City win again after another late Sterling goal
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates after Raheem
Sterling scored his side’s second goal during the English Premier
League match against Southampton at the Etihad stadium in
Manchester, Wednesday, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Manchester, England (AP) —
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola burst onto the field with his
fists clenched and leapt into the air. Benjamin Mendy, currently out
with a long-term knee injury, hobbled down the touchline in a
desperate bid to get a selfie with teammate and match-winner Raheem
Ninety meters away,
Southampton's players were on their backs in their own area,
distraught at conceding in the sixth minute of injury time.
In a wild finale that sparked
an extraordinary explosion of joy from City's players and coaching
staff, Sterling curled home a last-gasp goal with virtually the last
kick of the game to give the Premier League leaders a 2-1 victory
over Southampton on Wednesday.
It needed something special to
upstage Wayne Rooney's hat-trick goal from his own half for Everton
on an incident-packed night in England's top flight.
Sterling managed it.
"It was an astonishing end to
the game," said Guardiola, who was told to calm down by the referee
amid his frenzied celebrations. "It means a lot."
City re-established an
eight-point lead over second-place Manchester United thanks to a
12th straight league win. Late goals used to be United's forte
during the glory days under Alex Ferguson, but now it is City
mastering the art of scoring the last-gasp winners.
In particular Sterling, who
grabbed an 84th-minute winner against Huddersfield on Sunday and
also a winner in the seventh minute of injury time against
Bournemouth in August.
"I could not control it,"
Guardiola said of his behavior after Sterling's goal, which included
a bizarre confrontation with Nathan Redmond as the Southampton
winger walked off the field.
"We want to win the league but
you have to celebrate when you score in the last breath like that."
In the night's other highlight,
Rooney demonstrated his enduring class by meeting a goalkeeper
clearance with a superbly struck first-time shot from just inside
his own half that arrowed into an empty net. It was his, and
Everton's, third goal in a 4-0 win over West Ham.
There were also victories for
Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Here's a closer look at the
Raheem Sterling has now scored
three late winners — two in the league and one in the Champions
League — in City's last three games, a personification of the spirit
Guardiola has forged in his side.
The way he took his winning
goal against Southampton showed the confident mood Sterling is in,
the winger taking his time in a crowded area to curl home a finish
into the far corner.
He has 13 goals now this
season, making him City's top scorer.
Oriol Romeu looked as if he had
earned a point for Southampton in the 75th minute, after Virgil van
Dijk had sliced a free kick from Kevin De Bruyne into his own net to
gift City the lead in the 47th minute.
ROONEY HAT TRICK
Rooney's technique for his
long-distance goal was perfect, the former England captain striking
the ball firm and true as it arrowed over a raft of West Ham
defenders and into the net.
"Not many in world football who
could do that," injured Everton midfielder Ross Barkley tweeted.
Rooney had already scored two
goals, one from the penalty spot, on what proved to be a painful
return to Goodison Park for West Ham manager David Moyes, who spent
11 years in charge of Everton (2002-13). Ashley Williams scored the
fourth goal as Everton moved five points clear of the relegation
Sam Allardyce was in the stands
and is on the verge of becoming Everton's next manager, five weeks
after the firing of Ronald Koeman.
Mesut Ozil inspired Arsenal to
a third straight Premier League win as Huddersfield were thrashed
5-0 at Emirates Stadium.
Alexander Lacazette opened the
scoring after three minutes before Ozil took over the game, setting
up goals for Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez and then adding a
fourth himself — all in the space of four minutes.
Giroud added his second to
complete the rout as Arsenal climbed to fourth place.
Mohamed Salah came off the
bench to score twice in Liverpool's 3-0 win over Stoke and make it
12 goals for the season for the Premier League's leading scorer.
Sadio Mane opened the scoring
for Liverpool, lofting the ball into the net as Stoke's defenders
claimed it had gone out of play earlier.
Liverpool jumped to fifth
CONTE SENT OFF
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
was sent to the stands for the second half as his team beat Swansea
1-0 for a fifth league win in six games.
Conte was dismissed from the
touchline by referee Neil Swarbrick moments before the interval
after furiously protesting the awarding of a Swansea goal kick.
The Italian at first sat behind
the dugout, but then had to move due to the proximity of his new
seat to his coaching staff.
Antonio Rudiger scored the
winner with a 55th-minute header.
Chelsea stayed 11 points behind
WIN FOR BURNLEY
Burnley moved above Tottenham
and into sixth place thanks to a 2-1 win at Bournemouth, with its
goals coming from Chris Wood and Robbie Brady.
Focus more on how long Tiger Woods lasts more than his score
Tiger Woods tries to drive the 7th green during the pro-am for the
Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas on
Wednesday, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Doug Ferguson)
Nassau, Bahamas (AP) —
One year later, the scene hadn't changed.
Jordan Spieth paused on the
17th green and looked across the water to the adjacent fairway at
Albany Golf Club as Tiger Woods hit his shot to the ninth green,
just like he did last year at the Hero World Challenge.
Curiosity is just as high over
another return from injury for Woods and how he will fare after a
What's different about the
expectations for this comeback — his fifth since he first had back
surgery in the spring of 2014 — is they are more about how long
Woods will last than what kind of scores he posts.
"He seems more confident this
year the way he's walking and talking," Spieth said Wednesday in a
whisper, having lost his voice to illness. "He seemed more excited
at the Presidents Cup before he was even swinging, more anxious. And
it seemed to really bother him that he was following doctor's
orders, like he really wanted to get going. So once he was given the
go, I think it was exciting for him.
"So we're all very interested,
as we should be, in how it goes for him this week — and obviously,
hoping that's the start."
The start of his latest
comeback is Thursday against an 18-man field that features eight of
the top nine players in the world. It's the first time every shot
counts for Woods since a 77 in the Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 3.
That was his seventh round in
his return. He withdrew the next day, citing back spasms, and had a
fourth back surgery in April to fuse two disks in his lower back.
Woods reports some stiffness and not as much range in motion. But he
says he has no pain.
The hype about this return has
been fueled by friendly rounds over the last few weeks.
Justin Thomas, the PGA Tour
player of the year who will be paired with Woods on Thursday, said
fans will be "shocked at how good his game looks." Rickie Fowler
made a casual reference to how far Woods was driving it past him.
Brad Faxon, who played with Woods and Dustin Johnson last Friday in
a round with President Donald Trump, said Woods looked at ease and
held nothing back in his swing, especially with the driver.
Woods had to keep score in his
pro-am round Wednesday, and that included a 2 on the 350-yard
seventh hole when he drove the green with a breeze at his back and
holed a 20-foot putt for eagle.
The tournament is unofficial,
though it offers world ranking points. Woods is at No. 1,199 in the
world, and even if he finishes last, he'll move up more than 200
spots into the top 1,000. That still seems odd for a guy who spent
683 weeks at No. 1 in the world.
What enthuses Woods is playing
"It's been a very long time,
and I'm really looking forward to getting out there and playing with
Justin and having a good time," Woods said.
After that, it will be time to
"I just really want to be able
to complete this week, play all four days and give myself a chance
on that back nine on Sunday to win this thing," said Woods, whose
last victory was more than four years ago at Firestone in the
He lasted only three starts
when he came back from his first back surgery in the summer of 2014.
He lasted two starts after he returned at the end of 2014, and then
after playing all four majors in 2015, he had a pair of back
surgeries. And when he returned from those last year in the Bahamas,
he lasted only three events.
"My physio was certainly
working overtime last year after every day and even in the morning,
trying to get me ready to go," Woods said.
Woods said the reason his
comeback last year was over so quickly was due primarily to the
rough at Torrey Pines and not realizing his disk was in bad shape.
He said the deceleration in his swing when he hit out of the rough
made the injury worse.
That's why there's so much
emphasis on his health. He looks built to last, or at least last a
little longer. And this is the ideal spot for Woods to return.
There is no cut. Woods is
guaranteed four rounds. Interest is high. Pressure is not.
"I think it's an easy week for
Tiger as it is for anybody else versus other weeks — not as many
people, the golf course doesn't beat you up," Spieth said. "But you
can start to see it's actually, I think, pretty important, these
end-of-the-year tournaments to kind of set a precedent for next
That especially holds true for
Froome ready to ride Giro next year
Britain's Chris Froome, left, wearing the overall leader's yellow
jersey, is followed by Italy's Fabio Aru as they climb Croix de Fer
pass during the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race
on July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Milan (AP) — Four-time
Tour de France champion Chris Froome will ride the Giro d'Italia
next year in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.
After successfully defending
his Tour de France title earlier this year, Froome went on to win
the Spanish Vuelta for the first time. A victory at the Giro would
make him the seventh rider in history to win all three Grand Tours —
and only the third to hold the three titles at the same time.
The 32-year-old Froome made the
unexpected announcement on Wednesday during the presentation of next
year's Giro route, with a brief video message.
"I'm looking forward to seeing
you at the start line of next year's Giro d'Italia," he said.
The announcement was greeted by
surprise and a warm round of applause from the audience, which
included past and present cyclists.
"It's a unique situation for
me, having won the Tour and Vuelta and now having the opportunity to
go to the Giro and attempt to win a third consecutive Grand Tour,"
Froome said in a statement from Team Sky.
"It's really exciting to be
able to take on a new challenge, to do something that perhaps people
wouldn't expect and to mix it up. It's a whole new motivation for me
to see if I can pull off something special next year."
Froome, who has not competed at
the Giro since 2010, will also try to win the Tour for a
record-equaling fifth time next year.
No rider has completed a
Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998, but Froome has taken
confidence from this season's successful Tour-Vuelta effort.
"We know that it would be a
significant feat in the modern era to win both the Giro and the Tour
in the same season, but the way we managed things this year gives me
confidence that I can successfully target both races," the British
"Another factor is that there
is an extra week between next year's Giro d'Italia and the Tour de
France. That's one more week for recovery and for training than
there would be normally."
Spanish great Alberto Contador,
who is one of the six riders to have won all three Grand Tours,
believes now is the right time for Froome to attempt the same.
"I think it was very
intelligent from him," Contador said. "He's won the Tour, he's won
the Vuelta and he has to try to win the Giro. He has very good legs
and an equally good or even better team. So I think he's in a good
Two-time Giro champion Vincenzo
Nibali was the last cyclist to win the three races, completing his
record with the 2014 Tour. And the Italian warns that Froome might
not find it so much to his liking in Italy.
"Froome has said that he really
prefers the heat, like at the Vuelta or the Tour," Nibali said. "He
doesn't have a good feeling with the cold and as we all know it can
be very cold on the Giro. So we have to see how he finds it."
Even though the Giro takes
place in May, cyclist have often had to combat snow and freezing
temperatures in the mountains.
Next year's Giro will start in
Jerusalem and the following two stages will also be in Israel,
marking the first time the race has started outside Europe.
Race organizers have said the
route will not go through any land considered occupied by the
international community. That means the course will circumvent the
West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the
1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a
future independent state.
A group of about 15 protesters
held Palestinian flags and posters criticizing the Giro outside the
building hosting Wednesday's presentation.
Race director Mauro Vegni told
The Associated Press: "Everyone has the right to think what they
want, they have the right — as long as the protests are peaceful —
to express their thoughts."
Alfa Romeo back in F1 with Sauber after more than 30 years
this July 1, 1951 file photo Juan Manuel Fangio drives a
supercharged 1.5 Liter Alfa Romeo during the Grand Prix D'Europe at
Rheims, France. (AP Photo)
Turin, Italy (AP) — Alfa
Romeo has joined up with the Sauber team for a return to Formula One
after an absence of more than 30 years.
Sauber said Wednesday it has
reached a "multi-year technical and commercial partnership" with the
Italian automaker, which is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
From 2018, the team will be
known as the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team. Next year's car will bear
the Alfa Romeo logo and will be equipped with Ferrari power units.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said
the deal marks "a significant step in the reshaping of the Alfa
The Alfa name last appeared in
F1 in 1985, although its biggest achievements came during the
series' first two years, when Giuseppe "Nino" Farina and Juan Manuel
Fangio won the 1950 and 1951 titles in Alfas.
Ferrari junior program and
Formula Two champion Charles Leclerc is expected to drive for Sauber
next season and there is also speculation that Antonio Giovinazzi,
another Ferrari product, could become the team's second driver.
