By Justin PalmerJohn Terry’s early header and Cesc Fabregas’ second-half strike restored Chelsea’s three-point Premier League lead heading into a busy Christmas programme after a 2-0 win at Stoke City on Monday night.Chelsea were ahead inside two minutes at the Britannia Stadium when Terry met a Fabregas corner with a powerful downward header.Stoke pushed forward after the break without ever causing fit-again Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois many problems and Fabregas sealed victory with a scuffed finish 12 minutes from time.“These victories mean more than three points, to win and get three points the players need the right spirit and mentality, to win here they must be a really very good team with the capacity to adapt to Stoke’s style of play,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told the BBC.Chelsea, who host West Ham United on Friday, have 42 points from 17 games with Manchester City, who visit West Brom the same day, on 39 and Manchester United on 32.“Now we have to focus on the three matches we still have until the end of this period,” Mourinho said of the clash with Sam Allardyce’s West Ham, the trip to Southampton on Sunday and another London derby with Tottenham on New Year’s Day.“Playing against Big Sam is a hard job for us, we have to cope with it. The three point lead we have is a little advantage, it is a little pillow we have to protect us – we go home happy and pleased with what we did.”Stoke beat Chelsea in this fixture last season but the hosts were always up against it after Terry timed his run to perfection and beat Asmir Begovic with a powerful header for his first league goal in over a year.Mark Hughes’ side tried to harry and hustle Chelsea but the superior class of the leaders always shone through.Courtois, back after a muscular injury, was rarely troubled although the Belgian needed to produce a fine save midway through the first half from Steven N’Zonzi’s deflected strike.Top scorer Diego Costa should have increased Chelsea’s lead when Stoke tried and failed to catch him offside, the Spaniard timing his run perfectly – only to the skew his shot wide.Fabregas might have been awarded a penalty when he appeared to be clipped by Ryan Shawcross soon after half-time but Stoke escaped.Charlie Adam drilled wide from edge of box following neat approach play from Stoke but Chelsea soaked up the pressure and made the points safe when Eden Hazard, who needed lengthy treatment in stoppage time, fed Fabregas and the Spaniard beat Begovic.
By Julian LindenINDIA, growing in confidence with every match, thrashed Bangladesh by 109 runs on Thursday in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.The defending world champions made light work of their clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, outclassing their Asian neighbours to stretch their unbeaten run at the tournament to seven games.India will now play either Australia or Pakistan in the semi-finals in Sydney next week and on current form, they will be hard to beat.Batting first, India compiled a daunting total of 302 for six, built on the back of a magnificent century from Rohit Sharma, who completed his first World Cup hundred with a slice of luck.One of the most dangerous batsmen in the world, his return to form could not have come at a better time for an Indian team that struggled in the lead-up to the World Cup but is rapidly gaining momentum.Rohit was caught in the deep when he was on 90 but was given a second life when the umpires ruled that Rubel Hossain’s delivery was above waist-height and therefore a no-ball, although television replays suggested otherwise.Rohit went on to make 137 off 126 balls, highlighted by 14 boundaries and three sixes, while the left-handed Suresh Raina chipped in a with a quickfire 65 after India had waddled along to 115-3 and needed a lift.Bangladesh, appearing in their first World Cup quarter-final, kept the Indian batsmen in check through the first 35 overs, stalling their run-rate with their spin bowlers.But they dropped their heads after Rohit was given his reprieve and gave up 147 runs off the last 15 overs, leaving themselves a near impossible run-chase at one of cricket’s biggest and most intimidating cauldrons.Bangladesh are one of the most improved sides in cricket. They beat England to make the quarter-finals but found India too hot.Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes came out all guns blazing, smacking 31 off the first six overs but when they fell in successive balls in the next over the run-chase was doomed.Their frustrations were compounded by India’s excellent fielding, once one of their weakest points but now one of their strongest.India have bowled out their opponents in all seven matches they have played at the World Cup, another ominous warning for their remaining challengers.Shikhar Dhawan took a juggled catch on the fine leg boundary rope to send Mahmudullah, who had scored two consecutive hundreds in the Pool stage, on his way for 21.Then the Indian captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni took a diving catch to remove Soumya Sarkar for 29 to effectively end any hopes of a Bangladesh upset.
