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Update December 2016


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Tottenham recover to beat 10-man Southampton 4-1 in EPL

Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli, second right, scores his side's first goal of the game during their English Premier League match against Southampton at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, Wednesday, Dec. 28. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)

Southampton, England (AP) — Tottenham recovered from conceding a goal after 69 seconds to beat 10-man Southampton 4-1 in the English Premier League on Wednesday, keeping the team in touch with their rivals for Champions League qualification.

Dele Alli began Spurs' fightback with the equalizer at St. Mary's stadium and completed it with their fourth goal in the 87th minute, with the visitors threatening to score each time they attacked.

Tottenham's other goals in their third straight win were scored by Harry Kane, who also missed a penalty, and substitute Son Heung-min.

Mauricio Pochettino's side stayed in fifth place, but moved back to within a point of the top four and 10 points off Chelsea.

It completed a perfect set of results for the league's title chasers this round, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United also winning across Monday and Tuesday. The top six teams are seven points clear of the rest, setting up a fierce fight for the four Champions League qualification spots.

Virgil van Dijk gave Southampton the perfect start by heading in a free kick with barely a minute gone. But the hosts faced an uphill task after winger Nathan Redmond was given a straight red card in the 56th minute — with the score at 2-1 — for bringing down Alli in the box, conceding the penalty that Kane missed.

"This changed the whole game for me," Southampton manager Claude Puel said. "It's difficult to keep going with this level of intensity (by Spurs)."

Kane blazed the spot kick over the crossbar, with his standing foot moving a piece of turf and, as a consequence, the ball before the England striker made connection.

It didn't stop Pochettino making a successful return to the team he managed for 16 months over 2013-14.

"After yesterday's result (Liverpool's 4-1 win over Stoke) and the others (on Monday), when the big teams won, it was very important for us to win the game for our belief," Pochettino said.

Alli beat Van Dijk to Moussa Sissoko's left-wing cross and steered home a header into the top corner for Spurs' equalizer in the 19th minute.

Tottenham went ahead in the 52nd when Kane lost marker Oriol Romeu to head home Christian Eriksen's corner, his first goal in four games.

Eriksen struck the bar with a deflected shot before Son drilled in a third goal in the 85th at the end of a counter-attack, and Alli curled home the fourth for his 16th goal in 50 Premier League appearances.


Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic retires from tennis at 29

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia is shown competing at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York in this Aug. 30, 2016 file photo. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

London (AP) — Ana Ivanovic retired from tennis at age 29 Wednesday, ending a career in which she was ranked No. 1 in 2008 but can no longer play at the highest level because of injuries.

In a live broadcast on Facebook, Ivanovic said "it was a difficult decision, but there is so much to celebrate." The Serb won 15 tour titles, including the 2008 French Open, and is now ranked No. 63.

"It's been well-known that I've been hampered by injuries. ... I can only play if I can perform up to my own high standards and I can no longer do that," she said. "So it's time to move on."

Ivanovic became a UNICEF national ambassador for Serbia in 2007 and says that position will figure in her plans.

"I will become an ambassador of sport and healthy life. I will also explore opportunities in business, beauty and fashion among other endeavors," she said on her Facebook page. "I will also have more time for my philanthropic activities with my work with UNICEF. I've lived my dreams and I really hope to help others do so as well."

A finalist at Roland Garros in 2007 and the Australian Open in 2008, Ivanovic lost in the first round of this year's U.S. Open to 89th-ranked Denisa Allertova of the Czech Republic. It was her second consecutive exit in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

Ivanovic announced a week later she would take the rest of the season off because of wrist and toe injuries, saying she had a recurring wrist injury and would also have surgery on a toe she broke at the Australian Open in January 2015.

"Ana is a true champion and a great ambassador for the sport of women's tennis," WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement on the tour's website. "She has contributed greatly to the entire sport, both in her home country of Serbia and across the globe."


American skier Shiffrin takes 2nd World Cup GS win in 2 days

United States's Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates at the end of the second run of alpine ski, women's World Cup Giant Slalom, in Semmering, Austria, Wednesday, Dec. 28. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

Semmering, Austria (AP) — After waiting 26 months for her second career World Cup giant slalom win, Mikaela Shiffrin needed just one more day to add the third.

On Wednesday, the American earned her second GS win in two days. Her only previous victory in the discipline was in October 2014 — at the season-opening race in another Austrian resort, Soelden.

The victory raised her total of World Cup wins to 25, with 22 coming in her favorite slalom discipline. Among active skiers, only American teammate Lindsey Vonn, who is currently recovering from a broken arm, has won more races — 76.

In dense snowfall, Shiffrin built on a narrow first-run lead to beat 2013 world champion Tessa Worley of France by 0.15 seconds, while 2010 Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was 0.18 back in third for her first podium finish of the season.

"It was a really big fight," Shiffrin said. "It was tough because you could feel your skis like stopping and going, stopping and going. And I thought, 'This is slow, it has to be.'"

Shiffrin and Worley also finished 1-2 in Tuesday's GS on the same course. Worley won the previous two GS races in Killington, Vermont, and Sestriere, Italy, and now leads Shiffrin by 35 points in the discipline standings.

Shiffrin extended her lead in the overall World Cup standings to 115 points over defending champion Lara Gut of Switzerland, who finished sixth in Wednesday's race.

The three-day event in Austria ends with a floodlit slalom race on Thursday, giving Shiffrin an opportunity to further strengthen her lead. The Olympic champion has won all 11 slaloms she competed in since February 2015, while Gut usually sits out slaloms.

The opening run in the morning hours was hampered by strong winds and snowfall, but conditions even got worse in the afternoon.

"It was so tough. I didn't think I was going to see the green light at the end," said Worley, who briefly led the competition before Shiffrin had her final run. "It was so bumpy and you couldn't see anything."

Worley's French teammate Taina Barioz had a nasty crash and appeared to have hurt her left lower leg, but Shiffrin said conditions were still suitable for a GS race.

"Outside the track it might have been pretty dangerous because there is so much snow but in the track it is OK," Shiffrin said.

Rebensburg, who injured her knee in the off-season, dropped from second after the first run to third but said she was still satisfied with getting her first top-three finish since winning the season-ending GS in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in March.

"Basically I am very happy to be on the podium but I am also a bit angry with myself as I didn't ski the final part too well," the German said. "It was brutally difficult and I held back a bit."

Just like at the race the day before, Shiffrin took a slim lead in the opening run.

"It was fun again," said Shiffrin, who wore bib No. 6 after Tuesday's win had earned her a place among the seven highest-ranked GS skiers, who get the favorable start numbers one to seven.

"It was a good day to get into the top seven. I had a nice track so it wasn't too bad. Actually they did a really good job cleaning up the track," said Shiffrin, referring to a legion of course workers who moved fresh snow off the race line in the hours before the start, and again before the final run.


Ronda Rousey saying little to promote UFC 207 comeback fight

Ronda Rousey is shown in this Feb. 22, 2014, file photo.
(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Greg Beacham

Los Angeles (AP) — Ronda Rousey is returning to mixed martial arts Friday after a 13-month absence, taking on Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight title at UFC 207.

Just don't expect to hear about it from Rousey.

The once-dominant champion has largely declined to promote her comeback bout, skipping nearly every traditional pre-fight media responsibility. Rousey's silence leaves Nunes and the other fighters on the card in the awkward position of doing all the dirty work to sell the UFC's end-of-the-year, pay-per-view event in Las Vegas.

"I really don't know what's going on with Ronda right now," Nunes said recently. "This whole thing, I really don't know. ... I think the UFC is doing it for her. I think the UFC has been doing all the promos for her. I think she can do whatever she wants."

Rousey is the most marketable name in the game and perhaps the biggest mainstream star in MMA history, and her return from last year's shocking knockout loss to Holly Holm should be one of the biggest sports events of the holiday period. Rousey (12-1) largely vanished from public after her defeat, but agreed to return for a title shot at Nunes (13-4), who won the belt in July.

Rousey's decision to limit herself to a few talk-show appearances and a fleeting interview or two has forced Nunes — who has a tiny fraction of Rousey's fame — to carry the promotional weight along with talkative men's bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who takes on unbeaten Cody Garbrandt in the co-main event at T-Mobile Arena.

Nunes has gamely done hours of interviews in her ever-improving English to promote the show. The Brazilian champion thinks she knows why the UFC has given a free pass to Rousey.

"The UFC wants to make it easier for her, so she doesn't feel like she's not the champion anymore," Nunes said. "They want to make her feel like she's not the second. They want to make me the second, to make her get stronger or something. I feel like they promote her, so she can be strong, like, 'Ronda, Ronda, Ronda, Ronda.' But she knows she's the challenger. I'm the champion."

You might not know it from the UFC's posters, videos and TV commercials, which are thoroughly dominated by Rousey's glowering face. She agreed to appear in those in-house promotions, in which Nunes is practically a footnote — a decision criticized on Twitter by no less than Joe Rogan, the UFC's lead color commentator.

Rousey became one of the world's most famous female athletes during her meteoric rise from Olympic judo to MMA dominance, thrashing a series of overmatched opponents.

Her rise ended last November with a head kick from Holm, who made Rousey look unprepared in their lop-sided fight. Rousey cited the grueling grind of fight promotion as a factor in her loss, and she was stunned by the gleeful reactions of schadenfreude on social media after her defeat.

So when she finally agreed to another bout, Rousey was allowed to bypass the usual scrutiny and tedium. The UFC isn't even holding a pre-fight news conference this week.

Promotion is usually a major factor in pay-per-view sales, and the UFC hasn't always been accommodating to its stars. Even Conor McGregor, its charismatic two-belt champion, was pulled from UFC 200 this year when he balked at a request to fly from his training camp to Las Vegas to promote.

Nunes has a stake in the pay-per-view revenue from their fight, so she has ample motivation to promote — and ample reason to be disappointed in Rousey's decision to stay silent. The champion looks at her heavy lifting before UFC 207 as a reasonable price for her chance to get a career-defining win.

"The only thing that I look for in my career is this thing right here: the belt," Nunes said. "Be the champion. And whatever they want to do with Ronda, they can do. (Her name) promotes good. It's going to sell a lot of pay-per-views."


Former Tour de France champ Wiggins retires from cycling

Former Tour de France winner and Olympic Gold medalist Bradley Wiggins announced his retirement from professional cycling on Wednesday, Dec. 28. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Steve Douglas

London (AP) - Bradley Wiggins announced his retirement from cycling on Wednesday, ending an illustrious career in which he won a British-record eight Olympic medals and became his country's first winner of the Tour de France.

The 36-year-old Wiggins posted a statement on his Facebook and Instagram pages, alongside a picture of his collected race jerseys, medals and trophies.

"I have been lucky enough to live a dream and fulfill my childhood aspiration of making a living and a career out of the sport I fell in love with at the age of 12," Wiggins wrote.

"2016 is the end of the road for this chapter, onwards and upwards."

Wiggins is Britain's most decorated Olympian with five golds in a haul of eight medals across five games, capped this year when he led the British pursuit team to victory at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

The summer of 2012 was the pinnacle of Wiggins' career, when he completed a rare double by winning the time trial at the London Olympics soon after his Tour triumph amid a joyful atmosphere described as "Wiggomania" by the British press. A lanky athlete with a strong appetite for fine clothing and British rock music, Wiggins was subsequently honored with a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.

In recent months, he has found himself under scrutiny for his use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) earlier in his career, after hackers leaked that he got intramuscular injections of a strong corticosteroid days before three big races, including the 2012 Tour.

Wiggins' treatment was approved by cycling authorities and there has been no suggestion any rules have been broken over the TUEs. But the revelations cast a shadow over one of the strongest advocates of the anti-doping fight.

Both Wiggins and Team Sky, his former team, have denied any wrongdoing over the rider's approved use of the treatment.

Wiggins' father, Gary, was making a living in Belgium as a professional cyclist when Bradley was born in the country. A hard-drinking Australian, Gary left his English wife and son when Bradley was two years old, with Bradley moving to London where he lived on a working-class estate. Wiggins took to cycling at 12 and collected his first Olympic medal eight years later at the Sydney Games, winning bronze in the team pursuit. He added three more in Athens in 2004, with gold, silver and bronze in three different events, becoming the first British athlete in 40 years to win three medals at a single Olympics.

Wiggins had more success at the 2008 Beijing Games, winning gold in the team and individual pursuits.

After shedding some weight, Wiggins realized during the 2009 Tour that he was capable of competing for the overall win, achieving his best-ever finish with a fourth place. He crashed out of the Tour with a fractured collarbone in 2011 and fulfilled his dream of winning cycling's most grueling race a year later.

Like his father, who died in 2008 after struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, Wiggins had to overcome drinking problems after his early successes in the velodrome. He wrote in his autobiography that he suffered from depression after the Athens Olympics and indulged in binge drinking as he struggled to cope with his celebrity status.

"Apparently it's a well-known phenomenon, but Olympic gold medalists usually only lose the plot for a month or so," Wiggins wrote. "My bender (drinking) after winning three medals, including my first gold, in Athens in August 2004 lasted a good eight or nine months and I wasn't quite right for at least a year... For a while my life threatened to spiral out of control."

Wiggins pulled himself together after the birth of his son, Ben, in March 2005, and had a daughter a year later with his wife, Catherine.

"What will stick with me forever," Wiggins wrote in his retirement statement, "is the support and love from the public through thick and thin, all as a result of riding a pushbike for a living."


Bradley out as Swansea manager after less than 3 months

Bob Bradley. (Simon Galloway/PA via AP)

Steve Douglas

London (AP) - Bob Bradley waited years for the chance to coach a team in one of Europe's top soccer leagues.

