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LEICESTER CITY VS SPORTING BRAGA

The foxes have impressed in the last few games and there was no letting up on Thursday night. What a pass from Tielemans in the build up the third goal from fellow Belgian Praet. Iheanacho, deputizing for the rested Vardy struck a brace to stake a claim for a starting berth but it will take some doing to depose Vardy in the form he is in. Braga on the other hand barely threatened Schmeichel’s goal. With competition for the top 4 places in the Premiership promising to be at an all time high, this competition may provide a route for Leicester into the Champions League. They need to sort out their consistency issues particularly after Christmas. Their over reliance on goals from Vardy may come back to bite them and may possibly need to dip into January market to find a player who can supplement him. No offence to Iheanacho and Slimani of course.

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PARIS MASTERS HIGHLIGHTS

Standout result on Thursday was Stan Wawrinka beating the in form Russian Andrey Rublev in 3 sets. Stan the man recovered impressively from losing the first set for just 1 game showing his younger upstart he has a lot in his 35 year old self.The key to his victory was winning his efficient conversion of break points(3/5) to Rublev’s (3/6). There was not much in it but it proved to be telling. Rafa Nadal celebrated a milestone 1000th win on the tour with a straight sets win over Australian Thompson. Thompson impressed me with my shot of the day when he was 3-2 up in the second at 0-15. Nadal is now ONLY behind Jimmy Connors(USA), Roger Federer(SUI) AND Ivan Lendl(CZE). He looked much settled after a shaky last match with Lopez.

CITI OPEN:KEI NISHIKORI VS SAM QUERREY

ATP tour moves back to North America for the Citi Open in Washington ,DC. Two players faced off who couldn’t be more different in style , Japan’s Nishikori and USA’s QUERREY. The former is a long rally kind of player the later a big server. Kei emerging victorious but check out this play by Sam thus giving us an important lesson. Check out 1-1(30-15). Conserve energy ,shorten points if you playing in conditions as hot as those currently prevailing in the US at the moment and keep it simple.

To set up the very first break point, Kei had to go after Sam’s second serve which is usually the weakest of the Querrey serve. Always study your opponent. Point of the match, second set 1-1(30-15). Brilliant net play from both players,almost ping pong like,and here came another lesson for the younger players. In a hotly equally contested net sequence ,relieve pressure with the lob, effectively restarting the point again. Here Sam loses the point but fair play from both players. Former US open finalist Kei deservedly through to the second round in Washington.

OLYMPICS CYCLING TEAM PURSUIT QUALIFIERS(MEN)

Denmark made it to the final of the team pursuit for men beating GB but controversially after a crash. Denmark’s Freddy Madsen rode into Great Britain’s Charlie Tanfield to spark a heated debate as to the winner of the race. Denmark looked the part in the race and caught Tanfield who was the third rider, he had tired and trailed from the group. The crash looked very much accidental, both teams failed to record the mandatory 4km time.

Race organizers ruled that since Denmark had caught up with GB, they therefore were the race winners. This for me was very much spot on. The very essence of the Team Pursuit race is catching the other team which the Danes did. The crash argument is nether here nor there. The issue that GB should press organizers is that the crash impacted on their chances of getting into the bronze medal match, since we didn’t get to see their best time. Tanfield eventually got up and finished the race, was given a time of 4:28:49 by the organizers out of thin air. I believe they should be a special 3 team bronze medal final including team GB in the interest of fairness.

Filippo Ganna’s Italy secured the other gold medal final berth with victory over New Zealand, setting a new world record in 3:42:397.

OLYMPICS CYCLING TEAM PURSUIT(MEN)

The cycling discipline moved to the indoor track at Tokyo 2020. On Monday yesterday was the team pursuit discipline. What is team pursuit discipline and how does it do from the individual one? Well the team pursuit starts with two teams on the opposite ends of the track. A team will pursue the other team with the team that posts the fastest time winning. This usually will be the final of the event. The qualifiers of the event involves one team alone on the track setting its own time. Each team will have four riders, each following each other closely. Since the front rather works the hardest, he sometimes peels off the line to rejoin it at the rear to make some poor sucker do all the work.

Australia would be disappointed with their performance in this even when their rider Alex Porter’s handle bars came flying off all over the show. This happened in the qualifying Heats. The good news was he was at the back of the group so no harm was done to his teammates O’Brien,Welsford and Howard. Now the immediate knee jerk reaction is to blame the manufacturer of the bike which for professional reasons I wi not mention. Quality control in manufacturing can never be perfect. There is always that one in a 100 black swan that slips the the quality control cracks and the swan happened to land in the hands of team Australia. Quite unlucky hey.

