Monthly Archives: November 2016

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.

Belgium hits eight as Hazard gives injury scare

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Belgium thrashed Estonia 8-1 to extend their lead at the top of Group H in their World Cup qualifier in Brussels even as Eden Hazard gave an injury scare.

The Red Devils have won their first three qualification games under Roberto Martinez and they impressed once more – with Thomas Meunier heading the hosts ahead early on before Dries Mertens and team captain Eden Hazard struck.

Henri Anier pulled one back for Estonia to give them hope heading into the second half but Belgium ramped things up and ran roughshod over the visitors’ defence. Yannick Carrasco converted Romelu Lukaku’s cross before Liverpool’s Ragnar Klavan scored an unfortunate own-goal.

Mertens added his second of the game before Lukaku added the seventh and eighth with clinical finishes late on.

However, Belgium had to replace Hazard 73 minutes in after the Chelsea player picked up a knock and signalling to the bench he was unable to continue. While it was unclear how bad the injury was, it will be a further blow to Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, as Blues star striker Diego Costa also struggles for fitness.

Still, the win means that Belgium are now clear at the top of Group H, with Greece in second spot after Giorgos Tzavellas’ stoppage-time equaliser at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The match in Athens saw both sides finish with 10 men, after both Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Edin Dzeko dismissed after a clash with 10 minutes remaining.

Bosnia-Herzegovina looked set to win with Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis’ first-half own-goal when Miralem Pjanic’s free-kick hit a post, hit him and went in, but Tzavellas lashed home from outside the area with seconds left on the clock to deny the visitors.

The draw meant that third-place Bosnia-Herzegovina, who could have been level on points with Greece with a win, has to settle for third place.

Depay insists United focus amidst Everton interest

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Manchester United star Memphis Depay has insisted that his focus would be to remain at Manchester United despite clear interest from Everton, United’s Premier League rivals.

Depay, 22, joined United from PSV Eindhoven in June 2015, but has struggled to live up to the high expectations at Old Trafford. The Dutch international has made just seven appearances in all competitions this term, six of those coming off the bench and totals to just about 20 minutes.

Recent reports suggested Everton were keeping a close eye on Depay’s situation and Koeman has now confirmed he would welcome the attacker with open arms.

“I would love to have him in my team at Everton,” Koeman told Fox Sports. “He is a very interesting player in my opinion. He has a lot of individual quality, is always dangerous going forward and is pretty efficient as well.”

“He just needs to get regular playing time again. I already wanted him at Southampton in 2015, but he picked Manchester United at the time, which was a logical choice.”

While Depay himself did not rule out a move, he has insisted he remains focused on his career at Manchester United.

Speaking to reporters after the Netherlands’ 3-1 World Cup qualifier victory over Luxembourg – in which he scored twice and won the match – the winger said he was concentrating on his football at Man United.

“I do not know, we’ll have to see,” he said. “I focus on United, I do my very best to be able to get minutes.”

“I’m going back to United with a good feeling, because I have got minutes here and we won. That is the most important thing.”

England releases Kane as Southgate job decision awaits

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England interim coach Gareth Southgate has released Harry Kane from international duty just as the interim manager awaits news on whether the Football Association will appoint him as permanent England manager.

Kane, 23, was an unused substitute during England’s 3-0 victory against Scotland in their World Cup qualifier match.

“The sessions we’re going to do aren’t what Harry needs at this time,” said interim Southgate.

“It was never really my intention to start him in a game and I think it’s important that he gets a different training programme to what we’re going to follow over the next couple of days.”

Southgate also did not call up any forward replacement for Kane even as his last match as interim manager looms.

England will play against Spain in a friendly match in Wembley on Tuesday, after of which a FA committee will then make a decision on who will be given the permanent job – with former England Under-21 boss Southgate the heavy favourite.

“It will be important for me to know what I’m doing after the middle of November,” he said. “We’ve got a European Under-21 Championship to prepare for and the seniors have got their next round of qualifiers [in March].”

“Of course everybody is going to want to know, I guess, by the end of November, middle of December, where everything is heading so we can decide who is responsible for which parts of the organisation’s work.”

Southgate, a former England international, was effectively handed a four-game trial period by the FA after the abrupt end to Sam Allardyce’s 67-day spell in charge in September.

He has led the national team to seven points from a possible nine in World Cup qualifying – the Three Lions now leads Group F by two points following their win over Scotland.