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The sports wrap 19th March 2018

LanguedocLiving, Mar 18

Spurs to play Man Utd in English FA Cup semi-finals.

Tottenham Hotspur will play Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-finals next month while Chelsea meet Southampton after a weekend of quarter-finals which produced no shocks. Spurs had an easy 3-0 win at Swansea with two superb goals from Christian Eriksen while Manchester United despatched Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 at home with goals from Belgian striker Romeula Lukaku and man-of-the-match Nemanja Matic. Last season’s losing finalists Chelsea had a tougher job at Leicester on Sunday winning 2-1 in extra-time with a headed goal from the diminutive Pedro who outjumped the onrushing goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to send his team to Wembley. League One giant-killers Wigan Athletic, who had knocked out three Premiership sides in previous rounds, including runaway leaders Manchester City, weren’t able to repeat the shock results at home against relegation-threatened Southampton who gave their new manager Mark Hughes a 2-0 victory in his first match. Of the four semi-finalists, Spurs, without injured striker Harry Kane, looked the most impressive, but must now face Premiership second-placed Manchester United. Fabulous first-half goals from Eriksen and Erik Lamela set Spurs on their way as they chased a ninth FA Cup win. Eriksen's second made the result safe just past the hour mark. Spurs, who lie fourth on the Premiership table, are seeking a first trophy since they won the 2008 League Cup.

PSG move closer to Ligue 1 title with ninth straight win

Paris Saint Germain moved closer to the Ligue 1 title as Dani Alves' late winner gave them a 2-1 victory at Nice on Sunday. Mario Balotelli hit the post for Nice, who took a 17th-minute lead when Allan Saint-Maximin finished off after good work from Alassane Plea. But PSG equalised four minutes later with a goal from ex-Manchester United midfielder Angel di Maria. Balotelli hit the woodwork for a second time before Alves headed in from Adrien Rabiot's cross to secure PSG's victory. PSG won the title in four successive seasons before finishing second to Monaco in 2016-17. However, this latest success was their ninth successive Ligue 1 win and leaves them 17 points clear of Monaco, who beat Lille 2-1 at home on Friday evening. Nice, who finished third last season, are now eighth in the table. In the Spanish La Liga, Real Madrid moved up to third place as Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 50th hat-trick of his career in a 6-3 home crushing of newly promoted Girona who had earlier in the season beaten the Spanish champions on their home ground. The result takes Real, above Valencia but they are still four points behind city rivals Atletico Madrid, who fell to a surprise 2-1 loss at Villarreal. And Real are still 15 points behind leaders Barcelona, who won 2-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao earlier on Sunday to remain unbeaten in the league this season. In Italy’s Serie A, Raul Albiol scored the winner as Napoli closed the gap on Serie A leaders Juventus to just two points after the defending champions were surprisingly held to a goalless draw at lowly SPAL on Saturday. Ex-Real Madrid defender Albiol grabbed the only goal on 72 minutes, heading in Jose Callejon's corner for his first goal since January 2016. Dries Mertens struck the posts for the hosts, with Aleandro Rosi's header for Genoa kept out by Pepe Reina. Roma stayed in third spot ahead of Inter Milan after a 2-0 victory at Crotone. In the German Bundesliga, runaway leaders Bayern Munich lost 2-1 at RB Leipzig on Sunday, their first defeat in 19 matches in all competitions. Bayern, 17 points clear at the top of the table, went ahead after only 12 minutes when Sandro Wagner headed in from James Rodriguez's fine cross. But Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita, equalised late in the first half and then set up Timo Werner who drilled a low winner from 15 metres past Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich. FC Schalke 04 remain in second place after a 1-0 away win over Wolfsburg on Saturday. RB Leipzig, who play Marseille in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, are sixth in Germany's top flight, but only two points behind Eintracht Frankfurt who are fourth and in the last Champions League qualifying spot.