When he finally got it, the job proved too big for him.

The 58-year-old American was fired as Swansea manager on Tuesday, just 85 days after taking over at the English Premier League strugglers.

Bradley won two of his 11 matches in charge, with his fate sealed a day after a 4-1 loss at home to West Ham that left Swansea in the relegation zone. After taking training on Tuesday, Bradley later returned to the club's training ground to be told he had been dismissed by Swansea's American co-owners.

"I knew exactly what I was getting into when I came to Swansea," Bradley said by text message, "and realized the hardest part was always going to be getting points in the short run.

"But I believe in myself and I believe in going for it."

Swansea are next to last in the standings, only above Hull on goal difference after 18 games of the 38-game season. The Welsh club is four points from safety, having been one place out of the relegation zone when Bradley joined.

"With the club going through such a tough time," Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said in a statement, "we have to try and find the answers to get ourselves out of trouble.

"Personally, I have nothing but praise for Bob. He is a good man, a good person who gave everything to the job."

Once regarded as a beacon of stability and an example of how a soccer club should be run, Swansea will begin the search for their fifth full-time manager in less than three years, desperate to keep their place in the richest soccer league of all. American businessmen Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan have run the south Wales club since July, when they bought a 68 percent controlling stake.

Former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs and current Wales manager Chris Coleman are the early favorites with British bookmakers.

Bradley arrived at Liberty Stadium with a strong reputation after spells at clubs in Norway and France, as well as stints as coach of the U.S. and Egypt national teams during his 35-year coaching career. He felt he'd earned his shot at a big job after a number of setbacks and rejections, and was proud to be the first American coach to manage in the Premier League.

Turning around Swansea's fortunes was always going to be a difficult task, though, especially for a man with no experience of British soccer. Bradley couldn't shore up Swansea's defense — the team conceded 29 goals in his time in charge, and at least three goals in eight of his 11 games — and had only one attacker of true quality, Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Bradley was unconcerned about coming under scrutiny — mostly from British soccer fans on social media — for his occasional use of American soccer terms like "PK" (for penalty kick) and "road games" (for away games), but was worried about Swansea's sloppy play and failure to keep clean sheets.

Bradley acknowledged that Swansea's two games immediately after Christmas, at home to West Ham and Bournemouth, could determine his future. He didn't even make it to the Bournemouth game on Saturday, with the board taking decisive action that will at least give Swansea's new manager the January transfer window to make changes.

Assistant coaches Paul Williams and Alan Curtis will take charge of the team in the short term.


Azhar's unbeaten 139 lifts Pakistan to 310-6

Pakistan's Azhar Ali hits a shot against Australia on the second day of the second test in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 27. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Ihithisham Kamardeen

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — A brilliant century by opener Azhar Ali took Pakistan to 310-6 on the second day of the rain-hit second test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday.

Azhar, unbeaten on 139 and Mohammad Amir, 28 not out, were together in an unfinished 42-run stand for the seventh wicket when rain forced players off for the day. A total of 78 overs have been lost over two days due to inclement weather.

The innings was set up by a fighting 115-run fifth wicket stand between Azhar and Asad Shafiq (50) after the tourists were precariously placed on 125-4 after winning the toss.

Azhar, 31, held the Pakistan innings together and batted brilliantly without offering any chances off 287 balls. He mixed caution with aggression and studded his 12th test century with 12 exquisitely driven boundaries.

The 56-test veteran became only the seventh Pakistani batsman to score a test ton at the world's oldest test venue, and he knelt and kissed the playing surface in a solemn celebration of a milestone he so richly deserved. It was Azhar's third hundred in six test appearances against Australia including 109 and 100 not out in Abu Dhabi in October 2014. He has a tally of 646 runs (average 71.78) against Australia over this period.

Azhar, who also scored 71 in Pakistan's 39-run loss in the first match of this three-test series in Brisbane last week, has also become the fifth man to reach 1,000 test runs for the calendar year during his Melbourne century. He went to stumps on Tuesday with 1,085 runs in 2016, at an average of 60.27.

"Azhar Ali batted extremely well (today)," said Australian bowling coach David Saker. "They've blunted that attack quite well. (It) looks like that's a bit of a focus from them to get through the really good spells.

"Sometimes the rain can be a blessing but today because it was constant rain ... that's when it can be quite difficult. The ball gets wet, the footholds become a little bit slippery, the bowlers pick up grass on the bottom of their shoes so they slip a bit and when the ball gets wet it becomes quite easy for the batters. And they made the most of it, they scored quite quickly."

Asad, who scored 137 in the second innings in Brisbane, continued that form here, hitting four boundaries off 146 balls in three hours before the second new ball ended his 123-ball innings after three hours.

Following a four-hour rain delay, Australia took the second new ball and struck immediately through Jackson Bird (3-91) and Josh Hazelwood (2-33).

Asad, who survived two lbw appeals off successive Hazelwood deliveries, edged Bird to second slip Steve Smith.

Sarfraz Ahmed (10) lasted half an hour and edged the economical Hazelwood to Matt Renshaw at first slip.

That's all the Australian could manage as Azhar and Amir counterattacked in their seventh wicket stand, with Amir hitting six fours off 23 balls to further frustrate the Australians. Amir lived dangerously as he edged, or played and missed, against the Australian pace trio.

Saker believes the best batting conditions are yet to come and could put Australia in a good position to force a result.

"Knowing the MCG quite well, it's usually good to bat day three and four here so we're still well and truly in the game," he said.


Liverpool's prolific attack delivers in 4-1 win over Stoke

Stoke City's Mame Biram Diouf, left and Liverpool's Roberto Firmino battle for the ball, during their English Premier League match at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, Tuesday Dec. 27. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

Liverpool, England (AP) — Liverpool's prolific forward line delivered again in a 4-1 win over Stoke in the English Premier League on Tuesday, lifting the team back into second place and within six points of Chelsea.

Liverpool fought back from conceding in the 12th minute at Anfield, with Brazil forward Roberto Firmino among the scorers with his sixth league goal of the season — three days after he was charged by police with drunk-driving in Liverpool city center.

Playmaker Adam Lallana equalized for the Reds in the 34th and Firmino added the second just before halftime.

Liverpool stretched the lead in the second half through an own-goal by Giannelli Imbula and Daniel Sturridge's first league goal of the season with his first touches after coming on as a substitute.

Liverpool reacted to wins for Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United on Monday with their own a day later, and it was the sixth time this season that Juergen Klopp's team have scored four goals or more in a league game. It is no surprise that the Reds are the top scorers in the division with 45 goals in 18 games.

"Confidence is not a problem of the team at the moment," Klopp said. "We know about our quality, but obviously we don't show it all the time."

Liverpool's players only got going once they fell behind to a rare Stoke goal at Anfield.

Erik Pieters provided the cross from the left and Jon Walters glanced in a header at the near post that Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet got a hand to but couldn't keep out. It was only Stoke's third league goal away to Liverpool in 40 years.

Stoke were the architects of their own downfall at times, with Lallana finding the net after Glen Johnson — one of three former Liverpool players in Stoke's lineup — failing to clear a cross.

Firmino started despite his off-field issue and repaid Klopp's loyalty by slamming home an angled left-foot shot that hit one post, careered across the line to hit the other and rebound in.

Imbula turned in a 60th-minute cross from the left wing by Divock Origi, who was then replaced by Sturridge.

In his first action of the game, Sturridge was alert to intercept a back-pass by Ryan Shawcross, round goalkeeper Lee Grant and slot a finish into the empty net.

It was Liverpool's 100th goal since Klopp took charge in October last year, completing another big win ahead of the visit of Man City on Saturday.


Lions' playoff hopes on hold after 42-21 loss to Cowboys

Detroit Lions' Johnson Bademosi, left, is unable to stop Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant from catching a touchdown pass late in the first half of their NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 26, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Schuyler Dixon

Arlington, Texas (AP) — Matthew Stafford lost to his hometown team again, and the playoff plans are on hold for the Detroit Lions.

Dez Bryant threw his first career touchdown pass between a pair of scoring catches, Ezekiel Elliott ran for two TDs and the Dallas Cowboys kept the Lions from clinching a postseason spot with a 42-21 win Monday night.

Despite a second straight loss following five consecutive victories, Detroit (9-6) still controls its postseason fate. The Lions will be at home against Green Bay (9-6) with the NFC North title at stake in the finale Sunday.

"It's a one-game season," Stafford said. "If you told me in Week 17 we would have a game at our place and got a chance to win the division, I'd take it all day."

Stafford, a championship-winning high school quarterback in the Dallas area, had a 1-yard scoring plunge , but was sacked four times — matching a season high — almost two years after losing a wild-card game at Dallas.

He was 26 of 46 for 260 yards, including an interception that set up Elliott's 1-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to break a 21-all halftime tie.

With home-field advantage already wrapped up, the Cowboys (13-2) didn't let up in their seventh straight home win while matching their franchise record in victories, reached two other times.

"There's just one way to play," coach Jason Garrett said. "You can't put different meaning on different competition, like all of a sudden this is less important than that. That's not how we operate."

The biggest sign they were serious about this one came late in the third quarter, when Bryant took a reverse pitch from Dak Prescott and tucked the ball as if planning to run before pulling up and tossing a lefty lob to Jason Witten for an easy 10-yard score and a 35-21 lead.

"We've been working on that about five or six weeks, maybe a little longer," Bryant said. "You know how you practice plays and sometimes you don't run them? I did not think we were going to call that play. And we did, and we made it happen."

Elliott, the NFL rushing leader, had a 55-yard touchdown run in the first half and finished with 80 yards on 12 carries. He has 15 touchdowns rushing, two behind league-leading LeGarrette Blount of New England.

Prescott tied Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (2004) for the most wins by a rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era with 13. He was 15 of 20 for 212 yards with three touchdowns, including Bryant's juggling 25-yard grab in the end zone when he fought off pass interference by Johnson Bademosi.


Perpetual Loyal wins Sydney to Hobart race in record time

Supermaxi yacht Perpetual Loyal crosses the finish to take line honors in the Sydney Hobart yacht race in Hobart, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 28. (Kurt Arrigo/Rolex via AP)

Hobart, Australia (AP) — Supermaxi Perpetual Loyal has taken line honors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race with its winning time nearly five hours faster than the previous record.

Skippered by Anthony Bell, Perpetual Loyal crossed the finish line at Constitution Dock in Hobart around 2:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday to complete the 630-nautical-mile race in 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 20 seconds.

That shattered the race record, set in 2012 by rival supermaxi Wild Oats XI, by 4 hours, 51 minutes, 52 seconds.

Wild Oats XI had been leading the race and was on target to take line honors for the ninth time when it suffered a hydraulic failure on Tuesday and was forced to withdraw.

Perpetual Loyal inherited a comfortable lead, making up for its misfortunes of the last two years when it had to quit the race. In 2015 it was forced out with rudder damage and, in 2014, it withdrew after striking a submerged object.

This year it was able to take full advantage of favorable wind conditions which propelled the 88-boat fleet at a record pace.

"We got a good set of weather conditions," Bell said. "Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck and we've certainly had our fair share of bad luck, so I was entitled to ask the forecasters for that."

Bell said he was immediately aware of the misfortune that struck Wild Oats XI and handed Perpetual Loyal the race lead. The failure of a hydraulic ram affected the movement of the yacht's keel and forced it to pull out of the race and head for the port of Eden.

"We saw the boat tilt right over, we saw them come to a sudden stop," Bell said. "Our first worry was that it might have lost a crew member overboard.

"We radioed them and said, 'Hey if you're in trouble we're prepared to stop the race and go over and help the guys' but the fortunate thing is no one got hurt."

Wild Oats arrived safely in Eden late Tuesday night.

Owner Sandy Oatley, who was not aboard, was shocked the yacht was forced out of the race for the second straight year.

"Last year we tore the mainsail and we've done a lot of preparation and training in that regard and the boys were very happy with that," Oatley said. "This hydraulic failure has come out of left field."

The 70-foot New Zealand yacht Giacomo, skippered by Jim Delegat and whose teenage sons Nikolas and James were among the 14-man crew, crossed the line two hours after Perpetual Loyal to take second place.

Giacomo completed the race in 1 day, 15 hours, 27 minutes, 5 seconds, just a few minutes ahead of the Hong Kong-based supermaxi Scallywag. All three top finishers were under the 2012 record.

"This type of yachting is a boyhood dream come true," Delegat said. "The key really is we picked a good plan, a good strategy."

Bell said following the race that he wouldn't defend his title next year, preferring to sell Perpetual Loyal and move on to other sailing challenges.

"We called last shots for the boat last year, we said 'this is going to be our last trip to Hobart' and we didn't make it to Hobart so we thought we should come back," Bell said. "This boat is a great boat and it needs the next owner, someone to pick it up and jump into it with passion and enthusiasm."


American skier Shiffrin beats Worley for 2nd career GS win

United States's Mikaela Shiffrin speeds down the course during the second run of an alpine ski, women's World Cup Giant Slalom, in Semmering, Austria, Tuesday, Dec. 27. (AP Photo/Marco Tacca)

Semmering, Austria (AP) — A few days after Mikaela Shiffrin spent Christmas at Manuela Moelgg's home in Italy and trained with her, the American and the Italian finished first and third in a women's World Cup giant slalom on Tuesday.

Shiffrin held on to her first-run lead on the icy Panorama course to beat Tessa Worley of France by 0.78 seconds. The result ended Shiffrin's 26-month wait for a second GS win after celebrating her maiden triumph in the opening race of the 2014-15 season.

Moelgg came 1.09 back in third for the Italian's first podium in nearly six years.

