Advertisements


Ceferin stresses big clubs with closed Champions League idea

By Rob Harris, Associated Press UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin told leaders from European leagues not to forget the importance of big clubs in generating cash during a private meeting in which plans were detailed for a closed-off Champions League favoring the elite. A recording and images obtained by The Associated Press from the meeting at the UEFA headquarters on Wednesday highlights the schism between clubs and leagues over the ability to influence UEFA as it considers revamping its club competitions starting with the 2024-25 season. The dramatic proposal, shown during the meeting in Nyon, would lock in 24 of the 32 slots in the Champions League without the need to qualify annually through domestic leagues and would introduce promotion from and relegation to the Europa League. The plan has infuriated domestic leagues, particularly La Liga President Javier Tebas, who views UEFA as too closely aligned to the vision of European Club Association head Andrea Agnelli of Juventus. In a letter obtained by the AP last month, European Leagues President Lars-Christer Olsson floated the possibility of an investigation to determine whether the ECA was abusing a dominant position as UEFA was lobbied for more games between leading clubs. "Speaking about big clubs, this is a typical populist tool that is used in Europe not only in football," Ceferin told European Leagues representatives in the closed-doors meeting. "More and more the rich are taking everything from you and we the rich will help. Is that logical? I don't think so. And it's true big clubs are taking a lot of money, the most the biggest amount of money because of their results. And it's true that we have to think about that. But they're also bringing a lot of money on the table which is very easily forgotten." Hitting out at claims he is "killing football," Ceferin rebuked members of the European Leagues organization over public criticism and warned his executive committee could have pushed ahead with a revamp of competitions without discussing it with them. "We will not insult, but the more shouting there will be, the less consultation process there will be," Ceferin said. "Shouting in the media tells us much more about those people than about UEFA," Ceferin added. "We were listening about what will happen here, about how we are killing football, destroying football — despite the fact that UEFA is the only organization in European football that shares money as solidarity to every single country in Europe." The early UEFA vision, if approved, would see the Champions League group stage start a month earlier in August and double the size of each group to eight teams. But 24 of the 32 clubs in the 2024-25 group stage could retain their places the following season regardless of their domestic league finish. That would give certainty to leading clubs that attract the biggest television audiences but reduced opportunities for outsiders. Four Champions League teams will be relegated each season into the next season's second-tier Europa League. They would be replaced by the Europa League semifinalists, who would be promoted. Only four qualifying places would be left for national champions competing in preliminary rounds. It would leave the Dutch league runner-up — as Ajax was before reaching the Champions League semifinals this season — with no ability to qualify. Promotion and relegation is also envisaged between the Europa League and a third-tier competition that has yet to launch. The third competition, first revealed by the AP in 2015, would kick off in the 2021-22 season with a 32-team format in eight groups of four. But it could be enlarged to 64 teams from 2024, with four groups of 16 teams, possibly arranged by region, according to the UEFA documents. "You have to know that the ones who are shouting generate huge revenues and don't share anything with the others in Europe," Ceferin said. "The ones who really have problems respectfully and humbly wait for our explanation. And that's why we want to discuss we want to discuss because of the ones who deserve. That we discuss the ones who need our help and not the ones who are scared about their personal interest." In 2016, Ceferin decried a secret deal over Champions League changes agreed just before he was elected to succeed Michel Platini as UEFA president. Ceferin was frustrated UEFA caved into demands of Spain, Germany, England and Italy to guarantee them 16 of the 32 Champions League group-stage places. Now Ceferin is giving the impression he is consulting more by bringing leagues and clubs to meetings in Nyon. But his unhappiness with officials from leagues was clear in the tone. "We can go to the ExCo and decide and not ask anyone and your representative in the ExCo go can vote against," Ceferin said, referring to Olsson, who sits on the executive committee. "But we don't want to do it. That's why we are discussing. Legal action threats, I will not comment that much. As a lawyer with 25 year experience, this is quite the joke." Ceferin called on European Leagues officials to approach the talks "with some class without hostility and without false solidarity" and challenged them to come forward with proposals. "I hope we will exchange many important ideas and arguments," Ceferin said. "And if we do that we will come at the end to a solution that will be good for all the European football and — trust me or don't trust me — but the fact is that for UEFA that's our goal. We cannot do what clubs say and we cannot do what league say. We will do what is right for European football. And we will protect it together.".....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnMay 11th, 2019

FIFA has 9 offers for competition to rival Champions League

By Rob Harris, Associated Press DOHA, Qatar (AP) — FIFA President Gianni Infantino is assessing nine offers from companies seeking to buy the commercial and broadcasting rights for a new club competition he hopes will become the most lucrative in world football, usurping Europe's Champions League. The deadline passed Thursday for investors to submit tenders for the rebooted Club World Cup, which is due to begin in June 2021 with a 24-team group stage. “The Club World Cup will become the best club competition in the world — whatever FIFA is doing has to be the best," Infantino said Friday. "We shouldn't be worried or ashamed about the commercial success. I want the Club World Cup to be the best in terms of quality on the pitch, but also in terms of revenues.” FIFA's ambitions to become more heavily involved in club football, beyond its usual main remit of organizing national team competitions, poses a challenge to the Champions League run by UEFA, where Infantino was general secretary before being elected to run the global game in 2016. “The Champions League is generating money from all over the world ... and the money goes where? To Europe,” Infantino said. “Obviously, it's the mission of UEFA. The mission of FIFA is the world. If we can pay and we can generate more revenues for the clubs, the big clubs, the 10, 12 Europeans or 15, or however many, it will be 20 in future but also 30 around the world, then we've done something good.” By floating the prospect of 30 teams, Infantino is envisaging expansion of the Club World Cup in the future beyond the new format initially approved by the FIFA Council in March. The penultimate edition of the annual seven-team version of the Club World Cup is being held in Qatar, with Champions League winner Liverpool playing South American champion Flamengo in Saturday's final. Liverpool is due to be among the eight European teams featuring in 2021 in the 24-team group-stage, which will follow a proposed playoff between the champions of China and Oceania. “If part of what we generate can be reinvested around the world, then I think we've done some good," Infantino said in Doha. In a tender document to potential investors seen by The Associated Press, FIFA said it is “building the tournament into the world’s greatest club football experience.” Companies were offered the chance to submit their own suggestions, which FIFA said could include “alternative tournament parameters” around “frequency, format, qualification process and team participation” Infantino frames FIFA's desire to become more involved in the game club as a desire to redress the imbalance where a few European teams, like Liverpool, are a magnet for fans globally. "If you want to develop football in the world and that's certainly the task FIFA has to have, then we need to have the ambition and the objective to have 50 clubs around the world," Infantino said. "This doesn't mean 50 clubs playing in Club World Cup ... 50 clubs which people around the world can identify themselves with. “And we have to think about what kind of platforms and competitions we can give them. The new Club World Cup is certainly one that goes in that direction.” Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, is reported to have floated the idea with Infantino of creating two world leagues, each with 20 teams. “I'm speaking to everyone about many things,” Infantino said. “It's important to listen as well to everyone.” The Spaniard went to Zurich to see Infantino last month in his capacity as the head of the newly-created World Football Club Association — a rival body to the European Club Association that is closely aligned with UEFA. Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, has attacked Perez's “selfish and egotistical scheme," saying “it would clearly ruin football.” Infantino also signaled an end to FIFA's opposition to cross-border leagues. “We need to be open to discussions. The Belgians and the Dutch have been discussing creating a Benelux league and these discussions have been going on for 20 years and we are always saying no, because we are based on national leagues,” Infantino said. “But maybe it helps? Maybe it is the only way out, maybe in Europe they have to think about this, maybe in Africa. I was proposing something like this for Africa. I think we have the duty to study these things, then we will see where it goes.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 20th, 2019

Clubs leader Agnelli stands by Champions League reform plan

By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press GENEVA (AP) — Even though a radical proposal to reform the Champions League has stalled, European club leaders still want to pursue certain features of the plan. European Club Association leader Andrea Agnelli said Tuesday he still wants to see "fairer access" to UEFA competitions in the future and that the fight for eight-team groups in 2024 will continue. That's despite failing to win support for the most controversial element of the ECA's proposal — making the Champions League a largely closed competition by giving 24 of the 32 teams guaranteed slots to return — which has been stopped by resistance from some of his members and top national leagues. "It is a proposal on the table that is in the interests of all. And it is a good proposal," Agnelli said after being re-elected European Club Association chairman for four more years. Still, he acknowledged the original plan "might not be the one that arrives first on the finish line." The UEFA-led process will now likely take up to two years to reach a decision, after the ECA had hoped for agreement by December. Still, Agnelli struck a defiant tone a news conference after a two-day ECA meeting. "It (the reform plan) has made everybody engage that there is a requirement for change," he said. The 169-club meeting had been planned to arm Agnelli and other ECA leaders for a potentially decisive UEFA-hosted meeting Wednesday with the European Leagues group. However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin canceled the session last month because no agreement was in sight. Juventus and other storied elite clubs want eight-team groups to create a guarantee of 14 Champions League games per team. That is resisted by leagues in England, Spain, and elsewhere who fear their fixture dates and 20-team lineups being squeezed. ECA vice chairman Dariusz Mioduski cautioned against a "narrative spun by top-five leagues." The Legia Warsaw owner also recognized the original plan had "a number of issues ... which are not liked, maybe not liked by everybody." Agnelli also singled out "greater participation from minor countries" as a priority, adding: "We will remain loyal and faithful to those principles." The reform plan, worked on by UEFA and clubs, calls for a 64-team, third-tier competition by 2024. A block of votes from lower-ranked ECA members could outweigh reluctant clubs in the wealthier leagues. Agnelli suggested satisfying all clubs was not possible — and was not even the aim. Targeting a satisfaction rate of 70-80% of his members, Agnelli said the UEFA process would "find a solution that fits the majority, not all. All is impossible." Final approval will be given by the 20-member UEFA executive committee which includes one delegate from the leagues, but two from the ECA: Agnelli and Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Al-Khelaifi is under investigation in French and Swiss criminal investigations but was given a renewed four-year UEFA mandate by his ECA board colleagues last month. "Why not him? We live in a world (where) we are innocent unless proven guilty," Agnelli said Tuesday, describing Al-Khelaifi as "knowledgeable, competent, a professional." Swiss federal prosecutors opened a criminal proceeding against Al-Khelaifi in 2017 for suspected bribery of a FIFA official before Qatar-based beIN Sports got renewed World Cup broadcast rights for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments. Since Al-Khelaifi joined UEFA's decision-making body in February, French prosecutors filed a preliminary charge of "active corruption" regarding payments linked to Qatar's bids to host the 2017 and 2019 track world championships. The Qatari executive has not been charged and denies wrongdoing. He continues to run French champion PSG. Agnelli said other ECA officials were eligible for the UEFA seat "but we collectively as a board converged on the name of Nasser. He's a tremendous professional.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 11th, 2019

