By Nemanja BjedovCYPRUS’ two Europa League representatives Apollon and APOEL go head-to-head in Round 8 of the Cyprus championship on Saturday afternoon at 3pm at the Tsirion Stadium in Limassol.“APOEL recently changed their coach and he is trying to implement new tactics. We have already analysed what changes were made and we will prepare for them in the same way we prepare for any other game regardless if we play locally or in Europe,” said Apollon coach Christakis Christoforou“I want us to perform well and regardless of the outcome, our goals – which are focused on the Europa League – will not alter,” added Christoforou whose side top the table on 18 points. However, Christoforou will not be able to count on Abraham Gneki Guie, Bertrand Robert and Charalambos Kyriakou for the APOEL clash.“Charalambous started training with the team and hopefully he will be fully fit for the match against Lazio (on Thursday), while Robert is currently in Israel in the medical centre we cooperate with. Guie is currently following an individual training regime and it is still unclear when he will be able to help the team,” Christoforou added.APOEL coach Giorgos Donis recorded his first win with the Cyprus champions in the last round when the Nicosia giants overcame Anorthosis 1-0 at the GSP Stadium, and he will be looking to build on the result.“I believe this is an important game if you take into consideration the current standings. Obviously earning points is important and we do not want the gap between us and the teams on top to widen; however, at this time I am not entirely focused on the result,” assessed Donis.“My priority is to make my team play better, for us to improve as a unit. The final result definitely counts and this game is a big one, but we approach each match in the same way. We will analyse the opposition,” added Donis whose side lie sixth in the table, trailing Apollon by five points.APOEL central defenders Aritz Borda and Joao Guilherme are doubtful, but Donis has insisted that the missing players should not be an excuse and that his team must show themselves as being as strong as possible in every game.Elsewhere, on Saturday at 5pm, Doxa Katokopia host AEK Kouklion, while an hour later Alki take on Ethnikos Achnas.In-form Ermis Aradippou face AEL at the Ammochostos Stadium in Larnaca at 7pm.On Sunday afternoon at 4pm, Anorthosis meet Enosis Neon Paralimni, while at 6pm Aris and Omonia host AEK Larnaca and Nea Salamina respectively.
The results of the Cyprus Cup Round of 16, 2nd Leg matches played on Wednesday, January 28, are as follows:Ethnikos Achnas 2-2 AELAggregate: 2-3Othellos Athienou 2-1 ApollonAggregate: 3-2APOEL 3-0 OlympiakosAggregate: 4-0Already through to the last eight are Karmiotissa, Ermis Aradippou and AEK Larnaca.The Round of 16, 2nd Leg games still to be played are:Wednesday, February 4:Ayia Napa vs Omonia (0-4)Anorthosis vs Digenis Oroklinis (2-1)
By Martyn HermanDefending champion Novak Djokovic’s preparations for Wimbledon have been laid back in the extreme.The world number one has not played a competitive match since a gut-wrenching defeat by Stanislas Wawrinka in the French Open final at the start of the month, opting out of the Wimbledon warm-up events in what has been an extended grass court swing.Djokovic even posted a photograph of himself apparently asleep on one of the All England Club lawns this week but do not be deceived.Once the Serb walks on to Centre Court on Monday to begin his quest for a third Wimbledon title he will flick the switch and the warrior instincts are sure to return.Djokovic made it a mission this year to complete his career grand slam at Roland Garros and after back-to-back wins against Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray in the quarter-finals and semi-finals his moment seemed to have arrived.An inspired Wawrinka slammed the door shut though.It was a heartbreaking defeat for Djokovic but a fortnight in the English country garden setting of the All England Club, with some expected warm weather too, will provide the perfect antidote for any lingering disappointment.“He was very close to achieving something that very few players have done … he probably needed some time away to rest and relax and get his head right,” said Wimbledon third seed Andy Murray.Djokovic’s most likely title rivals, Murray and 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, have been busy sharpening their grass court tools.Murray breezed to a fourth Queen’s Club title while Federer’s eighth Halle crown in Germany backed up the belief that, even at 33, the second seed could win an eighth Wimbledon crown to move past American Pete Sampras in the all-time list.