"It's so cool. She and her family were so inviting for Christmas. It made it feel more like home for us," said Shiffrin, adding "it's so special" that Moelgg also made the top three — for the first time since placing third at a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, in Jan. 2011.

"We have been training at her home," Shiffrin said. "We really only had Christmas Day off. But it was OK, I had a restful day. And sometimes it is like when you take a break, then your body says, 'Oh, it's a break!', and then you get sick. I tried to fight that off but I feel good right now. My energy is good."

Shiffrin's 24th career win extended her overall lead to 55 points over defending champion Lara Gut of Switzerland, who finished Tuesday's race in fourth.

At the previous GS in Sestriere two weeks ago, Shiffrin also held a first-run lead but dropped to sixth after a disappointing final run. It made her skip the speed races in Val d'Isere, France, the following week in order to put in extra GS training.

The sessions with Moelgg at Kronplatz, which will host a World Cup GS in January, have paid off immediately.

"But it feels like it's taking forever. I want to get better in GS for five years now," said the American slalom specialist, who won Olympic gold, two world championships and three World Cup season titles in her favorite discipline.

Moelgg was all smiles after sharing the podium with Shiffrin and Worley, the GS world champion in 2013.

"To be here with them is a dream," said the Italian, who is still seeking a first win after 258 World Cup starts. "I had a good feeling, I raced well."

Worley was only sixth after the opening run, 0.80 seconds behind Shiffrin. She hardly won time on the American in the final run and missed out on her third straight GS win after triumphing in Killington, Vermont, and Sestriere over the last few weeks.

"I am happy because in the first run I lost so much time on the top section," Worley said. "In the second run I was just attacking the whole way down."

Returning from a 14-month injury layoff, two-time former overall champion Anna Veith finished 3.21 seconds off the lead and failed to qualify for the final run.

The Austrian caught a stone which damaged the edge of a ski early in her run.

"Unfortunately, this was not how I thought it would be," Veith said about her first race since March 2015. She missed last season to recover from knee surgery.

"But I am happy that I was back at the start again even though the skiing was far off from where I want it to be," Veith said.

The final run was interrupted for a few minutes after Maria Pietilae-Holmner lost her right ski as she went through a gate and crashed full-speed into the safety boarding near the end of her run, though the Swede seemed to have avoided serious injuries.

The race replaced the GS that was canceled because of high winds in Courchevel, France, last week. Another GS in Semmering is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by a flood-lit slalom the next day.


Australia edge Pakistan on rain-shortened first day

Australian keeper Matthew Wade, left, watches as Pakistan's Azhar Ali, right, hits a cut shot on the first day of the second test in Melbourne, Monday, Dec. 26. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Ihithisham Kamardeen

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Australia took honors on the rain curtailed opening day of the second test against Pakistan after only two sessions were possible at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday.

Having won the toss, Pakistan were 142-4 with opener Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq unbeaten on 66 and 4 respectively.

Light rain forced players to an early tea break and continued before umpires Ian Gould and Sundaram Ravi called off play leaving the day 39.1 overs short. Play will resume 30 minutes early on the remaining days to make up for the lost time.

Azhar, with a stubborn innings, stood between Pakistan and a meek capitulation, as Australia's swing and seam trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Jackson Bird made the tourists work hard for runs on a surface on which it was difficult to force the pace.

Bird, 2-53, was outstanding and claimed the wickets of the two most senior Pakistan batsmen Younis Khan (21) and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (11) as the tourists stumbled from a comfortable 111-2 to 124-4.

Bird beat Younis off the pitch and bowled the right hander.

Misbah, having opened the scoring with a six off Nathan Lyon, edged Bird to his pads and Nic Maddinson at short leg caught the ball inches off the ground.

Azhar hit his four boundaries off 135 balls and batted obdurately for his 25th half century in his 56th test, holding the innings together and sharing a 51-run stand for the third wicket with Younis. It was Azhar's second half century in as many innings following his 71 runs in Pakistan's gallant run-chase in the 39-run loss in the first test in Brisbane last week.

Pakistan was 60 -2 at lunch after a slow morning session.

Swing bowler Josh Hazelwood had Babar Azam caught by skipper Steve Smith for 23 runs off the last ball before the lunch break.

Opener Sami Aslam was caught by Smith three balls after he introduced offspinner Lyon to the attack after Australia's pacemen failed to make inroads in the first 11 overs. Lyon got a ball to turn sharply and lefthander Sami edged to Smith after scoring 9 off 41 balls.


Mkhitaryan masterpiece keeps Man United rolling in EPL

Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during their English Premier League match against Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, Monday, Dec. 26. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Steve Douglas

London (AP) — Toppling forward, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked like he'd misjudged the right-wing cross as he surged into the box seeking a clinching goal for Manchester United.

What came next brought Old Trafford to its feet — and underlined Mkhitaryan as perhaps the next cult figure at the English giants.

With an acrobatic flick of his right heel, the Armenian somehow managed to turn a ball that was behind him into the far corner from eight meters out, before plunging to the ground. Paul Pogba was the first United player to celebrate with Mkhitaryan and walked away shaking his head in disbelief.

It was a goal-of-the-season contender in the English Premier League, another piece of art from a player who is coming into his own after a tough start to life at United when he struggled to adapt to the fast pace of English football following a move from Borussia Dortmund.

Mkhitaryan sealed a 3-1 win for United over Sunderland on Monday and a fourth straight league victory for a side that's beginning to motor under Jose Mourinho. United might still be 13 points behind Chelsea, who won a club-record 12th straight game to extend their lead to seven points, but a finish in the Champions League qualification places looks increasingly likely.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic provided the cross for Mkhitaryan's goal, set up Daley Blind for United's 39th-minute opener and scored the other goal for his 17th goal of the season in all competitions.  Mourinho will be delighted to see his trio of high-profile offseason signings — Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Pogba — looking the real deal.

Monday marked the opening batch of games in the first of three Premier League rounds over the festive period. All the title-chasing teams won.

Here's a look at what else happened away from Old Trafford:

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CHELSEA 3, BOURNEMOUTH 0

Two goals from Pedro and Eden Hazard's penalty kick ensured Chelsea bettered a run of 11 victories set over two seasons in 2009.

Only once — Arsenal in 2001-02, with 13 straight wins — has a top-tier club had a longer winning streak in one season since World War II.

Hazard starred in the absence of suspended duo N'Golo Kante and Diego Costa as the league leaders recorded their 10th clean sheet of the 12-match winning run.

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HULL 0, MANCHESTER CITY 3

City wore down last-placed Hull, with all their goals coming late in the game.

Yaya Toure converted a penalty in the 72nd minute after Raheem Sterling was tripped as he drove into the area. Up until that point, City lacked inspiration going forward as Hull defended valiantly and in numbers, but more spaces opened up to allow the visitors a second goal.

Kevin De Bruyne played in David Silva, whose pinpoint cross was tapped home by Kelechi Iheanacho at the far post in the 78th. In the third minute of stoppage time, Sterling weaved his way into the area and sent in a cross that was deflected into his own net by Curtis Davies.

It was a third straight win for City, lifting the team into second place ahead of Liverpool by two points. Liverpool play their game in hand against Stoke on Tuesday.

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ARSENAL 1, WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0

Olivier Giroud marked his first league start of the season with a late winner as Arsenal avoided another stumble after back-to-back losses on the road.

The France striker headed home Mesut Ozil's cross in the 86th minute to end West Brom's stubborn resistance at Emirates Stadium.

Fourth-place Arsenal are tied for points with Liverpool.

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SWANSEA 1, WEST HAM 4

American coach Bob Bradley's future at Swansea looked increasingly fragile after the team lost again to remain in relegation trouble.

Angry Swansea supporters turned on Bradley as Swansea slumped to a seventh loss of his 11 games in charge, with a chant of "We want Bradley out" reverberating around Liberty Stadium.

"I don't have regular dealings with the board," Bradley said after goals by Andre Ayew, Winston Reid, Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll sunk Swansea. "As a manager, when results go bad you understand there will be discussion. It's not anything you control."

Swansea are in next-to-last place, tied on points with Hull.

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OTHER RESULTS

Former England coach Sam Allardyce's first game in charge of Crystal Palace ended in a 1-1 draw at Watford, Burnley beat Middlesbrough 1-0 to continue their strong home form, and Leicester lost 2-0 at home to Everton in the latest disappointing result of their stuttering title defense.

Leicester are only three points above the relegation zone nearly halfway through the season.


Chiefs rout Broncos 33-10 to keep AFC West title hopes alive

Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Dontari Poe, right, tackles Denver Broncos running back Devontae Booker during the first half of their NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Dave Skretta

Kansas City, Missouri (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs knew before kickoff against Denver that they were going to the playoffs.

They proceeded to play as if they have much bigger goals.

Travis Kelce hauled in 11 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown, Tyreek Hill added a 70-yard TD run to his rookie highlight reel and the Chiefs routed the Broncos 33-10 to keep their AFC West title hopes alive on a soggy, sloppy Christmas night at Arrowhead Stadium.

"Unforgettable," said 346-pound defensive tackle Dontari Poe, summing up not only the night for Kansas City but also the way he punctuated it in style, lining up at quarterback and throwing a jump pass to tight end Demetrius Harris for a touchdown late in the game.

The Chiefs (11-4) were already assured of a wild card when Pittsburgh beat Baltimore earlier in the day. But a win next weekend in San Diego and an Oakland loss in Denver would give them the division title for the first time since 2010, not to mention a first-round bye and home playoff game.

"I give the guys a lot of credit for playing hard when they already clinched a playoff spot. That isn't easy to do," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "They came out and I really thought played aggressive."

Meanwhile, the Broncos (8-7) trudged through another inept offensive performance, this one costing the reigning Super Bowl champions an opportunity to keep their own postseason hopes alive.

Trevor Siemian was 17 of 43 for 183 yards and a game-ending interception, and the only TD drive he led came after a pick gave him the ball at the Kansas City 6. Justin Forsett scored two plays later.

The lackluster performance came one week after a dismal showing in a 16-3 loss to New England led to a locker room shouting match between the Denver offense and defense. The Broncos downplayed any kind of disharmony this week , but their performance Sunday night only seemed to underscore the rift.

"Next week is all geared toward next year and our football team moving forward," Denver coach Gary Kubiak said. "We need to finish on a positive note, but we need to move on to the next year."

Kansas City controlled the prime-time matchup from the opening bell.

Alex Smith capped a 77-yard touchdown march with a 10-yard keeper in the first quarter, and Hill out-ran the banged-up Broncos a few minutes later to give the Chiefs a 14-0 lead.

It was the fourth TD scored by Hill against the Broncos this season .

Forsett's touchdown gave the Broncos fleeting hope, but it was dashed moments later. Kelce took a screen pass and followed perfectly executed blocking for an 80-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

"It felt good to see this offense come out, three possessions in a row and just move the ball," Hill said. "We know what we can do. We still haven't put it all together, but it's coming."

The Chiefs' defense took care of the rest, making it a festive night for their fans.


Wild Oats XI retires from Sydney to Hobart race

The supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI is shown underway after the start of the Sydney Hobart yacht race, Monday, Dec. 26. (Daniel Forster/Rolex via AP)

Sydney (AP) — Eight-time line honors winner Wild Oats XI has been forced to retire from the Sydney to Hobart yacht race for the second straight year after suffering damage to a hydraulic ram.

The 100-foot supermaxi was leading the race by around 8 nautical miles and was several hours inside its 2012 race record early Tuesday morning when skipper Mark Richards made the decision to retire. The fleet of 88 yachts which left Sydney on Monday has been reduced to 84 after the additional withdrawals of Freyja, Dare Devil and Patrice.

Supermaxi Perpetual LOYAL now leads the race by about 15 miles and is also inside the race record as the fleet sails down the east coast of Victoria.

Maserati is in third spot.

Wild Oats XI had recovered from a bad start to seize the race lead and to set a record-breaking pace as it sought to break its own race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds.

Perpetual LOYAL had the best start of the supermaxis and was the first yacht through Sydney Heads but yielded the lead to Wild Oats XI as the fleet headed down the New South Wales coast.

While the Hong Kong-owned supermaxi Scallywag was shown in eighth place early Tuesday its position was deceiving. Skipper David Witt made the decision to go further offshore than most of the fleet which puts the boat in a strong tactical position. It is likely to have to gybe less often than its rivals as the fleet approaches Tasmania.

John Markos, commodore of race organizers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia was confident the race record would fall as the fleet encountered perfect sailing conditions. The leading boat must reach the finish line before 7.23am local time Wednesday (2023 GMT Tuesday) to beat Wild Oats' record.

"We're very confident the race record is going to get broken," Markos said. "This is the first time I've been confident in the last 10 years.

"The reality is you've got boats moving at a very high speed. They are picking up pace now that the sun has come up.

"The modeling suggests they are going to finish at 3am, (more than) four hours ahead of the race record. I'm not quite believing that, it just sounds too incredible, but I predict about five in the morning."

Markos said around six or seven yachts were in contention for line honors.

The key to the record falling is likely to be whether there is favorable wind in Tasmania's Derwent River on the final stretch to the finish line at Hobart. Yachts often encounter very light winds in the Derwent, delaying their finish, but Markos said projections were for wind conditions which would allow the leaders to maintain a record pace.


Security ramped up for Boxing Day cricket test

Security checkpoints are shown outside the MCG stadium before the start of play on the first day of the second cricket test between Australia and Pakistan in Melbourne, Monday, Dec. 26. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Victoria Police say hundreds of extra officers have been deployed to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the second cricket test between Australia and Pakistan on Monday as security was increased following a foiled terror plot.

