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Dimapur

SPORTS

Monday 21 March 2011

The Morung Express

10-man Man U move five points clear

MANCHESTER, MARCH 20 (AFP): Dimitar Berbatov gave 10-man Manchester United a vital 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford on Saturday. With United boss Sir Alex Ferguson serving the first of his fivematch touchine ban, the Premier League leaders looked bereft of inspiration for long periods. Their hopes of taking advantage of Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion seemed to have suffered a further blow 15 minutes from time when defender Jonny Evans was shown a straight red card for an horrendous, studs-up challenge on Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden. But Ferguson, watching in the directors’ box, was on his feet two minutes from time when Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen fumbled a long-range shot from Nani and substitute Berbatov was able to walk the rebound into an open goal.

United are now five points clear of secondplace Arsenal, who have a game in hand on the leaders. United’s troubles might have started earlier, after just three minutes to be precise, when a slip by Michael Carrick allowed Gretar Steinsson to find Johan Elmander who, in turn, made the perfect lay-off for midfielder Fabrice Muamba. Fortunately, for the home side, the Bolton man showed terrible footwork and miscontrolled from just 12 yards out. It was the start of an entertaining half, even if United were well below their best. Wayne Rooney unleashed a terrific early 20-yard shot that flew wide before Paul Robinson was required to block Javier Hernandez’s shot after a clever pull-back from Wes Brown. Rooney, in a rich vein of goalscoring form, was looking more like his old self and unleashed a volley from an Antonio Valencia cross that

Jaaskelainen held well at the second attempt. Martin Petrov’s deflected cross almost played in Daniel Sturridge just six yards out, then the Bulgarian’s free-kick from near the right-hand corner flag caused panic in the home defence before being headed behind by Rooney. By the interval, Ferguson clearly recognised the need for change and defender Fabio and leading scorer Berbatov came on, for Brown and Hernandez respectively. It was Nani who looked United’s most likely source of a breakthrough early after the restart, however, as he tormented Steinsson down Bolton’s right flank. But the Portuguese international could not find the breakthrough, failing with his final pass or long-range shot all too often.

Instead, it was Bolton who almost drew first blood as the game passed the hour mark and David Wheater almost connected with a Petrov corner before the Bulgarian drilled in a fierce cross-shot that just cleared the bar from another set-piece. United responded again with Rooney powering into the area from the left and seeing his cross beat Jaaskelainen only to be cleared away from danger by Wheater. The Bolton

goalkeeper failed to deal properly with a Nani corner a few moments later, only for Carrick to respond with a feeble strike that flew harmlessly off target. Berbatov finally threatened the goal 18 minutes from time when Rooney played a short pass to him just outside the penalty area but the 20goal United forward curled his shot well wide. Rooney might have put the ten men of United into the lead seven minutes from time as he cut in from the left only to be denied by Jaaskelainen’s smart dive low at his near post. In response, withinaminute,Petrovfloatedinacrossforsubstitute Matt Taylor, who could only direct a free header straight at United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. That miss proved doubly costly with Nani soon bringingafinesaveoutofJaaskelainenbeforethe Finnish goalkeeper’s error, from the same player’s shot, allowed Berbatov to snatch the points.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney celebrates a goal from teammate Dimitar Berbatov during their English Premier League soccer match against Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England on March 19. (AP Photo)

Sania-Vesnina win Indian Wells final

Elena Vesnina and Sania Mirza pose with their trophy after winning the WTA Doubles final of the Indian Wells event. (AFP Photo)

INDIAN WELLS (CALIFORNIA), MARCH 20 (AGENCIES): India’s Sania Mirza and her Russian partner Elena Vesnina have won the women’s doubles title at the 2011 BNP Paribas Tennis Open, defeating eighth-seeded Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy 6-0, 7-5. Sania and Vesnina took the first set on Saturday in just 24 minutes before the Americans jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the

second. Mattek-Sands and Shaughnessy broke for a second time to go 5-1 up, but the Indian-Russian duo roared back to reel off six games to take the title without dropping a set in the entire tournament. Sania and Vesnina have become the fourth straight unseeded pair to win the title here. Vesnina and Russian Dinara Safina won unseeded in 2008. The other two unseeded pairs to win were Victoria Azarenka and

Vera Zvonareva in 2009 and Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik last year. Sania has now won 10 doubles titles and Vesnina four. They were teaming up for just the third time in tour-level competition, reaching the quarterfinals at Dubai and Doha before claiming their first title together. Mattek-Sands and Shaughnessy could not win a second title in their fourth WTA finals as a team. Their only victory came in Paris last month. Shaughnessy, who lost both her previous finals, has 17 career doubles titles. The unseeded Sania and Vesnina jelled perfectly on the court. In the process, they knocked out seventh-seeded Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-2, 6-3. The Indian-Russian pair looked vulnerable in the semifinals when they let slip a handy 5-1 lead in the second set after blanking opponents Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska in the first set to win 6-0, 6-4. “We tried playing together in Dubai and Doha and it worked fine,” Vesnina said. “From our first match, you could see it was already a team. It really works.”

