Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bay Hill was a well-timed win for Tiger Woods

Welcome to April, a month that means three things — income taxes, green jackets and Tiger Woods, definitely not in that order.

Say goodbye to March, a month that is suddenly going to be a tough act to follow. It came in like a lamb and went out like a Tiger. The story of the year has been the breathless suspense surrounding Tiger's comeback. He had knee surgery last summer, was out for 81/2 months and didn't look like the unbeatable Tiger of old in a second-round loss in the Accenture Match Play Championship or during the CA Championship at Doral, where his putting was spotty at best.

But rest easy, Tigermaniacs. The earth is back on its axis. They held a tournament last week at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and in accordance with local laws, Tiger won it. He did so, of course, by sinking a dramatic 16-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, one of those putts that the old Tiger seldom missed.

The route to PGA Tour victory number 66, Woods's sixth at Bay Hill, was not an easy one. Tiger began the final round five shots behind Sean O'Hair, who struggled in with a three-over 73 to Woods's 67. Tiger didn't pull ahead until the 16th hole, when O'Hair's approach came up short and bounced into a water hazard. Woods bogeyed the 17th from a buried lie in a greenside bunker, and the two golfers went to the 18th dead even. O'Hair pulled his approach and left his 38-foot birdie putt short. Then Woods had the putt for the win, same as in 2008, when he holed a curling downhiller to beat Bart Bryant at the last.

When Woods goes to Augusta next week, he won't have to answer any more questions about whether he's ready. If he wins a fourth Masters — and he'll probably be the favorite — Bay Hill will have been the key stepping-stone. "I've played three tournaments and gotten better at each one," Woods said on Sunday evening. "The whole idea was to keep progressing to Augusta. It feels good to be back. This win validates all the things I've been trying to do."

Even before Sunday's thrilling finish, the Arnold Palmer Invitational was all about the state of Tiger, and he hinted that he was back from the very start. In fact, maybe all you had to see was Tiger's opening hole. He appeared to be making a mess of things, having left himself an awkward 33 yards short of a green with a front pin position. Naturally, he hit a masterly lob shot that went into the cup for a stunning birdie. The man knows good theater.

"The wind is whipping pretty good, and Tiger has this pitch shot out of the first cut of rough, and I'm thinking, He could start out with a double bogey here," says Mark Wilson, who played in the threesome with Woods and Padraig Harrington. "Then he hits a beautiful shot that rolls like a putt right into the middle of the hole. That was an impressive start."

Wilson says he was paying close attention to Woods and Harrington because he had gotten a call from some buddies concerning their annual wager on the Masters — high rollers, the bet is for a dinner — and they wanted a scouting report. "Tiger has this little draw working, and he hits the ball way up in the air," Wilson says. "I've never played Augusta, but everyone tells me that it helps to hit a high draw, and Tiger looks fantastic at that. He struggled with his swing at times, but his short game was sharp. It's not macho to chip in or hit nice shots around the green, but that's what wins tournaments."

So what else did Wilson tell his buddies? "That depends on whether I want to win dinner," he says, "but I'd pick Tiger or Padraig in a second."

On Friday, Woods had two more chip-ins: on the opening hole, with a little bump-and-run shot from the fringe that barely curled in from the side, and on the 8th, from just short of the green.

Some of Woods's par saves were just as remarkable. At the par-5 6th he played a soft, spinning pitch as if he were splashing out of a bunker, except that he did it from a tight fairway lie — a small bit of genius. The ball hopped a foot forward and stopped dead for a tap-in. At the par-3 7th he played a flop shot from the dreaded tuft-of-grass-behind-the-ball lie. He had to land his ball dead-solid perfect on a space the size of a scorecard, with spin, to have any chance of getting it close. Later, even he admitted that he was proud of that shot.

"I don't believe I've ever seen a finer exhibition," says Harrington, who'll be trying to win his third straight major championship in Augusta. Harrington laughs and adds, "I think maybe Tiger practiced his chipping while he was out."

The chip-ins and par saves were why Woods went three under par for the first 36 holes and why he made it into Sunday's final pairing, although he was five shots behind the leader, O'Hair. Going into the final round, Woods had hit only a little more than half of the greens (29 of 54) and fairways (23 of 42) and had occasionally gotten into trouble, like on Saturday when he tried to gouge a shot out of the rough on the famous 18th hole and deposited — and lost — his ball in the grassy bank of the water hazard. He had to drop back in the fairway and hit a full approach shot in. How's his putting? Woods poured in the ensuing 20-footer for bogey as if he were putting syrup on pancakes.

Woods needed only 76 putts through 54 holes and 101 for the week, quite a turnaround from Doral, where he said he had 20 lipouts in the first three rounds alone. (Who keeps track of lipouts?) But while Woods's short game was first-rate at Bay Hill, his ball striking was not. Woods lost a handful of shots to the right on both Thursday and Friday, most notably a drive at the 8th in the first round that he feared was out-of-bounds (but wasn't) and another tee shot that same day, at the 12th hole, which sailed right of the trees, causing Tiger to throw his club to the ground in disgust. Remarkably, Woods's ball bounced along a cart path and ended in the rough, from which Tiger made birdie.

"We had a great camera angle at 12 where you could see exactly where he is at impact," says Brandel Chamblee, the Tour player turned Golf Channel analyst and an avid student of the swing. "His left foot came off the ground, he jumped backward and hit that flare to the right. Great drivers hit into their left sides and clear. Tiger is still fighting it. He still gets stuck. That bad swing is still in there. Maybe he needs more time, but at this point he's not there."

It sounds screwy, but Chamblee doesn't see Tiger's errant driving as hurting his chances at Augusta. He views it more as an equalizer. "They've added trees and narrowed fairways and put more of a premium on driving at Augusta the last few years, while Tiger has become a worse driver," says Chamblee. "I thought he'd come back with a different move with his driver, yet I've seen no signs that he's made any improvement there. But Tiger can still gouge it out of the rough with anyone. He's still smarter than any single person on Tour. He can manage his game and get up and down, hit short irons close and beat up par-5s, make putts and handle pressure like he's sitting in his backyard drinking a cold beer, while everybody else is about to throw up. All those things matter a heck of a lot more in major championships, and that's why he kicks butt. If Woods has only an average driving week, he can win the Masters. He's playing only about 70 percent as well as he can, but even at 70 percent he's clearly better than everyone else."

That repaired left knee isn't going to hold Woods back either. Peter Jacobsen, a Champions tour player who has had knee surgery and a hip replacement, worked for Golf Channel and NBC last week and kept a close watch on Tiger's knees. "You can tell by a guy's foot action what's going on," Jacobsen says. "Man, he turned into that left side and let it go. There was no bailout, he looked good."

Brad Faxon, who had the same surgery as Tiger, but on his right knee, concurs. "It's hard to take nine months off," Faxon says, "but Tiger looks as if he is where he's supposed to be."

You know where that is. In April. In Augusta. In green. In that order.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1888472,00.html)

Nadal, Murray, Del Potro Advance To Fourth Round

ATP World Tour No. 1 Rafael Nadal took one step closer to winning his first Sony Ericsson Open title with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over gutsy Portuguese qualifier Frederico Gil on Monday in Miami to reach the fourth round of the second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament of the season.

Nadal's 23rd victory of the season (23-2) was far from straightforward for the Spaniard. The Mallorca native had an early 3-1 advantage cut as Gil ralled to win three straight games and lead 4-3. Gil was just two points away from the set when he led 15-30 on Nadal’s serve at 4-5, but the left-hander’s resilience told as he held serve before breaking in the 12th game and closing out a 7-5 first set.

Gil, who toppled No. 26 seed Ivo Karlovic in the second round, etched out a 2-0 lead in the second set. However, Nadal hit back to win six of the next seven games to close out Gil’s challenge after one hour and 35 minutes.

Nadal is searching for his first Sony Ericsson Open crown after twice being denied in the 2005 (l. to Federer) and 2008 (l. to Davydenko) title matches.

The Spaniard takes a 3-0 career lead in his fourth-round meeting with Swiss 16th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who rallied from a one-set deficit to defeat 20th-seeded Russian Igor Andreev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. The Lausanne native, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday, is looking to reach his first quarter-final of the season after falling short at the fourth round stage last week in Indian Wells (l. to Djokovic).

ATP World Tour No. 4 Andy Murray was not at his best, but came through a testing encounter with Chile’s Nicolas Massu 6-4, 6-4. The Scot rallied from a 0-3 deficit in the first set to win six of the next seven games and secure a one-set lead before racing into a 5-1 lead in the second set. Massu kept fighting and recovered one of the breaks of serve to bring the score back to 5-4. But, at the second time of asking, Murray saved two break points before serving out victory after one hour and 47 minutes.

"Well, the end and the start weren't particularly good, but the middle part was very good," assessed Murray. "Obviously happy I managed to close the match out in two sets. I lost my concentration towards the end, but I'll focus on what I did well. Today I hit the ball much better from the baseline than I did in the first match. Just make sure that that sort of slip in concentration doesn't happen again."