In raids on Friday police arrested four men who were allegedly plotting a Christmas Day attack in Melbourne's central city.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said additional uniformed police would be at the MCG on each day of the second test and police would have an increased presence at all major events over the festive season. The Boxing Day test is one of the largest events on the Australian sporting calendar.

Ashton said "nothing that we're seeing suggests there is any threat" and people should go about their business as usual.


Irving clutch against Warriors again as Cavs win 109-108

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) passes over Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) as Andre Iguodala (9) defends in the second half of their NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 25 in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 109-108. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Tom Withers

Cleveland (AP) — With another clutch shot, Kyrie Irving took the Warriors on a trip down memory lane.

Irving dropped a short, turnaround jumper over Klay Thompson with 3.4 seconds left as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied just the way they did in June's NBA Finals to defeat Golden State 109-108 on Sunday in a marquee Christmas matchup that more than lived up to the hype.

Down by 14 early in the fourth quarter, the Cavs chipped away and then put the ball in the hands of Irving, whose step-back 3-pointer over Stephen Curry on June 19 helped seal Game 7 and gave Cleveland its first major pro sports championship since 1964.

This time, Irving went deep in the lane before spinning and making his shot over Thompson, one of the league's best defenders.

"The kid is special," LeBron James said of his teammate. "It was never in doubt."

Golden State had one last chance but Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 36 points in his first game in the league's hottest rivalry, lost his balance coming off a screen and couldn't get off a shot as time expired.

Durant felt he was fouled by Richard Jefferson.

"I was trying to make a move," he said. "I didn't fall on my own."

James scored 31 points with a season-high 13 rebounds, Irving added 25 points and Kevin Love 20 for the Cavs, who were down 3-1 in the Finals before storming back to stun a Warriors team that won 73 games during the regular season, but came up one victory short of winning their second straight title.

Thompson added 24, Draymond Green 16 and Curry 15 — on 4 of 11 shooting — for the Warriors, who had their winning streak stopped at seven and fell to 9-1 against Eastern Conference teams.

The biggest present under the tree for basketball fans this holiday was filled with drama, intensity and more than a few moments that sparked reminders of last season's brilliant Finals.

Irving drained a 3 from the wing that looked a lot like the one he made on June 19, but his bucket over Thompson had a higher degree of difficulty.

"That's a really hard shot," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I thought Klay played tremendous defense. You don't do anything different."

The teams will meet again Jan. 16 and then not again unless they make it back to the Finals — a "three-quel" that would be the first in league history.

If there was any doubt that this game meant more than the other 81 to both squads and fan bases, Green took care of that in the opening minutes.

After being called for his second personal foul, Green stormed off the floor, cursing with every step on his way to the bench. Green, whose suspension from Game 5 of the Finals helped swing the series to Cleveland, was slapped with a technical and several of his teammates came over to calm him down before things got worse.


Chelsea, Conte standing out as normality returns to EPL

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Steve Douglas

Manchester, England (AP) — In one sense, normality has returned to the English Premier League after the craziness of Leicester's improbable surge to the title last season.

The top six on Christmas Day are the teams most pundits predicted would be challenging for the title: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United.

There's nothing normal about Chelsea's current form, however.

After 11 straight wins, Chelsea lead the league by six points from Liverpool, heading into the hectic period of festive fixtures that is unique to British soccer. Only once — Arsenal in 2001-02, with 13 straight wins — has a top-tier club had a longer winning streak in one season since World War II.

In the first year of the "super-coach" era in the Premier League, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is standing head and shoulders above the rest, although it needed a September switch to his favored 3-4-3 formation to get the team to click.

With a stingy defense (two goals conceded in the last 11 games), a dynamic midfield marshalled by N'Golo Kante and a forward line led by the league's top scorer, Diego Costa, there are no apparent weaknesses in Conte's lineup. On current evidence, it's hard to see how the team from southwest London can be stopped.

One thing is for sure, there'll be no miracle sequel for Leicester in the Premier League. Languishing in 15th place in the 20-team standings, the reigning champions are closer to the relegation zone than the Champions League qualification spots.

It's back to the heavyweights challenging for the title. And Chelsea are the big favorites.

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TITLE RACE

One factor is particularly helping Chelsea and Liverpool in their quests for the title: No European competition.

Such was the extraordinary nature of last season that neither team qualified for the Champions League or even the Europa League. That failure is now allowing them to focus purely on the domestic games, give their players more rest, and have a full week of preparation for Premier League games.

Chelsea haven't dropped a point since a 3-0 loss at Arsenal on Sept. 24, during which Antonio Conte changed formation to a 3-4-3 and hasn't looked back. Like Chelsea, Liverpool have two losses so far.

Man City are in third place, a point behind Liverpool, as coach Pep Guardiola gets to grips with the physical and non-stop demands of English soccer, including no rest at Christmas. Arsenal are a further two points back on 34 points in fourth, Tottenham have 33 and Jose Mourinho's Man United 30. For United, some 13 points behind Chelsea, the target has already switched from winning the league to securing Champions League qualification with a top-four finish.

Chelsea have three tough away games left — at Spurs, Liverpool and United — and are proving adept at eking out 1-0 wins. Four of their last six games have finished with that scoreline, including the last three.

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PICK OF THE PLAYERS

While Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho, Man City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante and Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez have starred in patches, Diego Costa has been the only player to have had a consistent impact this season.

Last season, the Spain striker appeared to be more interested in picking fights than scoring goals. Costa is a changed man, though, and has scored a league-high 13 goals while providing five assists.

Five of the goals were winners (against West Ham, Watford, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace), an overhead kick earned a draw at Swansea, and another goal sparked a come-from-behind win at Man City in December.

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EMERGING TALENT

There's another "Harry" making a splash at White Hart Lane.

The 20-year-old Harry Winks is a central midfielder who is getting a run in Tottenham's first team, starting four of the past eight games at the expense of internationals like Moussa Sissoko and Eric Dier. He scored against West Ham on his full league debut in November and is an intelligent passer with a good technique.

Mauricio Pochettino is renowned for giving youth players a chance to shine during his time at Southampton and now Tottenham. Harry Kane has matured into one of the best strikers in the Premier League under Pochettino, and Winks could be next in line.

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SURPRISE TEAM

When it was announced in August that West Bromwich Albion had been bought out by Chinese investors, the future of manager Tony Pulis looked precarious despite his record of never having been relegated from the Premier League.

The new owners were wise to keep hold of the 58-year-old Pulis.

Away from the likely title contenders, West Brom are proving to be the best of the rest in the Premier League and at one point early in December were in the top six.

Known for setting his teams out with a solid defensive structure, Pulis has added some flair up front in forwards Nacer Chadli — a club-record signing in the offseason — and Matt Phillips, who operate behind Salomon Rondon. The Baggies have scored three or more times in four games this season, testament to their new-found attacking approach.

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POINTS TO PROVE

The season started with rival coaches Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho expected to be battling it out for the title. The way things are going, they'll be fighting just to secure Champions League qualification.

Both coaches have had tough spells in the first season with their respective clubs, with Mourinho in particular criticized for public outbursts against his players and a run of poor results over September and October. United have won their last three league games to get back on track, but a current position of sixth is not good enough.

Guardiola started his City tenure with 10 straight victories but has only won six of his next 17, raising questions about his tactics, the team's defensive stability and whether Guardiola can get to grips with English soccer.

It will help Guardiola to have Sergio Aguero on the field. The Argentina striker has missed seven of City's 17 league matches through suspension, and needs to make amends in the second half of the season.


Raiders and Colts both left dejected after Oakland's win

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, bottom, remains on the field after being tackled by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Edwin Jackson during the second half of their NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 24. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Oakland, California (AP) — As Derek Carr fell to the turf with a broken leg, a celebratory day in Oakland immediately turned somber. The Raiders had suffered their most significant loss of the season.

Carr broke a bone in his right leg in the fourth quarter of the Raiders' 33-25 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, immediately throwing a dark cloud over a resurgent season in Oakland.

Carr got hurt with Oakland leading 33-14 early in the fourth quarter when he was sacked by Trent Cole. Carr stayed on the ground for several minutes in pain as trainers came out to treat him. With the crowd chanting "M-V-P! M-V-P!" Carr limped off the field without putting any pressure on his right leg. He was due to have surgery on Sunday.

Carr has led a revival in Oakland since arriving as a second-round pick in 2014. After losing his first 10 games as a rookie, Carr has been a big part of the turnaround that has the Raiders in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. He threw three TD passes Saturday to give him 28 on the season and his seven fourth-quarter comebacks are the biggest reason behind Oakland's success.

Now the team must prepare for a playoff run with Matt McGloin at quarterback. McGloin has not started a game since the end of the 2013 season with Carr starting all 47 games since he arrived.

Andrew Luck rallied the Colts (7-8) from 26 points down to just eight with 2:33 left.

JAGUARS 38, TITANS 17

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles' best game of the season helped the Jaguars end a nine-game losing streak, and Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota broke his right leg in the third quarter.

Bortles threw for 325 yards and a touchdown, and was on the receiving end of a 20-yard trick play that sealed the win with 5:25 remaining. Rookie Jalen Ramsey returned an interception 30 yards on the ensuing play to set off a raucous — and long-awaited — celebration in Jacksonville.

Bortles and the Jaguars (3-12) played inspired football and won for the first time this season at EverBank Field. Maybe they rallied around interim coach Doug Marrone. Maybe they played for ultra-popular ex-coach Gus Bradley, who was fired six days earlier. Maybe they just wanted to avenge an embarrassing loss to the Titans (8-7) on national television in late October.

The Titans had won three in a row and seven of 10 entering the game. All they needed to do was beat reeling Jacksonville to set up an AFC South title game next week against Houston. Instead, they lost, and the Texans beat Cincinnati to clinch the division for the second straight year and eliminate Tennessee.

TEXANS 12, BENGALS 10

HOUSTON (AP) — Tom Savage threw for 176 yards for Houston in his first career start and Cincinnati missed a field goal as time expired, giving the Texans their second straight AFC South title.

The Bengals converted a fourth down play to keep a drive alive, but four plays later, former Texan Randy Bullock's 43-yard attempt sailed wide right to secure Houston's victory.

Savage helped the Texans (9-6) rally for a win over the Jaguars last week after taking over when Brock Osweiler was benched after throwing interceptions on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter.

Cincinnati (6-8-1) regained the lead when Dalton found Brandon LaFell on a short pass and he took it 86 yards for a touchdown that made it 10-6 with about 11 minutes left. Alfred Blue's 24-yard touchdown run put the Texans back on top with about 9 minutes left, but the extra point was blocked.

BROWNS 20, CHARGERS 17

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns are winless no more.

Cleveland avoided that fate Saturday by beating San Diego for its first victory in more than a year. San Diego's Josh Lambo missed a 45-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Browns (1-14) their first win in 377 days.

When the kick sailed right, Cleveland's small crowd erupted in celebration and Browns players poured off their sideline as if they had just won the Super Bowl.

The Browns avoided becoming the second team to go 0-15, and no longer have to worry about joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to lose all 16 games.

Cleveland built 10-point lead in the third quarter and hung on — defensive tackle Jamie Meder blocked a potential tying field goal with 3:49 left — to give coach Hue Jackson his first win with the Browns.

The win also snapped Cleveland's 17-game losing streak dating to last season.

The Chargers (5-10) lost their fourth straight and one that could sting for a while.

CARDINALS 34, SEAHAWKS 31

SEATTLE (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals continue to give the Seattle Seahawks headaches at home. This time, it will likely end up costing Seattle a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Chandler Catanzaro hit a 43-yard field goal on the final play.

Seattle (9-5-1) rallied from a 31-18 deficit, scoring two touchdowns inside the final 3 minutes to pull even at 31. Jimmy Graham had a 37-yard touchdown catch and Paul Richardson's 5-yard TD with 1:06 left tied it. Steven Hauschka missed the extra point that could have given Seattle the lead.

Arizona (6-8-1) went 50 yards in the final minute and Catanzaro's kick was good, delivering a huge blow to Seattle's chances at the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

It was the Seahawks' first home loss this season; all NFL teams have now been beaten in a home game.

FALCONS 33, PANTHERS 16

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Falcons are back on top of the NFC South, capturing their first division title since 2012.

Matt Ryan threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns, Tevin Coleman had 135 yards from scrimmage, including a pivotal 55-yard fourth-quarter TD run.

The Falcons then had to wait about 3 1/2 hours to celebrate when the Saints defeated the Buccaneers to seal Atlanta's first playoff appearance in four years.

The Panthers (6-9) were officially eliminated from playoff contention after making the Super Bowl last season.

Ryan torched the Panthers for the second time this season. He threw for 503 yards and four TDs in Atlanta's Week 4 win over Carolina at the Georgia Dome, a victory that set the stage for the Falcons' playoff push.

SAINTS 31, BUCCANEERS 24

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mark Ingram rushed for two-touchdowns and a game-sealing first down in the final minutes.

The Buccaneers (8-7) needed a win to keep pace with Green Bay (9-6) for the final NFC wild-card spot, but couldn't keep up with the Saints' explosive offense. And their loss handed the NFC South to Atlanta, while giving the New York Giants a wild-card berth.

Drew Brees was 23 of 34 for 299 yards and a touchdown for New Orleans (7-8), which gained 417 total yards and did not have a turnover against a with 26 takeaways — including three interceptions of Brees in the clubs' previous meeting two weeks earlier.

This time, it was New Orleans' defense producing turnovers; Jairus Bryd intercepted Jameis Winston twice. The first takeaway set up Ingram's second TD, and the second stalled a promising Bucs drive into Saints territory.

