By Alan BaldwinIslam Slimani headed an ecstatic Algeria into the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time with the equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Russia on Thursday that dumped Fabio Capello’s team out of the tournament.On a momentous night for the North Africans, who were the last team through to the knockout round, Slimani rose to the occasion and nodded home in the 60th minute to cancel out Alexander Kokorin’s sixth-minute header.There was controversy surrounding the Algerian goal, however, with Capello complaining that goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev had been distracted by a laser beam shone from the crowd.Television images seemed to back up his assertion, with what appeared to be green beams flashing across the keeper’s body as he tried to reach the cross.“Our goalkeeper was affected by a laser 10 seconds before the goal. He was blinded by a laser, there are photos, films of it,” said Capello, who was also critical of the Turkish referee.With Belgium beating South Korea to advance as Group H leaders, Algeria finished runner-ups and face former champions Germany in Porto Alegre on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.That will be a match with a back story and the potential for revenge, Germany and Austria conspiring in a ‘non-aggression pact’ at the 1982 World Cup to ensure they went through at Algeria’s expense.“This history is repeating itself after 32 years,” declared Algeria’s Bosnian-born coach Vahid Halilhodzic.“We are very proud of what we have achieved this evening. We played a heroic match and I think our qualification was totally deserved. Tonight we have received a great gift but we went out and earned it.”In a tense match with everything at stake and 2018 hosts Russia needing a win to go through, the ‘Desert Foxes’ deserved the draw and might even have snatched a late winner against a Russian side that started brightly but ran out of steam.It had seemed to be Russia’s night when Kokorin met a beautifully-flighted Dmitry Kombarov cross with a perfectly-executed header in the sixth minute.Algeria, playing what Halilhodzic had called the most important match in their soccer history, rarely threatened in the first half and looked a shadow of the side who thumped four goals past the Koreans.Slimani had an effort tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in the 30th minute, but the linesman had already flagged for offside, and Algeria’s other tame attempts had Halilhodzic gesticulating furiously from the touchline.NEW IMAGEThe anger turned into a smile worthy of a World Cup winner as Algeria, who joined Nigeria as Africa’s two representatives in the second round, battled back in the second half.Slimani seized his chance in the 60th minute with a powerful header at the near post from a Yacine Brahimi free kick that Akinfeev failed to reach and left Capello seething at the refereeing.“The foul that led to the goal was a foul for us. I have to think about the refereeing we had against Belgium too,” said the Italian, whose World Cup record with England and Russia now stands at just one win in seven games.Capello had made just one change to the side who lost 1-0 to Belgium, handing a first start of the tournament to veteran striker Alexander Kerzhakov in place of Maxim Kanunnikov but the goals failed to flow.“They (Algeria) played a good game. We had three chances to win the game and didn’t take them,” acknowledged Capello, whose future with Russia remains uncertain.Instead, Algeria once again denied the Italian three points after holding Capello’s England to a goalless draw in South Africa four years ago.That time it was England who went through but Thursday belonged to Algeria, their fans praying for the match to end and erupting at the final whistle.“We are representing the Arab countries – we are giving a new face, a new image. The Algerian team has earned a lot of affection in my home country in Bosnia, in Croatia, in the former Yugoslavia…across the world,” Halilhodzic said.“We are going to face a great German team but the Brazilian fans will be on our side”
The draw for the quarter-finals of the Cyprus Cup took place on Tuesday and is as follows:Apollonas or Othellos vs AEKAnorthosis or Digenis Oroklinis vs APOEL or OlympiakosAEL or Ethnikos Achnas vs Ermis AradippouOmonia or Ayia Napa vs KarmiotissaThe dates and times of the games will be released later on today.Already through to the last eight are Karmiotissa, Ermis Aradippou and AEK Larnaca while three more tickets will be decided tomorrow, Wednesday, January 28t and the final two a week later.The games still to be played are:Wednesday, January 28 :Othellos vs Apollonas (1-1)Ethnikos Achnas vs AEL (0-1)APOEL vs Olympiakos (1-0)Wednesday, February 4:Ayia Napa vs Omonia (0-4)Anorthosis vs Digenis Oroklinis (2-1)In brackets are the results of the first legs.
