have won the championship (otherwise)," Hamilton said. "They lost a ton of points in those races, and at the race in Baku (Azerbaijan) where (Vettel) lost a potential win."

Although Vettel finished fourth in Baku in late June and Hamilton was fifth, he wasted valuable points after being hit with a time penalty. Irritated by what he perceived to be Hamilton's deliberately slow driving behind a safety car — known in F1 as brake-testing — Vettel accelerated and swerved into the left side of his Mercedes.

"I'm sure he's learned a lot," Hamilton said of Vettel. "I can't expect him to make the same mistakes next year."

Vettel said on Friday his Baku rashness left him feeling worse than his Singapore slump.

Women's World Cup combined canceled because of thick fog

Writing on a giant screen announces the cancelling of the second portion of an alpine ski, women's World Cup combined race, in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Friday, Dec. 8. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

Graham Dunbar

St. Moritz, Switzerland (AP) — A World Cup combined event was canceled because of thick fog on Friday, soon after Mikaela Shiffrin was fastest in the opening slalom run.

The poor conditions wiped away Shiffrin's chances of adding to her overall lead in the standings. Organizers first pushed back the super-G start time and then decided to scrap it.

Later, the American defending overall champion lost a second chance to win the event. Race organizers declined an option to let Saturday's scheduled super-G double up as the second run of the combined.

Lindsey Vonn wasn't surprised that racing was stopped.

"I don't foresee the super-G being able to happen, it's so foggy," Vonn said after placing 25th in slalom, 3.33 seconds behind her American teammate. "You can't even free ski down the hill."

Organizers tried to defy the gloomy forecast by flipping the race order. Fog and strong winds higher up the hill made the super-G course too dangerous in the morning.

Shiffrin did not have the cleanest slalom run, but she finished 0.39 seconds ahead of Swiss rival Wendy Holdener. In February, Holdener won the combined gold medal when St. Moritz hosted the world championships.

Shiffrin trailed after almost losing her balance though the first steep section after a start on flat terrain, then gained time lower down.

In third place, world silver medalist Michelle Gisin of Switzerland was 1.21 seconds back.

Still, Shiffrin can still look with confidence to super-G races scheduled Saturday and Sunday having placed placing fifth in the speed discipline last Sunday in Lake Louise, Canada.

For the first time since March 2015, former Olympic champion Julia Mancuso started a World Cup race. She finished almost eight seconds behind the leader.

"It was fun to be back in the start and I made it to the finish," said Mancuso, who was returning from hip surgery. "Today was not the result of my injury, it was the result of lack of training."

Mancuso, who has won medals in three straight Olympics, is targeting the super-G event to make the U.S. team for the Pyeongchang Games.

The weather denied her a chance to race super-G on Friday.

"I felt like when I got up this morning and they changed the order, that I was being punked," joked Mancuso, who hopes to start in the two World Cup super-G races this weekend.

Update December 8, 2017

Marseille, Bilbao, Copenhagen advance in Europa League

Arsenal's Theo Walcott scores his sides second goal during the Europa League Group H match against BATE Borisov at Emirates Stadium in London, Thursday, Dec. 7. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Karel Janicek

London (AP) - Former Champions League winners Marseille, along with Copenhagen, Athletic Bilbao and AEK Athens were among the eight teams to qualify for the knockout stage of Europa League on the final night of group matches on Thursday.

Marseille advanced from Group I after a 0-0 home draw to group winners Salzburg.

Bilbao clinched the top spot in Group J after a 2-0 victory at Ukraine's Zorya Luhansk.

In the battle for second spot in Group H behind already-qualified Arsenal, Red Star Belgrade eliminated Cologne with a 1-0 victory.

Earlier, Copenhagen and Lokomotiv both advanced from the tightly contested Group F after victories over Sheriff Tiraspol and Zlin, respectively.

AEK needed a point and got it from a 0-0 draw at Austria Vienna to join AC Milan in the next phase from Group D.

Two other clubs advanced from the early kickoffs, with Astana making it through from Group A after a 1-0 victory at Slavia Prague, and a 1-1 draw at Hoffenheim proving enough for Bulgaria's Ludogorets Razgrad to qualify from Group C.

Sixteen clubs had already booked their places in the round of 32, which will also include eight third-place teams from the group stage of the Champions League.

Elsewhere, already eliminated Everton recorded their first victory of the campaign, a 3-0 win at Apollon Limassol, courtesy of two first-half strikes by Ademola Lookman and another by Nikola Vlasic three minutes before the final whistle.

The draw for the Round of 32 will be held on Monday.

Here's a look at Thursday's Europa League action:



Croatian champions Rijeka spoiled the European debut for Milan's new coach Gennaro Gattuso with a 2-0 victory in Group D.

A perfectly executed free kick by Jakov Puljic shocked the Italian powerhouse seven minutes into the game and Mario Gavranovic extended that lead two minutes into the second half.

Milan, one of the competition's favorites, had already secured top spot in the group with 11 points, three more than AEK, who drew their last five group stage games.

Rijeka and Austria Vienna are eliminated.



Pieros Sotiriou and Michael Lueftner scored in the space of three minutes early in the second half to help Copenhagen to a 2-0 victory over Sheriff Tiraspol and a place in the next stage. Group F had remained wide open until the last round of matches.

A draw would have been enough for the Moldovan champions to make the next round for the first time.

Aleksei Miranchuk scored in the 70th minute and Jefferson Farfan added another five minutes later for Lokomotiv to seal a 2-0 away victory over Czech side Zlin.

Lokomotiv finished top of the group with 11 points, followed by Copenhagen two points behind. Tiraspol also finished on nine points but were eliminated by their head-to-head results.



Already certain to finish top of Group H, Arsenal completed the group stage with 13 points and a 6-0 rout of BATE Borisov.

Mathieu Debuchy, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere all scored in the first half to put the outcome beyond doubt. Denis Polyakov made it 4-0 in the second half with an own goal before Olivier Giroud netted from the penalty spot for his 17th goal in his 40th appearance in European competitions. Mohamed Elneny finished BATE off with the sixth.

Cologne have endured a miserable season at home after 11 losses in 14 games, and have only three points at the bottom of the Bundesliga.

Europe is no consolation.

Midfielder Slavoljub Srnic scored the decider in the 22nd minute for Red Star to join Arsenal in the next round with nine points.

Cologne are eliminated with six points, followed by Borisov on five.

US team still planning for Olympics despite confusion

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is shown in this Nov. 29, 2017, file photo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Eddie Pells

Washington D.C. (AP) - Members of the Trump administration surprised the U.S. Olympic Committee by suggesting the nation's participation at the upcoming Pyeongchang Games in South Korea was "an open question," and the USOC responded by saying it has no plans on pulling out.

The confusion began when U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, in response to a question in a Fox News interview, said "There's an open question" about whether the U.S. team would travel to South Korea, where tensions have grown high after a series of missile tests in North Korea and inflammatory rhetoric between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The USOC responded with a statement Thursday saying plans to compete in the Olympics, which run Feb. 9-25, hadn't changed. Shortly after that, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters "no official decision has been made."

She later clarified in a tweet, saying: "The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues."

The USOC doesn't receive federal funding, and technically, the official decision on participating belongs to the committee and the athletes themselves, all of whom would be guided by directives from the State Department, which has not issued any travel restrictions to South Korea.

The USOC is in frequent contact with the State Department, the organizing committee in South Korea and law enforcement about security issues in Korea and other places that members of the U.S. team travel.

"Each host city presents a unique challenge from a security perspective, and that is no different in this regard," spokesman Mark Jones said. "We will continue to work with (authorities) to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe."

In September, the USOC's head of security, Nicole Deal, sent a letter to members of the U.S. delegation saying, "Despite current political tensions with North Korea, there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in South Korea."

That same week, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said, "From our perspective, with the information we currently have, it's full-steam ahead."

It's the same position the USOC held as of Thursday, and athletes who have been faced with the question haven't wavered on their intention to compete.

"I was in Pyeongchang last February and as far as I've been told over the past year by the USOC, everything is basically the same," figure skater Nathan Chen said last month. "I didn't feel any security threats while I was there and I feel like everything will be basically the same for this upcoming Games. I trust the USOC 100 percent and I know that they would do the best for all of their athletes."

Boxing tries to appeal to the masses once again

Vasyl Lomachenko, of Ukraine, punches a bag during a workout at a Manhattan boxing gym Wednesday, Dec. 6, in New York, while preparing for his Saturday WBO super featherweight title fight against Guillermo Rigondeaux. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Tim Dahlberg

New York (AP) - Boxing fans get an early holiday gift Saturday when two masterful fighters with four Olympic gold medals between them meet in an intriguing 130-pound title bout.

The best part? It won't cost them anything over their basic cable bill to watch it.

The future of boxing is changing, or so Bob Arum believes. And nowhere is that more evident than the card put together by the longtime promoter in the theater at Madison Square Garden.

Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux — one from Ukraine, the other Cuba — meet in a title clash that is as good as it gets in the lower weight classes. And they do on ESPN instead of pay-per-view or the premium cable networks that have dominated boxing in the past.

Boxing is back in front of the masses. And so far the masses seem to like what they're seeing.

"A lot more people will be aware of these guys than if they fought on a premium network," Arum said. "We have a much bigger megaphone with a 24-hour sports network."

Arum's new alliance with the cable network giant started in July when Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn drew some 3 million viewers for their fight in Australia. Lomachenko drew decent ratings on a card of his own, and Terence Crawford was also featured in a Saturday night broadcast in August.

And with 18 dates scheduled for next year on ESPN — many of them in the prime Saturday night slot — expect to see Top Rank's best fighters on a regular basis on the network.

"You'd have to go back to the '70s to a time when all the big fights were on free TV," Arum said. "In the '80s we had less and less, and then we had none to speak of."

Boxing's reliance on paid TV gave the top fighters big paydays over the years, and served promoters like Arum well. Showtime and HBO paid well for the big fights, and the biggest went to pay-per-view.

But it was a flawed business model for long term success. Fans didn't get to see their favorite fighters in the ring enough, and promoters treated each fight card as if it were a one-off event.

Arum was one of the guilty, and admits he and fellow promoters did the sport wrong while chasing profits.

"You're 100 percent right for implicating me and the other promoters," Arum said. "We went for the catnip, there's no question about that. But what we did was shrink our product, and shrink the acceptance of our product."

The idea of bringing boxing back to prime-time network TV is not a new one. The secretive Al Haymon has put his stable of Premier Boxing Champions fighters on network TV for the last three years, though they have bounced around on different networks and have mainly of late been relegated to lower-tier cable networks.

But Arum believes the strategy spearheaded by his stepson, Todd duBoef, to have a stable of boxers each fight three to four times a year on regularly scheduled ESPN cards will provide the same kind of name recognition and continuity that UFC has used so successfully in its TV model.

Lomachenko will be a key test of that theory. The boxer who won two Olympic golds for Ukraine came to the U.S. to make himself a big name, and his appearance on a card heavily promoted by ESPN will go a long way to turning him into more of a household name.

Rigondeaux also has two gold medals he won for Cuba and is undefeated in 17 pro fights. The big knock on Rigondeaux is that he is too defensive and won't exchange in fights, though Arum believes that will change when Lomachenko pressures him Saturday in New York.

"He's got the Cuban style and doesn't take chances to win decisions, but he can't do that with Lomachenko," Arum said. "Lomachenko won't let him pile up a big points lead and then it becomes a real fight. I think Lomachenko knocks him out in the late rounds."

In an interesting programming note, HBO will also televise a card Saturday from Las Vegas featuring Orlando Salido, the only fighter to beat Lomachenko.

The day after the Garden fight, Arum — who turns 86 on Friday — gets on a plane for Australia for Horn's title defense next Wednesday against Gary Corcoran, which will be seen in the early morning hours in the U.S. on ESPN. There are plans for another Pacquiao fight in the spring as well as a Crawford fight, with the possibility the two will meet in the fall.

There's a long way to go, and promises have been broken in boxing before. But Arum believes the sport can overcome its own self-inflicted mistakes.

"Everyone was to blame, there wasn't just one culprit," he said. "It was the disease of being short-sighted."

Ronaldo moves level with archrival Messi with 5 Ballon d'Ors

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo gestures during the Champions League Group H match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — A decade of dominance as the world's two best soccer players has left Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi level with five Ballon d'Or awards each.

Despite once trailing 4-1 to his longtime rival, Ronaldo moved level after winning the award again on Thursday.

"With Messi the fight continues, in a good way," Ronaldo said after being presented the trophy awarded by France Football magazine at a ceremony held at the Eiffel Tower.

Messi was second in the voting and Neymar, who left Barcelona in the offseason to join Paris Saint-Germain for a world record transfer fee of 222 million Euros ($262 million), was third.

Overall, Messi has a very slight edge.

The 30-year-old Messi has been runner-up to Ronaldo on each of his wins.

Ronaldo has been runner-up to Messi four times, with the exception being when midfielder Andres Iniesta — Messi's brilliant club teammate — finished second in 2010 after scoring the winner for Spain in the World Cup final. Ronaldo did not make the podium that year, with Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi taking third place.

He has bounced back to win the last two.

Ronaldo was shown on television receiving his latest award Thursday while making the sign of five with his left hand as he held the trophy in his right.

"Of course, I feel happy, it's a big moment in my career," Ronaldo said. "It's something I hope to win every year."

The 32-year-old Portugal forward also took home the Ballon d'Or prize in 2013 and 2014, and in 2008 when playing for Manchester United.

Messi won it from 2009-12 — with Ronaldo runner-up three times during the period — and in 2015 ahead of Ronaldo and Neymar.

Ronaldo claimed it back last year after helping Portugal win the European Championship and starring for Madrid as they won the Champions League.