UEFA puts future Champions League ideas to league officials

By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA has included promotion and relegation, plus places for more teams, in its future vision for the Champions League and other club competitions. European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson told reporters that UEFA leaders proposed the ideas in a meeting Wednesday. It was part of year-long talks about changing competition formats and prize money distribution models that would take effect in 2024. The leagues are competing for influence with the European Club Association, whose own plans are reflected in UEFA's opening proposal. "There are ideas about promotion and relegation. It's a different system to the one we have today," Olsson said at UEFA headquarters. "The total picture is that there would be more clubs involved." Olsson said there was "not a big difference" between UEFA's presentation Wednesday and the ECA's confidential proposal at UEFA in March that has since been reported. He declined to give more details before UEFA updates its 55 member federations on May 17 in Budapest, Hungary. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, who hosted the 2 ½-hour meeting, said talks currently involve "only ideas and opinions" and are more transparent than the previous round in 2016 before he was elected. Decisions then favored clubs from Europe's wealthiest leagues. "Our aim is to find a solution that reflects the changes in the game, preserves the position of UEFA's competitions as the most attractive and exciting in the world, while providing significant solidarity funding across European football," Ceferin said in a statement. UEFA expects to announce any changes next year after further rounds of meetings with clubs, leagues and other stakeholders including broadcasters worldwide. "This is the first meeting of several," said Olsson, suggesting the 29-nation European Leagues group could agree a counter proposal at an October assembly in London. The leagues want Champions League entries to be decided only on the merit of domestic league placings and winning a UEFA competition. That has been a basic principle since the European Cup kicked off in 1955 with only national league champions playing. Club leaders want placings in Champions League groups, possibly doubled in size to eight teams, to secure some entries for the next season's edition. Bigger groups also would satisfy elite clubs who want more games against each other and prize money increases funded by new broadcasting rights deals. The ECA's move toward a closed league system is seen as protecting the elite group from new challengers. It follows Juventus and Real Madrid — whose officials hold the top two positions in the ECA — being eliminated in the Champions League by Ajax. Though Ajax is a four-time European champion, it had to advance through three preliminary rounds last August as runner-up in the mid-ranked Netherlands league last season. Olsson welcomed Ajax's return to the top 24 years after last winning the Champions League. "Competitions (themselves) are more important than individual clubs. There will always be clubs to play (in them)," he said. It is unclear if possible extra places in UEFA competitions from 2024 would be added in larger group stages or only in expanded preliminary rounds. Starting in September 2021, and for three seasons until 2024, there will be 32 teams in the group stages of each of the Champions League, Europa League and a new third-tier competition. The round-robin groups have four teams each playing six games. The leagues have pushed for a fairer distribution of more than $2 billion in annual Champions League prize money to help close a widening wealth gap between clubs. UEFA said it would share around €240 million ($268 million) in solidarity payments this season to clubs across Europe......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

European leagues: Most clubs oppose changes in competitions

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — A "vast majority" of European teams are against plans by elite clubs to radically change the shape of the Champions League, according to the organization representing national leagues. The European Leagues group hosted a meeting Tuesday of around 250 clubs in the Spanish capital and said most are against proposals submitted by the European Club Association that kicked off consultation to agree changes that will take effect in 2024. The ECA's strategy is mostly shaped by rich and storied clubs who want to play each other more often — possibly in groups doubled in size to eight teams — and secure year-on-year Champions League entry through a high placing in those groups. That proposal would represent the biggest change to the Champions League since some domestic league runners-up were allowed entry in 1997. The clubs' idea is fiercely opposed by the leagues, which fear fans and broadcasters could lose interest in their competitions if Champions League entries can be secured elsewhere. "A lot of clubs made their position very clear, including clubs and representatives from ECA," European Leagues President Lars-Christer Olsson said. "The domestic competitions have to be the basis for the international competitions." "We are sure that fans are supporting our ideas," said Olsson, who helped oversee the modern Champions League as former CEO of UEFA for several years until 2007. The leagues want to make sure more domestic winners can have direct access to the Champions League from 2024 instead of having to go through more qualifying rounds with fewer chances to reach the lucrative group stage. Until 2018, the Champions League preliminary rounds including teams from all 55 UEFA member countries offered 10 of the 32 Champions League group-stage places, which shared up to $2 billion in prize money. Changes that took effect this season favored wealthy countries. Teams from Spain, England, Germany, Italy now avoid the preliminaries and only six of the 32 places are on offer to qualifiers. One of those qualifiers, Ajax, is in the semifinals. Ajax advanced through the knockout rounds with victories over Real Madrid and Juventus — two clubs pushing hardest for a better deal for elite clubs. Juventus president Andrea Agnelli — who leads the ECA and sits with Olsson on the UEFA executive committee — attended Tuesday's meeting which he had asked his members to boycott. ECA members will meet June 6-7 in Malta to discuss the proposal made in their name. Agnelli wrote to ECA officials last month criticizing the European Leagues for trying to preserve the "status quo." He has also suggested more promotion and relegation between the Champions League and second-tier Europa League which has been dominated for the past decade by Spanish and English clubs. "We are not against change," Olsson said Tuesday, "but we have significant concerns if that change should be based on what is released by Agnelli in his letter to the clubs." ECA vice chairman Edwin van der Sar, representing Ajax, told reporters that rumors about promoting a closed league or playing weekend games in European competitions were not the clubs' goal. "To develop European football, it's important to play more interesting and meaningful games and sometimes that doesn't happen in the leagues," said Van der Sar, suggesting the Dutch Eredivisie did not help Ajax players develop fully. "All things evolve and European football needs to evolve also," the former Ajax, Juventus and Manchester United goalkeeper said, citing a third-tier UEFA competition that kicks off in 2021. That project is provisionally called Europa League 2. The ECA already met with UEFA leadership to discuss the changes, and Olsson will lead a leagues delegation to UEFA's offices in Switzerland on Wednesday. The meeting in Madrid was organized by Spanish league president Javier Tebas, a longtime critic of the proposed changes. "The entire football industry would be affected by these changes," said Tebas, saying the league would consider legal actions if the clubs' favored formats went into effect. "It would be a very complicated scenario.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

The ten most intriguing NBA free agents for 2019

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com We knew that the postseason would affect free agency. But the idea was that the success or failure of certain teams would affect what their free agents' thoughts about staying or leaving. Unfortunately, the last two games of The Finals brought devastating injuries to two of the three most coveted free agents on the market. Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the world, tore his Achilles in Game 5, just 12 minutes into his return from a calf injury. And Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. The two injuries will certainly have repercussions beyond the two players and the Golden State Warriors. Maybe they already have. With the Western Conference seemingly wide open next season, the Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly made a deal for Anthony Davis, sending a bevy of young players and future picks to New Orleans so they can team the 26-year-old star with 34-year-old LeBron James ... and maybe another star added in free agency. As always, the free agent market and the trade market are tied together. The pending Davis trade could affect the decisions of players and teams come July 1. And if teams miss out on the free agents they're seeking, they could always fill their cap space by making a trade. With all that in mind, the players listed below aren't necessarily the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 (actually 12) most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. That's why Thompson isn't included. 1. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto (Player option) Whether he leaves or not, trading for Leonard last summer was well worth it for the Raptors, who won their first championship, with Leonard averaging 30.5 points per game in the postseason. The Raptors' "load management" program (which limited Leonard to just 60 games in the regular season) clearly worked, and director of sports science Alex McKechnie should be seen as a major asset in the quest to keep Leonard in Toronto. There should be a "run-it-back" sentiment for the new champs, with Danny Green also a free agent and Marc Gasol holding a player option this summer. A short-term deal would make sense, unless Leonard is looking for long-term security, having missed almost all of the 2017-18 season with a leg injury. It's all up to Leonard, maybe the toughest player in the league to read. If he takes his two-way talent elsewhere, the Raptors may have to go in a new direction. Number to know: In the postseason, Leonard had a true shooting percentage of 69.1 percent, the highest mark for a player that averaged at least 30 points per game in the playoffs and won the championship. 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State (Player option) Durant's torn Achilles probably won't scare any team, including the Warriors, from paying him as much as possible. As deep and talented as this free agent class is, the top two guys on this list are in a class by themselves. Rumors have long had Durant ready to leave Golden State and even with his injury, he seems more likely than Thompson to find a new home. But an ESPN report had Thompson's father talking about "unfinished business" after overhearing a conversation between the two injured Warriors. Durant could always put free agency off for a year by exercising his player option and remaining on the Warriors' payroll through his rehab. Number to know: Durant was the first player in NBA history to average 30 points per game in at least 10 playoff games while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston The disappointment of the Celtics' season, along with Irving's questionable leadership with a group that underachieved, has taken some of the shine off his star. Irving's injury history also must be taken into consideration. But talent is the most important thing in this league and Irving is one of its most talented players. He's still just 27-years-old and he can still get buckets when buckets are needed. A return to Boston appears far less likely than it did six months ago (especially with Davis being traded elsewhere) and there have been a lot of signals that Irving is bound for Brooklyn. Number to know: In the regular season, Irving had an effective field goal percentage of 56.1 percent with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, the second-best mark among player with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 4. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia The Sixers lost to the eventual NBA champions on a Game 7 buzzer-beater that bounced on the rim four times before falling through. They're right there. But their starting lineup, which outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions in 334 total minutes (regular season and playoffs), includes three free agents. In regard to future assets, the Sixers didn't give up as much for Butler as they did for Harris. And of course, Butler has more baggage in regard to accepting his role. But, with his defense and his ability to get his own shot, he's is the most important of the three. Harris struggled a bit in the conference semifinals against Toronto and is the least important of the Sixers' three free-agent starters; J.J. Redick's shooting was clearly more critical in the postseason. But Harris isn't easily replaceable and he appears to be the most likely to leave, with a lot of teams looking for versatile forwards. Number to know: In the regular season, Harris shot 41.3 percent on pull-up three-pointers, the second-best mark among 69 players who attempted at least 100. 5. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Walker has expressed some level of loyalty to the Hornets. But immediately after the Davis trade was agreed to, there was a report that Walker would be a "top target" of the Lakers with their cap space. Walker would be an ideal offensive complement to James and Davis, in that he can play off the ball (though he shot less than 35 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season) and take some of the playmaking burden off of James' shoulders. The Hornets, meanwhile, would likely have a tough time upgrading their roster around Walker, with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all under contract next season for a total of $85 million. Number to know: Walker led the league with 126 field goal attempts with the score within five points in the last five minutes. That was 43 percent of the Hornets' total (295). His effective field goal percentage on those shots (49.6 percent) ranked 15th among 45 players with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 6. D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn (Restricted) A finalist for the Most Improved award, Russell took a big step forward this season, both in regard to his production and his maturity. He earned himself an All-Star appearance and helped the Nets reach the playoffs with a 14-win increase from last season. He's only 23-years-old and is one of the league's most flammable shooters. But because he doesn't get to the basket or the free throw line very often, Russell is neither all that efficient (his true shooting percentage of 53.3 percent ranked 66th among 94 guards with at least 500 field goal attempts) nor consistent, and he struggled (shooting 36 percent) in Brooklyn's first-round loss to Philadelphia. If the Nets are targeting another ball-handler in free agency (with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie already under contract), they'll probably let Russell head elsewhere. Number to know: In the regular season, Russell ranked second with 11.4 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. He scored 0.89 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 26th best mark among 44 players that averaged at least five ball-handler possessions. 7. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney, Golden State Cousins hadn't made it back to 100 percent from his Achilles tear before he suffered a torn quad in his second career playoff game. He made it back for The Finals from that injury and showed flashes of his old self with 14 important points in the Warriors' Game 5 win and a big bucket in the final minute of Game 6. But he also struggled on both ends of the floor at times, and the Warriors were outscored with him on the floor in seven of his eight playoff games. Now he goes back on the free agent market with teams still not sure of what they're getting. Looney is an unrestricted free agent at 23-years-old, and he was the Warriors' most important center this season. The Western Conference champs have Looney's Bird rights, but they could also be spending a lot of money to retain Durant and Thompson (and possibly extend Draymond Green). Another team might have a larger role and more money for an improving young big. Number to know: In the regular season, the Warriors' lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Looney scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions and outscored opponents by 18.7 per 100. Those were the best marks for points scored and point differential per 100 possessions among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. 8. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee (Restricted) The Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the league through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. But, with four of their top eight players being free agents (or potential free agents) this summer, they have a lot of work to do if they want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by players who can get it done on both ends of the floor. Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the three key pieces. They're all due a pay raise and they all belong on this list. Brogdon is the restricted free agent, but he's also the youngest of the three (he'll be 27 in December) and the one that could be projected into a larger role on another team. Number to know: Brogdon shot 47.5 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the third-best mark among 223 players who attempted at least 100. 9. Julius Randle, New Orleans (Player option) After five years in the league, Randle is still just 24-years-old. So he's not necessarily a bad fit for David Griffin's plans for the future in New Orleans. But the Pelicans might not be ready to commit the money Randle is seeking (should he opt out of the final year of his contract) after averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game. Defense remains an issue, but Randle has expanded his offensive skill set; he was a respectable 34.4 percent from three-point range this season, taking 18 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (up from six percent over his three previous full seasons). Number to know: Randle averaged 13.2 points in the paint per game, seventh most in the league, and he made more three-pointers (67) than all but one of the six players in front of him. 10. Ricky Rubio, Utah According to Rubio himself, he's not Utah's top priority in free agency. He remains a good defender and one of the league's best passers, but the Jazz need to get more potent offensively if they're going to take the next step. At 31.1 percent, Rubio ranked 153rd in three-point percentage among 163 players with at least 200 attempts. There could be as many as 10 teams (not including the Jazz) in need of a starting point guard this summer, and Rubio could have more value on a team more in need of a distributor. Number to know: The Jazz were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better offensively with both Rubio and Donovan Mitchell on the floor (scoring 110.4 per 100) than they were with Mitchell on the floor without Rubio (104.6). John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019