‘Murray Mania’ will pump up to full volume over the next couple of weeks with the in-form Briton being tipped to win his first slam since beating Djokovic on Centre Court in 2013.He has lost eight in a row to Djokovic since then and such is Djokovic’s reliability that it is likely Murray will have to solve that conundrum if he is to triumph.“He has put himself back in the mix,” triple Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said of the Scot’s resurgence after a lacklustre 2014.“I think overall he is 10 to 15 per cent better and that is a significant amount at his level.”Two-time champion Nadal will arrive under the radar.Seeded 10th after a mediocre year, dethroned French Open king Nadal won his first grass court title for five years in Stuttgart a few days later and then lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov at Queen’s but no one will want to face him.“I think in certain ways it’s not about the shots, it’s more about what’s inside his head, how healthy he is,” said McEnroe.Last year’s tournament saw Grigor Dimitrov oust defending champion Murray, Australian trailblazer Nick Kyrgios hammered Nadal and Milos Raonic fell to Federer in the semi-finals and that trio will return with high expectations.The unpredictable Kyrgios, 20, has the ‘wow’ factor to shake up the establishment, according to fellow Aussie Darren Cahill who once coached former champion Lleyton Hewitt.“There are going to be highs and lows with Nick because he’s so young and goes for broke but he clearly likes the biggest stages and that makes him dangerous,” said Cahill.
By Martyn HermanBritain’s team for the country’s first Davis Cup final for 37 years was named on Tuesday with Kyle Edmund and James Ward vying for the second singles berth behind Andy Murray.Captain Leon Smith also named Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot for the match against Belgium which begins in Ghent on November 27.Dan Evans, who played in the semi-final against Australia, was not selected.Britain have not won the Davis Cup since 1936 and last appeared in the final in 1978 when they lost to the USWorld number two Andy Murray, currently in action at the ATP World Tour Finals, has spearheaded his country’s challenge and could play three rubbers on the claycourt in Ghent, as he did in the semi-final against Australia when he teamed up with brother Jamie to win a crucial doubles rubber.He also won both his singles matches in that tie while against France in the quarter-finals, Murray again earned his country three points, having played singles and doubles.The big question for Smith is whether to go with the experienced Ward or 20-year-old Edmund for the second singles spot against a Belgium side led by world number 16 David Goffin.Edmund did his cause no harm when he moved back into the world’s top 100 last week by winning his third ATP Challenger Tour title of the year on the clay in Buenos Aires.However, Ward produced a memorable victory in the Davis Cup first round clash against the US in San Diego, beating John Isner in five sets.“It’s an historic moment in British tennis and I’m delighted to name these five players for the tie against Belgium,” Smith said on the ITF website.“The team has had some incredible results this year, and we know that off the back of defeating the three other grand slam nations we carry great momentum going into the final, however we will not under-estimate the challenge in front of us.”“The Belgian team is full of top 100 talent and they will push us all the way.”
Julian Draxler scored twice as VfL Wolfsburg took a big step towards reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 3-2 victory over Gent in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday.Draxler, who joined from Schalke 04 at the start of the season, struck in the 44th minute after a classy dribble past midfielder Thomas Foket and a quick one-two with Vierinha before tucking the ball past the keeper.Gent started the second half much improved, pushing for an equaliser, but Draxler netted again in the 54th minute as he capitalised on one of many errant passes by the Gent defence.Max Kruse then made it 3-0 and also came close to adding a fourth goal before the home team rallied with two strikes in the last 10 minutes from Sven Kums and Kalifa Coulibaly.The Belgian top-flight champions, making their first appearance at this stage of the competition, appeared nervous at times.Gent defended sloppily from the start and only began putting pressure on Wolfsburg’s inexperienced keeper Koen Casteels towards the end of the match.The Germans will now fancy their chances of going through when the teams meet in the second leg on March 8.
