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Monday 28 February 2011

The Morung Express

Man United survive scares to rout Wigan

Manchester United's Javier Hernandez, second left, celebrates scoring against Wigan Athletic during the English Premier League soccer match at the DW Stadium, Wigan, England. Manchester United won the match 4-0. (AP Photo)

WIGAN, FEBRUARY 27 (AFP): Edwin van der Sar was Manchester United's hero as Sir Alex Ferguson's side opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 4-0 win at Wigan on Saturday. Mexican international Javier Hernandez's eighth and ninth league goals in the 17th minute and 74th

minutes helped United to a 13th successive win over Wigan, while Wayne Rooney and Fabio Da Silva were also on the scoresheet. But it was 40-year-old Van der Sar's heroics between the posts which sent United clear of nearest rivals Arsenal with 11 games remaining. The former Netherlands goalkeeper

marked his 250th United appearance by making a string of spectacular saves, with Victor Moses, Ben Watson and Maynor Figueroa all frustrated before Rooney sealed the win with United's third goal. Wigan had lost all their previous 12 encounters with United, conceding 37 times in the process. But

they went into this game unbeaten in the previous three league outings including a morale-boosting 1-1 draw at Liverpool. After criticism about the playing surface from their own manager Roberto Martinez, Wigan had relaid the pitch ahead of United's visit. And it did not take long for the lowly hosts to adapt

to the new surface. During a bright start by Wigan, Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega saw his fifth minute snap shot fly over the bar. Then England under-21 winger Moses used his pace to get behind the United defence and deliver a low centre across the six-yard area. Unfortunately for Wigan, there was no blue shirt to turn it over the line. But after soaking up the home side's early pressure, United took control through Hernandez soon after Van der Sar had produced an excellent save to deny the busy Moses. Once again Nani produced the assist, the Portuguese winger charging down the left before producing a cross for Hernandez, who had shrugged off his marker, to steer home from five-yards in the 17th minute. Hernandez was only starting after Ferguson had opted to leave the Premier League's leading goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov on the bench ahead of next Tuesday's game at reigning champions Chelsea. Yet Wigan ought to have equalised moments later when Watson found himself in space but the midfielder's close range effort was brilliantly kept out by Van der Sar.

This is the start of a pivotal period for United, with five league and cup games in the space of 17 days likely to shape their season. And although they survived a couple of early scares, Ferguson's side should have made sure of the points before half time. A fluid move involving Paul Scholes ended with Nani's shot rebounding off the inside of the post with keeper Ali Al Habsi beaten on the half hour mark. But it required another fabulous stop by man-ofthe-match Van der Sar to deny Figueroa a rare goal on the Honduras international's 100th Premier League appearance. Figueroa let fly from 30-yards in the 48th minute, his ferocious effort heading for the net before Van der Sar scrambled to keep it out. United finished strongly with Nani squandering a hat-trick of opportunities before Hernandez put the game out of sight 16 minutes from time with a composed finish after being sent clear by Rooney, who made it 3-0 from close range six minutes from time. Wigan will feel hard done by the scoreline after Kim Kardashian applauds during an NBA basketball game substitute Fabio made it 4-0 between the New Jersey Nets and the Houston Rockets Satthree minutes from time. urday, February 26, in Houston. (AP Photo)

Services emerge on top, Manipur second

RANCHI, FEBRUARY 27 (TNN): Four years after the Guwahati experience, the 34th National Games threw up an identical pecking order atop the medals table, but then, the story never stays the same. With 33 disciplines fought over at three towns - Jamshedpur and Dhanbad being the others - the Jharkhand Games brought their own flavour, inevitabilities and surprises. In a state lacking in sports culture and where excellence is restricted to hockey, archery and very little else, all competition venues saw crowds flock in their thousands but mostly out of curiosity over the swanky infrastructure rather than any deep love for sport. But then, they were also among the biggest contributors in making the Jharkhand Games a 'success'! Significantly, Assam, who finA batsman is clean bowled as they paly cricket on the bank of Dhansari river at Dimapur, India’s north eastern state of Nagaland on Sunday, February 27. The whole country has been ished third in Guwahati, slipped gripped up by the cricket fever as the the six-week long ICC cricket world cup 2011 tourna- to 15th - a more realistic reflection of their strength in sports when ment is underway. (Photo/Caisii Mao)