"Thanks to my Real Madrid teammates," Ronaldo said, adding. "I want to thank the rest of the people who helped me reach this level."

Last season he won the Champions League once again — scoring twice in a 4-1 rout of Juventus in the final — and played a key role as Madrid won the Spanish league title for the first time since 2012. His league tally of 25, however, was his lowest since joining the club in 2009.

Ronaldo is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Champions League with 115 goals.

"If he can score 10 times in training he will, that's what impresses me," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "His ambition impresses me. I'm proud to be his coach."

He set another competition record on Wednesday, scoring in Real Madrid's 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday to become the first player to find the net in all six group-stage matches.

It took his tally to nine so far, but in La Liga it has been a very different story during this campaign.

In August, he was banned for five games after shoving referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea in the back following his red card during a 3-1 victory over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup. He missed the return leg of the Spanish Super Cup in Madrid plus the first four matches of the Spanish league season.

Since then, he has managed only a meager two goals in 10 games and Madrid are fourth — already eight points behind leaders Barcelona after 14 matches. Messi is already well clear with 13 league goals.

Meanwhile, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was fourth on France Football's list. The 39-year-old Italian helped Juventus reach the Champions League final and win the Italian title for the sixth straight season.

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Spain defender Sergio Ramos — both Ronaldo's teammates — were fifth and sixth respectively.

Teenage star Kylian Mbappe finished seventh after helping Monaco win the French title and reach the Champions League semifinals. He joined Neymar at PSG this season in a deal worth 180 million Euros ($216 million) — the second-most expensive ever.

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Tottenham striker Harry Kane completed the top 10.

PSG striker Edinson Cavani was surprisingly 11th despite scoring a career-high 49 goals in all competitions last term.

The Ballon d'Or is voted for by 173 journalists worldwide.

Update December 7, 2017

Australia win day-night test by 120 runs, lead Ashes 2-0

Australia's Josh Hazlewood, left, celebrates the wicket of England's Joe Root, right, caught behind for 67 runs during the fifth day of the second Ashes cricket test in Adelaide, Wednesday, Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Adelaide, Australia (AP) — Australia won the inaugural day-night Ashes test by 120 runs on the last day, with Josh Hazlewood striking twice in the first three overs and Mitchell Starc finishing off the tail as the pace attack crushed England's slim hopes of a comeback victory.

England resumed at 176-4 on Wednesday, needing a further 178 to produce a record fourth-innings run chase for a win that would level the Ashes series at 1-1.

That scenario relied heavily on England skipper Joe Root, on 67, posting a big score on day five at the Adelaide Oval.

But after watching night watchman Chris Woakes (5) feather a catch off Hazlewood's bowling to wicketkeeper Tim Paine on the second ball of the day, Root was caught behind in the Australian paceman's next over without adding to his overnight score as England slumped to 177-6.

Nathan Lyon dismissed Moeen Ali and England were bundled out for 233 when Starc (5-88) returned with the new ball to remove Craig Overton, Stuart Broad and complete a five-wicket haul when he bowled Jonny Bairstow for 36.

"We always had faith in the team, the belief," Australia captain Steve Smith said. "It happened really quickly. I'm pleased for the boys. I thought they came out and showed some really good character this morning."

Australia have now won all four day-night test matches they have played — three in Adelaide (vs. New Zealand, South Africa and England) and one in Brisbane, against Pakistan.

The third test starts Dec. 14 in Perth, where England are in danger of surrendering the urn after winning the Ashes on home soil in 2015.

Only one team has recovered from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series, and that was Don Bradman's Australian lineup in 1936-37 on home soil.

The Australians clinched their last series in Australia with a win in Perth in 2013-14 before going on to complete a 5-0 sweep.

Root is confident his team can compete at the WACA, where England have only ever won one test match — in 1978.

"The way we went about it yesterday was exceptional and that has to be the benchmark going forward," he said. "We showed a lot of character. The way the senior players stood up in the field especially, to bowl them out for what we did.

"Today was disappointing, I don't think we did ourselves justice ... but we're still massively in the series."

Two unconventional captain's calls had big influences on the test, and neither for the benefit of their teams.

After losing the series-opener by 10 wickets in Brisbane last week, Root won the toss and sent Australia into bat at the Adelaide Oval — something last done by an Englishman in his position in 1982. It didn't work then, and it failed this time, too, with Shaun Marsh's unbeaten 126 — he was named man of the match — helping Australia post 442-8 declared in the first innings.

Australia then bowled England out for 227, setting up a 215-run cushion, but then Smith let the pressure off by not enforcing the follow-on and making a beleaguered England battling lineup bat again immediately under lights.

It backfired, with Australia struggling to 53-4 at stumps on day three, and eventually all out for 138 early on day four with Jimmy Anderson returning his best ever figures in Australia of 5-43. That let England back into the test.

Smith also wasted two umpire referrals within three balls and England rallied again, getting a glimmer of hope for victory, particularly with Australia having no further referrals available.

But the Australian fast bowlers snuffed out any hope with the early wickets, and now England head to Perth needing to avoid defeat to have any hope of retaining the Ashes.

Smith said he no longer needed to dwell too much on his decision regarding the follow-on.

"We've won the game — I would have thought about it had we lost," Smith said of the follow-on decision. "Fortunately, we were able to hang in there and get the result we were after. It doesn't make any difference anymore."

Liverpool complete Champions League sweep for England

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, center, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's fifth goal during the Champions League Group E match against Spartak Moscow at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, Wednesday, Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Samuel Petrequin

Paris (AP) — England has become the first country to have five teams in the knockout stage of the Champions League after Liverpool completed a sweep for Premier League clubs with a 7-0 thrashing of Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.

Liverpool, who have won Europe's top competition five times, clinched Group E after Philippe Coutinho secured his first hat trick for the club.

Liverpool were joined in the last 16 by former champions Porto, Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk. Napoli lost 2-1 at Feyenoord and failed to qualify.

Liverpool were one of four English teams to top a group, along with Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham. Chelsea completed the sweep, signaling a revival by English clubs after years of underachievement since the west London club were crowned European champions in 2012.

Here is a look at what happened on Wednesday:



Needing only a draw to qualify, it was all too easy for Liverpool at Anfield, where Coutinho led the dismantling of Spartak with two goals in the opening 15 minutes before completing his first hat trick for the Reds in the 50th.

Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane (2) and Mohamed Salah scored the other goals as Liverpool won 7-0 for the second time in Group E and topped it by three points from second-place Sevilla. Spartak finished in third place and dropped into the Europa League.

Liverpool finished the group stage with 23 goals, just two goals shy of Paris Saint-Germain's record of 25 this season.

"Nobody could imagine that it would go like this tonight. It was an all or nothing game for both teams," said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp. "We opened the game perfectly and after we took the lead we didn't have to defend. It was a nice night at Anfield."

Sevilla qualified for the knockout phase with a 1-1 draw at Maribor. In freezing temperatures, the Spanish side started poorly but recovered after the interval and equalized through Ganso to clinch the runners-up spot.



Shakhtar Donetsk advanced to the knockout stage with a 2-1 victory over Manchester City, ending the English club's unbeaten record in all competitions this season.

Already guaranteed first place, City were caught on the break and failed to become only the seventh club in Champions League history to win every game in the group stage.

"The game didn't go as we expected, in the first half they were better than us and it was a deserved win for them," City midfielder Bernardo Silva said. "In the second half we tried to come back, had our chances, but we are not happy. Even though we had already qualified, we wanted the three points."

Shakhtar, who finished runners-up, took the lead in the 26th minute when Bernard cut in from the left side of the box and curled a shot inside the far post, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Ederson.

Eight minutes later, Ismaily sprinted to beat Ederson to the ball before rounding the keeper and stroking a shot into the unguarded net. City's consolation goal came in added time when Sergio Aguero converted a penalty.

It was City's first competitive loss since being beaten by Arsenal in an FA Cup semifinal in April.

In the group's other game, Feyenoord rallied from a goal down to beat Napoli, who failed to join Serie A rivals Juventus and Roma in the knockout stage. Napoli ended third and headed to the Europa League.



Vincent Aboubakar scored twice to ensure Porto reached the knockout stage with a resounding 5-2 win against a poor Monaco side.

Both teams finished with 10 men after having a player sent off late in the first half.

Turkish side Besitkas, who won 2-1 away to Leipzig, finished top of Group G with 14 points. Porto have 10 and Leipzig will play in the Europa League.

Monaco reached the semifinals of the competition last season by playing some scintillating attacking football. But it has been a very different story this season for the French team and coach Leonardo Jardim's side were already guaranteed to finish last.

"It's sad not to be continuing in the Champions League but that's football. Now we have to focus on the league and the two domestic cups," Monaco's top scorer Radamel Falcao said. "Our team changed a lot in the summer and we need time to get stronger."



Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score in all six group-stage matches of the Champions League as Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2.

Madrid had already guaranteed second place behind Group H winners Tottenham, who defeated APOEL 3-0 at Wembley Stadium to reach 16 points and finish with more points than any other team in the group stage.

Madrid ended with 13 points, and Dortmund and Cypriot club APOEL finished with two points each. The German club took third place because of a better goal difference and will now play in the Europa League.

Madrid led 2-0 after Borja Mayoral opened the scoring and Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League with 115 goals, netted his ninth in the competition this season. The strike also drew him level with Lionel Messi on 60 all-time goals in the group stage.

Dortmund equalized with two goals by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one in each half, but Lucas Vazquez got the winner in the 81st minute at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

2018 F1 calendar approved; Brazil GP security issue raised

In this April 9, 2017, file photo, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain gets the checkered flag to win the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — Formula One races in Bahrain and China will swap places early in the season as initially planned following approval of the 2018 F1 calendar on Wednesday.

Motor sport's governing body FIA confirmed the proposed switch, with Bahrain taking place at the Sakhir circuit on April 8 and the Chinese GP in Shanghai a week later.

As usual, the F1 season begins with the Australian GP in Melbourne on March 25.

All the other races in the 21-race calendar were confirmed from the original plan set out in June, with the exception of the United States GP in Austin on Oct. 21 being subject to confirmation. Brazil (Nov. 11 at Interlagos) and Abu Dhabi (Nov. 25 at Yas Marina) are the last two races.

Questions were raised about the Brazilian GP being held next year in Sao Paulo after serious security scares last month.

Members of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team were robbed at gun point in their minivan while leaving the track. Valuables were stolen but there were no injuries reported.

Street crime is endemic in Brazil, which has been battered in the last several years by its worst recession in memory. Thieves at the F1 race often target cars stuck in traffic jams at the exit of the circuit located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Sao Paulo city center.

At this year's race, FIA spokesman Matteo Bonciani said the car in which he was leaving the track was assaulted by gun-wielding assailants who attempted to smash in the bullet-proof windows with the vehicle stuck in traffic.

In response to these latest incidents, new security measures were proposed Wednesday.

The FIA directly urged that the race promoter uses an "independent security expert to evaluate and advise on security plans," while implementing a police reporting hub at the circuit and improving "overall communication between the promoter security, police and F1 stakeholders."

The French GP, meanwhile, returns after a 10-year absence and will be hosted at the iconic Paul Ricard circuit, also known as Le Castellet, in southern France on June 24.

Paul Ricard last hosted the French GP in 1990. The race was then organized at Magny-Cours from 1991-2008 but was dropped from the calendar in 2008 because of financial issues.

The German GP, which has struggled with attendances and track fees, was scrapped this year but will return at Hockenheim on July 22.

The Azerbaijan GP has been moved forward to April 29, making it the fourth race of the season. The Russian GP in Sochi, held this year at the end of April, shifts to Sept. 30. That late September slot was normally reserved for the Malaysian GP, which has been dropped.

There were doubts over the Singapore GP, subject to commercial rights holder confirmation, but it will go ahead on Sept. 16.


2018 schedule:

March 25: Melbourne, Australia

April 8: Sakhir, Bahrain

April 15: Shanghai, China

April 29: Baku, Azerbaijan

May 13: Barcelona, Spain

May 27: Monaco

June 10: Montreal, Canada

June 24: Le Castellet, France

July 1: Spielberg, Austria

July 8: Silverstone, England

July 22: Hockenheim, Germany

July 29: Budapest, Hungary

Aug. 26: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Sept. 2: Monza, Italy

Sept. 16: Singapore

Sept. 30: Sochi, Russia

Oct. 7: Suzuka, Japan

Oct. 21: Austin, United States (asterisk) (subject to confirmation)

Oct. 28: Mexico City, Mexico

Nov. 11: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Nov. 25: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sri Lanka hold on for draw vs. India

India's captain Virat Kohli, second right, hugs his teammates at the end of third test match against Sri Lanka in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Chetan Narula

New Delhi (AP) — Debutant Sri Lankan Roshen Silva batted for 184 minutes on day five of the third test between India and Sri Lanka in Delhi on Wednesday to force a draw.

During the game, players endured air pollution that forced some to wear face masks during play and made several players vomit.

Chasing 410, Sri Lanka were placed at 299-5 when play was called off with seven overs remaining in the mandatory hour of play. At stumps, Silva was unbeaten on 74 while Niroshan Dickwella was 44 not out.

India had scored 536-7d and 246-5d in their two innings. Sri Lanka had made 373 in the first innings.

As a result, India won the three-match series 1-0 after winning in Nagpur by an innings and 239 runs. The first test in Kolkata was drawn.

Virat Kohli was named man of the match for his sixth double hundred (243) in the first innings. He was also man of the series for scoring 610 runs in three tests.

Sri Lanka's cricket board has complained to the sport's governing body about the poor air quality its players have been compelled to endure in the Indian capital New Delhi.

Sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said Sri Lanka Cricket made the complaint on Tuesday to the International Cricket Council, saying "we can't play like this as four players had vomited" due to the pollution.

He said the ICC had informed them that it will take necessary steps.

Sri Lanka's cricketers wore face masks during the match and the bowlers complained of shortness of breath.

Captain Dinesh Chandimal said after the match that conditions had affected players.

"The pollution situation didn't help. But after some time we realised it would not go away by talking. So we decided to focus on the game instead. We will leave it up to the Sri Lankan board to decide if they want us to play in Delhi again. If they schedule a match here, we will come and play here. This decision is not up to us," he added, about the pollution situation experienced during this match.

India's Cheteshwar Pujara said:  "Pollution was there. There were frequent interruptions, which weren't really desirable. But as a team we don't focus on whether the conditions are adverse or not. We aim to play and win the game." he added.

The two teams will now play a three-match ODI series followed by a three-match T20 contest. The first ODI will be played in Dharamsala on December 10.

Livingston-Kirkland incident a teachable NBA moment

Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, right, argues a call with referee Courtney Kirkland before he was ejected, during an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Sunday, Dec. 3, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Tim Reynolds

Miami (AP) - Referees have a thankless job.

Someone inevitably complains about almost every call they make. Fans scream at them. Players scream at them. Coaches scream at them. They get the overwhelming majority of calls right. The ones they get wrong become big news.

That being said, they're not without flaws.

So that's what made what the NBA did Monday so significant. The league suspended Golden State guard Shaun Livingston for one game because he got involved in an on-court altercation with referee Courtney Kirkland, a justifiable sanction because players cannot be permitted to angrily make contact with referees, ever.

But the NBA also suspended Kirkland for a week over his role in what happened in the game against Miami.

"We regret the recent incident between Courtney Kirkland and Shaun Livingston," the National Basketball Referees Association said. "The NBRA has reached out to the National Basketball Players Association to explore ways to improve on-court communications and civility."

It's time to have those talks.

The player-referee relationship, while never buddy-buddy, seems very strained right now. Kevin Durant has been ejected from three games already this season, after getting kicked out of one in his first 700 NBA games. Goran Dragic was so angry over a non-call last week that he kicked a basket stanchion. LeBron James recently got the first ejection of his 15-year NBA career.

"At this point, it's like they're trying to turn me into a jump-shooter," James said after his ejection last month, repeating a stance he's offered plenty of times before that he doesn't always get the same sort of calls that others get when they drive to the rim. "I can't be a jump-shooter. I'm not a jump-shooter."

Referees are taught to defuse situations and not add fuel to the proverbial fire. That's where Kirkland failed. Livingston got in his face to argue that he had been fouled seconds earlier, and replays suggested he had a case. Kirkland then took two steps toward Livingston, hardly in a menacing way, but in a manner that didn't help the situation.

"Both the official and the player were part of it," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Kerr took the high road, though it was clear that whatever happened shouldn't have happened. Livingston loses a game check and now might find himself wondering if he'll be watched more critically by referees going forward. Kirkland loses a week of work, and when he's eligible to return starting Monday, he's probably going to face even more scrutiny.

It's a teachable moment for the NBA. The league would be foolish to not take advantage.

Update December 6, 2017

IOC: Russians can compete at Olympics, but without flag

International Olympic Committee, IOC, President Thomas Bach from Germany, left, and Samuel Schmid, President of the IOC Inquiry Commission and former President of Switzerland, right, comment during a press conference after an Executive Board meeting, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, Dec. 5. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

Graham Dunbar

Lausanne, Switzerland (AP) — Russian athletes will be allowed to stand on the medal podium at the Winter Olympics — just not with their anthem playing or their nation's flag rising above them.

The International Olympic Committee barred Russia and its sports leaders from the upcoming games in South Korea after its lead investigator concluded members of the Russian government concocted a doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games that "caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and to sports."

Not welcome in Pyeongchang next year will be any sign of the Russian Olympic Committee or any member of its sports ministry, which was responsible for what investigators concluded was a top-to-bottom scheme of "manipulation and cheating" to ensure Russians could dope at the Olympics on their home turf and not get caught.

The IOC punishment did leave room for many Russians to compete under the name "Olympic Athlete from Russia" or OAR. They would have to pass drug tests to prove they were clean and also did not benefit from the Sochi scheme.

If they win, the Olympic flag would be raised and the Olympic anthem played to honor their victories. That is, if Russian President Vladimir Putin allows them to go to the Feb. 9-25 games. He previously has said it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without its national symbols.

"An Olympic boycott has never achieved anything," IOC President Thomas Bach said at a news conference. "Secondly, I don't see any reason for a boycott by the Russian athletes because we allow the clean athletes there to participate."

Alexander Zhukov, the Russian Olympic Committee president who also was suspended from his IOC membership, told TV reporters in Lausanne that one key was preserving the name "Russia" in the team name.

"They'll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals ... that's very important," Zhukov said.

If it was a victory to have the word "Russia" in the team name and invite some Russian athletes to compete, it came at a cost.

The IOC also suspended the Russian Olympic Committee until at least the start of the closing ceremony in South Korea.

In an embarrassment for Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup, the IOC also banned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko from the Olympics for life.

Mutko heads the organizing committee of soccer's next World Cup. As sports minister in 2014, he was deeply implicated in the Sochi doping plot by two IOC commissions and a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation.

"The IOC executive board has made its positon to the responsibility of Mr. Mutko very clear," said Bach, who would not comment if it was appropriate for soccer's governing body FIFA to continue working with an official who is also president of Russia's soccer federation.

At the State Kremlin Palace on Dec. 1, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said at a joint news conference with Mutko that the IOC's decision would not affect the World Cup.

That message was repeated Tuesday by FIFA in a statement which noted that its ethics and disciplinary committees could still open cases against Mutko and Russian soccer players implicated in doping cover-ups.

The IOC also imposed a fine of $15 million on the Russian Olympic Committee to pay for its two investigations into the case and toward future anti-doping work.

The sanctions could be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Any Russian athlete hoping to earn invitations to Pyeongchang will have to come through a stricter-than-usual testing regime and not have a doping violation on their record.

Invitations will be decided by an IOC panel chaired by former France Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron.

The IOC also will bar Russian officials who were team leaders at Sochi, and coaches or medial staff who have been linked to doping athletes.

The CEO of the Sochi Olympics, Dmitry Chernyshenko, also had his place on an Olympic panel overseeing the 2022 Beijing Winter Games withdrawn by the IOC.

Russia has repeatedly refused to accept that a state-sponsored doping program existed. Such denials helped ensure bans on its track federation and anti-doping agency have not been lifted.

Instead, Russia blames Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Moscow and Sochi testing laboratories, as a rogue employee. It wants the scientist extradited from the United States, where he is a protected witness.

The executive board reached its decision Tuesday after a scheduled 4-hour debate when it heard from a Russian delegation that included world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva. The delegation was led by Zhukov, who was later suspended.

Two IOC commission leaders — appointed after WADA investigator Richard McLaren upheld Rodchenkov's doping claims in July 2016 — also reported to the Olympic board.

The report by IOC-appointed investigator Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland who was asked to verify an "institutional conspiracy," included a 50-page sworn affidavit from Rodchenkov, who was also a key witness for McLaren and an IOC disciplinary commission.

The chairman of that disciplinary panel, Swiss lawyer Denis Oswald, reported about prosecuting Russian athletes implicated in cheating at Sochi. By Monday, 25 Russians had been disqualified from the Sochi Games and banned from the Olympics for life, and 11 medals were stripped. One Russian was cleared.

Russia no longer leads the Sochi medals table. Even before the IOC reallocates the stripped medals, the United States has the most total medals and Norway has the most golds.

The banned Russian athletes have said they will appeal the Oswald judgments at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Any sanctions imposed by the IOC can also be challenged at CAS, and later at Switzerland's supreme court, which can intervene if the legal process has been abused.

Man United, Basel, Roma, Juventus advance in Champions League

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku, right, scores a goal as CSKA's Viktor Vasin tries to block during the Champions League group A soccer match between Manchester United and CSKA Moscow in Manchester, Tuesday, Dec. 5. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Karel Janicek

Manchester (AP) - Manchester United advanced to the Champions League knockout stage after rallying to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 on Tuesday to remain unbeaten at Old Trafford for a club record-equaling 40 successive games.

Basel joined United in the next phase from Group A by downing Benfica 2-0.

Paris Saint-Germain won Group B despite losing at Bayern Munich 3-1, the second straight loss for the French league leaders.

Roma beat Qarabag 1-0 to top Group C ahead of already-qualified Chelsea. The latter were held to 1-1 at home by Atletico Madrid, who were eliminated after reaching the final in two of the last four years.

England could have five teams in the last 16 for the first time if Liverpool advance on Wednesday.

Last year's runners-up, Juventus, had to wait until the last group game to qualify. Juve won at Olympiakos 2-0 and joined group winners Barcelona, who beat Sporting Lisbon 2-0.

Here is a look at what happened on Tuesday:


Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford scored in a 66-second span for United, who became the third English team to finish top of their group. Manchester City and Tottenham are already assured of first place heading into their final group games on Wednesday.

Lukaku volleyed in just his second goal since September for the 64th-minute equalizer, and strike partner Marcus Rashford drove home an angled winner to complete the comeback.

Vitinho gave the visitors a 1-0 lead seconds before halftime.

Basel forward Mohamed Elyounoussi headed in a cross by Michael Lang five minutes into the game and Dimitri Oberlin doubled the advantage with another header in the 65th.

United won the group with three more points than Basel. CSKA are left with the Europa League, and Benfica completed a poor campaign without a single point.


PSG's impressive attack extended their tournament record of 24 goals in the group stage with another one. Kylian Mbappe scored the record 25th in six games.

But it was not enough for PSG to win and rebound from a stunning 2-1 loss to promoted Strasbourg in the French league over the weekend.

Robert Lewandowski got Bayern off to a flying start and Corentin Tolisso doubled Bayern's lead before the break. The home side needed just two more in the second half to top the group, but Mbappe dented those hopes soon after the break when Edinson Cavani lifted the ball for the teen to head home.

Both sides finished with 15 points, well ahead of Celtic and Anderlecht, both on three. Anderlecht won in Glasgow 1-0 but Celtic finished third to take the Europa League place.


Diego Perotti scored early in the second half for Roma against Qarabag.

The Chelsea-Atletico match in England still had a couple of more minutes to go after the final whistle in Rome. All of the Roma squad waited in front of their fans and, as soon as the big screen showed it was over, there were huge cheers from players and supporters.

Demoted to the Europa League, Atletico will miss the Champions League knockout phase for the first time in five years.

But even if Atletico had held onto the lead secured in the 56th minute by Saul Niguez, it would not have been enough to finish in the top two due to Roma's victory.

Chelsea equalized to finish second in the 75th minute; defender Stefan Savic turned Eden Hazard's shot into his own net.

Qarabag finished on the bottom.


Juventus, finalists in two of the last three seasons, secured a berth in the next phase courtesy of goals from Juan Cuadrado and Federico Bernardeschi.

Cuadrado lunged forward to meet a cross from Alex Sandro and beat Olympiakos goalkeeper Silvio Proto in the 15th minute.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri left striker Mario Mandzukic on the bench as he recovered from a calf injury, but the Bianconeri looked comfortable in low gear. The hosts tired toward the end of the game at Karaiskakis stadium, leaving Bernardeschi with little to do for the second goal in the 90th.

With Lionel Messi rested by Barcelona for the first hour, forward Paco Alcacer took full advantage of the opportunity by scoring a header in the 59th. Former Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu added an own goal in stoppage time.

England 176-4 at stumps on Day 4, need 178 to win 2nd test

England's not-out batsmen Joe Root, left and Chris Woakes walk off at stumps on the fourth day of their Ashes cricket test match against Australia in Adelaide, Tuesday, Dec. 5. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Adelaide, Australia (AP) — Jimmy Anderson produced his best bowling performance ever in Australia to drag England back into the inaugural day-night Ashes test, and skipper Joe Root posted an unbeaten 67 to bring an unlikely upset closer to reality.

England, after losing the series-opener by 10 wickets last week in Brisbane and being bowled out for 227 to concede a 215-run first-innings deficit in the second test, reached 176-4 at stumps on Tuesday.

That leaves Root's lineup with three sessions remaining on Wednesday and six wickets in hand to score the 178 runs required to reach a victory target of 354.

England's record for a successful fourth-innings run chase is 332-7, set in Melbourne in 1928. After surviving the night session on the fourth day for the loss of only two wickets, there's growing confidence of a broken record.

A crucial 78-run partnership between Root, who faced 114 balls and had an lbw decision against him overturned on 32, and Dawid Malan (29) guided England through most of the night session. After Malan was bowled by Pat Cummins late, Chris Woakes went in as night watchman and survived eight balls to be 5 not out at stumps.

"We are a good amount of runs short but are in a fantastic position," Anderson said. "We have got batters in the shed to get us close."

England were completely behind the game at the Adelaide Oval until Australia skipper Steve Smith opted not to enforce the follow-on for the night session on Monday.

It backfired badly, with Anderson and Woakes taking two wickets each as Australia slid to 53-4 with the ball seaming and swinging wildly around under lights.

It didn't get better in daylight hours for the home team, with Anderson returning 5-43 — his first five-wicket haul in Australia and 25th in his test  career — and Woakes taking 4-36 to skittle Australia for 138 in the first session on Tuesday. No Australian batsman surpassed 20 in the second innings.

"We're delighted to be in this position to have any sort of chance of winning — which we didn't think we would have after the first couple of days," Anderson said. "It'd be a huge win ... it's very rare that a team declares then loses."

England reached dinner at 68-2 after losing Alastair Cook (16) and Mark Stoneman (36), setting the scene for a big night session for the Australian bowlers.

