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Update November 2017

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

Update November 11 - 12, 2017

Italy risk missing World Cup after losing to Sweden 1-0

Sweden's Emil Forsberg, left, jumps past Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon during the World Cup qualifying play-off first leg soccer match between Sweden and Italy, at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Friday, Nov. 10. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Solna, Sweden (AP) — Four-time champions Italy have been left at serious risk of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades after losing at Sweden 1-0 in the opening leg of their playoff on Friday.

Substitute Jakob Johansson scored shortly after the hour mark with a shot from the edge of the area that deflected in off Daniele De Rossi. After a long throw-in, Ola Toivonen headed the ball out to Johansson and his deflected drive wrong-footed goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon for his first international goal.

The Azzurri created few chances at Friends Arena outside Stockholm and were fortunate not to concede more goals after allowing Sweden a series of free kicks early on.

Italy's best opportunity was a long effort from Matteo Darmian that squarely hit the post in the 70th. The Azzurri's only other significant chance was a header from Andrea Belotti six minutes in.

Sweden imposed themselves with their physicality and playmaker Emil Forsberg proved especially dangerous with his passing skills, setting up numerous opportunities.

Early in the second half, Italy became outraged at Sweden's physicality, protesting for yellow cards at perceived excessive contact. But Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir said to play on.

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura wanted the referee to intervene more.

"But that's not a justification," Ventura said. "A draw was the minimum we could hope for considering what happened on the pitch."

Making matters more complicated for Italy was that creative midfielder Marco Verratti picked up a yellow card that will rule him out of the return match on Monday at Milan's San Siro.

"We need to learn from the mistakes we made tonight," Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci said. "I'm expecting a great match at the San Siro and for Italy to go to the World Cup. We've got to play the match of our lives."

Italy have scored only three goals in their last five matches and haven't found the net in two of those games.

"We have to be quicker on the ball," Bonucci said. "In the return leg, we have to really fight. They played a very physical game but we can't make excuses."

Italy have participated in every World Cup since failing to qualify for the 1958 tournament, which coincidentally was held in Sweden.

The last major competitions Italy missed were the 1984 and 1992 European Championships.

While Sweden didn't compete in the last two World Cups, they impressed in qualifying with a win over France and finished ahead of the Netherlands in their group.

"We need to go to Milan and focus on our game," Sweden striker Marcus Berg said. "We know what to do. It will be a tough match but we have a strong belief in what we're going to do."

Ventura relied on Ciro Immobile and Belotti — two of his former players at Torino — in attack. That decision left winger Lorenzo Insigne, considered the Azzurri's most talented forward recently, on the bench. Insigne replaced Verratti for the final quarter hour but made little impact.

With his strong play on the left flank, Darmian was Italy's only bright spot. Jose Mourinho, Darmian's manager at Manchester United who watched from the tribune, had to be pleased.

Otherwise, the Azzurri were too predictable and slow to punish Sweden's well-organized defence.

"Their goal was fairly lucky," Darmian said. "But we need to do more."

No letting up: Hamilton quickest in Brazilian GP practice

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, steers his car during the first free practice at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, Nov. 10. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Stephen Wade

Sao Paulo (AP) — Winning his fourth Formula One title did not slow Lewis Hamilton one bit.

The Englishman was quickest in both practice sessions for the Brazilian Grand Prix on Friday, keeping his word not to be distracted in the second-to-last race of the season.

Hamilton won his fourth Formula One title two weeks ago in Mexico City. Since then, he's stayed in the news by being named in the "Paradise Papers," showing he avoided paying more than $4 million in taxes on a private jet registered in the British Isle of Man, a tax haven.

Hamilton has declined comment on his legal case. His lawyers deny any wrongdoing.

Hamilton had the fastest lap in the morning session at Interlagos, and was slightly slower in the afternoon. In both sessions he was followed by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

There is nothing left to decide in the season apart from who wins here and the season finale in two weeks in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton and Mercedes have won the drivers' and constructors' title.

Left to fight over is second and third. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel has 277 points, 15 clear of Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull is too far behind in fourth place to catch either.

Ricciardo had the third quickest time in the afternoon, and Vettel was just behind in fourth. They were followed by Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.

Marquez and Dovizioso go for MotoGP title in final race

This is a Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 file photo shows Spain's MotoGP rider Marc Marquez. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Joseph Wilson

Barcelona, Spain (AP) — Two riders, one race, one trophy.

Defending MotoGP champion Marc Marquez enters the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on Sunday with only one challenger separating him from his fourth title.

The role of spoiler goes to Andrea Dovizioso, an Italian who trails Marquez by 21 points.

That means the 24-year-old Marquez can assure he clinches another MotoGP title if he finishes in 11th place or better.

"It has been a tough season and one race decides everything," the Spaniard said. "It will be a special race in front of my fans at a circuit I like. But in motorsport, anything can happen."

While Marquez has made Honda the top power in motorbike racing, the 31-year-old Dovizioso has been the surprise of the year. His superb season has made him Marquez's No. 1 rival and helped Ducati rebound after the maker struggled for years to compete with the likes of Honda and Yamaha.

Dovizioso, who won a title in the sport's lowest category in 2004, kept alive his slim chances of catching Marquez by winning the Malaysia GP two weeks ago. That gave both Dovizioso and Marquez six victories on the season. Since his debut in MotoGP in 2008, Dovizioso had only won two races before this campaign.

"I wouldn't have believed I'd be in this situation," Dovizioso said. "And no one watching the races expected it. That's why I'm so happy and proud of what we've achieved in this championship."

Marquez has failed to finish three races this season, but he hasn't finished lower than sixth place in the 14 races he did complete.

So Dovizioso's chances may hang on Marquez crashing out on the curves of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.

Spain's public weather service forecasts sunny skies with no signs of rain that could complicate the track conditions for the race.

"We will see. Twenty-one points is a lot and very difficult, but it's still open," Dovizioso said. "We have one strategy: try to win. I don't feel much pressure because I know what we've done this season and I'm so happy about the results up to now."

Marquez faced a similar situation in 2013 in his rookie season in MotoGP when he entered the Valencia GP leading the title hunt ahead of Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez handled the pressure by letting Lorenzo win the race while he carefully steered to a third-place finish that was enough to make him the youngest MotoGP champion at the age of 20.

"To finish the race is the most important thing," Marquez said. "It's not the first time I've fought for the championship here and it's difficult but I'll try to manage it the best I can. I will go out, try to find the feeling with the bike and try to enjoy the race."

Evra fired by Marseille, banned by UEFA for kicking fan

In this Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 file photo, Marseille's Patrice Evra, third left, tries to kick a man during a scuffle with Marseille supporters before the Europa League group I match between Vitoria SC and Olympique de Marseille at the D. Afonso Henriques stadium in Guimaraes, Portugal. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)

Nyon, Switzerland (AP) — Patrice Evra was fired by Marseille on Friday after being suspended by UEFA for all remaining European games this season for kicking a fan of the French club.

The volatile defender was also fined 10,000 euros ($11,650) by UEFA.

The 36-year-old Evra got into a verbal argument with Marseille supporters before a Europa League match against Portuguese club Vitoria on Nov. 2. He then aimed a kick at the head of one of the Marseille fans before being ushered away by a teammate. The Frenchman was sent off before the game.

Shortly after UEFA banned Evra until June 30, 2018, from its club matches, Marseille said his contract was terminated with "immediate effect."

Evra committed an "irreparable" act by "responding to the disgraceful provocations of a handful of individuals," the club said on its website, adding the decision was taken by "mutual consent."

Marseille said it intended to punish fans for the type of misconduct they showed toward Evra, but did not specify whether it would punish those who insulted the former France defender.

Marseille is well-known for having a powerful fan base that can exert pressure on the club and players alike.

"There's a lot of sadness today. First of all for Patrice Evra, who has obviously understood all the consequences of his act and that he can no longer fulfill his passion (of playing) for Marseille," club president Jacques-Henri Eyraud said. "For Marseille fans, too, who are stigmatized by the irresponsible behavior from a handful of them."

Before last Sunday's home game against Caen, fans made it clear to Evra he was no longer welcome at the club, holding aloft two banners criticizing him at Stade Velodrome.

"This Game Is Over," read one banner in English, mocking Evra's regular posts on social media where he films himself talking about soccer and says "I love this game" as he breaks into laughter.

Marseille was also charged with invasion of the field by its fans, setting off fireworks, and acts of damage. It must pay Vitoria 25,000 euros ($29,000) within 30 days.

Evra, whose most successful spell as a player came at Manchester United and Juventus, lost his place at Marseille this season to Jordan Amavi. But Evra remained visible on Instagram videos, singing and having fun.

Evra has dropped out of contention for France: His 81st and last appearance was a year ago in a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Evra was captain of the 2010 World Cup squad but was blamed for being the orchestrator of a training-ground strike that shocked the nation. Evra received a five-game ban from the French Football Federation after returning from South Africa.

France coach Didier Deschamps was also his coach when Monaco reached the Champions League final in 2004, and picked Evra at last year's European Championship, where France lost in the final to Portugal.

"Decisions have been taken, I'm not here to judge them," Deschamps said. "He's in a very complicated situation, I wouldn't wish anyone to be in this situation."

World champions Germany held by experimental England to 0-0

Germany's Leroy Sane, right, controls the ball under pressure from England's Harry Maguire during the international friendly match between England and Germany at Wembley stadium in London, Friday, Nov. 10. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

London (AP) — World champions Germany were held by an experimental England to 0-0 in a friendly at Wembley Stadium on Friday as the teams prepare for the World Cup in Russia.

Jesse Lingard missed the target in stoppage time at the end of the game as England failed to score at home for the first time since 2013.

Five England players made their debuts and coped despite losing Phil Jones, the most experienced player, 25 minutes into the defender's 24th appearance.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, one of the England newcomers, made key saves from Timo Werner in the first half as Germany's seven-match winning run was halted.

"It was a really tactical game," Ruben Loftus-Cheek said after his England debut. "It was good for us young players and I certainly learned a lot."

Germany counterpart Marc-Andre Ter Stegen dived to block a header from Jamie Vardy in the second half in front of more than 81,000 fans in north London.

"There weren't really a lot of chances," Germany coach Joachim Loew said through a translator. "We need to learn to switch a little better and that will do us good for the World Cup."

Update November 10, 2017

Croatia eye World Cup spot with 4-1 win over Greece

Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup qualifying play-off first leg soccer match between Croatia and Greece at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Thursday Nov. 9. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Darko Bandic

Zagreb, Croatia (AP) — Croatia took a decisive step toward World Cup qualification on Thursday, overwhelming Greece for a 4-1 victory in the first leg of their playoff.

Captain Luka Modric, whose recent form for Real Madrid had been criticized in Spain, opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 13th minute - before leaping into the air in celebration.

Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi awarded the penalty after Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis failed to control the ball and fouled Nikola Kalinic with a poorly judged clearance.

Kalinic added another goal six minutes later, flicking in a cross from Ivan Strinic with the side of his foot.

Greece struggled to regain composure and rarely attacked, but Sokratis Papastathopoulos briefly silenced the home crowd, sending a header over keeper Danijel Subasic and into the net.

However, relief for the visitors was short lived. Ivan Perisic headed in a cross from Sime Vrsaljko in the 33nd minute as the Croats dominated both wings.

The fourth goal came four minutes after the break from Andrej Kramaric, swooping in after another Greek error, by Kostas Stafylidis.

As fans and players celebrated at Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic highlighted the second leg on Sunday.

"We had a tremendous game. I've thanked the players and the fans who made us feel like we had an extra man on the pitch," Dalic said. "But it's not over. This was the first game.

"Our aim tonight was to pressure Greece down the wings, and that worked. We had a lapse in concentration and conceded a goal, but I can't really complain."

Over 90 minutes, the Croats dominated possession and had nine shots on goal compared to Greece's three.

"It was a very difficult night for us ... We have never made so many mistakes in one game," Papastathopoulos said. "Of course Croatia has the upper hand now. They have a 90 percent chance of going through."

Greece coach Michael Skibbe said his team failed to fully recover from the first goal.

"If you help your opponents score the first and the fourth goal then it's very difficult to be competitive," he said. "Of course we are very unhappy right now. We will be a better team in the next match."

Controversy as Switzerland beat Northern Ireland 1-0

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, left, scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the World Cup qualifying play-off first leg soccer match between Northern Ireland and Switzerland at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday Nov. 9. (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)

Nathaniel Cope

Belfast, Northern Ireland (AP) — A penalty awarded for a disputed hand ball gave Switzerland a controversial 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland in the first leg of their World Cup playoff on Thursday.

A volley by Xherdan Shaqiri struck Corey Evans' shoulder as the Northern Ireland midfielder attempted to block the shot. Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the spot, sparking angry protests from the Northern Ireland players.

Ricardo Rodriguez duly converted the penalty in the 58th minute, putting the Swiss in the driving seat to qualify for their fourth World Cup in a row.

Boos rang out at the final whistle as home fans directed their ire at the match official.

However, Switzerland dominated the match and gave a master class in one-touch football to pick apart their hosts in the first half, helped by the fact that Northern Ireland afforded them far too much space.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was teed up twice in the opening 15 minutes but his attempts from outside the area both cleared the crossbar.

The Swiss made plenty of progress down the flanks, with the combination of captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and Shaqiri proving a constant menace down the right.

A dangerous ball in the 18th minute from Shaqiri picked out Haris Seferovic and the striker's header was well saved by goalkeeper Michael McGovern.

There was palpable frustration from Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill on the sidelines and he would have been relieved it was scoreless at the break.

Seconds into the second half, Shaqiri almost curled into the top corner, but the ball went narrowly wide.

The Swiss continued to pour forward and a wonderful ball by Blerim Dzemaili in the 54th minute was missed by the sliding Seferovic with the goal gaping.

The disputed goal came four minutes later and despite a more energetic tempo from the hosts afterward, they failed to create anything meaningful.

A header by Josh Magennis from Chris Brunt's free kick in the 71st minute was the best they could muster, although the hosts appealed in vain for a penalty of their own in the 82nd minute when the ball came off Rodriguez.

The second leg will be played in Basel, Switzerland on Sunday.

It's been 31 years since Northern Ireland last played at a World Cup and that run doesn't look like ending any time soon.

4 more Russian skiers banned for doping at Sochi Olympics

In this Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014 file photo, Russia's gold medal winner Alexander Legkov is flanked by compatriots, silver medal winner Maxim Vylegzhanin, left and bronze medal winner Ilia Chernousov during the flower ceremony of the men's 50K cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Graham Dunbar and James Ellingworth

Geneva (AP) — Four more Russian cross-country skiers were found guilty of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Thursday, including three-time silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin.

The International Olympic Committee said all four had their results disqualified and have been banned from all future Olympics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin disputed the bans, saying that United States interests were trying to use doping scandals to discredit his government and influence the country's presidential election in March.

"In response to our supposed interference in their elections, they want to cause problems in the Russian presidential election," Putin said, according to comments reported by Russian news agencies.

The cases against the Russians were built on evidence of a state doping conspiracy detailed by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren. Without positive doping tests, the IOC disciplinary panel used evidence of cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles first gathered last year by McLaren's team.

In a notable Russian victory on Thursday, the IOC dropped a case against another athlete but declined to confirm the person's identity "in order to protect the rights of the athlete." Russian news agencies reported that it was figure skating gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova.

"To be honest, we expected this result from the investigation into Sotnikova because we were sure that everything would be cleared up," Russian Figure Skating Federation president Alexander Gorshkov told the R-Sport agency.

Six Russian cross-country skiers have now been found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics by the IOC panel, which has at least 20 more cases to judge. The panel has not yet published detailed reasons for its verdicts after last week's hearings in Lausanne.

Alexander Legkov, who won gold in the 50-kilometer race ahead of Vylegzhanin in a Russian sweep, and Evgeny Belov were disqualified and banned last week.

Vylegzhanin also finished second in the team sprint and the 4x10-kilometer relay. Russia's relay silver was already stripped last week when Legkov was banned.

The other three skiers found guilty were Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova. None of them won medals.

The IOC bans leave Russia with only one medal in cross-country skiing, the bronze won by Ilya Chernousov in the 50K. The IOC will decide if he should be upgraded to gold.

Russia remains at the top of the Sochi medals table, but more verdicts are expected which could affect other Olympic titles. That would potentially push the Russians below Norway, and below the United States in total medals. Both the Americans and Norwegians are in line to be awarded some of the vacated medals by the IOC.

With calls to ban Russia's team from next year's Pyeongchang Olympics likely to increase, the IOC's executive board will meet from Dec. 5-7 to discuss the matter.

The Russian ski federation said it is preparing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the four cases announced Thursday. Legkov and Belov have also said they will appeal.

Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov promised legal support for the banned athletes and said they could be cleared in time to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Games.

"There's still time to manage to file an appeal before the Olympic Games and prove the opposite," Kolobkov told Tass. "Our athletes will get all necessary legal help."

Putin did not mention the skiers by name Thursday but said his government had never supported or covered up doping. He is widely expected to run for re-election next March but has yet to confirm that.