The 21-year-old Murray has reached the final at three of the past four ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and is bidding for his third title after triumphing in Cincinnati (d. Djokovic) and Madrid (d. Simon). Last week he finished runner-up to Nadal in the final of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells after having defeated Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

In a bid to reach his second Sony Ericsson Open quarter-final (l. to Djokovic in 2007 semifinal), Murray will take on Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, who dismissed German lucky loser Bjorn Phau 6-4, 6-3. Troicki is currently a career-high No. 41 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings after compiling an 11-7 match record at the start of the season.

Sixth-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro (pictured) booked his place in the fourth round with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic. The youngest member of the Top 10, aged 20, won 92 per cent of points behind his first serve and converted four of five break points to defeat 2008 Sony Ericsson Open quarter-finalist Tipsarevic in 68 minutes.

World No. 7 del Potro improved to a 6-2 match record at the Sony Ericsson Open and is through to the fourth round for the second time in three years (l. to Nadal in 2007). The top South American player will look to reach his third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final when he takes on 11th-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer, who battled past 17th-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and seven minutes.

The 26-year-old Ferrer, who reached a career-high No. 4 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings in February 2008, advanced to the semi-finals in Miami in 2005 (l. to Nadal) and 2006 (l. to Federer).

Radek Stepanek, the No. 18 seed from the Czech Republic, fought back from a 1-4 deficit in the first set to claim a 7-6(1), 6-4 victory over Chilean 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez and reach the Miami fourth round for the sixth time in the past seven years. The former World No. 8 won his third and fourth ATP World Tour titles at Brisbane (d. Verdasco) and San Jose (d. Fish) and finished runner-up in Memphis (l. to Roddick) to help compile a 19-5 match record this season.

Stepanek goes on to face No. 8 seed Fernando Verdasco, who knocked out No. 32 Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an all-Spanish clash. Verdasco’s victory signifies that the top 11 seeds are through to the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open for the first time in the tournament’s 25-year history.

The Madrid resident, who last week lost out to Federer in the Indian Wells quarter-finals, is through to the Sony Ericsson Open fourth round for the first time in seven main draw appearances. The left-hander has never advanced past the quarter-finals of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_2875.ASP)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Federer Wins 11th Straight vs. Kiefer

ATP World Tour No. 2 Roger Federer’s campaign to win a third Sony Ericsson Open title gathered pace on Sunday as he recorded his 11th straight victory over Nicolas Kiefer 6-4, 6-1 to reach the fourth round of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament in Miami.

The Swiss second seed did not face a single break point in the 70-minute match and converted four of six break point opportunities to improve to a 12-3 match record against the 29th-ranked German.

The 27-year-old Federer is bidding for his 15th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, and his third in Miami after previously triumphing in 2005 (d. Nadal in five sets) and 2006 (d. Ljubicic in three tie-breaks). Federer, who lost in the quarter-finals to Andy Roddick last year, improved to a 32-8 tournament record.

Federer is this week looking to win his first tour-level title since winning in Basel last October. The right-hander has a 15-3 match record on the season, highlighted by reaching the Australian Open final – where, in a gripping five set final, Rafael Nadal denied him the chance to equal Pete Sampras’ all-time record of 14 Slam titles. He has also reached semi-finals at Doha and last week at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells, losing to Andy Murray on both occasions.

Federer next will face American Taylor Dent, who ousted Spanish No. 15 seed Tommy Robredo 7-5, 6-3 to take a giant leap on the comeback trail.

Dent qualified into the main draw before defeating qualifier Ricardo Mello and No. 19 seed Nicolas Almagro to reach the third round. The 27-year-old California native reached the quarter-finals (l. to Agassi) on his last appearance at the Sony Ericsson Open in 2005. However, in recent years Dent has struggled with a back injury that required two surgeries and him to wear a cast for close to a year in 2007. Consequently, he has seen his South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking plummet to No. 467 from a career-high No. 21 (August 8, 2005).

“I feel great,” said Dent. “For me, it's really a vindication for not only myself, but my supporting staff. For someone to come from where I've been, it would be almost impossible without the handful of people who've really been supporting me my whole way.

“At the end of the day, it all comes down to execution (against Federer). It doesn't matter if you think that Federer has a weak whatever. If you can't execute and exploit that, it doesn't really matter. So it all comes back to the same thing. You've just got to get out there, play your game, execute, and on a day to day basis, things change. So you may have to adjust.”

“It's great to see him back playing,” said Federer of Dent. “He was always a dangerous player on tour because he was aggressive, offensive and kind of making the match decide on a couple of passing shots here and there. It's going to be interesting for me to see how he plays. I actually never played him, so I can't compare before and after injury. I'm looking forward to a good match.”

Third-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic maintained his smooth progress with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over France’s No. 31 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu. Djokovic saved all three break points he faced, while converting four of seven break point opportunities on Mathieu’s to wrap up victory in 76 minutes on Grandstand.

The 21-year-old Djokovic is bidding for his second Sony Ericsson Open title after triumphing in 2007 with victory over Guillermo Canas. Last season he won two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events at Indian Wells (d. Fish) and Rome (d. Wawrinka).

The Belgrade native, who is just 570 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking points ahead of fourth-placed Andy Murray, has compiled a 19-7 match record this season. He captured his 12th tour-level title at Dubai (d. Ferrer) last month and was a semifinalist at Sydney (l. to Nieminen) and Marseille (l. to Tsonga).

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_2861.ASP)

Roddick Passes Tursunov Test; Monfils Saves 2 M.P.

Fifth-seeded American Andy Roddick advanced to the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open with a 7-6(9), 6-2 victory over No. 25 seed Dmitry Tursunov on Sunday at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament in Miami.

After a tight opening set, which saw Roddick prevail 11-9 in a gripping tie-break, the second set was a more straight forward affair for the American as he broke serve twice from four break point opportunities to wrap up his fourth victory over his Russian opponent (4-1 record) in one hour and 49 minutes.

Reflecting on the match, Roddick said: “The wind was gusting, but it wasn't consistent. So it was tough to really commit to any shot. If you play straight with him he's a good ball striker, so I was trying to mix up paces a little bit. I had some success with it and some not so much. But on the bigger points, it helped me out a little bit.

“I felt like maybe he might have been struggling a little bit physically (in the second set). It's like a swamp out there today. You're sweating a ton. I mean, you can wring out your shorts afterwards. So I wanted to be sure to take advantage of that and make the points tough. It just got away from him a little bit in that second (set).”

The victory takes Roddick to a 24-8 tournament record at the Sony Ericsson Open, highlighted by capturing the title in 2004 (d. Coria) and reaching the semi-finals last year (d. No. 1 Federer, l. to eventual champion Davydenko).

The 26-year-old Roddick leads the ATP World Tour with a 25-4 match record in 2009. Under new coach Larry Stefanki, the Austin, Texas resident has won 13 of his past 14 matches and has advanced to the semi-finals in each of his five main draw appearances this year, highlighted by his 27th tour-level title in Memphis (d. Stepanek) and a runner-up finish in Doha (l. to Murray). Last week the former World No. 1 defeated Novak Djokovic to reach the semi-finals (l. to Nadal) of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells.

For a place in the quarter-finals, Roddick will take on ninth-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils, who saved two match points in a thrilling 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(3) victory over Russian No. 22 seed Marat Safin. Monfils rallied from a 2-5 double-break deficit in the third set, and faced two match points at 3-5 15/40 before hitting back to claim victory after two hours and 53 minutes. Monfils takes a 3-2 career lead into the clash with Roddick, though it was the American who won their most recent encounter in the Doha semi-finals.

Although he enjoyed the raucous support he received on Grandstand, last year’s Roland Garros semi-finalist Monfils was not happy with the manner of his win: “It wasn't a good match for me today. I played very badly. I mean, I just survived. I never give up on the court. I had luck because he missed two shots on his match point, but purely tennistically [sic] it was very empty today. Nothing. Maybe I have a good serve sometime.”

Monfils was joined in the fourth round by Taylor Dent, who ousted Spanish No. 15 seed Tommy Robredo 7-5, 6-3 to take a giant leap on the comeback trail.

Seventh seed Gilles Simon fought back from a set down to defeat No. 29 seed Rainer Schuettler of Germany 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. The Frenchman, who dropped just three games in defeating former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in his opening match, is through to the Sony Ericsson Open fourth round for the first time in four main draw appearances.

The 24 year old reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open (l. to Nadal) and also advanced to the semifinals in Marseille (l. to Llodra) and Dubai (l. to Djokovic) to compile a 14-8 match record. He goes on to face 10th-seeded compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Simon takes a 1-0 career lead into his fourth round meeting with Tsonga, who converted two of four break points as he saw off American qualifier Robert Kendrick 7-5, 6-4. The 2008 Australian Open finalist (l. to Djokovic) is through to the fourth round in Miami for the first time after losing to Julien Benneteau in the third round of his 2008 main draw debut.

