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The sports wrap 31st December 2018

LanguedocLiving, Dec 30

Man City bounce back but remain seven points behind leaders Liverpool.

Manchester City recovered from two consecutive defeats to beat Southampton 3-1 on Sunday and cut the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to seven points before the top two meet on Thursday. Tottenham Hotspur slipped back to third after a surprising 3-1 loss at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers while Chelsea consolidated their fourth spot with a grinding 1-0 win at stubborn Crystal Palace. Manchester United chalked up their third straight win under new boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer beating AFC Bournemouth 4-1 at home to stay in sixth position, a huge 22 points behind unbeaten Liverpool. At the Etihad Stadium, champions City won at Southamption with strikes from David Silva, Sergio Aguero and a James Ward-Prowse own goal. Bernardo Silva teed up David Silva to slot home unmarked in the 10th minute but Southampton hit back with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg slamming home after robbing Oleksandr Zinchenko. City regained the lead when Sterling’s cut-back deflected against Ward-Prowse after 45 minutes and Aguero headed home another from Zinchenko’s cross in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. At Anfield, Liverpool produced a devastating 5-1 dismissal of fifth-placed Arsenal with hat-trick hero Roberto Firmino the inspiration. Arsenal took the lead after only 11 minutes when Ainsley Maitland-Niles slid in at the far post to score from Alex Iwobi's cross - but it was a false dawn. Liverpool responded with an explosive display that saw them 4-1 up by the interval and on their way to continuing their unbeaten league run to 20 games. Firmino took advantage of Arsenal's defensive confusion to quickly equalise then slalom past a posse of defenders to put Liverpool in front after Lucas Torreira lost possession, all in the space of two minutes. Sadio Mane extended Liverpool's lead after 32 minutes when Andrew Robertson's long cross exposed Arsenal after they needlessly conceded a corner, before Mohamed Salah effectively ended the contest from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time after he had been fouled by Sokratis. Liverpool then cruised to close out the win, Firmino completing his hat-trick from the spot after 65 minutes following Sead Kolasinac's push on Dejan Lovren. At Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur were brought back to earth by Wolves after threatening to close in on Liverpool with a five-match winning run. After going into the break leading 1-0 thanks to a spectacular 25-metre Harry Kane strike, the home side let in three goals in the final 18 minutes to end their five-match winning run. In the Scottish Premiership, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers ignited the title race after inflicting Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers' first defeat in 13 Old Firm games. The home side dominated at a raucous Ibrox Park to defeat the reigning champions with a first-half goal from Ryan Jack. An off –the-pace Celtic remain top on goal difference, and still have a game in hand over Rangers.

Juventus beat Sampdoria to remain nine points clear in Serie A

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals to give unbeaten champions Juventus a 2-1 win over Sampdoria to keep them nine points clear of Napoli who beat Bologna 3-2. But it was the video assistant referee (VAR) who played a major role, ruling out an injury-time equalizer for Sampdoria. Riccardo Saponara thought he had taken a point, but the goal was ruled out. Ronaldo scored early on, and later put his side back in front with a penalty that was awarded for a handball which did not look deliberate. Sampdoria's equaliser came from a penalty awarded after consultation with VAR. Elsewhere, 10-man AC Milan scored for the first time in five league games to complete a comeback victory over SPAL and move up to fifth place. The other major European leagues – French Ligue 1, Spanish La Liga and the German Bundesliga – are taking their winter break.

Champions Saracens come from behind to beat Worcester

Premiership champions Saracens avoided a shock defeat as they came from behind to beat Worcester 25-17. But they remain second on the ladder, one point behind Exeter despite the Chiefs 31-28 loss to Northampton Saints. Worcester made a superb start as Duncan Weir and Ben Te'o scored tries in the opening minutes before an Owen Farrell penalty got Saracens on the board. Mako Vunipola's try got the hosts closer before Weir and Farrell traded penalties as the half ended. Calum Clark's try moved the champions ahead for the first time on 52 minutes before David Strettle's fourth try of the season secured the win. Exeter . who inflicted a first loss of the season on Sarries last week, were shocked by Northampton who climbed to fourth in the table with a battling bonus-point win. Saints were two tries up in 10 minutes through Piers Francis and Dan Biggar but after Exeter pressure brought a penalty try, Santiago Cordero crossed to level. Ben Moon scored after Fraser Dingwall restored Saints' lead and Matt Kvesic's try earned two bonus points but Cobus Reinach, then Biggar's penalty won it.