Behind closed-door games not an option – PBA exec

By JONAS TERRADO       PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial remains lukewarm to the idea of staging closed-door games once the league gets a go-signal to resume its season currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marcial said holding such arrangement will put teams and even league officials and staff at risk even as […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2020

CAMPEONE: Year of the Tiger (2010)

(This story was originally published on May 09, 2019) University of Sto. Tomas head coach Shaq delos Santos looked at his squad inside the dugout of The Arena in San Juan one last time. It was a cool Saturday afternoon. He took a glimpse at his graduating hitter Angge Tabaquero, who was all pumped up, but was feeling under the weather and could barely speak because of a sore throat. Delos Santos then shifted his eyes towards fourth-year team captain Aiza Maizo, Maika Ortiz, libero Jessica Curato, then to his prized rookies Dindin Santiago and Maru Banaticla. From their closed locker room, the Tigresses could hear the drums outside and felt the vibration that followed. The weekend crowd packed the venue in a sea of yellow and green. Excitement filled the air. It was electric. Less than an hour before, coach Emil Lontoc celebrated the Tigers’ conquest of Far Eastern University to complete a three-peat in the men's division. With his eyes closed, Delos Santos murmured one last prayer. Then there was a soft tap on their dugout door. It was time to march to the court for the official warm-up for Game 2 of the UAAP Season 72 women’s volleyball tournament.   THE YOUNG AND THE BOLD Delos Santos knew that they’re in for ride in Season 72.   They prided themselves with three pre-season titles, but those conquests meant nothing when it comes to their mother league. “Before mag-start (ang season), for me, hindi ko napi-feel na magtsa-champion agad kami,” said Delos Santos. “Kasi ang adjustment kailangan makita mo muna ang lahat ng naglalaro. So depende pa rin sa nilalaro ng every team na makakalaban mo.” And besides, the mentor will be navigating with a young crew, mostly in their early collegiate careers save for Maizo and returning Tabaquero, two of the remaining heroes of UST’s Season 69 championship run. Maizo was named team captain while Tabaquero, who skipped Season 71 for personal reasons, brought in the needed veteran presence to guide the squad. “Ako personally ang mindset ko sobrang hungry lang rin ako personally and I think si Aiza rin kasi halos pa-exit na rin siya nun,” said Tabaquero. “Ako sobrang gusto ko lang for myself na maka-graduate sa UAAP on a high note.” “On a high lang ako nun kumbaga, ‘Last playing year ko na ‘to wala na akong balikan pa, ibubuhos ko na lahat,’ she added. “Plus the fact na hindi ako nakapaglaro noong Season 71 dagdag gutom sa akin ‘yun.” But then again, the Tigresses remained relatively young. Dimaculangan was just in her third year, her first two saw the bitter memory of losing the title in the semifinals at the hands of the Rachel Anne Daquis-led Far Eastern University and then another Final Four heartache against the same tormentors the following year. Ortiz, Hannah Mance and Curato barely had enough experience on them so did Judy Ann Caballejo.   Then there were the young bloods. UST got a pair of blue-chip recruits in a small but high-flying power-hitter in Banaticla and a lanky 6-footer Santiago.   The Tigresses were parading a decent squad, but not a super team that they had before with Mary Jean Balse and Venus Bernal.       “Nagkaroon kami ng mga rookies noon,” said Dimaculangan. “Nu’ng time na ‘yun kumpiyansa naman ako sa team kasi bakit ka pa maghahanap ng mga wala o bakit ka pa hahanap ng mga naka-graduate na? So kung ano na lang ang meron kami siguro doon na lang.” Delos Santos, himself, was just on his second year as head coach after taking the reins from legendary mentor August Sta. Maria, who suffered a stroke in 2008. Expectations were high from the UST faithful. For the Tigresses, they just have to deliver.   STRUGGLE WITHIN The Tigresses began the season with an early litmus test. Their first game: against the defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers. UST faced a squad assembled to build a dynasty. DLSU was denied of a four-peat three years ago when the league suspended the school in Season 69 because of an eligibility issue with its men’s basketball team. In Season 70, the Lady Spikers were forced to forfeit games because of another eligibility issue with Jacq Alarca. The following year, in Manilla Santos’ final year, DLSU reclaimed the throne. Now, looking to for a repeat, the Lady Spikers just need to break the will of one of their threats. DLSU paraded a formidable team centered on its ‘Big Three’ in Alarca, skipper Paneng Mercado, daughter of Asia’s Sprint Queen Lydia De Vega-Mercado, and versatile hitter Cha Cruz. Then there’s the great wall of Michele Gumabao and rookies Aby Marano and Joanne Siy, who would eventually win the Rookie of the Year and Best Blocker awards. UST was facing a nightmare. But the Tigresses were undaunted. They clung on the confidence of bringing down the same giant they slew in the UniGames championship before the start of the season. With guns blazing and adrenaline in their veins, the Tigresses were able to control the match as they led, 2-1. Then comes their Achilles’ heel. UST was a determined team, but the Lady Spikers had in them the championship experience, the veteran composure of a battle-tested squad. The Tigresses had no answer to that. DLSU walked away with a 20-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11, victory to start its amazing elimination round winning streak. UST recovered in the next three games, walking past University of the Philippines, a rebuilding FEU, and cellar-dwellers National University. Then came another big challenge. The Tigresses collided with a feisty young team in Ateneo de Manila University bannered by a hyped Fab Five of sophomores Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cainglet, setter Jem Ferrer and A Nacachi. The result was a shocker: the Lady Eagles upset the Tigresses. It may not show inside the court, but the Tigresses were struggling from the inside.   Delos Santos admitted that being a Tigress under his watch was not for the faint of heart. His relationship with the players was not smooth. He was a blacksmith trying to sharpen a deadly weapon. He needed to put his players into the blazing fire of his Spartan-like training, hammer them into shape and sharpen them into a weapon ready for brutal war.       “Napaka-strict ko kaya medyo ano sila sa akin pero at the end of the day na-realize rin nila na ang lahat ng sinasalihan naming tournament, lahat ng paghihirap namin, kapag naglalaro kami talagang quality,” he said. “’Yung pinaghirapan namin talagang nilalabas namin sa game.” Dimaculangan recalled that that season was marred with conflicts within the team. “’Yung year na 'yun ang dami talagang pinagdaanan. Ang daming naging issues,” she said declining to divulge what the problems were. “Lahat kami takot sa kanya (Delos Santos). Tapos my time din na feeling namin nabe-burnout na kami.” “Baliktad nga eh kasi kung kailan ang dami naming issue doon pa namin nasabi na ‘Ay kailangan nating mag-champion.’ Ganoon ang feeling namin,” Dimaculangan added. Tabaquero would simply describe that Tigresses team as ‘shaky’. “On the rocks ang team and noon may internal issues din,” she revealed. “Medyo magulo siya pero as players, ‘Kung may mangyari man dyan, labas na sa volleyball ‘yan. Kung ano ang pini-perform natin maglaro tayo ng maayos.’ Siguro yun na lang ang tumatakbo sa isip namin.” Whatever the issues were inside their team, the Tigresses were able to put them aside as they made an amazing run to close the eliminations. “Nagulat kami kasi sobrang nakasabay ang mga bata,” said Tabaquero. “Kami ni Aiza halos ang nag-lead sa team na ‘yun pero kasi experienced na ang mga bata na ‘yun kasi coming from UST program sila eh.” “So medyo kumbaga ang pinanggalingan nilang team mataas din so I guess doon na lang din sila humugot from their experience sa high school. Nadala na lang din siguro pagdating nila,” she added.   ENTERING THE END GAME Valentine’s Day. With most of the country looking forward to celebrate that special Sunday, the Tigresses were preparing for something bigger. It was their most-awaited rematch with the Lady Spikers, who heading into that game were already ravaging the league with 13 straight victories. One win and DLSU will enter the Finals outright armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage.   The Tigresses didn’t allow that. UST prevented a Lady Spikers elims sweep by slipping past DLSU in a thrilling five-setter. The Tigresses avoided a stepladder semifinals. UST ended the elims with a nine-game winning streak and second-best 12-2 win-loss record. From there everything changed. “Kasi nakuha nila (ang panalo) sa first round then February 14 tinalo namin sila so dun tumaas ang kumpiyansa namin na ‘Ah kaya namin itong La Salle,’” said Tabaquero. The Tigresses came in the Final Four armed with a twice-to-beat advantage against Ateneo. They split their elims head-to-head but now UST wanted to settle an old score. It was Maizo and Tabaquero who did most of the damage in the Final Four as the Tigresses crushed the Lady Eagles, 25-12, 25-23, 25-20, all while playing without starting libero Curato, who was out because of typhoid fever. “I guess kung ikaw mayroon kang chance na makapasok sa championship siguro ibibigay mo ang lahat. Laban kung laban,” said Tabaquero. “’Yun talaga ang mentalidad namin nu’ng time na yun. ‘Yun ang nag-push sa amin na, ‘For championship ito, ibibigay namin ang lahat 110%.’” Earlier that playdate, the Lady Spikers took the other Finals berth after booting out Adamson University, 16-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-22.         "EH ANO NGAYON KUNG DEFENDING CHAMPION KAYO?" Maizo and Tabaquero were UST’s contrasting leaders. They're yin and yang. Maizo was a silent operator. She would rather let her work do the talking. Tabaquero was from a different world. She will get under your skin, play with your head and she was just plain nasty. “Season 69 pa lang salbahe na ako maglaro,” she admitted. “Dun lumabas ‘yung moniker ko na ‘Pamewang Queen’. Sobrang intense lang din ng game namin ng FEU nun. Parang sobrang thrashtalkan. Hindi mo man makita on-cam pero doon pa lang talagang may verbal.” She’s no different in Season 72. “Hindi naman sa mayabang ako pero nasa utak ko nu’ng time na yun, ‘Ay kaya namin kayo kasi tinalo namin kayo nu’ng eliminations,’” Tabaquero continued.  “Doon ako humugot ng lakas na, ‘hindi tayo papatalo rito.’ Sobrang inspired lang din siguro akong maglaro noon kasi ang daming tao nun. Grabe puno itong San Juan Arena,” she recalled.    Facing DLSU, Tabaquero knew they can rip the crown off the Lady Spikers’ heads. “Ako personally, ‘Eh ano ngayon kung defending champion kayo?” she said. It was 2010 and UST just needed to look at the Chinese calendar for an inspiration.    “Year of the Tiger yun, sumakto,” said Dimaculangan. “Iba ang kompiyansa namin na parang amin ‘to.” The Tigresses could see the stars aligning for them, the opportunity was there. Then came the best-of-three series opener. Delos Santos was not new to the Finals. He worked as Sta. Maria’s deputy before. But this was his biggest challenge. His shining moment. Looking back, he felt that Sta. Maria molded him for this situation. “Before nakakuha rin kami ng isa pang championship eh. Sina Bernal, Balse pero si Coach August ang head coach pa nun that time,” he said. “Ang ginawa niya that time sobrang gusto niyang mag-grow ako. Noong Finals namin against FEU, umalis siya. Hindi siya nagpunta ng game tapos nung mag-start na ang game hinahanap ko siya,” Delos Santos continued. “Tinawagan ko siya, sabi ko, ‘Boss nasaan ka?’ Nasa norte siya eh parteng norte." "Sabi ko, ‘boss nasaan ka?’ Sabi niya, ‘kayang-kaya mo na ‘yan. Ikaw ng bahala dyan,’” he said. “’Yung time na yun doon ko na-feel na grabe ang tiwala niya sa akin.” Against a taller Lady Spikers side, Delos Santos needed just one key to success: speed. “I think that time sobrang lucky ko rin kasi ang mga players ko. Yun nga sina Rhea na, sina Tabaquero, sina Aiza. So that time yung system na gusto naming mangyari, more on lalo na kailangang maging speedy kami. Mabilis kami, nakuha namin that time. Siguro yun ang naging key,” he said. “Kasi knowing La Salle ang no. 1 weapon nila is blocking eh. Bukod dun sa service nila na napakabigat, yung blocking. Mayroon silang malalaking players and ang ganda lagi ng line-up nila,” Delos Santos said. As the battle ensued, Delos Santos felt that they had the upper hand. “I think nu’ng time na ‘yun medyo na-feel ko na makukuha namin,” he said. “That time na naglaro na kami sabi ko, sa galawan na nangyayari nakuha namin yung magandang diskarte.” And that strategy was to exploit the height disadvantage of DLSU setter Kaye Martinez. For Delos Santos the best way to stop the Lady Spikers’ deadly arrows was to break their bow.  “That time malalaki sila pero meron silang maliit na setter. Maliit ang setter nila so more on dun kami nagsi-set play ng nagsi-set play,” he said. “Nagkaroon din kami ng magandang receive and then si Rhea nabibigay niya ng maayos sa mga spikers.”  It was shocker. UST recovered from a set down to beat DLSU, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 25-21.   For the first time in Season 72, the Taft-based squad got its back against the wall.   SHAQ THE WORLD The Tigresses were on a high as they arrived at the game venue in the last weekend of February just three days after shocking the Lady Spikers in the series opener.     Entering the venue, the Tigresses were greeted by a huge crowd of UST faithful, all hoping for the clincher.  Tabaquero was feeling ill that day. “Naalala ko may sakit ako nu’ng Game 2. Wala akong boses nun,” said the senior, who skipped Thursday’s practice to rest. But Tabaquero was determined to play one last time, give her team the firepower and angst it needed, to finish her collegiate career on top.   “Wala ng sakit-sakit, di pwedeng may sakit. Di ko na siya nararamdaman. Minsan napapagod pero wala kailangang magsakripisyo. Saka yung adrenaline ko sobrang taas nun,” said Tabaquero. As the Tigresses trooped to the court for the warm-up, they were showered by loud cheers from the UST fans. “Go USTe! Go USTe!” echoed inside the arena like a rolling thunder signaling the arrival of a storm. A serenade for conquering heroes. There was a huge banner that read: ‘Kami po ang University of Sto. Tomas.’ It added fuel to the Tigresses’ burning desire to reclaim the throne. The squad came into the venue brimming with confidence but with their supporters egging them on even before the opening serve, the Tigresses felt invincible. They were. UST dismantled the confused Lady Spikers in the first two sets, dominating DLSU with sharp angled attacks and frustrating its blockers. Defensively, the Tigresses were punishing DLSU’s attackers. “Dumipensa lang talaga kami noon saka nagkaroon kami ng first ball. ‘Yun talaga ang edge namin nun,” said Dimaculangan. “Kumbaga parang hindi ako masyadong nahirapang dumiskarte kasi alam kong darating sa akin ang bola.” The Lady Spikers’ defense was also in disarray. Even DLSU’s celebrated libero Mel Gohing, the rookie of the year the season before, was already struggling to keep up with the Lady Spikers’ net defense collapsing. “Yung mga spikers ko ang gagaling din dumiskarte and alam din nila kung ano ang gagawin nila sa bolang ibinibigay ko sa kanila,” added Dimaculangan. The Tigresses were already smelling blood.   But the Lady Spikers regrouped in the third as hitters Cruz and Mercado’s hits found their mark. Gumabao, Siy and Maarano were holding their own. DLSU took the third frame in dominating fashion. It may have turned the tides around for the Lady Spikers. It didn’t.      DLSU built an early five-point cushion in the fourth frame, but the Tigresses raced to a 16-11 lead before Gumabao stopped the bleeding with a crosscourt hit.  Maizo then landed an off speed hit over blockers Siy and Martinez, then the lefty again scored another heady off speed this time over Alarca for an 18-12 lead. Then came the deluge of errors by DLSU. The Lady Spikers crowd went quiet in the pivotal run of the Tigresses. A kill block by Ortiz put UST at championship point, 24-13, as the DLSU faithful froze, seemingly awaiting an inevitable defeat. “Parang pa-last point pa lang ata naiiyak na kaming lahat,” said Dimaculangan. An overexcited Tabaquero sent her serve long then Maizo’s attack was turned back. Two match points saved by DLSU. The Lady Spikers tried to hold on. But it was too late. Nerves got the best of Emeli Zuno as she made contact with the ball at the service line.       It sailed long. Pandemonium broke out. “Nagtatalon na kami nu’ng moment na yun, na ‘Heto na ang pinaghirapan natin.’ Ang sarap sa feeling na mag-champion ulit,” said Tabaquero after the final whistle of the season was called with UST completing the sweep with a 25-18, 25-14, 16-25, 25-15, victory.   For Delos Santos that championship was the fruit of their hard labor. “Sobrang happy kasi siyempre nagkaroon kami ng championship sa UST,” said Delos Santos of his only title for the Tigresses as head coach. “Sobrang memorable. Marami rin kaming pinagdaanan (bago makuha),” he added. UST accomplished a double-crown feat in volleyball that year, its fifth since the 1976-77, 1985-86 at 1987-88 and 1992-1993 seasons. As a reward the Tigresses earned a trip to Hong Kong. But even that trip had some good anecdotes for Delos Santos, Dimaculangan and Tabaquero. “Nag-trip to Hong Kong kami for two to three days sa Disneyland at Ocean Park,” said Delos Santos. “Sila lang mahilig mag-rides eh. Ako may phobia ako sa heights. Nung sumakay kami ng cable car para akong mahuhulog na ewan dun sa cable car.” Dimaculangan remembered vividly their flight. “Nag-Hong Kong kami noon tapos sakto pa na bumabagyo noong umalis kami noon. Buti nga natuloy kami noon eh,” she said. As for Tabaquero, unfortunately, she had to skip the trip. “Nagpunta sila ng Hong Kong pero ako di ako nakasama kasi late yung Hong Kong trip. Di ako nakasama kasi na-ACL (left injury) na ako nun sa Shakey’s V-League, yung sa championship ng San Sebastian,” she said. “Naka-schedule na ako ng surgery nun sa UST hospital kaya di ako nakasama.” “May incentive naman ako nun kahit di ako nakasama nun,” Tabaquero cleared. Ten years ago, UST ruled Season 72. It was the year of the Tiger. The year of the mighty, mighty Tigers.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 26th, 2020