It didn't happen — possibly because the ball was already 28 overs old by the time the lights were turned on rather than hard, shiny and new, and also because there was a lack of composure from the Australians.

Smith didn't review an early lbw decision against Cook when he should have, then burned two umpire referrals in the space of three balls on desperate attempts to have Root and Malan dismissed when the umpire had ruled not out. That meant the Australians had no more reviews.

Root, meanwhile, used his referral to perfect advantage, asking for a review after he was given out lbw, when England were 101-3, and having the decision overturned when the tracker technology showed the ball from Nathan Lyon was going over the stumps.

Also under review will be Smith's decision not to send England back in to bat on Monday night.

"In hindsight, we didn't get an opportunity to bowl with the new ball under lights," Australia bowling coach David Saker said. "Maybe we got it wrong. But if we come out of this winning the game, which I still think we will, you can say it was justified in some way.

"The past two days haven't gone to plan but I still think we're in front. If we get (Root's) wicket in the morning, the game changes."

India close in on victory vs. Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka's Dimuth Karunaratne plays a shot during the fourth day of the third test against India in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 5. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Chetan Narula

New Delhi (AP) — India were closing in on victory in the third test against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, setting the tourists a massive target of 410 and reducing them to 31-3 at stumps on day four.

Pollution continued to bother players, with one Sri Lankan player vomiting on the pitch. Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas said his players were clearly bothered by the pollution levels that have left a thick haze swirling around the ground.

India declared at 246-5 in their second innings, batting aggressively to garner as many runs as possible even though they got off to a poor start as Murali Vijay (9) was caught behind.

Ajinkya Rahane (10) was promoted to number three but fell cheaply.

Shikhar Dhawan (67) and Cheteshwar Pujara (49) added 77 runs.

"We had instructions to score quickly so we could present a target for Sri Lanka today. We had to shift gears otherwise I would have batted differently. We are in a good situation now that they are three wickets down. We will try to finish the game tomorrow," said Dhawan after the day's play.

"Not everyone in our team is from Delhi. So the situation isn't a standalone for Sri Lankan players. The sun hasn't come out much so it hasn't helped reduce pollution in these past few days. I have grown up here and don't think playing was a problem. It was not hampering us," he said about the heavy haze that has enveloped the ground during the match.

Pollution has reached hazardous levels in Delhi during the game, leaving several players gasping for breath.

Earlier in the morning, Suranga Lakmal showed discomfort owing to the pollution and vomited on the field.

Virat Kohli completed his 15th test half-century off 55 balls before being caught at long on off Lahiru Gamage.

Kohli added 90 runs with Rohit Sharma (50 not out) for the fifth wicket. The latter scored his eighth test half-century off 49 balls.

Sri Lanka's chase didn't begin well. Sadeera Samarawickrama (5) was caught at gully off a fiery short-ball from Mohammed Shami (1-8).

The umpires deemed light too poor for pace bowlers. India deployed their spinners and Ravindra Jadeja (2-5) knocked over two more Sri Lankan wickets.

Sri Lankan coach Nic Pothas was not happy with the light situation. "It was a bit of coincidence that a wicket fell off pace. And then suddenly the umpires said that the light was not good enough. Then the spinners came on and we lost two more wickets," he said.

"The players are clearly in discomfort but we have decided to not speak about it. We want to get on with the game," he said.

Dimuth Karunaratne (13) was caught behind and then night watchman Lakmal (0) was bowled to leave the visitors tottering at close of play.

Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 373 in their first innings.

Dinesh Chandimal (164) added 30 runs with Lakshan Sandakan (0 not out) for the final wicket.

India had declared their innings on at 536-7 after Virat Kohli (243) had scored his sixth test double hundred on day two.

India lead the three-match series 1-0 after winning in Nagpur by an innings and 239 runs. The first test in Kolkata was drawn.

Sagan cleared by UCI over Tour de France disqualification

In this July 4, 2017 file photo, Peter Sagan of Slovakia, left, sprints as Britain's Mark Cavendish crashes, during the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Vittel, France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Samuel Petrequin

Paris (AP) — The UCI ruled Tuesday that Peter Sagan did not intentionally elbow Mark Cavendish during a sprint finish at the Tour de France in a crash that led to the Slovak rider's disqualification.

The governing body of cycling said in a statement that it has ended its legal dispute with the three-time world champion, a few hours before a scheduled hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sagan was sent home from the three-week race after clashing with his British rival during the fourth stage. The incident forced Cavendish to abandon with a broken shoulder.

Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe team immediately appealed the race jury's decision to allow its rider to finish the race but the request was denied by CAS.

"Having considered the materials submitted in the CAS proceedings, including video footage that was not available at the time when the race jury had disqualified Peter Sagan, the parties agreed that the crash was an unfortunate and unintentional race incident," the UCI said.

UCI president David Lappartient said lessons will be drawn from the case and wants a "support commissaire" to assist race jury members "with special video expertise" at the main events of the UCI World Tour from next season.

"The past is already forgotten. It's all about improving our sport in the future," Sagan said. "I am happy that my case will lead to positive developments, because it is important for our sport to make fair and comprehensible decisions, even if emotions are sometimes heated up."

Sagan's explanation for extending his right elbow into Cavendish's path was that he was just trying to stay upright. The crash occurred about 50 meters from the end of the stage and Cavendish slammed into the barriers along the road, with two other riders plowing over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Cavendish said at the time his rival's move didn't appear malicious.

"It has always been our goal to make clear that Peter had not caused Mark Cavendish's fall. This was Peter's position from Day 1," Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk said. "No one wants riders to fall or get hurt but the incident in Vittel was a race accident as can happen in the course of a sprint."

Update December 5, 2017

Smith follow-on call in Ashes spotlight; Australia 53-4

England's James Anderson, center, celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Australia's Cameron Bancroft for 4 runs during the third day of the second Ashes test match in Adelaide, Monday, Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Adelaide, Australia (AP) — Steve Smith chose not to enforce the follow-on against England and it backfired when the Australian skipper was trapped lbw in a top-order collapse Monday that altered the complexion of the inaugural day-night Ashes test.

Nathan Lyon took a stunning return catch among his four wickets as Australia bowled England out for 227 on the third day, a 215-run deficit that gave Smith the option of sending the tourists straight back in and attempt to compound their woes under lights.

The pink ball swings further and moves more off the seam in night conditions that are ideally suited to veteran England paceman Jimmy Anderson, but Smith decided to bat again in a bid to build a big lead.

Anderson duly stepped in. He and Chris Woakes took two wickets each to have Australia's second innings in deep trouble at 53-4 at stumps, an overall lead of 268 runs.

Anderson had Cameron Bancroft caught behind in the third over with the total at 5 and trapped Usman Khawaja (20) lbw to make it 2-39.

Woakes had David Warner (14) caught at second slip in the next over and then — after Smith was lucky to get an lbw decision overturned against Anderson before he had scored — he dismissed the Australia captain for six to make it 50-4.

Peter Handscomb was 3 not out at the close and Lyon, who went in as night-watchman ahead of first-innings century maker Shaun Marsh, was 3 not out after facing 10 balls.

"We're still very much in the driving seat," said Mitchell Starc, who took 3-49 in 20 overs that troubled the England batsmen. "The night sessions are the toughest time to bat. England have only done it for about 10 overs and if they want to win this test they're probably going to have to do it twice."

Momentum in the first half of the test went almost entirely the way of Australia, who posted 442-8 declared after England skipper Joe Root won the toss and broke with tradition by fielding first in Adelaide.

The Australian bowlers were right on top after England resumed Monday at 29-1 and slid to 142-7 before a 66-run eighth-wicket stand between Craig Overton, who finished 41 not out, and Woakes (36) restored the innings.

"We fought back nicely but are still behind in the game," Woakes said. "It is good to see a fight back and we showed good character and put them under pressure.

"Anything is chase-able really ... It's a good batting surface."

England lost four 4-99 in the first session — including Root (9) and Alastair Cook (37).

Lyon struck early in the second session, breaking up the partnership between the last of the recognized batsmen when he dived at full length to his left to catch Moeen Ali's mistimed drive as England slid to 132-6.

Starc took a reflex catch, on the second grab, to dismiss Jonny Bairstow (21) off his own bowling with the addition of 10 to the England total. The Australian paceman then ended the rearguard eighth-wicket partnership in the same mode when Woakes popped up an easy chance just before the dinner break.

Lyon took the last two wickets within four balls — getting Stuart Broad caught behind and Anderson adjudged lbw attempting a sweep shot — to finish with 4-60 from 24.1 overs.

Australia won the series-opener by 10 wickets in Brisbane last week and appeared to be in complete control of the second test, but England's four-wicket burst late on the third day keeps the contest alive in Adelaide.

IOC weighs Russian Olympic ban, risks provoking Putin

In this Feb. 7, 2014 file photo Alexander Zubkov of Russia carries the national flag as he leads the team during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Graham Dunbar

Lausanne, Switzerland (AP) — Russia could be banned from competing at the Pyeongchang Olympics, a prospect that President Vladimir Putin has already warned would be humiliating for his country.

The decision will come on Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee executive board meets in Lausanne, less than nine weeks before the games open on Feb. 9 in South Korea.

The 14-member board, which includes two Americans, has received a so-far confidential report from an IOC-appointed panel. That panel was asked to assess if Russian state agencies did organize the doping program used at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

IOC President Thomas Bach, a German lawyer long seen as an ally of Russia, is scheduled to announce the decision at 7:30 p.m. (1830 GMT).

It might not be the last word, however. Russia can challenge any IOC sanction by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Here is a look at the case, and the possible results:



— A total ban on Russia competing in Pyeongchang.

— Some Russian athletes compete, if judged to be clean under long-term doping controls operating to international standards. They would be classed as neutral athletes competing under the Olympic flag, and would be denied hearing the Russian anthem if they win Olympic gold. Those rules were imposed on Russian athletes at the athletics world championships in August.

Putin has said either of those outcomes would be humiliating, and could provoke a Russian boycott.

— The IOC board could ask the seven governing bodies for Winter Olympic sports to decide on individual athlete eligibility. That compromise applied to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

— Impose a fine on the Russian Olympic committee. Tens of millions of dollars could go toward anti-doping work worldwide.

A financial penalty would be "grossly inappropriate," according to Joseph de Pencier, chief executive of iNADO, a global group of national anti-doping agencies.

"It would send exactly the wrong message," de Pencier said. "It's pay to play."



A big red flag regarding Russian doping went up in July 2013, weeks before Moscow hosted the athletics worlds. British newspaper the Mail on Sunday reported wrongdoing by Grigory Rodchenkov and the Moscow laboratory he directed, but its claims were mostly ignored.

In December 2014, 10 months after the Sochi Olympics, German network ARD broadcast a film by journalist Hajo Seppelt about extensive doping in Russian athletics using footage secretly filmed by whistleblowers.

The World Anti-Doping Agency later appointed an investigation panel chaired by Richard Pound, a long-serving IOC member. That panel included Richard McLaren. Their reports in November 2015 and January 2016 led to the suspension of Russia's athletics federation, anti-doping agency, and the Moscow lab.

The Pound team interviewed Rodchenkov and concluded he was a key part of a conspiracy of supplying banned drugs, covering up doping cases, and extorting athletes.

Rodchenkov fled to the United States and detailed in a May 2016 interview with the New York Times how, as lab director for the Sochi Games, he helped Russian athletes cheat. He said 15 of Russia's 33 medals were tainted.

WADA appointed McLaren to verify the fresh allegations. Within two months, he delivered an interim report before the Rio Olympics which upheld Rodchenkov's evidence.

"It can't possibly be done by a couple of rogue individuals, or even a rogue department of an organization," McLaren said last week of Russia's doping program.

The IOC then set up two commissions. One chaired by IOC member Denis Oswald verified McLaren's evidence to prosecute cases of Russian athletes from Sochi. A second, now chaired by a former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, was to assess if an "institutional conspiracy" existed.

The Oswald judging panel began giving verdicts last month. By Monday, 25 Russians had been disqualified from Sochi and banned from the Olympics for life, and 11 medals were stripped. One Russian was cleared.

Schmid has received a 50-page sworn affidavit from Rodchenkov for his report. It was set to be delivered to IOC board members on Monday.



Rodchenkov said some Russian athletes at the Sochi Olympics used a fast-acting "Duchess" cocktail of performance-enhancing steroids dissolved in alcohol.

During the games, the athletes were protected by a urine-swapping scheme to replace dirty samples with clean urine stored months earlier.

The late-night swaps went via a "mouse hole" into a secured room at the Sochi testing laboratory.

Secret service agents found a way to break into tamper-proof sample bottles and return them with clean urine, Rodchenkov claimed.

Cleaned-up samples could further be tampered with by adding salt to make them more credible. In cases of some players in Russia's women's ice hockey team who did not have stored urine, male DNA was found in retesting of samples that are routinely stored by the IOC for 10 years in Lausanne.



Russia denies a state-sponsored doping program existed. It blames Rodchenkov, calling him a rogue employee, and wants the scientist extradited from the United States, where he is a protected witness.

"There has never been and will never be any state programs related to doping," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Friday before the soccer World Cup draw in Moscow.

Mutko, as sports minister in 2014, was implicated in the Pound and McLaren investigations, and also in Rodchenkov's hand-written diaries which were made available to the IOC. Oswald's panel called them "significant" evidence before The New York Times published extracts last week.

Mutko said on Friday he met "a number of times" with IOC commissions, and risks being banned from the Olympics. The IOC board blocked his accreditation for Rio last year.

Still, Mutko remains president of Russia's soccer federation and head of the World Cup organizing committee.