Man United score 4 goals again to showcase attacking talent
Manchester United's Ashley Young celebrates scoring his side's
second goal during the English Premier League soccer match against
Watford at Vicarage Road stadium in Watford, Tuesday, Nov. 28.
(Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)
London (AP) - So often lauded for their
defensive strength, Manchester United issued another reminder of
their attacking talent by scoring four goals in a Premier League
game for the sixth time this season.
On the receiving end this time were Watford,
who had already been pummeled 6-0 by Manchester City — the team that
second-place United are striving to reel in.
Ashley Young scored twice in the first half and
Jesse Lingard ensured there would be no late fightback from Watford
with a 60-yard solo goal to complete a 4-2 win at Vicarage Road on
United had already scored four goals against
West Ham, Swansea, Everton, Crystal Palace and Newcastle, showing
that manager Jose Mourinho has no problem unleashing his attacking
riches at times.
"We should have scored seven," he said. "We
were very dangerous for 90 minutes."
It's in the big games, against United's title
rivals, where Mourinho chooses to keep it tight and two of them are
coming up: Arsenal away and then City at home. United have nine
clean sheets from 14 games so far.
United are currently five points behind City,
who play Southampton in their game in hand on Wednesday, and look to
be the team best-positioned to challenge Pep Guardiola's team.
Tottenham might already be out of the title
A 2-1 loss at Leicester was Spurs' third loss
in their last five games, and followed a disappointing home draw
against West Bromwich Albion. Spurs are now 13 points adrift of City
having played a game more.
Here's a look at Tuesday's games:
Ashley Young is turning out to be a secret
attacking weapon for Man United.
The left back's deflected shot looped into the
top corner for the winning goal against Brighton on Saturday, and he
was scoring again three days later against former club Watford.
Both were great strikes, too, his first being a
fierce low shot inside the near post from outside the area in the
19th. Then he curled a free kick into the top corner in the 25th for
When Anthony Martial scored in the 32nd, United
were cruising but Watford mounted a late fightback to score through
Troy Deeney — from the penalty spot — in the 77th and Abdoulaye
Doucoure in the 84th.
Lingard made the points safe for United two
minutes later by running from inside his own half, skipping past two
defenders before finding the corner.
SPURS SLIP UP
The Jamie Vardy-Riyad Mahrez double act
propelled Leicester to their improbable league title triumph in the
2015-16 season and they scored beautifully taken goals in the first
half to sink Tottenham.
Vardy met Marc Albrighton's left-wing cross
with a volleyed lob in the 13th minute, before Mahrez made it 2-0 on
the stroke of halftime when he ran down the right on a
counter-attack, cut inside, and curled a left-foot shot into the far
Harry Kane grabbed his 10th league goal of the
season by meeting substitute Erik Lamela's pass with a finish high
into the net in the 79th minute, but Tottenham missed the chance to
climb to third place.
Alan Pardew is expected to become West Bromwich
Albion's manager on Wednesday and he will inherit a team just two
points above the relegation zone after they squandered a two-goal
lead to draw 2-2 against Newcastle.
Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Field put Albion 2-0 up
by the 56th minute at The Hawthorns, but Ciaran Clark reduced the
deficit in the 59th and Newcastle equalized through Jonny Evans' own
goal in the 83rd.
Newcastle ended a run of four straight league
losses while West Brom's winless run stretched to 13 games, giving
Pardew a glimpse of the size of the teak awaiting him. Pardew, who
wasn't at the match, will take on former club Crystal Palace on
Saturday should his appointment be confirmed.
In the night's other game, Brighton drew 0-0
with Crystal Palace, who stayed in last place but are now tied for
points with Swansea.
Eli Manning benched by Giants for Geno Smith
this Nov. 23, 2017, file photo, New York Giants quarterback Eli
Manning (10) walks off the field after a loss to the Washington
Redskins, in an NFL football game in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick
East Rutherford, New Jersey
(AP) — The Eli Manning era with the New York Giants may be
coming to an end.
And if it is, it is ending
The Giants announced Tuesday
that the two-time Super Bowl MVP was being benched for the first
time in more than 13 years so they could evaluate the other
quarterbacks on the roster over the final month of a
lost-and-injury-filled NFL season.
The decision to sit the
36-year-old Manning was totally unexpected, especially with five
games left in the regular season.
It was clear the decision hurt
and annoyed Manning, who has been the face of the Giants (2-9) since
they made a bold draft day trade with the-then San Diego Chargers in
2004 to swap first-round picks and get the No. 1 overall selection
to the Meadowlands.
Manning expressed his
unhappiness but once again he played the good soldier, voicing his
support for veteran Geno Smith, who will start against Oakland on
His emotional pain was all over
his face. His eyes welled with tears talking to reporters. His chin
quivered when asked about how much this hurt. His face got red the
more he talked.
Coach Ben McAdoo gave Manning
the option of starting to keep his streak of 210 consecutive starts
alive, but he didn't want any part of that.
"You start knowing you are
going to come out of the game to keep a streak alive, maybe, that's
not what it is about," Manning said.
"It's not a preseason game
where you are going to start to the half, the next week a quarter, a
series, that's not fair. That's not fair to me, not fair to Geno,
not how you play. You play to win. When you are named the starting
quarterback you think it's your job to go win the football game.
"If you are going to play a
little bit, I didn't think it was the right way to play," said
Manning, who became the Giants starting quarterback 10 games into
his rookie season in 2004, which was about a month or so before
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz turned 12 years old.
Manning's voice broke when
asked how this one hurt, noting it was one of his hardest days as a
"It's been a hard day to handle
this, but (I'll) hang in there and figure it out," he said.
Manning spoke with the media
for less than four minutes. He then took his backpack and left the
McAdoo said he made the
decision to start Smith over the weekend, and co-owner John Mara and
general manager Jerry Reese were in agreement.
"This is not a statement about
anything other than we are 2-9, and we have to do what is best for
the organization moving forward, and that means evaluating every
position," Reese said in a statement.
"I told Eli this morning that
an organization could not ask for anymore in a franchise
quarterback. He has been that and more. Nobody knows what the future
holds, but right now, this is what we think is best for the
McAdoo, the second-year head
coach, said the organization needed to learn more about Smith and
rookie third-round draft pick Davis Webb in the final weeks of the
season. Smith took four snaps in a blowout loss to the Rams. Webb
has not played.
McAdoo refused to say if this
was the end of the Manning era.
"I have a lot of confidence in
Eli as a player, as a quarterback," McAdoo said. "But at this point,
it's my responsibility for the organization to make sure we take a
look at Geno and at some point take a look at Davis and give them
the opportunity to show what they can do."
Manning and Smith were told
about the decision on Tuesday, and later the team was filled in.
Manning's streak is the
second-longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history, behind Brett
Favre's 297. He has started every Giants game since Nov. 21, 2004,
when he took over for veteran Kurt Warner in the 10th game of his
Manning has also started 12
postseason games, and twice led the Giants to Super Bowl victories.
He holds almost all of the
franchise's major passing records. This season, he has thrown 14
touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He will turn 37 on Jan. 3.
England allrounder Stokes arrives in New Zealand
Zealand-born England cricket star Ben Stokes is surrounded by media
as he arrives in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29. (AP
Auckland (AP) - New Zealand-born England
allrounder Ben Stokes has landed in Christchurch, where he's
negotiating to play for Canterbury while under suspension for the
Ashes series in Australia.
Speculation about Stokes' return to cricket
arose when he was spotted at London's Heathrow Airport with his
cricket gear, with photos spreading quickly on social media.
Initial reports suggested the allrounder may be
heading to Adelaide to join the England squad ahead of the second
test against Australia starting Saturday, but that was quickly
quashed by the England Cricket Board.
Stokes arrived Wednesday at Christchurch, on
New Zealand's south island, where he is visiting his parents,
Barbara and Gerard Stokes.
He made no comment to waiting reporters on his
arrival at Christchurch Airport.
After initially dismissing reports that Stokes
may turn out for Canterbury as early as this weekend as "wishful
thinking", Canterbury cricket on Wednesday confirmed it was in
negotiations with Stokes.
"Following the recent speculation surrounding
Ben Stokes coming to New Zealand, Canterbury Cricket can now confirm
that they have been in initial informal discussions with Ben Stokes'
representatives regarding his potential availability," it said in a
Canterbury coach Gary Stead also suggested
Stokes might at least train with his team in the near future.
"He's a world-class allrounder," Stead said. "I
think we'd be stupid not to consider it.
"We've got a very young team at the moment. If
he wanted to have some sessions with us, I think we'd be silly not
The Canterbury Cricket board is expected to
meet later Wednesday to discuss whether Stokes will play for the
"Ultimately, if our board says no, it won't
happen" Stead said. "From my point of view I think if you can get
someone like that then let's do it.
"We're acutely aware that if this does get
across the line there is something else obviously hanging over his
head and that could happen at any stage. There's no time period or
time frame on that for us.'
New Zealand Cricket spokesman Richard Boock
said his organization hadn't received a formal request regarding
Stokes but knew of discussions between the player and province.
"NZC has an open mind on the issue and will
await further information before making a decision," Boock said.
The England Cricket Board was quick to issue a
statement Tuesday confirming Stokes was not heading for Australia to
reinforce the squad that lost the first Ashes test by 10 wickets in
Brisbane. It has since granted a No Objection Clause which would
allow Stokes to play in New Zealand as his suspension applies only
to England matches.
"Ben Stokes is making a private trip to New
Zealand to spend time with his family," the ECB said in a statement.
"His travel arrangements have not been arranged by the ECB.
"He is not on his way to the Ashes, England
Lions or any other official training camps with the English setup."
By being in Christchurch, though, Stokes is
only a comparatively short flight away from Australia and could
quickly join the England team if police in Britain decide not to
press charges after investigating his involvement in an incident
outside a night club last September.
Stokes was arrested after video footage
purportedly showed England's test vice-captain throwing punches in a
street fight after a night out celebrating England's win over the
West Indies in a limited-overs international.
He was released by police while the
investigation continues. He has not played cricket since then, and
the ECB has confirmed Stokes will not join the Ashes tour until the
police investigation is complete.
If the Canterbury board approves Stokes'
selection he could play for the province against Otago in New
Zealand's domestic one-day competition on Sunday.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said Stokes'
presence in the competition would be a positive.
"From a cricket point of view he's a
world-class player and would add a lot of talent to the
competition," Hesson said. "Certainly, if players perform well
against Ben it shows us they're performing well against the best."
Whistleblower diary strengthens case against Russia
this file photo dated Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, Sergei Chudinov of
Russia competes during the men's skeleton competition at the 2014
Winter Olympics, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita
New York (AP) - Diary entries from the
key whistleblower in the Russian doping scandal recount several
meetings with powerful government officials, and are expected to be
used as further evidence when the IOC decides Russia's fate for the
The New York Times obtained entries from
the diary kept by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow
anti-doping lab, who is now living in the United States under
Included in the diary were details of
discussions and meetings with Vitaly Mutko, who was the country's
sports minister at the time and is now deputy prime minister.
Rodchenkov also wrote about meetings with Yuri Nagornykh, the former
deputy sports minister, and Irina Rodionova, the former deputy
director of the center of sports preparation of national teams of
A person familiar with the contents of the
diary told The Associated Press they were authentic. The person
spoke on condition of anonymity because no comments were authorized
due to the sensitivity of the case.
On Monday, the International Olympic Committee
released a full decision for the ban of one of the 19 athletes it
has stripped of results from the Sochi Olympics and suspended for
upcoming games. In it, the team of IOC investigators validated
Rodchenkov as a witness and also said his diary entries appear
"These entries may therefore be considered as a
significant evidential element," the decision said.
The IOC executive board meets next Tuesday to
determine the fate of Russia's Olympic team, with the growing chance
it may use the decision to further justify a complete ban.
The details of Rodchenkov's diary will add more
evidence to the argument that Russia should be banned as a team. The
IOC could choose to let Russian athletes who can prove they've been
thoroughly tested to compete as neutral athletes. That, in turn,
could compel Russia to have its eligible athletes boycott the Games
altogether, rather than compete as neutrals.
