EPL: Costa Strike Moves Chelsea to the Top

first_imgDiego Costa’s 10th goal of the season moved Chelsea top of the English Premier League as their sixth straight win saw off Middlesbrough 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium.After an even start, Chelsea upped the tempo and deservedly led at the break when Costa reacted quickest to drill in a loose ball inside the Boro box.The Blues continued to create chances, Pedro going closest when he smacked a rising drive against the crossbar.Boro’s best chance came when Alvaro Negredo’s 78th-minute volley was saved.It was the only time the home side forced Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois into a serious stop as they lost for the first time in four matches.Chelsea leapfrogged Liverpool and Manchester City to go a point clear, while Boro remain one point above the relegation zone in 15th place.Following the arrival of former Juventus and Italy coach Conte, many expected to see a defensively-focused approach adopted by the Blues.However, they were porous in the opening two months of the season, culminating in the chastening 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on 24 September.Since then, the Blues have been impregnable in the Premier League.Conte made a tactical tweak to a 3-4-3 formation for their next game at Hull – and they have won all six league matches since without conceding a goal.Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso have been revelatory in their adopted wing-back roles, while Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta have looked assured in a back three.It has proved to be a masterstroke by Conte. And it has helped the Blues move top of the table for the first time since they were crowned champions in May 2015.Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was effusive in his praise of Costa before the game, labelling the Spain international as “one of the best strikers in the world”.While the former Atletico Madrid front-man did not find himself presented with plenty of goal-scoring chances, he was constantly bothering the Boro centre-backs with his movement, strength and willingness to chase seemingly lost causes.And, most importantly, he was clinical when a sniff of an opportunity arrived.Boro failed to deal with Eden Hazard’s in-swinging corner just before half-time, Costa reacting quickest to instinctively stab in an angled effort from inside the six-yard box.With Hazard quiet in comparison to recent weeks, Costa was the fulcrum of the visitors’ attacking play.The 28-year-old matchwinner also teed up chances for Pedro, Marcos Alonso and Hazard, showing once again he is back to the form which helped the Blues win the Premier League title 18 months ago in his first season at the club.History was not on Middlesbrough’s side going into the match, having lost their previous six matches against Chelsea without managing to score.A lack of cutting edge proved to be their undoing again.Marshalled by skipper Ben Gibson, the home side were organised and restricted one of the title contenders to a handful of clear-cut chances.While they only trailed by a single goal, Boro – who fought back to earn a barely deserved draw at Manchester City in their last outing – had hope.However, just one shot on target tells you where their problems lie.“We stayed in the game until the end but didn’t get the point we think we deserved. There are positives to take,” said Gibson.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant spoil Kobe Bryant’s final game in Oklahoma City

first_imgOKLAHOMA CITY – With the game out of reach, the Thunders’ Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sat at the scorer’s table. They scanned the box score and laughed. Durant and Westbrook completed a running joke at the Lakers’ expense, as the Thunder handed them a 112-79 loss on Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Durant scored anytime he wanted to with 34 points on an 11-of-18 clip. Westbrook recorded his league-leading 18th triple double by halftime before finishing with 13 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.Kobe Bryant hardly sounded surprised Westbrook tied Magic Johnson’s triple double output in the 1988-89 season. Bryant contended Westbrook “has no flaws in his game.” Bryant called Westbrook “the most athletic player I’ve ever played against.” And Bryant found Westbrook sharing his same on-court feistiness. Yet, Lakers coach Byron Scott tried to suppress his anger, calling it “interesting” Russell logged a triple double by halftime with 11 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. That marked the first time anyone has done that since Jim Tucker recorded a triple double for the Syracuse Nationals in 17 minutes in 1955. “I’ve never seen that kid take a night off,” Scott said. “When he’s on the floor, you’re going to get everything he has to give. If you’re a defender and you’re not ready, you’re going to get embarrassed.”The Lakers (16-65) have often become embarrassed against several teams. This time, Bryant could not make the game at least compelling against the Thunder (55-26). He posted 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting in 19 minutes a night after logging 35 points in Houston. Bryant seemed just as efficient early, scoring all of his 13 points on a 4-of-10 clip in the entire first quarter. That approach backfired.“I tried to loosen up in the locker room coming out for the second half,” Bryant said. “But I couldn’t move well at all.”Hence, Scott “wasn’t thinking about it at all” to reinsert Bryant late in the fourth quarter despite the constant pleas from fans. Instead, Bryant rested more before his career-finale on Wednesday against Utah at Staples Center. “I would’ve loved to play against KD and chase Russell around a little bit more,” Bryant said. “But I’m still appreciative of the fans reaction.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Durant and Westbrook offered Bryant a more generous gift beforehand. Bryant received a photography book filled with personalized messages, a gesture Bryant called “extremely thoughtful.” “It takes time for players to be able to sit and be able to do that,” Bryant said. “The biggest thing is to have memories.”Bryant would like to forget this game or losing to the Thunder in the 2012 Western Conference semifinals. Instead, Bryant would cherish the Lakers defeating Oklahoma City in the first round before winning the 2010 NBA title. Or when Durant saw Bryant make 50 shots in seven different spots from behind the 3-point line during an off-day workout with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008. “He took a bus to a high school gym to put some work in,” Durant said. “He’s old school. That’s exactly what I wanted to be like.”Bryant thought of Durant and Westbrook when he said the “league is filled with young, talented players.” Bryant could not yet say the same thing of the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell (11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, four turnovers), Jordan Clarkson (11 points on 2-of-14 shooting) and Julius Randle (nine points on 4-of-11 shooting). Yet, Scott downplayed whether Bryant’s frequent absences from practice and shootarounds to treat his aging body indirectly stunted his young teammates’ development. “Practice is one small part of it,” Scott said. “He’s given them advice on end-of game situations going on that can absolutely help them in the future. If he could’ve practiced every day, he would’ve. But that would’ve been a detriment to him and us.”Hence, Scott admitted the Lakers “are going to have to rectify that this summer.” First things first. Bryant has one game left of a glorious career. The Lakers have one game left of an awful season. last_img read more