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri is convinced closest rivals Tottenham Hotspur will not give up easily and predicted a “terrible” last five games for his team who continue their surge for a maiden Premier League title.Leicester, seven points ahead of second-placed Tottenham, are three victories away from capturing their first English top-flight title but Ranieri would take nothing for granted.“It’s not done yet though. We’re in the Champions League, but the last five games will be terrible. Tottenham won’t give up and we have to stay focused,” Ranieri told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.“Our work rate? That’s our great asset. They’re good lads, facing the story of their lives with great responsibility… Nobody saves themselves or stops for breath.”Ranieri appeared moved to tears after his team outfoxed relegation-threatened Sunderland on Sunday to confirm their place in next season’s Champions League.“They weren’t real tears, they were unshed tears. It was an emotional moment… I have a public role and I try to be level-headed,” the former Chelsea manager said.“I have to give clear signals to my team, I can’t get carried away by emotion.”Leicester can take a step closer to the title when they host Champions League-chasing West Ham United on Sunday.
By Alan BaldwinFORMULA One world champion Lewis Hamilton took pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix with Mercedes team mate and overall leader Nico Rosberg set to start seventh after a grid penalty.Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg joined the Briton on the front row, only his second career top-two start, although the German was under investigation by stewards for a possible flag infringement.In a qualifying session marked by rain and dramatic suspension failures, with the finger of blame pointed at new kerbs, Hamilton made no mistake for his 54th career pole and second in a row in Austria.“It was a really fun session,” he told reporters. “Here it dries up so quickly, it’s like driving through fog at some stages. I think it just added to the excitement.“And being a new surface as well it was very, very slippery, but it was drying up corner by corner. At the end it was just about getting that last lap.”Britain’s Jenson Button ended up a remarkable third for misfiring McLaren, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fourth.Although Button qualified fifth, the 2009 champion moved up thanks to five-place penalties for Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel ahead of him.Rosberg, who has won in Austria for the past two years and leads Hamilton by 24 points ahead of Sunday’s race, crashed in final practice and needed a hurried gearbox change, triggering the penalty.The German was just relieved to have limited the damage, thanking the team for a huge effort to get his car ready for qualifying.“Even Lewis’s mechanics came over to my car to try to get it out in time,” said Rosberg. “It was really tight.“I think Lewis just did a good job there in the very end and that’s it. Second is not first but it’s OK. The five places will be very costly of course for tomorrow but I’ll make the best of it anyway.”The final phase of qualifying took place on a drying track, with the leaderboard constantly changing and some surprising names at the top at times.The pole teed Hamilton up perfectly for a possible victory at a scenic track he has yet to master. The champion finished runner-up in 2014 and 2015.Despite a reputation for going against the general trend on safety calls, Hamilton echoed his rivals in expressing concern about the kerbs.Red Bull’s Max Verstappen broke his car’s suspension in Friday’s practice, Rosberg added his name to the list on Saturday and was followed by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Force India’s Sergio Perez in qualifying.Kvyat’s incident could have been the most serious, with the Russian fortunate not to smash into the pit lane wall after his car skewed out of control in the first phase of qualifying.“For me, looking at it, those yellow kerbs are quite dangerous,” said Hamilton.“We’ve now seen a couple of incidents already. I don’t know how many more of those it’s going to take before a car ends up in the wall and someone gets hurt.”“The idea is good because they don’t want us running wide, and using the outside of the circuit, but perhaps another solution is needed.”