Clermont still lead Top 14 after hammering Perpignan

Clermont Auvergne stayed at the head of the French Top 14 ladder after hammering bottom club Perpignan 37-16, three points clear of Toulouse who thrashed former European champions Toulon 39-0. In third place, three points behind, are La Rochelle who beat last season’s champions Castres 53-27. Clermont’s impressive start to the season, in stark contrast to 2017/18, continued apace with a solid win over winless Perpignan at Stade Aime Giral. Despite their disastrous campaign, Perpignan were not disgraced but Les Jaunards had too much firepower for their beleaguered hosts and they scored four tries to Perpignan’s one. Peter Betham, Wesley Fofana, Arthur Iturria and Peceli Yato crossed the whitewash for Clermont and Greig Laidlaw impressed off the kicking tee by converting all four tries. and he also added three penalties to finish with a 17-point haul. For Perpignan, Enzo Forletta scored a try which was converted by Jonathan Bousquet, who also kicked three penalties. Toulouse moved up to second with a commanding bonus-point victory over Toulon. The home side dominated from start to finish and although they led 13-0 at half-time, Toulouse became stronger after the break. Toulouse, who drew their previous match with table-toppers Clermont, outscored their visitors by five tries to none with Yoann Huget, Antoine Dupont, Thomas Ramos, Piula Faasalele and Cheslin Kolbe all scoring. Ramos also added three conversions and two penalties to finish with a 17-point haul and Romaine Ntamack also slotted a conversion. Montpellier moved up to eight place after 41-13 victory over lowly Pau.

India lead in Test series with victory in third Test against Australia

India beat Australia by 137 runs in the third Test in Melbourne to take a 2-1 lead in the four Test series. The hosts began the final day on 258 for eight wickets, chasing an unlikely 399, but after rain delayed the start, India needed only 4.3 overs to wrap up the win. Jasprit Bumrah, who took career-best match figures of nine for 86, had top scorer Pat Cummins edge to slip for 63, before Nathan Lyon gloved Ishant Sharma behind. The fourth and final Test starts in Sydney on 2 January but the win retains the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the visitors. Bumrah's haul was the best by an India pace bowler in Australia and the 25-year-old leads the series standings with 20 wickets, three more than Australia spinner Lyon. India bounced back after losing the second Test in Perth, to declare twice at the MCG, with their bowlers tearing Tim Paine's side apart for 151 and 261. In Christchurch, New Zealand crushed Sri Lanka by 423 runs in the second Test to win the series 1-0. Sri Lanka began the final day on 231-6 chasing an implausible 660, but folded within 14 balls and were bowled out for 236. A fourth successive series win lifted New Zealand into third in the International Cricket Council rankings. At Centurion, South Africa knocked off the 149 runs required and sealed a six-wicket victory over Pakistan in the first Test, thanks to half-centuries from Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar. Amla (63 not out) and Elgar (50) braved some excellent bowling to put on 119 for the second wicket. Amla's fifty was his 40th in Tests with Elgar - who received a nasty blow on the forearm from a Mohammad Amir delivery in the first session - notching his 13th before he clipped Shan Masood behind a ball later. Amla guided his team home alongside Temba Bavuma (13 not out). South Africa will now be looking to wrap up a series win with a game to spare when they welcome Pakistan to Cape Town for the second Test starting 3 January.

Federer opens Hopman Cup campaign with convincing win

World No.3 Roger Federer outplayed Briton Cameron Norrie 6-1 6-1 to record an impressive winning start for defending champions Switzerland at the Hopman Cup in Perth on Sunday. Gearing up for his Australian Open title defence, the veteran Swiss legend overcame three break points in his opening service game before rediscovering his rhythm to race out to a 5-0 lead. With 18 winners and four aces, Federer wrapped up the opening set in 31 minutes. Norrie, who had defeated Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets on Saturday, struggled to match Federer’s crisp stroke-making as the Swiss gave his team a 1-0 lead. His playing partner Belinda Bencic beat Katie Boulter 6-2 7-6(0) in the women’s contest to clinch Switzerland’s victory in the round-robin stage. The 37-year-old Federer has won the last two Australian Open titles after taking part in the mixed-teams tournament. Last year’s runners-up Germany also made a triumphant return when Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber recorded hard-fought victories in their singles matches. Coming off a title win at the season-ending ATP Finals in London, Zverev countered his 45 unforced errors with 39 winners and eight aces to beat Spanish veteran David Ferrer 6-4 4-6 7-6(0).

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, www.eurosport.fr.

Calendar Keynotes: 31 December – 6 January

Monday, 31 December

Tennis: Hopman Cup, Perth, Australia (till 5 January), ATP & WTA Brisbane International, Australia (till 6 January), ATP Qatar Open, Doha (till 6 January), WTA Auckland Open, New Zealand (till 6 January), WTA Shenzhen Open, China (till 6 January).

Tuesday, 1 January

Football: English Premier League - Arsenal v Fulham, Cardiff City v Tottenham Hotspur.