By John GeddieScotland brought Japan’s dream Rugby World Cup start back down to earth on Wednesday as they ran in five second-half tries for a 45-10 win over the Brave Blossoms who were clearly tiring after their epic victory against the Springboks.Playing at his club’s home ground of Kingsholm, Gloucester, the ever-reliable boot of Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw nudged the Scots to a half-time lead of 12-7, before the game opened up and Scotland’s backs started to run riot.In the early exchanges, Scotland stuck to a clear game plan, kicking the ball deep into Japan’s territory, and it paid off with scrum-half Laidlaw kicking Scotland six points up within the first 10 minutes.But it was Japan that got the first try, against the run of play, when a textbook driving maul from a lineout allowed number eight Amanaki Mafi to crash over. Veteran full-back Ayumu Goromaru added the extras to put Japan narrowly in front.It proved to be a short-lived lead with the Laidlaw’s kicking punishing Japanese errors, one in which winger Kotaro Matsushima was sent to the sin bin for a ripping the ball illegally from winger Sean Lamont, as they led 12-7 at the break.Two barnstorming runs by the hulking Mafi rattled the Scots when play resumed, and it was a real blow for the Japanese when he was taken off injured but a penalty by Goromaru closed the game to 12-10The Scots regained composure and a neat inside pass sent Lamont scything through. Centre Matt Scott was hauled down just before the line and from the resulting ruck flanker John Hardie, playing in only his third game for Scotland, got over in the corner.The Scots’ attack then started firing against a Japanese side clearly exhausted from their 34-32 victory over twice-winners South Africa on Saturday.Full-back Stuart Hogg danced through the line to open the way for centre Mark Bennett to cross for Scotland’s second and the game was settled when Seymour caught an interception and ran the length of the pitch to score.Bennett then sidestepped his way through to grab a bonus-point-securing fourth s and Russell, who had been an attacking threat all day, rounded off a satisfying day with the fifth.“Happy days with that result – but that is just the start hopefully for this team,” said Laidlaw.“We talked at length about playing for 80 minutes and we have done that today. I thought we were outstanding for the duration. They said if they were in the game at half-time they could take us, so we were determined and outstanding.“Credit to Japan though, they were awesome against South Africa and really tough opponents again today. That win against South Africa blew the group wide open and meant it was important for us to win today.”Scotland top the Pool B standings with five points, to the four of Samoa and Japan with South Africa on two and the United States pointless.
By Martyn HermanRafael Nadal’s late-season resurgence continued at the ATP World Tour Finals when he beat wayward French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 6-2 to open his account on Monday night.The Spaniard, who has climbed back to fifth in the rankings after falling to 10th in a miserable summer, took advantage of an error-strewn Wawrinka display to move level with Andy Murray at the top of Ilie Nastase Group.Nadal, back at the Tour Finals after missing out last year because of appendicitis surgery, dropped his opening service game to love but then broke Wawrinka’s as the first nine points all went the way of the receiver.Wawrinka blazed a forehand to fall 5-3 behind in the opener and Nadal wrapped up the set with an ace.Nadal failed to convert any of the seven break points Wawrinka offered up at the start of the second set and then had to save two himself in the next game, one with a stunning lob.World number four Wawrinka offered precious little resistance after that and his unforced error count climbed to 35 as Nadal raced to victory.The 14-time grand slam champion has won 14 of his 18 matches since a disappointing defeat in the US Open third round by Fabio Fognini, reaching finals in Beijing and Basel as well as the semis in Shanghai.He will face Murray on Wednesday after the Briton also won his opening match against David Ferrer earlier on Monday.
