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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.

GIRO D’ITALIA STAGE 4

After stage 4, the magna rosa was seized by  Alesandro De Marchi of the Israel Start-up nation team after finishing 13 seconds behind American stage winner Joe Dombrowski. The 159 km Piacenza to Sestola race has several climbs and do not be fooled by it being shorter that stage 2 and 3. The rain made it difficult to gain an early advantage. Joe pulled away from the rest on the final climb making sure to put distance between him and De Marchi. Joe is a skillful cyclist, we can tell by just looking at his descent. Conditions were not ideal but he pedaled down the descent not cutting the corners or leaning to avoid the crash.

LA LIGA:LEVANTE VS FC BARCELONA

Thriller in Valencia.The Catalans miss a golden chance to go top of La Liga. Barca has a weaker defense and it is starting to show in recent games especially away from Camp Nou. Messi can carry this team only so far. An interest piece of action caught my eye. Watch 38 minutes gone a hand ball by Dembele almost handed Levante a penalty or at least a free kick on the edge of the box. This handball ticks all the right boxes for a penalty, arms in unnatural position ,outstretched denying a cross that might have resulted in a goal, the only issue left was for the ref to decide whether it was in the box or not.

Credit should go where its due and its going to credit Levante coach Paco Lopez’s account. Outplayed in the first half, they resorted to what they can do best ,pumping crosses into the Barca box and were rewarded with the Melero goal on 57. Nogales’s first time half volley gave parity two minutes later. The home side never gave up despite conceding a soft goal by Dembele on 64.Sergio Leon made sure Levante got their just deserts 7 minutes from time, his left footer beating Ter Stegen on his near post from a square ball from the left. Barca now second a point behind Atletico De Madrid and a point ahead of Real Madrid who are third , having played a game more.

NBA:WARRIORS VS JAZZ

Stephen Curry’s middle name should be difference maker. In dispatching the Jazz on Monday, they have shown they are capable of scoring the big upset in the playoffs so keeping their main man fit is a priority. Curry’s 36 points should not overshadow the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert’s defensive showing of 16 rebounds. This was critical in running the score line so close at the end.

With the match coming to an end with a minute and 50 to play, one of two critical moments came with the Warriors trailing 113-112. Royce O’Neale with one of the two assists for the match proved to be the difference, what a dummy to score the easy basket. The final moment that turned the match on its head again this time for good, Utah up 116-114 with 30 seconds of the game to play. The initial attempt from 30 plus yards from Steph was no good but fortunately Kevon Looney(who was no rebound slouch in this one with 13) got the offensive rebound to give it to Steph(Sounds like a play on the school playground) and with another downtowner Steph made it 117-116 to Golden State. With 5 seconds to go Utah had the chance to send the game to OT but Jordan Clarkson(He out scored Steph by the way with 41) missed the down the line 3 pointer(He was off balance to make an accurate attempt from where we are sitting). That was it . Jazz remain top in the West, the Warriors heading for the Play Ins in 8th.

PLAY OF THE WEEK

We haven’t covered a lot of MLS in recent weeks but this guy’s form has court our eye. Javier”Chicharito” Hernandez MAY BE A LITTLE OVER THE HILL for European soccer but he is making waves in the city of Angels. He scored a hat trick recently against New York Red Bull and was on the score sheet on Sunday in the LA derby against LA FC. The goal he scored against his team’s city rivals qualifies this week for our play of the week. It is a great goal in its simplicity. Sometimes strikers forget what they are being paid to do, to stick the ball into the back of the net. Some number 9s like to score the impossible goal, taking on one thousand defenders to finally score(Arsenal are you reading). Chicharito stays just shoulder to shoulder with the last defender keeping onside and had eyes for the ball. Another striker would have gone out of position when the ball turned over to FC thinking the chance had gone. This goal reminded us of the goal he scored for Manchester United to clinch the title for the Red Devils in 2011 against Chelsea. Similar sequence. Watch.

UFC:RODRIGUEZ VS WATERSON

It was Mother’s day Sunday and one future mother’ and a current mom were doing their thing in the Octagon in Vegas. Marina Rodriguez got the better of Michelle Waterson on a judges scorecard. Michelle is more of a kick boxing style fighter. Disappointingly she did not lend a lot of significant punches and kicks landing a measly 88 in 5 rounds. Marina from Brazil was dynamite, landing punches in salvos, her reach advantage evident for all to see. Love the fact that Michell attempted the take down which was to her advantage given the way she was being thrashed on her feet.

MADRID OPEN:ZVEREV VS BERRETTINI

Sasha Zverev captured the title in Madrid in three sets against Italian Matteo Berrettini. The first set tie break should really have gone to the German having done all the hard work to come from a break down at 4-3. The Italian’s strength was in the one-two punch. Watch at 6-6 in the tie break(7-6 to Zverev) finishing the point in two swipes of the racquet. In the next two sets Zverev was just too good for Matteo, shutting the door whenever a break point opportunity arises.The double fault by the Italian at 4-4(40-15 down) ultimately cost him the set. Watch his service motion. He is leaning too far into court, he is actually risking a foot fault call there. One more thing the drop shot wasn’t working for Matteo in this set.

