SPORTS DAY: Cote d-Ivoire clash is crucial, says Baxter
Your roundup of the sporting news of the day
Bafana to lay down cup marker against Cote d'Ivoire
Stuart Baxter is eyeing Bafana Bafana’s showdown against Cote d'Ivoire in the opening match of the 2019 African Nations Cup in Egypt in June as an opportunity to lay down the marker for the tournament as a whole. Baxter has steadfastly refused to set targets at the continental showpiece but revealed that the potentially explosive clash on June 24 would be crucial for his charges if they are to make an early statement in the event. “The first one (against Cote d-Ivoire) will be important‚” he said of the game that will be followed by Namibia on June 28 and Morocco on July 1. Bafana will play all their Group D matches at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo and will only move to the other venue if they fail to finish on top of their group. Three points may well be enough to take Bafana to the last 16 as four best third-placed finishers will join the 12 teams that will finish first and second in the six groups in the 24-team tournament.
Stunning comeback gives Blitzboks Singapore title
The Blitzboks scored 20 unanswered points in the second half of a dramatic Singapore Sevens final to beat Fiji 20-19 and secure their second win of the season. A last-minute penalty by Selvyn Davids sealed a dramatic comeback to add to SA’s Vancouver title earlier in the season. Victory cemented their place in the top four on the standings. SA are now on 121 log points‚ 14 clear of fifth-placed England in a race for the an automatic Olympic qualification place. The Blitzboks were in top form all weekend‚ winning six out of six matches but it looked like their 100% record was to be undone by Fiji‚ who ran into a 19-0 halftime lead in the final. The islanders overpowered the Blitzboks at the breakdown while SA were guilty of missing several tackles. It allowed the speed and power of Fiji to dominate the early exchanges. Amaniasi Tuimaba‚ Napolioni Bolaca and Vilimoni Botitu all scored before the break.
Hamilton back on top after landmark win in China
Five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton returned to the top of the Formula One standings on Sunday with a comfortable victory in China that ticked off two more milestones in an already stellar career. The 34-year-old, already one of only three drivers to have won five or more titles, wrote another page in the record books as the winner of the 1,000th world championship race since the first in 1950. He also claimed a landmark 75th career F1 victory, placing him just 16 shy of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record tally of 91. “I was just thinking how delicious that was,” Hamilton, who also won the 900th race in 2014, said after leading teammate Valtteri Bottas in a third successive one-two finish. “It really has been an interesting first three races. We, as a team, definitely didn’t expect to have three one-twos, but now I’m proud to have been part of the work that everyone has done and to be a part of these results.”
Nishikori tips Federer for clay comeback success
Roger Federer may not be playing at the Monte Carlo Masters but the Swiss legend was still at the forefront of 2018 finalist Key Nishikori’s thoughts on Sunday. “Everything is possible (for Federer),” Asia’s top player predicted. Federer is due for a return to the dirt after two seasons completely off the surface in three weeks at Madrid, his lone scheduled tune-up prior to the French Open, which he last played in 2015. “It (winning Roland Garros) might be tougher for him than winning the Australian Open or Wimbledon, but I’m sure he can do anything if he tries 100%,” said Nishikori. “He’s a lot different than anyone else on the Tour,” added the world No 3 who lost the final here a year ago as Rafael Nadal won his 11th title in the principality. “I’m sure Roger can do very well on clay. He’s still my idol, he’s the best player in history. I’m happy to see him playing more tournaments, I hope I can play him again,” said the player who has beaten the 37-year-old Swiss three times and most recently last November at the year-end ATP Finals.
Unrepentant Folau leaves things up to God
Unrepentant Wallabies star Israel Folau stood by his controversial anti-gay comments on Sunday and said he was content to walk away from rugby with his faith in God taking priority. The deeply religious 30-year-old caused a storm last week after posting on Instagram that “Hell awaits” homosexuals and other sinners. It sparked a fierce backlash and Rugby Australia said it planned to sack him. The two sides met on Friday with the dual international, who started his career in rugby league, expected to go through a code of conduct hearing amid reports that he may have a legal case for religious discrimination. “It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things,” Folau told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. “Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do.”