Ireland win Grand Slam with 24-15 victory over England

Ireland beat England 24-15 on St Patrick's Day at Twickenham on Saturday to win only the third Grand Slam in their history while Wales finished runners-up on the Six Nations Championship ladder with a narrow 14-13 victory over France in Cardiff. First-half tries from Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale saw Ireland sparkle in the snow as Joe Schmidt's men opened up a 21-5 lead despite having Peter O'Mahony in the sin bin. A double from Elliot Daly and Jonny May's try with the clock in the red at the end of the game brought only faint consolation for the home side on another chastening afternoon for coach Eddie Jones. Clinical with their chances, composed on an afternoon of immense pressure, Ireland were fully deserving of their triumph, displaying a thrilling blend of experience and youth. England had won 14 matches on the bounce at Twickenham but their poor Six Nations went from disappointing to disastrous under a green-shirted onslaught. Not since the dark days of 2006 have they lost three matches in a single Six Nations campaign, and with Scotland beating Italy and Wales beating France, they eventually finished fifth in the table for the first time. In the Wales match, a Liam Williams try and three Leigh Halfpenny penalties gave Wales a 14-10 interval advantage. Gael Fickou scored France's try and the visitors enjoyed second-half possession and territory dominance. But Wales' dogged defence held firm for victory with only three points scored in the second-half. In the French Top 14, league leaders Montpellier Herault got a reality check after their 41-3 drubbing of second-placed Racing 92 the previous weekend. Stade Toulouse beat them 22-14 to move ahead of Toulon into third place while Racing 92 stayed within contention in second place, four points behind Montpellier after a 28-22 home defeat of lowly Stade Francais in the local derby. The shock of the round was Toulon’s 29-26 loss at lowly Oyonnax.

Catalans Dragons suffer 26-0 loss at home to Warrington

Catalans Dragons remained rooted to the bottom of the Super League after a dismal 26-0 home loss to Warrington Wolves who ended a two-game winless run in rain-soaked Perpignan. The Catalans, with only two points from six games, were 14-0 down at the break with Mitch Brown crossing out wide, Daryl Clark sneaking in and Ben Murdoch-Masila going in on the right. Murdoch-Masila went in again to add to the lead after half-time. And Harvey Livett crossed late on for the Wolves to give the hardy travelling fans extra cheer. The Catalans were denied any points when Greg Bird's second-half touchdown was ruled out for obstruction. They also lost back-rower Benjamin Jullien late on for a head injury assessment. Both teams finished in Super League's bottom four last season and are yet to find their form in 2018 but victory for Warrington in appalling conditions suggest they are making progress. At the other end of the table, St Helens remained top with 10 points from six games despite a 28-20 loss to last season’s champions Leeds Rhinos which ended their winning start to the season. But breathing down their necks, two points behind and with a game in hand, are Wigan Warriors whose away match against Castleford Tigers was postponed on Sunday because of snow. The bad weather also forced the abandonment of third-placed Wakefield Trinity’s home match against Widnes Warriors after 27 minutes.