VfL Wolfsburg are confident their recent good form can carry them past Gent on Tuesday (9.45pm) and into the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.The Wolves, who won the first leg 3-2 in Belgium after leading 3-0 and conceding two late goals, are fuelled up on confidence following a 2-1 victory over in-form Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.It was their second league win in five days and moved them back into seventh place in the table.“When you win against such a top team like Gladbach then you are allowed to be confident,” said Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs. “We are back in the game.”Wolfsburg, last season’s runners-up and German Cup winners, seem to have recovered from their slump earlier in the campaign in time for the biggest European game in the club’s history.“We know that the tie is not finished yet,” Allofs said. “But if we play like we did against Gladbach then we will advance into the next round.”Julian Draxler, who scored against both Gent and Gladbach, limped off on Saturday midway through the second half but is expected to be fit for Tuesday.Max Kruse, who also scored in both those games, picked up a knock but will be ready to face Gent, said coach Dieter Hecking.“Games like the one on Tuesday should heal every wound,” Hecking said.Gent slipped two points behind Belgian league leaders Club Bruges after a 1-1 draw with second-bottom OH Leuven on Friday. Gent failed to find a winner despite their opponents having their goalkeeper sent off.Coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck is still sweating over the fitness of striker Laurent Depoitre, who missed Friday’s match and Saturday training with a bad back and strained abdomen.Serbian centre back Stefan Mitrovic, whose foot injury has kept him out for two weeks, is also a doubt.Yet even if they are depleted, the Belgians believe they have a chance in Germany.“When we were 0-3 down (against Wolfsburg), everyone thought this away tie would be just a city outing for us,” goalkeeper Matz Sels said when asked if he was optimistic about the return leg.“But thanks to the two goals we scored we have made it a contest. We certainly shouldn’t throw it open at the start because it would be deadly for us to concede a goal.”“Even if we only go 1-0 up in the 80th minute it would 10 minutes of jitters for Wolfsburg and then you never know if you have another good crack with the ball,” he said.
Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg stormed to pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix in a mixed Saturday qualifying session for Mercedes, with world champion Lewis Hamilton left at the back of the grid after engine trouble prevented him setting a time.The German put in a one minute 35.402 second lap to seize a 23rd career pole and first of the season as qualifying reverted back to the 2015 formula following complaints from the teams about a new system used in the two opening races.Despite the chopping and changing in formats, Sunday’s race will be the ninth straight a Mercedes has started from the front.That put the German, who last started on pole in the 2015 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, over half-a-second clear of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was a surprise second.But despite the margin of his dominance, it was a day of contrasts for the Mercedes as Hamilton ran into engine problems in the opening phase of qualifying.The Briton, already carrying a five-place grid penalty for a change of gearbox, complained of a lack of power from his Mercedes engine.Though he did go out near the end of the 18-minute session, the problem was too severe and forced him back into the pits.“These things are sent to try us and I am sure we will learn from it,” Hamilton, who had been hoping to land his third successive Shanghai win in Sunday’s race, told broadcasters immediately after the session.“The car is quick, hopefully they get the issue fixed and we can have a race tomorrow.”Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest and Sebastian Vettel fourth in an all-Ferrari second row.The Maranello-based squad had set the pace in all sessions except Friday morning’s opening practice but their challenge faltered when it mattered in an incident filled qualifying.The session started in damp conditions and was halted twice.The first stoppage lasted 20 minutes as marshals dried up wet patches on the track after Manor rookie Pascal Wehrlein crashed in the opening session, while the second came in the next when Nico Hulkenberg’s front-left wheel came off his Force India.