MPBL Commissioner Duremdes: 'We’re going to finish the season'

The Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Season will push through with its stalled division and national finals. MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes gave this assurance Wednesday to quash speculations the league is going to cancel the remaining games of its third season in the wake of the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. As to when will be the resumption of the division finals, Duremdes said it will depend on the national government’s decision on easing up restrictions on the staging of public gatherings, including sports events. “We’re going to finish the season, said Duremdes, who is holed up in his hometown of Koronadal, South Cotabato. “We’re just waiting for the clearance of the national government.” President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to announce whether the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), in effect until April 30, will be lifted, extended, or modified. Though the consensus is a modified ECQ will be implemented, Duremdes said there are a lot of issues to be tackled before the MPBL can resume. “First, we need to advice the four teams (San Juan Knights, Makati Super Crunch, Davao Occidental Tigers, Basilan Steel) involved since they are all coming from inactivity and the players need to get back in shape,” said Duremdes. “Then we need to consider the stand of the LGUs (local government units). Other factors to be considered, according to Duremdes, are land travel, resumption of domestic flights, sea travel, and the availability of hotels, restaurants, and game venues. “We can play as soon as the ECQ is lifted but behind closed doors,” said Duremdes. “Hopefully the situation brightens up.” Both the South division finals between San Juan and Makati and the North division finals between Davao and Basilan are tied at 1-1, forging Game 3 deciders. San Juan beat Makati, 76-60, in their series opener but Makati rebounded with a 91-88 victory in Game 2 held behind closed doors at FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan. Basilan edged Davao, 74-72, in Game 1 in Tagum City, but Davao equalized with an 81-76 triumph in Game 2 held at the jampacked Lamitan City Gymnasium. The division winners will dispute the Lakan Season national crown in a best-of-five series. The Batangas City Tanduay Athletics ruled the inaugural MPBL Anta Rajah Cup participated in by 10 teams, while the San Juan Knights emerged champions of the 26-team Datu Cup. Now boasting 31 teams, MPBL is supposed to open its fourth season on June 12, but it will be moved back owing to recent developments. Like Duremdes, MPBL founder and CEO (chief executive officer) Sen. Manny Pacquiao is also bent on finishing the Lakan Season once the coronavirus gets contained. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2020

Single game scoring sensations in UAAP women’s volleyball (Final Four era)