In the diary, Rodchenkov makes note of the plan
to swap dirty urine samples with clean ones at the Sochi Olympics in
order to make sure that doped athletes would not get caught.
"There's no clear understanding of the plan,
it's just a nightmare!" Rodchenkov wrote on Jan. 29, less than two
weeks before the Sochi Games began and one day after two top Russian
biathlon athletes had been caught doping in Austria. "Mutko is
freaking out over biathlon, things are out of control and chaotic."
The plan, however, did work, and the IOC report
compared it to "a Swiss watch with many small wheels working in
The report validated both the testimony of
Rodchenkov and the conclusions drawn by Canadian professor Richard
McLaren, who said the doping deception was directed by government
Russia has denied its government directed the
program and has blamed it on Rodchenkov and other individual actors.
But the diary entries make clear that
Rodchenkov was answering to members of the government.
He described a meeting with Nagornykh to
discuss whether to falsify the record of race walker Elena
Lashmanova, who had been nailed for a doping positive.
"He got an excellent tan in Mexico," Rodchenkov
wrote after the meeting. "I spent 1.5 hours there fighting.
Nagornykh slowly backed off. We agreed to go see Mutko by 1:00."
In July 2014, Lashmanova was suspended.
Tiger Woods getting strong reviews in return to golf
this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on
the third hole during the final round at the Hero World Challenge
golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Nassau, Bahamas (AP) —
All eyes are on Tiger Woods and his return to golf, even the players
he has to beat.
Especially the players.
Woods was on the back end of
the practice range Monday at Albany Golf Club, hitting balls with
Patrick Reed, when he looked up at a drone buzzing some 50 feet over
him in the cloudy sky. He had no idea that Daniel Berger was at the
Berger was on the front of the
range, blocked by a row of bushes in the sand dunes. As the drone's
camera zoomed in, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and
their caddies crowded around Berger to look.
They cared more about his
reaction to the drone than his swing.
But they are curious about his
And those who have played with
Woods in recent weeks believe there is reason for the hype.
"People are going to be shocked
at how good his game looks," PGA champion Justin Thomas said.
Thomas will have the best seat
in the house Thursday when Woods, who had fusion surgery on his
lower back in April, plays for the first time in 10 months at the
Hero World Challenge. Thomas, named the PGA Tour player of the year
after winning five times and the FedEx Cup, is paired with him in
the first round.
Thomas spends a fair bit of
time with Woods at their Florida homes, and they played a few weeks
The attention on Woods
increased in recent days as more players joined him for casual
rounds. Brad Faxon caused a stir when he played with Woods, Johnson
and President Donald Trump on Friday.
"Tiger looked great to me,"
Faxon wrote in a story for Golfweek . "I was impressed with how far
he hit the ball. Probably on the 10 holes that they were both
hitting driver, Tiger hit it past Dustin half the time and Dustin
hit it past Tiger half the time. He looked great. I think more than
anything, he looked at ease. He was not concerned about swinging
hard and going at it with driver. The ball flight, the sound off the
club, all of it was right there."
Johnson is among the elite
power players in the game. True story?
"He hit it by me a couple of
times," Johnson said. "Did I bomb one and he hit it past me? No. But
he did it past me a few times. He was moving it, though."
All this hype in the chill
environment of the Bahamas should sound familiar. It was only last
year when Woods returned after 15 months away from the game. He had
gone through three back surgeries at that point, the first one right
before the 2014 Masters, and Woods looked relatively normal, with
freedom in his swing. He made 24 birdies, along with enough mistakes
that he finished 14 shots out of the lead, in 15th place among an
Woods missed the cut at Torrey
Pines two months later, flew to Dubai and managed one round — a 77
in calm conditions — before withdrawing with back spasms.
What appears to be different
this time, at least from those who have played with him, is the
absence of pain.
Patrick Reed played nine holes
of practice with him Monday morning. He saw Woods do whatever he
wanted with his swing and saw an assortment of shots — a stinger off
the tee, a low draw, a high cut.
"He seemed to have command of
not only the golf club, but his body," Reed said.
It was the first time Reed had
played with Woods since the opening round of the Hero World
Challenge last year. The difference Reed noticed was that Woods
looked more free and fluid in going after any shot.
"It looked like there was a
little hesitation the last time I played with him," Reed said. "This
time, he was fully committed and fully trusted in his body. There
was no pain. That's the biggest thing for me. If he stays healthy,
then he'll be back playing golf, hopefully like he used to. I want
to see it and I want to compete against it."
Johnson said Friday's round
with Woods and the president was a big change from when the two
played the opening two rounds at Torrey Pines together in January,
when both missed the cut.
"His speed was back. He played
a lot better than he did in San Diego, for sure," Johnson said.
"He's healthy. To me, he looks strong. He's swinging with speed
instead of in San Diego. When I played with him there, he wasn't
swinging at it. You could tell he was hurt."
The question is whether there
is rust from having been gone from competition for so long.
Woods has played only three
tournaments since August 2015. Three of the four times that he
returned to competition dating to that first back surgery before the
2014 Masters, Woods lasted no more than three starts before taking
more time off.
Ashwin takes 300th wicket as India thrash Sri Lanka
India's Ravindra Jadeja, center without cap, celebrates with
teammates the dismissal of Sri Lanka's Dimuth Karunaratne during the
fourth day of their second test cricket match in Nagpur, India,
Monday, Nov. 27. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
Nagpur, India (AP) —
Indian crushed Sri Lanka by an innings and 239 runs on Monday,
equaling India's biggest ever test victory and handing the tourists
their biggest ever test defeat.
Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin
took eight wickets in the match to take his career test tally to
300. His final wicket saw him overtake Dennis Lillee's title of
quickest to reach 300. Ashwin reached the mark in his 54th test, two
matches fewer than the legendary Australian paceman.
Ashwin took 4-63 in Sri Lanka's
second innings after also bagging four wickets in the first innings.
Sri Lanka's Dinesh Chandimal
scored a counter-attacking 14th test half-century as the rest of the
team folded. "We were completely outplayed in this match. We won the
toss but failed to score enough runs. On this pitch, playing against
India, you need minimum 350 runs," he said.
Ravindra Jadeja (2-28), Umesh
Yadav (2-30) and Ishant Sharma (2-43) all captured two wickets each
as Sri Lanka collapsed to 166 all out in their second innings just
after lunch on the fourth day.
Riding on Virat Kohli's fifth
test double hundred, India had scored 610-6 declared in their first
innings in reply to Sri Lanka's poor effort of 205.
Trailing by 405 runs on the
first innings, the visitors resumed on 21-1 and lost seven wickets
in the extended morning session.
Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru
Thirimanne added 13 to the overnight total before Karunaratne
departed for 18, caught by Murali Vijay at forward short leg off
Thirimanne followed soon after
for 23, caught at backward point off Yadav, then Angelo Mathews went
for 10, holing out at mid-off off Jadeja as the wickets began to
Niroshan Dickwella was caught
in the slips off Sharma for four then Dasun Shanka fell to Ashwin
Ashwin struck twice more after
the umpires agreed to extend the session in the possibility of
getting a result. He trapped Dilruwan Perera leg before wicket for a
qolden duck then had Rangana Herath caught at slip without scoring.
Chandimal's resistance finally
gave way after lunch when he fell to Yadav then Ashwin bowled Lahiru
Garnaga for a duck to end the match.
"The pitch was very good to bat
on and there wasn't much in it. I just batted the way I wanted to,
rotating strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking," said Kohli.
"Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara batted well too. Rohit Sharma
made a statement with his century. The bowlers are doing very well.
We believe we are preparing for the South Africa tour," he added.
The first test in Kolkata was
drawn. The third test begins in Delhi on Saturday.
Ricciardo has much to ponder as he considers Red Bull future
Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia takes a curve followed by
teammate Max Verstappen of the Netherlands during the Emirates
Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 26. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Abu Dhabi, United Arab
Emirates (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo's season ended with him
trundling off the track during Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a
hydraulic failure causing a third retirement in four races.
It was a frustrating finale to
a topsy-turvy year that saw him finish fifth in the Formula One
standings, and included a purple patch of five straight podium
finishes between May and July.
Away from the track, the
28-year-old Australian has a lot of thinking to do over his future
at Red Bull.
His contract expires at the end
of 2018. Teammate Max Verstappen recently signed a new deal until
the end of 2020, but Ricciardo has yet to commit even though the
team wants him to stay.
"The peak years of my career
are probably the next deal I'll sign," he said. "I want to make sure
I maximize that with my driving ability."
Ricciardo has won five races,
all since joining Red Bull in 2014. That year, he won three races
and finished a very impressive third overall.
He was considerably better than
Sebastian Vettel, his teammate back then, who had clinched his
fourth straight world title in 2013.
But now Verstappen is emerging
as the team's No. 1, and widely considered F1's next star.
Verstappen turned 20 in
September, but has already won three F1 races — two in the last six
races of this season. Ricciardo has 27 career podiums while
Verstappen — the youngest winner of a race at 18 years old — already
Verstappen hefty new contract
shows how valuable the Dutchman is, even though the team has not
officially designated a No. 1 driver.
This puts Ricciardo in a
Given his considerable talent
and consistency, he does not want to spend the next three years as —
potentially — a No. 2 behind Verstappen. It would possibly cause
tension within the team and pressure a relationship that is
harmonious enough, despite some flashpoints.
"I'm sure there will be a few
discussions in the next week or two, especially with the team,"
Ricciardo said. "It's not about the offer, it's about who is going
to have the best car for 2019."
Ricciardo, who won the
Azerbaijan GP in June, has given himself a loose timescale.
"Once I get home and over
Christmas, I want to switch off from racing," he said. "I would like
to know something earlier."
He has the luxury of being an
established driver at Red Bull, so a move away comes with risk.
"I don't want to be too clever
and hope I have every option possible," said Ricciardo, who expects
his next deal to be "a multiple-year."
One possibility could be
waiting to see what happens at Ferrari and Mercedes.
Kimi Raikkonen will be 39 at
the end of next season and unlikely to get another year with
Ferrari. He was fourth in the standings but the Finnish driver was
100 points behind Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and 112 points
behind his own teammate Vettel, second overall.
Bottas has a one-year deal with
Mercedes for next season, alongside world champion Lewis Hamilton.
If Bottas fails to impress,
there could be an opening in 2019.
On either team, Ricciardo would
be up against four-time F1 champions in Hamilton and Vettel, and
would not be the leading driver.
When he sat alongside them both
at a pre-race news conference last Thursday, Ricciardo joked that
the three of them shared eight F1 titles between them. Clearly, he
dreams of belonging in such elite company.
But, for now, perhaps
challenging Verstappen is his best option.
"It would be a good problem to
have, if we're both fighting at the front and having some battles,"
Ricciardo said. "If it's ultimately deciding a world title we would
happily run with that challenge."
But Red Bull's marked increase
in speed is a cause for optimism next year — providing Red Bull can
iron out reliability issues that saw Ricciardo fail to finish six
races and Verstappen seven.
"I believe next year we will
close the gap. Is it enough to fight for a title?" Ricciardo said.
"I think we can certainly get close."
IOC judges back truthful whistleblower, ban 5 more Russians
In this file photo dated Friday, Feb. 21, 2014,
Russia's relay team from left, Yana Romanova, Olga Zaitseva,
Ekaterina Shumilova and Olga Vilukhina, celebrate winning the silver
for the women's biathlon 4x6k relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics, in
Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Geneva (AP) — In a blow to the
credibility of Russia's denials that it operated state-backed
Olympic doping, an IOC judging panel has endorsed a key
whistleblower and the investigator who exposed the plot.
Orchestrated cheating at the 2014 Sochi Winter
Games was "a conspiracy which infected and subverted the Olympic
Games in the worst possible manner," an International Olympic
Committee commission prosecuting a slew of Russian cases said on
Former Moscow and Sochi laboratory director
Grigory Rodchenkov was a "truthful witness," the panel said in
publishing its first detailed verdict on the same day it sanctioned
five more Russian athletes to bring the total to 19.
Rodchenkov is living in the United States under
FBI protection as a cooperating witness.