Messi inspires Barca to 3-0 win at Mallorca

MADRID, FEBRUARY 27 (REUTERS): Lionel Messi conjured a magical headed goal to set a depleted Barcelona on their way to a 3-0 win at Real Mallorca in La Liga on Saturday that stretched their lead over Real Madrid at the top to eight points. Barca made light of the absence through injury of playmaker Xavi, centre back Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes as forwards David Villa and Pedro also scored to lift the champions to 68 points from 25 matches. Second-placed Real can trim the gap back to five with a win at Deportivo Coruna in Saturday's late kickoff (2100 GMT). Mallorca coach Michael Laudrup played for Barcelona in the 1990s with the Catalan club's current coach Pep Guardiola and Barca had never beaten a La Liga team coached by the former Danish international, who also had a stint in charge at Getafe. The teams drew 1-1 at the Nou Camp in October, one of only three matches in which Barca have dropped points this term. Laudrup's players made a good job of closing their opponents down in the early stages at their Estadi Iberostar before World Player of the Year Messi opened the scoring in the 38th minute. Seydou Keita scooped the ball over the defence and Messi controlled it once with his head to take it away from the defender and, without letting it bounce, nodded it over Mallorca's Israel goalkeeper Dudu Aouate into the net. It was the Argentina international's 26th of the season in La Liga and put him two clear of Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart. Sergio Busquets split the defence to send Spain team mate Villa clear to round Aouate for Barca's second in the 57th and Pedro cut in from the left and scored with a dipping shot to make it three in the 66th. Barcelona are now unbeaten in their last 19 away matches, equalling a La Liga record set by Basque club Real Sociedad in the 1979-80 campaign. Earlier, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla missed a chance to breathe life into their European qualification hopes when they drew 2-2 at the Calderon. The two clubs were touted as possible challengers to the domination of Barca and Real in Spain's top flight but erratic recent form had pushed them out of the European places. Atletico twice came from behind to salvage a point at the Calderon, but the draw will do little to ease the pressure on coach Quique Sanchez Flores. Espanyol climbed above Athletic Bilbao into fifth when they thumped visiting Real Sociedad 4-1, while strugglers Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza drew 0-0. Espanyol have 40 points from 25 matches, two ahead of Bilbao who host third-placed Valencia, with 48 points, on Sunday (2000). Sevilla have 35 in seventh and Atletico 34 in eighth.

it comes to the pan-Indian picture. As has been the trend since the 2002 Games in Hyderabad, many states, and particularly the hosts, have tried to climb the medals ladder with borrowed power. If Andhra benefited from the likes of golden girl Richa Mishra in 2002, Assam had similar help in 2007. Here, hosts Jharkhand improved upon their 15th finish in Guwahati by grabbing 33 gold, 26 silver and 37 bronze medals to climb to fifth place, ahead of sporting powerhouses like Kerala and Punjab. In Guwahati, they had a total of 22 medals that included six gold, and the big jump in their own backyard had more to do with judicious 'imports' rather than any dramatic improvement in their sports prowess over four years. In fact, many sports officials of the state were very unhappy that a deal with Richa could not be struck. The Delhi swimmer ended

up winning 11 gold, four silver and a bronze - a haul that could have helped Jharkhand finish third! It's in this light that the emergence of strife-torn Manipur as the top sports state in the country makes a most remarkable story. Far from 'importing' talent to boost medal hopes, Manipur, tucked away in the North-East, are probably the biggest 'exporters' with so many sportspersons from the state helping others get medals even as the core groups are around to take Manipur to the top. From football to fencing, archery to athletics and a whole range of other sports, the assembly-line keeps churning out the champions. Others would do well to find out more about the Manipur story and take a leaf or two out of that book. Then, as one would expect in a huge country, the 'Olympics of India' again brought to focus the traditional strengths of the various

regions. If the 'akharas' of Haryana and Punjab continue to produce the wrestling champs, the fight between the southern states and the 'cow belt' in disciplines like volleyball and basketball with Bengal butting in to queer the pitch. Then there were Jharkhand and Manipur flaunting their strengths in archery. Karnataka, Delhi and Maharashtra fighting in the swimming pool with a surprise or two coming from states like Goa. Records tumbled, events were won and lost, and there was even a poignant pause in the festivities when Asian Games medallist Suresh Babu passed away while at the Games. But right through it all, Suresh Kalmadi kept coming back into the picture like a bad coin, rumours about the 'imminent arrest' of the IOA president doing the rounds right through the fortnight. It lent a typically Indian touch to the country's biggest sporting extravaganza. We are like that only!

