Villa maintain unbeaten start

first_imgAston Villa’s unbeaten start to the Barclays Premier League season continued as goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann put away Hull at Villa Park. Villa had the look of a crisis club towards the end of the 2013-14 campaign, with manager Paul Lambert under intense pressure, owner Randy Lerner trying to sell the club and internal discord rife, but seven points from a possible nine paints a rosier picture this time around. Villa had to settle for a 2-1 victory but should really have enjoyed a more handsome scoreline, dominating first-half proceedings completely with neat finishes from Agbonlahor and Weimann sandwiched by shots against the woodwork from Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood. Hull were abject in those 45 minutes, arguably as bad as they have been since their return to the top flight, but tightened up after the interval and found a lifeline when Nikica Jelavic’s 72nd-minute header was turned home by Villa full-back Aly Cissokho. Both sides had been responding to midweek setbacks, Paul Lambert’s side beaten by Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup and the Tigers ousted from the Europa League on away goals. Each made seven changes from those games and there was little doubt about which side settled quicker. Villa’s dominance began almost immediately, with just 90 seconds gone, when Delph latched on to Weimann’s pass and lashed an angled shot against the outside of the near post. That energetic start appeared to catch the visitors cold and they regressed immediately to some uncharacteristic long balls. Lambert’s side attacked with more forethought, Delph, Weimann and Agbonlahor looking to use their pace against a Hull defence including debutant Michael Dawson. The opener arrived shortly before the quarter-hour mark, Jelavic mis-controlling a pass back into his own half to set up a Villa break. Within seconds the ball was in the net, Charles N’Zogbia finding Weimann, whose deft touch gave Agbonlahor just enough room to turn and shoot low past Allan McGregor from 10 yards. A second almost followed within two minutes, Curtis Davies gifting possession to Agbonlahor, who fizzed a cross into the six-yard box where Dawson made a hurried clearance. Hull briefly threatened a response around the half-hour mark, Tom Huddlestone’s free-kick deflected wide by Weimann before Mark Clattenburg waved away penalty appeals for a Westwood handball. Villa soon regained control, though, aided by some dreadful resistance. They doubled their lead in the 36th minute when Dawson’s loose ball was won by Delph, spread wide to Kieran Richardson and finished in two succinct touches by Weimann. It was a moment to forget for the Hull debutant but another clinical reaction by Villa’s forward line. It might easily have been three before half-time, Agbonlahor denied by McGregor’s feet and Westwood curling a free-kick against the upright with McGregor nowhere. Hull captain Davies did not emerge for the second half, replaced by Liam Rosenior to force a change of shape to four at the back. Ten minutes later, and with no sign of a change in momentum, Steve Bruce made his second change. This time Tom Ince, nearly anonymous in his attempts to link midfield and attack, gave way for Robbie Brady, fresh from two goals against Lokeren on Thursday. Lambert’s first change came soon after, Carlos Sanchez on for N’Zogbia, and if the substitutions were contributing to an increasingly disjointed feeling then it hardly mattered to the side with a two-goal cushion. That almost increased to three when McGregor slipped fielding Dawson’s back pass, but the ball did not fall for the harrying Weimann. Then, against all expectations, Hull instigated a tense finale by grabbing a lifeline 18 minutes from time. The lively Brady was involved, his drifting free-kick headed goalwards by Jelavic only for Cissokho to wrong-foot his own goalkeeper with a huge deflection. In an instant the game had a new spark, Delph bringing the home fans back to their feet with a fine run and shot before Jake Livermore took aim at the other end. His 25-yard strike was destined for the top corner but Brad Guzan made his first save of the match a crucial one. Both sides had chances in injury-time, Darren Bent dragging wide from a good position and Sone Aluko firing directly at Guzan with the visitors’ final chance. Press Associationlast_img read more

