Daily Archives: November 16, 2016

Messi helps Argentina leapfrog Colombia in CONMEBOL

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Lionel Messi helped Argentina put last week’s loss to Brazil behind them with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Colombia in their World Cup qualifier match.

The Ballon D’Or winner set the tone for the game with a free kick, curled home magisterially off the bar. He then went on to assist with two more goals were laid sumptuously on a plate for his teammates. With a delightful cross, the Barca star took centre-back Davison Sanchez out of the game and gave Lucas Pratto the chance to head home La Albiceleste’s second.

And towards the end of the match, Messi robbed Jeison Murillo with a burst of acceleration and crossed for Angel Di Maria to complete the scoreline.

The victory was one of great importance against a dangerous opponent, who previously was above them by two points in the CONMEBOL table, and also lifting Messi’s team, recovering from two successive defeats, into fifth.

It was a necessary one as well, especially given that rivals Ecuador and Chile, both ahead of Argentina, won their respective matches. Defeat would have left the Argentines worryingly off pace, but victory meant that they are now just one point behind both rivals.

Meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez led Chile to a crucial 3-1 home victory over Uruguay on his return from a hamstring injury suffered while on international duty.

Playing with his thigh heavily strapped, the Arsenal striker scored twice in the space of 16 second-half minutes before being taken off to a standing ovation on 84 minutes.

Edinson Cavani had put Uruguay in front after 14 minutes before the hosts hit back just before the half-time break through Eduardo Vargas’ header.

Sanchez then scored for the Copa America champions from the edge of the box on the hour mark before adding a second soon after – his 36th international goal – to leave him just one shy of Marcelo Salas’ all-time record for Chile.

Uruguay had a chance to pull one back and set up a grandstand finish, but Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo foiled Luis Suarez from the spot late on.

Spain’s late brace earns draw against England

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Spain scored twice in the closing moments to snatch a draw in the Wembley friendly.

England had taken control early through Adam Lallana’s early penalty, awarded when Spain keeper Pepe Reina hauled down Jamie Vardy just after eight minutes.

The Leicester City striker then followed up with a fine diving header from Jordan Henderson’s cross just after the break, giving England a solid lead

However, former Liverpool striker Iago Aspas’ superb curling finish in the 90th minute lit up Spanish hopes – and England allowed them to complete the comeback as Isco smuggled home a far-post finish between England substitute keeper Tom Heaton’s legs in the fifth and final minute of injury time.

Spain’s list of injured included, among others, Diego Costa, Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos. Additionally, their No.1 David de Gea had been given the night off, and despite missing what amounts to the spine of their team Spain somehow made it work.

In fact, La Roja’s comeback was so late large parts of the crowd had already headed into the night, satisfied with what they had seen and unaware of the drama that was to follow.

The match would also end Gareth Southgate’s four-game tenure as England manager on a less than pleasing note. It was not the finish he would have expected – or wanted – after Spain’s late show, even as he asserts that he could handle the “big occasions”.

Djokovic defeats Raonic to enter ATP World Tour semi-finals

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Novak Djokovic confirmed his place in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals after narrowly edging out Milos Raonic 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5).

The subject of much speculation during a relative slump in form since June, Djokovic produced a more convincing and formidable presence at the O2 Arena.

And despite a fine performance from Raonic, the defending champion made it 21 wins from his last 22 matches as he looks to regain his World No1 position on ATP rankings.

“Other than a couple of loose service games, I thought it was a good performance,” said Djokovic after the game. “This definitely can serve as a great wind in the back for the matches to come.”

Raonic had lost all seven of their previous matches, and won just one of 18 sets, but managed 42 winners to 11 as he made the running for much of the two hours and 14 minutes.

Djokovic served well to save three break points in the first set and edged through a gripping tie-break when Raonic double-faulted.

The Canadian fell behind early in the second but twice recovered breaks of serve, and while the 17,000 spectators roared with every punch and counter-punch, Djokovic began to leak errors.

Raonic had a chance to level the set but snatched at a forehand, and Djokovic came through a second tight tie-break to clinch victory.

“It’s just hanging in there mentally, staying strong and believing that the opportunities will arise,” said Djokovic.

“When they do you have to capitalise. I think one or two points separated us today. It could have gone either way, this match.”

The five-time champion will also the first to go through to the last four of the tournament, as Raonic goes on to face Dominic Thiem for the other semi-final place on Thursday.