Scorers are aplenty in UAAP women’s volleyball. All teams have players who can bring in the numbers on the offensive end. Powerful wingers can pound missile after missile while middles can wreak havoc at the net either on quick attacks or kill blocks. Setters, if lucky, can put in points on top of their playmaking. But there are those who showed their great offensive prowess and carved their names in the record books.      Here are the players who scored 30 or more points in a single game in the UAAP women's volleyball tournament in during the past two decades.   ANGELA BENTING, ADAMSON UNIVERSITY She may not be the tallest of players on the Adamson University Lady Falcons side but Angela Benting can soar and score at any given time. Eleven years ago, Benting displayed her best scoring performance for the Lady Falcons in an epic match against an equally dangerous University of Sto. Tomas side. In UAAP Season 71, the Benting-led Lady Falcons faced the Tigresses in an all-important match at the close of the elimination round. The Lady Falcons needed a win to secure the no. 3 spot in the Final Four. Adamson with Benting at the helm drew first blood. But the Tigresses rallied in the succeeding sets just as Benting was then pouring on the points for Adamson. The Lady Falcon eventually ended up with then a league-best 33 points, but all of Benting's efforts went down the drain as the Tigresses walked away with a 22-25, 25-16, 27-25, 25-23 win. While Benting was doing her thing for Adamson, Aiza Maizo was working on hers for the Tigresses as the lefty unleashed 30 points in an exciting scoring showdown that Valentine’s Day in 2009 at The Arena in San Juan.    It was a heartbreaking loss for the Lady Falcons as they closed the elims tied with UST at 9-5 slate and were dragged to a playoff for Final Four place. The Tigresses eventually won the rematch for no. 3 spot. Unfortunately, neither team advanced to the Finals as then Rachel Anne Daquis-led defending champion Far Eastern University and Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University, who was coming off a scandalous forfeiture of games the year before, figured in the battle for the crown.     AIZA MAIZO, UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS Aiza Maizo eventually reset her UAAP personal-best two seasons later after a memorable showing against Adamson University by opening Season 73 with a bang. Pitted against Ateneo de Manila University’s Fab Five, Maizo uncorked a 32-point explosion to lead UST to victory in a five-set thriller, 25-13, 18-25, 19-25, 26-24, 15-13, on No. 27, 2010. Maizo shouldered the scoring chores for the then reigning champions Tigresses as she fired 29 off 83 attacks with three kill blocks in the match that lasted for two hours and 20 minutes. Maizo started in all sets. The Queen Tigress, whose closest back-up in points was Maru Banaticla with 12 markers, also played an all-around game with 11 digs and seven excellent receptions.   However, UST eventually lost its hold of the throne that season when DLSU reclaimed the title.     ALYSSA VALDEZ, ATENEO DE MANILA UNIVERSITY     Angela Benting’s four-year scoring record was broken by a then-sophomore Alyssa Valdez of Ateneo. The 1,784-strong crowd inside the The Arena in San Juan witnessed history unfold as Valdez exploded for 35 points in match against Adamson U. Out of her 35 points, Valdez hammered down 31 off attacks in 80 attempts. She added three kill blocks of the Lady Eagles’ 10 denials and landed an ace. Valdez also had six digs. But her feat wasn’t enough to save Ateneo as the Lady Falcons walked away with a five-set 22-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-16, 10-15, in their Season 75 start of second round eliminations meeting last January 20, 2013. However, Valdez’s scoring record would remain as the women’s benchmark in production to this day. The Queen Eagle would again breach the 30-point mark as she finished a point shy of the duplicating her personal and UAAP record in a five-set win over archrival DLSU in Season 78 Finals Game 2 that forced a series decider. The then graduating Valdez, with their three-peat bid at stake, poured 34 points to breathe new life to Ateneo, which survived 18-25, 26-28, 25-17, 25-16, 15-11, in a grueling two-hour, eight-minute encounter witnessed by 20,126 people inside the MOA Arena on April 27, 2016.      Valdez pounded 32 attack points off 76 attempts in a heroic stand for the Lady Eagles, who unfortunately surrendered the crown in Game 3. Valdez would eventually break her career-high with 39 points in an 18-25, 27-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-9 win over the Laoag Power Smashers while playing for Bureau of Customs in the defunct V-League on Oct. 5, 2016.   SISI RONDINA, UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS Sisi Rondina never got the chance to display her full potential in her first year with UST, taking a back seat in indoor volleyball behind another freshman in EJ Laure in Season 77. She finally got her chance to shine under then new head coach Kungfu Reyes in Season 78 as a starter for the Tigresses. Rondina reintroduced herself with an inspired performance as she fired 30 points in UST’s season-opener on Febuary 3, 2016. The Cebu pride displayed crisp attacking with 25 kills off 55 attempts and added three aces and a pair of kill blocks. But it wasn’t enough as UST bowed to Adamson U, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 30-28, 14-16, and came two points short of tying Aiza Maizo’s team record in points. Lady Falcon Jema Galanza was two points shy of reaching the 30-point mark. Three years after her 30-point game, Rondina surpassed her career-best and became the Tigresses’ top scorer in a single game when she pumped in a league-best-tying 35 points in a five-set game against Ateneo on March 20, 2019. Rondina pounded away as she scattered 30 kills in 102 tries and had three kill blocks and a pair of aces in a sorry 25-19, 25-22, 27-25, 25-22, 15-11, defeat. While Rondina equaled Valdez’s scoring record, Lady Eagle Maddie Madayag wrote a new standard in kill blocks with 11 erasing the nine denials established by DLSU’s Celine Hernandez in 2008.   TOTS CARLOS, UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES Power-hitter Tots Carlos tied Aiza Maizo’s scoring feat when the University of the Philippines star dropped 32 points against the Sisi Rondina-led Tigresses. With the then Lady Maroons struggling to climb the ladder in the first round of Season 80 and limping from a four-game slide, Carlos took matters into her own hands. The then third year player blasted 27 attack points off 64 tries and added three kill blocks and landed two aces in UP’s 31-33, 25-23, 25-16, 25-12, win over UST on February 28, 2018. The win stopped the Lady Maroons’ bleeding but UP for the second straight year eventually bowed out of the race for a Final Four slot. However, Carlos’ career-high production put her on top of UP’s single-game scoring list.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 6th, 2020

No fans, no work: Arena workers caught in sports shutdown

By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer MIAMI (AP) — David Edelman can usually be found at a Denver Nuggets basketball game or a Colorado Rapids soccer game. As an usher, he interacts with fans in a role he calls a staple of his life. But there are no Nuggets games for at least a month. No Rapids games, either. And Edelman has no idea what he’ll do now. “This is what I do for a living,” Edelman said earlier this week, as the realization hit that sports were going on hiatus because of the coronavirus. “This is my income.” Thousands of workers would have staffed the 450 NBA and NHL games that will not be played over the next month in response to the pandemic. And then there are the more than 300 spring training and regular-season baseball games, 130 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tournament games, 50 or so Major League Soccer matches, all international golf and tennis tournaments, and who-knows-how-many high school, small college and other entertainment events canceled or postponed because of the global health crisis. The total economic impact of the loss of sports and other events because of the pandemic — assuming only a month shutdown — is impossible to calculate but will reach the billions, easily. Tickets aren’t being sold, so teams and leagues and organizing bodies lose money. Fans aren’t going to events that aren’t happening, so taxi drivers and ride-share operators have no one to ferry to and from those places. Hotel rooms will be empty. Beers and hot dogs aren’t being sold, so concessionaires and vendors lose money. Wait staff and bartenders aren’t getting tips. Without those tips, their babysitters aren’t getting paid. The trickle-down effect sprawls in countless directions. Some teams are trying to help. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, within minutes of the NBA shutdown announcement, said he wanted to find a way to help workers who will lose money because games won’t be played. By Friday, he had his plan: “We will pay them as if the games happened,” he told The Associated Press in an email. Other teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, have made similar commitments to workers at not just NBA events but also the building’s minor-league hockey games. The Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks were among the earliest NBA franchises to reveal they’re working on how they’ll take care of arena staffs. So have the NHL’s Washington Capitals, among others, and the ownership group for Detroit's Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers on Friday said they were setting up a $1 million fund “to cover one month's wages for our part-time staff for games, concerts and events that they would have otherwise worked." “Our teams, our cities and the leagues in which we operate are a family, and we are committed to looking out for one another,” New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris said. There were many more significant gifts revealed later Friday. Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans said he would “cover the salaries” for workers at the team’s arena for the next 30 days. Blake Griffin of the Detroit Pistons pledged $100,000 for workers there, the San Jose Sharks said part-time arena workers would get paid for all games not played and Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky said he was giving $100,000 to workers in that club’s arena -- a donation matched by his teammates and followed by another pledge from the team’s ownership group. “This is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates and hopefully we can all join together to relieve some of the stress and hardship caused by this national health crisis,” Williamson wrote on Instagram. At Chicago Blackhawks hockey games alone, about 1,500 workers are in or outside the building on event nights: guest services, concessions, parking, security, box office and so on. “The per game payroll is more than $250,000,” said Courtney Greve Hack, a spokeswoman for the United Center. If that’s the NHL norm — no official numbers are available — then workers around the league would stand to lose more than $60 million if hockey does not return this season. “I get it,” said Chris Lee, who owns a coffee and smoothies franchise in Arizona that draws 70% of its annual revenue sales at spring training and Arizona Coyotes hockey games. “But this is going to be really tough.” Lee was packing up cups that won’t be used when baseball announced Thursday that spring training was ending about two weeks early. He and his staff — one full-timer, 14 part-time employees — aren’t sure what comes next. The enormity of the numbers stacks up quickly. The group that owns the Raptors and other pro sports clubs in Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, says it's trying to help 4,000 workers in that city. Extrapolate that across other Canadian and U.S. pro sports cities, and those teams could be looking at 100,000 workers feeling some sort of pinch — not counting the impact at college and other levels. Cavaliers star Kevin Love pledged $100,000 to help the workers in Cleveland address what he described as their “sudden life shift.” On Friday, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks made a $100,000 pledge on behalf of his family “It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier," Antetokounmpo wrote on Twitter. The NCAA men’s Division I tournament generates about $900 million annually through television and marketing rights alone. In Albany, New York, which was scheduled to host men’s tournament games for the first time in 17 years, organizers estimated the economic loss from the three-day event to be about $3 million. Bars and restaurants bought tons of additional stock and perishables to prep for crowds that won't arrive. It’ll probably take a few years before the NCAA can bring the tournament back to many of the cities slated to host games next week. “It’s incredibly disheartening. There’s no question about that,” said Mark Bardack, president of public relations and management firm Ed Lewi and Associates, which had worked for more than a year on the planning of the tournament in Albany. “To have it all disappear, though obviously no one’s fault.” Some arena workers, many not wanting to be identified because of workplace policies about speaking to reporters, said they are living paycheck-to-paycheck. They’re not alone, of course: A study last fall by the American Payroll Association said 74% of workers in the U.S. would “experience financial difficulty” if their usual payday was delayed by as little as one week. In Philadelphia, Rodney Thompson works on commission selling popcorn and beer at 76ers basketball games, Flyers hockey games and Phillies baseball games. They’re all on hold. "The more I sell, the more I make,” the 56-year-old said. “The less I sell, the less I make. It would hurt me, financially. I would have no income coming in. ... I make pretty good money. But if there's no fans, there's no work.” ___ AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington, AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, David Brandt in Scottsdale, Arizona, Josh Dubow in San Francisco, Stephen Hawkins in Dallas and Dan Gelston in Philadelphia, and Associated Press Writers Matthew Carlson and Tim Cronin in Chicago contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 14th, 2020