With a match record of 24-4 this season, Tsonga trails only Andy Roddick (25-4) on the ATP World Tour. The 23-year-old Le Mans native captured his third and fourth ATP World Tour titles at Johannesburg (d. Chardy) and Marseille (d. Djokovic in SF; Llodra in F) and has reached the quarter-finals at a further four events – including the Australian Open (l. to Verdasco).

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_2855.ASP)

Tiger returns to winning at Bay Hill

ORLANDO, Fla.(AP) Tiger Woods had not felt such an adrenaline rush in nine months, especially when he stood over a 12-foot birdie putt Sunday at Bay Hill with only enough sunlight remaining for one last shot.

It made Woods forget that it had been nine months since he played under so much pressure.

And then he made golf remember the magic it had been missing.

With cameras flashing in the approaching darkness, Woods delivered another rock-star moment by making a birdie on the final hole to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one shot and match the largest comeback in his PGA Tour career.

``It feels good to be back in contention, to feel the rush,'' Woods said. ``It's been awhile, but God, it felt good.''

It sure looked that way.

Just like last year, when Woods made a 25-foot birdie on the final hole at Bay Hill to win by one, he crouched and backpedaled as the putt rolled toward the cup. But instead of slamming his cap to the ground, he gave a roundhouse fist pump and ran into the arms of caddie Steve Williams, who lifted him off the ground in celebration.

Welcome back, Tiger.

``Last year ... there wasn't any big comeback or anything. I was out there just competing as usual,'' Woods said. ``This time, it was a little bit different. I hadn't been in the mix since the U.S. Open, so it was neat to feel the heat on the back nine again.''

Starting the final round five shots behind, Woods closed with a 3-under 67 for a one-shot victory over hard-luck Sean O'Hair. It was the third time he won at Bay Hill with a birdie putt on the 18th hole, and this uphill putt was the easiest of all.

But it was just as sweet, especially walking off the green to see a beaming tournament host.

``What was it I told you last year?'' Palmer said as he grabbed Woods by the shoulder.

Palmer has seen enough of Woods to know what to expect. Woods won at Bay Hill for the sixth time, the fourth PGA Tour event he has won at least that often.

Woods had not been atop the leaderboard since he won the U.S. Open in a 19-hole playoff last June. He had reconstructive surgery on his left knee a week later, and missed the next eight months.

With two indifferent results, there were questions whether he would be ready for the Masters in two weeks.

Not anymore.

Woods donned the blue blazer that goes to the Bay Hill winner. That could go a long way toward winning another jacket at Augusta National, different color.

``Certainly, this win definitely validates all the things I've been trying to do,'' Woods said.

O'Hair made only one birdie and closed with a 73, but he steadied himself along the back nine until a crucial mistake on the 16th hole, when he went at the flag with Woods in the rough. His 7-iron came up short and into the water, leading to a bogey.

``I think what happened is when the sun was going down a little bit, I guess that kind of proved to me that the ball wasn't quite going as far,'' O'Hair said.

He might be right, for Woods ran into the same problem a hole later. He posed over a 4-iron that he thought was flush, tongue hanging out of his mouth like Michael Jordan when he knew a shot was going in. This one plugged under the lip of the front bunker, and Woods made bogey to fall into a tie.

That set up the dramatic finish with only minutes of daylight remaining, thanks to a two-hour rain delay in the morning.

It was the second straight year that O'Hair had to watch Woods celebrate. They were in the final group a year ago when Woods made his big birdie putt to beat Bart Bryant. This one stung even more.

``It's just a little bit disappointing that I couldn't close it,'' O'Hair said.

Woods finished at 5-under 275 and won $1.08 million for his 66th career victory. Only once in his career has Woods failed to win a PGA Tour even in the three months leading to the Masters, but more Bay Hill magic took care of that.

Zach Johnson shot 69 and finished third, although he was treated to quite a show playing in the last group.

``I tried to stay in my own world, and for the most part I did that,'' Johnson said. ``It's kind of hard when you're seeing what you're seeing. Obviously Tiger, when he needs to step up, he does it. It was impressive to watch.''

Woods was running out of holes until he came up with two clutch putts, the kind he has made throughout his career.

The most pivotal came at the 14th, when he was one shot behind and caught yet another plugged lie under the lip of a bunker. Woods did well to blast out to just over 12 feet, while O'Hair had 15 feet for birdie. Make it, and he could go up by three.

O'Hair narrowly missed, and Woods holed his putt for par. On the next hole, Woods made a 25-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead.

There were three lead changes over the final three holes, and a predictable winner.

It was a struggle from the start for O'Hair.

He didn't hit a fairway until the sixth hole, and he didn't have a birdie putt inside 30 feet until the ninth hole. The game was on after a two-shot swing on the third hole, when O'Hair missed the green to the right and made bogey, and Woods made an 8-footer for his second straight birdie to close within two shots.

They were separated by one shot for most of the back nine, with momentum seemingly on Woods' side, but not the lead. That didn't come until the 16th hole, and then he needed one more clutch shot to return to a familiar place.

``It's like Stevie was saying out there,'' Woods said of caddie Steve Williams. ``This feels like we hadn't left. You just remember how to do it. It hasn't been that long for me, but you just have that feel of what to do. And it's a matter of getting it done.''

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1888303,00.html)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

O'Hair survives tough day to keep lead at Bay Hill

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Sean O'Hair couldn't think of a bad shot he hit over the last four holes, yet he still made three bogeys.

Tiger Woods was thrilled with his last two bogeys - one after a shot caromed off the cart path, another after a shot no one could find along the banks of the lake guarding the 18th green.

Right after the sonic boom from the return of space shuttle Discovery resounded across the course, Bay Hill lowered a boom of its own Saturday and turned the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a windy, wacky test of survival.

O'Hair managed better than most with a 1-over 71 that put him in the final group with Woods for the second straight year, with one big difference. Instead of being in a five-way tie, O'Hair has a five-shot lead over the world's No. 1 player.

"I don't think I can do anything that's going to make him play worse," O'Hair said. "I think I'm just going to focus on me and focus on my game and do what I'm doing right now. And that's just playing shot-to-shot and add them up at the end."

The math was getting a little fuzzy late in the afternoon.

O'Hair had a six-shot lead with four holes to play, made three bogeys and still was five ahead, finishing at 7-under 203.

Woods only assured himself a spot in the final group when he spent five minutes looking for his ball in the shagging bank, took a penalty drop 145 yards from the hole and made a 25-foot for bogey and a 71.

Jason Gore was going to join them in the last group until he three-putted from 5 feet for double bogey on the last hole.

Here's how crazy the wind can make Bay Hill: Zach Johnson started the third round nine shots out of the lead, shot a 68 and will play in the final threesome with O'Hair and Woods.

"I don't know how you're supposed to play a golf course like that," O'Hair said. "So I just think everybody tries to hang on for dear life. Sometimes bogey is not a bad score. I think bogey is almost par for some holes."

It sure felt that way for Woods.

He caught a flyer from the rough on the 16th hole, and the ball bounced high off a cart path and landed some 50 yards away. His chip went through the green and almost in the water. Then he holed a 10-foot putt for bogey.

Even more impressive was the bogey on the 18th with the longest putt he has made all week.

"To be honest, I didn't want to end up with a double bogey," he said. "I finished over par, but I thought I played better than that."

Woods is a five-time winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, yet he has never won when he was trailing going into the final round. His largest final-round comeback on the PGA Tour was five shots in the 2000 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He once overcame an eight-shot deficit in the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand.

O'Hair's five-shot lead was the largest at Bay Hill since Woods led by five in 2003.

Because of rain in the forecast, the starting times Sunday will be threesomes in the middle of the day. If the forecast for heavy overnight rain holds true, it could drastically change a Bay Hill course that has been firm, fast and tough all week.

The third round was the toughest yet, with the average score nearly 3 1/2 shots over par.

"You're just plotting your way around - fairway, green, then trying to two-putt most of the time," Johnson said. "It's difficult. Par is a great number today."

So great that only four players broke par, and four others shot even.

Ryuji Imada had a 73 and was tied at 1-under 209 with Gore and Johnson. No one else was under par.

Brandt Snedeker had the best round Saturday - a 67 with no bogeys, which was astounding given the harsh conditions. His reward was a rocket ride up the leaderboard, moving up 42 spots into a tie for sixth at 210.

One reason the round took so long was an unusual ruling on the ninth hole involving Kevin Na.

He pulled his tee shot to the left, where there are out-of-bounds stakes near the fence of the driving range. A woman retrieved the ball, and once she was located, the rules official asked where she had picked it up.

She pointed to a spot that was about a foot OB, and official Steve Rintoul told Na he would have to play his provisional.