By Martyn HermanMaria Sharapova has hit form at the perfect moment as she eyes a defence of her French Open crown but old nemesis Serena Williams is lurking in the Parisian shadows.Russian Sharapova, who once despised claycourt tennis but transformed herself into the 2012 and 2014 champion, arrives in the French capital fresh from winning the Italian Open in Rome.The 28-year-old, beaten by Williams for a 16th consecutive time in the Australian Open final in January, defeated Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the Rome final, a week after reaching the semis in Madrid and will be full of confidence.“I’m in an especially good spot physically. I’m prepared to go the distance now, and to beat someone like Carla who loves long matches, to come through that gave me a lot of confidence,” Sharapova, winner of 20 of her last 21 matches at Roland Garros, said last week.Yet most observers make twice French Open champions Williams the favourite – even if she has suffered niggling injuries of late and can be at her most beatable on the red dirt.Romania’s Simona Halep, last year’s runner-up, will be in the mix too but few would be surprised if Williams and Sharapova served up a repeat of the 2013 final.“I think this would be a better surface for her to play Serena,” Chris Evert, a commentator for ESPN during the French Open fortnight, said in the build-up to the tournament.“I think that it (the clay) defuses Serena’s power. I think (Sharapova) likes that few extra seconds that clay allows her to set up her shots.“She feels confident, she feels happy on the clay.”Williams, 33, will be aiming for a 20th grand slam singles title to move four shy of Margaret Court’s record, but was forced to withdraw in Rome with an elbow injury, having also suffered knee problems earlier in the year.Her physical condition will be severely tested over the coming fortnight, but Martina Navratilova believes if she is fit, Williams remains in a class of her own.“Serena is amazing, and she will get to 20 slams for sure,” the 18-times grand slam singles winner told the Tennis Podcast.“It definitely gets harder when you are in your 30s but at the same time, the new generation hasn’t quite caught up to Serena so she has a nice window there.”Incredibly, despite being a relative veteran, there is talk of a Williams grand slam, but Evert, thinks that is unlikely.“I think Serena, when she has bad days, she’s very beatable,” the American said. “When she has bad days, she loses her timing, consistency, everything just goes.”The list of those waiting to take advantage if the world number one stumbles is not a long one, however.Halep has the patience on clay, while Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has the power but not necessarily the craft to survive two weeks at Roland Garros.Former world number one Victoria Azarenka, coming back to her best after injury, could be a dark horse.
By Luis AmpueroA first half goal from Ezequiel Lavezzi was cancelled out by Lucas Lima in the second period as Brazil escaped with a 1-1 draw against Argentina in Friday’s South American World Cup qualifying match.The match had originally been scheduled for Thursday but torrential rain in the Argentine capital had forced officials to postpone the game for 24 hours.Argentina dominated the first half but although Brazil perked up when Douglas Costa replaced Ricardo Oliveira in the second half they would consider themselves lucky to secure a point.“A draw against Argentina is a good result away from home,” Brazil’s second half substitute Renato Augusto told reporters.The home side were without strikers Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, but still had the depth to start the game with Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Lavezzi up front.Their first chance came in the second minute but Higuain could not turn quickly enough to get a shot in after goalkeeper Alisson flapped at a cross.Two minutes later Brazil were fortunate that no one was on hand to get a touch on Di Maria’s shot that flashed across the face of the goal.Argentina continued to cause Brazil trouble on both flanks and they finally got the goal they deserved in the 34th minute when Lavezzi stole in between a hesitant David Luiz and Dani Alves to sidefoot home from six yards following a Higuain cross.Ever Banega almost doubled Argentina’s lead in the second minute of the second half when he slammed a shot off the base of the post after Dani Alves had blocked his first effort.But it was Brazil that got the important second goal with 58 minutes gone when substitute Douglas Costa’s header came back off the bar and Lucas Lima hammered home the rebound.The goal boosted Brazil and they enjoyed their best period in the moments after. However, Argentina took charge again as the game wore on and Higuain was unlucky not to get on the end of a cross and make it 2-1.Brazil had Neymar back after a four-game suspension but the Barcelona striker was largely anonymous and his threat was limited to a couple of long-range shots.David Luiz was sent off with two minutes remaining for a brutal tackle on Lucas Biglia with his foot up.The result leaves Argentina in eighth place in the 10-team South American group with just two points after having failed to win any of their first three games.Brazil meanwhile, rise to fifth with one win, one draw and one loss.The top four teams qualify automatically and the fifth placed-side go into a play-off.Argentina now go to Barranquilla to play Colombia on Tuesday, while Brazil have an easier task at home against Peru, who play Paraguay later on Friday looking to get their first points.