Zika experts say quitting Olympics an ‘over-reaction’

first_imgWorld Health officials have stepped up awareness to discourage Zika boycott of games. FILE WHO PHOTOParis, France | AFP |Only pregnant women and people planning a family need fear Zika, disease experts said Wednesday after golfer Rory McIlroy became the latest athlete to withdraw from the Olympics over virus fears.The mosquito-borne virus, which can also be transmitted via sex, is thought to cause a form of severe brain damage, called microcephaly, in babies.It has also been linked to rare adult-onset neurological problems such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which can result in paralysis and death.Should Rio-bound Olympians and sports fans be concerned? We asked the experts.Q: Who needs to be concerned about Zika?A: Women who are pregnant or planning a baby imminently, as the virus targets the foetus in the womb, said Cardiff University infectious diseases expert Andrew Freedman.Men who contract the virus in Brazil can pass it on to their partners through sex, so would need to use condoms for several months after their return.Unless McIlroy and his wife were planning a baby, “I feel the decision to withdraw from the Games is an over-reaction,” said Freedman.Q: Is there a risk to the athletes themselves?A: In most people, the Zika virus causes mild disease — many never even notice the symptoms. Those who do fall ill, usually with a rash and flu-like symptoms, recover within days.“Rarely, complications such as Guillain-Barre syndrome may occur,” said Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.But he called for “perspective”.“The most credible estimates suggest no more than 10-20 infections with Zika among the half a million athletes and visitors going to Brazil for the Olympics.” The World Health Organization said last week there was a “very low risk” of Zika spreading further internationally as a result of the Games.Olympics host Brazil has seen 1.5 million people infected, and nearly 1,300 babies born with abnormally small heads and brains since the outbreak started last year.Q: What precautions can be taken?A: For most people, the main thing is to protect oneself against mosquito bites by covering up and using a good insect repellent, said the experts.But pregnant women should not travel to Rio at all.Those considering a baby, who do not fall ill, should delay conception for two months after their return as a precaution, said Whitworth.“In the unlikely event of a woman or her partner getting infected with Zika, they should delay pregnancy for six months, by which time all traces of Zika infection will have been cleared from the body.”Q: Is the decision to withdraw scientifically sound?A: The chances of contracting Zika on a golf course are very low, said Whitworth, as infecting mosquitoes live mostly around houses and rarely venture more than 50 metres (160 feet) from their breeding sites.“Obviously I don’t know the reasons for this (McIlroy’s) decision, but it does strike me as being extreme,” added virology professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham.But Peter Barlow, an infection expert at Edinburgh Napier University, said the long-term effects of Zika are poorly understood.“It is completely understandable that an elite athlete such as Rory McIlroy is putting his own and his family’s health first in this instance, particularly if he has plans to start a family in the near future.”Share on: WhatsApplast_img read more