The International Ski Federation will now send the six cases to its doping panel, which is likely to impose bans. Those verdicts are expected to come before the cross-country World Cup season starts on Nov. 24.

Felipe Massa retiring from Formula One, again

Williams driver Felipe Massa, of Brazil, attends a press conference ahead of Sunday's Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix, at the Interlagos racetrack, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Nov. 9. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Stephen Wade

Sao Paulo (AP) — Felipe Massa is retiring — again.

The Brazilian said the same thing last season, but this time he says he really means it, which makes Sunday his last Formula One race in Brazil.

Unlike famous Brazilian drivers Ayrton Senna, Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet, Massa never won the world championship. He got painfully close in 2008, when he won the Brazilian Grand Prix and thought that would give him enough points for the title.

As Massa was preparing to celebrate, Lewis Hamilton rallied on the final lap and scored just enough points to finish one point ahead of Massa in the standings.

"Maybe I am the driver who got the most close to the championship in history," Massa said Thursday with his final F1 race coming in two weeks when the season ends in Abu Dhabi.

Massa is almost certain to leave with 11 victories, which all came with Ferrari from 2006-08. He hasn't won since, and his retirement from Williams means that next season Brazil will be without a Formula One driver for the first time since 1969.

The Brazilian Grand Prix is also under threat with reports that it could be dropped when the contract ends after the 2020 season, as Brazil struggles though its worst economic downturn in generations.

"It's true that we are suffering," Massa said. "It's not an easy moment in Brazil, financially. But I really hope Brazil stays for a long time in Formula One."

Massa was asked to rate his career on a 1-10 scale. He's in tough company.

He followed in Senna's wake in Brazil, shared time at Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, and was beaten by Hamilton. Those three are ranked by many as the best of their generations. Hamilton won his fourth world title two weeks ago in Mexico.

"Ten is when you win a championship, or even more than that," Massa said. "I managed to win many races. I managed to fight for the championship, until maybe the last meters... If it's a seven, eight or nine, I am very proud for what I've achieved."

A year ago, Massa crashed about two-thirds through the race and failed to finish. What he thought was his final goodbye came in the pit lane, wrapped in a Brazilian flag, tears streaming down his face with hugs from his wife Anna Raffaela and his son Felipinho.

"I am leaving with my head up and my heart still aching," he said at the time.

He got his second chance two months later when Valtteri Bottas moved to Mercedes, replacing Nico Rosberg, who retired.

Massa agreed to stay at Williams for another year. Next year, he's widely expected to race in Formula E, the new electric-powered car series.

As he retires for the second time, his main hope in Brazil is to just finish the race. His best finish this season is sixth place, but much of the season he's been way back and outside the points.

But whatever happens, it's unlikely to top his first farewell a year ago at the Interlagos track where grew up watching car racing.

"The feeling that I had on the human side after the race last year — really, I never thought I would feel that, or I would have that in my career," he said. "I think what I had last year was definitely more than enough."

Pressure on Springboks and Coetzee to win away from home

South Africa's Rugby Union head coach Allister Coetzee is shown in this Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Nathaniel Cope

Dublin (AP) — For the Springboks, the year has been about putting their house back in order.

Safe to say, it's no longer a shambles. On home turf in South Africa they were tough, losing only once, by one point to the All Blacks less than a month after losing to them in New Zealand by a record 57.

Which is why the Springboks haven't regained that aura of intimidation.

Away from home, they remain meek.

Since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, they have played nine tests on the road and won only one, against struggling Argentina in August.

When the Springboks were last in Europe a year ago, they lost to England for the first time in 10 years, to Italy for the first time, and to Wales for the third time in 110 years.

Those results capped an annus horribilis beset by a player drain, injuries, poor selections, sloppy play, and diminished confidence.

Whether that away record is improved over the next four Saturdays, starting with Ireland in Dublin, will make or break the modest gains by coach Allister Coetzee and the Springboks this year.

If only Ireland, France, Italy, and Wales - "hellish challenges," Coetzee said - were all he had to contend with. There's also a reshuffling in the background.

His forwards coach Johann van Graan is leaving in mid-tour to take over as Munster coach, a loss summed up by former Springboks captain Adriaan Strauss, who described Van Graan as "probably the most knowledgeable guy in rugby that I know."

Rassie Erasmus is moving the other way, leaving Munster to take over as South Africa director of rugby, with his defence coach at Munster, Jacques Nienaber, becoming a high performance coach. These appointments have led to murmurings about Coetzee's future should things go badly over the next month.

Only wins will put a lid on those murmurings, and there's a firm belief they can take at least three of the four tests.

But they start with what looks to be the hardest opponent, an Ireland team the Springboks used to own. Before 2004, South Africa lost only once to the Irish. But in the last 13 years, the Boks have lost five out of nine, including the last visit to Lansdowne Road in 2014.

"We have a huge respect for Ireland," Coetzee said. "They are a quality side, almost the All Blacks of Europe."

The coach believed the Boks have heeded the lessons of their failings in November last year.

"The aerial game might not be important in Super Rugby but in the northern hemisphere you will face an aerial bombardment and we will have to deal with that," Coetzee said. "We know how good (Irish halves) Jonny Sexton and Conor Murray are as prolific kickers of the ball.

"Our opponents are likely to be very good at tactical kicking and challenging for the ball in the air. I've learned that three points in the northern hemisphere is quite vital to keep that scoreboard ticking."

That's not all that is ticking. Coetzee's future is still on borrowed time. He patched up the Springboks at home. Can he conjure results on the road?

Update November 9, 2017

Lewis Hamilton says he's not distracted by 'Paradise Papers'

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain speaks during a news conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Nov. 8. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Mauricio Savarese

Sao Paulo (AP) - Being linked to tax avoidance in the "Paradise Papers" will not distract Lewis Hamilton from his job.

The four-time Formula One champion said Wednesday that his "core values" are intact despite being named in the papers, which show he avoided paying more than $4 million in taxes for a private jet.

Hamilton, who won his fourth F1 title on Oct. 29 in Mexico, is in Sao Paulo for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.

"I've come from this great period of time with my family and friends that have this huge wave of positivity. Nothing can really dent that," the Mercedes driver said. "I am solely focused on the race this weekend, and we have two races to go. That doesn't distract me from my core values and what I am here to do."

Hamilton's lawyers noted in a statement that registering a jet in the tax haven of the Isle of Man is legal.

The "Paradise Papers" revealed that Hamilton was given a refund of more than $4 million after his Bombardier Challenger 605 was imported to the Isle of Man in 2013.

The papers also name several leading figures in politics, business and art.

At 32, Hamilton is closing in on Michael Schumacher's record of seven F1 titles. But he said he wasn't interested in chasing that mark.

"It has never been my desire," Hamilton said. "I still have time ahead of me. The question is to see exactly what I want. I never had the dream to chase Michael."

After the news conference, Hamilton autographed a miniature Mercedes with boyhood idol Ayrton Senna painted on it.

Vivianne Senna, sister of the late three-time F1 champion, said she and the family will cheer for Hamilton on Sunday.

"We can see your passion for Ayrton is real," she said. "That is why we from the Senna family will be always on your side, too."

Pistons stay sharp, top Pacers 114-97

Detroit Pistons guard Avery Bradley (22) drives on Indiana Pacers guard Darren Collison (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 8, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Detroit (AP) — Tobias Harris scored 23 points and the first-place Detroit Pistons won for the sixth time in seven games, beating the Indiana Pacers 114-97 on Wednesday night.

Andre Drummond added 14 points and 21 rebounds for the Pistons. They lead Cleveland by three games in the Central Division. Indiana lost its fourth straight.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 21 points, but Indiana has allowed at least 100 points in 10 of 12 games this season. The Pacers were without injured big man Domantas Sabonis (bruised right calf).


Orlando, Fla. — Nikola Vucevic scored 24 points and Evan Fournier added 23 to help Orlando beat New York.

Jonathon Simmons scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half. He had 11 straight points early in the fourth quarter to push the Magic's lead back to double figures.

The Magic, benefiting from the return of starting point guard Elfrid Payton, snapped a two-game losing streak. New York, playing without scoring Kristaps Porzingis (ankle and elbow injuries), had its three-game winning streak come to an end. Tim Hardaway Jr. led New York with 26 points.

Top US man Jack Sock's tennis season ends on high in London

Jack Sock returns the ball to Filip Krajinovic of Serbia during their final match of the Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, Nov. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Howard Fendrich

London (AP) - Jack Sock's 2017 did not always go as planned. Still, he's having quite a finish.

He won a total of only three matches at Grand Slam tournaments all year, making it as far as the third round just once and bowing out in the opening round twice. During one particularly rough stretch from August to early October, he lost five times in a row.

The 25-year-old American turned things around at the end of the season, so much so that he ended up earning a debut appearance at the ATP Finals, starting with a match against 19-time major champion Roger Federer on Sunday in London.

"It's hard when you have a bit of a period where it doesn't go as well as you would like. So he had to get back to doing the things he does really well and really believing in those things," Sock's coach, Jay Berger, said in a telephone interview.

"That's hitting a bunch of forehands, using his speed and using his intangibles," Berger said. "His ability to come forward, his hands at the net, his ability to use his touch, his ability to hit pretty dynamic shots in very uncomfortable and difficult positions. And to have fun. The No. 1 thing for us was also to have fun out there. I told him, 'We're going to have a good time, win or lose.'"

In Wednesday's draw for the round-robin format, Sock was put in a group with Federer, 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev. The other group has 15-time Grand Slam title winner Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin.

That Sock is in London at all, instead of already starting his offseason at home in Kansas City, Kansas, is significant, regardless of how he fares.

He grabbed that spot by rising to a career-high No. 9 in the rankings thanks to his first Masters Series title, at Paris last week. That made him the first U.S. man to win a tournament at the level right below the majors since Andy Roddick in 2010. Sock is also the first American to qualify for the eight-player season-ending finals since Mardy Fish in 2011. And Sock will finish a season as the highest-ranked man from his country for the first time.

All in one fell swoop.

"They were all, obviously, goals of mine. They all mean a lot in their own way," Sock said. "For it all to happen at the same time is pretty special."

He gives some of the credit for this recent surge to a mental adjustment helped along by Berger, who started working with Sock in July.

For a time, Sock said, he would experience "dips in matches (or) get too defensive."

And now?

"There's a belief in my shots. I'm going to win or lose a match playing on my terms, playing my game, which is big and aggressive and trying to dictate points," he said. "Not shying away from that."

Berger recalled watching Sock play a match at age 17.

"I saw an unbelievable amount of racket-head speed. ... I really saw a lot of the same stuff that I see now," Berger said. "And he has an incredible ability to play well in big moments."

That was on display in Paris, sure, but also when Sock teamed with Melanie Oudin to win the U.S. Open mixed doubles title as a teenager.

And when he won men's doubles at Wimbledon in 2014.

And a pair of doubles medals at last year's Rio Olympics — gold in mixed, bronze in men's.

Now Sock wants more consistency, and success, in singles, something he hopes this year's ending will help spur at the beginning of 2018.

"His best tennis is in front of him," Berger said. "I've known him for many years, and the one thing consistent with him is that he always improves, every single year. I really haven't seen any regression in his tennis or how he approaches things or how he goes about his business. I know that is going to continue."

Former star pitcher Halladay killed in Florida plane crash


Former Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay is shown in this Aug. 24, 2013, file photo. (AP Photo/Christopher Szagola)

Rob Maaddi

Philadelphia (AP) — Roy Halladay had a passion for flying airplanes that nearly matched his love of baseball.

Halladay worked tirelessly to become a dominant pitcher, winning a Cy Young Award in each league and tossing a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter in the same year for the Philadelphia Phillies. When he couldn't pitch at a high level anymore, Halladay walked away from the game and immersed himself in another craft.

The son of a corporate pilot, Halladay quickly got his license to fly — despite his wife's misgivings. The eight-time All-Star fulfilled his dream when he purchased his own plane last month.

Halladay died Tuesday when that private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.

"All-Star pitcher. All-Star person. All-Star father and family man," Phillies chairman David Montgomery said at a news conference.

Former teammate and current Texas Rangers ace Cole Hamels joined Montgomery at Philadelphia's ballpark to remember Halladay.

"Knowing his father was a pilot, you look up to your dad always," Hamels said. "He had that bug that he wanted to fly. That was his passion. You have to respect that. He prepared for everything. He took this serious."

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said during a news conference in Holiday, Florida, that Halladay's ICON A5 went down around noon off the coast. The sheriff's office marine unit responded and discovered Halladay's body in shallow water near some mangroves. No survivors were found.

Police said they couldn't confirm if there were additional passengers on the plane or say where it was headed. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Halladay, who retired after the 2013 season, often posted on social media about small planes .

"I have dreamed about owning a A5 since I retired! Real life is better then my dreams!!" Halladay tweeted on Oct. 13.

ICON aircraft had posted a video with Halladay trying out a new plane. The video showed Halladay taking delivery of a new ICON A5, a two-seat "light-sport aircraft" that can land on water.

In the video, Halladay said the terms of his baseball contract prevented him from having a pilot's license while playing, and that his wife was originally against the idea of him getting the aircraft.

"She's fought me the whole way," Halladay said.

"Hard. I fought hard. I was very against it," Brandy Halladay said in the same video, before explaining why she eventually understood and approved of her husband's desire to have the plane. The couple has two sons, Ryan and Braden.

Halladay spent 12 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays followed by four seasons with the Phillies. He was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA.

"Words cannot describe what it feels like to lose a friend like Roy," said former teammate Chase Utley, who was Halladay's favorite player. "He was the ultimate teammate with a passion for being the best. I'm honored to have had the chance to compete with you, Roy.  My heart goes out to Brandy and his boys. RIP Doc, but knowing you, rest is not in your vocabulary."

Other baseball players to die in plane crashes include Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente in a relief mission from Puerto Rico traveling to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year's Eve in 1972; New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson piloting his own plane near his home in Canton, Ohio, in 1979; and Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle piloting a private plane in New York City in 2006.

Halladay was nominated several times for the Roberto Clemente Award, given by Major League Baseball to players for sportsmanship and community involvement. The Halladay Family Foundation has aided children's charities, hunger relief and animal rescue.

A 6-foot-6 right-hander, Halladay was a throwback on the mound. Durable and determined to finish what he started, Halladay won the AL Cy Young in 2003 after going 22-7 and the NL prize in 2010 after going 21-10 in his first season with the Phillies.

"You know, if my career's two years, three years shorter than it could have been because I wanted to go out and pitch deep into games, I'm fine with that," he said in a retirement news conference.

In 2011, Halladay was part of the "Four Aces" rotation in Philadelphia with Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Halladay and the Phillies lost 1-0 to St. Louis in the deciding Game 5 of the NL Division Series. Halladay's close friend Chris Carpenter outpitched him in that game.

"We grew up together," Carpenter said. "Went through good and bad times together. He was an amazing pitcher, competitor, teammate and friend. I have so many memories with him and his family. I will miss him."

Chris Bourjos, the Toronto-area scout who signed Halladay, first saw him pitch in St. Louis in the summer of 1994, before his senior season as a prep star in the Denver area. Halladay's family had a pitching mound in the basement of its home.

"Perfect pitcher's body, tall, lean athletic. And the velocity! At that time, 93 miles an hour was pretty special," Bourjos, the father of Tampa Bay center fielder Peter Bourjos, recalled Tuesday.

Nocco, the sheriff, personally knew Halladay.

"Many of you know Roy as a Cy Young winner, future Hall of Famer, one of the best pitchers ever to pitch the game of baseball," Nocco said. "We know Roy as a person, as a caring husband who loved his wife, Brandy. He loved his two boys tremendously ... and we are so sad for your loss."

Nocco said Halladay knew many members in the sheriff's office, and that Halladay was part of a charity fishing tournament last Friday.

"His family purchased a dog for us — K-9 Doc," Nocco said. "K-9 Doc is out there working, saving lives, making our community safer."

The dog was named as a nod to Halladay's nickname — Doc.

The A5 was a newer model from ICON, based in Vacaville, California, designed for starter pilots.

According to the NTSB's website, two other ICON A5s crashed earlier this year, the only reported U.S. accidents involving the aircraft since it debuted three years ago. Both were attributed to pilot error.

ICON released a statement saying it was "devastated" to learn of Halladay's death and that it plans to aid the accident investigation however possible.

Halladay was a workhorse who pitched 67 complete games and 20 shutouts. A three-time 20-game winner, he was with Toronto (1998-2009) and Philadelphia (2010-13).

Halladay pitched a perfect game for the Phillies at the Florida Marlins on May 29, 2010. That Oct. 6, against Cincinnati in the NL Division Series, he became only the second pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter, joining Don Larsen, who accomplished the feat for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

Halladay is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2019.

"Absolutely I would love to be there," he said during spring training this year, when he was a guest instructor for the Phillies. "I think every player who ever played the game would love to be there. It would be a tremendous honor."