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League title aspirations face a severe test on Wednesday (10pm) against a Crystal Palace side who manager Sam Allardyce says currently feel unbeatable.While second-placed Tottenham are the form team in the league with seven consecutive wins, Palace have won six of their last eight to surge clear of the bottom three, including beating leaders Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.Palace’s 2-1 victory at Anfield on Sunday, sealed with two goals by former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke, means the Eagles have 38 points in 12th place and look all but safe.Whatever the result of Chelsea’s home game against Southampton on Tuesday night, Tottenham will need three points at Selhurst Park to maintain their push for a first English league title since 1961.But Palace have been transformed by Allardyce, who lost his job as England manager earlier this season after making inappropriate comments in a newspaper sting but returned with a bang after Palace sacked Alan Pardew in DecemberThey have managed 19 points in their last eight games compared to the 19 they managed in their previous 25.“It’s our spirit, our mental resilience and our belief now that means even when we go a goal or two goals down we don’t think we’re going to get beaten, he told London’s Evening Standard newspaper.“Because of that mental resilience we are fighting back now and getting results, and the more results we get the more confidence we build and the results we’ve had recently nobody would have expected.”“They’d have expected one shock, maybe, but we’ve done three shocks in as many weeks. It’s Chelsea away, Arsenal at home and now Liverpool away. We had the hardest run-in and still have got a very difficult run-in with Tottenham coming up, Manchester City and Manchester United away and Hull City and Burnley.“But we’re nearly there, we’ve got 38 points with an outstanding run from the players.”Tottenham will be smarting from their 4-2 FA Cup-semi-final defeat by Chelsea on Saturday.“We have a massive game on Wednesday,” Tottenham defender Eric Dier told the club’s website. “We have to get the Cup defeat out of our heads and carry on – I’m sure we will.” Striker Harry Kane meanwhile has urged his side to finish the season strongly.“A lot of people will be looking at us now waiting to see what will happen and has the momentum kind of stopped a bit, but we are focused,” the 23-year-old England international added.“The only way we can do that is starting with a win on Wednesday. It’s one game at a time, not long left and we have to give it everything.”
The competition resumed this weekend at the University of PNG oval after three weeks break for the 15th Pacific Games.Competition leader Koboni, on 28 points, has only suffered one loss early in the season out of eight matches and is determined to continue its winning streak.Second place Kokofas are aiming to cause an upset and move up to take over the top spot.In other matches today, West Giants will take on Bomana Cats while in the ‘A’ Reserves, Koboni will play Kokofas and Giants will play Cats.The women’s division will see University Tigers battle with Gordons Kokofas and Gerehu Magpies to take on Lamana Dockers.
Pini has so far qualified with a B timing and is aiming for an A qualifying time, which will be around the time that will make semifinals at the Olympics.Pini told Loop PNG that this will solidify his selection but mostly he wants to ensure that he is going to Rio as a top qualified athlete, pushing himself as hard as he can.He gained 3 Olympic B Qualifying times in the 100m butterfly, 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke.“I am aiming for the 100m butterfly as my main event.“The 100m backstroke and freestyle are also events I have qualified for, these events are before the butterfly so will be great lead-up races,” said Pini.Pini will be competing in smaller competitions in the lead up to Rio to gain race experience.Pini hopes to improve his timing at the Australian Championships from April 7-14 at Adelaide, Australia, which is a qualifying event.He will also attend the Theodist National Championships in Port Moresby on April 20-22.The last qualifying event he will attend is the Oceania Championships from June 20-24 in Fiji.Samuel Seghers, Ryan Maskelyne and Barbara Vali-Skelton, who are yet to qualify for the games in August, will join Pini at these events to qualify.