Mendiola FC 1991 introduces player lineup and unveils kits for PFL Season 2020

Mendiola FC 1991, one of the clubs playing in the Philippines Football League (PFL), has announced their lineup of players for PFL Season 2020 and unveiled their home and away kits for the coming PFL season. The current team is composed of Season 2019 players Niño Datoy (goalkeeper), Souleyman Mbouombouo Ndepe (center back), Jay-R Sandoval (right back), PJ Fadrigalan (center back), Aljo Paul Zabala (left back), Paolo Javier (left back), Louie Joshua Polinag (right back), Aaron Altiche (midfielder), Nimrod Balatbat (midfielder), Jay Shaun Soberano (midfielder), Rey Franco Miguel De La Torre (midfielder), Hamed Hajimehdi (midfielder), and Jim Ashley Flores (forward); transferees Ray Joseph Joyel (goalkeeper), Marvin Bricencio (midfielder), John Celiz (midfielder), Apiah Tonaldo (forward), and John Nico Macapal (forward); and new players JRV Malayo (center back), Dave Deloso (midfielder) and Sean Epili (midfielder). “We have strengthened our lineup with a fine mix of standouts from the college tournaments, tough and experienced local players and strong foreign players,” said Mr. Erwin Guevarra Isla, Mendiola FC 1991 Management Team Leader. Former national team player and National University coach Dan Padernal is the head coach with San Beda University mentors Nhiboy Pedimonte and Jake Cuaycong as assistant coaches and Anton Albao as the goalkeeping coach. The club is backed by Penson & Company Inc. (PCI), the firm of businessman and sports philanthropist Mr. Ricardo Penson who explained that his role in the professional football club is the next logical step as he is already involved with the San Beda University Red Booters. He said, “As longtime supporters of the San Beda University Seniors NCAA Football Team, strengthening Mendiola FC 1991 provides a full growth cycle/portal for the sport and the players.” For the second year in a row, Mendiola FC 1991 will be donning kits created by FAT Indonesia. The home kit is in the predominant hue of red — the color of NCCA football champion San Beda University, the alma mater of most of the players and the origin of the club. Meanwhile, the away kit is in white, which is also the school color of San Beda. “The kits were designed with the theme of ‘beat of music’ in mind because beat is rich in spirit. We hope that Mendiola FC 1991 can voice their enthusiasm to become champions of PFL 2020,” said FAT Indonesia CEO Mr. Franky Adi Thama. Mendiola FC 1991 is the first team that FAT has collaborated with outside Indonesia. Focus Athletics is also supporting the squad by providing gym facilities, physical therapy and medical services. “We want to help the players sustain their fitness as they embark on their new campaign,” said Focus Athletics’ Manager Armando Bajacan, Jr. In 2019, Mendiola FC 1991 entered the semifinals of the PFL Copa Paulino Alcantara where the team finished third place. They also scored big wins at the Youth Football League (YFL) with their U15 team making it to the YFL semis and their U17 and U19 emerging as champions. For 2020, Mendiola FC 1991 wants to outdo last year’s performance. Mr. Isla said, “We are hoping to be among the Top Three in the PFL and give the strong teams like Ceres FC and Kaya FC more intense games like the matches that we drew with them in 2019. As far as our other teams are concerned, we are fielding a complete 25-man lineup composed of former San Beda University players at the Corporate Football League. We are still aiming to be among the top teams in the Youth Football League (YFL)…. Despite logistical challenges, Mendiola FC 1991 remains standing and proud. Our players, coaches and management are committed to investing our time and effort. At the end of the day, we fulfill our dreams to support the Filipino football community.”   For updates about the club, visit the Mendiola FC 1991 social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 1st, 2020

UAAP Season 82: UP Fighting Maroons keeping it low-key

University of the Philippines is taking a different approach in the UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament after a heartbreaking campaign last year. The Fighting Maroons want to keep it low-key, focusing on the task at hand and keeping their minds on their goal. They don’t want to be distracted and pressured by high expectations just like what happened in Season 81. Coming off two pre-season titles, UP was tipped to vie for the throne last year. But the then ‘Lady Maroons’ fell short of making it in the Final Four as they closed the season at fifth spot with a 6-8 win-loss record.   This time, UP quietly prepared for the battle ahead. No hype, no distraction, less pressure.  For graduating senior Isa Molde what’s important this season is for the Fighting Maroons to just play their game and not worry too much about other people thinks.  “Personally, gusto ko ‘yung team mag-enjoy every game,” said Molde, the Season 78 Rookie of the Year. She stresses that at the end of the day the success of the team will still depend on how they will work to achieve it.  "’Wag dapat isipin yung expectations ng iba. Sarili lang namin iintindihin namin,” said Molde. Despite the departure of reliable setter Ayel Estranero and Marian Buitre, the Godfrey Okumu-mentored squad could be considered as the most experienced team this year with key returnees. Aside from Molde, also making another tour of duty are seniors Tots Carlos, last year's third leading scorer averaging 15 points per game and 4.02 digs per set, Justine Dorog, Rem Cailing and middles Jessma Ramos and Marist Layug. Third year player and skipper Rosie Rosier puts this season as a year of redemption for the Fighting Maroons. An opportunity to cultivate a winning culture.    “We're trying to change the motto na puro fighting lang,” said Rosier. “We want to implement the winning attitude, the winning mentality. The fighting should change to winning.”   EYES ON YOU: (Photo: Arvin Lim) It’s a no-brainer that the UP veterans will anchor the fight for the Fighting Maroons. They are experienced and battle-hardened, an advantage that UP can utilize to reach their immediate goal of returning in the Final Four after four years. The lessons learned by these senior players in their respective stint in the commercial league is a big plus for the Fighting Maroons.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 9th, 2020

PFF inks 3-year partnership with Qatar Airways for the PFL

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Football Federation formally secured a three-year agreement with renowned airline company, Qatar Airways. The partnership will see the airline as Title Sponsor and Airline Partner of the Philippines Football League for the period 2020 until 2022.  PFF general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes signed the agreement with Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, in the signing ceremony held last Sunday, 26 January 2020 at the airlines’ headquarters in Doha, Qatar.  Qatar Airways prides itself as an official FIFA partner in the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 as well as sponsor of professional football clubs AS Roma, CA Boca Juniors, and FC Bayern Munich.  Its presence in the Philippines will put football to prominence. Among the marketing thrusts of the airline include on ground and online brand integration and visibility including live TV coverage of select PFL matches.  “We thank Qatar Airways for their willingness to help bolster Philippine football by establishing a partnership with PFF as Airline Partner and Title Sponsor of the PFL,” said PFF president Mariano Araneta, Jr. “The PFF, together with Qatar Airways, will pave the way in forging the sustainability of professional club football in the country.”  Launched in April 2017, the Philippines Football League is the Philippines’ professional football league participated in by professional football clubs in the country. Clubs adhere to the PFF Club Licensing Regulations and MyPFF Online Registration System to compete in the PFL.  Last year, the PFL saw seven (7) participating clubs competing and the 2019 league champions, Ceres Negros FC, was nominated by PFF to compete in AFC club competitions for 2020, the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup.  The fourth PFL season will kick-off this March 2020 with the optimism brought on by the partnership between Qatar Airways and the federation. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 29th, 2020

Valverde questioned after another late collapse by Barcelona

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona had once again played great, led through goals by Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, yet still managed to let it slip away. Barcelona squandered one of its best performances of the season by conceding two late goals to Atlético Madrid, falling 3-2 in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. Messi equalized after Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion scored for Atletico, and Griezmann put Barcelona deservedly ahead 2-1. But the goalkeeping of Jan Oblak, Atlético's star this season, kept Barcelona out for the rest of the way while Álvaro Morata leveled with a penalty kick in the 82nd minute and Ángel Correa completed the dramatic turnaround in the 86th. For Barcelona, the chance to add a minor trophy from a mini-tournament played thousands of miles away is not the main worry. The concern is Barcelona’s odd knack of losing control of games that look like a sure victory. Whether it's a question of overconfidence, a lack of fitness or just momentary lapses that cost the team dearly, the pressure is on coach Ernesto Valverde. Messi and other team leaders defended Valverde, whose very good overall record at Barcelona has been blemished by shocking defeats. “It’s normal that when you lose and don’t reach your objectives, and when our fans see that the team is not playing like they would like, that people talk and say things,” Messi said. “We have to be more united than ever, remain a strong group and get through this. “This year we will try to play like we did today (before the late goals) and not commit childish errors like those we committed.” But that didn’t stop the Spanish sports media reporting that Barcelona club officials met with midfield great Xavi Hernández to probe him as a possible replacement for Valverde either now or next season. Xavi left Barcelona in 2015, following 17 trophy-laden seasons, for Qatari club Al-Sadd, where he coaches. The speculation that he could soon be returning home led to Al-Sadd saying no move was imminent. “The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it’s his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al-Sadd.” Al-Sadd general manager Turki Al-Ali said in a statement on the club website. “Xavi and his team are focusing on tomorrow’s match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters,” Al-Ali said. Barcelona’s loss at the King Abdullah Sports City on Thursday came five days after it conceded an 88th-minute equalizer at Espanyol in the Spanish league. The late goal by Wu Lei also came on a desperate counterattack similar to both of Atlético's late attacks that led to goals, when Barcelona’s backline was out of sync and let a pass through to a player with only goalkeeper Neto to beat. Wu’s goal ruined a superb match by Luis Suárez, who had scored with a fine touch and made a difficult pass for an assist. Suárez also backed Valverde on Thursday by taking the blame for the stumble against Atlético. “This loss shows we have room to improve,” the Uruguay striker said. “It shows us that there are mistakes that we can’t make because we were in charge of the game and we let them mount counterattacks … but the coach is not at fault. They were mistakes that we made.” Barcelona has drawn three of its last four league matches, but still lead the competition on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid. The team was leading before finishing 2-2 at Real Sociedad last month; lost 3-1 at Levante after Messi had put them ahead in November; and gave up a goal in the 81st in a 2-2 draw at Osasuna in August. Those setbacks would not be as worrisome for Barcelona if the team had not completely collapsed in the Champions League in recent seasons, most recently a humiliating 4-0 loss at Liverpool after winning the first leg of the semifinals 3-0. Valverde’s job was then in even more jeopardy at the end of last season after Barcelona lost the Copa del Rey final to Valencia, casting a shadow of doubt over the Spanish league champions. Club president Josep Bartomeu, however, has stuck by the former player who is known for his intelligence and unflappable attitude. Valverde is in his third season at Barcelona. He has won back-to-back Spanish league titles and one Copa del Rey final. A European Cup has eluded him. Valverde said he was used to the criticism as part of a job that was never secure. “We coaches always work with the idea of giving it our all to each match,” Valverde said. “We know how soccer is and that there is a permanent instability in teams when you are not getting good results or when you lose. Now that we have lost I suppose people will talk about it, but I remain focused on my job.” Valverde’s next job is to prepare for the visit of Granada on Jan. 19. In the meantime, Atlético will face crosstown rival Real Madrid in the Super Cup final on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 11th, 2020

