Daily Archives: September 7, 2016

Kosovo draws with Finland in international competitive debut

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Valon Berisha, given permission to play only a few hours before kick-off, scored Kosovo’s first goal in a competitive international match to earn them a memorable 1-1 draw against Finland.

Finland, who themselves have never qualified for the World Cup, had taken an 18th-minute lead in the UEFA World Cup qualifier match. Kosovo failed to clear a corner, allowing opposition defender Paulus Arajuuri to hammer the ball into the roof of the net.

But Berisha’s penalty right on the 60th minute mark after a foul by Thomas Lam on Bernard Berisha sparked delirious celebrations among his team mates and officials.

Kosovo slowly grew into the game after their equalizer but failed to find a winning strike.

Red Bull Salzburg’s Berisha has previously played competitive matches for Norway, and was amongst six other players who were allowed to switch nationalities to Kosovo by FIFA.

Kosovo declared of independence from Serbia back in 2008, and became a formal member of FIFA in May this year despite protests from Serbia.

The move has encouraged Kosovan players who have played for other nations, such as Switzerland and Germany, to change teams.

FIFA does not usually allow players to change national teams once they have played for another country in a competitive international match, but has now made an exception for their new member.

Djokovic heads into US Open semi-finals as Tsonga retires

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Novak Djokovic eases into the semi-finals of the US Open after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became his third opponent who was unable to complete a match.

Djokovic was leading, 6-3, 6-2, when Tsonga retired.

The Serb has been struggling with wrist and arm injuries, and benefited from a walkover and an early retirement from two opponents in New York, but there were few signs of vulnerability against Tsonga.

The Serb had won 13 of their last 14 matches, stretching back five years.

Tsonga had fleeting chances in the first set, missing a backhand on break point in game five and clinching a break when Djokovic snatched at a volley in game seven.

But with three double faults and an awkward backhand the Frenchman looked feeble in his serve, going three breaks in a row and fell 5-3 behind.

The Frenchman then committed 19 unforced errors and failed to win a point on his second serve, as a calmed Djokovic took the opening set in 35 minutes. Tsonga’s predicament then took a turn for the worse when he requested medical attention to his left knee after falling a double break down in the second set.

Djokovic sealed the second set with an ace and with Tsonga unable to push up when serving, the ninth seed approached the net and held out his hand to bring an end to the action after just 81 minutes.

This meant that Djokovic is into the semis after having completed just two out of five matches in New York, benefiting from a walkover and two retirements. He will be up against another Frenchman in the last four, after Gael Monfils won against fellow compatriot Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Spain cruises to eight goal victory against Liechtenstein

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Spain routed Liechtenstein in their first World Cup qualifying match, securing a resounding 8-0 victory in Leon.

Liechtenstein looked determined to keep La Roja out in the first half, before eventually crumbling and allowing the Spaniards to run rampant in the second.

Diego Costa, David Silva and Alvaro Morata all bagged braces while Sergi Roberto and Vitolo also got on the scoresheet in the Group G opener.

Julen Loptegui’s men started well, with Diego Costa heading in a curled Koke free-kick from six-yards.

However, lacking the cutting edge, they were unable to finish the job, with Koke himself scuffing a shot. Vitolo, positioned perfectly to nod in the rebound, failed to make meaningful contact. Sergio Brusquets, who was on the follow-up, shot against Vitolo in the ensuing goalmouth scramble.

Spain’s second goal finally arrived after 54 minutes as Nolito turned and slipped in Roberto with a clever pass and the latter’s first-time toe poke beat keeper Peter Jehle.

Seemingly dazed by the goal, the Liechtenstein defense fell apart and conceded three more in little more than 10 minutes.

Vitolo ran behind the defense and set up Silva who hammered in off the bar from three yard. Nolito then clipped a ball into the box and a quick exchange of passes between Costa and Silva set up a simple finish for Vitolo.

Costa then headed in the fifth, after being initially denied by Jehle. The keeper could not keep the second attempt out. The Chelsea man was then replaced by Alvaro Morata, who quickly joined in on the scoresheet.

The Real Madrid striker scored his first with a shot that beat Jehle just inside his left-hand post after taking a slight deflection. The keeper was then left emabarassed after a simple sidefoot from Morata from the edge of the box squirmed through his grasp and over the line.

Silva then completed the rout with a fine finish in injury time.