Bach's executive board did not impose a blanket ban on Russia before the Rio Olympics, passing on decision-making power to sports governing bodies. More than 100 Russian athletes were removed from a nearly 400-strong team.

Then, Bach was seen as an ally of Russia and a personal friend of Putin.

The "important difference" this time, Bach said last month, was that accused Russian athletes have now had due legal process and a fair hearing from the IOC.



The IOC board will meet at its temporary headquarters in Lausanne. It is chaired by Bach and includes two members of the Oswald Commission — Oswald himself and Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr.

The board also includes a member of the Schmid Commission, Robin Mitchell, and two Americans: Anita De Frantz and Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic hockey medalist.

International Ski Federation president Gian Franco Kasper represents the winter sports, which mostly oppose a blanket ban.

They will meet with world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva, who has joined a Russian delegation that will argue for a lighter sanction.

Rodchenkov's lawyer, Jim Walden, told The Associated Press his client hopes "Russia would recognize the severity and confess, and work itself quickly back into the world sports community."

Chandimal's century helps Sri Lanka avoid follow-on vs India

Sri Lanka's captain Dinesh Chandimal looks skywards as he raises his bat and cap to celebrate scoring a century during the third day of their third test cricket match against India in New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Chetan Narula

New Delhi (AP) — Dinesh Chandimal withstood air pollution ranging into hazardous levels as he batted through the day Monday to post his 10th test century and help Sri Lanka avoid the follow-on in the third cricket test against India.

The Sri Lanka captain was unbeaten on 147 after guiding his team to 356-9 at stumps on day three, still trailing by 180 after India declared at 536-7 on day two.

Ravichandran Ashwin took 3-90 for India, who struggled in the field for the first two sessions of the day as Chandimal and Angelo Mathews combined in a 181-run fourth-wicket partnership.

Matthews was caught behind off Ashwin's bowling for 111 just before tea, and Chandimal moved quickly after the interval to reach his hundred from 265 balls.

He shared a 61-run stand with Sadeera Samarawickrama (33) for the fifth wicket to keep Sri Lanka's innings moving until three wickets fell for five runs.

First, Samarawickrama was caught behind off Ishant Sharma (2-93). Ashwin then had Roshen Silva (0) caught at forward short leg and, two overs later, he clean bowled Niroshan Dickwella (0) as Sri Lanka were reduced to 322-7.

Chandimal kept his calm though, and in the company of Suranga Lakmal (5) and Lahiru Gamage (1) hauled his team beyond the follow-on target.

Mohammed Shami (2-74) had Lakmal caught behind, with keeper Wriddhiman Saha taking a stunning diving catch, and Ravindra Jadeja (2-85) trapped Gamage lbw before bad light stopped play five overs ahead of schedule.

The light and weather conditions have combined to overshadow the second and third days of the match at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground.

Play had to be stopped three times on Sunday while bowlers received medical treatment or players complained to the umpires about the air pollution.

That possibly prompted Virat Kohli to declare India's innings closed after he was dismissed for 243 on the second day.

Some Sri Lankan players wore face masks during the day, and their coach said players were vomiting after leaving the field.

Sri Lanka resumed Monday at 131-3, when air quality readings in the area were well into the hazardous range. By 2 p.m. local time, the readings had improved and were in the "very unhealthy" range.

Mathews said the players were usually in favor of playing whenever possible, and trusted match officials to make the call on safety.

"Conditions were almost the same as yesterday. Maybe more," intense," Mathews said. "We want to play cricket and we want to get out on the park. It is up to the officials to make a decision."

The Indian capital has recently experienced elevated levels of air pollution, and a public health emergency was declared last month.

A lack of wind and cloud cover over Delhi also contributed to the stifling conditions.

India fast bowler Shami said the air pollution hasn't impeded his team.

"Yes, pollution is an aspect that we seriously need to think about. It could be that we are more used to it and our ability to adjust is much more compared to," the Sri Lankan team, he said. "But what was being portrayed, it wasn't to that extent."

When air quality readings are in the hazardous range, health authorities recommend people avoid all outdoor exertion.

There have been precedents for proceeding with major sports events in the conditions. Thousands of athletes competed in the Delhi Marathon on Nov. 19 despite the health warnings.

India lead the three-match series 1-0 after winning in Nagpur by an innings and 239 runs.

Reeling Giants fire coach McAdoo, GM Reese after 10th loss

John Mara, owner of the New York Giants. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Tom Canavan

East Rutherford, N.J. (AP) — Believing the team was spiraling out of control, the New York Giants went out of character by making two major in-season moves, firing coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.

With the team reeling at 2-10 in a season where most felt it was capable of challenging for a Super Bowl, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch reached the decision Monday morning. It came less than a day after the Giants lost in Oakland, with quarterback Eli Manning benched and the offensively inept team performing poorly again.

"We agreed that wholesale changes to this organization needed to be made to get us back to the team we expect it to be," Mara said at a hastily called news conference. "We also agreed it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes."

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will take over as interim coach for the final four games. He coached the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11.

Mara did not know whether Manning will return as the starter this weekend against Dallas, saying the decision will be made by Spagnuolo.

In a radio interview on WFAN, Manning said he told Spagnuolo that he wants to start the last four games.

"I want to be out there and help us go win these four games," Manning said. "I hope I'm out there on Sunday playing against the Cowboys."

Mara said neither McAdoo nor Reese was surprised by the decision, saying they were both professionals. He said his meeting with Reese was more emotional because the two had worked together since 1994.

"I don't think there was any one final straw," Mara said. "I just think that where we are as a franchise right now, you know, we're 2-10. We've kind of been spiraling out of control. I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul. I don't think there was any one event or one final act to precipitate that."

Many felt the benching earlier last week of the well-liked Manning, the face of the franchise and a two-time Super Bowl MVP, was the deciding factor.

McAdoo also would have been subjected to howls from fans with three of the final four games at home, starting this weekend.

The moves come less than a year after the 40-year-old McAdoo ended a four-year Giants playoff drought in his first season, going 11-6. That record was aided in large part by Reese's outstanding work in the free agent market that rebuilt the defense.

While the 2016 season ended in a loss to Green Bay in the wild-card game, this year was supposed to be better. Much better.

The offense was bolstered by signing free agent wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafting tight end Evan Engram in the first round. The defense was back with the major exception of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

A fifth Super Bowl was in everyone's sights if the offensive line could improve.

It fizzled from the start. The Giants lost their first five games. The line was inept. The defense underperformed, then the injury bug decimated the roster.

"This has been the perfect storm this season," Mara said. "Everything that could have gone wrong this season has gone wrong."

Assistant general manager Kevin Abrams will take over on an interim basis for Reese, who became GM in 2007 and had two Super Bowl wins on his resume. But the Giants missed the playoffs four times in the past five years, and his failure to address those offensive line problems this past offseason played a major role in a horrible season.

Mara said Abrams and Spagnuolo will be offered the chance to continue in their interim jobs. Former general manager Ernie Accorsi will be a consultant in hiring a new GM, whom Mara wants in place before a coach.

Mara has candidates in mind for general manager and said it's possible a new GM could be in place before the season ends.

The moves came less than a week after McAdoo made one of the biggest mistakes of his short tenure, mishandling the decision to bench Manning. Mara was forced to address the matter the following day and said he wished the decision had been handled better.

McAdoo had a 13-16 record, and his firing is the first midseason head coaching move by the Giants since Bill Arnsparger was replaced seven games into the 1976 season by John McVay. The 2-10 mark is the Giants' worst since they were 2-10 in 1976, and their worst since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978.

With the losses, word started to emerge that McAdoo was losing the team. His one-game suspensions of popular cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins heightened the problem.

Mara and Tisch came to McAdoo's defense after an embarrassing loss to the then-winless 49ers on Nov. 12, saying his job was safe until the end of the season.

"To be honest with you, it became more and more apparent that we were going to have to do something at the end of the season, so we talked after the game and again this morning about why prolong it any longer?" Mara said Monday. "Why not just get it done now?"

The Giants hired McAdoo away from Green Bay in 2014 to serve as Tom Coughlin's offensive coordinator. He was elevated to head coach on Jan. 14, 2016, less than two weeks after Coughlin was forced out after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

McAdoo's first season was exceptional. His second was a fiasco.

"Our team is not good enough," Mara said.

Update December 4, 2017

Marsh century puts Australia in control of 2nd Ashes test

Australia's Shaun Marsh celebrates making 100 runs against England during the second day of their Ashes test match in Adelaide, Sunday, Dec. 3. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Adelaide, Australia (AP) — Shaun Marsh repaid Australian cricket selectors for gambling on his recall.

Marsh batted through the day after resuming on 20 on Sunday, surviving an lbw decision on his way to his fifth test century and first against England. He notched an unbeaten 126 before Australia declared at 442-8 late on day two of the day-night Ashes test.

In reply, England were 29-1 when rain halted play during the night session, a deficit of 413 runs.  After the rain stopped, the umpires ruled the ground was too wet to continue before stumps. Alastair Cook remained unbeaten on 11.

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc trapped Mark Stoneman (18) lbw with a swinging yorker at the end of the seventh over, and England didn't score another run before stumps.

Marsh has been in and out of the Australian test lineup since his debut in 2011, and was most recently dropped during the tour to India in March before getting a recall for the five-test series against England. He hadn't scored a test century since August last year, and had only scored one previous test hundred on home soil.

"There were a few emotions there." Marsh said. "Probably when I got to 90 I started to get a little bit nervous. I am really relaxed at the moment. It was hard work this morning, hopefully it can be hard work (for England) tomorrow morning."

The 34-year-old lefthander scored an important 51 in Australia's 10-wicket win in the series-opening match in Brisbane last week and needed to dig in again following the loss of early wickets after England won the toss in Adelaide and sent the hosts in to bat.

His century came from 213 balls, and he reached triple figures with a pulled boundary off Chris Woakes. His innings wasn't without chances — he reviewed an lbw decision when he was on 29 and got a reprieve, he got an edge which didn't quite carry to slip on 31 and was dropped again on 102, just before the dinner interval.

His stand included important innings-building partnerships of 48 with Peter Handscomb (36), 85 with Tim Paine (57) and 99 for the eighth wicket with Pat Cummins, who was caught off Craig Overton (3-105) for 44 in the over after the dinner break.

Nathan Lyon scored 10 off 11 balls in a cameo as Australia chased quick runs before declaring and sending England in to bat under lights at the Adelaide Oval.

England's pace attack had periods of ascendency earlier in the day, with Stuart Broad (2-72) trapping Handscomb on the third ball and returning in the first over after the tea break to dismiss Starc (6).

In between, Overton managed to get Paine — who posted his third test half century, and first since 2010 — caught at deep backward square after a succession of short-pitch deliveries to mix up the attack.

Jimmy Anderson had two lbw decisions from umpire Chris Gaffaney in successive overs overturned on review by the Australians in the first session, with Marsh and Paine each getting a reprieve.

In the 90th over, Anderson hit Marsh on the knee roll but TV tracker technology showed the ball was going over middle stump.

In the 92nd over, Paine was on 24 when he also was hit in front but the tracker technology again indicated the ball was going over.

Otherwise, the second day belonged to Australia and cast doubt on England captain Joe Root's decision to field first after winning the toss.

England's Australian-born coach Trevor Bayliss was confident the visitors could post a big score on Monday.

"It's a good feeling in the dressing room, they were certainly not disheartened at all," Bayliss said. "Shaun showed it's not impossible to score runs out there, a lot of their batters made starts. It's up to one or two of our guys to make a big score."

Rickie Fowler rallies with 61 to win in Tiger Woods' return

Rickie Fowler, right, poses with Tiger Woods and the trophy after Fowler won the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 3. (AP Photo/Dante Carrer)

Doug Ferguson

Nassau, Bahamas (AP) — Rickie Fowler was the first player to offer a scouting report on Tiger Woods ahead of his celebrated return to golf, hinting that Woods was hitting it "way by" him in some of their matches in Florida.

Fowler's own game apparently was in pretty good shape, too.

Seven shots behind to start the final round of the Hero World Challenge, Fowler opened with seven straight birdies Sunday and closed with an 11-under 61 to set the course record at Albany Golf Club and win by four shots over Charley Hoffman.

Fowler played twice with Woods before he was runner-up at the OHL Classic in Mexico, and then a couple of more times before Thanksgiving.

"I think he sharpened me up a little bit," Fowler said with a grin. "I've gotten a little scared of how good he was playing at home, thought I needed to start playing a little bit better or something."

Fowler and Woods each had cause for celebrations, large and small, in the Bahamas.

Fowler won his second title of the year, making it the second time he has ended a year with multiple victories worldwide. Woods made a return to golf that was solid with his health and his game, and he headed into the holidays thinking about a schedule for 2018.

"I'm excited," Woods said after closing with a 68. "This is the way I've been playing at home."

In a week that began with so much curiosity over how Woods would perform, he had his best result in four years. More than his score, he looked strong from start to finish, including a vicious recoil on a 2-iron he hit from 265 yards on the third hole that ran over the back of the green.

Playing for the first time in 10 months while recovering from fusion surgery on his lower back — his fourth back surgery in three years — Woods shot another 31 on the front nine and closed with back-to-back bogeys to tie for ninth in an 18-man field.

It was his best result since a playoff loss at this holiday event in 2013 at Sherwood Country Club in California.

Woods still finished 10 shots behind Fowler.

Then again, Fowler didn't give anyone much of a chance.

Fowler, whose lone PGA Tour victory this year was in the Honda Classic, was close to flawless on the front nine. He holed birdie putts of about 12 feet on the first two holes, hit a gap wedge to 3 feet on the par-5 third, made his toughest putt into the green from 15 feet on No. 4, and then holed a bunker shot on No. 5. He followed that with another wedge that spun back to a foot on the par-5 sixth, and he hit out of a bunker to about 7 feet on the next hole.