Arsenal lose ground despite battling draw BIRMINGHAM, MARCH 20 (AFP): Arsenal lost ground in the Premier League title race despite battling back to earn a 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday. Arsene Wenger’s side looked dead and buried with 20 minutes to play after Steven Reid and Peter Odemwingie, who punished a howler from goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, put Albion firmly in control. But Andrey Arshavin gave Arsenal a lifeline in the 70th minute before Robin van Persie equalised eight minutes later. Even that comeback was little consolation to Arsenal as Manchester United moved five points clear at the top with a 1-0 win over Bolton. The Gunners have a game in hand but they still look too fragile at the back to end their six-year trophy drought. The inevitable question marks over the mental toughness of Wenger’s side have surfaced during a misArsenal’s Andrey Arshavin celebrates after scoring during erable two weeks in which their English Premier League soccer match against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns stadium, West Brom- they have lost the League Cup final and crashed out of wich, England on March 19. (AP Photo)

the Champions League and FA Cup. Roy Hodgson’s side must have thought they had recorded their first double over the North London side for 50 years when they established a 2-0 lead before the hour - thanks to a dreadful defensive performance from Wenger’s side, but Arshavin sprang to life to inspire two goals in an eight-minute spell that prevented Albion causing greater damage to their title challenge. Arshavin emerged from his shell and rifled home a wonderful diagonal shot from just inside the area to give his side hope. Soon after the diminutive Russian stood up a cross to the far post for substitute Nicklas Bendtner to head back across the six-yard box and Abdoulaye Meite got himself into a dreadful tangle under his own crossbar, allowing Robin van Persie to force the ball over the goal line to snatch a point. It was a cruel ending for Albion who had been inspired from the moment Reid exposed the frailties of Arsenal’s defending with a

powerful header from Chris Brunt’s corner as Aaron Ramsey lost his man in the penalty area. Worse was to follow when Almunia, who will be haunted by the spectre of Jens Lehmann on the substitutes’ bench, went into his own personal mental meltdown just before the hour mark. He made the suicidal decision to go racing out of his penalty area to intercept a long ball, when Sebastien Squillaci could easily have dealt with the danger and the pair succeeded in presenting Odemwingie with a simple tap-in from the edge of the area. On the evidence of this 41-year-old German Lehmann, signed as a free agent this week after retiring last season, must be a better bet for the remainder of the season as Arsenal look to overturn the gap between themselves and United. At that point Arsenal’s title challenge looked over and Wenger a broken man. As it is, a point just about keeps them in the hunt, but there will be no more room for error if they want to win their first title since 2004.

Nadal overpowers del Djokovic beats Federer to Saina Nehwal wins Swiss Open title Potro to reach final reach Indian Wells final

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after winning the first set against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina during a semifinals match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., Saturday, March 19. (AP Photo)

INDIAN WELLS, MARCH 20 (REUTERS): Top seed Rafael Nadal stormed into the Indian Wells final with a commanding 6-4, 6-4 victory over former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina on Saturday. The Spanish left-hander, covering the court with his customary lightning speed, broke his opponent three times in a high-quality encounter at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to win in one hour 51 minutes. A whipping top-spin forehand winner set up a first match point for Nadal who, serving at 40-0, immediately converted when del Potro sent a backhand service return long. The Spaniard, who will meet world number two

Roger Federer or thirdranked Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final, raised both arms skywards in delight before advancing to the net to shake hands with his opponent. “It was really important for me,” a beaming Nadal, 24, said courtside after improving his win-loss record this season to 14-2. “I think I played my best match here at Indian Wells. “To come back and play the final in this tournament is fantastic for me. I needed a match like this to get the right rhythm and right feeling.” Champion here in 2007 and 2009, Nadal ended a three-match losing streak against the towering Argentine who had won their previous encounter 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals of the 2009 US Open.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, in a semifinals match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., Saturday, March 19. (AP Photo)

INDIAN W E L L S, MARCH 20 (REUTERS): Novak Djokovic extended his perfect record this season to 17-0 with a thrilling 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over three-time champion Roger Federer on Saturday to reach the Indian Wells final. Serb Djokovic, who will replace Swiss Federer as world number two when the new rankings are issued on Monday, broke his opponent three times in a third set of brilliant shot-making to triumph in just over two hours. “That was the biggest test of the tournament for me today,” Australian Open champion Djokovic said courtside after sealing victory

when a Federer backhand service return flew long. “Any time I play Roger, it’s a big challenge. He’s a great champion, especially in the later stages of a tournament when he plays his best tennis.” Djokovic will face top seed Rafa Nadal in Sunday’s final, the Spaniard having come from 1-4 down to power past Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday’s first semi. Lefthander Nadal, covering the court with his customary lightning speed, broke his opponent three times in a high-quality encounter at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to win in one hour 51 minutes.

NEW DELHI, MARCH 20 (PTI): Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal notched up her first title of the year, clinching the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold trophy with a straight-game victory in the summit clash against Ji Hyun Sung of Korea in Switzerland. Second seed Saina beat Ji Hyun 21-13, 21-14 in 43 minutes to make amends for her quarterfinal exit from the All England Super Series in Birmingham last week. The world number four Indian had beaten the unseeded Korean, ranked 19th, during the first round of Indonesia Open Super Series last year. Saina, who had a subdued beginning to the year after recovering from a ligament injury, showed her mettle all through the tournament to swell her trophy cabinet. Ji Hyun tried to keep pace with Saina till 7-7 but the Indian was indomitable as she broke off from their and surged ahead with gaint strides to pocket the first game comfortably. In the second game, Saina was ruthless as she opened a four-point lead at 7-3, and held fort to canter to her first title of the season. The 21-year-old Saina had won three Super Series titles last year -- Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong Open -- besides winning the Commonwealth Games gold and India Grand Prix gold. She also won the Indonesian Super Series in 2009 besides winning the Chi- India’s Saina Nehwal returns a shuttlecock to Korea’s Ji Hyun Sung during their women’s nese Taipei Open Grand singles final match at the Badminton Swiss Open tournament in the St. Jakobshalle in Prix Gold in 2008. Basel, Switzerland, Sunday, March 20. (AP Photo)


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