Now Tampa Bay must win the season finale and hope for losses by Washington and Green Bay next week. If that happens, a complicated tie-breaker based on strength of victories will decide the final playoff spot between the Bucs and Packers.

PATRIOTS 41, JETS 3

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady passed for 214 yards and three touchdowns , and the Patriots moved a step closer to securing home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

A loss or tie by the Raiders against the Colts later Saturday would officially give New England the AFC's top seed.

Malcolm Butler added two interceptions and a fumble recovery , and LeGarrette Blount had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs.

New England (13-2) took advantage of New York miscues all day, scoring on three of its first four possessions.

The Jets (4-11), who have lost six of seven, had four turnovers.

The only really good piece of news for the Jets came before the game, when Todd Bowles rejoined the team and coached from the sideline a day after a medical scare sent him to the hospital.

PACKERS 38, VIKINGS 25

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns, WHILE Jordy Nelson shredded Minnesota's secondary for 154 yards and two scores.

The Packers' fifth straight win set up a winner-take-all showdown next week with Detroit for the NFC North title, while extinguishing the Vikings' faint postseason hopes.

Green Bay (9-6) built a 28-13 lead at halftime, with Rodgers accounting for all four scores. He finished 28 of 38, and shrugged off his right calf injury after scrambling for a 6-yard touchdown late in the second quarter and making a rare Lambeau Leap.

Rodgers and Nelson connected for scores from 21 and 2 yards in the first half.

Playing again without running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings (7-8) had success through the air after Sam Bradford threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns, including a 71-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the second quarter. Thielen had a career-high 202 yards and two scores.

DOLPHINS 34, BILLS 31, OT

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Jay Ajayi ran for 206 yards and broke loose for a 57-yarder in overtime to set up Andrew Franks' 27-yard field goal.

In winning for the ninth time in 10 games, the Dolphins (10-5) inched closer to their first playoff berth since 2008. Miami would secure the AFC's final wild-card berth if Denver lose to Kansas City.

Denver needs to win its final two games to make the postseason, and Baltimore is eliminated from the wild-card race and can only make the playoffs as the AFC North champion.

The Bills (7-8) were eliminated from contention and extended the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 17 seasons. Buffalo's drought is tied for the fifth longest in NFL history, and is the longest since the New Orleans Saints went 20 years before qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1987.

Ajayi is the fourth player in NFL history to have at least three games with 200 rushing yards in a season. Earl Campbell, OJ Simpson, Tiki Barber are the others.

Franks forced overtime by hitting a career-best 55-yard field goal with 6 seconds remaining.

REDSKINS 41, BEARS 21

CHICAGO (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw for a touchdown and ran for two more, and the Redskins gave their fading playoff hopes a boost.

DeSean Jackson added 114 yards receiving, and Washington (8-6-1) intercepted Matt Barkley five times.

Eighth in the NFC behind Green Bay and Tampa Bay coming in, Washington scored 14 points in the first quarter after struggling early in recent games, and never really was threatened by the Bears (3-12).

Cousins, shaky against Carolina, was 18 of 29 for 270 yards. He threw a 17-yard touchdown to Chris Thompson in the first quarter and scored on a 9-yard run in the second. He also pushed in from the 1 late in the third to make it 31-14.

49ERS 22, RAMS 21

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Colin Kaepernick threw a 10-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds remaining and scrambled for a go-ahead 2-point conversion as the 49ers overcame a 14-point deficit to end a 13-game losing streak.

Kaepernick rolled to his right while looking for a receiver before tucking the ball and barreling into the end zone. That gave the 49ers a sweep in the renewal of the instate rivalry with the Rams' return to Los Angeles this season.

Kaepernick threw for 257 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and rushed for a touchdown for the 49ers (2-13).

Kaepernick found Rod Streater on a slant pattern to cap a 10-play, 73-yard drive to make it 21-20.

Jared Goff was intercepted by Rashard Robinson with 16 seconds left as the Rams again squandered a late two-score lead for the second time in their past three home games.

Goff, the No. 1 overall draft pick, has lost all six of his starts for Los Angeles (4-11).


Eagles prevent Giants from clinching playoff spot, 24-19

Philadelphia Eagles' Darren Sproles (43) rushes for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Thursday, Dec. 22, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Rob Maaddi

Philadelphia (AP) — Because they couldn't win on the road, the New York Giants ensured they won't open at home if they make the playoffs.

Three of Eli Manning's career-high 63 passes were intercepted, including one that Malcolm Jenkins returned for a touchdown, and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Giants 24-19 Thursday night to snap a five-game losing streak and prevent New York from clinching a playoff spot.

"We didn't play well enough," Manning said. "I got off to a bad start and spotted them a 14-0 lead."

The loss gave Dallas the NFC East title — and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. The Giants (10-5) still own the top wild-card position and will end their four-season playoff drought this weekend if Detroit, Green Bay, Tampa Bay or Atlanta loses.

If not, they get in with a win at Washington next week.

"We need to be confident," Manning said. "We can get healthy and get a little break these next couple days and come back and practice and play better football."

After Darren Sproles gave the Eagles (6-9) a 7-0 lead on a 25-yard TD run, Jenkins picked off Manning and ran it back 34 yards for a 14-0 lead. Jenkins got another interception in the second half, the second time he's had two picks in a game in his eight-year career.

"I want to be wherever the ball is," Jenkins said. "If I play deep too long a lot of times, I get bored."

Carson Wentz threw a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor and later shook off a late hit that forced him to miss his first snaps of the season. The rookie quarterback even threw a lead block on a double reverse after he passed concussion tests.

Then the defense delivered a stop on fourth down before Terrence Brooks clinched the win with an interception at the Eagles 5.

"My name was called and I made the most of it," said Brooks, who had not played a defensive snap this season before getting in for two plays against the Giants.

Here's some things we learned in Philadelphia's win over the Giants:

LANE'S IMPACT: Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson returned from a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and immediately showed why he's so valuable. He wiped out the left side of New York's defensive line twice on big gains on the offense's first series, including a block on Landon Collins to clear a path for Sproles on his TD run. The Eagles are 4-1 with Johnson, 2-8 without him.

"It was huge to get Lane back," Wentz said. "That was a big spark for us."

WAITING GAME: The Giants couldn't do the deed themselves Thursday night and now must wait for the weekend's action. They have plenty of opportunity to qualify for the postseason while opening holiday gifts.

If the Falcons (9-5) lose at Carolina, New York is in. If the Packers (8-6) lose to Minnesota, New York is in.

Should Tampa Bay fall at New Orleans, the Giants advance. And if Detroit (9-5) is beaten by Dallas, the Giants are playoff-bound.

"We're disappointed right now in the way we played tonight," said Manning, who completed 38 passes for 356 yards and one TD. "We know we can bounce back next week and still get a win and get in the playoffs."

They might not need that victory.

BECKHAM'S NUMBERS: Earlier this season, when the Giants beat the Eagles 28-23, Odell Beckham Jr. had only four receptions for 46 yards, though he scored twice. At the Linc, he made 11 catches for 150 yards, but didn't find the end zone.

Beckham has 96 catches for 1,323 yards. His career highs are 97 receptions, set last season, and 1,450 yards.

"I think anytime you get the ball in his hands," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said, "you have a chance to go for a touchdown."

Manning targeted Beckham 20 times; the next favored receiver was Victor Cruz, who caught eight of the 13 balls thrown his way. New York's only touchdown was a 13-yard pass over the middle to Sterling Shepard, who had seven catches on 11 targets.

But all those throws weren't enough.

TOUGH KID: Wentz was wobbly after banging his head following Olivier Vernon's hit but didn't hesitate to throw himself at Eli Apple on a block after returning to the game.

"If there was anyone out in front, I was going to pick up a block," Wentz said. "Once you're cleared, you're good to go."


Oscar to move from Chelsea to Shanghai for reported $73.5m

 

Chelsea playmaker Oscar will move to Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG in January for a reported fee of 60 million pounds. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Steve Douglas

London (AP) - Brazil playmaker Oscar became the latest high-profile player to be lured to the cash-rich Chinese Super League when he sealed a move to Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea for a reported 60 million pounds ($73.5 million) on Friday.

The English Premier League leaders said Oscar will complete the transfer at the beginning of January, joining a team managed by former Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas.

It is the latest show of financial clout from the Chinese league, which has enticed established internationals like Brazilians Hulk, Ramires and Paulinho, Colombia striker Jackson Martinez and Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi. Carlos Tevez also is reportedly on the verge of moving to China from Boca Juniors.

"The Chinese market is a danger for all," Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said last week, "not only for Chelsea, but all the teams in the world."

Aged 25, Oscar is in the prime of his career despite being out of favor under Conte, making only five starts early in the season. He was a key member of Jose Mourinho's team that won the Premier League in 2015, having joined Chelsea from Brazilian club Internacional in 2012. He scored 38 goals in 203 appearances.

Driven by a government-led vision, China is aiming to be a soccer superpower and have a team capable of winning the World Cup. Having a strong domestic league is central to that and Chinese clubs are offering the kind of money that even the English Premier League cannot match.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said this week that the money on offer in China was "attractive for everyone," but that he preferred to work "at the highest level."

"I'm too young to go to a place like China," Mourinho said. "I want to stay in the most difficult place to win."

Oscar's transfer fee was not disclosed by Chelsea in their announcement. The BBC, Sky Sports and some British newspapers reported the fee was 60 million pounds.

"Skillful and tenacious, Oscar has been highly regarded by fans, players and staff during his time as a Blue," Chelsea said in a statement.


Ex-England coach Allardyce hired as Crystal Palace manager

Sam Allardyce has been appointed the new manager of Crystal Palace. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

London (AP) — Three months after losing his dream job as England manager, Sam Allardyce was back in football on Friday and facing a familiar task: Keeping a struggling team in the Premier League.

Allardyce was hired as the manager of London team Crystal Palace, who fired Alan Pardew on Thursday with the club lying in 17th place in the 20-team standings.

The 62-year-old Allardyce will look to rebuild a reputation that was damaged by an ill-fated 67-day spell with England's national team, which ended in humiliating fashion in September when he was forced out because of unguarded comments he made to undercover reporters posing as businessmen.

He has never been relegated from the Premier League as a manager — a record that will have attracted Palace as the club looks to halt its downward momentum and stay in the most lucrative league in Europe. Palace have been the worst-performing team across all four leagues of English soccer in 2016.

"We are delighted to be able to make an appointment so quickly," Palace chairman Steve Parish said, "and fortunate that someone of Sam's caliber and experience was available."

Palace's hierarchy has reportedly been in contact with Allardyce for weeks. In his last firefighting role in the Premier League, he joined Sunderland in October 2015 when the team were next-to-last in the league and preserved their place in the top flight.

He has established Bolton, Blackburn and West Ham as Premier League teams during his 25 years in management.

Palace became an expansive, attacking team under Pardew, who was backed in the transfer market by the club's board that is fronted by Parish and has also contained American businessmen David Blitzer and Josh Harris since they became co-owners in December 2015.

However, defensive problems plagued Pardew's side — especially at set pieces — and Parish said Thursday "now we're going to wind the dial back the other way."

With Allardyce known for his pragmatic approach, he fits the bill.

He will take training on Saturday and his first game in charge is away to Watford on Monday, the first of three games in nine days for Palace over the festive period.


World Rugby intervenes in George North concussion case

Wales' George North, left, is shown in action against Australia in this Oct. 21, 2011 file photo. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Dublin (AP) — World Rugby has intervened in the latest concussion case involving George North, questioning why established protocols weren't followed and the reasons behind a review panel's decision not to sanction his English club Northampton.

North was allowed to return to the field of play by Northampton's medical staff, despite appearing to lose consciousness after he landed on his head following a tackle in the air during a match against Leicester on Dec. 3.

Northampton said its doctors did not have access to full television footage that suggested North had been knocked out, and were happy for him to continue playing following a Head Injury Assessment.

The Concussion Management Review Group, set up by England's Rugby Football Union, assessed the case and said Wednesday that Northampton would not be punished, despite saying North should not have returned to the field.

After looking at the case, World Rugby said Friday it was "disappointing that apparent non-compliance with the sport's elite head-injury protocols led to George remaining on the field of play when he should have been immediately and permanently removed."

The governing body raised concerns that there was a "failure in the identification and management of the injury," especially considering North's history of concussions. The winger suffered three concussions on club and international duty between November 2014 and March 2015, forcing him to spend time away from the game on two separate occasions.

"While recognizing that there is always a risk of human error," World Rugby said, "we will seek further information from the RFU regarding the factors behind the apparent non-compliance with World Rugby protocols and the outcomes reached by the independent review group."

North hasn't played again since the match.

World Rugby has made the handling of concussions a priority in recent years.


Ethiopian running legend Miruts Yifter dies at 72

In this July 19, 1980 file photo Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter (191) leads the field during the 10,000 Meter Race at the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo)

Elias Meseret

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AP) — Miruts Yifter, an Ethiopian running legend who inspired world-class athletes like Haile Gebreselassie, has died in Canada at age 72, his family and Ethiopian Athletics Federation officials told the Associated Press on Friday.

The athlete known widely by the nickname "Yifter the Shifter" won two gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and won bronze medals earlier at the 1972 Munich Games.

"Miruts has been everything to me and my athletics career," said Haile Gebreselassie, the double Olympic 10,000-meter champion, who struggled with his tears while talking to the AP by phone. "When I started running, I just wanted to be like him. He is the reason for who I'm now and for what I have achieved."

Miruts' son, Biniam Miruts, said his father had been suffering from respiratory problems.