In a statement, the Blue Jays said the organization "is overcome by grief with the tragic loss of one the franchise's greatest and most respected players, but even better human being. Impossible to express what he has meant to this franchise, the city and its fans."

Buffon's career at a crossroads in World Cup playoff


Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is shown in this June 17, 2016 file photo. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Andrew Dampf,

Rome (AP) — Gianluigi Buffon's career is coming full circle.

Twenty years after making his Italy debut on a snowy field in a World Cup playoff in Russia, the Azzurri captain's international future hinges on another playoff against Sweden.

If Italy advance, Buffon can conclude his international career where it started at next year's tournament in Russia.

A loss would almost certainly mark his final appearance for the national team.

"It's a nice connection but I would have gladly done without it," Buffon said. "It's always a risk. The important thing is that the result is the same as 20 years ago."

In one of the four European playoffs, Italy travel to Stockholm for the opening leg on Friday. The return match will be at the San Siro in Milan three days later.

Buffon, who turns 40 in January, has made a record 173 appearances for Italy. That's fourth most worldwide after record-holder Ahmed Hassan's 184 for Egypt, Mohamed al-Deayea's 178 for Saudi Arabia and Claudio Suarez's 177 for Mexico.

The three players ahead of him on the list are retired, meaning Buffon could surpass them all if Italy qualify.

More impressively, Buffon could also become the first player to be a squad member in six World Cups.

Buffon first went to the tournament back in 1998, but was a second-choice option as goalkeeper behind Gianluca Pagliuca and didn't play. He could match German great Lothar Matthaus and former Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal as having played in five World Cups.

At this culminating point in his career, Buffon was asked to compare himself now to when he made his Italy debut at 19.

"I miss a bit that carefree spirit and cockiness typical of a young player," he told RAI state TV. "The more you win the more you commit errors and the more you learn. Then you mature and learn to count to 10. Now I'm more contemplative and I hope that I've also become a better goalkeeper."

Buffon was one of the driving forces behind Italy's run to the 2006 World Cup title, when he didn't concede a single goal to opponents during normal play over the course of seven matches — letting in only an own-goal from Cristian Zaccardo and a penalty from Zinedine Zidane in the final against France.

He helped Parma to the UEFA Cup title way back in 1999 and has since won eight Serie A titles with Juventus — including the last six.

There have been nearly as many lows as highlights, though.

At the 2004 European Championship, Italy were eliminated without losing a match when Sweden and Denmark drew their final group match 2-2 in what the Azzurri saw as a prearranged result that sent the two Scandinavian sides through.

"Time passes. Getting eliminated from those Euros burned but if we had done better earlier there wouldn't have been any problems," Buffon said. "If you consider yourself a strong player then you know that your destiny lies in your own hands."

Buffon and Juventus had two Serie A titles taken away due to the 2006 "Calciopoli" refereeing scandal. He weathered a personal betting scandal shortly before helping the Azzurri to the 2012 European Championship final.

That was sandwiched in between two first-round eliminations at the last two World Cups.

Buffon has also been on the losing side in three Champions League finals with Juventus, the first in 2003 and the other two over the last three seasons.

Buffon announced in June that this season will be his last unless Juventus win the elusive Champions League, in which case he would continue for one more season to try and also win the Club World Cup and other trophies.

After all, he's still at the top of his game. Two weeks ago, Buffon was named UEFA club goalkeeper of the year.

"I used to battle the unknown with excessive exuberance that might have seemed like irreverence toward the world," Buffon said. "Now I know well what I'm facing."

Update November 8, 2017

Rekindling storms home to win the 157th Melbourne Cup

Winner Rekindling, left, ridden by jockey Corey Brown and second placed Johannes Vermeer right with Jockey Ben Melham onboard race to the finish line in the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Nov. 7. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Rekindling stormed home to win the Melbourne Cup by a long neck on Tuesday, overhauling Johannes Vermeer near the finish to give trainer Joseph O'Brien a victory over his famous father in Australia's most famous race.

Max Dynamite was 2 lengths further back in third to give the Irish a 1-2-3 finish in the 157th running of the 2-mile classic .

Joseph O'Brien said one of the first things he did was phone his father, Aidan O'Brien, who trains Johannes Vermeer but was not at Flemington for the race.

"He is delighted. Unbelievable," the younger O'Brien said. "I'm just so thankful to (Williams).  They suggested to bring (Rekindling) down and that he'd have a good chance in the race and his prep went really good, and Corey gave him an unbelievable ride."

It was a second Melbourne Cup victory for jockey Corey Brown, and a sixth for owner Lloyd Williams, who is also a co-owner of Johannes Vermeer.

"It's extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary," Williams said of Joseph O'Brien, who won in his first attempt at the Melbourne Cup. Williams said the 24-year-old former jockey had a big future as a trainer. "He's going to emulate his father and maybe more."

Big Duke was the first Australian-trained horse across the line, finishing fourth, in a field containing 11 foreign horses.

British-based jockey Frankie Dettori rode 2016 winner Almandin, which finished 12th.

India beat New Zealand in T20 shootout, win series 2-1

Indian wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, left, breaks the stumps to dismiss New Zealand's Tom Bruce right, during their third Twenty20 international cricket match in Thiruvananthapuram, India, Tuesday, Nov. 7. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Thiruvananthapuram, India (AP) — India beat New Zealand by six runs in a thrilling finish to win the third Twenty20 on Tuesday.

Chasing 68 in a series decider reduced by rain to eight overs per side, the Black Caps were restricted to 61-6.

India finished at 67-5 and won the three-match series 2-1, their first victory in a bilateral engagement in this format over New Zealand.

India also won the competitive one-day international series 2-1.

The persistent rain and a wet outfield delayed the start for almost three hours, but the sell-out crowd was given a treat at Greenfield International Stadium, which became the 50th venue in India to host international cricket.

Put into bat, India lost openers Shikhar Dhawan (6) and Rohit Sharma (8) cheaply off fast bowler Tim Southee (2-13).

Captain Virat Kohli (13) gave momentum to the innings but was caught in the deep off spinner Ish Sodhi (2-23).

Sodhi also accounted for Shreyas Iyer (6) in similar fashion. There were no big partnerships.

Manish Pandey (17) and Hardik Pandya (14 not out) helped to push India to what still seemed a sub-par score.

"We were really happy to get a game," Kohli said. "Ever since the ODIs started, New Zealand have given us a good fight. So we were nervous to bat first here on a damp pitch. But it was a challenging score and we thought it was not going to be easy with a high asking rate."

So it proved. New Zealand, too, lost openers Martin Guptill (1) and Colin Munro (7) cheaply, bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1-18) and caught in the deep off Jasprit Bumrah (2-9) respectively.

"Slower deliveries were gripping as we saw in the first innings," Bumrah, the top-ranked T20 bowler, said. "So that was the basic plan. We mixed them well with yorkers."

Pandya ran out Kane Williamson (8) with a direct hit, and Glen Phillips (11) holed out off Kuldeep Yadav (1-10) on the very next ball as the Black Caps were reduced to 28-4.

The wickets of Henry Nicholls (2) and Tom Bruce (4) put the Black Caps in bad shape at 49-6.

Nineteen runs were needed off the last over with Colin de Grandhomme (17 not out) and Mitchell Santner (3 not out) at the crease. But Pandya (0-11) bowled a tight line.

"It's quite hard to know a good first innings score in this situation," Williamson said. "Runs on board on a tricky surface came in handy for India. We showed good fight throughout this tour. It is a tough place to play and there have been a number of strides forward for us."

India next have a three-test series against Sri Lanka, beginning in Kolkata on Nov. 16.

New Zealand host the West Indies in a two-test series, starting in Wellington on Dec. 1.

Shot clock & Hawk-Eye most popular changes to tennis players

Alexander Zverev talks to his coach by headphones during a break of an exhibition match against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Next Gen tennis tournament finals, in Rho, near Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 7. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Daniella Matar

Milan (AP) — "Can you say something useful and not be this useless all the time? Just say one thing that is actually useful."

"Go more to the net ... not just to shake hands."

And with that, stand-in coach Marcelo Melo let Alexander Zverev return to the baseline with, hopefully, a winning tactic.

Player coaching, normally forbidden during a men's match, is being trialed at the ATP's Next Gen Finals in Milan this week, and conversations like the above are giving fans new insight, and entertainment.

Coaches and players conversing through headsets at the end of sets is one of the new rules being applied, along with shorter sets, no-Ad scoring, medical timeout limits, and no lets on serve.

But, for the players, the most popular innovations are the shot clock, and Hawk-Eye making all the line calls.

The on-court clocks enforce the 25-second rule between points, and shorter warm-ups ensure matches begin precisely five minutes from the second player walk-on.

Zverev withdrew from the Next Gen Finals to focus on the ATP Finals starting on Sunday in London, but turned up in Milan on Tuesday to play an exhibition match against alternate Stefanos Tsitsipas, and with Melo acting temporarily as coach.

"The Hawk-Eye calling all the lines, that would be something that I wouldn't mind at all," Zverev said.  "The shot clock is something not bad. There has to be a few adjustments maybe made to that but I think that has potential."

ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode believes the clocks will become a feature on the regular tour from 2019.

"Next year, for sure not, but I think 2019 there's a possibility," he told The Associated Press.

"To me, having a shot clock, people have been talking about it for years and it's like can we just do it or not do it? This is clearly let's just do it. The reduced warm-up for sure we can get done, too, and the rest is then up for discussion.

"You've got to have a year's lead-in so everyone is fully aware of what's happening. You can't just thrust it upon them and go, 'By the way, January, guys, you're playing under different rules.' Also I think we need to analyze the success of this week. This is just day one. Let's take all the data through all the matches, see what works, what doesn't work."

The most drastic change is the shorter set, where the first to four games takes the set, with a tiebreak at 3-3.

While Kermode says it is his favorite innovation, he recognizes it is unlikely to be brought in anytime soon.

"There are a couple of no-brainer ideas that we should be doing," he said. "But once you start the dramatic scoring format changes that's going to be the most difficult. I'm actually a big fan of the system but I'm aware of the challenges.

"Will this happen on the tour in the next five years? Probably not. But 10 years down the line could this be the way it's played? Yeah, it could be."

Automatic line calling was another change that was met with universal appreciation.

Hawk-Eye cameras decide all line calls, eliminating the need for line judges and ensuring the chair umpire is the only match official on court.

When triggered, the new system will make an instant automated "out" call.

"For now, live Hawk-Eye is a good thing," No. 2 seed Karen Khachanov said after losing to Daniil Medvedev. "Only thing is I would like to hear different voice."

Khachanov said he'd prefer if the Hawk-Eye recorded the voice of whoever was the chair umpire, so the calls sounded more legitimate.

Kermode said the ATP will consider feedback from the players, as well as different generations of fans, the sponsors, and the media.

"I don't want to run the tour dictatorially," he said. "We need to take everyone's feedback, and analyze it properly and strategically. If we do this over the next two or three years and we decide the game is absolutely perfect that is fine, too, but at least we've taken a good look."

Talking points ahead of rugby's end-of-year internationals

New Zealand's All Blacks players perform the Haka in this Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

London (AP) - The giants of the southern hemisphere rugby are in Europe for their final test matches in 2017.

Here are some talking points ahead of the November international series:


The All Blacks hope in tests against France, Scotland, and Wales to quell growing anxiety in New Zealand that the world champions have fallen back from the standard they set when they won the Rugby World Cup for the third time in 2015.

The 2016 season was a stellar one for a team that was reforming after the retirements of many star players. They lost only once, to Ireland. But they have already lost in 2017 to the British and Irish Lions and Australia.

The perception in New Zealand is not that the rest of the world has caught up, but that the All Blacks have declined. Their hallmark, the execution of skills at pace and under pressure, hasn't been evident and Steve Hansen has had to defend the team's form for the first time since he became head coach in 2011.

The forwards have been sound but the backs are lackluster, with the form of winger Rieko Ioane the only positive.

— By Steve McMorran in Wellington, New Zealand


The Wallabies have been in a buoyant mood since a rare victory over the All Blacks last month — albeit in a Bledisloe Cup dead rubber — but the confidence-boosting result masks some areas of concern ahead of a three-test visit to Europe.

The biggest potential issue is the absence of fullback Israel Folau. Australia's best counterattacker and its most frequent tackle-breaker before he took a sabbatical, Folau leaves a hole at the back.

Karmichael Hunt is an option to fill in, but his relative inexperience in the 15-man code could be really exposed against the tactical kicking games of Wales, England, and Scotland. Kurtley Beale switched from center to fullback for the lopsided win over Japan, but he is better utilized as a second playmaker in the midfield.

Australia has been inconsistent since reaching the World Cup final in 2015 in England, and has lost at home to England and Scotland amid a continual rotation of players in some positions. A shambolic season on and off the field for Australian clubs in Super Rugby highlighted problems with depth and core skills, but coach Michael Cheika has been drilling the Wallabies hard in the basics and there have been recent glimpses of the benefits.

— By John Pye in Brisbane, Australia


The spotlight remains on coach Allister Coetzee as he approaches the end of his second year in charge of the Springboks.

Coetzee has taken the Boks to new lows during his time — a record defeat at home in 2016, a first ever loss to Italy the same year, and then a 57-0 mauling by the All Blacks in New Zealand this year for South Africa's worst defeat ever.

Once, an end-of-season tour to Europe would be an opportunity to rest overworked senior players and give opportunities to fresh faces. Not now. A year on from a dreadful tour to Europe, when South Africa lost all three of its tests, including that unthinkable result in Italy, Coetzee's team has to win back its reputation in the northern hemisphere, where the Springboks are no longer considered a formidable force ahead of matches against Ireland, France, and Italy.

Coetzee said he needs time to build a new team. Springboks supporters are asking: How long?

— By Gerald Imray in Cape Town, South Africa


Picking Dylan Hartley as captain was one of the first decisions made by Eddie Jones after getting the job as England coach in late 2015. It's proved to be an excellent one, too.

England has won all but one of its 21 games since, with Hartley impressing Jones with his quiet authority. His disciplinary record — often the stick used to beat Hartley — has also been impeccable in that time, at least at international level.

It is why Jones is so loathe to drop Hartley as his starting hooker, even though Jamie George is widely regarded as the better player now and has been outshining his rival at club level. George started all three tests for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand but still has not started for England, instead getting 17 straight substitute appearances.

With two years remaining until the Rugby World Cup in Japan, this might be the time to make the change. Jones must at least ascertain how Hartley's absence affects the team, and if a stand-in captain — maybe Owen Farrell? — can do as good a job.

England plays Argentina, Australia, and Samoa.

— By Steve Douglas in Manchester, England


It's back to the day job for Warren Gatland after his successful, if challenging, year as Lions coach.

Wales has its head coach back and Gatland might be ready to bring an end to "Warrenball" — the close-to-the-ruck approach featuring hard and straight runners — by picking playmakers at flyhalf and inside center to deliver more expansive attacking play.

It's what Gatland tried with the Lions, through Owen Farrell and Jonny Sexton, and what Eddie Jones does with England, in Farrell and George Ford. It would mark possibly the biggest tactical change of his 10-year tenure with Wales and likely involve picking two of Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland, and Rhys Patchell.

There will be no easing-in for Gatland: Wales faces the toughest schedule of all the home unions, with games against Australia, Georgia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Olympic marathon champion Sumgong banned 4 years for EPO

Kenya's Jemima Sumgong. (Johannes Eisele/Pool Photo via AP)

Gerald Imray

London (AP) - Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong was banned for four years after a doping tribunal rejected her explanation that blood-boosting hormone EPO was in her system from being treated at a hospital in Kenya days before her failed test.

The tribunal found no legitimate record of the hospital visit and treatment for an ectopic pregnancy claimed by Sumgong, it said Tuesday in a decision released by the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya.

The panel ruling on her case said the 32-year-old Sumgong's hospital story was "inconsistent at best."

"We might go so far as to state that the athlete's attempt to explain how the substance entered her body bordered on an attempt to deceive the panel," the ruling said.

Sumgong became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic gold in the marathon when she triumphed at last year's Rio de Janeiro Games. She failed an out-of-competition test on Feb. 28 and was banned for four years from April 3, the date her provisional suspension was announced.

It makes her ineligible for the 2019 world championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Sumgong is the highest-profile athlete on a long list of Kenyans to be banned for doping in recent years. Her case follows that of Rita Jeptoo, who was the top women's marathon runner in the world when she also tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test in Kenya in 2014. Jeptoo also received a four-year ban.

Sumgong waived her right to have her backup "B'' sample tested and said she had taken EPO unintentionally after visiting Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi six days before her doping test to be treated for an ectopic pregnancy. She claimed she was suffering from severe abdominal pain and was given a blood transfusion and unidentified medication by an unnamed doctor.

The Olympic champion couldn't provide the name of the doctor who supposedly treated her or reliable documents showing she was admitted to the hospital, the tribunal said. It said documents she provided were denounced as fake by the hospital.

The hospital visit was not disclosed by Sumgong at the time of the doping test. She said that was because of the "taboo" surrounding ectopic pregnancies and she wanted to hide it from her husband, who is also her manager.