The IOC panel, chaired by Denis Oswald, agreed
that investigator Richard McLaren — appointed by the World
Anti-Doping Agency to verify Rodchenkov's claims to American media
in May 2016 — proved the existence of a doping conspiracy beyond
The public vindication of Rodchenkov and
McLaren, each repeatedly denounced by state authorities in Russia,
will fuel speculation that the IOC executive board meeting next
Tuesday should ban Russia's team from the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Medals in biathlon, bobsled, cross-country
skiing, speedskating and skeleton have been stripped by the IOC, and
Russia was knocked off the top of the medals table last week in a
previous round of disqualifications.
The first athlete disqualified four weeks ago
was Alexander Legkov, a cross-country skier who won the men's
50-kilometer gold and 4x10-kilometer relay silver.
The full verdict in his Oct. 30 case was
published on Monday to reveal how strongly a judging panel of three
IOC members believed the evidence first outlined last year of urine
sample swaps and tampered bottles in the Sochi laboratory.
A 46-page document confirmed the panel "is more
than comfortably satisfied that the evidence establishes that a
scheme of sample-swapping as described in the McLaren Report and the
affidavit of Dr. Rodchenkov was indeed in place and implemented in
The ruling stopped short of joining the two men
in accusing Russian government agencies, including the sports
ministry and FSB security service, of complicity.
Still, this was a "sophisticated" system in
place and was compared to a Swiss watch by the three-man panel,
comprising two from Switzerland and one from Spain.
"(I)t was a very fine mechanism where many
people had a role to play," the verdict in Legkov's case stated.
A final IOC judgment on whether the Russian
state ultimately corrupted the Winter Games that cost $51 billion to
prepare for and stage should come next week.
A separate commission chaired by a former
president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, will give the IOC board its
findings ahead of the Dec. 5 meeting to decide on punishing Russia.
The latest guilty verdicts announced on Monday
involved Aleksei Negodailo and Dmitrii Trunenkov, members of the
gold medal-winning four-man bobsled; Yana Romanova, the silver
medalist in the 4x6-kilometer women's biathlon relay; Olga
Vilukhina, the silver medalist in the same relay and 7.5-kilometer
biathlon; and Sergei Chudinov, who was fifth in skeleton.
The Russian Bobsleigh Federation said in a
statement the decisions were "the height of injustice" that lacked
legal basis, and promised to contest them.
The appeals route for Russian athletes is the
Court of Arbitration for Sport in the IOC's home city of Lausanne,
Trunenkov was already serving a four-year ban,
backdated to April 2016, for a separate doping offense just before
Another member of the four-man team, Alexander
Zubkov, was disqualified on Friday and stripped of his golds in the
two-man and four-man. That meant Alexey Voyevoda, who won both golds
with Zubkov, was also stripped of the medals. His case was
considered by the IOC panel last Thursday.
A third member of the women's biathlon relay,
Olga Zaitseva, had her hearing last week.
All disqualified athletes are also banned from
the Olympics for life.
If the 2014 medals are reallocated, the
four-man bobsled gold could go to Latvia. The United States could
improve to silver, and a fourth-placed Russian team could receive
In women's biathlon, Vilukhina's silver could
pass to Vita Semerenko of Ukraine, and Karin Oberhofer of Italy
could be promoted to bronze. The women's relay could see Norway
could move up to silver and the Czech Republic get bronze.
Legkov was among athletes on the "Duchess List"
— named for a fast-acting cocktail of steroids dissolved in alcohol
and used as a mouthwash — who were protected by the doping system.
Their clean urine was stored to be swapped in for tainted samples
during the games.
Rodchenkov alleged swaps were done through a
mouse hole in a lab room with FSB officers who worked out how to
break into tamper-proof bottles. Scratches and marks on the glass
were crucial evidence in Legkov's case.
"Whatever his motivation may be and whichever
wrongdoing he may have committed in the past," the IOC panel said,
"Dr. Rodchenkov was telling the truth when he provided explanations
of the cover-up scheme that he managed."
Australia win Ashes series opener by 10 wickets
Australia's Cameron Bancroft ducks
under a bouncer during an Ashes cricket test between England and
Australia in Brisbane, Australia, Monday, Nov. 27. (AP
Brisbane, Australia (AP) —
David Warner and Cameron Bancroft shared a record 173-run
partnership as Australia wrapped up a 10-wicket win over England in
the first cricket test on Monday, taking first honors in the
five-match Ashes series.
Warner was unbeaten on 87 and
Cameron Bancroft hit the winnings runs, finishing not out 82, as the
Australians surpassed the victory target of 170 with 2½ sessions to
spare on day five after resuming at 114-0.
The unbroken stand between
Warner and Bancroft, who is playing his first test, was the biggest
opening partnership in a successful fourth-innings run chase in test
cricket, according to Cricinfo. Australians Archie Jackson and Bill
Ponsford put on 172 against the West Indies at Adelaide in 1930.
Steve Smith's unbeaten 141 from
326 deliveries in the first innings earned him the player of the
match award. The Australian skipper helped his team recover from
76-4 to reach 328 in reply to England's 302.
Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and
Josh Hazlewood took three wickets apiece on Sunday when Australia
bowled England out for 195, setting up a simple run chase with four
The second test — the first
day-night test contested in an Ashes series — starts Saturday in
The series-opening match was
tightly contested for the first three days, after England won the
toss, elected to bat and posted 196-4 on a rain-affected opening day
when the pitch was slow and soft.
The Australian pace trio,
tipped to play a major role in reproducing the kind of intimidating
fast bowling that exposed some vulnerability from England on the
last tour here, initially struggled to get their rhythm on a wicket
devoid of the kind of pace and bounce the Gabba is famous for.
The Australians rallied in the
first inning after a top-order collapse on the second day and
Smith's innings ensured the hosts had a 26-run lead after the first
With the pitch starting to
behave more in line with tradition on days three and four, Australia
seized control on Sunday with England losing their last four wicket
for 10 runs and giving the home team plenty of time to chase the 170
runs needed for victory.
Late Sterling goal as Man City set EPL record; Arsenal 4th
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling, right, celebrates with teammate
Kyle Walker after scoring during the English Premier League match
between Huddersfield Town and Manchester City at John Smith's
stadium, in Huddersfield, Sunday, Nov. 26. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
London (AP) — Only a
third of the way into its Premier League campaign, Manchester City
are already making history.
Pep Guardiola's City defeated
Huddersfield 2-1 Sunday to equal a club record 11th straight league
win. City also moved to 37 points from 13 games — the highest ever
points total at this stage of a Premier League season.
After Huddersfield took a shock
lead, Raheem Sterling won a penalty — which Sergio Aguero converted
to draw the teams level — before completing the comeback himself six
minutes from time to restore an eight-point lead for City at the top
of the table.
Elsewhere, Alexis Sanchez's
last-minute penalty gave Arsenal a 1-0 win at Burnley and
Southampton crushed Everton 4-1.
After handing Manchester United
their first league defeat of the season in October, Huddersfield had
another famous victory in sight when Christopher Schindler's header
deflected in via City's Nicolas Otamendi in added time at the end of
the first half.
However, City leveled just two
minutes after the break when Aguero calmly converted his spot kick
after Sterling was brought down by Scott Malone.
There was some fortune attached
to the winning goal. Substitute Gabriel Jesus had his shot saved,
but it popped up into Sterling's midriff and looped into the top
STERLING ON THE UP
It wasn't Sterling's first late
winner of the season for City. The England winger scored deep into
stoppage time at Bournemouth in August to secure a 2-1 victory.
Sterling has previously faced
criticism for failing to add end product to his prodigious dribbling
skills and pace, but he has been prolific in front of goal so far
this campaign. His goal at Huddersfield was his 12th in 18
appearances in all competitions.
"He (Sterling) is still young,
he's able to improve," Guardiola said. "We are going to be there to
help him to become a better player. We are so satisfied with his
When Arsenal went into added
time still level with Burnley, history suggested victory was still
within their grasp.
On the Gunners’ last trip to
Turf Moor, in October 2016, Laurent Koscielny scored the only goal
in the 93rd minute. In the corresponding fixture at the Emirates
Stadium in January, Sanchez stepped up eight minutes into added time
to give Arsenal a 2-1 win after Andre Gray had leveled with a
penalty of his own five minutes earlier.
There was only one spot kick on
this occasion, as Sanchez found the bottom corner two minutes into
stoppage time after James Tarkowski was adjudged to have pushed
"There's a lot of me inside,
that's raging a lot," Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. "Football's a
harsh game and sometimes it hurts you."
It was only the second away
victory in the Premier League for Arsenal this season and came
against a Burnley side on a three-match winning streak, in which
they had not conceded. The win moves the Gunners back above
Tottenham and into the top four, but they remain 12 points adrift of
Having started the season
considered the side most likely to challenge the Premier League's
"Big Six," Everton are swiftly falling into a fight at the other end
of the table.
Southampton became the latest
side to take advantage of Everton's disarray. Gylfi Sigurdsson's
long-range strike canceled out Dusan Tadic's opener, but Charlie
Austin scored two second-half headers before Steven Davis rounded
off the scoring.
Former Everton player David
Unsworth has been in temporary charge since Ronald Koeman was fired
on Oct. 23, but has managed just one win during his seven-game
tenure. The club are still searching for a permanent replacement,
with Unsworth's failure to improve results likely having ruled him
"I wouldn't go that far so
early," said Unsworth, when asked if Everton were embroiled in the
relegation fight. "I think we are in a tough moment, I think we have
a massive week ahead of us. If you ask me that question next week I
can give you a more honest view.
Everton are now 16th, just two
points clear of the relegation zone. Southampton moved up to 10th.
Bottas has Hamilton in a spin at season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of
Finland celebrates after winning the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix
at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates,
Sunday, Nov. 26. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Abu Dhabi, United Arab
Emirates (AP) — Performing celebratory spins around the track
was about as emotional as it got for Valtteri Bottas, after he beat
his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to win the season-ending Abu
Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton joined the
straight-faced Finnish driver in performing spins — known in Formula
One as donuts — having already sealed his fourth world title before
the season's finale. The race offered little excitement, but there
wasn't much to fight over as the serious stuff had already been
pretty much decided.
Sebastian Vettel joined them on
the podium, finishing third — and second overall — in an anti-climax
to a season that had promised so much for Ferrari as it hoped to win
its first drivers' title since 2007.
As the three drivers soaked
each other with celebratory bottles on the podium, Hamilton used his
to douse Vettel as the German driver tried to turn and protect
himself. It seemed a triumphant and fitting image, victor over
Vettel was already thinking of
drowning his sorrows, perhaps understandably considering how his
title challenge collapsed spectacularly following the summer break.
"Probably find something to
drink tonight and sober up tomorrow," Vettel said. "Congratulations
to Lewis on his season. He was the better man. I hate to say it but
he deserved it."
Starting from pole position for
the second straight race Bottas secured the third win of his career
— all since joining from Williams.
His 22nd career podium was his
13th with Mercedes.
"It is a really important win
for me after having a pretty difficult start to the second half of
the year," said Bottas, who had a mid-season slump that damaged his
confidence. "We Finns don't show much emotion but it doesn't mean we
don't have any. I am so happy."
Bottas placed third overall, 12
points behind Vettel and 58 behind Hamilton.
"Hopefully better next year,"
He has only been given a
one-year extension to his Mercedes contract, having joined this year
as an emergency replacement for 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg.
Having sealed the title,
Hamilton had no need to chase Bottas too hard. The 32-year-old
British driver finished 4 seconds behind and did not get close
enough to attack on a track he called among the worst for overtaking
"Never going to overtake unless
he makes a massive mistake," Hamilton said.
The race started at 5 p.m.
local time with the sun setting on the desert setting of the Yas
Marina circuit and finished under floodlights.
Vettel, who won the last race
in Brazil, finished about 20 seconds behind Bottas.
"After three or four laps, I
just couldn't go any faster," Vettel said.
Vettel's Ferrari teammate Kimi
Raikkonen — the 2007 F1 champion — was fourth and also moved up to
fourth in the standings.
Hamilton clinched the title —
his third with Mercedes — in Mexico two races ago when he ended
Vettel's fading hopes.
The German driver's challenge
evaporated in the Asian heat between September and October.
Perfectly poised to regain the
championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole
"It's a bit different if you
finish the race rather than if you don't finish the first lap,"
Vettel said with evident sarcasm.