Barca and Madrid lead in Spain at winter break despite flaws

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Even though Barcelona and Real Madrid have yet to dominate like in past seasons, the two heavyweights are at the top of the Spanish league for the winter break. Lionel Messi’s Barcelona will head into 2020 with a two-point advantage over second-place Madrid after completing 18 of 38 rounds. Barcelona got off to a slow start with only two wins in the first five rounds before newcomer Antoine Griezmann started to click with Messi and Luis Suárez, and the Catalan club ended the year without a loss in seven rounds. “There are times when you win the league by a wide margin and when everyone expects you to wrap it up months in advance that it loses excitement,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, who is seeking a third consecutive league crown with the team, said Tuesday. “It is better when you win the league on the last round and by one point.” Madrid has only one loss - a 1-0 defeat at Mallorca in October - but it has drawn seven games, including its last three. Its continued scoring problems since Cristiano Ronaldo left two summers ago have left it without a goal in five encounters. "We had difficulties at the beginning of the season, but now we are much better and strong defensively, improving every day,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said after Sunday’s 0-0 home draw with Athletic Bilbao. “Today we couldn’t score, but the important thing is to create the chances and we're going to turn this around in 2020 for sure.” A Sevilla side that has been revitalized by former Madrid and Spain manager Julen Lopetegui, and by the new players brought in by sporting director Ramón “Monchi” Rodríguez, is in third place at five points back. Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid has experienced trouble up front after losing Griezmann in the summer, but its revamped defense has kept it in fourth place, seven points behind Barcelona. PLAYER OF THE SEASON SO FAR Messi leads the league with 13 goals in just 13 appearances due to an injury that kept him out of the opening games. He is also credited with six assists by the league as he continues at age 32 to be the team’s best scorer and playmaker. An honorable mention goes to Karim Benzema for stepping up his play after the injury-hit Eden Hazard failed to make an impact since joining Madrid on a club-record transfer from Chelsea. Benzema is second in the league with 12 goals in 17 matches. SURPRISE OF THE SEASON The breakout player is Real Sociedad midfielder Martin Odegaard, who is playing at the Basque club on loan from Madrid. Odegaard has excelled as a precise passer and is leading one of the most attractive attacks in the league. Sociedad is in fifth place, just one point behind Atlético. Sevilla continues to introduce talented newcomers in powerful defender Diego Carlos and physical forward Lucas Ocampos, both of whom have stood out and are likely on the radar of bigger clubs. GOAL OF THE SEASON Suárez scored not only the best goal so far this season in Barcelona’s 5-2 rout of Mallorca on Dec. 7 but one of the best in his goal-studded career. The Uruguay striker wowed Camp Nou when he used an audacious strike with the back of his right heel to scoop the ball around the diving goalkeeper and just inside the far post from a tight angle. The goal put the perfect finish to a flowing passing combination between Frenkie de Jong and Sergi Roberto to break down Mallorca’s tightly packed defense. It unquestionably goes into the annals of Barcelona’s most beautiful goals. WHO'LL BE CHAMPION? With Messi, defending champion Barcelona is favored to edge a Madrid team that has yet to replace Ronaldo’s missing firepower. Messi has led Barcelona to 10 league titles in 15 seasons. “We haven’t reached our ceiling,” Griezmann said after scoring the opening goal in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Alavés. “I am feeling good before the holidays. Messi is the best in the world. We have a great squad, and when we need a push, Messi provides it.” CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION While Barcelona and Madrid will surely get Champions League spots, Sociedad and a Valencia side that is coming on strong after a tumultuous coaching change could threaten Sevilla and Atlético for the other two berths. Getafe, which was in the running for a top-four finish last season until faltering late, cannot be ruled out despite its modest profile. WHO’S GOING DOWN? Espanyol earned Europa League qualification last campaign, but it has been in a mess since both top scorer Borja Iglesias and ex-coach Francesc “Rubi” Ferrer left for Real Betis in the summer. The Barcelona-based club is in last place after winning just two of 18 matches and it fired Pablo Machín, its second coach of the season, on Monday. Espanyol has yet to win at home in the league this season and its fans are asking for a goal-scorer - in addition to yet another coach - in the January transfer market. Leganés and Mallorca are likely to also feature in the relegation fight. Celta Vigo has been the biggest disappointment of the season so far and is also near the bottom. But with Spain striker Iago Aspas and former Barcelona midfielders Rafinha and Denis Suárez it has the talent to rebound if it shores up its defense......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2019

Leipzig top in Germany at halfway stage, but Bayern revived

By James Ellingworth, Associated Press Is this the season when Bayern Munich's seven-year hold on the German title ends? A poor start and a humiliating 5-1 loss to Frankfurt cost Niko Kovac his job as Bayern coach and gave teams like Leipzig and surprise title contender Borussia Mönchengladbach hope of victory. Bayern has bounced back under interim coach Hansi Flick, though, and is third in the table, four points behind leader Leipzig. That's earned Flick an extension until at least the end of the season. It's been a tale of dueling goalscorers, with Robert Lewandowski having scored 19 goals in 17 games for Bayern, and Timo Werner one goal behind for Leipzig. For Gladbach, goalkeeper Yann Sommer has been crucial to their title challenge. Borussia Dortmund has been powerful on its day, but the team is also inconsistent and brittle. Losing to Bayern 4-0 last month was a big dent to Dortmund's title belief. Last Sunday's games were the last of 2019 and the Bundesliga returns from its winter break on Jan. 17. PLAYER OF THE SEASON SO FAR He turned 31 in August and Lewandowski shows no sign of slowing down. The Polish forward scored in Bayern's first 11 Bundesliga games and has racked up 30 goals across all competitions. He's taking time off during the winter break to have groin surgery. Werner has been almost as prolific, including a remarkable performance with three goals and three assists in an 8-0 thrashing of Mainz last month. For Dortmund, Jadon Sancho's in hot form with eight goals in his last six Bundesliga games. But perhaps no one's been as vital to their team as Rouwen Hennings. The 32-year-old Hennings doesn't have the star status of Lewandowski or Sancho but his 11 goals for struggling Fortuna are four more than the rest of the team put together. SURPRISE OF THE SEASON Gladbach's golden age was the 1970s, when it won five Bundesligas in eight years. With its run to second, Gladbach has been a feelgood story for German fans of other clubs who dislike Bayern's wealth and see Leipzig as less a soccer club than an advertising board for energy drinks giant Red Bull. Gladbach has nothing like the budget of Bayern or Leipzig, but has built a solid team with attacking firepower from Marcus Thuram, son of former French defender Lilian Thuram, and Swiss forward Breel Embolo. A comeback 2-1 win over Bayern this month showed its a serious contender. Kai Havertz experienced the season's most unwelcome surprise when fans of his own team, Bayer Leverkusen, booed him this month. The attacking midfielder started the season rated as one of Germany's most promising young players, but he's looked listless in recent games and last scored in September. GOAL OF THE SEASON Bayern's 46 goals in the Bundesliga have included some gems. Philippe Coutinho scored with an outrageous flick from the outside of his foot against Werder Bremen last week. Lewandowski's hit some long-range free kicks and shrugged off four defenders to score against Frankfurt, the only bright spot in a heavy loss for Bayern. The highlight of Leipzig's title charge might just be Christopher Nkunku juggling the ball through the Bayer Leverkusen defense and past the goalkeeper in October. For sheer fireworks, no one beats Hertha Berlin's Javairo Dilrosun. The Dutch winger picked up the ball on the left wing and cut inside past four defenders — beating one of them twice — before scoring against Paderborn. WHO'LL BE CHAMPION? If Bayern's recovery under Flick continues, an eighth straight title is definitely possible, if only because of the depth in its squad. The Munich team was packed with individual talent, even if Kovac was defeated by the puzzle of how to make them all play well together. There's also a bench filled with hungry young players such as New Zealand midfielder Sarpreet Singh and the Dutch forward Joshua Zirkzee, who's scored in each of his first two Bundesliga appearances. Leipzig takes a four-point lead into 2020, but depends heavily on core players such as Werner and the in-form Marcel Sabitzer and Patrik Schick. Losing any of them to injury could be a fatal blow. Gladbach has less depth than either of them, but unlike them, it won't be balancing the Bundesliga with any European competitions in the spring. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION The fight for the four Champions League spots is wide open, with at least eight teams making a strong claim. Behind the leading trio of Leipzig, Gladbach, and Bayern, there's a chasing pack of Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, and Freiburg. All have played Champions League football in recent years, with the exception of Freiburg, but they have all been inconsistent this season. WHO'S GOING DOWN? The relegation fight is just as close as the scrap for European places. Promoted Paderborn is last but showed it has claws by beating Frankfurt 2-1 last weekend. The other automatic relegation spot is occupied by Werder Bremen, which is in danger of its first relegation since 1981. Werder ended 2019 with four straight defeats, two of them by five-goal margins, and with club management embroiled in conflict with fans over the sale of their stadium's naming rights. If Werder can climb out of danger, it would likely be at the expense of one of two Rhineland rivals, Cologne or Fortuna Düsseldorf, or else Mainz......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2019

Man City beats Leicester, shows stomach for EPL title fight

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press If any team has a chance of stopping Liverpool marching to a first English league title in 30 years, it looks to be Manchester City rather than Leicester. City gave a timely reminder of its champion qualities by coming from a goal behind to beat Leicester 3-1 on Saturday in a match between the teams who are closest to runaway leader Liverpool in the standings. Second-place Leicester stayed 10 points behind Liverpool, which wasn’t in Premier League action this weekend because of its involvement in the Club World Cup in Qatar, and is now only one point ahead of City. On this evidence, it’s City which has the quality to pounce if Liverpool does slip up. The defending champions conceded against the run of play - Jamie Vardy scoring, almost inevitably, on the counterattack for a league-leading 17th goal of the season - but played some breathtaking, high-energy football to hand Leicester its first league defeat in 10 games dating to Oct. 5. “Tonight is a good lesson for us of the work we still need to do to get to the level City are at,” said Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, who described the match as a “humbling” experience. Riyad Mahrez, who was a constant danger to his former club, equalized with a deflected shot before goals by Ilkay Gundogan - from the penalty spot - and Gabriel Jesus. Kevin De Bruyne was the standout player and set up Jesus' goal with a driving run. Doubts about City’s stomach for a fight after four losses in the first 16 games of its title defense have disappeared after scoring three goals in wins over Arsenal and now Leicester over the past week. “When we lose it is a disaster and impossible, when we win it is possible to catch (Liverpool)," City manager Pep Guardiola said. "If we play like we did tonight we can compete with everyone.” Liverpool has a game in hand over both of its nearest rivals and still hasn't lost a league game this season. NEW COACHES Sat in the stands watching their new teams play out an uninspiring 0-0 draw, Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta must have realized the scale of the task awaiting them at Everton and Arsenal, respectively. Ancelotti was announced as Everton’s latest manager just an hour before kickoff at Goodison Park, while Arteta was officially hired by Arsenal on Friday. Neither coach picked the starting lineups for Saturday’s game that rarely sparked into life, highlighting both teams’ issues in a season where they have struggled. Ancelotti will take the reins of a side that is in 15th place, just four points above the relegation zone. It’s a situation he isn’t used to, having mostly been in charge of elite European clubs in his illustrious coaching career that includes three Champions League titles. Arteta’s new team won’t be high on confidence, either, down in 11th place in the league and having won just once in 13 games in all competitions since the end of October. UNLIKELY TOP-FOUR BIDS The Premier League is nearly half a season old, and Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers are still managing to keep up their unlikely bids for Champions League qualification. Sheffield United climbed to fifth place with a 1-0 win at Brighton that preserved its unbeaten away record since returning to the top flight this season. It is six draws and three wins from the team’s nine away games, with United not losing away in the league since January — when it was in the League Championship. Oli McBurnie scored the only goal against Brighton after latching onto a long clearance from goalkeeper Dean Henderson. Wolves are a point and a place behind after rallying for a 2-1 victory at Norwich, with Raul Jimenez scoring the 81st-minute winner. Romain Saiss began the comeback in the 60th after Todd Cantwell opened the scoring for Norwich, which stayed in next-to-last place. Both Sheffield United and Wolves can be overtaken by Tottenham and Manchester United, who play separate games Sunday. VILLA DROPS Southampton climbed out of the relegation zone at the expense of Aston Villa by beating its relegation rival 3-1, thanks to two goals by Danny Ings. The teams started the match level on points. Miguel Almiron finally scored for Newcastle in his 27th game for the club in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, in a match between two midtable teams. Burnley scored in the 89th minute to beat Bournemouth 1-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2019