The only record the hospital had of a visit by Sumgong was in April, when she inquired about treatment for ectopic pregnancies.

The Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya said it believed Sumgong was taking EPO ahead of the defense of her London Marathon title in April.

Sumgong has also won the Rotterdam and Las Vegas Marathons and finished runner-up in the Boston, Chicago and New York races.

Update November 7, 2017

Struggling West Ham fire Bilic, line up Moyes as new coach

Sacked West Ham's manager Slaven Bilic is shown in this Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Steve Douglas

London (AP) - West Ham fired manager Slaven Bilic on Monday following the team's slide into the English Premier League relegation zone and were set to hand David Moyes an opportunity to rebuild his coaching reputation as the successor.

Bilic was under pressure for weeks and acknowledged it was a "very logical move" to remove him after West Ham's latest big loss, 4-1 at home to Liverpool on Saturday.

"Disappointed, but not in the club. I expected it," Bilic said outside the West Ham training ground after meeting with members of the club's board.

The West Ham co-chairmen said they wanted a new manager to "inject fresh ideas, organization and enthusiasm" into the team and seem to have settled on Moyes, who has been out of work since May when he quit Sunderland following their relegation from the Premier League.

A success at Everton from 2002-13, Moyes lasted only 10 months as Alex Ferguson's hand-picked replacement at Manchester United before getting fired, the job proving far too big for him.

He was fired by Spanish team Real Socieded after a year in charge before a chastening 10-month spell at Sunderland, who he failed to keep in England's lucrative top division.

Moyes was 1-20 with British bookmakers to fill the vacancy at West Ham, with British media reporting he will be hired on Tuesday.

"I've always said I want to go back into club management," Moyes said in an interview with TV channel Bein Sports on Sunday, when speculation was rife about Bilic's imminent departure. "If the right opportunity comes around, I'll be interested."

West Ham have won only two of their 11 matches in the Premier League and are in third-to-last place heading into the two-week international break.

Co-chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan have a track record of mostly standing by their managers, and Sullivan said last month he wanted to honor Bilic's contract, which was due to expire at the end of the season, "unless things are desperate."

"Sadly, performances and results have not been of the expected standard," Gold and Sullivan said in a statement , "and, in recent weeks, we have not seen enough indication of the required improvement to give us the encouragement that things would change and we would meet our Premier League aspirations this season."

Bilic's assistants, Nikola Jurcevic, Edin Terzic, Julian Dicks and Miljenko Rak, have also left the club with immediate effect but goalkeeping coach Chris Woods appears to have been retained.

Woods worked with Moyes at Everton and Man United, another indication of the identity of Bilic's likely successor.

Bilic is the fourth manager to lose his job in the Premier League after Frank De Boer (Crystal Palace), Craig Shakespeare (Leicester) and Ronald Koeman (Everton).

Marseille fans turn on Evra after attack

Marseille supporters display banners reading "Love of the jersey, respect for supporters, professionalism, is it too much to ask?", prior to the League One soccer match between Marseille and Caen, at the Velodrome stadium, in Marseille, southern France, Sunday, Nov. 5. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

Jerome Pugmire

Marseille, France (AP) - Marseille fans have told Patrice Evra he is no longer welcome at the club after the defender kicked a supporter in the head.

Evra was suspended by Marseille on Friday, a day after he confronted a fan and aimed a kick at his head ahead of a Europa League game in Portugal. Evra, who appeared to make light contact with his foot, had shortly before aimed a punch at the same fan.

Fans held aloft two banners criticizing Evra before Sunday's home match against Caen at Stade Velodrome.

"This Game Is Over," read one banner in English, mocking Evra's regular posts on social media where he films himself talking about football and says "I love this game" as he breaks into laughter.

Another banner, in French, read: "Love for the jersey. Respect for supporters. Professionalism. Is that too much to ask?"

Other fans chanted against Evra during the game against Caen, which Marseille won 5-0. One fan with a bullhorn led a long and expletive-laced diatribe.

Still, Evra posted a message on his Instagram social media account praising teammates and claiming that he has backing from the "real" fans.

"Great result tonight well done guys I'm really proud of you ... thanks to all real Olympique Marseille fans," the message on Instagram said. "I'm receiving so much support from them."

Thursday's incident before the match against Vitoria caused many other Marseille fans to come down from the stands to try and confront Evra, who was then led away by a teammate.

As the players were warming up before the match, Evra had moved away from the field and toward the away section of Marseille fans where an argument began and then escalated.

The 36-year-old Evra is a controversial and often unpopular figure in French football. He was the captain when France went on strike at training during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in protest after teammate Nicolas Anelka was sent home. He was given a five-match ban by the French Football Federation.

The reaction to the latest incident was intense, with former national team players and television pundits roundly condemning him.

UEFA said Friday that Evra will be banned for at least one game. Its disciplinary body will meet next Friday to rule on the incident. He also faces further sanctions from Marseille, which has opened an internal investigation.

Although Marseille said it accepted Evra received some "hateful insults" from a group of fans, the club said he could in no way "respond in such an inappropriate manner."

Evra's temperament has been an issue in the past. He has clashed verbally with former players — especially Lilian Thuram and Christophe Dugarry — and with television pundits, often mocking some of them with invented names as a pun on their names.

The attack-minded left back's 81st and last appearance for France was a year ago in a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Earlier this season, Evra was heavily criticized in some sections of the media, including by Dugarry, for filming himself offering a bag of food to a homeless person on Marseille's streets and posting a message asking others what they were doing to help.

England, Wales put aside rugby rivalry to train together

England Rugby Union coach Eddie Jones. (AP Photo/File)

Steve Douglas

London (AP) - One of rugby's fiercest rivalries was briefly set aside Monday when England and Wales joined together for a training session to hone their set-pieces ahead of the autumn international series.

England forwards coach Steve Borthwick brokered an unprecedented arrangement between the two nations for a 40-minute practice session in Bristol, a city located approximately halfway between the rivals' training bases.

With Welsh referee Nigel Owens watching, the respective forward packs completed 12 scrums and 16 lineouts.

England prop Harry Williams had jokingly teed it up as the "Battle of Bristol." It didn't turn out like that.

"There was a little bit of an edge," England scrum coach Neal Hatley said, "but there was nothing serious. Both sides took a lot from it."

When asked which nation gained the upper hand, Hatley replied: "We'll look at the video and take it from there."

The idea originated when England coach Eddie Jones was contemplating how his side's scrum could be taken "to the next level" and compete with those of New Zealand and Argentina.

A practice session in Georgia — a country renowned for having strong scrummagers — was dismissed before Borthwick called up Wales coach Warren Gatland, with the pair having worked together with the British and Irish Lions in June and July.

England start their series of November tests with a game against Argentina on Saturday, before further matches at Twickenham against Australia and Samoa.

Wales take on Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa over successive weekends.

Russian runner Maria Savinova appeals against doping ban

In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, Russia's Maria Savinova celebrates as she crosses the finish line ahead of South Africa's Caster Semenya to win the women's 800-meters final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Lausanne, Switzerland (AP) — Russian runner Maria Savinova has been given a date to appeal against her 4-year doping ban and being stripped of the 2012 Olympic 800-meter title she won ahead of Caster Semenya.

Savinova's appeal against the IAAF and the Russian track federation will be heard Dec. 4, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Monday. A verdict should follow within weeks.

Savinova, now aged 32, was not caught in re-testing of Olympic samples. In 2014, she was filmed talking about using steroids to a whistleblower in a German television documentary that exposed Russian doping.

Savinova's blood samples were re-analyzed and she was stripped of results for three years, including her 2011 world title and 2012 Olympic gold medal. Semenya was runner-up in both races and is line to be awarded both titles.

Update November 6, 2017

Man City beat Arsenal 3-1, open up 8-point lead in EPL

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, left, scores from the penalty spot during the English Premier League match against Arsenal at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, Sunday, Nov. 5. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Rob Harris

London (AP) — Manchester City are the team to catch in the Premier League, and it's getting even more challenging.

Pep Guardiola's side moved eight points clear with a 3-1 victory over Arsenal on Sunday when second-place Manchester United lost 1-0 at Chelsea. Tottenham trail United on goal difference and are a point ahead of defending champions Chelsea after beating last-place Crystal Palace 1-0.

There is still more than two-thirds of the season to go but City are looking a formidable attacking unit that's proving hard to thwart. They are the only unbeaten team in England, and with an enviable depth of talent on the field and on the bench.

"Can anyone stop them? It will be difficult this season," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "The way they have started, the way they are on a run, the quality they have. They'll be difficult to stop but, you never know."



Despite the victory margin, City needed some luck.

Kevin De Bruyne's opening goal in the 19th minute was followed by a contentiously awarded penalty when Nacho Monreal was adjudged to have bundled over Raheem Sterling. Sergio Aguero converted from the spot, then a third goal from Gabriel Jesus should have been ruled out for offside against David Silva in the build-up.

"If ... they have a decisions for them like that (third goal)," Wenger said, "they will be unstoppable."

Any hopes Arsenal had of a first title since 2004 are fading fast. Arsenal have lost four of six away games in the league for the first time since 1981 and Wenger's team trail City by 12 points.

City have scored 38 goals and won 10 out of 11 games so far. They achieved their latest win after a tough Champions League trip to Napoli where Guardiola's side won 4-2.

"We were so, so tired in moments in the game," Guardiola said, "but we were so strong mentally, mentally strong to keep going, doing it together."



All it took to lift some of the gloom around Stamford Bridge was the return of former manager Jose Mourinho, and a victory over his new club.

Alvaro Morata scored the only goal 10 minutes into the second half, ending a six-game goal drought in all competitions. Morata peeled away from defender Eric Bailly and the striker was completely unmarked 12 yard from goal when he met Cesar Azpilicueta's pinpoint cross with a powerful looping header.

"We must be pleased for the performance of the team," Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. "I think we played with a great energy, a great passion, a great enthusiasm."

Unlike perhaps earlier in the week in the Italian capital when Chelsea lost 3-0 to Roma in the Champions League.

"I think tonight I saw a lot of positive things," Conte said, "not only under the tactical aspect but overall the desire, the desire of my players, the will to fight, the will to help each other."



Son Heung-min took over from former Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung as the highest-scoring Premier League player from Asia with his 20th goal for Tottenham.

The South Korea forward pounced on a poor clearance to curl in a shot from just inside the area in the 64th minute at Wembley Stadium as a depleted Tottenham relied on a grittier performance to see off Palace after a slick win over Champions League holders Real Madrid.



Everton were facing a sixth straight loss in all competitions — and fourth under caretaker manager David Unsworth — after goals by Richarlison and Christian Kabasele put Watford 2-0 ahead by the 64th minute.

But three minutes later, Everton's recovery began. Oumar Niasse pulled a goal back, substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed home an equalizer in the 74th and Leighton Baines netted from the spot in stoppage time to complete a 3-2 victory. A first win in nine matches lifted Everton from 19th to 15th in the 20-team standings.

Eagles rout Broncos 51-23 to keep NFL's best record

Philadelphia Eagles' Jay Ajayi (36) scores a touchdown over Denver Broncos' Darian Stewart during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia (AP) — Carson Wentz tossed four touchdown passes, Corey Clement had three scores, and the Philadelphia Eagles routed the Denver Broncos 51-23 on Sunday.

The Eagles (8-1) dismantled the league's top-ranked defense, racking up 419 yards, to win their seventh straight game and head into a bye week with the best record in the NFL.

Brock Osweiler couldn't get the Broncos (3-5) on track in his first start since rejoining the team in September. He threw two interceptions. Denver has lost four in a row and five of six.

Wentz was 15 of 27 for 199 yards before giving way to Nick Foles. He has three four-TD performances in the last five weeks.

Clement had two TD runs and one TD catch, and newcomer Jay Ajayi ran for 77 yards and one score.

The Eagles hadn't scored 50 points since a 54-11 victory over the Bears on Dec. 22, 2013.


Seattle — Kirk Cousins drove Washington 70 yards in 35 seconds, capped by Rob Kelley's 1-yard touchdown run with less than a minute remaining, to stun Seattle.

Seattle (5-3) took a 14-10 lead with 1:34 remaining after Russell Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 30-yard touchdown pass after the Seahawks had scuffled on offense all day. But Cousins had an unexpected answer.

Taking over at his 30-yard line, Cousins hit Brian Quick for 31 yards and Josh Doctson for 38 on consecutive throws to get to the Seattle 1 with 1:02 left. Doctson beat rookie Shaquill Griffin down the sideline and made an impressive diving catch. Kelley bulled his way in from the 1 on the next play.

Kelley finished with two touchdown runs, while Cousins was 21 of 31 for 247 yards for the Redskins (4-4). He was responsible for a fumble in the first half, but otherwise took care of the ball against Seattle's standout defense. He also withstood six sacks and a number of other quarterback hits behind a makeshift offensive line of backups and rookies.

Wilson was 24 of 45 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.


Arlington, Texas — Ezekiel Elliott ran for the go-ahead touchdown after another reprieve from his six-game suspension, and Dallas overcame Tyreek Hill's improbable last-play touchdown in the first half to beat Kansas City.

Elliott's 2-yard plunge in the third quarter came after the Chiefs turned a 14-3 deficit into a 17-14 advantage, sparked by Hill's weaving 57-yard catch with the first-half clock expired and seven Dallas defenders inside their 25 trying to prevent the score.

Last year's NFL rushing champion as a rookie, Elliott had 93 yards, ending a streak of three straight 100-yard games but outgaining Kareem Hunt, this year's rushing leader in his first season entering the game.

Hunt matched a season low with nine carries, finishing with 37 yards as a club record-tying nine-game road winning streak ended for the Chiefs (6-3) in their third loss in four games since a 5-0 start.

Elliott got an emergency stay from a New York court Friday, stopping the suspension over alleged domestic violence for the third time.

With former quarterback Tony Romo calling his first Dallas game as lead analyst for CBS, Dak Prescott had two touchdown passes to Cole Beasley and ran for another score in a third straight win for the Cowboys (5-3).

Terrance Williams had a career-high nine catches for 141 yards.


Santa Clara, Calif. — Adrian Peterson carried a career-high 37 times for 159 yards and Drew Stanton threw two touchdown passes to lead Arizona past winless San Francisco.

Peterson, 32, was a workhorse in his third game with the Cardinals (4-4). He posted the most carries ever for a player in his 30s and topped the 100-yard mark for the second time since being acquired in a trade from New Orleans last month.

Peterson's tough running and Stanton's pair of first-half touchdown passes were enough to help Arizona bounce back from a 33-0 loss to the Rams before last week's bye.

The undermanned 49ers (0-9) extended the worst start in franchise history and have lost 23 of the past 24 games overall. Newly acquired quarterback of the future Jimmy Garoppolo was mostly a spectator as rookie C.J. Beathard got battered once again behind a patchwork line missing injured left tackle Joe Staley.

Beathard went 24 for 51 for 294 yards and an interception and also ran for a touchdown.


Jacksonville, Fla. — With A.J. Green and Jalen Ramsey ejected for fighting, Jaydon Mickens delivered the knockout blow by returning a punt 63 yards for a touchdown.

The Jaguars (5-3) won consecutive games for the first time in 13 months and were victorious at EverBank Field for the first time since last December.

Blake Bortles threw for 259 yards and a touchdown in another efficient performance. Marqise Lee had his first TD reception of the season and responded by punting the ball into the stands.

But most of the talk will center on Green and Ramsey.

The perennial Pro Bowl receiver retaliated against the trash-talking cornerback in a violent way late in the first half. After Ramsey knocked Green to the ground at the end of a running play, Green grabbed Ramsey around the neck and slammed him to the ground. Green then delivered numerous punches to Ramsey's helmet — never the smartest idea — and put another MMA-style choke hold on Ramsey. It was the kind of aggressive attack that could lead to a suspension.

Players from both sidelines rushed the field, pushing, pulling, shoving, screaming and looking like they would brawl.

Coaches and officials stepped in and prevented a melee. Green and Ramsey were ejected, a decision that prompted loud objections from Jacksonville's coaching booth next to the press box. Jaguars executive Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell were in the box.


New Orleans — The Saints extended their winning streak to six when Drew Brees completed 81.2 percent of his passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

The Buccaneers came in hoping to stem a four-game skid, but instead were not just beaten, but beaten up. Quarterback Jameis Winston left with shoulder soreness after the first half. Starting defensive end William Gholston was carted off the field with a neck injury. And tensions boiled over when Winston, after he had left the game, appeared to instigate a scuffle along the sideline.

Brees' touchdowns went for 33 yards to Alvin Kamara and 36 yards to Ted Ginn. Kamara, who also scored on a 6-yard run, did most of the work on his TD reception, thrilling the Superdome crowd with a waving, tackle-slipping run after his short catch.

The Saints also scored on Justin Hardee's blocked punt, which Hardee recovered in stride and returned for a touchdown.