Anyway Australia are still in contention for the Bronze which is at least a consolation. Team Denmark beat Team GB ‘s record in the team pursuit in a feel good moment. As we know GB doesn’t lose quietly at times. Denmark are being accused of wearing identical shin tape on their legs.🙅 Let me get out of hell out of here before I say something.

OLYMPICS SOCCER(LADIES):USA VS CANADA

North American derby going the way of the Canadians in this “upset” win. I say upset loosely because the US have never really got going in these Olympic games. The VAR reviewed penalty by Jessie Fleming enough to send Bronze medalists from the last two Olympics through to the gold medal match. Controversial às the decision might have been it was the right one. At first glance it seemed like the coming together of two players fairly going for the ball with the Canadian attacker Rose swinging at the ball and missing it with US defender Davidson standing her ground. On second glance the use of the arm by Davidson appeared to knock Rose out of contention for the ball so for me penalty was the right call.

Having lost penalty shootout star from the quarters, Alyssa Naeher with a busted knee, stand up keeper Adrianna Franch was tasked with stopping the pen. You needed a goalkeeper from Mars to save that shot from Fleming. The problem with the USWNT in this match was although they created chances, they never made a lot of shots on target. With many of their star players like Carli Lloyd , Rapinoe, Morgan , Heath the wrong side of 30 years of age , maybe it’s time for a change of guard in US soccer.

PLAY OF THE WEEK

USA men’s basketball team have gathered their wits about then after a bad start against France. They beat Czech Republic convincingly although the Czechs started really well there too. They were helped by former NBA MVP Kevin Durant’s record breaking points tally. He surpassed Carmelo Anthony’s tally for.most points for USA at the Olympics of 336 points in that match. Not only was he great offensively his defends deserves applause too. Watch the block in the clip. The USA really put the squeeze on the Czech’s attack in the second and third quarters and that block sums it up. KD from the 3 point line blocks the Czech attacker who probably should not have underestimated the height that KD has. Effectively KD converted the 3 points for the Czechs into the two points for USA plus the foul to top it. Talk about a huge payoff.

UFC FIGHT NIGHT:HALL VS STRICKLAND

Sean Strickland’s jabs and quick combination too much for Hall. Sean showed he is a fighter to watch in the UFC middleweight division. Check out the ease with which he lands the left jabs in the first round, Uriah was off to a slow start. Uriah started to get done significant strikes to land at the start of the second round but before long he was back to the default first round position of being on the defensive. Check out the blow to Uriah’s nuts by Sean with 50 seconds of the second round to go. Don’t think it was intentional ,Hall shifted the leg just as the blow landed, Sean in my opinion aiming for the right leg thigh. Hall’s kicking was a great watch, the round house kick at the end of the second round deserves a second look. Come on hit that rewind.

Credit goes to Hall too for quickly getting to his feet after the successful takedowns by Sean. The third round takedown though had a hint of clash of heads there. Lucky Uriah had the horn to thank after being locked in the submission at the end of the third. In the fourth I thought Sean missed a golden chance of ending the bout when he had Hall on the fence after a series of punches only to go for the takedown instead of continuing with the punches. Sean the better fighter deservedly winning on points.

OLYMPICS TENNIS(MEN):ZVEREV VS KHACHANOV

Sascha ZVEREV is Olympic Champion for the first time crushing Russian Olympic Committee’s Karen KHACHANOV on Sunday. The serving was almost perfect from the German on first serve. Check out 2-1 (30-15). From the moment thr ball left the racquet on the serve, ZVEREV was always in control. The point win made possible by keeping Karen rooted on his baseline for the better part of the rally. KHACHANOV on the other hand was not finishing points quick enough especially when it seemed he was in control of rallies. Check out 3-1(30-15). Karen should have finished the point off when playing the forehand cross court to the forehand side of Zverev, the Russian lucky to get the net cord run of the green at the end there. Zverev got out of jail in the sixth game at 3-2 on his serve, edging a tight deuce game. Now check out 5-3 first point. If you want a sure fire way of guaranteeing you winning a point is to hit the forehand return inches from the net with pace but of course you risk hitting the net hey. The double break making it 6-3 Sascha also winning the benefit of serving first in the second set. Karen missing a seemingly easy forehand volley at the net there on set point.

Sascha was serving brilliantly, he held serve to love first game of the second with plenty of winners to salivate on if you are a neutral. The thing was Karen wasn’t exactly being bamboozled on his own serve, far from it, he was actually competitive in them. He took too long in rallies to finish them off that is, got the feeling the chances of him winning the point got slimmer and slimmer as the rally got longer and longer. Down triple break point at 5-0 it was effectively match over for Karen. Sascha’s serving an example, I got to repeat that sorry😉. Before that KHACHANOV entertained. Check out the defensive play on 3-0(30-15) ala Djokovic.Confident convincing win from Alexander Zverev and after this 🏅win a grand slam win at last will be next on the agenda. US Open up next on a similar surface to the one in Tokyo 2020.