Then, plagued by reliability
issues unbefitting a team of Ferrari's stature, he started last and
finished fourth at the Malaysian GP. Bad luck struck again when he
qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP.
"Mercedes has been more
consistent," Vettel said generously. "It's a straight fight and they
just did better."
Continuing the sportsmanlike
mood, Hamilton added: "Looking forward to another battle next year."
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen
finished the race in fifth while teammate Daniel Ricciardo retired,
dropping to fifth in the standings.
The other wins for Bottas this
season came in Russia and in Austria — also from pole. Hamilton won
nine races this year — having won 10 during the past two seasons and
a career-best 11 in 2014. The lower total is due to Ferrari's marked
improvement this year.
"I don't think it's a shame to
come second in the way that we did," Vettel said. "But it's not what
Bottas made a clean start while
Hamilton held off Vettel, who locked his left front tire angling
into the first corner.
Vettel was the first of the
trio to pit for new tires. Bottas did one lap later, leaving
Hamilton briefly in front.
At much the same time,
Ricciardo retired, leaving his stranded Red Bull on a patch of grass
as he hitched a lift on the back of a scooter.
It was the third time in four
races — and sixth this year — that the Australian driver has failed
to finish. He is weighing up his Red Bull future.
Felipe Massa, the 2008 F1
runner-up to Hamilton, finished 10th in his last race.
Kovalev knocks out Shabranskyy in 2nd round of title fight
Russia's Sergey Kovalev knocks down
Ukraine's Vyacheslav Shabranskyy during the first round of their
light heavyweight title boxing match early Sunday, Nov. 26, in New
York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York (AP) — Sergey
Kovalev "krushed" it.
The light heavyweight nicknamed
"Krusher" made short work of Slava Shabranskyy to recapture the WBO
title Saturday night. He used a devastating series of right hands to
stop the challenger at 2:36 of the second round.
"Here tonight was great boxing
for me, and I love boxing and I want to make great fights," Kovalev
said. "I am ready for any champion because this is very good for
Kovalev lost his last two
outings to Andre Ward, and he brought a dynamic fury into the
Madison Square Garden ring. He dropped Shabranskyy twice in the
first round, once more in the second, and somehow Shabranskyy didn't
go down from another series of powerhouse punches seconds before the
fight was stopped.
The 34-year-old Kovalev easily
disposed of his opponent from Ukraine. The Russian improved to
31-2-1 with 27 knockouts. Few of them were more impressive.
"It is my goal to be the best
in the division," said Kovalev, who took back the WBO crown that
Ward relinquished when he retired. "I'm happy that the belts have
different owners, and it makes everything interesting and we can
make better fights. We have a bunch of belt holes and we can now
find out who is the best."
Shabranskyy fell to 19-2. He
landed a few solid punches, but he couldn't handle Kovalev's massive
Shabranskyy actually started
well, connecting on some lefts, even backing up Kovalev with one.
But then the hammer was lowered in the form of Kovalev's right lead
that floored Shabranskyy.
He got up, but was soon down
from a combination including a huge right.
Things were much the same in
the second round before the bout was wisely stopped.
On the HBO undercard, Sullivan
Barrera, who defected from Cuba nearly a decade ago, outpointed
Felix Valera in a light heavyweight fight marred by a series of low
Valera clowned around in many
rounds, even sticking out his tongue at one point. He needed more
lefts like the one that stunned and floored Barrera in the opening
moments of the fight. He also needed to avoid throwing low blows:
Valera, of the Dominican Republic, was docked points three times.
The second time, in the sixth infuriated Barrera, who had his best
But Barrera, who also scored a
first-round knockdown, was penalized for a low shot in the ninth.
The decision was unanimous for
Barrera, whose only loss in 22 fights was to Ward. He's won four
straight since, including knocking out Shabaranskyy, and is in line
for a title fight, although Kovalev seems to have his sights set
In a matchup of two former
super featherweight champions, Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba, a 2004
Olympic gold medalist, took a majority decision from Jason Sosa that
was derisively booed by the crowd. Gamboa (28-2) won 96-92 and 95-93
on two scorecards, with one judge having it 94-94.
Gamboa twice slipped to the
canvas during the 10-round bout, and when Sosa was credited with a
knockdown in the seventh round, it was from a punch that appeared to
miss with the Cuban off-balance. Gamboa was penalized a point in the
final round for holding, and Sosa fell to 20-3-4 with his second
straight defeat. He was beaten by WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko in
"I didn't have enough time to
train," Gamboa claimed. "I only had three weeks. I needed two or
three more weeks to lose the weight correctly.
"Of course, the decision was
good. I think I won every round, except for the knockdown and the
Russia's Bakhram Murtazaliev
knocked out Carlos Galvan of Colombia in the fifth round of their
super welterweight event. Murtazaliev is now 11-0 with nine
knockouts. He dominated the first four rounds before dropping Galvan
twice to finish matters. Galvan fell to 16-6-1.
Cameron Davis wins Australian Open by one stroke
Australia's Cameron Davis holds his trophy after winning the
Australian Open Golf tournament in Sydney, Sunday, Nov. 26. (AP
Sydney (AP) — Cameron Davis
came from six shots behind going into the final round to win the
Australian Open by one stroke on Sunday, shooting a 7-under 64 that
included a birdie on the 18th and an eagle after holing a 100-meter
The 22-year-old Australian finished
with an 11-under total of 273 at The Australian Golf Club, where gusty
and unpredictable afternoon winds made scoring tough for all four
"I didn't know where I was, to be
honest, after the third round," Davis said of his six-stroke deficit.
"I'm just glad I did enough today to get the job done."
Sweden's Jonas Blixt, who missed a
12-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have forced a playoff, shot
68 to finish tied for second with Matt Jones (68) while third-round
leader Jason Day was fifth after a 73, three strokes behind.
"It was quite a simple putt, maybe
a little longer than I would have wanted," Blixt said of the missed
birdie chance. "I thought it was a lot quicker than it was."
Davis teed off nearly an hour ahead
of the final group which included Day, so finished his round and then
went to the practice range in case there was a playoff.
Davis, whose eagle came on the 12th
hole when he hit his approach about 10 meters past the flag, then
watched it spin back and into the cup, also qualified for next July's
British Open at Carnoustie.
The Australian Open was the first
of 15 events in 10 countries that will make up The Open qualifying
series for 2018. Also qualifying were Blixt and Jones, among the top
three players not already eligible.
Day double-bogeyed the ninth hole
after the most unfortunate of circumstances — his shot out of a fairway
bunker hit the lip of the bunker, caromed left across the fairway and
into a water hazard. He got those shots back with an eagle on the 14th.
Day was making his first tournament
appearance in Australia since 2013.
"I just didn't play my best and
obviously it's not great to shoot 2-over par on the final round when
you've got the lead," Day said. "Cameron came back and played a
wonderful round of golf today to win ... so he's obviously got a lot to
look forward to next year, getting into the Open Championship and all
that stuff as well."
Jordan Spieth, attempting to win
his third Australian Open in four years, finished with 4-under 67,
including an eagle on the last. He was eighth, five strokes behind
"It was a great finish," Spieth
said. "I felt like I hit a lot of really beautiful shots that weren't
necessarily rewarded today based on just trying to judge the crosswinds.
That's all it was today. I really felt like I shot 62 today and it was
67, I had so many looks."
Spieth was non-committal about
making another trip Down Under for next year's Australian Open.
"I'd love to explore it," Spieth
said. "It's just a matter of, like I've said every year, I try and
figure out what's going on the next week, let alone a year from now."
Spieth will play next week at the
Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas where tournament host Tiger Woods
will make his return to competitive golf.
Update November 25-26, 2017
Australia end Day 2 at 165-4 in reply to England's 302
Australia's Steve Smith plays a shot as England's wicket keeper Jonny
Barstow, left, looks on during the Ashes cricket test between England
and Australia in Brisbane, Australia, Friday, Nov. 24. (AP Photo/Tertius
Brisbane, Australia (AP) —
It was only the second day of the Ashes and already Steve Smith needed
to rescue Australia from the kind of trouble that local critics
predicted England would be confronting throughout the five-test series.
Smith scored a composed 64 in an
unbroken 89-run, fifth-wicket stand with Shaun Marsh (44 not out) to
lift Australia from 76-4 at the start of Friday's evening session to
165-4 by stumps in reply to England's 302.
Amid the banter and pre-series
hype, former Australian test players and the local media questioned the
quality of the England squad. Vice-captain David Warner and veteran
spinner Nathan Lyon generated headlines for some hostile commentary,
So far, England have been the more
settled of the teams, sticking to batting plans to keep the big
Australian pacemen bowling plenty of overs — Ashes rookies James Vince
(83), Mark Stoneman (53) and Dawid Malan (56) all posting half centuries
in the first innings — and executing well-devised strategies in the
field to pick off Australia's top order.
"We're in a good place as a team,"
England fast bowler Jake Ball said. "We've done a lot of research and a
lot of work on our plans to each batter (and) we executed them well."
The rain-affected first day yielded
four wickets but the second, in sunny sub-tropical conditions, produced
10 wickets after England resumed at 196-4.
"I thought the way (Marsh) and
Smith battled there especially in the hour after tea was probably one of
the hardest hours they've probably faced in a long time," said Lyon, who
added that the innings underlined his belief that Smith was the No. 1
batter in the world. "I'm not amazed, he goes out there and sticks to a
plan and it works for him, so hats off to our captain."
The Australian bowlers were under
pressure early on an unusually slow Gabba wicket when England added 50
without loss to the overnight total, but Mitchell Starc's dismissal of
Malan ended his 83-run fifth-wicket stand with Moeen Ali (38) and
triggered a collapse as three wickets fell for four runs. Lyon picked up
two wickets in seven balls, and the last six English wickets fell for 56
The tourists were out by lunch
following a late flurry from Stuart Broad (20), with Starc and Pat
Cummins picking up three wickets each and Lyon returning 2-78 from 36
But any confidence the Australians
gained in the first session eroded after the interval when opener
Cameron Bancroft (5) was caught behind off Broad in the fourth over in
his first Ashes innings.
Ali struck in his second over to
trap Usman Khawaja (11) lbw and Ball made a key breakthrough with his
first Ashes wicket, getting combative opener Warner (26) out paddling a
catch to mid-wicket as Australia slipped to 59-3 in the 20th over.
"We sort of see Warner and Smith as
the two main Australian players, so for me to get one of the big players
out is very satisfying," Ball said. "I think a few of the lads in the
team were happy to see the back of him."
Australia's position deteriorated
to 76-4 when Peter Handscomb (14) was given out lbw on review to Jimmy
Anderson, who struck the Australian No. 5 on the back pad directly in
front of middle and leg stumps.
It took Smith and Marsh's stand —
the first significant partnership of the innings — to dig the home team
out of serious danger at a ground where Australia haven't lost a test
match since 1988, and where England haven't recorded a victory in 31
"The game is still in the balance,"
Lyon said. "England bowled very well to take four early wickets but I
think we've fought back hard and there's a massive partnership out there
now and hopefully we can build on that.
"There are two unbelievable batters
at the crease with Tim Paine and the bowlers to come — there's a lot of
cricket left in this game."
Tsonga levels for France in Davis Cup final against Belgium
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates after defeating Belgium's Steve Darcis while
French captain Yannick Noah, right, applauds during the Davis Cup final at
the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Lille, northern France, Friday, Nov. 24. (AP
Lille, France (AP) — David
Goffin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are each on top of their games.
Both were up to the task in Friday's
opening singles matches of the Davis Cup final, delivering lopsided wins to
leave France and Belgium tied at 1-1.
Tsonga swept past 76th-ranked Steve
Darcis 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 to put the hosts level after Goffin had given Lucas
Pouille a master class of offensive tennis in Lille, just across the Belgian
Goffin won 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.
Tsonga and Goffin are set to play
against each other on Sunday in what is shaping up as a potentially decisive
contest following Saturday's doubles.
"Let's wait and see which one will be
able to impose his tactics," France captain Yannick Noah said.
Tsonga missed several chances to move
ahead early in the first set but finally broke for a 5-3 lead with a deep
forehand attack on his fourth break point. The Frenchman then claimed five
consecutive games and served out the second set at love with a drop shot
that hit the net cord and dribbled over for a winner.