Na was furious. He said the women's husband first said the ball was against the cart path, then the woman said she wasn't sure. He said she only pointed to the spot after Rintoul arrived. Na demanded to see head rules official Mark Russell, who upheld the decision.

He took triple bogey and played his next five holes in 3 over.

"I don't care if you're Buddha, you're going to be upset," he said. "Am I mad at the lady? No. I'm mad at the situation."

It was only one oddity in a third round that was filled with them.

Divots: Davis Love III, who missed the cut, might still be able to get into the top 50 in the world and qualify for the Masters, but he needs some help. He would need Stuart Appleby to finish out of the top 32 and Aaron Baddeley to finish lower than 56th. The two Aussies were tied for 59th going into the final round. ... Hunter Mahan birdied three of his four holes, then played his final 10 holes in 7 over, including a 40 on the back nine.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1888282,00.html)

Messi stars as Argentina cruise

sArgentina, inspired by Lionel Messi, celebrated Diego Maradona's home and competitive debut as coach by beating Venezuela 4-0 in a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier.

Messi scored the first goal and then set up the second for Carlos Tevez before Maxi Rodriguez and Sergio Aguero completed an easy win for the hosts. Maradona, who began his reign with friendly wins away to Scotland and France, was given a rousing reception by the crowd when he came on to the field before the game at the Monumental stadium.

The win left Argentina with 19 points from 11 games in the South American group, four behind leaders Paraguay. Argentina depended heavily on Messi for inspiration and the Barcelona player created their first real chance in the 25th minute when he jinked his way to the byline, but nobody could connect with his cross.

The Albiceleste went ahead one minute later when Javier Zanetti burst out of defence, ran 60 metres and found Tevez, who laid the ball off to Messi in his favourite position around 30 metres from goal. Messi cut inside, played a one-two with Tevez and scored with a low shot into the far corner for his fourth goal of the qualifiers.

He created another chance when he threaded the ball through to Aguero, who rounded goalkeeper Renny Vega only to see his shot cleared off the line by Gabriel Cichero. Argentina goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo had to wait until the end of the first half for some action when he comfortably stopped Juan Arango's long-range shot.

Two quickfire goals early in the second half ended Venezuela's resistance as they slumped to their 16th defeat in as many games against Argentina. Tevez volleyed in Messi's cross at the far post in the 47th minute for his first goal of the qualifiers and Rodriguez scored with a weak shot which wrong-footed Vega five minutes later. Aguero completed the scoring in the 73rd minute.

(From Website : http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/newsid=1042841.html#messi+stars+argentina+cruise)

Uruguayan Diegos down Paraguay

South American Zone pacesetters Paraguay suffered a jolt on a seemingly inexorable road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ when they went down 2-0 to Uruguay.

Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan scored the Uruguayans' opener on 28 minutes, before Diego Lugano made the points safe with a second just before the hour mark in front of 45,000 supporters at the Centenario.

Gerardo Martino's visitors were unable to come back off the ropes as the Paraguayans went down to only their second defeat in 11 games.

With 23 points they still lead Brazil, who have 17 from ten games ahead of tomorrow's meeting with Ecuador in Quito.

Argentina, who the Uruguayans joined on 16 points, will climb second if they beat struggling Venezuela, and close the gap on top spot to four points.

Chile also have 16 points from ten outings ahead of their trip to bottom side Peru. Also tomorrow, Colombia and Bolivia will face off in Bogota, with the hosts hoping for a victory that would keep them in contention.

The top four teams qualify for South Africa 2010, and the fifth-placed team enter a home-and-away play-off with the fourth-placed team from the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone.

(From Website : http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/newsid=1042649.html#uruguayan+diegos+down+paraguay)

Gabon stun Morocco, Togo triumph

Gabon grabbed the headlines as Round 3 of the Africa Zone qualifying competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ began. Alain Giresse's men secured a remarkable 2-1 win away to Morocco in Group A, while Togo saw off Cameroon in Accra in the other game in the section.

In Group B Tunisia edged out Kenya, while Burkina Faso overcame Group E rivals Guinea. In the day's two remaining games Rwanda and Sudan were held to home draws by Algeria and Mali respectively.

FIFA.com rounds up the day's highlights in Africa.

Game of the day
Togo 1-0 Cameroon
Goal: Emmanuel Adebayor 11

Togo fans made light of the continuing ban on Lome's Kegue Stadium by travelling in force to Ghana to cheer on their heroes against the Indomitable Lions. Despite the baking heat at the Ohene-Djan Stadium in Accra, Jean Thissen's side made a lively start and were rewarded for their positive approach when the inevitable Adebayor put them ahead. Although the 2008 African Footballer of the Year blotted his copybook by missing a penalty 13 minutes from time - the prelude to a late siege by the Cameroonians - his early strike proved enough to give the Sparrowhawks three precious points.

Surprise of the day
Morocco 1-2 Gabon
Goals: Mounir El Hamdaoui 84 (Morocco); Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 34 and Roguy Meye 45 (Gabon)

Gabon upstaged the Togolese just a few hours later when they pulled off a sensational win in Casablanca. Shrugging off the absences of star strikers Daniel Cousin and Eric Mouloungui, the Panthers stunned their hosts by surging into a 2-0 lead before the break. Urged on by a crowd of nearly 70,000, the Moroccans dominated the second half but could only pull a late goal back. The defeat was their first home reverse in a FIFA World Cup qualifier since 11 November 1981, when they fell 2-0 to Cameroon, leaving them with much to do in what promises to be a fiercely competitive section.

Player of the day
Moumouni Dagano (Burkina Faso)
The centre-forward, who plays his club football for Qatari side Al-Khor, scored twice in his side's 4-2 win over Guinea, cementing his status as top scorer in the Africa Zone. With nine goals in seven games, the former Sochaux front man is now three clear of Frederic Kanoute (Mali), Razak Omotoyossi (Benin) and Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon).

The stat
65 -
The number of months Algeria have now gone since winning away in either a friendly or competitive match. The Desert Foxes last won on their travels on 11 October 2003, downing Niger 1-0 in a Germany 2006 qualifier.

What they said
"We conceded a very early goal and that's one of the worst things that can happen to you in football. We still managed to dominate the game, though, but as soon as we equalised Tunisia scored again and we just didn't have enough time to get back into the game again. Overall I'm satisfied with the performance of my players. The only thing was, our opponents scored at just the right time for them." Kenya coach Antoine Hey.

Saturday's results:
Kenya 1-2 Tunisia
Rwanda 0-0 Algeria
Togo 1-0 Cameroon
Sudan 1-1 Mali
Burkina Faso 4-2 Guinea
Morocco 1-2 Gabon

(From Website : http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/newsid=1042760.html#gabon+stun+morocco+togo+triumph)

Eastern delight in Asia

There is a new order in Asia after the top two sides in both the continent's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying groups swapped places on Matchday 6. With erstwhile leaders Australia and Korea Republic enjoying a free weekend, Japan and Korea DPR took full advantage with home wins that ensured the eastern duo snatched pole position in their respective groups.

In Group A, Shunsuke Nakamura's match-winning free-kick against Bahrain not only handed Japan top spot, but also put the Blue Samurai within touching distance of grabbing one of the section's two automatic qualifying spots. In Group B, meanwhile, Korea DPR's 2-0 victory over United Arab Emirates lifted them two points clear of Korea Republic, while Saudi Arabia moved into third place with a sensational 2-1 win in Iran.

Uzbekistan also had cause to celebrate after salvaging a FIFA World Cup lifeline with a 4-0 win over a Qatar side, who - like UAE and Bahrain - now face an uphill battle to remain in contention.

Matchday 6 results
28 March, 2009

Group A: Japan 1-0 Bahrain, Uzbekistan 4-0 Qatar
Group B: Korea DPR 2-0 United Arab Emirates, Iran 1-2 Saudi Arabia

Game of the day
Iran 1-2 Saudi Arabia
Shojaei (57), Hazazi (78), Al Harbi (86)

Saudi Arabia again proved to be Iran's nemesis as they came from a goal down to claim a dramatic 2-1 win in Tehran. Masoud Shojaei had put the hosts ahead 12 minutes into second half when he latched on to Limaki Mohammad Khalatbari's perfect pass and lashed the ball home from 20 yards. But the Iranian lead lasted for only 23 minutes, with Naif Hazazi levelling for the Saudis with a ferocious strike before Osama Al Harbi headed home a memorable winner with just four minutes remaining.

Surprise of the day
Uzbekistan 4-0 Qatar
Tadjiyev (34, 45+3, 53), Soliev (61)

Having beaten Uzbekistan 3-0 at home in the corresponding fixture, Bruno Metsu's Qatar were thought to have a psychological edge ahead of this rematch. However, any advantage the visitors might have had went up in smoke when Bilal Rajab received his marching order after 32 minutes. Within two minutes of Rajab's dismissal, Uzbekistan made their numerical advantage count through a headed goal from Farhold Tadjiyev. The Pakhtakor striker went on to double his side's lead in first half stoppage time before making it 3-0 eight minutes into the second half. All three of Tadjiyev's goals were headers and the central Asians underlined their aerial dominance with 29 minutes remaining when Anvarjon Soliev put the seal on a resounding victory.

