Saina Nehwal Overcomes Nozomi Okuhara To March Into Semis

Saina Nehwal overcame a difficult start to her quarterfinal match against Nozomi Okuhara to reach the semifinals of the Denmark Open on Friday night. The Indian star lost the first game but won the next two to stun the eighth-seeded Japanese. Saina won 17-21, 21-16, 21-12 in a match lasting 58 minutes to book a last four clash against Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia. Saina is the only Indian in the women’s singles draw after third seed PV Sindhu suffered a shock defeat in the opening round of the tournament.

Saina’s victory against Okuhara comes at the back of a superlative performance that saw her conquer world number two Akane Yamaguchi of Japan for the first time in four years.

The Indian shuttler, who is unseeded in the tournament won her match rather convincingly against Yamaguchi, and she seemed to carry forward into the last eight match against Okuhara.

Saina was outgunned by Okuhara in the first game, trailing from start to finish. But she came out fighting in the second.

The Japanese shuttler seemed to be coasting in the second game as well, having taken a 7-3 lead. Saina closed the gap by winning three points in a row but again fell a fairway behind as Okuhara opened a 10-6 lead.

But that was the last of Okuhara’s dominance. Saina won four consecutive points to draw level at 10-10 and then soon opened a 15-12 lead. The Indian never looked back from there and went on to win the game 21-16 to take the quarterfinal into a decider.

The final game was a procession for Saina as she completely decimated her higher-ranked opponent. A six-point burst helped Saina take a commanding 12-3 lead and Okuhara never recovered after that.

Saina easily won the game to become the second Indian to reach the last four in the tournament. Earlier in the day. Kidambi Srikanth had defeated compatriot Sameer Verma to reach the semifinals in the men’s singles draw. The 7th-seeded Indian will now take on second seed Kento Momota of Japan for a place in the final.

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Chelsea Win Premier League When Eden Hazard Is The Best Player, Warns Jose Mourinho

“Very good results, top of the league and, of course, lots of good players but history says that when Eden Hazard is the best player of the Premier League, Chelsea is the champion,” said Mourinho on Friday.

“It happened with me and Antonio, and this season, it is still the beginning of course, but he is the best player of the Premier League until now.

“Chelsea is top of the league because he is the kind of player who can make a huge difference.”

Hazard and Mourinho didn’t end on the best of terms when the Portuguese was sacked from his second spell at Stamford Bridge in December 2015 with Chelsea languishing in 16th and Hazard having failed to score a Premier League goal all season to that point.

However, in a recent interview Hazard spoke of his respect for Mourinho and his desire to play for his former manager again.

Mourinho doesn’t believe that will happen, but insists the two had a good relationship.

“I would love to have him in Manchester United but I don’t think Chelsea will sell him to Man United,” added Mourinho.

“Chelsea is led by intelligent and experienced people in football and they would never sell Eden to Man United so there’s no point to comment.

“I think he is a nice kid. We had a good relation, we were champions together. He was for the first time the best player in the league with me so I think the feelings are good and when the feelings are good you say nice things, when feelings are not good you don’t say so much nice things.”

Few nice things have been said about Mourinho this season, at least by former United players in the media who have led calls for him to be replaced.

Legendary former midfielder Paul Scholes has been most vocal in his criticism of Mourinho and his style of football imposed on the Reds.

A thrilling comeback from 2-0 down to beat Newcastle 3-2 two weeks ago provided an example of how exciting the current United team can be when unshackled. But Mourinho again staunchly defended his approach.

“That story of the attacking football I still don’t understand that story because for me you can only play attacking football when you have the ball,” he added,

“I want the ball and you can only recover the ball if your opponent loses it or if you provoke a mistake in your opponent. For all that you need to defend.

“When you have the ball, you can play a different way and normally adapted to the qualities of your players. That (style) is what I want.”

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Kevin De Bruyne Poised To Make Manchester City Return

Guardiola decided against rushing City’s player of the year back for that top-of-the-table clash.

However, he could be eased in from the bench against Burnley with one eye on a more prominent role for the trip to Tottenham in the Premier League on October 29.

“I don’t know if he’s able to play 90 minutes but he has trained really well over the past two weeks, with no pain and ready to be part of the group,” said Guardiola.

“He’s so important for us. When a player is out, I like it when they’re back to make us stronger. (There is) no doubt how important he is for us.”

Hart returns home 

Saturday’s match will see Joe Hart return to City to play for the first time since his 12-year association with the club ended in August, when he moved to Burnley for £3.5 million.