Tsonga continued to play consistent and
occasionally brilliant tennis in the third, including a series of reflex
"My goal was to bring my team back,"
Tsonga said. "No matter how. Now I'm looking forward to Sunday to fight to
Earlier, Goffin was in control
throughout as he ended a three-match losing streak against Pouille by
hitting 21 winners and 12 aces without facing a break point on the indoor
hard court at Pierre Mauroy stadium.
Goffin's confidence is high following a
runner-up finish at the ATP Finals last week when he defeated Rafael Nadal
and Roger Federer.
"I have rarely seen him play at this
level," said Pouille. "Even when I hit first serves at 220 kph (137 mph) he
returned the ball 30 centimeters from the line. He is playing the best
tennis of his life."
After losing its three previous finals
in 2002, 2010 and 2014, nine-time champion France is under huge pressure to
deliver a first title at home since 1991.
Belgium, in the final for the second
time in three years, is seeking its first Davis Cup title.
"I pushed the salad bowl a bit closer
to the border," said Goffin, referring to the Davis Cup trophy. "Just a bit,
because it is heavy."
Before the opening match, French
substitute Julien Benneteau sobbed in the stands as his teammates stepped
onto the court. Benneteau was consoled by doubles teammate Nicolas Mahut,
who was cut by Noah on Thursday.
Noah said he noticed that Benneteau was
"And I tried to forget it very
quickly," he said without elaborating.
Mahut and Benneteau, who have won two
ATP titles together, were expected to play the doubles on Saturday but Noah
surprisingly chose to pair Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the
first time against Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore.
Captains have up until one hour before
the match to change their lineups and Goffin suggested he could also play in
Asked about his intentions, Noah said
he has yet to decide whether he will stick with Herbert and Gasquet, or send
out another team.
Against Pouille, Goffin played with
strapping on his left knee but still moved well.
Pouille never recovered from the
first-set loss and Goffin impressed in front of the buoyant Belgian fans
with his array of shots. He dictated points with deep groundstrokes.
Returning extremely well, he also came to the net with neat approach shots.
Day and Spieth go in opposite directions at Australian Open
Australia's Jason Day hits a shot from a fairway bunker on the 3rd hole
during the second round of the Australian Open Golf tournament in
Sydney, Friday, Nov. 24. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Sydney (AP) — Jason Day and
Jordan Spieth went in opposite directions Friday at the Australian Open.
Day had four consecutive birdies on
the back nine, including a 30-footer, for a 3-under 68 that left him a
stroke out of the second-round lead. Australian Lucas Herbert, who shot
66, is in front with a 9-under total of 133 on The Australian course.
First-round leader Cameron Davis,
who shot 72 Friday, is another stroke behind in third.
Defending champion Spieth earlier
failed to take advantage of ideal morning scoring conditions and had a
71 to fall further behind the leaders — eight strokes behind Herbert and
tied for 19th place with 10 others.
Spieth, who hasn't played since the
Presidents Cup in late September, has won the Australian Open two out of
the last three years and finished second the other time.
Day, who had seven birdies and four
bogeys, is aiming to win his first Australian Open title in his first
competitive appearance on home soil since 2013.
"It was quite tough out there today
with the winds," Day said. "But I played very well and gave myself a lot
of opportunities for birdies."
The 21-year-old Herbert led the
Australian Open into the final round last year — when he finished seven
shots off the pace in a tie for 20th — and is coming off a
second-place finish in last week's New South Wales Open.
"I think I warmed up this morning
and it felt really good, and I was like, 'I hope this sticks around',"
At least Spieth's morning start
Saturday means he will avoid the windy conditions that the leading
groups will have to contend with in the afternoon.
And that left him optimistic of a
comeback. In 2014, he shot a then course-record 63 at The Australian to
win his first Australian title by six shots.
"I feel like you can make up more
ground and come from behind here over I think any tournament I've played
this entire year," Spieth said. "The golf course will start to bake out
and you get really calm conditions in the morning that leave the windier
conditions for the afternoon, so I'll have a pretty gettable golf
course. If I can post something like 5, 6-under, then I'm very much in
Day agreed that Spieth is far from
out of it.
"It's Jordan Spieth," Day said. "If
he gets something going on the weekend he can hole a lot of putts and
make a lot of birdies and make a charge, and usually he does make a
charge on the weekend.
"Sometimes there's not a lot of
pressure on your shoulders. You just go out there and kind of free-will
it and that's how you make a ton of birdies and move up the leaderboard
Spieth said the seven-week layoff
was the longest he's had since his college days and that he felt rusty
and nervous at times during his first round which featured five bogeys
in windy conditions.
The wind began to pick up late in
Spieth's round Friday, as did his frustration level at times. On the
par-4 sixth — his 15th of the day — his drive traveled well over 300
meters, so far that it reached a spectator crossing area that officials
obviously felt was far enough from the tee.
Spieth took a drop from it, but his
approach to the green failed to spin back, leaving him a putt of at
least 20 feet. He missed his birdie attempt.
"It's just been the short game rust
that's kind of hurt me a bit the last couple of days that prevents me
from being 5 or so under," Spieth said.
At least he birdied the ninth — his
last hole Friday. Finishing on even-par would have left him just one
stroke away from the projected cut, which could have changed based on
"That was only my second one-putt
of the day," Spieth said. "The other was for par."
West Ham draw 1-1 with Leicester for Moyes' 1st point
Ham United's Winston Reid, left and Leicester City's Jamie Vardy vie for
the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between West
Ham United and Leicester City, at the London Stadium, in London, Friday
Nov. 24. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
London (AP) — Cheikhou
Kouyate equalized before the break to earn West Ham a 1-1 draw against
visiting Leicester on Friday for David Moyes' first point in his second
game in charge of the struggling Premier League club.
Moyes' side got off to a terrible
start with Angelo Ogbonna failing to clear Jamie Vardy's cross, allowing
Marc Albrighton to slide in for Leicester's opener in the eighth minute.
Leicester continued to dominate to
home fans' frustration and might have had a penalty when Albrighton went
down under Arthur Masuaku's challenge.
But West Ham gradually improved and
Ogbonna forced a save from Kasper Schmeichel.
Kouyate equalized with a header
after a Manuel Lanzini corner before the interval.
The home side went closer to
grabbing a winner toward the end.
West Ham stay 18th in the 20-team
league ahead of the rest of the 13th round, while Leicester moved up to
Kovalev looks to re-establish himself as light heavyweight
June 17, 2017, file photo, Sergey Kovalev, right, hits Andre Ward during a
light heavyweight championship boxing match in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John
New York (AP) — They call Sergey
Kovalev "Krusher." His opponent Saturday night, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, also
is a big-time puncher.
So not many people expect the 12-round
WBO light heavyweight title fight to go the distance at Madison Square
Those observers can't be sure, though,
what they will get from Kovalev. He lost his last two fights to the
now-retired Andre Ward, one by unanimous decision, the other being stopped
in the eighth round. They were the first defeats of the 34-year-old
Russian's career. Ward was the "krusher" then.
"All life is like a lesson for me,"
Kovalev said. "After my last three fights, some felt that I should get more
physically into my work life with my boxing again. But right now, I feel all
bad things are gone from my mind. Right now I concentrate, and I focus for
the future of my boxing career. I'm ready to be again a world champion and
collect my belts, if somebody will be ready to unify the title."
One step at a time, which means
handling Ukraine's Shabranskyy (19-1) whose resume doesn't approach
Kovalev's. Had Ward not stepped away, this HBO bout wouldn't have been for
any world belts.
Kovalev calls Ward's departure "extra
motivation" for Saturday night.
"My next fight without the belt was
going to be discouraging, because I must come back," Kovalev said. "I'm
really excited and ready to get my belts back. It would be really
interesting and really exciting, and I would fight anybody. I'm really happy
that this fight will be for the title and for the WBO, because this was the
first title that I had already.
"But now this is like a new chapter in
my boxing career. I am recharged. I am much stronger than last three fights
and you will see (that)."
Shabranskyy, 30, won his last two
outings after his lone defeat, to Sullivan Barrera in December. Barrera is
on the undercard against Felix Valera.
"Everything will be in the ring, so we
will see our situation in the ring," Shabranskyy said of facing Kovalev.
"Both guys are coming into this ring bringing everything that they have on
the line and, just because I have two consecutive wins after an unfortunate
loss doesn't mean anything."
Kovalev held the WBO belt for eight
defenses before losing to Ward. He also has owned the WBA and IBF crowns.
But those defeats to Ward have created
an aura of weakness that Kovalev must erase. Plus, if he is to have any
opportunity to unite the championships, he needs to earn one of them first.
He believes training in the United
States and ignoring "stuff" outside of the ring will serve him well in his
"The most important thing in my boxing
career that I should do during all my time here in America till I finish my
boxing career," he said, "is when I'm doing boxing, I should do boxing. Not
another business or a lot of flights to come back and forth to Russia to
spend free time. Because when I'm in Russia, I don't have the time like for
... doing the boxing. Just a lot of meetings, a lot of businesses, a lot of
wrong things. I mean, not sport at all.
"But right now, I'm here in America,
and started a new chapter in my boxing career."
Chargers beat fading Cowboys 28-6 on Thanksgiving
Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) sprints to the end zone
in front of Dallas Cowboys' Orlando Scandrick (32) and Byron Jones (31)
for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday,
Nov. 23, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Arlington, Texas (AP) —
Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers are on the move. Dak Prescott
and the Dallas Cowboys are fading fast.
Rivers threw for 434 yards and
three touchdowns in his first Thanksgiving game in his 14th season and
the Chargers beat the fading Cowboys 28-6 on Thursday.
Desmond King returned an
interception 90 yards for the punctuating touchdown as the Chargers
(5-6) moved within 1½ games of AFC West-leading Kansas City after
starting 0-4 while the Chiefs won their first five.
The defending NFC East champion
Cowboys (5-6) lost their third straight by at least 20 points, all
without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, in a damaging defeat for
their fading playoff hopes.
Dallas, playing its 50th
Thanksgiving game, finally ended a touchdown drought at a team-record 10
quarters on Rod Smith's 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter. The
Cowboys have been outscored 72-6 in the second half of the three losses.
Keenan Allen had a career-high 172
yards on 11 catches with a touchdown, giving him 23 grabs for 331 yards
and three scores in the past two games.
Prescott has looked lost without
Elliott, his backfield mate for a pair of remarkable rookie seasons that
led the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC last season. Prescott had
two interceptions, giving him five in two games after throwing just four
a year ago.
Last year's NFL Offensive Rookie of
the Year has nine picks for the season. Elliott is halfway through a
six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence.
LA overcame the loss of kicker Nick
Novak to a back injury, the second straight game that Dallas' opposing
kicker was injured and in the same game that Dallas' Dan Bailey returned
after missing four games with a groin injury.
Just like last week in the Cowboys'
blowout loss to division-leading Philadelphia, neither of the kickers
mattered much with the Dallas offense sputtering and the defense not
getting key stops.
Novak returned to make a 22-yard
field goal after the injury, but left for good after missing an extra
point. Punter Drew Kaser was 1 of 3 on extra points. The Chargers went
for a fourth-and-13 in field goal range in a scoreless game early in the
second quarter with Novak's status in doubt, coming up a yard short.
Four-time Pro Bowl left tackle
Tyron Smith returned for Dallas after missing two games with back and
groin injuries, but the Cowboys lost 2014 All-Pro right guard Zack
Martin to a concussion in the first half.
Rivers, who was 27 of 33 for a
149.1 passer rating without a sack, had seven completions of at least 22
That included Allen's weaving
42-yard catch-and-run for a score when he ran past safety Jeff Heath on
the sideline, cut between two more safeties in Xavier Woods and Byron
Jones before past cutting inside cornerback Anthony Brown for a 22-6
Austin Ekeler had a 38-yard catch
to set up San Diego's first touchdown in the third quarter, and Tyrell
Williams added a 31-yard grab before making a 27-yard scoring catch.
Keenum-led Vikings beat Lions 30-23, adding to division lead
Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones (11), guarded by Minnesota
Vikings cornerbacks Terence Newman (23) and Xavier Rhodes (29), catches
a 43-yard pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football
game, Thursday, Nov. 23, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Detroit (AP) — Case Keenum
stood in the pocket to take a hit, dipped his right shoulder to slip out
of a sack and shuffled his feet in the pocket to give his receivers more
time to get open.