The other games
Japan 1-0 Bahrain
Nakamura (47)

Having crossed paths on eight previous occasions, five of which had been in FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Japan and Bahrain are the most familiar of adversaries. The Japanese have traditionally dominated the fixture, and today their seventh victory against Bahrain arrived courtesy of a reliable source. Indeed, despite carving out by far the greater number of scoring chances, Japan were once again indebted to the set-piece artistry of Shunsuke Nakamura. With his side struggling to find a breakthrough, the Celtic midfielder stepped up to curl home a trademark free-kick two minutes into the second half, securing a vital three points for Takeshi Okada's side.

Korea DPR 2-0 United Arab Emirates
Pak (51), Mun (90+3)

Korea DPR were in unstoppable form in Pyongyang as they swept aside UAE. This well-deserved victory, their second in as many games, saw the Koreans overtake their southern peninsula neighbours by two points to top Group B. Cheered on by a partisan home crowd, the North Koreans went close to scoring on several occasions in opening half, while UAE were limited to just one shot on goal. This pattern was repeated after the break, with the only difference that Korea DPR's dominance was rewarded with goals from Pak, who unleashed a powerful drive from the edge of the area, and Mun, who sealed the win deep into injury time.

Player of the day
Today witnessed Farhod Tadjiyev emerge, seemingly from nowhere, to announce his unexpected arrival on the Asian scene. The 22-year-old scored three times during a remarkable 18-minute period in Uzbekistan's shock 4-0 win over Qatar, sealing victory for his side and bagging the first hat-trick of Asia's final qualifying round.

The numbers game
32 - the amount of consecutive home matches Iran had strung together without losing before Saudi Arabia became the first side in five years to triumph in Tehran.

What they said
"I thank my players for their hard work as it is never easy to win three points in a World Cup qualifier. But nothing has achieved yet and we have to improve our quality in the games to come," Takeshi Okada, Japan coach.

(From Website : http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/newsid=1042341.html#eastern+delight+asia)

Portugal frustrated by Sweden

Portugal face an uphill struggle to reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after wasting a host of chances in a 0-0 draw with Sweden.

After today's games, group leaders Denmark have 10 points from four matches, the same haul as Hungary, who have played a game more. Portugal are third, four points off the pace. Portugal dominated the first half and came close to scoring in the 17th minute when Tiago almost made the most of a bad back pass to Sweden keeper Andreas Isaksson.

Tiago then supplied Cristiano Ronaldo on the right, only for the winger's attempt to chip Isaksson to go wide. Sweden had another escape in the 24th minute when Duda's cross from the left wing hit the post after deceiving the keeper.

A flowing move on 43 minutes involving Ronaldo, Tiago and Raul Meireles ended with Simao Sabrosa's volley going just wide and Portugal suffered another blow moments later when defender Jose Bosingwa limped off injured.

Danny continued Portugal's poor finishing in the second half when he failed to hit the target after an excellent pass from Tiago. The visitors, missing striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic through suspension, seemed to settle for a draw.

Sweden's best chance came on 55 minutes when Johan Elmander forced Eduardo Carvalho into a close range save but they rarely threatened. Playmaker Deco came on as a substitute after 62 minutes and had two good chances to break the deadlock for Portugal, watch a low drive saved by Isaksson and curling in a shot that flew inches wide.

(From Website : http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/newsid=1042696.html#portugal+frustrated+sweden)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Guthrie: Players must take blame

Newcastle United's Danny Guthrie says the players must shoulder the responsibility for the club's lowly position.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who could make his return from a hamstring injury against Chelsea on 4th April, insists it is he and his team-mates who have got the Magpies into the mess they are currently in, and only they who can rescue themselves.

With eight matches remaining Newcastle find themselves two points adrift of safety and in genuine peril. However, Guthrie believes the club's fate lies in the hands of the players alone.

hardest thing

He said: "It's the players who go out there on a match day, whatever anyone says.

"For me, what was going on behind the scenes didn't affect me. We went out there as fit and as well prepared as if nothing had happened, so I think it is up to the players to take responsibility for results on the pitch.

"There are eight games left and a lot of points to play for - but it doesn't look good when you look at the table, and we have got a lot of hard games as well.

"But we are more than capable of getting ourselves out of it - and it's about time we get out there and do it.

"No-one's heads have gone down. It hurts when you lose games, and the hardest thing to do is to pick yourselves up, but that's what we have got to do and get ready for the Chelsea game.

"We have got a lot of experienced players in the dressing room, which helps. You can turn to them and they have been there, seen it and done it."

(From Website : http://www.premierleague.com/page/Headlines/0,,12306~1605262,00.html)

Behrami determined to improve

West Ham United's Valon Behrami has vowed to come back stronger from his knee ligament injury.

The 23-year-old Switzerland international midfielder suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage in last month's 1-0 win over Manchester City which has ruled him out for the season.

He has undergone keyhole surgery and is ready to start light rehabilitation work at the club's Chadwell Heath training ground.

very important

"The West Ham fans have been fantastic to me since I arrived and I want them to know I want to come back stronger and give my all for the team when I can," he said. "I know with this support I can do my rehab work even better.

"I was told afterwards that our fans were clapping for me when I was carried off. At that time, I wasn't aware of this because of the injury! I wish they were clapping for me for a different reason! But hearing that just makes me know even more how special this club is and the people around it.

"I hope that they [the fans] will continue to support the team as they play the rest of the games, this is very important for all of us, to have their backing. Here at West Ham, it is not about the individual, it's about the team."

(From Website : http://www.premierleague.com/page/Headlines/0,,12306~1604872,00.html)

O'Hair has 3-shot lead at Bay Hill; Tiger 5 back

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Bay Hill was so penal Friday that most players figured it would be difficult for anyone to shoot a low number and separate themselves from the pack. Sean O'Hair apparently didn't get the memo.

O'Hair opened with three straight birdies and didn't drop a shot until his final hole, which gave him a 5-under 65 for a three-shot lead over Jason Gore heading into the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tiger Woods remained in the mix for a sixth title at Bay Hill, courtesy of a short game that turned a mediocre round into a 69.

Woods chipped in for birdie on his opening hole for the second straight day, holed another birdie chip on No. 8, and kept his round together with two head-turning chips to save par. He was in fifth place, five shots behind.

"You can make bogeys in a heartbeat out there today because the greens are ... not accepting shots very well," Woods said.

O'Hair was at 8-under 132 and will be in the final group Saturday with Gore, who had four birdies and four bogeys for a 70.

Robert Allenby had a bogey-free round of 65 and was at 4-under 136, along with Ryuji Imada, who had a 66.

O'Hair's round was set up by his tee shots, and he figured if he was driving it well, he probably would swing the irons the same way. His first three birdies were all within 8 feet, and he had a putt at birdie on all but three holes.

It all sounded simple enough.

"The rough is very penal, but if you're in the fairway all day, you don't have to worry about it," O'Hair said. "The greens are absolutely perfect. You just give yourself some nice opportunities, and all of a sudden you're 8- or 9-under par."

Even so, O'Hair could relate with the grind that it became for Woods, and at times for double major winner Padraig Harrington, who shot a 68 and was at 2-under 138. And he could appreciate what happened to Davis Love III, who had a 74 and missed the cut, seriously damaging his bid to get to the Masters.

It doesn't take much to get going the wrong direction.

"You don't really even need to hit it sideways," O'Hair said. "Just a little bit off here and there, and you're giving yourself some pretty tough par opportunities."

Consider his final hole, the par-5 ninth. He hit what appeared to be a good drive, just a little to the left, and found a lie so deep that he felt his best option was to hack out short of the green. It went according to plan until he hit his wedge a little heavy and missed a 10-foot par putt to come one shot back to the field.

Those are the kind of shots that spared Woods.

He opened with two birdies in three holes to get his name on the leaderboard, then went 13 holes without another. He was in trouble on the par-5 sixth, with a plugged lie in the bunker that forced him to play sideways for his third shot, but he recovered with a skip-and-stop pitch to 4 feet for a par.

On the next hole, Woods was on the matted grass of the walkway, facing a 30-foot shot to a green running away from him. He hit a full flop that landed on the fringe and stopped 4 feet away for another par that was easier than expected.

After getting fooled by the wind on the next hole, Woods chipped in for birdie.

"Today was just kind of a grind-it-out day," he said. "The golf course is getting fast. The greens are really getting fast."

Vaughn Taylor was in the group at 138 thanks to a remarkable three-hole stretch. He hit 6-iron for an ace on the seventh hole, then followed that with consecutive birdies to reach 4 under. Taylor wound up with a 68.

"Bogeys are there to be made," Gore said. "The golf course is playing tough."