The England goalkeeper was part of the City team who ended their 35-year wait for a trophy by winning the FA Cup in 2011, before securing their first league title since 1968 a year later.

He was also part of the team who regained the Premier League title in 2014, but fell out of favour when Guardiola arrived as manager in 2016, as first Claudio Bravo and then Ederson were brought in as first choice.

“I think there is no doubt how important he was and is. Tomorrow you will see how people appreciate what he has done for this club,” added Guardiola.

“What this club has become is because the people from Abu Dhabi helped to build something special with the facilities.

“But after it’s down to the quality of the players in those 10 years. Joe is part of that, no doubt about it.”

Guardiola, meanwhile, insisted he has no regrets in letting Jadon Sancho leave the Etihad.

Sancho, 18, made his England debut in last week’s Nations League draw in Croatia, 14 months after leaving City to join Borussia Dortmund for £8 million.

The winger rejected a contract offer from City because he was worried he would not get enough playing time, but Guardiola said the club did all they could to keep him and doesn’t believe Sancho will return in a big money move.

“We know what we have done with Jadon. We did absolutely everything and he decided to move on to Germany so all the best,” added Guardiola.

“I think when he decided to move on from here it was because he didn’t want to be here. When he doesn’t want to be here I think he’s not looking forward to coming back here.”

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European Leagues Press UEFA To Stop Favouring Big Four

The Association of European Leagues on Friday asked UEFA for a more even distribution of Champions League revenue and a broader spread of places in the competition. After the association of 35 European leagues met in Frankfurt, vice-president Claus Thomsen, from Denmark, called for “a fair and democratic club competition model.” The association was responding to UEFA’s club-competition plans for the period 2021-24.

It wants UEFA to reconsider reforms that came into effect this season allowing direct qualification for the Champions League of four teams from England Italy, Germany and Spain. 

The statement said “the vast majority of members of the European Leagues support” a return to three guaranteed places for each of the big four leagues, which are all represented in the Association. 

They also object to using past titles as criteria. Their statement says access to European places “must always be based on the latest performance of clubs in their respective domestic top-tier league competition and/or domestic cup,” although they make an exception for current European trophy holders.

Revenue should be distributed more equally between the European club competitions, the association statement says, with a bigger share going to the Europa League. 

They also say “solidarity payments should be significantly increased to help reduce the increasing financial gap in European club football,” with more money going to clubs who haven’t qualified for European competitions.

They also want more money to go “to support the development of professional football in medium and small countries all across Europe, including non-top tier leagues.”  

The association supports plans to introduce a third competition, the Europa League 2, but said they did not want the European club calendar spreading beyond its traditional midweek dates.

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Telugu Titans Edge Past Patna Pirates To Maintain Top Spot

Telugu Titans maintained their top spot in the Zone B points table of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) after a narrow 35-31 win over defending champions Patna Pirates on Friday. Despite a good start, the Titans faltered during the midway mark but then came from behind to eventually edge out the Pradeep Narwal-led team. In the second match of the day, Puneri Paltan defeated Jaipur Pink Panthers 29-25 to register their first win at home this season. Monu was the star performer collecting seven points for the home team. Ravi Kumar provided able support scoring six points in the match.

In the first match, Titans took an early 4-0 lead in the initial minutes however, some successful tackles and fine raids by Manjeet, who picked a total of eight points in the issue, helped Patna to make the score read 4-5. Skipper and star raider Pardeep then came with some excellent raids as Patna took a massive 12-6 lead.

Titans’s ace raider Rahul Chaudhary, who collected a total of seven points in the game, then showed some attack as his successful raids cut the deficit to four points with Patna still leading 13-9.

The last few minutes of the first half saw Titans changing gears as some successful tackles and raids helped them reach 14 points, three points behind the defending champions.

The Titans continued their aggressive approach in the second half and inflicted an all out to lead the contest 22-21 at the 24th minute.

They later picked a few more points through tackles to stretch the lead 25-21.

Patna’s raider Vijay Malik and Pradeep then finally reduced the deficit as scores were levelled at 27-27 at one stage and at 30-30 a few minutes later as the issue turned out to be a neck and neck fight.

However, Titans rode on their defence as they denied Patna raiders any further onslaught beside collecting crucial points through tackles and super tackles to extend their lead to 35-31 when the final whistles were blown.

The Telugu Titans now have 16 points from four contests and are followed by Patna at the second place, which has 11 points from the same number of games.

