Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema heroics in the ongoing season of La Liga and UEFA Champions League has impressed many around the footballing fraternity.
Benzema who has recently equalled the record of Cristiano Ronaldo for the most knockout goals in a single Champions League campaign recieved praise from Fernando Hierro as the La Liga ambassador said the Frenchman is worthy of Ballon d’Or. The Frenchman achieved the feat at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium against Manchester City, where his goal moved him level with Robert Lewandowski’s tally of 86 goals. The Madridista equals the Polish marksman as the third-highest goalscorer in European Cup history. Ahead of them on the list sit Cristiano Ronaldo (141) and Lionel Messi (125).
The goal helped him in equalling Ronaldo’s record for the most knockout goals in a single Champions League campaign. Benzema’s extra-time penalty winner against City on Wednesday was his 10th goal in the knockouts of UCl this season.
“Well, Karim Benzema is really an extraordinary player. When I was second coach to Ancelotti, I realized what an exceptional player he is and how is he very talented, how he connects with his mates and how he creates football. When Cristiano left, I think no one expected him to score as many goals as Cristiano,” said LaLiga ambassador Fernando Hierro in a statement.
“He has surprised everyone. Maybe when he was playing with Cristiano and Bale, he was not as ambitious in terms of goalscoring as Cristiano was, but I think he is just fantastic. I think he is worthy of Ballon d’Or because he has really taken a step forward and is performing amazingly,” he added.
Benzema has recorded his best personal tally this season, with 15 goals. Five came in the Group Stage, while the remaining ten have arrived in an incredible knock-out phase run which has seen him score in five successive games against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Benzema has found the back of the net in the Champions League for 17 consecutive seasons. His first came back in 2005/06 against Rosenborg while playing for Olympique Lyon, where he scored a total of 12 times. The other 74 goals have come in a Real Madrid jersey.
He opened his European account for the team with a strike against Milan on November 3, 2009. His favourite opposition in the competition are Galatasaray, PSG and Chelsea, hitting five goals against all of them.
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FRENCH OPEN: ALCARAZ GOES PAST LONDERO, ZVEREV STORMS INTO R2
Spanish teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday kicked off his French Open campaign with a win as he trounced Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 on his Court Philippe Chatrier debut.
The teenager has taken the tennis world by storm this season with four titles, becoming the only player to defeat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic back-to-back in Madrid. German third seed Alexander Zverev started his French Open campaign on Sunday with a clinical performance in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 win against Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner.
Tallon Griekspoor also reached the second round on his Paris debut, upsetting 25th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 2-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-3.
No.4 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece started her French Open 2022 campaign on Sunday with a win over Clara Burel in their first-round match on Court Philippe Chatrier. It took Sakkari one hour and 28 minutes to defeat Burel 6-2, 6-3. Sakkari fired 24 winning points, nearly double her French opponent’s 13 whom she also broke five times.
The victory marks Sakkari’s 20th match-win of the season so far. She will next face Czech Karolina Muchova in the second round on Wednesday.
On the same day, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic dominantly advanced into the second round with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Reka Luca Jani of Hungary.
Leylah Fernandez was next seen in action. She won her first-round match overcoming France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-0, 7-5 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Fernandez will face Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova in the second round, in their first meeting.
WANTED TO FINISH ON GOOD NOTE: PBKS’ HARPREET BRAR AFTER WIN OVER SRH
Punjab Kings’ all-rounder Harpreet Brar, whose three-wicket haul helped his team in defeating Sunrisers Hyderabad by five wickets, expressed that he was looking forward to ending the season of IPL 2022 on a good note.
Blistering performance of 49* runs by Liam Livingstone and a quick 19 by Jitesh Sharma helped Punjab Kings to register a five wickets victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the last league match of IPL 2022 here at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. “When we came here, we thought it was a good pitch for the spinners. I have conceded runs and so have the other spinners in the tournament, so I wanted to finish on a good note today. I just tried to bowl in the right areas and I wanted to keep calm under pressure,” said Harpreet in a post-match presentation.
“I tried to work on my skills as much as possible. Felt good after getting his (Markram’s) wicket. I got some turn and bounce on that ball, pleased that he got stumped,” he added. The all-rounder further praised his teammate Arshdeep Singh, who got his maiden Team India call-up for the upcoming T20I series against South Africa.
“I am happy for Arshdeep, now that he will play for India. That is what every player dreams of, playing for their country one day. I need to improve on few areas before the next season. I have been away from home since 3-4 months, so I want to spend some time with my family,” said Harpreet.
Coming to the match, Livingstone’s unbeaten knock of 49 runs helped PBKS in chasing the target of 158 in just 15.1 overs with five wickets in hand. Apart from him, Shikhar Dhawan and Jitesh Sharma score 39 and 19 respectively.
Earlier, Harpreet Brar and Nathan Ellis achieved their respective three-wicket hauls and restricted SRH at 157/8.
For SRH, Fazalhaq Farooqi bagged two wickets, while Jagadeesha Suchith and Washington Sundar settled for one wicket each. With this win, PBKS ended their IPL 2022 campaign with a total of 14 points while SRH finished with 12 points.
‘NICE TO PROVE A FEW PEOPLE WRONG’, RECKONS
After ending his IPL 2022 on a high note, Punjab Kings all-rounder Liam Livingstone expressed happiness about proving those people wrong who had criticised him after last year’s edition.