Looking like a savvy winner,
instead of a journeyman, he picked apart Detroit's defense with his arm
and made plays with his legs to help the Minnesota Vikings beat the
Lions 30-23 Thursday.
Keenum threw for two touchdowns and
ran for a score in the first half to give the Vikings a double-digit
lead and they went on to win a seventh straight game.
They took a huge step toward
winning the NFC North by taking a three-game lead over the second-place
Keenum, undrafted out of Houston in
2012, is suddenly 7-2 this season after going 9-15 with the Houston
Texas and the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.
"I want to be great and I have
confidence in myself that I can be great," he said.
The Vikings signed him to be a
backup and he has made the most of his opportunities with Sam Bradford
injured and Teddy Bridgewater recovering from a knee injury.
Keenum was 21 of 30 for 282 yards
with both TD passes going to Kyle Rudolph, giving the Vikings a 20-3
lead late in the second quarter.
"Case is amazing because he does so
many small things to pick up first downs and keep drives alive," Rudolph
"Every time he finds a way to
convert another third down, it means we've got three more plays to
attack the defense. With the number of big-play guys we've got now, we
can do a lot of damage with those three plays."
Detroit (6-5) made mistakes in
every phase of the game and Minnesota took advantage. Keenum's 1-yard
pass to Rudolph was made a little easier because the Lions had just 10
defenders on the field.
And, Keenum's 9-yard run came after
Matthew Stafford was charged with a fumble while trying to hand off to
Instead of winning to pull within a
game of Minnesota and having a potential tiebreaker, the Lions' loss
hurts their chances of making a second straight postseason appearance.
"Don't count us out just yet,"
Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. "We've got a lot of football yet to
Cummins gets 2 wickets; England 196-4 at stumps on day 1
England's James Vince plays a shot during the Ashes cricket test between
England and Australia in Brisbane, Australia Thursday, Nov. 23. (AP
Brisbane, Australia (AP) —
Unheralded batsmen James Vince and Mark Stoneman guided England to a
steady 196-4 on Thursday's opening day of the Ashes series, with
Australia seamer Pat Cummins grabbing two key English wickets.
Vince, with 83, and Stoneman, with
53, combined defiantly in their first experience of Ashes cricket to
blunt the much-hyped pace attack, each posting their highest test score
in a 125-run second-wicket stand after opener Alastair Cook fell
Cummins (2-59) bowled Stoneman in
the last over of a middle session delayed for more than an hour by rain,
claiming his first test wicket on Australian soil. He came back in the
evening session — after Nathan Lyon brilliantly ran out Vince — to trap
England skipper Joe Root (15) lbw, getting a not out decision
overturned, and ensuring the day was evenly poised.
At stumps, Dawan Malan was unbeaten
on 28 and Moeen Ali on 13 when bad light stopped play in the 81st over,
three balls after Australia took the new ball and one after Mitchell
Starc had a review of an lbw decision rejected.
Cummins said the wicket of Root was
"pretty much the dream wicket — one of the most satisfying I've ever
"To set him up with a couple of
overs of outswing, then try to bowl one big inswinger — probably only
comes off one-in-100 times, but when it does it's pretty special,"
Cummins said. "Fortunately, it was their captain, so I couldn't be
happier with that."
The day started according to
Australia's pre-series script, with Starc striking in the third over to
have former England captain Cook caught at first slip for 2 with the
total on 2.
That exposed a left-right
second-wicket pair — some Australian critics openly wondered if Vince
and Stoneman were ready for the Ashes environment — with a combined 10
previous test caps to a potentially hostile initiation.
But they weathered the new ball
with reasonable comfort, preventing Australia from capitalizing on the
Vince rarely played a loose stroke
in four hours and 170 balls. He did get a reprieve on 68, though, when
recalled wicketkeeper Tim Paine put down a routine chance off Lyon's
bowling late in the middle session.
Stoneman improved by one on his
previous highest test score before Cummins beat him with a ball that
jagged back off the seam.
The bluster from the Australians
leading up to the Gabba test centered on their 5-0 sweep here the last
time England toured in 2013-14.
Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Cummins
toiled on a slightly soft pitch before and after a rain-delay, which
reduced the pace or extra bounce that the Brisbane venue is famous for.
The Australia quicks were under the
spotlight from the first ball after losing the toss at the Gabba, where
the Australians haven't lost a test since 1988.
The early points went to the
batsmen. In the 11th over, Hazlewood fielded off his own bowling and
hurled the ball back toward the stumps. Vince responded by stroking two
deliveries for boundaries. Hazlewood, usually the most consistent of the
quicks with his persistent line and length, struggled with his rhythm
and had 0-51 from 18 overs.
Lyon (0-40) caused the most
difficulties for the batsmen after joining the attack in the 18th over
and getting his first ball to turn sharply, but didn't get a wicket. He
had unsuccessful appeals before the regulation caught-behind chance was
His athletic run out, though —
picking up a half-volley on the run from cover and throwing down the
stumps at the non-striker's end to catch Vince well out of his ground —
was a significant momentum turner. Cummins said it was the play of the
day, and even Vince praised Lyon's fielding effort.
"It's disappointing obviously — you
always want more," runs, said Vince, who predicted England could reach
400 if they got away to a fast start on Friday. "It would have been nice
to be there at the end but stuff like that happens in cricket."
England hold the Ashes after
winning the 2015 series 3-2 at home.
Spieth struggles, Day OK after Australian Open's 1st round
Jordan Spieth of the U.S. watches his tee shot on the 6th during
the opening round of the Australian Open Golf tournament in Sydney,
Thursday, Nov. 23. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Sydney (AP) — Defending
champion Jordan Spieth struggled in gusty afternoon winds Thursday at
the Australian Open, while Jason Day took advantage of more calm morning
The result was that the
tournament's marquee players were overshadowed by first-round leader
Cameron Davis, who shot an 8-under 63 at The Australian Golf Club.
That left Day, making his first
competitive appearance in his home country since 2013, three strokes
behind after a 66. Spieth was seven strokes behind after shooting 70.
Spieth, who bogeyed his first two
holes and appeared to be out of sorts for most of his round, is trying
to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years.
Taylor MacDonald was two strokes
behind fellow Australian Davis and alone in second place, while two
other Australians, Nick Cullen and Alex Edge, were level with Day at
5-under, tied for third.
All but two of the leading 18
players had morning tee times.
Spieth said he was rusty after a
"It was a bit inconsistent," Spieth
said. "But I had five bogeys, and to still shoot under par is really
good. There was a bit of good there after a rough start."
An indication of the state of
Spieth's play came on the par-5 14th hole when his approach went wide
and under a large advertising sign. Spieth and a course worker moved
the sign, then Spieth hit his short wedge into a bunker. After blasting
out to about seven feet, he missed the putt and made bogey.
Matt Jones, the 2015 champion
playing in Spieth's group, picked up some of the American's bad luck. He
bogeyed three holes in a row and then got chased by a duck coming up the
16th fairway before finishing with a 71.
Spieth missed an eight-foot birdie
putt on the 16th, hit into the fairway bunker on the 17th and put his
approach through the green, but scrambled to make par. He finished on a
good note, though, making a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.
"I was a little anxious to get
started, my short game was a bit rusty," Spieth said. "But I started to
pick it up and it was pretty good from there."
Spieth should be able to take
advantage of expected calmer conditions in his morning round on Friday.
"There were tremendous scoring
conditions this morning which we're hoping to see in the morning
tomorrow, so I've got to go out and take advantage and move up the
board," he said. "Those guys will get what we had this afternoon and
it'll certainly be more difficult, so being seven back isn't really
seven back, given the difference in the waves."
Day's round came unhinged late with
a double-bogey six on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day.
He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the
fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and
"That was brutal," Day said of the
440-meter hole. He recovered quickly, however, to birdie his last hole.
The Ohio-based Day appeared to
enjoy being back in Australia, posing for selfies with fans and signing
autographs after his round.
"It was a pretty solid round, I
didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens," Day said. "I'd
give myself a seven or eight out of 10. I think it's definitely out
there to shoot a deep one, but that's kind of the thing, you almost need
to come out and capitalize when there's no wind."
The Sydney-born Davis played most
of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to
secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10
in Chandler, Arizona.
"Everything went to plan," Davis
said. "I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able
to keep it together on the back nine."
Hamilton and Vettel already focused on 2018 F1 title battle
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, left, looks to
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain during a news conference at
the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday,
Nov. 23. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
(AP) — Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are
already looking forward to fighting each other for a fifth Formula One
title next year.
With Hamilton wrapping up this
year's title two races ago, the pressure is off this week at the
season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Both are projecting to 2018, where
the four-time champions get back to the serious business of trying to
catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.
"Certainly we will never match him
in how successful he was in such a short space of time," Vettel said on
Thursday at a news conference. "Back then racing was different. The cars
were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was)
the best we've ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill."
Only Michael Schumacher with seven
titles has won more than Fangio, who drove in F1 from 1950-58.
"It was the most dangerous period
of time in motorsport. I feel honored to be so close to such a great
sporting icon," Hamilton said of Fangio. "He should be celebrated more
for his success. He's not mentioned a huge amount. He's kind of the
godfather of the sport for the drivers."
Some may come to revere Hamilton
like that in time.
He has won 62 races — second only
to Schumacher's 91 — and holds the record for pole positions with 72.
The 32-year-old British driver has won three of the past four titles —
losing to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 — and was at the peak
of his powers this season.
After trailing Vettel at the
halfway point, he pulled away after the summer break and leads the
German driver by 43 points.
Hamilton is arguably the fiercest
competitor around and is already thinking about how Vettel plans to turn
"Whatever weakness Sebastian had,
he'll work on those over the winter. No one's perfect, even I have
things to work on," Hamilton said, without a trace of irony. "He's going
to raise the bar next year and I'll have to as well, otherwise things
won't be the same.
"Ferrari had a very, very good
season. Half the season they were in the lead and that wasn't down to
luck," Hamilton added. "Red Bull is also going to be (competing for the
title) next year."
Considering how poor Ferrari was in
2016, this year can still be viewed as a success with Vettel winning
five races compared to none last year.
Vettel joked that winning the title
in 2018 will be "a walk in the park" if Ferrari improves by the same
amount, then took a more serious view of the situation.
"That final step is always the
hardest. But the team is ready and fired up," said Vettel, who won four
titles with Red Bull from 2010-13. "We made the biggest step of all. We
lost out as the season progressed. In the end we weren't good enough to
take it to the last race, but there's so much potential still."
He accepted that he ultimately fell
short because "Lewis made less mistakes" than he did.
Poised to regain the championship
lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position back in
September — turning the tide in Hamilton's favor. Reliability issues
plagued Ferrari at the next two races. He started last and finished
fourth at the Malaysian GP and then qualified third before retiring from
the Japanese GP.
In June, the rivals were embroiled
in their most heated clash at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.
Vettel drove alongside Hamilton's
Mercedes as they waited behind the safety car for the restart, and was
adjudged to have deliberately nudged the side of him. Tempers frayed and
barbs were exchanged. Vettel initially denied it was deliberate but
subsequently apologized for dangerous driving.
That incident genuinely threatened
to spoil their healthy rivalry, but they joke about it now.
Asked on Thursday what their
highlight of the season was, both drivers — sitting next to each other —
laughed easily when Baku was suggested.
Referring to the upcoming
end-of-season F1 awards, Vettel put himself forward for three.
"I should get (overtaking) move of
the year, personality of the year, and fair play ... maybe not."
Barcelona, Chelsea advance to Champions League last 16
Chelsea's Willian, right, scores his side’s fourth goal of the
game during their Champions League, group C match against Qarabag FK at
the Baku Olympic stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan, Wednesday, Nov. 22. (AP
London (AP) - Chelsea
advanced to the knockout stage of the Champions League with a game to
spare after beating 10-man Qarabag 4-0 on Wednesday, securing manager
Antonio Conte's 50th victory in all competitions with the Blues.
Barcelona needed only a point to
reach the Round of 16 and the Spanish superpower got exactly that
against Juventus. A 0-0 draw at last year's runner-up was enough to
ensure top spot in Group D.