Yifter was the subject of much criticism during Ethiopia's former military regime, especially for not winning gold medals at the Munich Games, and he was thrown into jail upon his return home. He was soon released but left Ethiopia in 2000 for Canada.

Family members said he was never accorded the dignity and privileges he deserved in Ethiopia, and they called on all Ethiopians to give him a heroic welcome when his body arrives for burial in Addis Ababa next week.

Miruts has seven children, most of whom live outside Ethiopia.

Haile recalled listening to the radio as a little boy during Mirut's victory in Moscow.

"I used to doubt that he was a human being for achieving what he achieved back then," he said Friday. "For me, he is the best athlete Ethiopia ever had after the great Abebe Bikila."


Security increased at MCG test after terror arrests

Australia's Matthew Wade, right, bats against Pakistan during the first test in Brisbane, Friday, Dec. 16. The second test is due to start on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, in Melbourne. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Security has been increased at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for Monday's second test between Australia and Pakistan following the arrest of seven people over a terror-related plot in the city.

Those charged were allegedly planning to attack Melbourne's Flinders Street train station, nearby Federation Square and St. Paul's Cathedral on Christmas Day.

Chief police commissioner Graham Ashton said while they are confident the terror plot had been contained, extra police will be deployed at major events.

"We know there's lot of events on over the next several days right across our state, including the Boxing Day test, Christmas carols, other events that are on," he said. "There is no intelligence to suggest there is any threat whatsoever in relation to any of those events. However we're just making sure we're taking those extra precautions."

Ashton said he had spoken to Cricket Australia on Friday to assure officials that additional security has been added to the Boxing Day test.

In a security-related move late in 2015, the MCG erected a new perimeter fence about 20 to 25 meters (65 to 80 feet) away from the stadium where spectators queue to pass through security before entering the ground.

Australia won the first test against Pakistan by 39 runs at the Gabba in Brisbane. A third test in the series begins Jan. 3 in Sydney.


Russia loses biathlon, skating events over doping

 

An employee of the Russian national drug-testing laboratory holds a vial in Moscow in this May 24, 2016 file photo. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Munich (AP) — Russia has lost biathlon and speedskating events it was due to host this winter following allegations it ran a vast state-sponsored doping scheme.

World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren's final report has prompted Western athletes to campaign for boycotts in several winter sports in Russia after 12 medalists from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were implicated.

The International Biathlon Union said it also provisionally suspended two Russian athletes, who are the subject of doping cases from Sochi now opened by the IOC.

The two were not identified by the IBU.

Russia won four medals in biathlon at Sochi, including gold in men's team relay.

The IBU also said it is investigating 29 other Russian biathletes, based on McLaren's evidence, who are currently free to continue competing.

"A decision whether or not a charge should be filed to the (IBU doping panel) will be made in cooperation with legal experts and WADA, who offered to assist IBU," the governing body said in a statement after an executive board meeting in Munich.

Russian biathlon officials voluntarily gave up their rights to host a World Cup round at Tyumen in March and the world junior championships in Ostrov, due to start late February. It was "impossible" to hold the events in the circumstances, the Russian Biathlon Union said.

The IBU's president, Anders Besseberg, welcomed the move.

"This is a first important step by the Russian Biathlon Union to show to the IBU and to the world of sport that the current situation is taken very seriously," Besseberg said in a statement. "This will now allow the international biathlon family to focus on biathlon during these events."

Russia is also due to host the world championships in 2021, after the IBU awarded hosting rights to Tyumen in September — weeks after McLaren's initial report into state-backed doping was published.

The IBU did not address the 2021 worlds in Thursday's statement.

The McLaren report showed "severe problems in Russian sport and its anti-doping control system," the IBU acknowledged Thursday, adding it takes "all available information very seriously. It is now on us to find out in detail the scale of the problem in Russian biathlon."

The International Skating Union said it was stripping the Russian city of Chelyabinsk of the final round of this season's World Cup because, following McLaren's report, "the focus of the event would not be on the sport but rather accusations and controversies."

Other concerns included "a substantial amount of critical evidence" of doping in Russia "and the uncertainty relating to the attendance of the athletes," the ISU said.

It's not yet clear where the biathlon and skating events will be held instead.

Russia had previously lost the right to host the world championships in bobsled and skeleton — due in Sochi in February — in the fallout from McLaren's final report, published Dec. 9.

The Canadian law professor alleged more than 1,000 athletes, including Olympic medalists, had benefited from a state-backed plan to cover up drug use.


Harden, Gordon lead Rockets to 125-111 win over Suns

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe passes the ball as Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) defends during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 21, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Jose M. Romero

Phoenix (AP) — A night after their 10-game winning streak came to a halt with a two-point loss at home to San Antonio, the Houston Rockets looked ready to start a new run of victories.

The Rockets went from making 38 percent of their shots, including just 6 of 38 3-pointers, to a 53.5 field goal percentage and 18 made 3s on 38 attempts. It added up to a 125-111 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

James Harden had 27 points and 14 assists as the Rockets earned their 11th victory in 12 games.

"It's a good bounce-back win, back-to-back, and the guys showed some heart," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Eric Gordon added 24 points off the Rockets' bench, shooting 7 of 13 on 3s. Patrick Beverley finished with a season-high 18 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.

Harden's biggest shot came with 4:19 left, a pull-up 3 for a 120-100 lead. He bent down and moved his arms in a swimming motion in celebration as he ran back to the bench.

"He just knows when to pick the spots and he knows what he has to do, and he controls the whole game," D'Antoni said.

Devin Booker's 28 points led the Suns, who have lost four in a row. T.J. Warren added 19 and Brandon Knight 17.

Gordon hit back-to-back 3s midway through the fourth quarter, the second one at the 6:39 mark for a 110-95 lead.

"It's tough to really slow us down, knocking the 3s down and also making layups," Gordon said. "Teams just have to pick their poison against us."

The Rockets led by as many as 13 in the third, only to see the Suns cut it to 86-84 on a tip-in by P.J. Tucker with 1:19 left. Harden drew a questionable foul call against Tucker on a 3-point try with 4.3 seconds left and made all three free throws to give Houston a 91-84 lead entering the fourth.

The Rockets led 30-26 after the first quarter, when the Suns struggled to get back in transition. Houston scored 12 fast-break points in the period.

Harden took only two shots in the quarter but excelled as a passer, handing out seven assists.

"Stopping people in transition, it's mostly on the defense. It's something we have been working on in practice but in game time we still are not doing," Booker said. "Obviously, James being the playmaker, he finds the open man. When they have so many shooters on the floor, it's tough to guard."

Gordon hit four 3s in the second quarter, Harden drove for a layup with 0.3 seconds left and Houston took a 61-55 lead into halftime.


Crystal Palace fire manager Alan Pardew after woeful 2016

Alan Pardew was sacked as manager of English Premier League club Crystal Palace on Thursday, Dec. 22 following a run of poor results. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Steve Douglas

London (AP) - In charge of English soccer's worst-performing team of 2016, Alan Pardew was already under heavy scrutiny at Premier League strugglers Crystal Palace.

Some unwise comments about the club's American owners might just have made his position untenable.

Pardew was fired as Palace's manager on Thursday, three days before Christmas and nearly two years into his job at Selhurst Park. The club may now turn to Sam Allardyce, who has been without a job since getting fired by England in September.

With nearly half the league season gone, Palace are in 17th place in the 20-team standings after four wins from 17 games. The club has the fewest points per game (0.72) in 2016 than any team in England's top four divisions.

"Personally, I have a lot of good feelings for this football club and am sad that my time there has ended," said Pardew, who played for Palace from 1987-91. "I feel that I have a special bond with the club and hope that hasn't been affected."

In a short statement, Palace said the club had asked Pardew to step down from his position and thanked him for his services.

Since December 2015, the club's board has contained American businessmen David Blitzer and Josh Harris, who were the target of remarks from Pardew after Palace's 3-0 win over Southampton that gave the under-pressure manager some breathing space.

"We have a lot of serious investors at the club who perhaps don't know a lot about football," Pardew said, before praising Palace chairman Steve Parish for defending him in troubled times.

Less than three weeks later, the 55-year-old Englishman is out.

British media reported that Allardyce will hold talks with Palace regarding the vacancy. Allardyce lasted just 67 days — and one match — in charge of England's national team before he was fired over unguarded comments to undercover reporters posing as businessmen.

Allardyce has a strong record of improving underperforming teams, so would be the perfect appointment for Palace.

Palace have only won six league games in 2016, and have lost eight of their last 10 games.

Yet it all started so well under Pardew, who joined Palace after quitting Newcastle — where he made headlines because of his frequent flare-ups in the coaches' technical area. These included head-butting an opposing player as they jostled for a ball at a throw-in.

Palace finished in a club-record 10th place in the Premier League in Pardew's first season in charge, then began last season well until a drastic dip in form saw the team narrowly avoid relegation. A run to the FA Cup final, where Palace lost to Manchester United at Wembley Stadium, spared Pardew from more scrutiny.

Palace broke their transfer record twice in the offseason to sign England winger Andros Townsend and then Belgium striker Christian Benteke. Scoring hasn't been a problem for the team nicknamed "The Eagles," who are the sixth-highest scorers in the league, but they have the third-worst defense and have conceded lots of goals at set-pieces.

Palace's next game is against Watford on Monday, which starts a run of three games in eight days over the festive period.

"During his tenure, Alan's hard work and dedication were without question," Parish said. "He has improved so many areas of the club and we wish him the very best for the future. With games now coming thick and fast over the holiday period, the club are hoping to put someone in place as quickly as possible."


No drone danger but Hirscher still can't catch Kristoffersen

Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen celebrates after winning an alpine ski men's World Cup slalom in Madonna di Campiglio Italy, Thursday, Dec. 22. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

Madonna di Campiglio, Italy (AP) — There were no falling drones to deal with this time but Marcel Hirscher still can't catch Henrik Kristoffersen on the slalom hill.

For the second consecutive slalom race this season, and in a result that matched last year's event on the Canalone Miramonti course, Kristoffersen edged Hirscher on Thursday night.

The Norwegian finished the two runs under the lights 0.33 seconds faster than Hirscher, the five-time defending overall World Cup champion from Austria.

A year ago, Hirscher narrowly escaped getting hit by a camera drone that fell from the sky within inches of his head as he was racing.

"If I think back to last year, I'm just happy that I'm healthy and still a ski racer," Hirscher said. "Last year I needed a lot of luck."

Drones have since been banned from the ski circuit.

While Hirscher retains a comfortable lead in the overall standings, he's now only 60 points ahead of Kristoffersen in the slalom ranks.

Kristoffersen skipped the opening slalom of the season due to a sponsor conflict with the Norwegian federation.

Sitting second to Kristoffersen after a clean but otherwise unimpressive opening run, Hirscher attacked from start to finish on his second trip down — on the borderline of losing control.

When Kristoffersen then came down and added to his advantage, Hirscher just applauded.

Still, Hirscher was content with his performance.

"I'm super, super happy with my skiing," he said. "I'm in a really good way and I earned a lot of points for the overall World Cup."

It was the 11th slalom win of Kristoffersen's World Cup career and the 12th overall for the Olympic bronze medalist.

Kristoffersen joined Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark (1979-80 and 1980-81) and Italian great Alberto Tomba (1987-88 and 1988-89) as the only men to win the Campiglio slalom — one of the steepest and most difficult on the circuit — in consecutive years.

"They're huge superstars, the best there has ever been in skiing," the 22-year-old Kristoffersen said. "This is a real slalom hill and to have skied here and won here like legends like Stenmark and Tomba is really special."

Stefano Gross of Italy finished third, a distant 1.35 seconds behind, and Manfred Moelgg, another Italian, was fourth, 1.45 back.


Curry, Warriors warm up and thump Utah Jazz 104-74

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, centre, chases after a loose ball against Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles, right, during the first half of their NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 20, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Janie McCauley

Oakland, California (AP) — Stephen Curry scored as many points as Utah's starting five combined. Yet it sure didn't look pretty early for the star-studded Warriors, who eventually found their groove in another lopsided result.

Curry scored 25 points with four 3-pointers while Kevin Durant had 22 points as the Warriors whipped the Utah Jazz 104-74 on Tuesday night thanks to their defense following a slow start.

Klay Thompson added 17 points and Draymond Green had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five steals as Golden State handed the Jazz their worst defeat of the season.

Joe Johnson scored 14 points for Utah in its seventh straight defeat to the Warriors. The Jazz have also lost seven in a row and 10 of 12 at Oracle Arena.

The teams combined to begin 2 for 25, but the Warriors got going in the second quarter and the rout was on. They shot 61.9 percent in the period to lead 55-33 at halftime and Utah had the lowest total in any half by a Golden State opponent this season.

"It was cool to go through and cool to see how we guarded through the night," Durant said.

JaVale McGee contributed eight points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Warriors.

Utah shot 35.5 percent — 9 of 30 from 3-point range — and had a four-game winning streak snapped with just its second loss in the last nine games and third in 14.

"We looked like we were just scared, and we shouldn't be," Utah's Rudy Gobert said.

The Warriors warmed up and the backups got more extended playing time down the stretch. Golden State beat the undermanned Jazz 106-99 on Dec. 8 when Utah was without starters Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood because of injuries.

This time, the teams combined to start 0 for 8, each missing its first four shots and seven of eight. The Warriors were 1 for 12 at one point and the Jazz 1 of 13.

"This is an ugly game, it's nasty," Green recalled thinking early on.

Then, Golden State got defensive.

"If we keep a team under 80, I like our chances of winning most every night," Curry said.