The scuffle erupted in the third quarter and appeared to be ignited when Winston vigorously pressed his finger into the back of Lattimore's helmet during a dead-ball period between a failed third-down pass and a punt. Lattimore turned and shoved Winston, after which receiver Mike Evans leveled Lattimore from behind. Saints defensive back De'Vante Harris then came charging into the melee to defend Lattimore. As the scuffle was broken up, Saints coach Sean Payton marched halfway across the field, gesturing angrily at the Tampa Bay bench before officials chased him back to the Saints' sideline.

The score was 30-3 at the time. Evans was called for unnecessary roughness. There were no ejections.


Charlotte, N.C. — Cam Newton ran for 86 yards and a touchdown and the Panthers stormed back from an early 10-point deficit, then held on.

The Panthers spotted the Falcons 10 points before Newton and the ground game got rolling. Carolina ran for 201 yards, including a career-high 66 and a touchdown from rookie Christian McCaffrey.

The win kept the Panthers (6-3) a half-game behind the Saints in the NFC South. Atlanta is 4-4.

Devin Funchess had 86 yards on five catches in his first game as Carolina's No. 1 receiver after the team traded Kelvin Benjamin earlier in the week.

Matt Ryan, last year's NFL MVP, threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns and had one costly first-half interception for the defending NFC champions.

With six catches for 118 yards, Julio Jones became the first receiver to surpass 100 yards receiving against the Panthers this season.


East Rutherford, N.J. — Jared Goff set career highs with four touchdown throws and 311 yards passing and Todd Gurley ran for two more scores for the surprising Rams.

The win was the fifth in six games for the Rams, whose 6-2 start is the franchise's best since 2001, when the club, then in St. Louis, went 14-2 in the regular season and eventually lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Los Angeles did everything right in remaining unbeaten in four road games, five if a "home" win in London is included. The Rams' high-powered offense showed no rust coming off the bye, scoring on eight of their first nine possessions. The defense forced three turnovers that the offense turned into 17 points and the special teams blocked a third-quarter punt that Gurley converted into his second TD.

Greg Zuerlein added three field goals.

Eli Manning (20 of 36 for 220) threw two touchdown passes and became the seventh NFL quarterback to reach the 50,000-mark with his completion of a garbage-time pass to Sterling Shepard in the fourth quarter.

The loss dropped the Giants to 1-7, and it certainly has to put coach Ben McAdoo's future in question just one year after he led the team to the playoffs.


Nashville, Tenn. — Marcus Mariota threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns, and the Titans got their third straight victory.

Derrick Henry ran for a 1-yard TD. Safety Kevin Byard also intercepted two passes , giving the second-year pro five picks over his past two games.

The Titans (5-3) sacked Joe Flacco twice and scored 13 points off Byard's first interception and a shanked punt to stay atop the AFC South.

The Ravens (4-5) have lost three of four going into their bye, but they outgained Tennessee 341-257.

Flacco tried to rally the Ravens with two TD passes in the final 8:56, the last a 1-yard pass to Mike Wallace with 46 seconds left. But Justin Tucker's onside kick attempt didn't travel 10 yards, skittering almost sideways off the tee before being recovered by Titans linebacker Daren Bates.


Houston — T.Y. Hilton had 175 yards receiving with two touchdowns to help the Colts halt a three-game skid by beating a Texans team that struggled without Deshaun Watson.

Jacoby Brissett threw for 308 yards filling in for Andrew Luck, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday and will miss the season after having shoulder surgery in January. Watson's stellar season ended that day, too, when the rookie tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees in practice.

Tom Savage, benched in the opener for Watson, couldn't move the offense for most of the game, but threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to get Houston within six.

The Texans had a chance to win it late, but Savage was sacked by Jabaal Sheard and fumbled as time ran out.

With Watson running the offense, the Texans (3-5) had set a franchise record by scoring 30 or more points in five straight games. On Sunday, with Watson relegated to an extra coach on the bench, this Houston offense sputtered.

Wilder knocks out Stiverne in 1st round

The referee pulls Deontay Wilder away after he knocked out Bermane Stiverne during the WBC Heavyweight World Championship fight Saturday, Nov. 4, in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

Barry Wilner

New York (AP) — When Deontay Wilder finally took off the gold mask he wore into the ring, he displayed a fierce scowl.

That look never disappeared from his face as he knocked out the only man who'd ever gone the distance with him.

Wilder sent Bermane Stiverne to the canvas three times in the opening round to defend his WBC heavyweight title Saturday night at Barclays Center.

"So much frustration, it just seemed like my career, it's been crazy . so many guys using PEDs," Wilder said. "I just want to prove that I am the best. I know I am the best, but I wanna prove I am the best."

There wasn't much question of that in the Showtime card that ended in spectacular fashion.

The 32-year-old Wilder jabbed through much of the first round while Stiverne, who hadn't fought in two years, moved slowly and cautiously around the ring. Suddenly, Wilder lashed out with a huge right that felled Stiverne (25-3-1).

Already, Wilder was celebrating, but Stiverne got up. Unwisely, it turned out, because another big right as part of a flurry of punches sent the 38-year-old challenger back down.

At that point, Wilder climbed atop the ropes in a neutral corner, shouting at Stiverne's trainer to end things.

When they didn't, another right and then a mammoth left hook sent down the challenger for the final time with his "Alabama Slammer."

"One champion, one face, one name, he goes by Deontay Wilder," the WBC champ said.

Wilder won the belt from Stiverne in 2015 in a 12-round decision. He repeatedly insisted Stiverne would go down and out early in this one.

Wilder kept his word.

He is 39-0 with 38 knockouts.

Wilder now can set his sights on something he has been promising throughout 2017: unifying the heavyweight belts. He wants England's Anthony Joshua, the WBA/IBF champ, sometime next year, and was busy issuing challenges after disposing of Stiverne.

"I've been waiting on that fight for a long time now," he said. "I declare war upon you. Do you accept my challenge?

"I know I'm the champion, I know I'm the best. Are you up for the test?"

This was Wilder's sixth defense, and his most ferocious. Stiverne, who last fought on Nov. 14, 2015, outpointing Derric Rossy, never had a chance. He was a substitute for Jose Ortiz, who failed a drug test.

Stiverne did not land a punch and never should have bothered showing up.

Earlier, Sergey Lipinets won a unanimous decision over Akihiro Kondo for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title, a decision that was lustily booed by the crowd of 10,924 at Barclays Center.

In a bout featuring lots of action but lots of missed punches, the 28-year-old Lipinets of Kazakhstan won despite dealing with a cut on the forehead that bled for the final six rounds. He won 118-111 on one judge's card and 117-111 on two others even though Kondo, fighting outside of his native Japan for the first time, carried much of the action in the second half of the bout.

The AP scored it 115-113 for Lipinets, who is 13-0. Kondo fell to 29-7-1, losing for the first time in nine fights.

"The head butt really impaired my vision and it led to me walking into some stupid shots," Lipinets said.

Shawn Porter pummeled Adrian Granados for most of 12 rounds in a lopsided fight. There were more clinches in the first round of that fight than in the entire Lipinets-Kondo matchup.

Porter is in line for another welterweight championship opportunity; he held the IBF crown in 2013-14. He improved to 28-2-1 in a bout that had little style, but plenty of action. The judges all had it 117-111 for Porter.

"He gave me a little trouble here and there," said Porter, who wants a rematch with WBA champ Keith Thurman, who beat him at Barclays Center last year. "I hurt my left hand in the sixth round, but I kept using it. I had to use my jab. It took a toll on me and by the 10th round I just couldn't throw it anymore."

Granados is now 18-6-2.

In what was billed a heavyweight eliminator, Dominic Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs) stopped Eric Molina after eight rounds. Molina, exhausted after taking a battering in the eighth, had his arms hanging over the ropes when the round ended.  A ringside doctor then stopped it.

Molina (26-5) previously has lost to both Wilder and to WBA-IBF champion Anthony Joshua. Breazeale also has lost to Joshua.

"Deontay is who I want to face," Breazeale said.

Rose wins Turkish Airlines Open for back-to-back titles

English golfer Justin Rose. (AP Photo)

Antalya, Turkey (AP) — Justin Rose made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Turkish Airlines Open by a shot on Sunday for his second straight title on the European Tour, moving him close to fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood in the Race to Dubai standings.

Rose shot a 6-under 65 in the final round to finish on 18 under par 266 overall, securing victory a week after taking the WGC-HSBC Champions title in Shanghai.

Nicolas Colsaerts had the chance to take Rose to a playoff but rolled his birdie putt on the 18th just left of the hole, moments after Rose had holed from two feet further out. Colsaerts had birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 17.

Colsaerts (66) and Dylan Frittelli (64), who chipped in three times in four holes during his round, were tied for second. Padraig Harrington needed to eagle the last to force a playoff, but made par and had to settle for fourth place on 16 under.

Fleetwood finished in a tie for 23rd and saw his lead of more than a million points over Rose in the Race to Dubai reduced to just 135,000 with two events left, in South Africa and Dubai.

Fleetwood is contesting both, while Rose will sit out the upcoming Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City.

Rose overturned an eight-shot deficit to top-ranked Dustin Johnson to win in China. He started the final round two shots back a week later and birdied four of the last seven holes.

London finals up next for Jack Sock after Paris Masters win


Jack Sock of the United States kisses the trophy after he defeated Filip Krajinovic of Serbia during their final match of the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy Arena in Paris, France, Sunday, Nov. 5. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — After being one game away from going home early in the tournament, Jack Sock won the Paris Masters on Sunday to qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals in London.

Sock beat Filip Krajinovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. It is easily the biggest trophy so far in the 25-year-old American's career.

Before coming to Paris the 16th-seeded Sock didn't even think of London.

But after winning his first Masters title, he will be making the short trip to England to compete against Roger Federer and the other six who made it from the ATP race.

"Coming in this week I had no idea I could even make London. It wasn't in my head," Sock said. "Incredible week. Hard to describe, honestly. I don't think it's really hit or soaked in yet."

Especially as on Wednesday, his mind was drifting way off somewhere.

Deep into the third set against Britain's Kyle Edmund — a tough opponent in the second round — Sock trailed 5-1.

"I was thinking about my holidays ... I'm proud of myself for fighting and getting through," Sock said. "To come back from the deficit I was down and to have this trophy next to me now has been an incredible achievement."

Fast forward to Sunday and he now walks away from Paris with a check worth nearly $1 million and a jump up the rankings to No. 9. Sock already knows how he is going to approach the finals.

"I'm going to swing big and play my game, like I always do," he said. "Just enjoy the moment."

This was his fourth career title.

He sealed victory on his first match point when Krajinovic, a Serbian qualifier ranked No. 77, sent a backhand long. Sock fell onto his back with his hands on his face, then jumped into the seating area to celebrate with his team.

"I had some anxious sleep last night," Sock said. "I was able to find that groove in the second and third (sets)."

He is the first American winner here since Andre Agassi in 1999; and the first American winner of a Masters tournament since Andy Roddick at Miami in 2010.

"I've had a rough season pretty much since, since March," Sock said. "I just wanted to play some good tennis my last week and go start my offseason."

With a wry smile, Sock said he would be celebrating with "just a water on the rocks."

Krajinovic was the first qualifier in a Masters final since Jerzy Janowicz, also here, in 2012.

After losing, the 25-year-old Serb sat slumped in his chair, shaking his head in disappointment.

He had only played finals on the challenger circuit before, winning all five of them, and came through the qualifying rounds. He seemed to run out of energy in the third set.

"I was not aggressive enough," Krajinovic said. "He started to play better and better and I didn't serve well."

Still, he will climb to No. 33 next week.

"From (qualifying) I beat so many good guys, better ranking than me," Krajinovic said. "So it's all positive coming home, finally having holidays after playing so many matches this year."

The first set was even, with Krajinovic looking a little sharper than Sock, who is also 25.

Sock was 30-40 down in the 12th game, and Krajinovic had his first set point. He took it when Sock went for a typical cross-court winner on forehand and whipped his shot into the net.

He responded well, upping his level in the second set as the momentum started to turn. Sock secured a crucial break in the third game of the decider with a superb forehand winner on the run, and then held for 3-1.

Krajinovic was reeling and dropped his next service game when Sock hit a backhand crosscourt winner that flew past his outstretched racket. He was broken again when serving to stay in the match.

Sock had nine aces and broke Krajinovic's serve six times to compensate for the three times he dropped his own serve.

Sock's other titles this year were at Delray Beach, Florida and Auckland, New Zealand — both on outdoor hard courts.

Update November 4 - 5, 2017

Isner beats del Potro to reach Paris semis, Nadal withdraws

John Isner of the United States celebrates his victory over Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during their quarter-final match of the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy Arena in Paris, France, Friday, Nov. 3. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — John Isner stayed on track for the last spot at the ATP Finals by beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in the Paris Masters quarterfinals on Friday.

The American was the runner-up last year and needs to win the tournament to reach the finals in London this month.

"I've given myself a pretty good shot to qualify," Isner said. "But it's going to be very tough."

Meanwhile, top-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out with a right knee injury, and hopes to be fit to lead the London field.

The loss ended del Potro's hopes of reaching London. The Argentine needed to win to guarantee his place.

"I'm exhausted. But I did all my effort, I don't have anything to (reproach) myself (for)," del Potro said. "I've been playing three sets today without legs, without energy. Now it's time to get home and enjoy the vacation."

The eighth and last berth for London is between Isner and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, who is ahead of Isner in the race.

Isner, who played with strapping above his left knee, broke for 2-1 in the third set. With an unreturnable serve on his first match point, Isner topped del Potro for only the third time in nine matches.

Isner will next face Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic, who advanced when Nadal withdrew.

"This week he's played with a lot of energy," said Isner, who has been refueling with a rare treat. "After a match like this, any calories are pretty good. I actually had a cheeseburger. I had one yesterday, too. And they cook a good one here."

Nadal signaled his knee wasn't right during his third-round win over Pablo Cuevas on Thursday.

"I'm going to do my treatment, do my best to be playing in London," he said. "But I cannot talk about that now; it is tough enough for me to pull out from here."

Tournament director Guy Forget praised Nadal for his attitude in trying his hardest to play, despite his evident pain.

"We all know Rafa, once he says he's going to do something he sticks to it," Forget said. "He said 'I'm sorry' to me 10 times, like a kid who's done something wrong. I said, 'No, no, I'm sorry for you.'"

Krajinovic, a qualifier ranked 77, is through to his first Masters semifinal, and the first qualifier to reach the semis since Jerzy Janowicz in 2012.

"My goal this year was to play challengers to pick up points for next year," he said. "I was already top 100 two or three years ago; then I had bad luck with injuries."

Krajinovic said his progress was stalled by "an extra bone in the wrist" that needed to be treated.

Unseeded Julien Benneteau continued his unexpected march by knocking out third-seeded Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 7-5.

Benneteau lost their three previous matches but edged a first set where both dropped serve twice.

He sealed victory on his first match point on Cilic's serve with a cross-court forehand winner and became emotional, dropping his racket, blowing kisses, and tearing up.

"I was looking at my brother, who is my coach, and at my wife. I am so happy to make her proud," he said. "It's an indescribable joy."

In his last Paris Masters before retiring, the Frenchman has a shot at a first career title on home court.

Next up is Jack Sock, who defeated Fernando Verdasco of Spain 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3.

Verdasco, who got a code violation after the seventh game of the deciding set, saved four match points.

But Sock clinched the match on serve to reach the semis for the first time since Washington in August. He has two titles this year.

Marseille suspends Evra for kicking fan pending UEFA hearing

Marseille's Patrice Evra, third left, raises his foot trying to kick a man during a scuffle with Marseille supporters who trespassed into the field before the Europa League group I soccer match between Vitoria SC and Olympique de Marseille at the D. Afonso Henriques stadium in Guimaraes, Portugal, Thursday, Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)

Nyon, Switzerland (AP) — Marseille has suspended Patrice Evra and could take further action after the defender kicked one of the team's fans before a Europa League game.

The French club's announcement came after UEFA said earlier Friday that Evra will be banned for at least one game.

UEFA's disciplinary body will meet on Nov. 10 to rule on the incident, in which Evra was sent off for violent conduct before the game in Portugal on Thursday.

After opening an internal investigation into Evra's conduct, and following a meeting between Evra and club president Jacques-Henri Eyraud, Marseille decided to take action.

The club said in a statement Evra could face further sanctions. Although Marseille accepted Evra received some "hateful insults" he could in no way "respond in such an inappropriate manner."

Evra got into a verbal argument with Marseille supporters who scaled barriers to confront him before the match against Portuguese club Vitoria.

Evra was seen aiming a kick at the head of one of his club's fans and then being ushered away by a teammate. Evra, who was a substitute for the game, was issued a red card before the match.

"The club can only condemn all destructive behavior from pseudo supporters who insult their own players when everyone should be supporting the team," Marseille said.

Evra, whose most successful spell as a player came at Manchester United and Juventus, has lost his place at Marseille this season to Jordan Amavi. But Evra has remained visible on Instagram videos, singing and having fun.

He was heavily criticized in some sections of the media, including by former France players such as Christophe Dugarry, for filming himself offering a bag of food to a homeless person on Marseille's streets and posting a socially loaded message asking others what they were doing to help.