Halfback Nic White came off the bench to score a penalty and a converted try which settled a contest which had see-sawed back and forth for the best part of 70 minutes, giving the Wallabies a first win over the All Blacks since they won the final Tri-Nations in 2011.Prop Sekope Kepu and wing Adam Ashley-Cooper also crossed for the Australians, who will win back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002 if they can beat New Zealand in Auckland next week.The All Blacks wing Nehe Milner-Skudder scored two tries on debut and first-five Dan Carter kicked three penalties but it was not enough to prevent the All Blacks falling to only a third defeat since winning the World Cup in 2011.”You don’t just say you’ve won once in quite a long time and you’ve done something special,” Australia coach Michael Cheika said, trying to dampen down expectations.”It’s nice for the lads, but it’s an abridged Rugby Championship so it’s only the three games. We want to test ourselves over more games.”All Blacks captain Richie McCaw suffered only his 15th defeat in the black shirt as he made his 141st appearance for his country, matching Irishman Brian O’Driscoll’s record tally.”I think Australia played exceptionally well tonight and thoroughly deserved the win,” said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.”We’re hurting. It still sucks even if it doesn’t happen that often.”An uncharacteristic All Blacks spill from the kickoff and a good shove in the first scrum gave Australia early hope that it might be their night but they were soon defending their line after a burst from Milner-Skudder.Kepu was sin-binned for killing the ball under his own posts and Carter slotted the ensuing penalty to give the visitors a 3-0 lead in the eighth minute.David Pocock and Michael Hooper got the turnovers Australia coach Michael Cheika wanted from his experimental back row but poor handling and a shocking display of passing from halfback Nick Phipps meant they were unable to exploit them.Matt Giteau did put them on level terms in the 26th minute with his first penalty but Carter restored New Zealand’s lead three minutes later.Both sides would have been unhappy with their first half performances but the smiles were on the Australian faces in the crowd of 73,824 four minutes after the break.A high tackle on winger Adam Ashley-Cooper resulted in a yellow card for the All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith and Australia kicked for touch with the resultant penalty before driving to the New Zealand line.When the rolling maul collapsed, Kepu crashed through the defence for a converted try which put the Wallabies 10-6 up.Carter reduced the deficit with his third penalty before Phipps’s evening went from bad to worse when he was shown a yellow card for dissent in the 54th minute.The All Blacks were back in front a minute later.Fullback Ben Smith somehow managed to get the ball away through a crowd of gold shirts to leave Milner-Skudder with a clear run to the line.Carter missed the conversion and five minutes later Australia hit back when Matt Toomua’s perfectly judged crosskick allowed Ashley-Cooper to touch down in the corner.Giteau converted to give Australia a 17-14 lead but it lasted just three minutes before Milner-Skudder grabbed his second try, barging over the line through three tacklers and getting the ball down at the second attempt.White put Australia a point ahead at 20-19 with a long range penalty after 69 minutes but better was to come from the replacement halfback and he cut through the visiting defence from close range three minutes later to secure the victory.
Vodafone Fiji Bati assistant coach Josaia Rabele confirmed that they still have the Paramatta Eels’ winger in their list for the May Pacific Test against the Kumuls of Papua New Guinea. “We haven’t heard anything and we will keep his name for the May Test until we get confirmation, then we will have to look for someone else to replace Semi,” Rabele said. The Somosomo, Taveuni man’s agent George Christodolou told Fox Sports Radradra wants to try and claim the mantle as the world’s best winger and playing in the green and gold will provide the international platform to truly showcase his status. Now that he is eligible to switch status after he was given a residential visa by the Australian Government, Radradra’s move to the Kangaroos is expected to give Kangaroos coach and former Canberra Raiders’ centre Mal Meninga a wealth of selection options for the mid-season trans-Tasman Test match. Fox Sports reported that the winger’s agent said a deal is to be penned this week by NRL’s general manager of League Integration and Development Andrew Hill to stipulate the former Fiji 7s rep’s desire to play for the Kangaroos. Rabele, in an earlier interview said the move to be made by Radradra was something they would not be able to put a stop to, considering the player’s future, as the FNRL would not be able to put in the amount to be paid to Radradra should he don the green and gold jumper of the Kangaroos.
The awareness is the first part of the Digicel Cup school program which will be carried out to schools throughout the country.As part of the awareness, each of the 11 Digicel Cup teams will carry out info sessions on the program to schools in their home provinces.Digicel rugby league sponsorship manager Jayleen Morris said the aim of the program is to engage students with the Digicel Cup brand and instill valuable life values in the students.She encouraged the students to participate in the program as it also aims to promote health and well-being among school children.The program will be hosted as a huge workshop during the school holidays.Over 880 registered students from the 44 schools visited nationwide will be invited to participate during the school term holidays starting in term 2 and followed by term 3.Registrations opened today and interested students must register with their physical education teachers from the beginning of the awareness program. Registration closes on Friday, June 17.Only Grade Seven students are eligible to participate this year and 20 students aged 13-14 years old will be selected.A minimum of five girls is required from each school.