Zvonareva beats Wozniacki to take Qatar tennis title

Russia's Vera Zvonareva, left, and Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki pose with their trophies after their Qatar WTA Tennis Open final tennis match in Doha on Saturday February 26. Zvonareva won 6-4, 6-4. (AP Photo)

DOHA, FEBRUARY 27 (AFP): It was third time lucky for Vera Zvonareva in Doha as she shocked top seeded Caroline Wozniacki to win the WTA Qatar Open here on Saturday. Zvonareva, the second seed, won 6-4, 6-4 to break her title hoodoo in Qatar where she has lost twice in the finals

-- to Maria Sharaapova in this event in 2008 and to Venus Williams in the season-ending WTA Championships the same year. Qatar is making a comeback to the regular WTA circuit after a two-year break. "It's a special moment for me. I have so many fans here and it's an unbelievable feeling

to come to Doha and win this tournament," the Russian said. "It was a tough match and I had to play aggressive and go for my shots." Wozniacki, who was gunning for her 14th title and the second inside seven days after her victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the Dubai Open last Sunday, failed to come up with the extra bit of energy and resolve against a hard-running, experienced player like Zvonareva. The Danish superstar failed to convert the big points, allowing Zvonareva to take control at crucial stages of the match. Zvonareva began with a bang to set things in motion with a break in the very first game of the match, but Wozniacki hit back to level only for he Russian to break again in the third game to take a 2-1 lead from where she never looked back. Wozniacki, however, had a golden chance to break Zvonareva's hold on the game when she led 40-0 on the Russian's serve in the eighth game when she was ahead 4-3, but the world number one blew three break points to go down 5-3. Zvonareva then served out the 10th game to win the set. Wozniacki looked like picking up the pieces in the second set when she secured the first break, in the second game, but Zvonareva bounced back in style by breaking back in the third to go up 2-1. The Russian then had another break in the fifth to lead 3-2 and then went up 4-2 at which stage Wozniacki appeared to give up, showing her frustration by banging her racquet on the court. Games went with serve after that, with the result that Wozniacki had to break Zvonareva in the 10th game to stay in the match. But the Russian was in no mood to throw it all away this time as she held her nerve as the game went to deuce, her task made easy when Wozniacki hit wide. "I had a great few days but today it was Vera's day,' said Wozniacki. "I had my chances, but she really played well. I failed to convert several break points. Zvonareva is the fourth Russian player to win the Qatar Open after Anastasia Myskina, Sharapova and Nadia Petrova. Sharapova and Myskina have won the event twice.

Djokovic humbles Federer again

Winner Novak Djokovic of Serbia, right, and Roger Federer of Switzerland hold their trophies following the final match of the Emirates Dubai ATP Tennis Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on February 26. (AP Photo)

Novak Djokovic extended his unbeaten streak this year to 12 matches with victory over Roger Federer on Saturday night DUBAI , FEBRUARY 27 (AGENCIES): The Serbian's third consecutive Dubai Championship success was his 20th title and his second win over the Swiss maestro in the last month. Djokovic overcame Federer en route to his second Australian Open crown in January and wasted no time in recording a relatively straighforward 6-3 6-3 win over the fourtime champion. The second seed broke Federer for only the third time in the tour-

nament in the first set to go up 2-1 and then repeated the trick at 5-3 to take control of the early proceedings. Federer sprung to life at the start of the second set, breaking to lead 2-1, but Djokovic fought back from 3-1 down to clinch the title in just 71 minutes. "I guess I rose to the occasion," Djokovic told reporters. "I was aware of the challenge waiting for me on the court and I was aware of the fact that I needed to be on top of my game in order to beat Roger." Federer said: "I started bad and then kind of got into the match, but things are over in a hurry sometimes in best-of-three-set tennis." He added: "Novak played great. It's a pity I wasn't able to hang on a bit longer and especially in the second set to push him a bit more."


28 February 2011 WIGAN, FEBRUARY 27 (AFP): Edwin van der Sar was Manchester United's hero as Sir Alex Ferguson's side opened up a four-point...