That much was evident not by the 21 players who remained under par, but the 13-shot differential between O'Hair at 132 and those who made the cut on the number at 5-over 145.

A week ago at Innisbrook, the differential was only seven shots.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1888236,00.html)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Megson: United slip our gain

Bolton Wanderers manager Gary Megson is delighted by Manchester United's recent stumble in the league.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side have seen their seven-point lead reduced to one with a match in hand in the last fortnight.

United still have to play Sunderland, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Hull - all teams Megson considers relegation rivals to his team.

The Bolton manager had previously expressed concerns that had United run away with the title they may have turned their attentions to the Champions League and eased up on the domestic front.

But with things so close at the top of the table Megson is confident United will not be able to take it easy.

avoid trouble

"The situation right now is so tight that everyone is playing for something," he said. "No-one can honestly say they are not playing for a place in Europe, or to avoid trouble, or going for the title.

"I don't want to be rude to Manchester United but they have got to keep playing now. With what happened on Saturday (losing at Fulham), they know that every team they play they will have to go and get a result.

"We've played them twice and they've turned us over twice - maybe rightly so - but they have got to keep going now right to the end."

Bolton are currently 12th in the table on 34 points, five above the relegation zone, but Megson said they were not yet safe.

"We know that there is a huge game on the horizon with Middlesbrough (on Saturday week)," he said. "If we can beat them, then we will do ourselves a huge amount of good."

(From Website : http://www.premierleague.com/page/Headlines/0,,12306~1603359,00.html)

Duo on road to recovery

Everton duo Tony Hibbert and Joseph Yobo are winning their battles to be fit for the FA Cup semi-final.

The pair are optimistic they will recover from injury in time for next month's meeting with Manchester United at Wembley.

Full-back Hibbert has been out for three weeks with a thigh problem he sustained in the home win over West Bromwich Albion, while Yobo damaged a hamstring in training last week and missed Saturday's defeat at Portsmouth.

Both players are expected to be fit in three weeks time, which will coincide with Everton's trip to Wembley to face United for the right to play in their first cup final since 1995.

good news

And there is more good news on the injury front with midfielder Tim Cahill set to be fit for Everton's next match at home to Wigan Athletic on 5th April.

Cahill also missed the Portsmouth fixture with a calf injury, but he has flown to Australia this week to link up with the national squad for their World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan on 1st April.

Everton physio Mick Rathbone said: "Tony's injury was a bad one and he is now 23 days into his recovery and we were talking of four to six weeks before he could play again so he is making good progress.

"Hopefully he will train towards the middle of next week. Joseph's hamstring injury is not so bad. If there is a good time to injure your hamstring, it is during the international break, I suppose."

(From Wesite : http://www.premierleague.com/page/Headlines/0,,12306~1603310,00.html)

Parrott withdraws from China Open

John Parrott has been forced to pull out of next week's China Open, the penultimate ranking event of the season, for medical reasons.

The former world champion is suffering from persistent back and neck problems and will not travel to Beijing.

Parrott had come through two qualifying rounds, but his wildcard opponent, China's Cao Xinlong, receives a bye into Round One to face Shaun Murphy.

The event is the last for players to hit form before the World Championship.

Stephen Hendry is one player desperate to string some wins together before the season finale at The Crucible starting on 18 April.

The seven-time world champion has only won four matches in ranking events all season, three of them in Bahrain where he reached the semi-finals.

But the Scot has dropped to 12 in the rankings after losing in the first rounds of the UK Championship and the Welsh Open, and could drop out of the elite top 16 if that sequence continues over the final two events.

Hendry will face either Northern Irishman Joe Swail, or the winner of the Liang Wenbo-Robert Milkins qualifier, in his first-round match.

Another former world champion, Peter Ebdon, is also in danger of losing his place among the elite after slipping to 17th in the provisional rankings.

Ebdon faces either emerging Bristol youngster Judd Trump or one of seven Chinese wildcards, Tang Jun, in his opening match.

Graeme Dott, who won in China two years ago, also needs a strong end to the season to have any chance of retaining his place among the elite, having dropped to 36 in the provisional list.

Defending champion Stephen Maguire, who beat Shaun Murphy 10-9 in last year's final, opens his campaign against Dave Harold while world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan starts against Irishman Fergal O'Brien.

O'Sullivan could face Chinese star Ding Junhui in the second round, with a potential quarter-final against John Higgins or Marco Fu.

China Open draw:

First round:

Stephen Maguire (Sco) v Dave Harold (Eng)
Peter Ebdon (Eng) v Tang/Trump
Joe Perry (Eng) v Cao K/Walden
Stephen Hendry (Sco) v Swail/Liang/Milkins
Ali Carter (Eng) v Nigel Bond (Eng)
Mark Allen (NI) v Cao Y/Pettman
Graeme Dott (Sco) v Yu/Lawler
Mark Selby (Eng) v Stephen Lee (Eng)
Shaun Murphy (Eng) v Cao Xinlong (Chn)
Neil Robertson (Aus) v Gerard Greene (NI)
Mark King (Eng) v Mark Williams (Wal)
Ryan Day (Wal) v Jamie Cope (Eng)
John Higgins (Sco) v Anthony Hamilton (Eng)
Marco Fu (HK) v Tian/Gray
Ding Junhui (Chn) v Xiao G/Holt
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) v Fergal O'Brien (Ire)

Wildcard round:

Tang Jun (Chn) v Judd Trump (Eng)
Cao Kaisheng (Chn) v Ricky Walden (Eng)
Cao Yupeng (Chn) v Stuart Pettman (Eng)
Yu Delu (Chn) v Rod Lawler (Eng)
Cao Xinlong (Chn) w/o John Parrott (Eng) * Parrott withdrew
Tian Pengfei (Chn) v David Gray (Eng)
Xiao Guodong (Chn) v Michael Holt (Eng)
Liang/Milkins v Joe Swail (NI)

Qualifying round:

Liang Wenbo (Chn) v Robert Milkins (Eng)

(From Website : http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/snooker/7963996.stm)

Baghdatis Powers Into Second Round

Cypriot wild card Marcos Baghdatis made an emphatic start to his Sony Ericsson Open campaign with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Latvian Ernests Gulbis on Wednesday at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament in Miami.

The 23-year-old Baghdatis fired seven aces and converted four of six break point opportunities to secure his fourth victory (4-0 record) over Gulbis in 80 minutes. He goes on to face French No. 31 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu in the second round.

“I know the guy (Gulbis) doesn't give rhythm,” said Baghdatis. “He's smacking all the balls around. So I just played point per point. [I] just tried to put the ball back as many times as I could. It's not easy playing guys like that. He came with lots of unforced errors. That's the way I had to play today, so I'm pretty happy I did it good and I won and I'm in the next round.”

Currently ranked No. 105 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, Baghdatis was restricted to just 12 tournaments in an injury-ridden 2008 season. The former No. 8 (August 21, 2006) has an 11-6 match record in 2009, highlighted by quarter-final showings at Johannesburg (l. to Ferrer) and Delray Beach) and a run to the Australian Open fourth round (l. to Djokovic).

Two American qualifiers also advanced on Wednesday. Robert Kendrick defeated Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-3, 7-6(5) to set up a second round meeting with Swedish No. 21 seed Robin Soderling. The 85th-ranked California native reached the third round (l. to Murray) on his Sony Ericsson Open main draw debut in 2007. Kevin Kim progressed when his opponent Michael Llodra retired with a groin injury after winning the first set 6-3. World No. 107 Kim will next meet No. 2 Roger Federer.

However, wild card Brendan Evans could not match his countrymen’s success as he bowed out to Jan Hernych 4-6, 3-6. Hernych will face 15th seed Tommy Robredo in the second round.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_2794.ASP)

Sony Ericsson Open Features 47 Of Top 50 Players

The second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the season gets underway Wednesday at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami with 47 of the Top 50 players in attendance.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who is coming off his 13th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title on Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, looks to win his first title in Miami. He has reached two Miami finals in 2005 (l. to Federer in five sets) and last year (l. to Davydenko). Nadal is the top seed in Miami after Federer held the top spot going in the last five years.

Six players have accomplished the Indian Wells-Miami title sweep in the same year since 1991 when Jim Courier pulled it off. Federer is the only active player to win both titles in the same year, as he did it back-to-back in 2005-06.

Defending champion Nikolay Davydenko withdrew with a foot injury but there are three former winners in the field -- Novak Djokovic (2007), Federer (2005-06) and Andy Roddick (2004).

The Miami champion has been ranked in the Top 10 every year since 1992 with Courier the last winner outside the Top 10 at No. 18 in 1991.