Evra's temperament has been an issue in the past. He has clashed verbally with former players — especially Lilian Thuram and Dugarry — and with television pundits, often mocking some of them with invented names as a pun on their names.

Evra has dropped out of contention for France: His 81st and last appearance was a year ago in a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Evra was captain of the 2010 World Cup squad but was blamed for being the orchestrator of a training-ground strike that shocked the nation. The team refused to train after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting coach Raymond Domenech at halftime during a match against Mexico. Evra received a five-game ban from the French Football Federation after returning from South Africa.

Forever Unbridled scores upset win in Breeders' Cup Distaff

Forever Unbridled, left, with John R. Velazquez aboard, wins the Longines Distaff horse race during the first day of the Breeders' Cup, Friday, Nov. 3, in Del Mar, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Beth Harris

Del Mar, Calif. (AP) — Forever Unbridled swept to the lead coming off the far turn and held off late-charging Abel Tasman to win the $2 million Distaff by a half-length Friday at Del Mar, capping a day of upsets at the Breeders' Cup.

The 5-year-old mare was coming in off a 73-day layoff. She showed no rust, though, in bettering her third-place finish in the race a year ago at Santa Anita.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Forever Unbridled ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.25 and paid $9.40 to win at 7-2 odds.

Abel Tasman, a winner of three Grade 1 races this year, was second for trainer Bob Baffert. Paradise Woods finished third.

"She just got beat by a really good horse," Baffert said.

Saturday's card features nine Cup races, including the $6 million Classic in which Baffert will saddle four starters in pursuit of a record fourth straight victory.

In the Distaff, 2-1 favorite Elate was fourth in the eight-horse field.

Trainer Dallas Stewart earned his second Cup victory, 16 years after Unbridled Elaine's upset win in the same race at Belmont Park. Velazquez collected his 14th career Cup win in the $2 million race.

Velazquez earned $110,000 for his winning ride. Joel Rosario will get the same amount for sitting in the jockeys' room after Forever Unbridled's owner Charles Fipke made a late change to Velazquez that prevented Rosario from securing another mount.

"For timing and consistency, Johnny's the best," said Fipke, the Canadian gemologist and prospector who discovered diamonds in the Northwest Territories.

Forever Unbridled was sixth early on, with Velazquez moving her to the outside for clear running room. She kicked into gear approaching the far turn and quickly joined the two leaders before charging past them.

"He edged that horse right up close, and just at the right time he bounced right out in front of them all," Fipke said.

Velazquez had ridden Forever Unbridled twice before, but that was 1 years ago.

"I've been watching her all year when she's been running with somebody else, so I kind of knew her very well from the first time I rode her," he said.

Fipke, who also bred Forever Unbridled, said winning a Breeders' Cup race is harder than discovering a diamond mine.

"You don't realize how many other horses that we pay the oats and the bills and the training bills and everything just to get the one," he said. "And the odds are pretty stacked against you."

Stellar Wind, a six-time Grade 1 winner, finished last in her final race before retirement. Her trainer, John Sadler, extended his Cup skid to 41 races.

The only favorite to win among the day's four Cup races was 9-2 shot Mendelssohn in the $1 million Juvenile Turf for Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien.

Ridden by Ryan Moore, Mendelssohn ran one mile on turf in 1:35.97 to beat Untamed Domain by a length.

The bay colt paid $11.60 to win.

The other $1 million races produced upsets: 3-1 shot Rushing Fall in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and 14-1 shot Battle of Midway in the Dirt Mile.

In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Rushing Fall survived a wide trip to win by three-quarters of a length under Javier Castellano. The bay filly ran a mile on turf in 1:36.09 and paid $8 to win for trainer Chad Brown.

In the Dirt Mile, Battle of Midway rallied to hold off Sharp Azteca by a half-length under Flavien Prat.

Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Battle of Midway ran a mile in 1:35.20 and paid $30.40 to win.

The announced crowd of 32,278 on a cloudy, 68-degree day was 5,222 below the attendance cap of 37,500 for the first Cup to be run at the seaside track near San Diego.

J.J. Spaun shoots 65 to take PGA Tour lead in Las Vegas

Robert Garrigus watches his tee shot from second hole during the second round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open golf tournament at TPC at Summerlin in Las Vegas, Friday, Nov. 3. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Las Vegas (AP) — J.J. Spaun shot a 6-under 65 on Friday at breezy TPC Summerlin to take the lead in the suspended second round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Spaun rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 third with birdies on the par-4 fourth and par-3 fifth and closed with a birdie on the par-5 ninth to get to 11-under 131.

"I think we were just real deliberate on our numbers out there," Spaun said. "It's super swirly, windy. ... Out here you've got so many undulations around the greens and you've got tight hazards next to the pins and the greens, so it's crucial to get the right number, and we did that well today. That kind of set us up for having a bunch of looks out there."

Kelly Kraft was second at 8 under with three holes left when play was suspended for the day because of darkness. He had a hole-in-one on par-3 fifth, using a 6-iron on the 174-yard hole.

Spaun is making his third start of the season after finishing 97th in the FedEx Cup standings. He missed the cut in the opener at Silverado and tied for 34th last week in Mississippi.

"I'm putting well, I'm hitting it well, I'm just trying to play simple golf," Spaun said. "I know it's not going to be easy on the weekend, but just trying to keep things in perspective and stay within myself and give myself a shot on Sunday."

Robert Garrigus was four strokes back at 7 under after a 65.

"I really didn't swing it as good as I wanted to off the tee," Garrigus said. "I was hitting some squirrelly shots, but the putter worked really well today, which can cure a lot of things."

Aaron Baddeley and Patton Kizzire each shot 66 to get to 6 under, and first-round leader Whee Kim was 5 under after a 72.

"It was windy today," Baddeley said. "There were a couple holes there where it was like a two- or three-club wind, which is really unusual here in Vegas. But it's just nice because it really brings out the good ball-hitters and also the people who can be patient in this type of weather."

Charley Hoffman was 3 under after a 71 in his hometown event.

Bubba Watson was in position to make the cut on the number at 1 over in his first event of season, shooting 72-71. Defending champion Rod Pampling also was 1 over after a 73.

Update November 3, 2017

Arsenal, Lazio advance in Europa; Milan held to 0-0 again

AC Milan's Andre Silva looks at the ball during the Europa League group D match against AEK Athens at the Olympic stadium, in Athens, Thursday, Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

London (AP) - AC Milan wasted a chance to make the Europa League knockout stage with two games to spare after AEK Athens held them to a second straight goalless draw on Thursday.

The other favorites, Arsenal, advanced despite also being in a goalless game.

Lazio won Group K to secure a knockout spot after beating Nice 1-0 thanks to Maxime Le Marchand's own goal in injury time.

Dynamo Kiev made it through from Group B by beating Young Boys 1-0, and a 1-1 draw was also enough for Romania's FCSB against Hapoel Beer-Sheva in Group G. Russia's Zenit also made sure to draw at Rosenborg to advance from Group L.

In an unusual incident, Marseille substitute Patrice Evra was given a red card before his game in Portugal because of a clash with the crowd. A photo showed him aiming a kick at a fan's head after reported arguments between him and Marseille supporters.

Marseille lost to Vitoria 1-0.

Another Italian club, Atalanta, were on course to advance before conceding a goal deep in stoppage time in Cyprus.

Everton’s hopes were squashed.

Here's a look at the action:


Milan scored eight goals in the first two group matches then began to emulate their poor performances in Serie A, where they lost to Juventus 2-0 at home on Saturday and have won just one of their past six matches.

Milan strikers Andre Silva and Patrick Cutrone were kept at bay by solid AEK defending.

Austria Vienna won at Rijeka 4-1 in another game in Group D. All four teams still have a shot to make the next round.


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger usually rests his stars in Europe, and he replaced the entire lineup that beat Swansea 2-1 on Saturday. In goal, Matt Macey made his European debut. He was OK, the problem was at the other end.

Striker Olivier Giroud should have converted one of his many chances.

Arsenal lead Group H by five points from Red Star. Third-placed BATE lost at Cologne 3-2.


Lyon knocked out struggling Everton 3-0, with all the goals in the second half.

Bertrand Traore scored the first on a fast counter, substitute Houssem Aouar added the second, and Memphis Depay finished Everton off with a header.

Everton defender Cuco Martina was taken off on a stretcher with concussion and neck pain, after landing awkwardly from an aerial challenge before halftime. He was cleared at a hospital to return with the team to England, where Everton can fully concentrate on reviving their Premier League campaign. They sit in the relegation zone.

Atalanta led Apollon Limassol 1-0 from halftime to deep into the match, and looked set to advance after a 26-year absence in Europe. But then Emilio Zelaya equalized four minutes into injury time.

Atalanta and Lyon still control Group E, five points ahead of Apollon.


Dynamo Kiev needed a win over Young Boys in Bern and got it courtesy of Vitaliy Buyalskiy, who scored late.

Dynamo lead Group B by five points from Partizan Belgrade, who are second after beating Skenderbeu 2-0.

No. 1 Nadal remains on track for first Paris Masters title

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay during the third round of the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy Arena in Paris, France, Thursday, Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — Rafael Nadal remains on track for an elusive Paris Masters title after beating Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals on Thursday.

He has not reached the final since losing to David Nalbandian in his first appearance 10 years ago. Nadal improved to 4-1 overall against Cuevas and next plays Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic for the first time.

"He had a very successful season, winning a lot of challengers, and now he's playing well on the tour," Nadal said of Krajinovic. "When you're winning a lot of matches you're in a good dynamic."

Cuevas competed well in spells against a nervy Nadal, who was erratic on serve and made countless unforced errors in a gritty contest.

One of the most glaring came at 5-5 in the second-set tiebreaker, when Nadal hit an easy forehand into the net to give Cuevas a set point. After a brief rally, Nadal hit a backhand long and Cuevas leveled the match.

Nadal had some strapping under his right knee before the deciding set, then raced into a 3-0 lead before the jitters came back.

"It's not the moment to talk much about the knee," he said. He also was elusive about whether it might prevent him from playing in the season-ending ATP Finals next week in London.

"Anything can happen in one week and a half," Nadal said. "But if nothing strange happens then I'm going to be there."

Nadal was not moving with his customary speed around court in the third set but held comfortably enough for 5-2. He clinched victory on his first match point when Cuevas sent a return wide.

Nadal is guaranteed to finish the year with the top ranking for the fourth time. A maiden victory here would give him a record 31 Masters titles, one more than Novak Djokovic.

Marin Cilic of Croatia downed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-2 and next faces veteran Julien Benneteau.

Earlier in the third round, Juan Martin del Potro moved closer to securing the last spot for the finals by beating Robin Haase 7-5, 6-4.

Del Potro, who lost to Roger Federer on Sunday in the Swiss Indoors final, is in 10th place in the race to qualify for the tournament. Only the top eight players will compete in London and there is one place left, to be taken in Paris.

"I would love to reach London once again. It could be a fantastic moment for me," said del Potro, who was way back in 47th place in the race before the U.S. Open. "I'm excited to keep improving for this kind of surprise."

Del Potro has a tough challenge next, against big-serving American John Isner.

The ninth-seeded Isner, last year's runner-up to Andy Murray, hit 25 aces as he beat sixth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 7-6 (10), 5-7, 7-6 (3).

Seventh-seeded David Goffin of Belgium was through to the finals in London, despite a surprise loss to Benneteau 6-3, 6-3. The unseeded Frenchman reached the quarters of a Masters for the first time since Shanghai in 2014 in his final tournament before retiring.

Goffin will have waited nervously on the result of Frenchman Lucas Pouille's result against Jack Sock. But Pouille's 7-6 (6), 6-3 loss to the American sent him through, at Pouille's expense, making him the first Belgian to qualify for the season finale.

"I would have preferred to have qualified by winning and Lucas is a friend," Goffin said. "But I am still so happy to have qualified."

Dominic Thiem went out early again, falling to Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-4.

Since losing to Del Potro in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, the fifth-seeded Austrian has won only two matches in five tournaments.

Verdasco next plays Sock. Krajinovic advanced with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win against Nicolas Mahut.

Midway through NFL season, football ratings are down

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler looks to pass against the New York Jets in this Oct. 22, 2017, photo. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

David Bauder

New York (AP) — Midway through a season remembered for its protests by some players during the national anthem as much as bone-crunching hits, viewership for NFL football games is down 5 percent from last year.

The NFL has slowed a decline that was more pronounced in 2016, and the erosion is actually less than it is for other forms of television programming. Yet Wall Street analysts have noticed the trend and sports programmers are searching for reasons. The NFL's aura of invincibility as an entertainment product has taken a hit.

"It's certainly not cause for panic," said Rick Gentile, a former CBS Sports executive and now a Seton Hall University professor, "but they like to keep going up."

The average NFL game this season has attracted 14.8 million viewers, down from 15.6 million at the same point last year, the Nielsen company said. The decline was 14 percent between the 2015 and 2016 mid-seasons, although more people returned when election year politicking left the airwaves.

What has put the NFL in news headlines this fall, instead of just the sports pages, is the protest primarily by black players about the treatment of minorities by law enforcement. It has been expressed most often by players kneeling for "The Star Spangled Banner" before the games, an action that incurred the wrath of President Donald Trump.

It briefly brought the national anthem back to TV broadcasts. Since then, the networks usually tape it in case there's a significant protest to report.

Asked about the impact of the protests, NFL spokesman Alex Riethmiller said the league believes the ratings drop is part of a broader trend in television consumption instead of a single issue or controversy.

Yet Gentile, who runs a nationwide poll on sports issues for Seton Hall, said his surveys show differently.

"I was in denial for a while," he said, "but every time we asked the question, 'why do you watch fewer games?' it came back the same way — the protests."

In the last week of September, Seton Hall's poll of 850 people found that half were watching the same number of football games they watched in the past. Twenty-nine percent said they watched fewer games, 5 percent said they watched more and the remainder didn't know. Of the people who watched fewer games, 47 percent said it was because of the protests, by far the most frequent reason cited.

Shrinking audiences are the norm, rather than the exception, for most TV shows, and the NFL points out that the audience for prime-time broadcast programming has dropped 9 percent this fall. That comparison isn't totally fair since one of the biggest reasons ratings are off for entertainment shows — people recording them to watch later — usually doesn't apply to a live event like football.

Two worries for the rest of the NFL season are injuries that have sidelined marquee players like Odell Beckham, Jr., Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt, and lousy teams with little to play for in major markets like New York and Chicago. Viewership for this past weekend's games was the lowest of the season, Nielsen said.

The NFL has focused with some success this season on improving prime-time products, said Michael Nathanson, an analyst for MoffettNathanson Research. Viewership is up 5 percent for ESPN's "Monday Night Football," which is concentrating this year on rivalry games between teams in the same division. In another healthy sign, ad prices for NBC's Sunday night game are going up 12 percent next year, according to a survey by Variety magazine.

"Ratings go up and ratings go down, but the NFL is actually stronger than it has been in recent years, relatively speaking, to the rest of the television world," said CBS Sports President Sean McManus. "The good news is that viewers are consuming more NFL programming. We're just trying to make sure that we still allow access to that programming without hurting the traditional packages."

The chief weakness has been the Sunday afternoon games, the league's bedrock, and among younger viewers. Young fans weaned on video games are increasingly attracted to "Red Zone" products that allow them to peek in at key moments in different games and highlight packages of big plays, instead of sitting through contests that last more than three hours.

Wall Street analyst Omar Sheikh this fall downgraded his profit estimates for the parent companies of CBS and Fox, the two networks that broadcast Sunday afternoon games, and cited football ratings as his primary reason.

One worry among TV executives, voiced in a company earnings call last week by 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, is an oversaturation of the market. The concern is primarily focused on the NFL's Thursday night game, which was added in recent years.

"I do think that preserving the scarcity value of those events and that audience is something that is worth thinking about," Murdoch said.

Beauden Barrett to lead All Blacks against Barbarians

Flyhalf Beauden Barrett will captain the All Blacks for the first time against the Barbarians on Saturday, Nov. 4 in the opening match of their European tour. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

London (AP) — Flyhalf Beauden Barrett will captain the All Blacks for the first time Saturday in the opening match of their European tour against the Barbarians.

New Zealand, with a touring party of 37 players, will use the informal match to give playing time to squad members who might otherwise have few opportunities in forthcoming tests against France, Scotland and Wales.

But the lineup is still strong and the selectors have formalized the leadership role Barrett plays within the New Zealand team by awarding him the captaincy, although the match doesn't carry test status.

The lineup features the return of Jerome Kaino at No. 8 after the veteran missed the latter half of the domestic season. Ardie Savea will start at flanker, facing his brother Julian, the former All Blacks winger, who will play for the Barbarians.

Seta Tamanivalu also returns on the left wing for his first All Blacks appearance in more than a year. David Havili will start at fullback while Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Leaumape will combine in midfield in what might be the next generation of All Blacks centers.