After last week’s triumph in Hong Kong, his side are targeting back-to-back round victories and want to arrive at the Rio Olympics in pole position. “We did want to go to the Olympic Games as number one seeds… and we’re happy with that favourites tag,” said Ryan. “I know the history of Olympic team sports often means that the number one team in the world going into that Olympic sport often doesn’t win but we still think we’re better off being number one than number two. “We’ll put it out there that we will be the team to beat. Anyone that beats us will probably win the gold medal.” Ryan said Fiji also took heart from their record in three-day tournaments, the format that will be played in Rio, after winning four out of four in the past two years. “If another team suddenly smashes the next three tournaments then that might change things,” Ryan said.“But we’ve had four three-day tournaments, the same as Rio, in the last two years and Fiji has won every single one of them.” “Confidence is high but we have to make sure we don’t get over-confident… I’m keeping the pressure on the boys this week.” For Ryan and his men, an Olympic gold medal would have added significance given this year’s cyclone disaster. Fiji is still recovering from Cyclone Winston which left 44 dead, 60,000 homeless and crippled the country’s infrastructure. “We’ve had players that have lost their houses, families that have lost their businesses. It’s been a tough time, we now have food shortages and the cost of food has doubled,” he said. “It’s tough and the boys will go back and do their bit and give their winnings to their families,” he added. “An Olympic win will go beyond rugby. That will boost all our younger athletes to think that if those 12 players from their villages can go to the Olympic Games, then why can’t they do it in other sports?”(The Fiji rugby 7s team. Picture: Radio New Zealand)
Data Pebbles led by their star Kelly Yambi and captain Ralph Kaina showed early form by disposing both Patrons and Papuan Blacks 7 frames to nil.Keleone led by star recruit Tom English and Dr Ray Korimbo handed out a 7-0 thrashing to newcomers Peoples Notice Board (PNB) and pipped Post Courier 5-2. Poi-Nangu also maintained a clean sheet on opening day Poi Nangu belting Freelancers 6-1 and Poi Nangu creamed Lakatoi 4-3.Papuan Blacks had an easier first round collecting free points by forfeit over defending champions Cool Grafix. The premiers later showed up and accounted for Next of Kin 5-2. Major disappointment of the round though was former champions Heli Solutions Spin Doctors who lost both their matches to Lakatoi and North East Mirror (NEM) by the same close margin of 4 frames to 3. NEM however could not maintain the momentum going down 4-3 to newcomers CRE led by franchise owner Dickson Kisombo and captain Welton Guy.In the other round 1 results PNB forfeited Education Media(7-0), DJAG overcame PMMI (4-3), Parliament halted Crime Stoppers (5-2), City Hall ousted NTIL (5-2), Lamana thrashed Telinet (7-0) and Auditor General stopped NOK (4-3).In round 2 matches – Niugini Islands Insurance Brokers Famagusta beat Telinet (4-3), Parliament restrained DJAG (5-2), Crime Stoppers smashed NTIL (7-0), Patrons whipped Education Media (5-2), PMMI brushed aside Freelancers (4-3), Auditor General accounted for City Hall (5-2) and Lamana ran a stop-press on Post Courier (5-2).Chairman Tony who earlier welcomed everyone to the season opening rounds was impressed with the crowd turn-out including local music star Moses ‘Moshanty’ Tau.“This is the biggest crowd we’ve seen on opening round in a long time and that’s very good for our game,” he said.Tournament director Ephraim Kara said there were a few minor issues raised by certain team captains regarding the rules but otherwise everything went smoothly.“There are a few new teams this year but they have fitted in well into the first 2 rounds so we are pleased with the start of MPC Season 2016,” he added.All teams have a grace period of three weeks up until June 25 to pay their registration fee of K1,500 and be in full uniform.
Deputy President of the Mt. Hagen Softball Association, John Horaki, announced this when giving his remarks at the closing of last weekend’s PNG Power National Softball Club Fast Pitch Tournament.Horaki told President of the PNG Softball Federation, Ralph Tarasomo, that the national championships are always staged in the same centres like Port Moresby, Madang, Lae and Rabaul.“We thank you the PNG Softball Federation for your trust in us to host the club championships. We thank you for your confidence.“We now request that the PNG Softball Federation consider Mt. Hagen as a host for the national championships,” said Horaki.Tarasomo responded saying that the softball national championships will only be brought to Mt. Hagen if the people stop all illegal power connections.“We are trying to drive the message home, through PNG Power as the major sponsor of the club championships, for the people of Mt. Hagen to stop all illegal connections.“Stop all illegal connections and we will bring the national softball championships to Mt. Hagen,” said Tarasomo.