Ex-South Africa batsman banned for 2 years in fixing probe

Former South African test batsman Alviro Petersen is shown in this July 23, 2013 file photo. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Johannesburg (AP) — Former South Africa test batsman Alviro Petersen was banned for two years on Wednesday after admitting that he failed to report meetings he had with match-fixers and also concealed and destroyed evidence.

Petersen, who played 36 tests and retired from international cricket last year, admitted to numerous charges under Cricket South Africa's anti-corruption code: He failed to disclose the meetings with fixers, failed to report corrupt activity by other players, didn't cooperate with investigators, and concealed and destroyed evidence, CSA said.

Petersen accepted the two-year ban, but charges against him of attempting to fix a match or matches and seeking bribes to fix games were dropped, CSA said.

The investigation, which is ongoing, relates to plans to fix matches in South Africa's domestic Twenty20 league in 2015.

Another former South Africa international, Gulam Bodi, was identified as the go-between who approached players on behalf of the fixers. He was banned for 20 years in January. Four other players, including former South Africa wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile, have also been banned for between seven and 12 years and more players are believed to be involved in the case.

CSA said that while plans were made to manipulate games, it doesn't believe any fixing ultimately took place, although it cannot completely rule it out.

Petersen played for South Africa's test team for five years from 2010-15 and was a regular opening partner to former captain Graeme Smith. He continued to play domestic cricket in South Africa after giving up internationals and is the highest-profile player caught up in the fixing probe so far.

In comments published by CSA, Petersen admitted to meeting with Bodi and unnamed "fixers," although he claimed he never had any intention to take money or fix matches. Petersen did not say why he attended the meetings.

"I now deeply regret having participated in these meetings and not to have immediately reported them to the authorities as I am obliged to do," Petersen said in the CSA statement. "I understand that I need to take personal responsibility for my actions and I accept the punishment that CSA has imposed on me. I hope that other players will learn from my experience and be better prepared if they find themselves in the situation that I was in."

Although this scandal has not been on the same scale, the match-fixing investigation has revived uncomfortable memories of the Hansie Cronje case, when South Africa's popular national cricket captain was found guilty of match-fixing and banned for life in 2000. Cronje died in a plane crash in 2002 at the age of 32.


Jagr on Gretzky: 'I don't think he was from this planet'

Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr, left, of the Czech Republic, fires a shot on a breakaway possession against Colorado Avalanche during an NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 16, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Tim Reynolds

Sunrise, Fla. (AP) — Jaromir Jagr knows No. 2 is as high as he'll go on the NHL career scoring list.

In his mind, that's a record in itself.

Jagr's next point will be the 1,888th of his career and give him outright possession of second place on the all-time NHL points list, breaking a tie with Mark Messier. Only Wayne Gretzky's total of 2,857 is better than that, and Jagr — the 44-year-old Florida Panthers forward who has said he can see himself playing until he's 50 — knows the top spot is going to stay far from his reach.

"For me, it's like No. 1," Jagr said recently when asked what passing Messier would mean. "I don't really count Wayne Gretzky. He was from another planet. I don't think he was from this planet. Whatever he did, it's unbreakable."

Jagr caught Messier on Tuesday with a three-assist effort in Florida's shootout win over Buffalo. His next chance for the tiebreaker is Thursday, when the Panthers play host to the Boston Bruins.

Jagr would have been No. 2 long ago if not for his leaving the NHL to play in Russia from 2008 through 2011. Jagr collected 146 points in those three seasons, deciding to play there in part because of the proximity to his parents in the Czech Republic. But he missed the NHL, returned to play with Philadelphia in 2011-12 — and has been collecting jerseys since, also logging time with Dallas, Boston, New Jersey and now Florida since coming back to North America.

"It's an honor to be around him, get a little wisdom from him, get a few laughs from him," said Florida's Nick Bjugstad, who scored the goal that became point No. 1,887 for Jagr. "He's been nothing but awesome for our organization."

Including playoffs, Tuesday's three-point game was the 215th of Jagr's career.

He's reached seven points in an NHL game twice, and that's not even close to his career best. He played one game in a German league in 1994-95 during an NHL work stoppage and racked up 11 points — one goal and 10 assists.

His first NHL point was a goal on Oct. 7, 1990, when he was the youngest player in the league at 18. The goalie who gave that one up was Chris Terreri, who was just in his second full NHL season and a relatively young player at 25.

Terreri had a fine, full career and his last NHL game was 16 years ago. Jagr is still going, with no end in sight.

"The way he comes to work every single day is unbelievable," Panthers interim coach and general manager Tom Rowe said.

The NHL is made up of two conferences, six divisions and 30 arenas. And to illustrate how long Jagr has been in that league, consider that he's played in four conferences, 11 divisions and 57 different arenas.

That doesn't even include four neutral-site arenas, or two baseball stadiums — Yankee Stadium in New York, and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

"He's kind of inspired us with his passion and dedication," Messier said.

For Messier, going to No. 3 on the all-time scoring list is merely a formality. He said the huge numbers Jagr put up early in his career deserve credit on their own, and now he merits more of the same credit for staying so fit and committed at this point in his life.

"This is kind of anticlimactic for me in a way," said Messier, a former teammate of Jagr with the New York Rangers. "I understand the amount of time that he put in overseas when he left the NHL and came back and the amount of points he amassed over there and where he would be if he would have stayed (here). So I guess in my own mind he surpassed me a long time ago."


Eagles standing in way of Giants' clinching playoff berth

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, right, runs away from Detroit Lions' Asa Jackson during the second half of their NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 18, in East Rutherford. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Rob Maaddi

Philadelphia (AP) — All the New York Giants have to do to secure a playoff berth is beat a struggling division rival headed nowhere.

That's no simple task in front of a hostile crowd and a national audience.

There's plenty at stake when the Giants (10-4) visit Philadelphia (5-9) on Thursday night. A victory would secure New York's first playoff berth since 2011 and also keep pressure on NFC East-leading Dallas (12-2).

But prime-time games in Philly have been tough on the Giants lately. They lost 27-0 on a Sunday night in 2014, and 27-7 on a Monday night in 2015.

"I've been called every name in the book in Philly, but you have to embrace it," wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. said. "They don't want to see you win. It is a pretty ruthless place down there."

The Eagles have lost five straight games and they're 2-9 since a 3-0 start, but six of those losses were one-score games. Among them was a 28-23 loss to the Giants on Nov. 6.

Eli Manning nearly gave that game away. The Eagles had four chances to score the winning touchdown from the Giants 17 in the final minutes after Jordan Hicks made an acrobatic interception of Manning's pass. However, Carson Wentz threw four straight incomplete passes.

"We're in all these close games," Wentz said. "To come up short time and time again, that (stinks). It's tough and there are things we keep saying we have to learn from. At the end of the day, we have to find a way to win these ballgames."

They also want to prevent the Giants from celebrating in their house. Last year, the Cardinals and Redskins clinched playoff berths in consecutive games at the Linc.

"There is motivation to definitely make sure that that playoff spot isn't clinched here in Philly if we can control it," safety Malcolm Jenkins said.


Olympic organizers in Tokyo disclose total cost estimate

On the left side; Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, center, speaks with Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori, left, at a Four-Party Working Group meeting in Tokyo, Wednesday, Dec. 21. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Mari Yamaguchi

Tokyo (AP) — Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics estimate the total cost of hosting the 2020 Games will be between 1.6 and 1.8 trillion yen ($13-$15 billion).

The official cost estimate announced Wednesday was below the promised 2 trillion ($17 billion) cap, while organizers said they will try to come down further.

"This is Version 1," said Toshiro Muto, chief executive officer of the organizing committee. "We will continue our cost-cutting effort toward our Version 2."

Details of cost-sharing among the three parties — the organizing committee, Tokyo and central governments — can be now worked out, Muto said.

The cost estimate includes 590 billion yen ($5.5 billion) to build permanent and temporary venues and other facilities, and 410 billion yen ($3.8 billion) for "soft" costs such as transportation, security and other operational expenses. It takes into account 500 billion yen ($4.7 billion) of revenue from sponsorship, ticket sales, licensing and IOC contributions.

It also calls for a backup budget of 100-300 billion yen ($1-$2.8 billion) to cover "contingency" costs such as possible anti-heat measures that may be needed to cope with Tokyo's hot weather, officials said.

International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates had criticized the $17 billion cap as too high. Coates, via a videoconference link from Australia, joined chief organizer Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa for Wednesday's announcement.

Coates praised their effort and said he was "very, very pleased" with the outcome, which is a substantial reduction from an earlier prediction. He noted the taxpayer money would be from 1.1 to 1.3 trillion yen ($10.3-$12.1 billion) and that the total cost also includes "considerable legacy."

While Coates would not give a numerical target, he said more details are needed in areas such as transport, security and games operations for further cost reduction.

"We need to do more work there. But the feeling we have is that there are savings to be found there," he said.

Tokyo's Olympic costs have soared amid Japan's reconstruction from the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the year the city launched its bid for the games. Tokyo secured the games in 2013. The trend in the construction industry is expected to continue until the Games, officials said.

A Tokyo government panel has warned the eventual total cost could exceed $30 billion — four times the initial estimate — without drastic cuts. The outspoken governor, Koike, has spearheaded a cost-cutting effort, proposing a review of three costly venues.

The IOC is facing pressure to reduce costs to help entice cities to bid for future games. The $51 billion price tag associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, led numerous cities to drop out of bidding for the 2022 and 2024 Olympics. The IOC is encouraging cities to make maximum use of existing and temporary facilities.

Koike has agreed to keep all three venues — for rowing and canoe sprint, swimming and volleyball — at their planned sites in Tokyo, rather than moving them outside the capital. Yet, she said the review led to a 40 billion yen ($340 million) savings and that she is seeing further reductions in line with IOC policy.

"I hope this will be a wisely-spent, sustainable event," she said.


Petra Kvitova could return to tennis in about 6 months

A photograph of Czech tennis player Petra Kvitova lies on a tennis racket during a charity tennis exhibition in Brno, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova had to cancel the event because she has been injured during an attack in her flat in the Czech Republic. (Vaclav Salek/CTK via AP)

Karel Janicek

Prague (AP) — Petra Kvitova could return to tennis in about six months, the surgeon who operated on the two-time Wimbledon champion's left hand said Wednesday.

Kvitova was injured Tuesday when a knife-wielding intruder attacked her at her home in the town of Prostejov. The attacker is still at large and police have asked the public for help.

Kvitova underwent nearly four hours of surgery on Tuesday at a specialized clinic in the northern town of Vysoke nad Jizerou.

"When we talk about (playing tennis), it will take about six months," said surgeon Radek Kebrle of the Hand and Plastic Surgery Institute. "It's a serious injury and we have to deal with that accordingly.

"She's young and healthy and has long, slim fingers," he said. "That's a good prognosis."

Earlier Wednesday, Kvitova's spokesman, Karel Tejkal, said the surgery was successful and the Czech player was feeling good.

Kvitova sustained damage to the tendons in her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers and two nerves.

She was taken to the clinic in Vysoke nad Jizerou, an elite institution in the country, after initial treatment at a hospital in Prostejov. Doctors decided to operate on her hand immediately.

Shortly after the attack, Kvitova wrote on Twitter that she expected to recover and get back to playing tennis, saying "if you know anything about me I am strong and I will fight this."

Kvitova won the Wimbledon title in 2011 and 2014. She reached a career-high ranking of No. 2 in 2011, but finished the 2016 season as No. 11.

In April 1993, Monica Seles was at the height of her success when she was stabbed in the back during a changeover at a tournament in Hamburg. A man reached over a courtside railing and knifed her, leaving an inch-deep slit between her shoulder blades.

Seles returned to the game 27 months later and reached the 1995 U.S. Open final. 


Hawks overcome Westbrook's 46 to beat Thunder 110-108

Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) grabs a rebound in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, right, in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 19. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Cliff Brunt

Oklahoma City (AP) — Paul Millsap took advantage of a chance to show off his rare versatility.

Atlanta's 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) forward shifted to center because Dwight Howard was out and scored a season-high 30 points, including the go-ahead 10-footer with 12.7 seconds left. He helped the Hawks overcome Russell Westbrook's 46 points and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-108 on Monday night.

"It took everything we had," Millsap said. "It took everybody stepping up to get this win tonight."

After Millsap's late shot, Thunder center Steven Adams rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Westbrook and dunked it, but a review determined that the basket came just after time expired.

Westbrook entered the game as the NBA's leading scorer with more than 30 points per game.

"If he gets his points — he's going to get that regardless," Millsap said. "The game plan was try to take everybody else out of it."

Westbrook, who made 16 of 33 shots and had 11 rebounds and seven assists, was unimpressed with his effort.

"No, we don't have any moral victories around here, buddy," he said.

Dennis Schroder scored 31 points and made 10 of 16 shots for the Hawks, who have won four of six after a six-game losing streak.

"Pretty special effort by the guys tonight, to come in here down Dwight, without him, and to find a way to compete against a great rebounding team and an individual player that's playing just lights-out basketball," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I was very proud of our players."

Jerami Grant scored a season-high 15 points, and Andre Roberson matched a season high with 14 points for the Thunder.

Westbrook scored 18 points in the second quarter to help the Thunder take a 53-48 lead. The Hawks shot 50 percent in the first half, but without Howard, they were outrebounded 27-14, and the Thunder outscored them 10-0 on second-chance points. Schroder scored 18 points in the first half, and Millsap added 16.

The Hawks closed the third quarter well to take an 81-78 lead into the fourth, then Atlanta held on.

"They made some tough plays toward the end of the game," Thunder guard Semaj Christon said. "We can do better on defense keeping the guys in front of us without fouling."