Hope aims to repeat performance and lead Windies to series win

first_imgHAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka, (CMC) – Shai Hope, who made his ninth ODI hundred in the series opener which the West Indies lost to Sri Lanka, is aiming to repeat his outstanding performance but hoping for a different result when his side takes on the hosts in their second match on Wednesday.The wicketkeeper-batsman scored 115 at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo – the highest score for the Windies in Sri Lanka, surpassing the 110 made by Adrian Barath at the same venue in 2011 – to lead the Windies to a competitive 289.Shai Hope put in an outstanding performance in the first ODI against Sri Lanka.He reached half-century off 77 balls at the start of the 26th over, before reaching his ton in the 43rd over off 128 deliveries – his second in his last seven innings.“I had to ensure that I came out and stamped my authority on the first game. Unfortunately, it didn’t come out to be a wining effort, but it was still nice to get some runs under my belt,” Hope said.“I think there were some key moments, where we could’ve probably put our foot down a bit more. The run out [between myself and Bravo], we probably could’ve gotten a lot more out of that partnership,” he added, looking back on the opener.As the Windies arrived here ahead of their second match, the 26-year-old was hoping his heroics would lead to a series win over Sri Lanka.West Indies need to win both of the upcoming matches – the other scheduled for Sunday – to achieve the goal of winning their first ODI series in Sri Lanka.“It’s now do-or-die for us. We’re 0-1 down and we have two more games to make amends. I’m sure the guys have what it takes to come out and turn it around,” Hope said.West Indies entered the series one point behind Sri Lanka in the ICC ODI rankings and are looking to move ahead of the hosts. Securing back-to-back wins in the ongoing series will be necessary to achieve that feat.Wednesday’s day/night contest will be played at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium here. First ball is 2:30 p.m. (5 a.m. Eastern Caribbean Time/4 a.m. Jamaica Time).last_img read more

Sage: Legends lead set to be claimed Saturday

first_imgYou’ve heard coaches say something like this before, “Play every game like it’s the championship.” On Saturday, it’s less of a clich?, because that is exactly what Michigan and Nebraska will do when they meet in Lincoln, Neb.It has taken eight weeks of football for true front-runners to appear in the Big Ten Legends Division, but these two teams look to be the ones showing they want it, and they both want it bad.What exactly is at stake in this upcoming Week 9 division matchup? The leg-up among the Legends group moving forward that could likely decide which team will head to Indianapolis to play in the second Big Ten Championship game and a spot in the Rose Bowl.No. 22 Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) holds a one-game lead heading into the game. A victory would keep them in sole control of their destiny, two games ahead and could also mean a last-week game against undefeated Ohio State could have no implication on their standing.But Nebraska (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) won’t be any less motivated Saturday. A Husker victory would result in a tie for the division lead, with the tiebreaker advantage in their favor after a head-to-head victory. With four very winnable games to end the season, this weekend’s game against the Wolverines is their biggest hurdle remaining.Entering the game, both teams will be riding momentum from their Week 8 victories. For Michigan, that came from beating rival Michigan State for the first time in four years after a last-second field goal to give the Wolverines a 12-10 edge over the Spartans. The Huskers also came back from a twelve-point deficit to beat Northwestern on the road by one.Yes, momentum and motivation play into a game, but what happens on the field is all that will truly matter.Here is how I see these teams matching up:Running ability in questionRanked fifth in the nation in rushing and leading the Big Ten with 279 rushing yards per game, Nebraska holds a clear statistical advantage. However, it is unknown if, or how much, their star tailback Rex Burkhead will play after he suffered a left knee injury against Northwestern. While losing him would be a blow to Nebraska’s offense, Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Taylor Martinez are both threats on the run. Michigan’s numbers fall not far behind the Huskers. Quarterback Denard Robinson currently ranks as the team’s leading rusher with 900 yards and six touchdowns. Junior Fitzgerald Toussaint, who has received 10 or more carries since Week 2, is the team’s lead back.Advantage: Michigan. Without a healthy Burkhead, Robinson’s dynamic running ability will edge out the threat’s of Martinez and Abdullah.Skipping stones: Robinson and MartinezAs aggressive as Robinson is on the run, his passing game does not even come close to matching that level. His 53.5 percent completion rate on the season is less-than-impressive.Now onto Martinez. When he is on, he is on fire. With 15 touchdown throws this season, two of which brought home a win this past weekend, Martinez is definitely a game changer for the Huskers. Martinez is ranked 15th nationally in passing efficiency with a 162.8 rating and has thrown just four interceptions. He was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week Monday for the third time this season.Martinez hasn’t been without his rough spots this year, most notably two weeks ago against Ohio State where he threw three interceptions. However, I suspect the Martinez we saw against the Wildcats will be the guy that shows up against Michigan with everything at stake. The Huskers have not lost a game in which he recorded zero interceptions. That will be key to a Nebraska victory.Advantage: Nebraska, and a significant one.Clear Defensive DifferenceThe ability to stop Martinez and the Husker offense is what will decide the outcome of Saturday’s game. Two years ago, Michigan owned one of the worst defenses in college football. Now we are looking at a group who in the last month has resembled a unit that could be one of the best in the nation. In Big Ten play, the Wolverines have given up 23 points total in their three games, meaning their opponents averaged just a measly 7.7 points in each game. Since a rough start to the season with a loss to No. 1 Alabama and a close game with Navy, Michigan has flipped the switch when they don’t posses the ball and after Week 2, have given up no more than 13 points in any game.What also is in the Wolverine defense’s favor is their experience with top teams this year. While losing to both Alabama and currently No. 5 Notre Dame, a powerhouse offense like Nebraska’s will not faze the experienced group.Nebraska’s defense has seen more struggles this season than successes. Ranked 72nd nationally, they allow on average 27.7 points a game, with a number that is even higher against its first three Big Ten opponents.Advantage: MichiganLocation, Location, Location!It cannot go unmentioned that Nebraska is undefeated in its four home games this season. Michigan is 1-2 on the road, but the crowd at Memorial Stadium will be amped up and ready to greet the Wolverines for the first time as Big Ten competition. Last season Nebraska was trampled in Ann Arbor 45-17 and will be looking for revenge, like what happened to Wisconsin in Week 5.Advantage: NebraskaSo who is going to come out the likely favorite to be playing Dec. 1 against the winner of the Leaders Division? It will be close, but I predict Michigan will come out on top. The way Michigan’s defense has played tips the game in their favor for me. Martinez and his offense are good, but we have seen them stopped before this year, and I think we will again come Saturday.last_img read more