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Kidambi Srikanth Beats Compatriot Sameer Verma To Reach Semifinals

Kidambi Srikanth beat compatriot Sameer Verma 22-20, 19-21, 23-21 in the men’s singles quarterfinals of the Denmark Open 2018 on Thursday. In a match that lasted an hour and 18 minutes, Srikanth, as usual, took his time to settle but soon was able to work Sameer around. However, it was Sameer who had a slender 11-10 advantage at mid-break of the first game as he took three consecutive points. Sameer wasn’t backing down as he had come into the quarterfinals at the back of some big wins.

After the break, Sameer maintained his slender lead for some time before Srikanth levelled at 15-15. He then took three consecutive points to increase his lead to 18-15 and then earned three game points. However, Sameer saved all the three to make it 20-20. At the fourth time of asking though, Srikanth grabbed the first game 22-20 in 22 minutes.

In the second game, both players exchanged points not giving each other an inch. The two were tied at 6-6 before Srikanth upped the ante and took a 9-7 lead. Sameer, however, pulled back two consecutive points to level 9-9, but Srikanth kept his calm and took an 11-9 lead over his compatriot at the mid-break.

Srikanth controlled the momentum of the second game momentarily after the break as he burst into a solid 13-9 lead.

Sameer then had a moment of inspiration as he took four consecutive points to level at 16-16 and took a lead of 17-16. Srikanth fought back but Sameer went on to win the second game 21-19 in 27 minutes.

Sameer controlled the tempo of the third game from the start and took an 11-7 lead over Srikanth at mid-break. The former World No 1 kept trying to fight back but Sameer opened up a 17-13 lead.

However, Srikanth stretched the match down to the wire to lead his opponent 20-19, before winning the third game 23-21.

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Title-Chasing Lewis Hamilton Shines In Texas Rain

Lewis Hamilton topped the times by more than a second ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in Friday’s rain-hit opening practice for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix. The 33-year-old Briton, who will clinch his fifth world title on Sunday if he outscores nearest rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari by eight points, sat out the opening half of the 90 minutes before dominating the rest of the action. Hamilton clocked a best lap in one minute and 47.502 seconds as the asphalt at the Circuit of the Americas dried out, a time that lifted him clear of the field as he showed the class and raw pace that has made him a clear favourite to triumph in Sunday’s race.

After heavy rain overnight and in the morning, the circuit was wet and challenging for the drivers as they adjusted to the conditions.

Bottas was second fastest, after pitting when he seemed set to improve his lap time, ahead of the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo, who was half a second adrift of his Dutch team-mate.

The Ferrari duo of four-time champion Vettel and Sauber-bound Kimi Raikkonen were back in fifth and sixth places after struggling with the slippery surface.

Vettel had two tricky moments when he managed to avoid going off the track at Turns One and Ten during the session and wound up nearly two seconds slower than the in-form Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz was seventh for Renault ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc of Sauber and his team-mate Marcus Ericsson.

The session was completed with only one major incident that came when Leclerc spun at Turn Nine and brought gravel on to the circuit. 

The session was red-flagged for 10 minutes to allow the track to be cleared.

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Mumbai City FC Beat FC Pune City In Maharashtra Derby

Mumbai City FC registered their first win of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2018 and it came at the expense of their Maharashtra rivals FC Pune City at the Mumbai Football Arena on Friday. A maiden goal in Mumbai colours for Modou Sougou (25th minute) and a penalty from Rafael Bastos (45th) sealed Mumbai’s 2-0 win, their first at home in four attempts in the Maharashtra derby. After a fairly uneventful start, Mumbai drew first blood through Sougou. The Senegalese forward made no error with an emphatic finish from close range after Paulo Machado’s cross had rebounded off the crossbar.

At the other end, Emiliano Alfaro was starting to look threatening for Pune and the Uruguayan vociferously appealed for a penalty after going down under Subhashish Bose’s challenge, to no avail. 

However, a spot-kick would be awarded at the other end eventually in the dying minutes of the first session. A scrappy phase of play found Mumbai’s attackers with a numerical advantage over Pune’s defenders. Bastos attempted to set Sougou through on goal but the Senegalese was brought down by a challenge from behind from Chhuantea Fanai. 

The referee had no hesitation in blowing his whistle for a penalty. Bastos stepped up for the penalty and made no mistake from the spot, sending Vishal Kaith the wrong way.