West Ham to ban fans for life over anti-Semitic video
West Ham fans identified in a video chanting anti-Semitic slogans will be barred for life, the Premier League club said on Sunday. The video surfaced of the Hammers supporters chants on their way to Saturday’s Premier League away match with Manchester United. This comes days after a video captured Chelsea fans singing an Islamophobic song about Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah, before their Europa League match against Czech side Slavia Prague. Three of the six people in the video were identified and barred. A similar fate awaits the West Hams supporters. “We are disgusted by the contents of the video,” said a West Ham spokesperson. “These people are not welcome at our club, they are not welcome in civilised society. We are taking immediate action to try to identify the offenders, whose details we will be handing over to the police and will be banned for life from London Stadium and from travelling with the club.”
Momota prevents Ginting smash-and-grab
Japan’s Kento Momota withstood a barrage of smashes from Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting to rally for a thrilling 10-21 21-19 21-13 victory in the Singapore Open final on Sunday. The world champion struggled to contain his powerful Indonesian opponent, who was finding both corners of the court in the first half of the match. But the top seed dug deep to fight back from 16-11 behind in the second game to force a decider. Momota trailed again in the last game as Ginting sought a third straight upset win in as many days. But the left-hander used a combination of improvisation and guile to craft a run of 13 points in 14 to seal a stunning victory with a disguised drop shot on his first match point. “I felt my opponent played better than me today but I was able to capitalise when he got tired,” Momota, who also won the Singapore title in 2015, told reporters.
Ethiopia sweeps Paris marathon
Ethiopian Abrha Milaw upstaged two-time defending champion Paul Lonyangata to win the Paris Marathon on Sunday. Milaw clocked 2hr 07min 05sec, with Kenyan rival Lonyangata coming in third as 49,155 runners took to the streets of the French capital in cold, clear conditions. Gelete Burka produced a spurt of extra gas in the final kilometre to ensure an Ethiopian winner in the women’s race with a time of 2:22:48. France’s Clemence Calvin, who was only cleared to race on Friday after the last-minute lifting of a temporary ban for evading a doping test last month in Morocco, smashed the French women’s record. Calvin finished fourth in 2:23:41, bettering by 41 seconds the previous national record set by Christelle Daunay in 2010. It also bettered by almost three minutes her own previous best of 2:26:28 which she set when finishing second in the European championships in Berlin in 2018.
Kohli, De Villiers relieved as Bangalore win
Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli said he never doubted his misfiring team’s desire after guiding them to their first victory of the Indian Premier League season on Saturday. Kohli scored 67 while South African AB de Villiers remained unbeaten on 59 as their team, having lost their previous six matches, successfully chased their victory target of 174 against Kings XI Punjab. “After so many setbacks the guys had desire, that’s one word we spoke about,” batsman Kohli said during the post-match presentation ceremony. “It’s a great feeling to get across the line. We’ve been unlucky in a couple of games. We thought 190 will be par and to restrict them to 170 was a great effort.” De Villiers said the win was an important first step for the team to turn their fortunes around in an unlikely push for a playoff spot. “Our first win, we’ve waited a long time this season for that so we’re very happy. We know it’s a very small step in the right direction but a very good step nonetheless.”
Cops, league investigate Barton over tunnel incident
Joey Barton was subject of more controversy on Sunday with police investigating the Fleetwood Town manager’s alleged involvement in assaulting his Barnsley opposite number following their third-tier match on Saturday. A Barnsley player has tweeted that after Fleetwood lost 4-2, Barton assaulted Daniel Stendel. Cauley Woodrow wrote that Barnsley’s German manager had been “physically assaulted” and left with “blood pouring from his face”. Woodrow later deleted the tweet. Barton, 36, was a talented but volatile player who was embroiled in a few scraps, on and off the pitch, during his playing days. He won one England cap during a career that saw him play for a host of clubs including Manchester City and Marseille. His playing career ended at Burnley.
– AFP, Reuters and TimesLIVE