How Montrezl Harrell helped the Clippers overcome OKC

first_imgMontrezl Harrell was as eye-catching on the court Monday as he is off it, where you can’t ever miss him in the bold self-stylings he’s described as a hippie-, rock star-type look.As even the professional scorers around him were slogging it out in the Clippers’ 90-88 victory at Staples Center, Harrell might’ve been wearing his bright “Rugrats” TV show-inspired sweatsuit out there, he was that conspicuous.And that in character.“Trezz just does a good job of doing his job,” veteran guard Lou Williams said. “He screens, he rolls, puts himself in position to be successful.” Clippers vs. Mavericks Game 5 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters Kristaps Porzingis ruled out as Clippers, Mavericks set for Game 5; Follow for game updates DYNAMIC DUO IN-WAITINGThe Clippers continue to await the opportunity to debut Kawhi Leonard and George beside each other for the first time. As of Tuesday evening, Leonard was listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Boston Celtics (7 p.m., ESPN), the Clippers’ third game of a five-game homestand.Leonard has missed five of the Clippers’ 14 games so far, either because of a load-management strategy meant to ease stress on an ongoing injury to the patella tendon in his left knee or recently, on account of a left knee contusion.Before Monday’s game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the Clippers don’t harbor any long-term concerns about Leonard’s injury, noting the two-time NBA Finals MVP had been “very close” to playing against Oklahoma City and could play against the Celtics, who are 11-2 and in first place in the Eastern Conference.Related Articles Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “He’s skilled – I mean, he’s skilled,” George said. “Great hands. Plays bigger than what he is. He contests, he takes charges. He brings the toughness, great finisher. He’s got the complete package and he’s got a niche for this league. He’s definitely got a niche and he knows his game.“Those are guys that do well, they know what they do and they do it at a high level.” With Leonard, the Clippers are 7-2. Without him, they’re 2-3, and it’s worth noting both of their Leonard-less wins came after George returned after concluding rehab from offseason surgery on both shoulders.After being facing double-teams all game on Monday, George said he’ll welcome Leonard’s presence, whenever he’s able to provide it.“You can’t shrink the floor when you got me, Lou, Kawhi, Trezz, you just can’t shrink the floor,” George said. “There is no way that guys can take themselves out of the play defensively and try to face-guard. You just can’t do that, because Lou, Kawhi or myself, whoever is getting that type of defense, we are going to pick you apart and make plays offensively.” What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 This is how Harrell, the 25-year-old Virginian, defined successful this time.By carrying the offensive load: He took 20 of the Clippers’ 87 shots and scored 13 of their 35 baskets. All of his buckets came at the rim, many off screen-and-rolls that resulted in rim-rattling dunks as the 6-foot-7 Harrell used his speed and savvy to evade Steven Adams, the Thunder’s sturdy 7-footer.By imposing his will on a back-and-forth fourth quarter: Harrell played all 12 minutes and had 14 points, seven rebounds (including five on the offensive glass), two assists, a steal and a blocked shot.By making some NBA history: Harrell finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and five assists – becoming just the eighth player ever to post that line off the bench, and the only one to do it in fewer than 33 minutes.Paul George followed his 37-point and 33-point debut outings by scoring 18 on Monday, when he delivered the game-sealing 3-pointer and, a little later, an astute scouting report on his new teammate “Trezz.” For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory last_img read more