If a shot is hit low enough on a clay court it does not bounce high. Keep that in your locker next time you on a clay court. On to the third. What a shocking forehand from Berrettini. Watch 2-2 40-15 Matteo on the ropes. A whole court to hit into and he fails to even find the doubles and the base line. SHOCKING. The writing was on the wall from there on. Sasha winning the whole shebang 6-4 in the third. Good form going into the Italian Masters. PLEASE SOMEBODY ANYBODY STOP NADAL IN PARIS THIS YEAR.

LA LIGA:REAL MADRID VS SEVILLA

Who in La Liga is the happier team after this weekends’ top of the table clashes? Diego Simeone should be the happier after getting a draw at Camp Nou on Saturday and Atleti’s city rivals Real only managing a draw against fourth placed Sevilla at the Alfredo Di Stefano.Sevilla were more efficient in front of goal making the most of the very few chances that came their way.With the gamble to play Sergio Ramos at Stamford Bridge not paying off, Zidane reverted to thecenter back pairing of Nacho and Militao and nothing changed. Fernando making Casemiro and Odriozola sit down on 22 to give Sevilla the lead.Maybe Hazard’s role in this team should change. Maybe the Belgian has reached a stage in his career where he makes more of an impact as a sub.

Trying from range has not worked for Los Blancos recently. Modric and Marcelo insist on doing it but hey if their coach likes it heck with it. Marco Ascencio and Hazard in injury time rescuing a point. Marco has always had a world class left foot. Hazard knew absolutely nothing about his goal but like we said earlier Real insists on shooting from afar and that is why they do it albeit lady luck was on their side. No changes to the top 4 going into the last 3 games. This is going to be one hell of a finish.

GIRO D’ITALIA STAGE 2

One of the few races where the riders were aggressive from the off. The flat 796 km Stupinigi to Novara surface allows you to do that. Tim Merlier won the first sprint of this year’s Giro. Let’s have a look at why you should have your bike ready for those long distance forays. Vincenzo Albanese pulled over for bike repairs when he led the race at one point. Lets say the chain comes off your bike during the race, well that happens a lot and is generally common and acceptable. What is not acceptable is having a bike with a weak paddles, now that is a travesty. Merlier outsprinted Italian pair of Nizzolo and Viviani but could not topple Fillipo Gana off the general classification top spot.

To illustrate how teamwork works in cycling wat right at the end of the race.Look how Dylan Groenewegen(who finished 4th)’s teammate in the red jersey slows down to allow Dylan the fighting chance for top spot. Knowing were your strongest team mate is on the peloton is important and knowing how to ride a steep ascent. Dylan could not put the coupe’ into the grace’ with the number one finish but the essence of team work on show here.

PREMIER LEAGUE:MAN CITY VS CHELSEA

The panenka penalty is like the drop shot in tennis, it should just not be executed wherever one feels like it. Kun Aguero’s attempt at it is akin to playing disco music at a funeral. City 1-0 up with half time approaching in seconds,Sterling winning the penalty off Gilmour and if converted that was the title right there for the Cityzens.

Chelsea have been transformed under Tuchel and they were the better side in the second half. Should Pep have rested De Bruyne?City defense looked vulnerable to crosses particularly from Reece James. Rodrigo had a nightmare in the City defensive mid position and you could have been forgiven for thinking Gilmour was the seasoned player.

Champions league Final is not a foregone conclusion , not by any stretch.

MADRID OPEN FINAL:BARTY VS SABALENKA

The pair meeting for a second final in the space of 2 weeks. SABALENKA looking to improve from a woeful showing in Germany. She was well on her way to achieving that in the first set going a double break up in no time at 4-0.The key here was finishing her service points early not allowing BARTY a foot hold during the points via rallies. Watch 2-0 Aryana up (30-15).This was as close to a perfect set as one can get for the Belarusian. Barty looking bemused never got going in this one.Sabalenka taking this one for a bagel.

As we have seen throughout the season, one should not count out the world number one.Tables turned in the second especially when she started hitting her ground strokes well. Watch opening game 30-15 to SABALENKA. Getting off her mark early in this set was crucial and Ash did just that going a break up to lead 2-1. She however allowed Saba back handing her the break back making it 2-2.Watch the break point converted to level the set,Saba opening up her wrist on the forehead placing the ball away from the Aussie. The Belarusian lost the second set and her downfall was allowing Ash to start dictating rallies.6-3.

The third and final set was in a knife edge at 4-4 going into the ninth game. Sabalenka coming up with a monster break of serve to love. Her determination and passion up for all to see.The short serve by Ash on the first of the three break points punished with a fantastic forehand. Sabalenka would win the match in her own serve to love as well to out the defeat in Stuttgart well behind her. There is no disputing, the best lady won here.

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