Already through, Paris
Saint-Germain conceded the first goal of their European campaign in the
first minute - before then unleashing unstoppable firepower to thrash
Celtic 7-1 in Paris.
A goalless draw at Basel would have
been enough for Manchester United to top Group A, but the Premier League
club slipped to their first group stage loss, going down 1-0 to a goal
conceded just a minute from time.
Here is a look at what happened in
Manchester United were deservedly
beaten 1-0 by a spirited Basel, leaving all the qualification places
open with one game remaining. Basel defender Michael Lang struck in the
89th minute to earn a win for the Swiss champions.
Still, United lead the standings
with 12 points, three clear of both Basel and CSKA Moscow, who earlier
won 2-0 at home to last-place Benfica.
In the final round on Dec. 5, Basel
play at last-place Benfica, and United host CSKA.
Georgy Shchennikov gave CSKA an
early lead, despite an apparent offside. Then an own goal from Jardel
ensured that Benfica — who are eliminated — suffered their fifth defeat
in five Champions League games.
Neymar scored twice and set up
another goal as Paris Saint-Germain produced their biggest Champions
League win and extend a perfect record in the group stage this season.
PSG lead Group B with 15 points,
three more than Bayern Munich, who won 2-1 at Anderlecht. Both PSG and
Bayern are guaranteed a spot in the knockout phase and will battle for
group supremacy on Dec. 5.
Celtic forward Moussa Dembele
surprised the hosts with his first minute goal, but PSG responded with
four goals in the first half - two from Neymar, one from Edinson Cavani
and the other from Kylian Mbappe.
The one-way traffic continued after
the break with Cavani scoring again to take his career total with PSG to
151, while Marco Verratti and Dani Alves also found the net.
Following a humbling 3-0 loss in
Rome, Willian led Chelsea's efforts to get their European campaign back
on track, scoring a goal in each half and winning a penalty.
Eden Hazard made it 1-0 from the
penalty spot in the 21st minute, calmly sending the goalkeeper the wrong
way. Home team captain Rashad F. Sadygov had received a straight red
card for tugging back Willian just inside the area as the Chelsea
forward ran onto Eden Hazard's pass.
Hazard then fed Willian with a
back-heel pass to make it 2-0 in the 37th.
Qarabag, the first club from
Azerbaijan to reach the group stage of the Champions League, had no
better luck in the second half. Cesc Fabregas scored from the penalty
spot in the 73rd minute and Willian added his second goal, a drive from
20 meters, five minutes from time.
Antoine Griezmann found the net
with a stunning overhead kick as Atletico Madrid defeated Roma 2-0 to
keep alive their hopes of advancing.
Substitute Kevin Gameiro scored the
second to seal Atletico's first Champions League victory this season.
Atletico have six points, two less
than Roma, with one match to play.
Juventus will have to wait until
the final round to try and qualify for the knockout stages. The Italian
side remained second in the group but are only a point above Sporting
Lisbon, who beat Olympiakos 3-1.
The Italian side — who reached the
final in two of the last three seasons — next visit Olympiakos, while
Sporting travel to Barcelona.
Barcelona, who rested Lionel Messi
until the 56th minute, went closest to breaking the deadlock when Ivan
Rakitic hit the post with a free kick.
In Portugal, Bas Dost scored a goal
in each half for Sporting Lisbon. Bruno Cesar added the third while
Vadis Odjidja scored the consolation goal for Olympiakos.
Sochi gold medalist among 4 Russians banned for doping
Elena Nikitina of Russia is shown in this Friday, Feb. 14, 2014
file photo. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Moscow (AP) — Two more
Russian athletes were stripped of their Olympic medals from the 2014
Sochi Games on Wednesday, leaving the United States as the country with
the most medals.
Four Russians, all skeleton racers,
were banned by the International Olympic Committee for doping, including
men's gold medalist Alexander Tretyakov and women's bronze medalist
Russia, which finished the games at
the top of the medals table with 13 gold and 33 overall, has now been
stripped of six medals based on evidence of a state-sponsored doping
program in Sochi, including samples being swapped in the laboratory. Two
of the six medals were gold.
The Russians still lead the medals
table with 11 gold, tied with Norway, but have fallen behind the United
States in overall medals. The Americans, who won nine gold medals, have
28 overall, one more than Russia's current total of 27. Norway has 26
If the IOC decides to upgrade
athletes who finished behind the banned Russians, the table would change
Two other Russian women who didn't
win medals, Maria Orlova and Olga Potylitsina, were also banned
Russian officials said all four
banned athletes will file appeals.
"We are absolutely sure of the
innocence of our athletes and will stand up for their rights," the
Russian Bobsled Federation, which governs skeleton, said in a statement.
The previous six bans were in
cross-country skiing. The cases against the Russians rest on evidence
gathered by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren,
including testimony from the former director of Russia's anti-doping
laboratories in Moscow and Sochi.
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.
The IOC will decide on Dec. 5 if
Russia can compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
The ban for Tretyakov puts Latvia
in line for its first Winter Olympic gold medal. If the IOC formally
reallocates the medals, Martins Dukurs would be upgraded to gold. It
would also mean silver for Matthew Antoine of the United States and
bronze for Dukurs' brother, Tomass.
In the women's event, Nikitina's
bronze would go to American slider Katie Uhlaender, who originally
missed the podium by 0.04 seconds.
The IOC sanctions disqualify the
four Russian skeleton racers from the Sochi Olympics and also ban them
from all future Olympics.
Russian Olympic Committee president
Alexander Zhukov said more sanctions are possible.
"I think we can expect the same
decisions for the bobsledders and the female hockey players," Zhukov
said. "The rulings are all the same."
Russia won two gold medals in men's
bobsled at the 2014 Olympics, but there has been no official
confirmation that the IOC is investigating. The Russian women's hockey
team didn't win a medal.
The Russian government has
repeatedly denied any involvement in doping or any cover-ups and says
its athletes are being unfairly targeted. President Vladimir Putin has
said the Olympic doping cases are part of an American bid to discredit
his government ahead of presidential elections in March.
Jordan Spieth sets the bar high at the Australian Open
Jordan Spieth of the U.S. speaks ahead of the Australian Open Golf
tournament in Sydney, Wednesday, Nov. 22. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Sydney (AP) - Jordan Spieth
has another tough act to follow at the Australian Open.
Spieth won the tournament in 2014
in his first appearance Down Under when it was played at The Australian
Golf Club in Sydney. He won it again in 2016 in a playoff at Royal
Sydney, a year after finishing tied for second with Adam Scott and a
shot behind winner Matt Jones at The Australian.
Beginning Thursday at The
Australian, Spieth will attempt to make it three Australian Open titles
in four appearances. Jason Day, playing back home in Australia for the
first time in four years, is his major opponent.
Spieth won the Masters and U.S.
Open in 2015 and Day won the PGA Championship. Both players were also
within one shot of a three-man playoff in the British Open that year.
They are playing together in
Australia for the first time.
"The 2015 season was a lot of fun,"
Spieth recalled Wednesday. "The last three majors of the year, we both
had a chance to win on championship Sunday. That's rare to have a few
times in a row, especially two people to have the chance."
Spieth will look to win his third
Stonehaven Cup without caddie Michael Greller, who has been on the bag
in all 14 of the Texan's professional wins, including three majors.
Greller has decided to stay in the
U.S. with his wife Ellie after the Oct. 13 birth of their son, Barrett.
Spieth's long-time coach, Australian Cameron McCormick, will be his
caddie for the tournament.
Scott will be missing his national
championship for the first time in a decade.
"There were some communications and
discussions had and unfortunately we couldn't reach an agreement with
Adam," tournament director Trevor Herden said.
Australian fans will get to see
Scott at at next week's Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines on
the Gold Coast in Queensland. Masters champion Sergio Garcia and Marc
Leishman are also playing at the PGA.
After Day and Spieth, the
Australian Open field becomes very thin. It has only two other distant
major winners — 2006 U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy and 2003 Masters
champion Mike Weir, along with a host of veteran and younger
"It's a disappointing situation
when Adam Scott's not playing the Australian Open," Ogilvy said. "You
can find blame or whatever ... but we've got a pretty good field. Most
golf tournaments would fall over themselves to get Jordan and Jason in
their field, so that's pretty good."
Day, a former No. 1 who has slipped
to 12th after going winless in 18 months, will play with Ogilvy and Rod
Pampling in a morning start Thursday.
Day has packed on some weight — he
is about nine kilograms (20 pounds) heavier than he was at the start of
"Unfortunately I think I was doing
the wrong things in the gym," Day said. "I got a little too big in the
upper body and it restricted my (swing) turn."
Spieth will join Jones, who has
played as a member at The Australian since he was 15, and fellow
Australian Cameron Smith in an early afternoon group. Smith was among
the three-man playoff last year at Royal Sydney when Spieth won his
"To get into the playoff and be so
close, not a good feeling," Smith said Wednesday. "I had a bit of a
heavy heart for a few weeks. "
Goffin looking to cap terrific end of season with Davis Cup
Belgium's David Goffin returns the ball during a training session at the
Pierre Mauroy stadium in Lille, northern France, Wednesday, Nov.22. (AP
Paris (AP) — David Goffin will
soon find out if his self-confidence can help him get over fatigue.
Following victories over Rafael Nadal
and Roger Federer last week at the ATP Finals, Goffin's morale is rock solid
as he prepares to lead Belgium against France in the Davis Cup final.
The French, with a team featuring
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille and doubles specialists including Nicolas
Mahut, Julien Benneteau and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, are favored to win a 10th
title, their first since 2001 after losing finals in 2002, 2010 and 2014.
The Belgians can't boast the same depth
in their squad, with Steve Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans and Arthur De Greef
expected to play a role this weekend alongside Goffin in the northern French
city of Lille, where the hosts have opted for an indoor hard court.
Despite an ailing knee and 11 singles
matches played over the past month, the seventh-ranked Goffin is carrying
the hopes of Belgium to finally lift the Davis Cup trophy.
"Because I'm a top 10 player people
expect me to win my two singles matches," said Goffin, who has an impressive
19-3 Davis Cup record in singles matches. "My knee needs some rest following
my runner-up spot at the Masters last Sunday, but for now it holds. I won't
have any problem playing at 110 percent over the whole weekend."
The 26-year-old Goffin has recovered
from an ankle injury he sustained at the French Open to finish the year on a
high note. Before losing to Grigor Dimitrov for the ATP Finals title in
London, Goffin claimed back-to-back titles at Shenzhen and Tokyo. Next could
be a Davis Cup triumph in the heated atmosphere of the 27,500-capacity
Pierre Mauroy Stadium, where thousands of Belgium's fans will gather after
making the short trip across the border.
"It would be really nice to finish the
year like that," Goffin said. "It's such a nice event, really important for
us, for the country, for Belgium. It would be incredible to go back home
with the trophy. We are not the favorites. We have almost nothing to lose
The pressure will indeed be on French
shoulders. Led by captain Yannick Noah, the hosts are looking for their
first title on home soil since 1991, and recent statistics don't play in
their favor: In the last four finals, the visiting team won the title,
including three years ago when Switzerland defeated France at the same
Noah, the last Frenchman to win a Grand
Slam title back in 1983 at Roland Garros, has never won the Davis Cup as a
player but captained his country to victory twice, in 1991 and 1996 in
"We're looking to write our piece of
history," Noah said. "As the French team, we've won before. But it was a
long time ago. Now we're preparing to do our own with this team. This is
what we're looking for."
Another issue for the French team is
Goffin's tendency to be at his best when he plays with his country. The
seventh-ranked Goffin has won 15 of the last 16 singles matches he played
"We are convinced that we can win,
otherwise we would not step onto the court," Goffin said.
The 15th-ranked Tsonga and No. 18
Pouille are expected to lead the French team in singles play, with Benneteau
and Richard Gasquet listed as substitutes. Herbert and Mahut, who played in
doubles at the ATP Finals, have been selected as a team. But Herbert has
been struggling with a back injury recently and Noah could be tempted to
pair Mahut and Benneteau in Saturday's doubles.
"The final decision will be made at the
last minute," Noah said. "It will be difficult because all six players are
in form. I've had easier choices to make."