Arnold Palmer, one of golf’s greatest players whose immense popularity drew a legion of fans to the game at the dawn of the age of televised sport, died of heart complications on Sunday. He was 87.Palmer, a charismatic figure popularly known as ‘The King’ who accumulated 62 career victories on the PGA Tour including seven major championships, died at UPMC Hospital in Pittsburgh, near his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.“Today marks the passing of an era,” Alastair Johnston, his long-time agent, said in a statement.“Arnold Palmer’s influence, profile and achievements spread far beyond the game of golf. He was an iconic American who treated people with respect and warmth, and built a unique legacy through his ability to engage with fans.”Fellow golfing great Jack Nicklaus, who with Palmer and Gary Player formed the fabled ‘Big Three’, said in a statement: “He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly.“Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level, virtually by himself.“Along the way, he had millions of adoring fans … we were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way … he was the king of our sport and always will be.”There were also tributes from U.S. Presidents present and past as well as anybody who is anybody in the world of golf.With his swashbuckling style, prodigious length off the tee, bold putting and affection for the galleries, Palmer had no peer as a fan favourite.‘PHILANTHROPY AND HUMILITY’He always went to great lengths to ensure that every person waiting in line ended up with a cherished autograph, an approach today’s players try to emulate.“Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs,” former world number one Tiger Woods, a 14-times major winner, tweeted late on Sunday.“Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend. It’s hard to imagine golf without you or anyone more important to the game than the King.”At his death, Palmer ranked fifth on the PGA Tour’s list of all-time tournament victories.His biggest win may have come at the 1960 U.S. Open, when he trailed by seven shots in the final round at Cherry Hills Country Club before pulling off the greatest comeback in the tournament’s history.He beat Nicklaus, a then 20-year-old amateur, by two shots, prefacing a rivalry between the two that lasted throughout the 1960s.Palmer was especially dominant from 1960 to 1963, winning 29 PGA Tour events. He was named Sports Illustrated magazine’s ‘Sportsman of the Year’ in 1960.Palmer had an unorthodox swing and go-for-broke style that added to his appeal among his loyal fans, who became known as “Arnie’s Army”.“I enjoy the crowds, and I enjoyed playing to them. I suppose that was one thing that helped me as much as anything,” Palmer told Golf.com in 2011.Palmer’s affable demeanour, telegenic looks and success on the course all helped boost television ratings for golf, making it a staple of weekend TV sports.In 1967, he became the first golfer to reach $1 million in career earnings. His last PGA Tour win came in 1973.SPORTS MARKETING PIONEERHe joined the Senior PGA Tour for players 50 and older in its inaugural season in 1980 and won 10 tournaments, including five majors, before retiring for good in 2006.A successful businessman, Palmer owned a golf course design firm and a golf resort in Orlando, Florida, and was considered a pioneer in sports marketing.He was an avid pilot who continued to fly until he was 81. He has a regional airport named after him in Pennsylvania.Palmer was also a noted philanthropist, founding the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando and a number of other charities.President George W. Bush awarded Palmer the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, in 2004.“For all who love the game of golf and love to see it played, there has never been a sight quite like Arnold Palmer walking down the fairway toward the 18th green,” Bush said in a tribute on Sunday.GREENSKEEPER’S SONPalmer was born on Sept. 10, 1929, in Latrobe, a small industrial town east of Pittsburgh. He was the son of a greenskeeper and later club pro at the Latrobe Country Club.He started golfing at the age of four on clubs cut down to size by his father and began caddying at Latrobe as an 11-year-old. He purchased the country club in 1971.He attended Wake Forest University in North Carolina on a golf scholarship but left during his senior year after the death of a close friend in a car accident.Palmer returned to competitive golf after a three-year enlistment in the Coast Guard and turned pro in 1954.He met his first wife, Winifred Walzer, at a golf tournament in Pennsylvania. They married in 1954 and had two daughters. She died in 1999. Palmer married Kathleen Gawthrop, who survived him, in 2005.