"I knew I needed to get off to a quick start to at least show Charley I was there," Fowler said.

By then, he was tied for the lead as Hoffman, who birdied his first hole, began to drop shots. Hoffman never caught up and shot 72.

Fowler finished at 18-under 270.

Tommy Fleetwood, the Race to Dubai winner from England who is getting married Tuesday in the Bahamas, closed with a 67 and tied for third with Jordan Spieth (69), who has not finished out of the top 10 since the PGA Championship.

A year ago, Woods returned from a 15-month hiatus from back surgeries and showed flashes of his old self, particularly when he shot 65 in the second round and ended the week with 24 birdies. Woods said nothing about his health that week, though his back couldn't withstand the rough at Torrey Pines and the 16-hour flight to Dubai. He withdrew after one round at Dubai with back spasm and had the fusion surgery in April.

This return was different from how far he hit the ball with plenty of speed in his swing (his ball speed approached 180 mph), and he made more putts from the 8- to 15-foot range than he has in recent years.

Conditions were far tamer for the final round and Woods got off to a start strong, buoyed by driving the par-4 seventh green and curling in a 25-foot eagle putt. His birdie on No. 9 gave him another 31 on the front — his second such score in two days — and never ending interest from the gallery. On Sunday, that included his two children dressed in red shirts, and tennis great Rafa Nadal.

"He's obviously a lot more upbeat, a lot more positive, a lot healthier than he was last year at this time," said Justin Thomas, the PGA Tour player of the year who was paired with him in the first and final rounds. "He's got a lot of energy. It's just so weird to say that you're excited for somebody else's year, but it will be a fun year. And I hope we dual it out a lot this upcoming year."

Woods appears to be back, at least to playing.

He has not said where he will start in 2018. The best bet is the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he has won eight times.

"I don't know what my schedule is going to be, but my expectations are we'll be playing next year," he said. "How many? Where? I don't know yet, but we'll figure it out."

Man City leave it late again to beat West Ham 2-1

Manchester City's David Silva, right, scores his side's winning goal during the English Premier League match against West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, Sunday Dec. 3. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

Steve Douglas

Manchester, England (AP) — Maybe they'll start calling it "Pep Time."

For the third time in a week, Manchester City left it late to secure a 2-1 victory in the Premier League and set a record-equaling winning run stretching back to Aug. 26.

This time, it was David Silva coming to the rescue.

Taking over Raheem Sterling's role as City's last-gasp match-winner, Silva prodded home a volley from Kevin De Bruyne's cross in the 83rd minute to end the stubborn resistance of West Ham at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Late goals are becoming a habit for City. In the past 12 days, Sterling has scored an 88th-minute winner against Feyenoord in the Champions League and then goals in the 84th minute and the sixth minute of injury time in victories over Huddersfield and Southampton, respectively, in the league.

There was a certain inevitability about City's winner against West Ham, just like there was when Manchester United scored so many match-clinching goals in the final minutes of Alex Ferguson's long tenure as manager. It's how the phrase "Fergie Time" was spawned.

"I heard about the 'Fergie Time,'" City manager Pep Guardiola said. "I was not here in that period, but of course you have to have that. What we show in the last games is we never give up.

"If we can take something about the 'Fergie Time,' it is welcome. A pleasure."

There's just no stopping City, although opponents are getting closer and closer.

This was a 13th straight win in the Premier League, matching a record in a single season set previously by Chelsea (2016-17) and Arsenal (2001-02). The next milestone is 14 straight wins, which was achieved by Arsenal in 2002 but across two seasons.

The team that can stop City from matching the record are neighbours United.  The Manchester derby is up next for City on Sunday and there are eight points separating the two rivals at the top.

"It means we have done 39 points in a row. That is a lot," said Guardiola, whose team is yet to lose in any competition this season. "You see how they run and how they fight, that's why we are so proud again."

Just like against Huddersfield and Southampton, City's players had to pick their way through a packed defense to keep the winning run going.

West Ham had nine outfield players in a bloc outside their area and saw set-pieces as their best way of troubling City at the other end. That was the source of their goal in the 44th minute, Angelo Ogbonna heading in Aaron Cresswell's cross following a short-corner routine.

Nicolas Otamendi scrambled in the equalizer in the 57th and City piled on the pressure before De Bruyne sent over a perfectly weighted cross that Silva volleyed in on the stretch.

David Moyes is still to register a win in four matches since taking over as manager of West Ham, who are in next-to-last place.

"I really want the football to be attacking," Moyes said, "but we are playing against a team that we can hardly get the ball (off), so what are you going to do?"



Charlie Austin underlined his reputation as one of the Premier League's most clinical finishers by grabbing Southampton's equalizer.

Austin has had injury problems and also played second fiddle to Manolo Gabbiadini in the early part of this season. Yet he now has seven goals in his last 10 league starts for Southampton stretching back to last season, and has scored on both of his starts this season, having netted twice against Everton last weekend.

Bournemouth went ahead through Ryan Fraser in the 42nd minute at Vitality Stadium.

Southampton moved up to 11th place and Bournemouth up to 14th.

Sri Lanka reach 131-3 vs India amid pollution drama

A paramedic speaks to Sri Lanka's Lahiru Gamage after he complained of breath difficulties during the second day of the third test match against India in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 3. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Chetan Narula

New Delhi (AP) — Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal put on 56 runs for the fourth wicket as Sri Lanka reached 131-3 at stumps on day two of the third test against India in Delhi on Sunday.

Earlier, India declared their first innings on 536-7 with Virat Kohli (243) scoring his sixth double hundred. The Sri Lankan players had earlier complained about the air pollution in Delhi with play stopping three times in the middle session before the Indian declaration.

At stumps, Mathews was batting on 57 while Chandimal was unbeaten on 25. The visitors trail by another 405 runs.

After tea, Sri Lanka needed to rebuild from 18-2. Dilruwan Perera (42) played an important hand as he stabilized the innings. He put on 61 runs with Mathews for the fourth wicket.

Mathews was lucky to survive at the wicket when he was given two lives immediately after the tea break. First, Shikhar Dhawan dropped him when on 4 not out at second slip off Mohammed Shami (1-30). Then, Virat Kohli dropped him while he was on 6 not out at second slip off Ishant Sharma (1-44) this time.

Ravindra Jadeja (1-24) got the breakthrough as he trapped Perera lbw via DRS.

Mathews and Chandimal then came together and batted out the session before bad light stopped play on an eventful day. Mathews reached his 29th test half-century off 72 balls.

Earlier, Sri Lankan fielders protested the level of air pollution prevalent in Delhi, forcing three stoppages of play. Between these stoppages Virat Kohli was dismissed for his highest test score of 243.

Only six overs were possible after lunch before Sri Lanka pacer Lahiru Gamage (2-95) asked for medical attention owing to breathlessness. Play was halted for 20 minutes.

Four overs later, Suranga Lakmal (0-80) also walked off with the same complaint. Play was halted again for 11 minutes as Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal was involved in an animated discussion with umpires Nigel Llong and Joel Wilson.

Support staff from both teams walked on to the field at different times and took the opportunity to discuss the situation with the umpires. For Sri Lanka, team manager Asanka Gurusinha and coach Nic Pothas came onto the field while Indian coach Ravi Shastri also joined in.

"In most conditions you want to play cricket. We just wanted some clarity on condition and safety of players. Lakmal and Gamage were vomiting in the dressing room. The umpires were very clear about playing on and they did a good job," said Sri Lankan coach Nic Pothas after the day's play.

"This was an abnormal situation. They did not have any prior medical conditions and yesterday evening too they were fine. The captain wanted to speak to me because at one stage we only had ten players on the field. The umpires were very clear but there aren't many rules written on pollution," he added.

Indian bowling coach Bharat Arun disagreed with the assessment.

"Sri Lankan players cannot protest about stoppage of play. The umpires alone have that power. (Coach) Ravi Shastri went on to the field to tell the umpires that there is no reason to stop the game and to please carry on," he said.

Cotto's farewell bout ends in unanimous decision loss to Ali

Sadam Ali, right, throws a punch at Miguel Cotto during the fifth round of their WBO junior middleweight title boxing match Saturday, Dec. 2, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Barry Wilner

New York (AP) — This wasn't the way Miguel Cotto planned to leave boxing.

Sadam Ali ruined the Garden party for Cotto on Saturday night, sending the Puerto Rican star into retirement with 12-round defeat by unanimous decision. It was a matchup of a Brooklynite and an adopted New Yorker, and it has the building rocking.

The 37-year-old Cotto simply couldn't handle the quickness of his younger opponent, who took the WBO junior middleweight belt. Ali did it despite being the less-popular fighter only miles from his borough; Cotto has made MSG a second home, but fell to 8-2 in the arena.

"I had him hurt here or there in the first couple of rounds," Ali said. "I knew I had to do something, or he would have dug in."

Cotto finishes 41-6, and he looked his age far too often. He hurt his left arm in the seventh round in losing by scores of 115-113, 115-113, and 116-112.

"Feeling good with the performance," Cotto said. "Something happened to my left bicep ... I don't want to make excuses, Sadam won the fight. It is my last fight. I am good, and I want to be happy in my home with my family."

Many of the 12,371 fans booed the decision and again when Ali spoke in the ring.

"I worked hard for it," the 29-year-old Ali said. "I took advantage of this fight, and I made sure to make it count. I want to thank team Cotto, they could have taken an easier fight if they wanted to. "

The fans soon were cheering as Cotto made his final statements to his legion of fans.

"Thank you to everyone," Cotto said in English. He usually answers questions in Spanish.

"Thank you for all the fans, I am proud to call MSG my second home. I had the opportunity to provide the best for my family because of the sport."

Cotto had received a thunderous ovation when he entered the ring, and they were chanting his name as he left, proud but defeated.

Ali is 26-1. He started quickly, then was stunned by a big right from Cotto that staggered him. Cotto charged as Ali recovered at the ropes, but it looked as if the fight had turned.

It hadn't. Indeed, Ali won the final four rounds on all three judges' cards.

Ali lost his previous title fight to Jessie Vargas in 2016 when he was stopped in the ninth round in a welterweight match.

Now, he becomes a force in this division. His hand speed and movement around the ring made him formidable Saturday night.

"Good things happen to good people," Ali said. "I have been training since I was 8 years old, and I am glad I got this win at MSG, in my hometown."

Cotto, meanwhile, leaves boxing with a legacy that can't be tarnished by this loss.

Holder of six belts in four weight classes in his distinguished career — and the only boxer from the tradition-rich Caribbean island to own four such titles — he retires with a reputation as one of the classiest and fearless fighters of his era. Sure, he lost a handful of other bouts, but they were against such prime competition as Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Manny Pacquiao. One thing was certain for the paying customers: Cotto would deliver a good show.

He did so in his farewell, too. Ali just as better.

On the HBO undercard, Rey Vargas outpointed Oscar Negrete in an awkward 12-round brawl in which the champion was left with a swollen and bloody face from head butts.

Still, Vargas won the battle of unbeatens to hold onto his WBC super bantamweight title.

Vargas easily won all the judges' scorecards, using a significant reach advantage for scores of 119-109, 119-109, and 120-108.  The Mexican champion improved to 31-0, while Negrete, of Colombia, lost for the first time in 18 bouts.

"It was really hard to find my rhythm," Vargas admitted.

No wonder: Negrete's unorthodox rushes had Vargas missing time and again.

But Vargas, 27, also landed dozens of body blows and rarely allowed the 30-year-old Negrete inside. Yet it was Vargas who looked the worse when they left the ring.

"I have the humility to say that I made my share of mistakes," Vargas said, "but I feel that Negrete fought very dirty, and was not a very good boxer."

Earlier, Angel Acosta dominated Juan Alejo before knocking him out in the 10th round for the WBO junior flyweight crown that Japan's Kosei Tanaka vacated on Friday. Acosta, 27, of Puerto Rico, is 17-1 — the only defeat was by decision to Tanaka in May — and all of his wins have been by knockout.

Acosta had Alejo, 33, of Mexico, in trouble throughout the later rounds. He landed a sharp right-left combination to end the fight.

"It's taken me five years to get here, and I'm cherishing this moment for me and for Puerto Rico," said Acosta. "I've learned a lot since my last fight for a world title against Tanaka, and this fight proves that I learned and fixed all I needed to win a world championship."

Alejo is 25-5-1 and has lost in both his shots at a world title. He was beaten by Donnie Nietes for the WBO championship in October 2015.

Update December 2 - 3, 2017

Beleaguered World Cup gets weak opener: Russia-Saudi Arabia

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, Brazilian soccer icon Pele, center, and Argentinian soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona pose for a photo prior to the 2018 soccer World Cup draw in the Kremlin in Moscow, Friday Dec. 1. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Rob Harris

Moscow (AP) — A World Cup shrouded in corruption controversies and struggling to attract sponsors could have the dreariest of starts.

Host Russia and Saudi Arabia play June 14 at Moscow in an opener lacking global appeal, but things pick up the next day when 2010 champions Spain and defending European champions Portugal meet in Sochi.

The Iberian neighbors were drawn into Group B at a Kremlin ceremony Friday. Morocco coach Herve Renard hoped to avoid the "two ogres" but will face them along with Iran.

"It's a complicated group," Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said. "It will be tough. Portugal are a great team. They are defending European champions and have a squad filled with top players."

None more so than Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently joined Argentina's Lionel Messi as the only five-time winners of FIFA's player of the year award. Messi's quest for his first World Cup title begins the following day when Argentina take on Iceland — at 334,000 the least-populous country to qualify for the World Cup.

Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson already knows what he must tell his team: "Watch out for No. 10."