Pune came out with some much-needed urgency after the break. However, it were the hosts who should have extended their lead around the hour mark when Machado surged forward on a mesmerising run. The Portuguese’s attempt after cutting in from the left flew inches wide off the target.

Miguel Angel Portugal threw on Marcelinho as he sought to get his side back into the game and the Brazilian almost made an instant impact with a snapshot from the edge of the area where Amrinder Singh was alert enough. 

Alfaro almost reduced the deficit in the 65th minute with a sharp turn and shot in the 65th minute following a cross from Golui. But his effort agonisingly scraped the crossbar before going out of play.

Jorge Costa shored up the hosts’ defence as they looked to protect their two-goal lead with Pune’s attackers being thwarted repeatedly despite coming forward in numbers.

There would be another spot-kick awarded in added time, once again to the hosts. A quick breakaway saw Arnold Sissoko skip past the Pune defence before he was hacked down in the box by Gurtej Singh. Lucian Goian stepped up to take the penalty but his effort was saved well by Kaith who guessed the right way.

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England’s Luke Shaw Extends Manchester United Contract To 2023

England left-back Luke Shaw has ended speculation over his future by signing a new five-year deal with Manchester United, the club announced on Thursday. Shaw, 23, was in the final year of the deal he signed four years ago when joining from Southampton as the world’s most expensive teenager at the time. “I am very proud to sign my new contract and continue my stay at this great club,” said Shaw.

“I want to thank everybody that has stood by me and shown me huge support – the management, my team-mates and the fans.”

Shaw has been rewarded for an excellent start to the season after a difficult few years at Old Trafford.

He admitted last month he considering retiring after a horrific leg break in 2015 that could even have seen his right leg amputated.

On his return to fitness, Shaw has often been publicly criticised by United manager Jose Mourinho.

However, Mourinho has been won over this season and insisted Shaw was deserving of his new deal.

“Luke fully deserves this contract. He understood his development process, he has worked really hard at every level and he always believes in himself which is a great attribute to have,” said Mourinho.

“Luke is still young and is improving all the time and he must feel very proud of himself.

“I am delighted that we are keeping such a talented young English player with a bright future ahead of him.”

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NorthEast United FC Beat Chennaiyin FC In Seven-Goal Thriller

NorthEast United upstaged reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champions Chennaiyin FC in a seven-goal spectacle at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. A hat-trick from star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche (29th, 37th, 39th minute), the second-fastest in the ISL, had pulled the visitors level in the first-half after a Rowllin Borges own goal (4th) and a Thoi Singh brace (15th, 32nd) had propped Chennaiyin FC up. Borges made amends for his mistake by netting the match-winner early in the second half.

Without a win in two games, the hosts started the match with urgency and were rewarded with an early goal after they forced a corner in the fourth minute. Issac Vanmalsawma whipped a devilish delivery in and Borges inadvertently headed it into his own net from inside the six-yard box. 

Though NorthEast started dominating possession, it was Chennaiyin who struck again. In the 15th minute, Jerry Lalrinzuala spotted Issac’s run down the left and sent in a wonderful through-ball for the winger to latch on to. Issac surged forward and squared the ball for Thoi who finished the move.

The visitors pulled a goal back minutes before the half an hour mark after the energetic Federico Gallego managed to get a shot on target. Goalkeeper Karanjit Singh, however, could not hold on to it and Ogbeche capitalised on the offering before slotting a finish into the far corner. 

Chennaiyin, though, restored their two-goal advantage almost immediately. Raphael Augusto wriggled free of his markers down the left wing and got to the touchline. His square-ball was bundled in by Thoi at the near post. 

The see-saw nature of the game continued but it was NorthEast who would take the game by the scruff of its neck. Ogbeche came into his own and struck twice to pull NorthEast level. 

First, he out-jumped Francisco Fernandes to meet Borges’ cross and steered it home. Minutes later, he met Gallego’s wonderful through ball and rounded the keeper before rolling the ball into the net. 

NorthEast continued their ascendancy after the break and soon went into the lead. Gallego found Reagan Singh down the right wing. His cross was blocked and Borges latched on to the loose ball on the edge of the area and swept a brilliant finish into the bottom corner. 

Chennaiyin pressed hard for a way back into the game but NorthEast showed composure to hold on to their advantage. 

Chennaiyin coach John Gregory threw in Jeje Lalpekhlua in a bid to conjure up an equaliser. He almost got on the end of a header from Andrea Orlandi in added time but just could not steer it in as Eelco Schattorie’s team held on to register a famous victory.

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