England collapse to humiliating defeat vs India

Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, left, and teammate Ravindra Jadeja celebrate after winning the test series against England during their fifth day of the fifth test in Chennai, India, Tuesday, Dec. 20. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

Chetan Narula

Chennai, India (AP) — England's losing tour of India ended in further failure on Tuesday when the tourists collapsed to an innings and 75-run loss in the fifth test in Chennai.

Well placed at 167-4 going into the final session and playing for an honorable draw, England lost six wickets for 40 runs to lose the five-match series 4-0.

India dominated throughout the series, with effective spin bowling while their batsmen exerted complete domination over England's spinners.

On Tuesday, Ravindra Jadeja took 7-48, his sixth five-wicket haul and his career-best in test cricket, as the visitors collapsed.

The first test in Rajkot ended in a draw and India won the second test in Visakhapatnam by 246 runs, as well as the third test in Mohali by eight wickets.

They won the series with an innings and 36-run win in Mumbai.

Virat Kohli was declared man of the series for his 655 runs in five tests. "It's been a complete performance from the time we were put under pressure in Rajkot, to come back and put them under pressure in the next game. We lost tosses in four of the five tests and came from behind to win three of those matches. The lower-order contributions stand out for us and it has been a very satisfying series," he said.

Karun Nair was given the man of the match for his maiden triple hundred. "I think it will take a couple of days to sink in. It's an amazing feeling when you contribute to winning a match, so hats off to the team," he said.

Starting from overnight 12-0, England openers Alastair Cook (49) and Keaton Jennings (54) put on a century stand for the first wicket.

Cook was caught at leg slip off Jadeja soon after lunch while Jennings completed his half-century off 117 balls. He too fell shortly afterwards, lobbing a simple return catch to Jadeja in the 44th over.

Jadeja then trapped Joe Root (6) lbw in the 50th over via DRS review.

The all-rounder was all over the visitors, as he played a part in dismissing Jonny Bairstow (1) as well. Jadeja ran back from midwicket to complete the catch, as the batsman miscued a chip in the air off Ishant Sharma (1-17).

England went from 103-0 to 129-4, still hoping to save the match in the last session though, placed at 167-4 at the break. Instead, they collapsed, and were bowled out for 207 runs in the span of 24 overs.

Jadeja had taken 3-38 before tea, and he continued his fine form thereafter, picking 4 wickets for 10 runs. His previous best was 6-138 against South Africa in Durban in 2013.

This was Jadeja's first ten-wicket haul in test cricket, as he picked 3-106 in the first innings, returning a total 10-154.

"With his accurate bowling, Jadeja brings balance to the side. He can bowl in any conditions. He doesn't have too many variations, but he made the batsmen think with his accuracy about how long they can defend," said Kohli, about Jadeja's incisive spell.

Moeen Ali (44) played an unnecessary heave to throw away his good work, and was caught at mid-on by a leaping Ravichandran Ashwin.

Ali had been given a life in the 70th over, when he was dropped at short leg off Jadeja, but didn't make it count.

Then, Ben Stokes (23) was caught at midwicket off Jadeja again, the left-arm spinner picking up his first five-wicket haul since 5-73 against New Zealand in Kanpur this past September.

Stokes and Ali had added 63 runs for the fifth wicket, and thereafter it all fell apart.

Amit Mishra (1-30) bowled Liam Dawson (0) with a googly, and then Umesh Yadav (1-36) had Adil Rashid (2) caught at point by Jadeja, as he was omnipresent today in England's misery.

Jos Buttler (6 not out) and Stuart Broad (1) resisted for a bit, but Jadeja returned to pick the last two wickets.

Broad was caught at short leg, and then Jake Ball (0) was snapped up by Karun Nair to bring down the curtains on the series.

England went from 103-0 to 207 all out, losing 10 wickets for 104 runs. "It wasn't great viewing but it happens in this part of the world on the fifth day of a test. The momentum is very hard to stop when wickets fall in clusters," said Cook, after the day's play.

"It has been a tough tour and it can get lonely when you lose games of cricket. We have to give India credit. Even when we put 470 runs on the board, they made big runs under pressure. We knew we would be under pressure today if we lost a couple quick wickets, and wanted to stop that momentum. But we couldn't do that with our skills. We just haven't been good enough to put India under pressure," he added.

Cook is under pressure to hold on to his job as England test skipper, after drawing 2-2 with Pakistan at home in the summer, drawing 1-1 in Bangladesh before the Indian tour, and after suffering a 4-0 rout in the five-match series here.

"I have said earlier that I have to go away and do some thinking. This is not the right time to make decisions as big as that. I will come back in January, then plan with Andrew Strauss, and see what's right going ahead for English cricket," Cook signed off.


Panthers knock Redskins out of wild-card position

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton passes the ball during the first half of the NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 19. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

Rob Maaddi

New York (AP) - Cam Newton and the Panthers stuck it to Josh Norman and the Redskins, helping the Buccaneers and Packers improve their playoff chances.

Carolina's 26-15 victory at Washington on Monday night knocked the Redskins out of the NFC's second wild-card position and kept the Panthers in the race mathematically. Carolina needs to win and have 10 games go their way, including another tie for Washington.

The Redskins gained control of their playoff hopes when rival Dallas beat Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but they gave it right back. The loss dropped Washington into eighth place in the conference behind the Bucs and Green Bay.

On Sunday, Tom Brady and the Patriots clinched another division title and helped the Dolphins jump into a postseason position while Oakland snapped a 13-year playoff drought.

New England secured its eighth straight AFC East title and earned a first-round bye with a dominant defensive performance in a 16-3 win at Denver.

The Patriots' victory allowed Miami to leapfrog the Broncos for the second wild-card position in the AFC.

The Raiders beat the Chargers to earn their first trip to the playoffs since losing the 2003 Super Bowl.

In the early games Sunday, the NFC's playoff picture got more jumbled and the Chiefs lost control of their division championship hopes.

The Packers got right back in the mix for an NFC North title thanks to a last-second win over the Bears and help from the Giants, who beat the Lions and put pressure on the Cowboys in the NFC East.

Kansas City lost to Tennessee and then fell out of first place in the AFC West following Oakland's victory. In the AFC South, all three teams vying for first place got big wins.

The Seattle Seahawks kicked off Week 15 by securing another NFC West title on Thursday night.

Dallas, which already got in, maintained a two-game edge over the Giants with a 26-20 win over the Buccaneers.

Here's a closer look at the teams and scenarios:

AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-2)

Remaining schedule: vs. New York Jets on Dec. 24, at Miami on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 9-1.

Clinched division and first-round bye with impressive win over the Broncos. Need one win or loss by Raiders to lock up No. 1 seed.

MIAMI DOLPHINS (9-5)

Remaining schedule: at Buffalo on Dec. 24, vs. New England on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 6-4.

Their win over the Jets coupled with New England's win at Denver gave the Dolphins control of the second wild-card spot.

Need a miracle: BUFFALO BILLS (7-7)

Eliminated: NEW YORK JETS (4-10).

___

AFC NORTH

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-5)

Remaining schedule: vs. Baltimore on Dec. 25, vs. Cleveland on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 7-3.

Their comeback win over the Bengals set up a showdown for the division at home on Christmas Day vs. the Ravens. Pittsburgh already lost at Baltimore so it must win that game.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-6)

Remaining schedule: at Pittsburgh on Dec. 25, at Cincinnati on Jan. 1.

Division record: 4-0. Conference record: 7-3.

They win the division if they win out.

Eliminated: CINCINNATI BENGALS (5-8-1), CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-14).

___

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS (8-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Cincinnati on Dec. 24, at Tennessee on Jan. 1.

Division record: 5-0. Conference record: 6-4.

They might have a quarterback controversy, but Tom Savage led them to a comeback win that keeps them in first place. Houston is tied with the Titans, so their New Year's Day rematch at Tennessee could be for the division.

TENNESSEE TITANS (8-6)

Remaining schedule: at Jacksonville on Dec. 24, vs. Houston on Jan. 1.

Division record: 1-3. Conference record: 5-5.

An impressive comeback win at Kansas City allows them to control their playoff possibilities. If they win out, they earn a division crown. The Titans would lose a tiebreaker with Houston, so they can't fall behind the Texans going into Week 17. They hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Broncos and Dolphins, so a wild card is still in play.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (7-7)

Remaining schedule: at Oakland on Dec. 24, vs. Jacksonville on Jan. 1.

Division record: 2-3. Conference record: 4-6.

A big win at Minnesota keeps them alive, but they have the tough Raiders and need help.

Eliminated: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-12).

___

AFC WEST

OAKLAND RAIDERS (11-3)

Remaining schedule: vs. Indianapolis on Dec. 24, at Denver on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 8-2.

Oakland clinched its first playoff spot in 14 years with a win over the Chargers. The Raiders must finish one game ahead of the Chiefs to win AFC West because they lost to them twice.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-4)

Remaining schedule: vs. Denver on Dec. 25, at San Diego on Jan. 1.

Division record: 4-0. Conference record: 7-3.

Missed opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and lost control of division race, but hold a tiebreaker over the Raiders because of a series sweep.

DENVER BRONCOS (8-6)

Remaining schedule: at Kansas City on Dec. 25, vs. Oakland on Jan. 1.

Division record: 1-3. Conference record: 5-5.

They lost control of their playoff future and their schedule is brutal.

Eliminated: SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (5-8).

___

NFC EAST

DALLAS COWBOYS (12-2)

Remaining schedule: vs. Detroit on Dec. 26, at Philadelphia on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 8-2.

Their magic number to win the division and secure the No. 1 seed is one.

NEW YORK GIANTS (10-4)

Remaining schedule: at Philadelphia on Thursday, at Washington on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 7-3.

They put heat on the Cowboys, but still need lots of help to win the division. A wild-card berth is more likely, but they have only road games remaining so it won't be easy.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7-6-1)

Remaining schedule: at Chicago on Dec. 24, vs. New York Giants on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 5-5.

Lost control of their playoff future. Will need help to get in.

Eliminated: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-9).

___

NFC NORTH

DETROIT LIONS (9-5):

Remaining schedule: at Dallas on Dec. 26, vs. Green Bay on Jan. 1.

Division record: 2-2. Conference record: 7-3.

A loss to the Giants plus Green Bay's win is setting up a winner-take-all home game vs. the Packers in Week 17. The Lions still have a one-game lead, but their schedule is daunting.

GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Minnesota on Dec. 24, at Detroit on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 6-4.

The Packers gained control of their playoff hopes with a win and Detroit's loss. If they win out, they take the North. A wild card also is in play.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-7)

Remaining schedule: at Green Bay on Dec. 24, vs. Chicago on Jan. 1.

Division record: 1-3. Conference record: 4-6.

A blowout loss at home to the Colts leaves Minnesota on the brink of elimination.

Eliminated: CHICAGO BEARS (3-11).

___

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA FALCONS (9-5)

Remaining schedule: at Carolina on Dec. 24, vs. New Orleans on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 7-3.

Their win over San Francisco coupled with Tampa Bay's loss put them in control in the division race.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (8-6)

Remaining schedule: at New Orleans on Dec. 24, vs. Carolina on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 6-4.

Regained their grip on the second wild-card spot with Washington's loss.

Need a miracle: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-8), CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-8).

___

NFC WEST

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-4-1)

Remaining schedule: vs. Arizona on Dec. 24, at San Francisco on Jan. 1.

Division record: 2-1-1. Conference record: 5-4-1.

The first team to clinch a division title, Seattle jumped up to the No. 2 seed following Detroit's loss.

Eliminated: ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-8-1), LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-10), SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-13).


Petra Kvitova injured by knife-wielding attacker at her home

Petra Kvitova. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias).

Karel Janicek

Prague (AP) — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was injured by a knife-wielding attacker at her home on Tuesday and had to undergo surgery on her left hand.

An operation that took 3 hours and 45 minutes revealed that the left-handed player's injuries were "serious," but "there's no reason to think she wouldn't be able to play tennis," her spokesman Karel Tejkal said.

Kvitova will, however, miss the Australian Open and a significant part of the season as she won't be able to fully train for at least three months, Tejkal said.

Kvitova sustained damaged to the tendons in her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers and two nerves, Tejkal added.

The 2011 and 2014 champion at the All England Club said she considered herself lucky to have survived the attack Tuesday morning in the eastern Czech town of Prostejov.

"In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand. I am shaken, but fortunate to be alive," Kvitova wrote on Twitter. "The injury is severe and I will need to see specialists, but if you know anything about me I am strong and I will fight this."

In an earlier statement on the Facebook page of the Czech Republic's Fed Cup team, Kvitova said: "What happened to me was certainly not pleasant, but it's behind me. I have the best possible care and I'm in touch with my loved ones. The worst is behind me."

It was not immediately clear how the injury could affect Kvitova's play. She underwent surgery "because of her condition and future career," said Tejkal, who described the incident as a burglary. Prostejov police spokesman Frantisek Korinek said the attacker, a man who is about 35 years old, escaped from the scene and was at large. He said police have launched a manhunt.

Kvitova was scheduled to participate in a charity event in the city of Brno on Tuesday with another Czech player, Lucie Safarova.

"It's horrible," Safarova told Czech public radio. "Things like that are shocking to all of us. It can happen to anyone of us. That's really terrible."

In April 1993, Monica Seles was at the height of her success when she was stabbed in the back during a changeover at a tournament in Hamburg. A man reached over a courtside railing and knifed her, leaving an inch-deep slit between her shoulder blades.

Seles returned to the game 27 months later and reached the 1995 U.S. Open final.

In an unrelated move earlier Tuesday, Kvitova withdrew from the Czech Republic team at next month's Hopman Cup mixed-team tennis tournament because of an earlier foot injury.
 


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