Del Potro ends Federer’s 2018 unbeaten run at Indian Wells

Big serving Argentine Juan Martin del Potro handed world No.1 Roger Federer his first loss of the year with a tense 6-4 6-7(8) 7-6(2) victory in the BNP Paribas Open final at Indian Wells on Sunday. The nail- biting final lasted almost three hours as the raucous Southern California crowd cheered the 36-year-old Federer along, and both players took occasional issue with the chair umpire. Defending champion Federer had chalked up 17 consecutive wins in 2018, a run which included the Swiss winning his 20th grand slam title at the Australian Open, before his defeat by the injury-plagued del Potro. Del Potro has now won 11 consecutive matches as he followed up his success in Acapulco by earning his first ever Masters 1000 title. “It’s difficult to describe with words, it’s like a dream. I’ve been working hard to get this,” del Potro told an on-court reporter after securing the biggest win of his career since lifting the U.S. Open title in 2009. In the women’s singles, Unseeded 20-year-old Naomi Osaka claimed her first WTA title with an emphatic victory over Daria Kasatkina.The Japanese world No.44 beat the Russian 20th seed 6-3 6-2 in one hour 10 minutes. Osaka, who dropped just one set throughout the tournament, dominated on serve to outmuscle Kasatkina. Osaka, is the youngest champion at Indian Wells since Ana Ivanovic in 2008. It was the first time two players aged under 21 had contested the final at Indian Wells since Serena Williams, then aged 20, beat 18-year-old Kim Clijsters in 2001. Osaka, Williams and Clijsters are the only unseeded players to win the women's title at the event. Both players had ousted several top-ranked players in California, notably in the semi-finals where Osaka thrashed world number one Simona Halep and Kasatkina outlasted Venus Williams in three sets.

McIlroy wins Arnold Palmer Invitational with brilliant late charge

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy staged a spectacular back nine charge to claim a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, collecting his first PGA Tour win since 2016 and putting himself among the red-hot favourites for the U.S. Masters, the first major of the year. Two back of overnight leader Henrik Stenson when the day began, McIlroy overhauled the Swede with a brilliant error-free final round eight-under 64. He hit five birdies over his last six holes, including a nerve-wracking clutch 25-foot birdie at the 18th. McIlroy arrived in Orlando with plenty of concern over the state of his game having missed the cut in two of his four PGA Tour starts this year with his best result a tie for 20th. McIlroy strung together four consistent subpar rounds for an 18-under 270 total and a three shot victory over American Bryson DeChambeau (68). Briton Justin Rose (67) finished alone in third while Stenson (71) faded to fourth. Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner at Bay Hill, had a 69 to cap another solid comeback effort and finished in a tie for fifth. McIlroy’s dramatics overshadowed another patented charge from Woods, who had put himself within one shot of the lead with four to play.

Nibali sets up perfect finish to win Milan-San Remo classic

Vincenzo Nibali timed his move to perfection to claim the Milan-San Remo “Monument” classic as he just held off the sprint specialists over 291km on Saturday. The 2014 Tour de France champion snatched the first of five top one-day races — Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Tour of Lombardy — by pulling away from the pack on the ascent of the Poggio, seven km from the finish. The Bahrain-Merida rider, the first Italian to win the “Primavera” since 2006, looked back only in the final few metres when a group of top sprinters were breathing down his neck. Australian Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and France’s Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), the 2016 champion, were second and third respectively. “I have to thank the team, who rode perfectly. I was able to hide in the group with (Sonny) Colbrelli, keeping an eye out and staying out of the wind,” Nibali said. Briton Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) suffered a spectacular crash, landing on his back and fracturing a rib after somersaulting after hitting a central divider.

Root gets a ton as England prepare for 1st Test against the Kiwis

England captain Joe Root made a century on the final day of a second tour match against a New Zealand XI prior to next week's first Test against the Kiwis in Auckland. Root, batting at number six, made 115 as his side reached 353 for nine wickets in the drawn game in Hamilton, while opener Mark Stoneman made 48. Number three James Vince continued to struggle as he was dismissed for five. All-rounder Ben Stokes did not bowl because of a stiff back but made 27 in the build up to the first Test - a day/nighter - which begins on Thursday 22 March. "The last two days have been pleasing for us, just to pick up the intensity a little bit," said all-rounder Moeen Ali, who scored 28. "The guys are ready to go now." Moeen struggled with the bat and ball during the 4-0 defeat in Australia over the winter but he took 3-67 in the second warm-up match. New Zealand had earlier made 287.