In the first quarter of the draw, Nadal, who owns a 14-5 lifetime record in Miami, opens against Simone Bolelli or Teimuraz Gabashvili. The first seed Nadal could face is No. 26 Ivo Karlovic in the third round but the Croat is 0-5 lifetime in Miami. In the fourth round, the Spaniard could meet No. 16 Stanislas Wawrinka or No. 20 Igor Andreev. He is 7-1 lifetime combined against both players. In the quarter-finals, Nadal could face No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 11 David Ferrer, No. 17 Marin Cilic or No. 30 Jurgen Melzer. Ferrer could play Cilic in the third round. The only player who has beaten Nadal is Ferrer, winning the last two hard-court meetings although he's 3-6 lifetime against his countryman. Ferrer is a two-time semi-finalist (2005-06) in Miami.

In the second quarter of the draw, No. 4 Andy Murray, who is coming off a runner-up effort in Indian Wells, takes on Marc Gicquel or Juan Monaco in his first match. Murray, a semi-finalist two years ago, could meet No. 27 Mardy Fish in the third round (Murray leads 2-1). In the fourth round, Murray could take on No. 14 David Nalbandian, a semifinalist in 2006, or No. 24 Richard Gasquet. Murray has a losing record against both players -- Nalbandian (0-2) and Gasquet (1-2). Murray's possible quarter-final opponents include No. 8 Fernando Verdasco, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez, a semi-finalist in 2004, No. 18 Radek Stepanek or No. 32 Feliciano Lopez. Gonzalez and Stepanek could meet in the third round (Stepanek leads 2-1) while Madrid natives Verdasco and Lopez could also square off in the third round (tied 2-2).

In the bottom half of the draw (third quarter), No. 3 and 2007 champion Novak Djokovic plays the winner of a qualifier and Philipp Kohlschreiber in his opening round match. The first seed Djokovic could meet is No. 31 Paul-Henri Mathieu in the third round (Djokovic leads 3-1). But Mathieu will first have his hands full with the winner of Ernests Gulbis and Marcos Baghdatis (Baghdatis leads 3-0). In the fourth round, Djokovic could play No. 13 James Blake or No. 21 Tomas Berdych, who reached the semi-finals last year. Djokovic is 1-0 against both players. In the quarter-finals, Murray could meet No. 7 Gilles Simon, No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 23 Robin Soderling or No. 29 Rainer Schuettler. Djokovic is 7-1 against Simon, Soderling and Schuettler combined but is 1-4 against Tsonga. Simon, who is 1-3 in Miami, could meet wild card and former ATP World Tour Champion Lleyton Hewitt (vs. qualifier) in his opening round match. Hewitt, a three-time semi-finalist (2000-02) in Miami, is looking to break an 11-match losing streak against Top 10 opponents.

In the final quarter, No. 2 Federer is not the top seed for the first time since 2003. The two-time champion (2005-06) has a 30-8 record in Miami and he plays his first match against a qualifier or Michael Llodra. Federer, who is looking to capture his first ATP World Tour title of the season, could face No. 28 Nicolas Kiefer or Fabrice Santoro in the third round. Santoro, the oldest player in the draw at 36, is 6-2 against Kiefer. Federer is 11-3 lifetime against Kiefer, winning the past 10 meetings, and 9-2 against Santoro, winning the past eight encounters. Federer's possible fourth round opponents include Spaniards No. 15 Tommy Robredo or No. 19 Nicolas Almagro. Federer is a combined 13-0 against both players. In the quarter-finals Federer could face No. 5 Andy Roddick in Miami for the second straight year, No. 9 Gael Monfils, or Russians No. 22 Marat Safin or Dmitry Tursunov. Federer is 33-4 lifetime against the foursome. Roddick, who has won the most matches (23) on the ATP World Tour this season, could play Tursunov in the third round (Roddick leads 3-1). Roddick has a 22-8 record in Miami and he's reached the quarter-finals or better in four of the past five years (except '05). Last year he beat Federer in the quarter-finals before losing to eventual champion Davydenko in the next round. Monfils is 2-0 against Safin, a possible third round opponent. Safin could have a difficult opening round test with '06 Miami finalist Ivan Ljubicic (tied 2-2).

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_2773.ASP)

Tiger's return to Bay Hill recalls celebration

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The birdie putt to win at Bay Hill was vintage Tiger Woods.

Not so typical was the reaction.

He backpedaled as the ball rolled toward the hole, and when he saw it fall, Woods turned and slammed his cap to the ground. It gave him a one-shot victory over Bart Bryant, his fifth victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

``I saw the highlights that night, and I didn't know I went that crazy,'' Woods said Wednesday. ``But evidently, I did.''

Woods could use a few moments like that.

The Masters is three weeks away, and the status of Woods' game remains somewhat of a mystery. He has played only six competitive rounds at two tournaments since reconstructive knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open last June.

Woods was reminded of how long he has been away when he arrived early Wednesday for his pro-am round. It was his first time playing a pro-am since Bay Hill last year. The Masters, U.S. Open and two World Golf Championships - the only tournaments he has played since last year - don't have them.

He was surprised how quickly his game has returned, even if the results aren't evident. He lost in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship and tied for ninth two weeks ago in the CA Championship at Doral.

``I think it's taken less time to get my feel back for my game,'' Woods said. ``I thought it would take a little bit longer. The question mark to me was how many rounds could I play? How much golf could I play? That's probably been the greatest positive is I've been able to recover from day-to-day and not feel a thing.''

The negative - especially at Doral - has been the putting.

Woods ranked 74th out of the 79 players who finished at Doral in putts per round. Then he played in the Tavistock Cup, an exhibition at Lake Nona, and didn't make much there, either.

What's peculiar about his victory last year was that the hat-slamming celebration had more to do with a full swing.

Woods still remembers every detail about the 18th hole, playing in the final group with Bryant already in at 9-under 271. The wind was helping from the left when he hit his tee shot, and with a hole location back and to the right, it's a fairly simple shot.

``When we were walking up the hill, it totally switched. It came in off the right,'' Woods said.

If he got his shot up in the air, the wind could drop it into the water. If he tried to ride the wind, the ball could land in the back bunker. So he settled on a shot that separates him from the rest of the field - a 5-iron from 161 yards to 25 feet.

``I just chipped a little 5-iron in there, and it felt sweet to hit that little shot, just a little bit left of the hole, right around one of the signs that we had picked out (as a target). And I left myself a putt at it.''

Would he have slammed his hat if the shot had required a simple 8-iron?

``No,'' Woods said with a smile.

In his mind, great shots don't count if he doesn't make the putt. Call it a ``Corey Pavin'' moment, a reference to Pavin hitting 4-wood to about 5 feet on the 18th hole at Shinnecock Hills, only to miss the putt (but he still won the 1995 U.S. Open).

The happiest Woods has ever been in the second round of a major was at Hazeltine in the 2002 PGA Championship when he hit a stunning bunker shot with a 3-iron, over a tree into a 25 mph gust to 12 feet. Yes, he made the putt.

Will he make any at Bay Hill?

``I wasn't that far off,'' Woods said of Doral. ``I hit the lip 20 times for birdie on the first three days, and that's a lot. Some of those fall in, you get a little bit of momentum. I didn't get any of that.''

He is the defending champion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but not necessarily the favorite, despite winning five times.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1887693,00.html)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gunter confident of Spurs future

Chris Gunter has been assured he has a big future at Tottenham Hotspur.

The 19-year-old was farmed out to Championship club Nottingham Forest by Harry Redknapp after the Spurs manager opted for experience as they hauled themselves away from the relegation zone.

Two matches on loan at Forest is the only senior action he has had in weeks, but the Cardiff-born youngster is certain to be plunged into both of Wales' World Cup qualifiers against Finland and Germany at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday and then 1st April, respectively.

And Gunter is confident he will be able to resurrect his White Hart Lane career next season.

He said: "I did get frustrated. But there are times I have been sitting on the bench at Spurs and looking around at players who have played 200 plus games in the Premier League. And they are not happy either.

"I just took a step back and realised the benefits of what I could do on loan somewhere.

"I have been told I will be part of what is happening at Spurs in the future.

"The manager has shown at previous jobs that he gives youngsters a chance. But maybe he thought that it wasn't the time to use young players, considering the position Spurs found themselves in."

Gunter, a £3m signing from Cardiff just over a year ago, added: "I have been happy with the chance to play regular football at Forest.

"Being match fit for Wales was in my mind, but generally I just wanted a chance to play regularly.

not good

"I had these two big Wales games at the back of my mind. But people forget that even when you are not playing in the first team, you are working with them all week and that can only add to your experience.

"My general fitness has been fine, and although I have not played too much in recent weeks I am really looking forward to these two World Cup games."

He continued: "I am realistic that as a 19-year-old, if you are at a club that have been struggling in the wrong half of the table, then it is possible that the manager will start to go for experience rather than youth.

"I realise how big a club Spurs are, and for them to be in a relegation battle was not good enough.

"My career has not ended because I have been loaned out to Forest, it is all part of my education and will make me stronger and better for the experience.

"The manager just told me to go out on loan and play some games, it happened to a couple of other youngsters at Spurs at the same time.

"There are not too many lads of 19 playing every week in the Premier League at the moment, so there is always a chance that you will be sent out on loan to learn.