Liverpool lands 1st world title, Qatar passes pre-2022 test

By Rob Harris, Associated Press DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After tens of billions of dollars spent on infrastructure, and skepticism over this tiny gas-rich nation's suitability as a sporting host, a World Cup has finally been handed out in Qatar. It was Liverpool lifting FIFA's lesser-regarded Club World Cup trophy on Saturday night. In three years, the biggest prize in soccer will be handed out in a stadium yet to be completed. The Club World Cup, which ended Saturday with Roberto Firmino sealing Liverpool's 1-0 victory over Flamengo in extra time, has been the first major international footballing test of Qatar's readiness. With a 45,000-strong crowd packed into Khalifa Stadium, Qatar has shown it can fill a venue with sports fans —- unlike at the track and field world championships earlier this year. “Everybody was for different reasons on the edge pretty much but I saw so many sensationally good performances and I'm really happy of course for our supporters,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “The atmosphere in the stadium was great." But it is a stadium touched by the welfare concerns that have dogged Qatar's building work since being awarded the main 32-team World Cup in 2010 by FIFA. A British worker plunged to his death during the construction phase in conditions later deemed to be dangerous. This was a Club World Cup trip also tinged in tragedy for the losing finalists from Brazil. When fire engulfed a dormitory at Flamengo's academy in Brazil in February, 10 players — all between 14 and 16 years old — died. “It was a very sad moment in Flamengo's history and, I believe, in Brazilian football as well," midfielder Everton Ribeiro said in Doha. “Lives were lost, dreams were lost.” Flamengo was ordered by a Rio de Janeiro judge earlier this month to pay the equivalent of $2,500 a month to the families of 10 victims and three injured players. Flamengo, which appealed the decision, is already paying families about $1,200 a month. “If the situation is settled with the families, as soon as possible, including the support that Flamengo is already giving, it will be better for everybody,” Ribeiro said. Flamengo's grief was followed by success not achieved by a Brazilian side since Pele's Santos in 1963. The Brazilian championship was won in November, 24 hours after clinching a first Copa Libertadores title since 1981 in a continental triumph which earned a reunion with Liverpool. When the European champions and South American champions met in a single-game version of the Club World Cup 38 years ago, Flamengo beat Liverpool 3-0. Since the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, football has tilted in Europe's favor over South America but the very staging of this seven-team Club World Cup in the Persian Gulf shows where so much of the wealth now comes from in the sport. And it was a Brazilian player prized away from his homeland to Europe as a 19-year-old, initially by Hoffenheim in Germany, who settled this final for Liverpool in the 99th minute. Firmino was still inside his own half when captain Jordan Henderson launched the defense-splitting pass that set Liverpool on the path to glory. As Firmino raced through Flamengo territory unchallenged, Sadio Mane held up the ball received from Henderson. When Firmino reached the penalty area, Mane squared to the Brazilian, who took three touches to control the ball past defender Rodrigo Caio before knocking it into the net. Firmino also struck in the semifinal victory over Monterrey on Wednesday, giving him two goals in as many games in the Khalifa Stadium, having only netted once in the previous 16 games for Liverpool in all competitions. “I couldn't be more happy for him that he could score that goal because ... (of) what this competition means to Brazil, to South American people,” Klopp said. After netting the World Cup winner, Firmino raced away in celebration, ripping off his jersey and leaping into the air. Firmino and his teammates will have to wait some time to attach FIFA's gold Champions Badge to their jerseys. Liverpool anticipates it will only be allowed to be worn in the Champions League, which resumes in February, rather than weekly in the Premier League. It may have to settle with lifting the Premier League trophy in May for the first time. As Liverpool added the world title to its sixth European Cup collected in June, back in England its pursuit of the Premier League was helped by Leicester losing to Manchester City. A domestic title drought stretching back to 1990 for the 18-time English champions is well-placed to end with Liverpool holding a 10-point lead over Leicester ahead of Thursday’s game against its second-place rival. “Liverpool are enjoying their best time in their decade,” Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus said. "They played a tremendous match and Flamengo were excellent also. "We were a match for Liverpool. I'm fully pleased with what Flamengo have done. Brazilian clubs in future will be contenders to European clubs and we have exhibited that today.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2019

Benzema scores on last kick as Madrid draws 1-1 at Valencia

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Karim Benzema scored with the final kick of the match to snatch a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid at Valencia in the Spanish league on Sunday. The draw wasted a chance for Madrid to take the outright lead. Second-place Madrid is level on points with league leader Barcelona before the teams meet in their "clásico" at Camp Nou on Wednesday. Thibaut Courtois played a key role in Benzema’s goal when the Belgium goalkeeper joined the attack on a corner kick five minutes into stoppage time. Thibaut rose to connect with a powerful header that his counterpart Jaume Domenech batted down into the crowded box, where it reached Benzema to smash it home. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane rested holding midfielder Casemiro, who has four yellow cards and would have risked a suspension if he had played. Federico Valverde took the Brazilian’s place and had the game’s first scoring chance when he combined quick passes with Benzema before forcing Domenech to get low. Madrid was also without injured left backs Marcelo and Ferland Mendy, and Zidane had to employ the little-used Nacho Fernández, a central defender, on the left side of his back line. Madrid dominated the first half hour, working several flowing passing combinations to get into firing range. Valencia held firm thanks to holding midfielder Francis Coquelin until playmaker Dani Parejo shifted the action into a back-and-forth exchange. Rising talent Ferrán Torres had a great opportunity for the hosts just after halftime on the break, only for Courtois to close in fast and snuff out his attempt. Zidane sent on Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior with just over 20 minutes left to take advantage of the open space. But it was Valencia that broke the stalemate when Daniel Wass spotted Carlos Soler on a team break. Soler coolly fired in Wass’ pass after teammates had drawn off the backtracking defenders to take the lead in the 78th. STREAK OVER Villarreal ended Sevilla’s eight-match unbeaten run in the Spanish league with a 2-1 away win, leaving the hosts four points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sevilla had equalized and was pressing for a second when Villarreal got its second goal against the flow of play. Moi Gómez responded to Manuel Trigueros' run behind the defense with a lobbed pass that the midfielder controlled with his back to the net. Trigueros then stayed calm as goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik rushed off his line before passing for the unmarked Toko Ekambi to get the 74th-minute winner. Munir El Haddadi had canceled out Raúl Albiol’s header for Villarreal when the Sevilla forward rifled in a cross from Sergio Reguilón in the 61st. The win was Villarreal’s first in seven rounds. BACK IN FORM Getafe got goals from Ángel Rodríguez and Marc Cucurella to beat Valladolid 2-0 and move past Atlético Madrid into fourth place. After only one win in its first seven games, José Bordalás has got Getafe back to its good form from last season. The modest Madrid-based club is in contention for a Champions League berth after seven wins, two draws and one loss in its last 10 games. STILL WINLESS Last-place Espanyol remained without a victory at its stadium in nine games after a 2-2 draw against Real Betis. Betis got its opening goal from Borja Iglesias. Both Iglesias and Betis coach Joan “Rubi” Ferrer helped Espanyol earn a Europa League berth last season before changing clubs. Despite remaining five points from safety, Espanyol coach Pablo Machín was pleased by his team’s fightback from an early deficit to take a 2-1 lead before conceding a second goal to Betis’ Marc Bartra. “The point has more value than just a number. Today’s match shows us the way forward,” Machín said. RELEGATION FIGHT Ante Budimir scored for Mallorca with seven minutes left to earn a 2-2 draw at struggling Celta Vigo. The point allowed promoted Mallorca to stay just above Celta, which is in the drop zone......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 16th, 2019

Mourinho back in Champs League, on charm offensive at Spurs

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press Jose Mourinho’s charm offensive has been in overdrive during his whirlwind first few days at Tottenham. He has lauded Tottenham’s training complex as being “second to none” and without comparison across Europe “at any level.” He says he has slept in the club’s pajamas at its on-site hotel which he rates as “six star,” with its “soft pillows, amazing duvet.” Now it’s time for a first taste of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — “the best stadium in the world,” he has purred — as Mourinho continues his quest to win over fans who might still be skeptical about his appointment. Getting the team through to the knockout stage of the Champions League wouldn’t do him any harm in the ingratiation process. Three days after guiding Spurs to a Premier League victory at West Ham in his first match since replacing Mauricio Pochettino, Mourinho will take charge of them in a home match for the first time when Olympiakos visits Tuesday in the Champions League. A victory guarantees progress out of Group B alongside Bayern Munich with a game to spare. It would complete a decent week’s work for Mourinho as he attempts to rebuild his coaching reputation after a fractious, and ultimately disappointing, 2½ year spell at Manchester United that ended almost 12 months ago. The Portuguese coach hugged his players and kept a respectful distance from the traveling Spurs fans while he celebrated the 3-2 win against West Ham on Saturday. It might take some time for them to accept Mourinho and take him to their hearts, especially considering the work Pochettino did in raising standards at Tottenham — even getting the team to a Champions League final last season when it lost to Liverpool. Mourinho has done that with Porto and Inter Milan, winning the title match on both occasions, so is seeking to become the first manager to win European club soccer’s biggest prize with three different clubs — all from different countries. None of them could be classed as modern-day continental heavyweights, either, making that achievement all the more impressive. The closest he has come to winning the Champions League since that 2010 triumph with Inter was a trio of semifinal appearances — all with Real Madrid — in 2011, ’12 and ’13. He got Manchester United out of its group last season, only to get fired before the knockout stages even began. If he was happy to be back in the Premier League — his “natural habitat,” he called it — at the weekend, imagine how he will feel making a return to the Champions League arena. Three teams have already qualified after four of the six rounds of games: Bayern, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. RESTED RONALDO Seeking a win to advance along with Juventus in Group D, Atletico Madrid is well aware of the dangers of a rested Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo took some time off before the second leg of the last 16 in the Champions League last season and responded with a hat trick against the Spanish team as Juventus overturned a 2-0 deficit. Ronaldo was rested again at the weekend, for Juve’s 3-1 win at Atalanta, as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Ronaldo showed little sign of any problem while playing for Portugal in the recent European Championship qualifiers, scoring a hat trick in one match and also netting in another. Juventus is looking to secure top spot in the group with a win on Tuesday. FAVRE UNDER PRESSURE Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre has little room for error ahead of the side’s trip to Barcelona on Wednesday. A win would put the German side, which is a point behind first-place Barca in Group F, through to the knockout stage, but the manner of Dortmund’s performance will have a big say in Favre’s future. Dortmund fans reacted with fury after a 3-3 draw with last-place Paderborn in the Bundesliga on Friday, berating the players after their latest lackluster performance in a signal that their patience is wearing thin. Barcelona can seal first place in the group with a win. REAL REVENGE Real Madrid can qualify from Group A — and gain a measure of revenge — by beating PSG on Tuesday. PSG overwhelmed Madrid 3-0 in Paris in September, a result that left Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane under some pressure. “We’re in better shape,” said Zidane, whose team is only behind Barcelona in the Spanish league on goal difference. “We had a tough game in Paris, but that's in the past.” Group C leader Manchester City will advance by beating Shakhtar Donetsk at home on Tuesday. Liverpool has a one-point lead over Napoli heading into their meeting Wednesday in Group E, in which Salzburg is a further four points back before its game against out-of-contention Genk. In Group H, Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia are all on seven points. Valencia hosts Chelsea on Wednesday, when Ajax travels to Lille. In Group G, Leipzig and Lyon can advance by beating Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg, respectively, on Wednesday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 25th, 2019