Barrett will combine with his Wellington Hurricanes teammate, scrumhalf T.J. Pernara, and Waisake Naholo will line up on the right wing after a season of sporadic appearances, interrupted by injury.

Head coach Steve Hansen said the selectors had no choice but to rush young players into action on the five-match tour.

"Preferably you'd want to give them a couple of weeks before you even look like putting them in, but this Baabaas game suits having those boys in the side," he said.

Hansen said Barrett was due to take on the responsibility of captaincy.

"We need a leader and it's a good opportunity for him," Hansen said. "He needs a game — he hasn't played for four or five weeks — so we might as well start him and then we know where he is at.

"This will be a tough game. It's like a New Zealand trial so everyone will have plenty to say about it.

"We know the quality of the people that are in the Baabaas. It'll give us a good gauge of where (the All Blacks) are at."

Update November 2, 2017

Spurs, Man City qualify on good night for English clubs

Tottenham's Dele Alli, left, scores the opening goal past Real Madrid's goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, right, during their Champions League group H match at Wembley Stadium in London, Wednesday, Nov. 1. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

James Ellingworth

London (AP) - English clubs shone in the Champions League on Wednesday as Tottenham humbled Real Madrid and Manchester City beat Napoli to secure their places in the knockout stages with two games remaining.

Tottenham ended Real's five-year unbeaten run in the Champions League group stage with a storming 3-1 at Wembley. Dele Alli scored twice on his return from a three-game suspension. City muscled their way to a 4-2 win over Napoli as Sergio Aguero took the club's all-time scoring record.

Liverpool made it three wins from three for English clubs with a straightforward 3-0 victory over Slovenian outsiders Maribor. Liverpool can qualify by beating Sevilla in their next game.

Monaco and Leipzig risk elimination after their Group G rivals Besiktas and Porto picked up valuable points.

Here is a look at what happened in Wednesday's games.



Liverpool weren't quite as imperious as in their previous 7-0 hammering of Maribor, but three second-half goals were enough for a win that makes the Reds highly likely to qualify.

Maribor's defence managed to hold Liverpool at bay until Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in the 49th minute. More goals followed from Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge, while James Milner missed a penalty.

That leaves Liverpool in first place, one point ahead of Sevilla, who beat Spartak Moscow 2-1 to gain a measure of revenge for their 5-1 loss in the Russian capital two weeks ago.

In contrast to the disarray in Moscow, Sevilla played with a calm authority from the start and took a 2-0 lead through Clement Lenglet and Ever Banega. A consolation goal from Ze Luis came too late to spark a comeback from the Russian champions.



Manchester City made it four wins from four with victory in Naples as they qualified for the knockout stages for the fifth year in a row.

Lorenzo Insigne put Napoli ahead in the 21st minute — the first time since August that City had conceded the opening goal of any game. Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones scored for City to turn the match around, before Jorginho equalized for the hosts from the penalty spot. But Aguero's goal on a counterattack, his 178th for the club, gave him the City scoring record and Raheem Sterling added the visitors' fourth in stoppage time.

Shakhtar Donetsk haven't made it past the group stage since the 2014-15 season, but look likely to do so this campaign after beating Feyenoord 3-1 to tighten their hold on second place.

For the second time in two games against Shakhtar, Feyenoord took an early lead but were later overwhelmed by the Ukrainian team, whose attacking midfielder Marlos finished with two goals.



Turkey's Besiktas continued their strong group stage campaign with a 1-1 draw against Monaco that keeps them unbeaten.

With just two points from four games, Monaco are last in the group and facing an early exit. However, their prospects would have been very different if a shot by Keita Balde hadn't been saved by Besiktas goalkeeper Fabri in stoppage time.

Monaco must now beat Porto and Leipzig in their last two games to stand any chance of qualifying.

Aiming for a first appearance in the knockout phase, Besiktas now sit four points clear at the top from Porto. The Portuguese club beat Leipzig 3-1 to move second in the group, two points ahead of the defeated German team, who are in their debut Champions League campaign.



Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will face criticism from fans of the reigning Spanish and European champions after a poor showing away to Tottenham.

Two goals from Dele Alli and one from Christian Eriksen gave Tottenham a commanding lead that ensured the London club qualified for the knockout stages for only the second time, and first since 2010-11.

Cristiano Ronaldo's 80th-minute goal meant little outside this season's Champions League goalscorer standings, which he leads by one goal from Tottenham's Harry Kane.

Madrid have now won only two of their last five games in all competitions, including a draw at home with Tottenham and a loss in the Spanish league to Girona on Sunday.

The group's other two teams, Borussia Dortmund and APOEL Nicosia, are mathematically still in contention to qualify but realistically have almost no chance after their 1-1 draw. Either would now need to beat both Tottenham and Madrid to stand any chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Pacers send Cavaliers to fourth straight loss, 124-107

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, right, drives against Indiana Pacers' Thaddeus Young in the first half of their teams’ NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 1, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland (AP) — Thaddeus Young scored 26 points, Darren Collison had 25 and the Indiana Pacers sent the Cleveland Cavaliers to their fourth straight loss, 124-107 on Wednesday night.

LeBron James had 33 points and 11 assists, but it wasn't enough to keep Cleveland from losing for the fifth time in six games and falling to 3-5.

The Cavaliers held a lengthy meeting before Tuesday's practice to discuss their struggles, but the defending Eastern Conference champions have lost by a combined margin of 58 points in their losing streak.

James was upbeat about the meeting, but the Cavaliers still have issues to work out, especially on the defensive end. Cleveland led 69-68 in the third quarter, but Indiana hit four straight 3-pointers and built an eight-point lead. Indiana was 16 of 26 from 3-point range.

Victor Oladipo scored 23 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic added 17, and Domantas Sabonis had 15 points and 12 rebounds.


Boston — Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown each scored 22 points in three quarters, and Bostoncoasted past skidding Sacramento for its sixth straight victory.

It was the Celtics' 11th consecutive win over the Kings in Boston, dating to their last loss on Jan. 19, 2007. Terry Rozier added 12 points, and Daniel Theis had 10 points with 10 rebounds.

Buddy Hield scored 17 points and Zach Randolph 16 for the Kings, who lost their sixth in a row — the last three by an average of 24 points.


Washington — T.J. Warren scored 28 of his career-high 40 points in the second half and Phoenix overcame a 22-point deficit to beat Washington.

Warren also had 10 rebounds and Devin Booker added 22 points to help the Suns improve to 4-1 under interim coach Jay Triano following an 0-3 start that led to Earl Watson's firing.

Bradley Beal scored a season-high 40 points for Washington, which built the lead to 22 by the second quarter but saw it completely disappear early in the fourth.

John Wall added 21 points, and Marcin Gortat had 13 rebounds for Washington.


Charlotte, N.C. — Kemba Walker had 26 points, rookie Malik Monk had a huge fourth quarter and the Charlotte put the clamps on the NBA scoring leader Giannis Antetokounmpo  to beat Milwaukee.

Walker was 8 for 12 from the field, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range, and 7 for 7 from the foul line to help Charlotte win its third straight game. Monk, the team's first-round draft pick from Kentucky, had 18 of his 25 points in the fourth.

Antetokounmpo came in averaging 33.7 points, but struggled with foul trouble and finished with a season-low 14 points along with 13 rebounds. He was limited to five points in the final three quarters.

Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 43 points on 15-for-28 shooting.


Miami — Goran Dragic scored 20 points, Tyler Johnson added 19 and Miami beat Chicago to snap a three-game slide.

Hassan Whiteside returned from a five-game absence with a bruised knee and had 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat.

Lauri Markkanen scored 25 points and Robin Lopez added 22 for the Bulls, who were 7 for 28 from 3-point range and got five of those makes in the final 2 minutes. Chicago fell to 1-5, matching its worst start since 2007-08.

76ERS 119, HAWKS 109

Philadelphia — Ben Simmons had 19 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, and Joel Embiid had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Philadelphia past Atlanta for its third straight victory.

Robert Covington scored 22 points to help the Sixers (4-4) reach .500 for the first time in four years. Dennis Schroder had 25 points for Atlanta.

Nadal beats Chung to guarantee ending the year as No. 1

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Hyeon Chung of South Korea during the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy Arena in Paris, France, Wednesday, Nov. 1. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — Rafael Nadal will finish the year as the top-ranked player for the fourth time, surprising even the fiercest of competitors after a wrist injury and a lack of form severely dented his steely confidence.

The 31-year-old Spaniard assured himself the No. 1 ranking by beating Hyeon Chung 7-5, 6-3 Wednesday in the second round of the Paris Masters.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner had not finished the year at the top since 2013, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray doing so after that.

"One year ago, for sure I never dreamed about being No. 1 again at the end of the season," said Nadal, who missed large parts of 2016 because of a troublesome wrist. "It has been an amazing year."

Nadal's comeback has been truly remarkable, even by his lofty standards.

He reached three Grand Slam finals this year, losing to Roger Federer at the Australian Open and winning a 10th French Open title before clinching the U.S. Open for the third time.

"It was impossible for me to think about (being No. 1) coming back from a tough period without playing, and with so many injuries in the last couple of years," said Nadal, who also finished as No. 1 in '08 and '10. "It means a lot. After almost 10 years since the first time."

Nadal is also the oldest year-ending No. 1, testimony to his relentless determination.

"It's about the passion for what you are doing. It's about the mentality of waking up every morning with the right motivation to go on court and improve something. That's the winning mentality, no?" he replied, when asked what drives him. "The passion to improve something and practice every day with the right attitude to try to make that happen ... not everybody is able to do it."

The only downside this season has been always losing to Federer, who leads the ATP Tour with seven titles.

Federer has beaten Nadal four consecutive times — not dropping a set in three of them — and the 19-time Grand Slam champion was in outside contention for the No. 1 ranking before pulling out of Paris to focus on the season-ending ATP Finals in London next week.

The 21-year-old Chung broke Nadal in the ninth game of the first set and held for 5-5. But Nadal took the first set after breaking Chung to love.

Chung saved four break points in a fourth game of the second set lasting 12 minutes, holding for 2-2. But Nadal accelerated after that and served out the victory on his second match point.

Nadal, who is tied for a record 30 Masters titles with Djokovic, has never won the tournament in Paris. He will next face Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay, who beat 15th-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-2.

Third-seeded Marin Cilic won 6-4, 6-3 against Borna Coric in an all-Croatian match.

Cilic, who had 13 aces, will next play 14th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. He eased past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-1.

No. 4 Alexander Zverev lost to Robin Haase 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, and No. 9 John Isner beat Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (2), 6-7 (11), 6-3.

Haase next plays No. 13 Juan Martin del Potro, who eased past Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-2, 6-2. The big-serving Argentine needs to win in Paris to have a chance of reaching the Finals in London.

Isner, who lost last year's final to Murray, faces No. 6 Grigor Dimitrov. He beat Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4.

Frenchman Lucas Pouille kept alive his slim chances of qualifying for London with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Feliciano Lopez, but No. 12 Kevin Anderson's chances took a blow after a 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 loss to Fernando Verdasco.

No. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's bid to reach London is over following a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss to Julien Benneteau in an all-French match.

Benneteau plays No. 7 David Goffin of Belgium, who won 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 against Adrian Mannarino.

Also, No. 16 Jack Sock of the United States had 14 aces in a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) win against Kyle Edmund and faces Pouille in Thursday's third round.

India beat New Zealand by 53 runs in 1st T20

India's Ashish Nehra waves to the crowd as he bids farewell at the end of his last international match, during their first Twenty20 cricket match against New Zealand in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 1. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Chetan Narula

New Delhi (AP) — Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal shared four wickets as India eased to a 53-run victory over New Zealand in the first Twenty20 of their three-match series on Wednesday.

Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who both scored 80, put on 158 runs for the opening wicket as the hosts swept to 202-3. India's bowling attack then limited the tourists to 149-8 in reply, with Tom Latham top-scoring on 39.

"It was a very clinical performance by the whole team. The wicket was a bit damp and the two guys at the top set the tone for us," India captain Virat Kohli said.

New Zealand's innings never gathered momentum and a regular loss of wickets inevitably led to their first defeat to India in this format.

The slide started early, when Hardik Pandya took a stunning, diving catch at long on to dismiss Martin Guptill (4) off Chahal in the second over. Bhuvneshwar Kumar then bowled Colin Munro for 7.

Kane Williamson (28) and Latham tried to rescue the Black Caps, only for Williamson to edge behind off Pandya, leaving his team on 54-3.

Patel then struck twice to remove Tom Bruce (10) and Colin de Grandhomme (0) in the space of two balls to reduce New Zealand to 84-5 in the 13th over and end all realistic chances of a successful chase.

Ashish Nehra bowled the last over of the New Zealand innings to finish off his 18-year-long international career.

"I will miss it all," Nehra said. "My body will be at peace because I have really pushed myself over the years. I played my first game here in 1997 and there have been drastic changes. Indian cricket is in good hands for the next seven, eight years."

Earlier, Sharma and Dhawan had laid the foundations of the win with the highest wicket stand for India in T20s.

Both started cautiously and were helped by some poor fielding by the Black Caps. Dhawan was dropped in the second over, Sharma in the seventh, and they picked up the scoring pace after those let-offs.

Dhawan was finally caught behind off Ish Sodhi in the 17th over. Hardik Pandya (0) was promoted, but he too was caught behind two balls later.

Virat Kohli then smacked 26 off 11 balls at his home ground, as India crossed 200 in the final over. Sharma was last man out, caught behind off Trent Boult, via DRS review.

The second T20 will be played on Saturday at Rajkot.

Russian gold medalist disqualified for Sochi Olympics doping

This Feb. 23, 2014 file photo shows Russia's cross-country ski gold medal winner Alexander Legkov. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Graham Dunbar

Geneva (AP) — In a landmark verdict that indicates Russia conspired to run a doping program at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a cross-country skier who won a gold medal was disqualified by the IOC on Wednesday.

All results for Alexander Legkov in Sochi were wiped from the record and he was banned for life from attending another Olympics.

A second Russian cross-country skier was also disqualified and banned by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday, while cases implicating 26 more Russian athletes in a Sochi doping conspiracy are pending.

With calls to ban Russia's team from next year's Pyeongchang Olympics likely to increase, the IOC's executive board will meet next month to discuss the matter.

The IOC disciplinary panel did not have a positive doping test from Legkov but used evidence of cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles that was first gathered last year by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

"The IOC showed its determination to protect clean athletes from the very beginning of the case," said the Olympic body, whose board meets Dec. 5-7 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC panel did not give details of the evidence Wednesday. McLaren has said that glass sample bottles were scratched when broken into, and in some cases clean urine used to cover up doping was tampered with, revealing unnatural levels of salt and even DNA from the wrong gender.

Legkov's gold medal was a marquee Russian success at the Sochi Olympics, which was a national priority for President Vladimir Putin and cost $51 billion to prepare for and host.

The cross-country skier won gold in the individual 50-kilometer freestyle race in a Russian podium sweep on the last day of competition. The Russian trio received their medals in the main Olympic Stadium during the closing ceremony. Legkov had earlier taken silver in the 4x10-kilometer relay.

Legkov said last year he had never failed a doping test, claiming he was tested so often that he couldn't have doped without being caught.

"You'd have to be a complete kamikaze to do that in Russia if you're an athlete representing our nation," Legkov said then.

However, McLaren's investigation said the Russian doping program was enabled by the country's government, anti-doping agency and testing labs, plus sports governing bodies.

The second cross-country skier who was disqualified and banned, Evgeniy Belov, did not win a medal.

Lawyers for the two skiers disputed the IOC panel's ruling while accepting a doping program was in place.

"So there is neither Prof. McLaren's assertion nor proof that individual athletes have really participated in the system that has undoubtedly existed," German law firm Wieschemann said in a statement.

Russia's sports minister during the Sochi Olympics, Vitaly Mutko, told the Russian state news agency Tass that the IOC ruling "inspires great alarm and bewilderment."

"The correct and just decision is to file an appeal with CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport)," said Mutko, who is now a Deputy Prime Minister and heads the organizing committee for soccer's 2018 World Cup.

The two skiers' cases are the first from Sochi to be judged by the IOC panel created to verify McLaren's work. The Canadian law professor had himself been appointed by WADA to examine claims by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia's WADA-authorized drug-testing laboratories.

Rodchenkov, who is now in a witness protection program in the United States, said he switched tainted urine samples for clean ones at the Sochi lab with help from what he believed was the Russian security service.

The verdicts announced Wednesday were the first from six cross-country skiers scheduled to have hearings at IOC headquarters this week. They include Maxim Vylegzhanin, who won one of his three silver medals in the Russian sweep of the 50-kilometer event.

"Additional decisions from these first hearings will be communicated in the coming days," the IOC said.

Other cases involving Russian athletes in different Winter Olympic sports have also been handed over to the IOC panel, chaired by Swiss lawyer Denis Oswald.

"The Oswald Commission has announced that all hearings for active athletes who could qualify for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will be completed by the end of November," the IOC said.

The 34-year-old Legkov also has two medals from the world championships — a silver and a bronze in relay races — plus nine individual victories on the World Cup circuit. He now faces a ban by the International Ski Federation.