"You just have to look at the bigger picture. I am at a great club at Spurs and I needed matches. It is as simple as that.

"A 19-year-old in Liverpool or Manchester United's reserves would go out on loan and nobody would question it.

"Everything you do gains you experience on and off the pitch. Moving away on loan to Forest or anywhere will develop you as a person."

(From Website : http://www.premierleague.com/page/Headlines/0,,12306~1601881,00.html)

Toe blow for Chelsea forward Anelka

Chelsea FC could take on Liverpool FC in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League without leading scorer Nicolas Anelka as the striker has a toe injury which is expected to keep him out for three weeks.

World Cup
The 30-year-old played the whole game as Chelsea lost 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur FC on Saturday. He now faces a spell on the sidelines, though, according to the French Football Federation who replaced Anelka with Paris Saint-Germain FC forward Guillaume Hoarau ahead of Les Bleus' FIFA World Cup qualifying double-header against Lithuania on Saturday and 1 April.

Anfield first
France coach Raymond Domenech said of Anelka, the scorer of 15 Premier League goals this term: "He is suffering from a left big toe injury and is out of action for three weeks." Chelsea face Liverpool away on 8 April, six days before the quarter-final concludes at Stamford Bridge. The winners of the all-English tie will meet either FC Barcelona or FC Bayern München for a place in the Rome final.

(From Website : http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/news/kind=1/newsid=813125.html)

Barça concern over Iniesta and Touré

Andrés Iniesta and Yaya Touré both face a race to be fit for the first leg of FC Barcelona's UEFA Champions League quarter-final against FC Bayern München after the midfield pair picked up identical injuries during Sunday’s 6-0 Liga home win over Málaga CF.

Concerns
Touré, 25, was replaced in the 25th minute after failing to recover from a challenge with opposition full-back Nacho and was later diagnosed with a small tear to his right adductor muscle. The 24-year-old Iniesta, who has been restricted to 19 Liga appearances this season because of injury problems, lasted an hour before being forced off with the same complaint. Both players have been given an estimated recovery time of 15 days.

Bayern encounter
To make matters worse, Xavi Hernández also hurt his achilles though he remains in the Spain squad for their FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Turkey. Josep Guardiola's side welcome Bayern on 8 April with the return leg in Munich taking place six days later.

(From Website : http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/news/kind=1/newsid=812962.html)

Arsenal-shy Henry counts Barça's blessings

Thierry Henry is glad the UEFA Champions League draw did not pair FC Barcelona with his old side, Arsenal FC, but expects a tough test nonetheless against an FC Bayern München team who "have so many players who can score goals".

Arsenal avoided
The 31-year-old forward, who left north London for Camp Nou in 2007, is relieved to have been spared a game against his former colleagues, though the two clubs could yet meet in the final at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on 27 May. "I'm happy we avoided Arsenal as I didn't want to face them," said Henry, France's all-time leading goalscorer with 48 strikes.

Fearsome scoreline
However, having noted Bayern's 12-1 aggregate victory over Sporting Clube de Portugal in the first knockout round, Henry is in no doubt that the German champions are dangerous opponents. "It's going to be a difficult tie," he said. "They have so many players who can score goals. They beat Sporting in the last round by a hatful, although we also know we'll have chances against them.

'Bayern's Lionel Messi'
"They have so many players who can make a difference in a game, however – Luca Toni or Bastian Schweinsteiger for example," he continued, adding of his international team-mate: "Franck Ribéry is Bayern's Lionel Messi. When there seems to be no space to move, Franck can still do things. With his talent he can hurt Barça, Real Madrid, Manchester United or any team you care to mention."

Mixed blessing
The Blaugrana have the additional pressure of playing the return match away from home, yet Henry is sanguine about that prospect. "It works both ways," he explained. "If we perform well at Camp Nou, we go there in a calmer frame of mind. It's hard to predict." The first leg at Camp Nou is scheduled for 8 April, with the decider taking place at the Fußball Arena München six days later.

(From Website : http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/news/kind=1/newsid=812322.html)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Goosen wins the Transitions Championship

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — The greens were so crusty, firm and scary fast that Retief Goosen felt as though he was back at Shinnecock Hills, where his putting carried him to victory in the U.S. Open.

Needing only two putts from 25 feet to win Sunday, he was thankful it didn't turn out like Southern Hills.

Goosen ran his putt 5 feet past the hole, steadied his nerves and curled in the par putt for a one-shot victory at the Transitions Championship, his first victory on the PGA Tour in nearly four years.

``It was great to see that putt go in,'' Goosen said. ``The greens got scary. Down those last few holes, they were definitely getting like Shinnecock was. You just cannot hit them soft enough. It was really tough.''

Goosen closed with 1-under 70 to avoid a playoff with Brett Quigley and Charles Howell III, an Augusta, Ga., native who can only return to the Masters with a victory.

Both had a birdie putt in the groups ahead of Goosen to catch him. Both ran it well past the hole and made it coming back.

``You're in the back of the tub trying to stop it short of the drain,'' Quigley said describing the putt they all had.

Equally famous in Goosen's career was a three-putt bogey from 12 feet on the final hole at Southern Hills, which nearly cost him the 2001 U.S. Open until he won it the next day in an 18-hole playoff.

``It was disappointing to hit it that far past. I didn't want to have another U.S. Open there,'' Goosen said. ``I felt good with my putting, and there wasn't too much indecision with the one coming back. It was nice to see it go in.''

Howell was tied for the lead with four holes to play, but made two straight bogeys and shot a 69 for his best finish since he won at Riviera two years ago. He will have to win at Bay Hill or the Shell Houston Open to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 2002.

``If Retief's 5-footer lipped out, I wouldn't have cried,'' Howell said. ``That golf tournament means more to me than anything.''

Quigley, now 0-for-342 in his 13 years on the PGA Tour, was bogey-free on the back nine and shot 68 for his second runner-up finish in as many weeks.

Former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, trying to become the seventh player in his 50s to win on the PGA Tour, did not make a birdie until a long putt on the 17th hole, and he shot a 75 to tie for eighth.

Goosen won twice in the fall in South Africa and Asia, but this was his first PGA Tour victory since he won the now-defunct International in August 2005.

``Eventually, you wonder if you can still do it,'' Goosen said.

He did it the way he usually does - with a pure putter on the toughest greens.

One of the biggest came early in his round, when he holed a 15-foot par putt that kept him from sliding out of contention. He chipped in from behind the ninth green to get back in the mix, then took the outright lead with an 18-foot eagle putt at No. 11.

What won him the tournament, though, was a series of nervy par putts along the back nine that kept him in front, and a splendid chip from behind the 17th green to save par and give him a cushion going to the last hole.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1887052,00.html)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Benitez: No slip ups allowed

Rafael Benitez knows Liverpool must maintain momentum if they are going to beat Manchester United to the league title.

Benitez witnessed the 5-0 demolition of 10-man Aston Villa at Anfield on Sunday that sees the Reds close to within one point of the champions, who have a match in hand.

Steven Gerrard scored a dead-ball hat-trick while Albert Riera and Dirk Kuyt added the others as Liverpool made it three stunning wins in 12 days having beaten Manchester United and Real Madrid 4-1 and 4-0 respectively.

Liverpool are putting intense pressure now on United, who have lost their last two Barclays Premier League matches and had three players sent off in those matches with Liverpool and Fulham.

international break

Benitez said: "As far as the title chase is concerned, we just have to keep doing our job, we must not be concerned about United's results and how they are playing.

"If United do make mistakes, we must be ready, and that means carrying on doing what we are doing and winning points.

"We are playing well and they will see that we are playing well and trying to win every game. We have eight games left and every one must be won and be treated as a cup final.

"Certainly we must maintain this momentum and, when we are playing well, it just increases confidence.

"We now have an international break so the players must come back from that, re-group and start playing again just as we are at the moment."

shocking mistake

For Villa manager Martin O'Neill there was the reality check that his side are not yet good enough to battle it out with the big boys, and they are left three points behind Arsenal in the scrap for the fourth Champions League spot.

O'Neill said: "My players have to learn from this. It is something that the youngsters in my side have to experience.

"We do not have enough strength in depth, certainly not a big enough squad. They big boys have been down this road before, they have the squads and they know how to handle a run-in.

"We have to play at a consistent level. We cannot just do it one game in four, it has to be all the time."

O'Neill conceded his side were over-powered, saying: "We were well beaten by an exceptional Liverpool side.

"But we did contribute to our own downfall. At 1-0 down we gave away an unbelievably bad goal, it was a shocking mistake.

"Liverpool have had two remarkable results before this game, beating Real Madrid and Manchester United, and they certainly did not need any help from us to achieve what they wanted.

"We played poorly. We gave away some lousy goals and we have to get back on track.

"We were doing fine four or five weeks ago but we were well beaten by a better side. But we are a better side than we showed in this game."

(From Website :