The Blackhawks came out firing in the second half and knew who to go putting Zac Santo away to dash 30 metres to beat fullback Stargroth Amean to score his third try for the game.Robert Lui’s conversion attempt was nowhere near the post, missing to put his side in front at 18-6.With 25 minutes to go, the Hunters replied immediately when Ase Boas threw an inside ball to Adam Korave who stepped right and left and wrestled his way over the line to ground the ball.Utility Noel Zemming added the extra two points to narrow the deficit to six points.This lifted the Hunters spirits as they relentlessly attacked the Blackhawks line.But the Blackhawks weathered the storm and went back on the attack.A bomb 30 metres out by Michael Parker-Walshe saw Amean drop the ball and allow Santo to pick up and score his fourth.Lui was off target missing his kick from the side setting up a 10 point lead with 14 minutes on the clock.The Blackhawks put the icing on the cake with a try to Mosese Pangai.The kicking woes continued for the Blackhawks but it made no difference as they ran down the last four minutes of play to beat the Hunters for the first time this season.Not all hope is lost for the Hunters who will next week play the winner of the Ipswich Jets and Easts Tigers match.The winner will meet the Blackhawks in the grand final.
Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko says the facility is in its last stages of completion and will be fully functional by February to host its first rugby league match where the Prime Minister will do the official kick off. The K170 million infrastructure is constructed by Leighton PNG with seating for up to 15,000 spectators.The seating area for the north, south and eastern stands are completed, seating a total of 10,000 people.The main grand stand has 3184 seats and is half completed with the roofing already installed and a few more seats to be fitted in.The playing surface has been laid out and the contractor claims that the grass is used specifically for rugby league and rugby union and is suitable for the type of climate experienced in PNG.Tkatchenko adds that the field of play lighting is world-class, meeting international broadcast standards together with a first class playing field that meets NRL quality and size specifications.The four light stands around the stadium have been installed and are fully functional. The facility also includes car parking for 200 vehicles, indoor warm up and recovery areas, gym facilities, change rooms, training and warm up field, drug testing rooms and match day medical rooms.Contractors are completing the main grand stand seating and despite the dry weather, the playing surface appears green and well maintained.The stadium will also host the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in November this year.Tkatchenko said the stadium will also be used for local league games including Port Moresby Rugby League and the Digicel Cup and looks forward to the opening of the facility in the next four weeks.The stadium comes under a trust which is headed by members of PRL and Oil Search Limited to run and operate the facility.
Fleeing AfghanistanAhmadi was given two autographed shirts and a signed football from the Messi by UNICEF workers in February, a gesture his father, Muhammad Arif Ahmadi, described to CNN at the time as “one of the happiest moments” of his son’s life.Arif said Murtaza’s brother had initially helped him create the makeshift plastic bag jersey as the family was unable to purchase a real one.The Ahmadi family was subsequently forced to flee Afghanistan to Pakistan after receiving threats, Arif told CNN in May.Visit cnn.com/football for more news and videosArif described receiving “20-30 unknown threatening calls in Afghanistan asking why I’m teaching my kid about football and not teaching him about the Quran.” Murtaza Ahmadi was shown dressed in a blue-and-white-striped plastic bag with Barcelona and Argentina star Messi’s name and number etched in pen on the back in January.The image, which garnered global attention after it was posted on a Messi fan site, sparked a manic search by fans to find the six-year-old from Jaghori, southwest of Kabul.Now, almost 11 months later, a series of images and videos posted on social media by Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee Tuesday showed Messi and Murtaza meeting for the first time.”The image the world wanted to see. The six-year-old boy who dreamed of meeting his hero, #Messi, finally comes true,” the tweet accompanying one video said.Another video showed Messi reaching out to hold hands with Murtaza, who was wearing a Barcelona jersey.Messi and his Barcelona teammates were in the Qatari capital to play an exhibition match against Al-Ahli of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.The Spanish champion won 5-3, with Messi among the scorers. Murtaza accompanied him onto the field as one of the mascots, and the boy posed for pictures with the team ahead of kickoff.Barcelona is sponsored by Qatar Airways, while the Supreme Committee is responsible for delivering the emirate’s staging of the 2022 World Cup — the first to be held in the Middle East.