Germany remain the favorites for the tournament.  Their depth was clear when an experimental squad won the Confederations Cup in Russia in July. Germany open against Mexico in their quest to become the first country to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil in 1962. The Germans then face Sweden and South Korea in Group F.

"We got opponents that are not unknown to us," Germany captain Manuel Neuer said. "That's what I like best, when we know what to expect."

Germany are hoping to be based in Sochi along with Brazil. The only five-time world champions do not intend to move their training camp despite a schedule that has none of their games in the Black Sea resort. The Selecao, beaten 7-1 at home by Germany in the 2014 semifinals, were drawn in Group E with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.

"Despite the distances, there are quick ways to get there," Brazil coach Tite said.

England, eliminated in the group stage three years ago, were drawn into Group G along with newcomers Panama, Tunisia and Belgium. Gareth Southgate's first World Cup game as a coach will be a repeat of his first as a player — Southgate made his World Cup debut in England's 2-0 win over Tunisia in 1998.

"We've been good at writing off teams and then getting beaten by them," Southgate said.

Roberto Martinez also will be making his World Cup debut. But the Belgium coach knows England well after spending two decades there as a coach and player.

"It is going to be one of those games with no secrets," said Martinez, a former Everton manager. "We have 25 players in the British game. That brings that understanding. That brings that competitive level."

Peru, the last of the 32 teams to qualify for Russia, are in Group C with 1998 champions France, Australia and Denmark.

"It could have been worse," France coach Didier Deschamps said.

The only group without a former World Cup champion is H — Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan.

The Russians have been placed with the winners of the first World Cup — Uruguay — in Group A along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. At No. 65, Russia are the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, with the Saudis only two places higher.

"I've never seen them," Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said of his team’s first opponents.

The ceremony was opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin, one day short of the seventh anniversary of the FIFA executive committee vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar — the subject of bribe allegations against soccer executives brought up nearly daily in New York during a corruption trial against top soccer officials. Putin urged fans to visit and enjoy his "big and multifaceted" country, a rallying cry that comes amid concerns about racism and hooliganism.

"We will do everything to make it a major sporting festival," Putin said, anticipating a World Cup of "friendship and fair play, values that do not change with time."

The Olympic doping scandal surrounding Russia hung over the final countdown to the draw. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, head of the local World Cup organizing committee, defended himself against accusations he helped orchestrate state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"Nowadays everyone is trying to make some kind of axis of evil out of us, just because we're a great sporting power," Mutko said.

The International Olympic Committee executive board will decide on Tuesday whether to ban Russia from the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics.

Woods atop leaderboard, but only briefly in the Bahamas

Tiger Woods shot a 4-under 68 during the second round of the Hero World Challenge at the Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas, Friday, Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Dante Carrer)

Doug Ferguson

Nassau, Bahamas (AP) — One of the biggest cheers at the Hero World Challenge came from seeing the name Tiger Woods moved to the top of the leaderboard.

It just wasn't there for long.

In another impressive showing in his latest comeback from back surgeries, Woods built on a solid start with a 31 on the front nine at Albany Golf Club that briefly gave him the lead Friday. He stalled on the back nine with a pair of bogeys and not enough birdie chances, and he settled for a 4-under 68.

"Successful," Woods said, when asked to describe his round in one word.

When the second round ended, Woods was five shots behind Charley Hoffman, who had a 63 that might have sent fans into a frenzy if they had been watching.

Hoffman made 12 birdies, closing with five in a row. He was at 12-under 132 and had a three-shot lead over Jordan Spieth (67) and Tommy Fleetwood (69). Hoffman made only one par over his final 12 holes to go along with eight birdies and three bogeys.

But this week, a holiday exhibition with an 18-man field and no cut, is all about Woods. That much was obvious after the round.

Hoffman spoke to no more than five reporters about his round, while a dozen others were about 30 feet away surrounding Joe LaCava, Woods' caddie, looking for any additional morsel about his round.

Woods delivered plenty on his own. He opened with three birdies in four holes. He made three good pars, one of them having to chip up the slope from a thin lie on No. 8, and then really raised hopes with his eagle on the par-5 ninth, set up by a 3-wood into the wind from 265 yards.

"Hit up in the air and took something off of it and cut it back into the wind," he said.

He made the 20-foot putt to reach 8 under. Behind him, Hoffman made bogey on the par-3 eighth. Woods was alone in the lead, and the workers at the white scoreboard to the left of the green quickly moved his name to the top as some 100 people — that constitutes a large gallery this week — began cheering. There was a smattering of "He's back!" and even a few mentions about the Masters.

Woods missed it. He was on his way to the 10th tee. By the time he saw a leaderboard, it was getting crowded at the top with Hoffman making his run, Spieth chipping in for birdie and setting up another with a tough chip, and Fleetwood overcoming a double bogey-bogey start to his back nine with three straight birdies.

"I saw somewhere on the back nine, I think there was like five guys at 8 under or something like that, something weird like that," Woods said.

A case could be made that his name among them was weird.

His past is enough to merit legend status in this field. Woods has 79 victories on the PGA Tour, compared with 81 for the rest of the field. But he hasn't won in more than four years, and this is only his 20th start since the first of four back surgeries in the spring of 2014.

He had played only seven rounds dating to August 2015, and this was his first competition in 10 months. He had fusion surgery on his lower back in April.

"You've got to be anxious — doesn't matter who it is, doesn't matter how well he's been in the past at handling pressure," Spieth said. "It's still a new experience for him to have that little golf. And to come out and play competitive golf and work his way into contention, that's what's really exceptional."

Woods didn't make a bogey until a three-putt from 30 feet on the 12th hole. The greens were quicker, and that's where he struggled. He had an eagle attempt from just short of the 15th green, about 45 feet away, that he ran 15 feet by the hole. He missed that for a three-putt par.

He still played the par 5s in 4 under, a five-shot improvement from the opening round.

And he showed his creative side on the par-3 17th. Facing a long putt over a hump with the grain running away from him, Woods chose to chip it off the putting surface and along the fringe to be able to better judge the speed. It settled 3 feet away for a par.

Otherwise, he looked like any of the other elite players at Albany. And while he wasn't sure what to expect coming into the week, his expectations are getting stronger with each round, especially this one.

"I felt like today I could have easily gotten to double digits under par," he said. "That would have put me probably one or two back, but I think I'm still in it. We've got two more days, and I think it's supposed to blow a little harder to tomorrow. If that's the case, I think a good, solid round should get me up there."

That depends on Hoffman.

"I said at the beginning of the week, I hope he wins," Hoffman said. "It's great for the game of golf. Hopefully, I can stop him from winning this week. But anytime he's in contention, or even playing the golf tournaments, it brings a buzz to golf that we all need."

Vonn crashes; Huetter wins Lake Louise downhill

Cornelia Huetter, of Austria, reacts in the finish area following her run at the women's World Cup downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, Friday, Dec. 1. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Lake Louise, Alberta (AP) — Lindsey Vonn fell and crashed into the safety netting on the final turn Friday in the women's season-opening World Cup downhill, handing Austria's Cornelia Huetter the victory.

An 18-time winner at Lake Louise, Vonn was able to get up after the wreck in "Claire's Corner" and ski to the bottom of the course. She was the fastest at each of the four intermediate stages and had a 0.05-second lead when she wiped out.

Vonn did not speak to media and declined autograph-seekers, saying: "I have to go ice my hip."

She later tweeted: "Well that hurt... had a nice lead the whole down but caught my inside ski. I'll be sore tomorrow but will rest up tonight and barring anything major I will be racing. Can't keep me down!"

Vonn is back at the resort west of Calgary after missing the stop last season because of a broken arm. The 33-year-old American star has a record 77 career women's World Cup victories. She is a four-time overall World Cup champion and won the 2010 Olympic women's downhill.

Huetter returned from a knee injury that sidelined her since January to race to her first downhill victory and second overall World Cup win. In steady snow, she finished in 1 minute, 48.53 seconds.

"It's unbelievable," Huetter said. "It's my first race after the injury, so it's my comeback and it's the best comeback I've ever dreamed about."

Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was second in 1:48.62. She slipped coming out of the final turn.

"That cost me the win," she said. "That's a pity because I was really close."

American Mikaela Shiffrin was third in 1:48.83, the first podium in three career downhills for Shiffrin — the World Cup overall and slalom champion last year and defending Olympic slalom champion.

"I'm still not sure what my expectations are in downhill and today was an amazing day," Shiffrin said. "I've definitely made a lot of progress in my downhill. Super-G comes a little bit more naturally because there's a little bit more turning. Downhill, I'm always surprised at how much time there is to make the turns. That's something I've worked on a lot, being a little more patient."

American Jackie Wiles was fifth for her second career World Cup top-five finish.

A second downhill is scheduled for Saturday, followed by a super-G on Sunday.

Miguel Cotto leaving boxing on his terms with title fight

Boxer Miguel Cotto, right, of Puerto Rico is shown in action against Daniel Geale, of Australia, in this June 6, 2015, file photo. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Barry Wilner

New York (AP) — Miguel Cotto is a boxing icon in Puerto Rico. In New York City, too.

On Saturday night, the most popular boxer of his generation from the Caribbean island that has produced so many champions will finish off his terrific career at Madison Square Garden with — what else? — a title fight.

Cotto has fought nine times in what New Yorkers like to call "the mecca of boxing," and every one of those bouts was a main event. He has won the night before the Puerto Rico Day parade in Manhattan, when thousands of his fans who attended the fight then celebrated the holiday.

He has won in Yankee Stadium, too, and at Barclays Center and the Hammerstein Ballroom. Indeed, Cotto has fought 11 times in Puerto Rico and 12 times within the five boroughs of New York.

So when he bids farewell to the ring at age 37 when he defends his WBO super welterweight crown against Sadam Ali, the setting will be so appropriate.

"It's been a pleasure for me to try to entertain you guys for 17 years," Cotto said. "I have done my best at every opportunity for the benefit of my family. They mean everything to me and I am so proud of them and they are so proud of me.

"On Saturday, I will be the same Miguel you have watched for the last 16 years," he added. "I am going to be a warrior and do my best for the benefit of my family, as always."

Cotto has something of an extended Big Apple family because of his popularity in New York. He's almost as much of a fixture at the Garden as the Rangers and Knicks.

"Saturday will be a bittersweet day for us at the Garden," said Joel Fisher, executive vice president at MSG. "We've have a great relationship with Miguel that dates back to 2005.

"When we first started with Miguel, his kids were little, but now they are grown. He has sold more than 150,000 tickets at the Garden," Fisher said. "Miguel is what makes the Garden what it is as the 'mecca of boxing.' It makes us happy that Miguel is going out on his own terms."

Cotto is 41-5 with 33 knockouts, but don't let the five defeats throw you. He has lost to the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito.

Cotto has owned six world belts: WBO junior welterweight; WBA and WBO welterweight; WBA and WBO junior middleweight; and WBC middleweight. The first came in 2004, when Ali was 15.

"I've been training almost my whole life, since I was 8 years old," said Brooklyn's Ali (25-1, 14 KOs), who lost his only world title fight to Jessie Vargas by ninth-round knockout last year. "Everyone wants an opportunity like this for a world title against a legend. If you're not ready for a legend like Miguel Cotto, then you're going to be in trouble.

"On Saturday night you are going to see an amazing fight," Ali said.

And what could be quite a scene as boxing pays tribute to one of its truest champions of the last two decades.

"The conversation with Miguel and his team for this fight was, 'Is (Gennady) Golovkin available? If not, I'll fight anybody. Just tell me the date and the weight and I'll be there,'" Golden Boy Promotions President Eric Gomez said. "That is so refreshing to hear as a promoter, and that is how Miguel has been throughout his career. It goes to show that when you believe in yourself, you'll fight anyone."

The HBO undercard also features WBC super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas (30-0, 22 KOs) and Oscar Negrete (17-0, 7 KOs) in a title bout.

Update December 1, 2017

Woods returns with solid round and good start in Bahamas

Tiger Woods tees off on the first hole at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Nov. 30. (AP Photo/Dante Carrer)

Doug Ferguson

Nassau, Bahamas (AP) — Tiger Woods looked a lot better in his return to golf than he did when he left.

Playing for the first time since his fourth back surgery, Woods returned from a 10-month layoff with a 3-under 69 on a breezy Thursday in the Bahamas that left him three shots behind Tommy Fleetwood after the opening round of the Hero World Challenge.

"For me, I thought I did great," Woods said with a smile.

And in a sign that he was ready to get back into the mix, he was far from satisfied.

Unlike a year ago, when Woods ended a 15-month hiatus from his ailing back, he didn't show any fatigue at the end of his round or make any big numbers. His only regret was playing the par 5s at Albany Golf Club in 1-over par with two bogeys that stalled his momentum.

Coming off a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth, Woods hit a 3-wood that rolled up on the green and then down a slope about 30 feet from the pin. It took him four shots from there, starting with a chip that didn't reach the green and his first expletive loud enough for television to pick up.

After his best shot of the day — a pitching wedge he hit low from 95 yards that settled a foot behind the hole for birdie on No. 14 — he sent a drive well to the right into the native dunes. Woods had to take a penalty drop to get back in play and wound up making bogey.

But it was solid enough that Woods was far more interested in the leaderboard than the fact he felt strong physically.

"It was not only nice to get the first round out of the way, but also I'm only three shots out of the lead," he said. "So to be able to put myself there after not playing for 10 months or so, it was nice to feel the adrenaline out there."

He was tied for eighth in the 18-man field of this holiday exhibition that awards world ranking points but does not count as official on any tour. Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar were at 67, while Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kevin Chappell were at 68.

The buzz was back. Johnson noticed it when he was on the practice range and noticed a crowd around the putting green.