Skiing's governing body said its doping panel will wait until the IOC gives all six verdicts, which it expected next week. FIS set a target of Nov. 24 — when the cross-country World Cup season starts — to make progress.

Legkov also threatened to file a libel lawsuit against Rodchenkov, the former lab director who is the key witness to the Sochi conspiracy claims.

At his news conference last year, Legkov spoke alongside then-Deputy Sports Minister Yuri Nagornykh, who stepped down after he was accused by McLaren of helping to cover up doping.

The Russian government says it has never supported drug use by athletes.

Russia now risks losing its place atop the Sochi medal tables, with second-place Norway set to be upgraded for medals in each of the men's cross-country ski events affected by doping. Norwegians Petter Northug and Martin Johnsrud Sundby could each be awarded two medals.

Update November 1, 2017

PSG, Bayern advance in Champions League; Man Utd must wait

Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar saves a penalty from Manchester United's Anthony Martial, left, during their Champions League group A match at Old Trafford, in Manchester, Tuesday, Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Graham Dunbar

Geneva (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are the first teams in the Champions League knockout rounds after the group rivals both won Tuesday to advance with two games left.

PSG routed Anderlecht 5-0 — with defender Layvin Kurzawa scoring three to outshine Neymar — and Bayern won 2-1 at Celtic.

Manchester United, like PSG, won a fourth straight game but beating Benfica 2-0 was not yet enough to ensure advancing from Group A.

Roma started early, scoring after 40 seconds in a 3-0 win against Chelsea that seized leadership of Group C from coach Antonia Conte's team. Atletico Madrid are still winless after being held 1-1 by visiting Qarabag.

Barcelona and Juventus both drew away from home to maintain their steady progress in Group D.

Here is a look at what happened in Tuesday's games.



Another Man United win at Old Trafford seemed routine, and it was 18-year-old Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar who again had the most eye-catching night.

Svilar saved a penalty kick from Anthony Martial before conceding an own goal for the second straight game against United — his only two Champions League appearances.

Two weeks after carrying a cross over his own goal-line, Svilar was unlucky this time when Nemanja Matic's 45th-minute shot struck the post and rebounded into the net off the goalkeeper's shoulder.

United's second goal came from another penalty, which coach Jose Mourinho seemed to insist should be taken by defender Daley Blind and not by Romelu Lukaku, the forward who now has not scored in six games.

Basel would have joined United in the Round of 16 by beating CSKA Moscow and led at halftime through Luca Zuffi's lobbed shot into an empty goal.

CSKA perked up when substitute Alan Dzagoev came on, and the fit-again playmaker scored in the 65th minute before Pontus Wernbloom forced the winner in the 79th.

CSKA and Basel both have six points, and United will advance by avoiding defeat in Switzerland in three weeks' time.



In a mismatched group, Paris Saint-Germain have won all four games, scoring 17 goals without conceding. Anderlecht have lost four, conceding 15 without scoring.

Marco Verratti and Neymar scored in the first half, and left back Kurzawa lit up Parc des Princes by getting three in the second half.

Bayern also moved into the Round of 16 draw with nine points after emerging from a typically raucous night in Glasgow to beat a spirited Celtic 2-1.

Since replacing Carlo Ancelotti as coach, Jupp Heynckes has led Bayern to six straight wins. Kingsley Coman gave Bayern a first-half lead, Celtic's Callum McGregor leveled in the 74th, three minutes before Javi Martinez secured the win.



For the second time in two weeks, Roma put three goals past Chelsea's experienced defence. After a rousing 3-3 draw in London, it was a surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win in Rome that began with Stephan El Shaarawy's powerful shot inside 40 seconds.

El Shaarawy scored again before halftime to punish hesitation by former Roma defender Antonio Rudiger. Diego Perotti struck with a long-range shot midway through the second half.

Roma edged one point ahead of Chelsea in the standings, and there is a four-point gap to Atletico Madrid in third place.

Atletico have reached at least the quarterfinals in each of the past four seasons but now risk missing out after another draw against newcomers Qarabag of Azerbaijan, 1-1 in Madrid.

Qarabag led in the 40th minute with a header by midfielder Michel, and Atletico equalized with a stunning side-foot shot from Thomas Partey in the 56th. Both teams finished with 10 men.

Atletico host Roma on Nov. 22.



Barcelona and Juventus are still heavily favored to advance despite both sides missing their chance on Tuesday.

Barcelona drew 0-0 at Olympiakos and Juventus needed a late leveler from Gonzalo Higuain to earn a 1-1 draw at Sporting Lisbon.

The two powerhouses meet in Turin in three weeks' time, when Barcelona will need only a draw to progress.

Barcelona have 10 points, three points clear of last year's runners-up Juventus, with Sporting a further three points back.

Pyeongchang gets Olympic flame ahead of 100-day relay

Actress Katerina Lehou playing the role of high priestess holds an Olympic torch during a handover ceremony for the Olympic Flame at Panathenaic stadium in Athens, on Tuesday, Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Derek Gatopoulos

Athens, Greece (AP) — The Olympic flame was handed to organizers of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games on Tuesday, and it will now head off on a 100-day journey across South Korea before the opening ceremony on Feb. 9.

Pyeongchang organizing committee president Lee Hee-beom said the games would be an Olympics of "peace and harmony," despite tension between the host and its reclusive nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea.

Dressed as a high priestess, actress Katerina Lehou led the 90-minute ceremony in Athens at the Panathenian Stadium, a horseshoe-shaped marble venue where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

A cauldron was lit by Greek skier Ioannis Proios following performances by singers, dancers and acrobats from Greece and South Korea. The flame, placed in a lantern, was handed over to Greek Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos, who passed it to Lee.

The South Korean leg of the relay will involve 7,500 torch-bearers and visit 17 cities and provinces across the country.

Preparations for the Feb. 9-25 games are being held amid escalating tension on the Korean peninsula following nuclear and missile tests by North Korea. Lee has promised the games will be safe, but he made no mention of the crisis in his remarks in Athens.

"We are ready to welcome the world to Pyeongchang. The construction of competition and non-competition venues is already complete," Lee said, moments before being handed a white-and-gold torch with the Olympic flame. "Pyeongchang 2018 will be an Olympic Games of peace and harmony."

South Korean organizers said two back-up paraffin lanterns were also being used on the flight from Athens to Incheon, South Korea, and were being escorted by three fire wardens.

Tuesday's ceremony was held after the flame was lit in Ancient Olympia on Oct. 23. That was followed by a torch relay around Greece.

F1 set for louder and more affordable engines in 2021

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, steers his car during the Formula One Mexico Grand Prix auto race at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack in Mexico City, Sunday, Oct. 29. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — Formula One's engines in 2021 will be noisier and higher-revving. They will also be more affordable.

The new engine regulations set to come into place in four years could shape the future of the sport.

Representatives from governing body FIA and commercial rights holder F1 met in Paris on Tuesday to present a roadmap for future engines. FIA president Jean Todt attended, along with F1 manufacturer representatives.

"We've carefully listened to what the fans think about the current PU (engine) and what they would like to see in the near future," F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn said. "We believe that the future power unit will achieve this."

High on the agenda was reducing engine costs and raising noise levels. Fans complain that F1 cars still aren't loud enough, despite significant efforts this year to improve that.

All the 2021 proposals have been jointly developed by FIA and F1 using data and input from teams, engine suppliers and outside experts. The overall framework for the 2021 engine will be published at the end of the year. But design and development will not be possible until 2019, meaning that teams must use the current engine designs next year.

From 2021, teams will still use the 1.6 Litre, V6 Turbo Hybrid, but — crucially — it will be run at 3,000 rpm higher to increase noise.

There will also be an option to save energy over several laps, thus giving a driver more tactical flexibility.

Further recommendations are a push toward tighter fuel regulations, limits on fuel used, and dimensional constraints and weight limits on a mandatory single turbo.

F1 also wants a more competitive championship with several teams in contention.

Last weekend, Lewis Hamilton clinched the F1 title in Mexico with two races to spare. Mercedes has won the past four drivers' and constructor's championships — three of them by Hamilton — while from 2010-13 Red Bull did the same with Sebastian Vettel.

Things seem to be heading that way, however, with Vettel challenging for Ferrari until his sudden collapse late in the season. Red Bull has shown some encouraging speed lately.

Another way of improving competition is to reduce spending, thus challenging the dominance of Mercedes and Ferrari. They are wealthy enough to run whatever engines they want, creating a lop-sided performance gap.

Mercedes reportedly invests about 500 million euros ($580 million) each year on performance. But for smaller teams who do not make their own engines, like Force India and Sauber, it is often a financial struggle to buy them from rich suppliers like Mercedes and Ferrari.

One way to control spending, as suggested at Tuesday's meeting, is to limit internal design parameters and therefore discourage more extreme, expensive designs available only to top teams.

Spending restrictions are expected to be discussed further next Tuesday at an F1 strategy group meeting in Gevena.

Reducing budgets can help teams project several years ahead, rather than scraping for survival each year or even folding, the way Manor Racing did in January. Wiser spending is also more attractive to teams wishing to break into the sport.

"The new F1 has the target to be the world's leading global sports competition married to state-of-the-art technology," Brawn said. "To excite, engage, and awe fans of all ages but to do so in a sustainable manner."

South Africa recommended to host 2023 Rugby World Cup

This June 24, 1995, file photo shows South African rugby captain Francios Pienaar, center, raising the World Cup trophy at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. (AP Photo/Jan Hamman)

Gerald Imray

Cape Town, South Africa (AP) — After failing with three successive bids, South Africa was recommended on Tuesday as the best host for the 2023 Rugby World Cup ahead of France and Ireland.

World Rugby released a bid evaluation report by its experts and external consultants, and said South Africa was the unanimous pick.

The final decision will be made on Nov. 15 in London in a secret ballot of World Rugby council members. The recommendation by the board of Rugby World Cup Limited, a World Rugby subsidiary, is expected to be rubber-stamped, though.

"The comprehensive and independently scrutinized evaluation reaffirmed that we have three exceptional bids but it also identified South Africa as a clear leader based on performance against the key criteria," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said.

South Africa hosted and won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, a tournament made memorable by the appearance of the late Nelson Mandela at the final in Johannesburg wearing a Springboks jersey. That '95 World Cup is still ranked by many as the best ever, both for the emotion that surrounded the tournament and for its relative financial success.

France hosted as recently as 2007, while Ireland hopes to host for the first time.

This is South Africa's fourth attempt to host again after failing with bids for the 2011, 2015 and 2019 tournaments. The next World Cup, in 2019, will be in Japan.

South Africa's 2023 bid played heavily off the memories of '95, as well as its recent success in hosting the 2010 soccer World Cup, and its favorable exchange rate, which promises a cheaper World Cup experience for traveling fans than one in Europe.

South Africa said in its bid presentation that its World Cup would be a "triple win" for World Rugby, promising record gate receipts for matches, a tourist destination experience for fans, and a tournament focused on providing top-quality facilities for players to perform.

In the bid criteria, South Africa led in venues and host cities, tournament infrastructure, and organization and schedule. France was better for finance, commercial and government commitments, and the vision and hosting concept. South Africa scored 78.97 percent, France 75.88, and Ireland 72.25.

"We are 100 percent confident that the commitments we made in our document will be delivered," SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said in a statement. "We will make all of world rugby proud of South Africa 2023."

French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte told a news conference that he was "surprised, shaken ... a little bit shocked as well" with the outcome of the evaluation.

"We didn't think we'd been behind South Africa in terms of organizing competitions. Football, handball, rugby, France has shown for many years that it knows how to organize events. Surprised, also, to be beaten on host cities and stadiums," he said.

Laporte added that "it's only a recommendation, and certain presidents of federations will vote for us. We've had several of them on the phone this morning and they've assured us of their support."

Despite finishing third in the scoring, Ireland also wasn't giving up hope.

"We absolutely believe Ireland can secure the tournament for 2023," Ireland Rugby Football Union chairman Dick Spring said. "Our team will compete to the final whistle as we bid to turn our historic bid plans into reality."

Crucially for South Africa's bid, it received support from the government, unlike the country's failed attempt to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games in the east coast city of Durban. Durban was stripped of the games after being awarded them because of a lack of financial guarantees. There were fears in South Africa that the aborted Commonwealth Games hosting might adversely affect the Rugby World Cup bid.

But SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said on Tuesday that the support of the government was "critical" for the rugby bid. South Africa deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and sports minister Thulas Nxesi accompanied the SA Rugby delegation to present the bid to World Rugby in London last month. Sports minister Nxesi welcomed the news that South Africa was the preferred bidder at a media conference at South Africa's parliament building in Cape Town later Tuesday.

South Africa offered a financial sweetener to World Rugby, as did the other countries, promising $52 million more to the international rugby body than the minimum guarantee of $158 million required to host rugby's top event.

SA Rugby said it forecast another $80 million in profit for World Rugby from hospitality sales and savings on event costs because of South Africa's favorable exchange rate.

"We trust now that the World Rugby council will follow through by voting to confirm what the experts have identified, that a South African Rugby World Cup in 2023 is the best result for rugby," Roux said.

Fleetwood leaving nothing to chance in Race to Dubai finale

English golfer Tommy Fleetwood. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Antalya, Turkey (AP) — Tommy Fleetwood is leaving nothing to chance in his bid to become Europe's top player for 2017.

Fleetwood holds a big lead in the Race to Dubai standings heading into the Turkish Airlines Open starting Thursday. He played the WGC-HSBC Champions in China last week and will also compete in the final two events of the European Tour season, in South Africa and Dubai.

The 26-year-old Englishman, who recently became a father for the first time, is the only realistic title contender to be playing the last four tournaments in the Race to Dubai.

"Can you imagine if I had a week off and then lost by 20 grand? I can't let that happen, really," Fleetwood said Tuesday. "If I don't win it now, if somebody like Justin (Rose) or Sergio (Garcia) was to win an event, I can't do anything about that. But if I had left it out of my control a little bit, then I'd have been quite unhappy with myself.

"It's one of the biggest things you can achieve in your career, effectively."

Fleetwood has a lead of more than 865,000 points over nearest rival Garcia, with Rose another 190,000 points adrift after winning in China last week. Jon Rahm is also in contention but he and his fellow Spaniard, Garcia, aren't playing in Turkey this week. Rose is playing two of the final three events and is within a victory of catching Fleetwood.

"But I'm a win away from putting it pretty much out of reach," said 19th-ranked Fleetwood. "It's really important now in the situation that I'm in, every shot is going to count. You never know what that end game is going to be. You don't know what might make the difference."

There is $22.5 million up for grabs in the last three events of the season, which are all part of the Rolex Series.

Fleetwood has peaked in many of the big events this season, winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the French Open, and finishing second at the WGC-Mexico Championship and fourth at the US Open. He also managed top-10 finishes at the Irish Open and the Italian Open — both of which are Rolex Series events.

For the opening round, Fleetwood will partner Henrik Stenson — the 2016 Race to Dubai champion — and Rose.



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

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No letting up: Hamilton quickest in Brazilian GP practice

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Former star pitcher Halladay killed in Florida plane crash

Buffon's career at a crossroads in World Cup playoff

Rekindling storms home to win the 157th Melbourne Cup

India beat New Zealand in T20 shootout, win series 2-1

Shot clock & Hawk-Eye most popular changes to tennis players

Talking points ahead of rugby's end-of-year internationals

Olympic marathon champion Sumgong banned 4 years for EPO

Struggling West Ham fire Bilic, line up Moyes as new coach

Marseille fans turn on Evra after attack

England, Wales put aside rugby rivalry to train together

Russian runner Maria Savinova appeals against doping ban

Man City beat Arsenal 3-1, open up 8-point lead in EPL

Eagles rout Broncos 51-23 to keep NFL's best record

Wilder knocks out Stiverne in 1st round

Rose wins Turkish Airlines Open for back-to-back titles

London finals up next for Jack Sock after Paris Masters win

Isner beats del Potro to reach Paris semis, Nadal withdraws

Marseille suspends Evra for kicking fan pending UEFA hearing

Forever Unbridled scores upset win in Breeders' Cup Distaff

J.J. Spaun shoots 65 to take PGA Tour lead in Las Vegas

Arsenal, Lazio advance in Europa; Milan held to 0-0 again

No. 1 Nadal remains on track for first Paris Masters title

Midway through NFL season, football ratings are down

Beauden Barrett to lead All Blacks against Barbarians

Spurs, Man City qualify on good night for English clubs

Pacers send Cavaliers to fourth straight loss, 124-107

Nadal beats Chung to guarantee ending the year as No. 1

India beat New Zealand by 53 runs in 1st T20

Russian gold medalist disqualified for Sochi Olympics doping

PSG, Bayern advance in Champions League; Man Utd must wait

Pyeongchang gets Olympic flame ahead of 100-day relay

F1 set for louder and more affordable engines in 2021

South Africa recommended to host 2023 Rugby World Cup

Fleetwood leaving nothing to chance in Race to Dubai finale


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