Italy’s Dovizioso pips champion Marquez in MotoGP opener

Italian Andrea Dovizioso won the Qatar Grand Prix for Ducati by the narrowest of margins on Sunday as MotoGP served up a season-opening thriller at the floodlit Losail circuit near the capital, Doha. Honda’s reigning world champion Marc Marquez finished a mere 0.027 seconds behind the man who took last season’s title battle down to the wire. The legendary Italian rider Valentino Rossi, starting his 23rd grand prix season at the age of 39 and with a new two-year Yamaha contract freshly signed, joined them on the podium after the night-time race. Dovizioso had started eighth but seized the lead from Frenchman Johann Zarco, who had set the pace from pole position, with five laps to go and pulled away with Marquez in close pursuit. The Spaniard made his move at the last corner of the last lap but failed to make it stick, with Dovizioso using the Ducati’s power to take his ninth MotoGP win. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow was fourth for LCR Honda, the best non-factory rider, with Zarco dropping to eighth as his tyres lost performance.

Shi beats Lin to win all-Chinese England Open badminton final

Seventh seed Shi Yuqi beat compatriot Lin Dan to win an all-Chinese final of the All England Open badminton championships in Birmingham on Sunday. Shi, last year’s runner-up, won the opening game 21-19 against the six-time champion. Lin, the sixth seed and twice an Olympic gold medalist, came back to take the second game 21-16 but was outplayed in the third, trailing 11-2 at the mid-game break and losing it 21-9. In the women’s final top seed and defending champion Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan beat second seed Akane Yamaguchi from Japan 22-20 21-13.

For full reports on all the weekend sporting events go to:

http://www.bbc.com/sport, http://www.espn.com, http://www.lequipe.fr, http://www.reuters.com/news/sports, www.skysports.com,

Calendar Keynotes: 19-25 March 

Monday, 19 March

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida US (till 1 April).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Spain (till 25 March). 

Tuesday, 20 March

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 1 April).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Spain (till 25 March). 

Wednesday, 21 March

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 1 April).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Spain (till 25 March). 

Thursday, 22 March

Rugby League: Super League – Widnes Vikings v Salford Red Devils.

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 1 April).

Cricket: New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Auckland (till 26 March), South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town (series 1-1, till 26 March).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Spain (till 25 March).

Golf: USPGA World Golf Championships, Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin Country Club, Texas (till 25 March).

Friday, 23 March

Football: International friendlies (major countries) – Russia v Brazil, Norway v Australia, Turkey v Republic of Ireland, Argentina v Italy, Germany v Spain, Netherlands v England, Portugal v Egypt, France v Colombia, Greece v Switzerland.

Rugby Union – Aviva Premiership – Bath v Exeter.

Rugby League: Super League – .Hull FC v Catalans Dragons, Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers, Warrington Wolves v Wakefield Trinity, Hull KR v St Helens, Wigan Warriors v Huddersfield Giants.

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 1 April).

Cricket: New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Auckland (till 26 March), South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town (series 1-1, till 26 March).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Spain (till 25 March).

Golf: USPGA World Golf Championships, Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin Country Club, Texas (till 25 March). 

Saturday, 24 March

Football: International friendlies (major countries) – Peru v Croatia, Mexico v Iceland, Northern Ireland v South Korea, Sweden v Chile,

Rugby Union: Aviva Premiership – London Irish v Gloucester, Sale Sharks v Worcester, Saracens v Harlequins, Newcastle v Northampton, French Top 14 – La Rochelle v Bordeaux Begles, Pau v Oyonnax, Montpellier Herault v Castres.

Cricket: New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Auckland (till 26 March), South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town (series 1-1, till 26 March).

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 1 April).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Spain (till 25 March).

Golf: USPGA World Golf Championships, Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin Country Club, Texas (till 25 March). 

Sunday, 25 March

Rugby Union: Aviva Premiership – Leicester v Wasps, French Top 14 – Toulon v Clermont Auvergne, Lyon v Racing 92.

Cricket: New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Auckland (till 26 March), South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town (series 1-1, till 26 March).

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 1 April).

USPGA World Golf Championships, Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin Country Club, Texas (final day).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Spain (final day).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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