"Tiger must be there," Johnson said. "Because there's 40 people instead of four."

Golf Channel added an hour of coverage, and Twitter came alive with people curious about the latest return. That included Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors' two-time MVP who played a Tour event in August. "The wait is over. The wait is over," he tweeted .

Michael Phelps said he was "pumped to be watching" Woods on TV again.

This event doesn't draw big crowds, but most of them were with Woods to see how he would fare in this latest comeback, this one from fusion surgery on his lower back on April 20. Given it was his fourth surgery in three years, coupled with a DUI arrest in the summer that exposed the struggles Woods was having with pain medicine, a day like this seemed a long way off.

Woods said he appreciated the moment Thursday morning.

"I was in my head thanking all the people who have helped me in giving me a chance to come back and play this round again," he said. "There were a lot of people who were instrumental in my life — friends, outside people I've never bet before, obviously my surgeon. I was very thankful."

And he was as competitive as always.

Woods delivered his first fist pump on par-4 fourth hole when he scooped a chip that didn't reach the green, and then holed an 18-foot par putt.

While the field is short, the competition is strong with eight of the top in the world at Albany. Woods realizes they have spent the last couple of years playing at a high level that allows them to overcome a few mistakes.

"I don't want to lose shots," Woods said. "I haven't played in a very long time and I can't afford to go out there and make a bunch of bogeys and know that I can make nine, 10 birdies and offset them."

Along with his five birdies — only two of them were tap-ins — Woods had an assortment of tough par saves, including a 10-footer that kept him dropping another shot on a par 5 at No. 11. He finished his round with a belly wedge from short of the 17th green because of mud on his ball, and holing a 6-foot par putt on the 18th.

A year ago, Woods made a pair of double bogeys over the last three holes for a 73 to finish nine shots behind. This time, he closed with pars and was three back.

PGA champion Justin Thomas, who also opened with a 69 in the same pairing with Woods, is among those who have played with him in recent weeks in Florida. Woods said he once played nine straight days.

"It was what I saw when we played at home," Thomas said. "Obviously, taking this much time off from competition is hard. I felt rusty starting after a month-and-a-half, so I can't imagine what it felt like for him. But he played well."

Putin welcomes soccer world to Kremlin for World Cup draw

A signpost directing people to the entrance of the World Cup Final Draw is placed on the Red Square, with the St. Basil cathedral in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 30. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Rob Harris

Moscow (AP) — Vladimir Putin welcomes soccer luminaries to the Kremlin on Friday for a World Cup draw that provides a global audience for the Russian president to attempt to burnish the image of a country scandalized by sports corruption.

By staging the ceremony for the 32 World Cup finalists at the seat of Russian power and draping the Kremlin in FIFA branding, soccer's governing body is undercutting its pretense that sports and politics should not mix — and in a country where the association has proved so damaging.

FIFA is on the final countdown to the first World Cup in Russia as it continues to assess the extent the 2014 World Cup squad was embroiled in the country's state-sponsored doping scheme. FIFA President Gianni Infantino still plans to share a stage Friday with Vitaly Mutko, the Russian deputy prime minister accused of overseeing the elaborate scheme that saw positive samples across Russian sports destroyed or hidden.

Infantino, though, is still trying to rebuild FIFA's image after far-reaching bribery scandals threatened the future of the organization. The draw comes one day short of the seventh anniversary of the World Cup vote from which so many of FIFA's legal travails stemmed.

Russian authorities deny government involvement in doping and the country has weathered FIFA corruption investigations, concerns about hooliganism, racism around games, deaths on World Cup construction sites and a sponsor shortfall to stay on track to host soccer's biggest tournament for the first time.

The draw is the moment fans can start to plan their journeys across Russia, with 11 host cities spread from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea in the west to Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains which separate Europe and Asia.

Germany will discover the path to defending the title won in Brazil, while Iceland and Panama will be in the draw for the finals for the first time. Two teams are returning after long absences: Peru haven't contested the World Cup since 1982 and Egypt are returning for the first time since 1990. But there is no space for four-time champions Italy, two-time reigning Copa America champions Chile, while the United States team is missing for the first time since 1986.



The draw ceremony starts at 1500 GMT on Friday at the State Kremlin Palace and is set to last for an hour. The 32 finalists will be split into eight groups featuring a team from each pot. Only Europe can have two teams in the same group.

The draw will be presided over by former England striker Gary Lineker, who has previously called for FIFA to be disbanded over bribery scandals and questioned Russia's legitimacy to host the World Cup over the doping across sports.

Greats from the eight World Cup-winning nations will serve as draw assistants: Diego Maradona (Argentina), Gordon Banks (England), Laurent Blanc (France), Cafu (Brazil), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Carles Puyol (Spain), and Nikita Simonyan for host Russia.

Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya is the co-presenter.



FIFA changed how it allocates teams in the draw and now uses rankings alone for all four pots. At previous World Cups, only Pot 1 was for seeded teams, and the other three pots were decided by a geographical spread.

October FIFA ranking in brackets:

Pot 1: Russia (65), Germany (1), Brazil (2), Portugal (3), Argentina (4), Belgium (5), Poland (6), France (7).

Pot 2: Spain (8), Peru (10), Switzerland (11), England (12), Colombia (13), Mexico (16), Uruguay (17), Croatia (18).

Pot 3: Denmark (19), Iceland (21), Costa Rica (22), Sweden (25), Tunisia (28), Egypt (30), Senegal (32), Iran (34).

Pot 4: Serbia (38), Nigeria (41), Australia (43), Japan (44), Morocco (48), Panama (49), South Korea (62), Saudi Arabia (63).



Russia will play the tournament opener on June 14, 2018. The World Cup final will be held on July 15. Both showpiece games are at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Games will also be hosted in St. Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Sochi and Rostov-on-Don.

More than 740,000 tickets out of a total of 2.6 million have already been allocated and the next phase of sales starts on Dec. 5 through a ballot.

England galvanized as a team ahead of 2nd test: Anderson

Australia's Cameron Bancroft prepares to bat in the nets as the Australian cricket team train in Adelaide, Thursday, Nov. 30. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Adelaide, Australia (AP) — England paceman Jimmy Anderson says tensions between his team and Australia ahead of the second Ashes test have only helped strengthen the touring squad.

England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow head-butted Australia batsman Cameron Bancroft when the pair crossed paths at a Perth pub during England's first night on tour in Western Australia. But the story didn't break until late on the fourth day of the first test in Brisbane, after banter from the Australian fielders was picked up by a broadcaster via on-field microphones.

Both Bairstow and Bancroft have played down the incident, agreeing there was no malice in it. No disciplinary action was taken by England.

Some England players have been suspicious about how and when news of the head-butting incident went public, which was only after Australia got on top in the first test before cruising to a 10-wicket win.

"If anything, it will galvanize us as a group," Anderson said at the Adelaide Oval, venue for the first day-night test in Ashes history beginning Saturday. "We're all going to get behind Jonny, who is an important player in our team. If we need any more incentive to get back in the series, it will give us that."

Anderson has also accused Australia of concocting "a deliberate ploy to say things close to the stump (microphones) so it would be picked up by the media."

"It's kind of to be expected," Anderson said. "In an Ashes series there is always something that crops up and they waited until they were ahead in the game to do it. It's up to us to try to deal with that."

Australia swept England 5-0 the last time the Ashes was contested in Australia in 2013-14, rattling the touring batsmen with some fearsome fast bowling. The first test of this series was an even contest for the first three days, but Steve Smith's unbeaten 141 gave Australia the advantage and then his bowlers dismissed England for 195 in the second innings to set up a victory chase of just 170.

Australia batsman Peter Handscomb says the home team isn't getting ahead of itself after just one victory, particularly as England hold the Ashes after a 3-2 victory at home in 2015.

"We have had a good game in Brisbane but that's gone now," Handscomb said. "I suppose complacency can set in but that's something we are obviously going to not try and do. It's completely different conditions as well, being a day-night test, pink ball, but we have got to make sure we do things right by our own team and play our own game."

Australia, who are expected to name an unchanged team for the second test, have won both day-night tests at the Adelaide Oval.

The Australians beat New Zealand inside three days in 2015 — in the very first day-night test match — and defeated South Africa by seven wickets last year.

Josh Hazlewood took 6-70 against New Zealand and 4-68 against South Africa in those Adelaide matches, and is coming off a four-wicket haul in Brisbane in the first test, including three in the second innings.

England have warmed up in Adelaide in the day-night environment, winning a tour match here against a Cricket Australia XI by 192 runs, with Anderson taking 3-12.

Everton hire Sam Allardyce as manager on 18-month deal

Sam Allardyce, left, stands with Everton owner Farhad Moshiri prior to the English Premier League match against West Ham United at Goodison Park in Liverpool, Wednesday Nov. 29. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

Steve Douglas

Liverpool (AP) - Six months after declaring his coaching career was over, Sam Allardyce was back in the Premier League as Everton manager on Thursday after being offered a long-awaited opportunity to take charge of one of English football's storied clubs.

Allardyce wasn't Everton's first-choice pick to take over from the fired Ronald Koeman. But after a frustrating and fruitless five-week search for a replacement, the Merseyside club accepted that the former England coach was the best solution for their current troubles.

Allardyce signed an 18-month contract and takes over a side that has had a dreadful start to the season with the club five points off the relegation zone after 14 games. Following an outlay of nearly $200 million on new players last summer, Everton were expected to be challenging for the top four, not fighting against the drop. The Toffees have already been eliminated from the Europa League, too.

"Obviously, the club has gone through a difficult spell," Allardyce said, "and hopefully I can put that behind us as quickly as possible and start looking upwards again."

The appointment of a manager with a track record of rejuvenating struggling teams is likely to be greeted with a mixed reception at Goodison Park. Allardyce's style of football — pragmatic and direct — isn't what many of Everton's fans or the club's ambitious new majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, really wants.

Then there's the identity of Allardyce's probable right-hand man, Sammy Lee, who played for cross-city rivals Liverpool for 10 years.

In the end, the unexpected possibility of relegation from the lucrative Premier League might have spooked the Everton hierarchy and Allardyce, available since quitting Crystal Palace in May, fits the bill at the moment.

Over the past two years, Allardyce has managed to keep up Sunderland and then Palace despite the teams being in serious danger of relegation when he took over. He will have a better quality of player at his disposal at Everton, plus likely a hefty transfer kitty in January and next summer to mold a squad.

With Allardyce aged 63, the length of his contract probably suited both parties. Moshiri will want him to initially consolidate the team and then give a strong platform for another, probably more glamorous name to take Everton to the next level.

Everton haven't won any silverware since 1995 but, having won nine top-flight league titles, five FA Cups and a European trophy, they are regarded as one of England's most famous clubs.

"His strong leadership will bring great motivation and get the best out of players," Moshiri said of Allardyce. "Sam understands the long-term ambitions we have for this great club and I know he is a man who gives it his all and is focused 24 hours a day on the club."

Marco Silva appeared to be the No. 1 choice of Moshiri, but Watford refused to let their manager go. Burnley manager Sean Dyche and Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paul Fonseca were also linked with the job.

Allardyce was interviewed three weeks ago, but initially ruled himself out of the running. Given what he said six months ago, it's a surprise he put himself in contention in the first place.

In leaving Palace, Allardyce said he wanted "to travel and also spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager."

"I have no ambitions to take another job," he added at the time, "I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League."

Now, he is back in the world's most-watched league and in a pressure-filled role, at the biggest club he has managed in a 26-year managerial career that has also included spells at Newcastle, West Ham, Blackburn and Bolton.



Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Record-setting City win derby for 11-point lead in EPL

Lomachenko stops Rigondeaux to win match of Olympic greats

Sri Lanka trounce India by seven wickets

Marcel Hirscher comes from behind to win World Cup slalom

Elite thoroughbred race horses killed in California wildfire

Nadal and Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

Better reliability and team harmony keys to Hamilton's title

Women's World Cup combined canceled because of thick fog

Marseille, Bilbao, Copenhagen advance in Europa League

US team still planning for Olympics despite confusion

Boxing tries to appeal to the masses once again

Ronaldo moves level with archrival Messi with 5 Ballon d'Ors

Australia win day-night test by 120 runs, lead Ashes 2-0

Liverpool complete Champions League sweep for England

2018 F1 calendar approved; Brazil GP security issue raised

Sri Lanka hold on for draw vs. India

Livingston-Kirkland incident a teachable NBA moment

IOC: Russians can compete at Olympics, but without flag

Man United, Basel, Roma, Juventus advance in Champions League

England 176-4 at stumps on Day 4, need 178 to win 2nd test

India close in on victory vs. Sri Lanka

Sagan cleared by UCI over Tour de France disqualification

Smith follow-on call in Ashes spotlight; Australia 53-4

IOC weighs Russian Olympic ban, risks provoking Putin

Chandimal's century helps Sri Lanka avoid follow-on vs India

Reeling Giants fire coach McAdoo, GM Reese after 10th loss

Marsh century puts Australia in control of 2nd Ashes test

Rickie Fowler rallies with 61 to win in Tiger Woods' return

Man City leave it late again to beat West Ham 2-1

Sri Lanka reach 131-3 vs India amid pollution drama

Cotto's farewell bout ends in unanimous decision loss to Ali

Beleaguered World Cup gets weak opener: Russia-Saudi Arabia

Woods atop leaderboard, but only briefly in the Bahamas

Vonn crashes; Huetter wins Lake Louise downhill

Miguel Cotto leaving boxing on his terms with title fight

Woods returns with solid round and good start in Bahamas

Putin welcomes soccer world to Kremlin for World Cup draw

England galvanized as a team ahead of 2nd test: Anderson

Everton hire Sam Allardyce as manager on 18-month deal


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