OLYMPICS SOCCER(MEN):SPAIN VS COTE D’IVOIRE

African medal hopefuls Coté D’Ivoire pulled out all the stops before the tournament by calling up the big guns such as Franck Kessie(Milan) and Manchester United pair of Amad and Eric Bailly. It is ironic that it was Bailly who cost his team a place in the semis with a defensive horror show he might want to forget in a hurry. It is the united defender who had given the Ivorians the Lead deservedly so after creating the better chances. He turned villain later by chesting into the path of Dani Olmo.

Max Gradel the captain and best attacking player on the pitch in my opinion gave Cote D’Ivoire the lead in injury time to seemingly book a place in the medal matches but then came a moment of sheer and utter insanity for Bailly. 93rd minute the former Espanyol defender tries to head the ball back to his keeper again like the chesting incident no purchase on the ball whatsoever. Easy goal that Rafael will ever score. The penalty he conceded in extra time is criminal especially in the var era. Blatant and obvious handball. The penalty dispatched Bruno Fernandes style by Oyarzabal. I will not comment anymore on the further two goals by Spain, except to say that Varane’s signing by Manchester united looks mightily vindicated after watching this match.

OLYMPICS TENNIS(LADIES):BENCIC VS VONDROUSOVA

Swiss world number 12 Belinda BENCIC beat Czech Republic’s Marketa in 3 sets but not without controversy.A medical time out by the Swiss apparently suffering from a toe blister has aroused much anger in the tennis community. A toe blister is not that much big of a deal to spend time with the trainer and the fact that it was called just before the opponent serves smacks of gamesmanship on the part of Belinda. I call it momentum killing. She went in to break Marketa’s serve to love to lead 5-3 and ultimately win the match 6-3 in the third.

This match had so many breaks of serve, both players struggling getting a foothold on the first and last sets although the middle set was fairly one sided in favor of VONDROUSOVA.Check out 1-0 first set 40-30. Marketa had a nervous opening serving game hitting an easy forehand wide to hand the break to Belinda early. Check out too 2-2(30-40) the swing of the wrist on the forehand for the break of serve only for Belinda to break back next game. BENCIC eventually taking the first set 7-5.

The middle set did not quite go the same distance as the first, it was over by the 8th game. The court coverage by Marketa was on point. Check out the deft touch at 3-1(40-30).Now on to the controversial bit in the third set. Do we have a right to question a player’s injury status during the match? I don’t think so. In as much as it stinks to high heaven that the time out happened at a great time for Belinda, we do not know what she was feeling so we cant judge. Some say she should have taken the time out when she was serving. BENCIC becomes the first Swiss singles gold medalist, and the fourth overall from her country to win gold after Federer and Wawrinka in the 2008 doubles win and Marc Rosset in Barcelona 1992.

OLYMPICS SOCCER (LADIES):USA VS NETHERLANDS

USWNT have not been convincing at Tokyo 2020 thus far at least buy they still scrapped through to the semis. Alyssa Naeher showed up for the shootout but she was under scrutiny again for the Dutch equalizer to make it 2-2. To be fair she even saved a late penalty at the back end of normal time. It cannot be easy being a fan of the US team with the stress they put you through but hey they all count. After all, Italy men’s team won the Euros after going to extra time on 3 of their knockout matches. No Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan for this one but the former scored the decisive pen.

The most impressive players this tournament for me have been Dunn and Heath. Heath has the pace and dribbling skill , was unlucky to be flagged just offside early in the match. Miedenna was the Dutch’s best player with both goals and all round play. She was given way too much time to turn and shoot for the first goal. Her second was more of more poor play by Naeher. The goalie sees the ball from a long way and had ample time to get behind the ball but failed to do so. The defending in this tournament of crosses had been generally poor as seen by first USA goalby Mewis. The quality of deliveries from crosses has been excellent, just watch the peach of a cross by Williams in assisting for the goal. It was Williams who got the second. I want you to check out the defending by the Dutch for the goal. There is a defender right on the line for the Why I ask? Doesn’t that make the team a woman light in the box? Anyway well taken goal by Williams, couldn’t have been easy with the ball bouncing before the strike.

Let’s talk about penalties now. A common myth in soccer circles says that if you hit the ball down the middle, chances are you will get to score. I say that is a bunch of nonsense. It is down to good fortune and some science behind it. It starts with selection of shooters. You choose the best players with the least amount of misses in their previous seasons. You arrange that the most inexperienced player starts and progress through to your most experienced.Statistically chances Of missing a penalty progress as the penalty also progresses so you will want your most level headed shooter in the later stages of it. Mind the age of the shooters too. The youngest shooter and most likely to miss should come first.

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