Tennis: Hopman Cup, Perth, Australia (till 5 January), ATP & WTA Brisbane International, Australia (till 6 January), ATP Qatar Open, Doha (till 6 January), WTA Auckland Open, New Zealand (till 6 January), WTA Shenzhen Open, China (till 6 January). 

Wednesday, 2 January

Football: English Premier League – Chelsea v Southampton, Newcastle United v Manchester United.

Cricket: Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (till 7 January).

Tennis: Hopman Cup, Perth, Australia (till 5 January), ATP & WTA Brisbane International, Australia (till 6 January), ATP Qatar Open, Doha (till 6 January), WTA Auckland Open, New Zealand (till 6 January), WTA Shenzhen Open, China (till 6 January). 

Thursday, 3 January

Football: English Premier League – Manchester City v Liverpool.

Cricket: Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (till 7 January), South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Newlands, Cape Town (till 7 January).

Tennis: Hopman Cup, Perth, Australia (till 5 January), ATP & WTA Brisbane International, Australia (till 6 January), ATP Qatar Open, Doha (till 6 January), WTA Auckland Open, New Zealand (till 6 January), WTA Shenzhen Open, China (till 6 January).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Sentry Tournament of Champions, Plantation Course, Kapalua, Hawaii, US (till 6 January).

Friday, 4 January

Football: FA Cup third round – Tranmere Rovers v Tottenham Hotspur

Rugby union: Gallagher Premiership – Sale v Saracens.

Cricket: Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (till 7 January – India lead series 2-1), South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Newlands, Cape Town (till 7 January).

Tennis: Hopman Cup, Perth, Australia (till 5 January), ATP & WTA Brisbane International, Australia (till 6 January), ATP Qatar Open, Doha (till 6 January), WTA Auckland Open, New Zealand (till 6 January), WTA Shenzhen Open, China (till 6 January).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Sentry Tournament of Champions, Plantation Course, Kapalua, Hawaii, US (till 6 January).

Saturday, 5 January

Football: FA Cup third round (major clubs) – AFC Bournemouth v Brighton & Hove Albion, Manchester United v Reading, West Ham United v Birmingham City, Chelsea v Nottingham Forest, Derby County v Southampton, Everton v Lincoln City, Gillingham v Cardiff City, Blackpool v Arsenal, Bristol City v Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace v Grimsby Town, Newcastle United v Blackburn Rovers, Coupe de France (major clubs) – Olympic Strasbourg v St.-Etienne, Spanish La Liga – Alaves v Valencia, Amiens v Valenciennes, Lyon-Duchere v Nimes, Red Star FC v Caen, Schiltigeim v Dijon, Sete v Limonest, Toulouse v Nice, Bourges 18 v Lyon.

Rugby Union: Gallagher Premiership – Worcester Warriors v Bath, Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins, Exeter Chiefs v Bristol, Leicester Tigers v Gloucester, French Top 14 – Stade Francais v Perprignan, Montpellier v Lyon, Pau v Bordeaux Begles, Grenoble v Castres, Agen v Toulouse, Racing 92 v Toulon.

Cricket: Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (till 7 January – India lead series 2-1), South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Newlands, Cape Town (till 7 January).

Tennis: Hopman Cup, Perth, Australia (final day), ATP & WTA Brisbane International, Australia (till 6 January), ATP Qatar Open, Doha (till 6 January), WTA Auckland Open, New Zealand (till 6 January), WTA Shenzhen Open, China (till 6 January).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Sentry Tournament of Champions, Plantation Course, Kapalua, Hawaii, US (till 6 January).

Sunday, 6 January

Football: FA Cup third round (major clubs) – Manchester City v Rotherham United, Woking v Watford, Newport County v Leicester City, Coupe de France (major clubs) – Andrezieux-Boutheon v Marseille, Canet Rousillon FC v Monaco, Grenoble v Strasbourg, Reims v Lens, Rennes v Brest, Bordeaux v Le Havre, Entente SSG v Montpellier, Pontivy v Paris Saint Germain, Spanish La Liga – Sevilla v Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid v Real Sociedad, Getafe v Barcelona.

Rugby Union: Gallagher Premiership – Wasps v Northampton Saints, French Top 14 – Clermont Auvergne v La Rochelle.

Cricket: Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (till 7 January – India lead series 2-1), South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Newlands, Cape Town (till 7 January).

Tennis: ATP & WTA Brisbane International, Australia (till 6 January), ATP Qatar Open, Doha (till 6 January), WTA Auckland Open, New Zealand (till 6 January), WTA Shenzhen Open, China (till 6 January).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Sentry Tournament of Champions, Plantation Course, Kapalua, Hawaii, US (final day).

 

 

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