A blistering performance of 49* runs by Liam Livingstone and a quick 19 by Jitesh Sharma helped PBKS to register a five wickets victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the last league match of IPL 2022 here at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. In IPL 2021, Livingstone was a part of Rajasthan Royals but he played only 5 matches, where he scored 70 runs, with an average of 23.33. “Obviously nice to prove a few people wrong. I had a few comments after last year’s IPL. I’m still learning, still developing and hopefully playing in all these different tournaments around the world, It’s all about gaining that experience and try to become a better player,” said Livingstone in a post-match presentation.
“I will go back to England now and try and use what I’ve learnt this tournament in the next tournament. I love bowling, it is not the easiest thing, it does not come naturally to me, I would’ve probably liked to have bowl more through the tournament,” he added.
Regarding the clash against SRH, the all-rounder said that the team found the right balance between attacking and being smart. “It was nice. I felt like I have been hitting the ball well all tournament, but got out in stupid ways at times too early, but it’s the way I have played, I have tried to play and it’s the way we have tried to play. The way we played today was perfect, we got the balance right between attacking and being smart,” said the all-rounder.
“It has been a long old two-and-a-half months, nice to get out of here, to be honest. I’m a big believer in matchups, I knew today my two matchups were Umran and Washi, I tried to wait for them, they did not come back because they obviously knew that I was their matchup,’ he added.
Malaysia and Korea post big wins on opening day of Asia Cup 2022
With World Cup ticket at stake, Malaysia and Korea made a winning start to their campaign here on the opening day of the Asia Cup at the GBK Arena, Jakarta on Monday.
Riding on a hat-trick of goals by penalty corner specialist Razie Rahim in the 6th, 13th and 19th minute, Malaysia posted a strong 7-0 win in their first pool B match. The early 3-0 lead, put them in advantage. Experienced striker Faizal Saari then pushed the lead to 4-0 with a fine goal in the 23rd minute to end the first half with a formidable total on board. The ten-minute break gave the Malaysian side time to improvise their strategy as they came back stronger in the latter half of the match with better communication and structure to their play. They gave little room for Oman to create scoring opportunities, and their defence did well to stop Oman from converting the few PCs they were awarded. “I was happy with the way the team closed down the game in the first two quarters and that made it easier for the team to finish off the last two quarters,” expressed Head Coach Arul Anthoni.
Regular goals by Shahril Saabah in the 34th minute, Faiz Jali in the 40th and Ashran Hamsani in the 48th minute ensured Malaysia ended up with the winning points. “We spent a month in Europe before coming here and that really helped in the team bonding. The mentality of wanting to win in every match is very important particularly after 3 years of not being able to play hockey. From here on, we want to take one-match-at-a-time. Our first target is to finish top 2 in the pool stage,” Anthoni added after the match.
In the second match of the day, Asian Champions Trophy title holders Korea beat Bangladesh 6-1 in their pool B match. Despite the humid conditions here, the team lived up to the billing and delivered a strong performance. They overcame a sloppy start, having conceded an early goal to Bangladesh in the 6th minute through a penalty corner by Khorshadur Rahman, and ensured they converted from the penalty corners they created.
As many as four goals came from PC specialists Taeil Hwang (13’), Jonghyun Jang (18’, 52’) and Jihun Yang (45’) while Hwang also added a field goal to his name in the 22nd minute and Namyong too scored a goal in the 32nd minute.
“The last time we played in the World Cup was 14 years ago. After winning the Asian Champions trophy in December, we kept a target of doing well here in Hero Asia Cup to qualify for the World Cup in Bhubaneswar. The team played to the plan and it was important to score a big win,” stated Korea Head Coach Shin Seok Kyo.
Rajasthan will take on Gujarat in Qualifier 1
As Rajasthan Royals enter the Play-offs of IPL 2022, the inaugural champions of the league, Rajasthan Royals, find themselves in a strong scenario, having finished second on the points table, behind new entrants Gujarat Titans, who they face in Qualifier-1 on Tuesday here at the Edens Gardens. One of the many factors which has pushed the Royals to the playoffs has been their decisiveness in crucial moments, where key players have put their hand up and delivered.
Yuzvendra Chahal, who produced one such moment during the team’s match against KKR, expressed his thoughts, “I think that match was really special for me because it (the hattrick) came at a very crucial moment and also happened to be the first-ever hattrick of my career. It was sweeter as it came during a pressure situation for us where they only needed 40 runs off four overs and Sanju gave me the ball and said, ‘it’s on you now, you can do it’. That actually gave me a lot of confidence and I was just thinking about getting wickets because that was the need of the hour for us. I think moments like these, where you lead your team to victory, are really special.”
On the other hand, Jos Buttler’s heroics with the bat have added a spring in the Royals’ step, with the Englishman having accumulated 629 runs at a strike rate of 147. “I’ve obviously been delighted with my form in the IPL, but a bit disappointed with the last few games. The first half (of the tournament) I was playing some of the best cricket I’ve ever played, and I’m still taking lots of confidence from that going into the playoffs.” stated Buttler ahead of Qualifier 1.
Experienced all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin, who has time and again impressed both with the bat and the ball, was asked to comment on how certain decisions like him retiring out impact a game. “It’s important to understand how it (a decision) is going to give us an edge in important moments. I think (retiring out) is part of the future of the game in T20 cricket, and I believe it’s there to stay. People are going to perceive it as risky because once you retire a batter out and things don’t go your way you might have to explain that. But if it’s executed well, then it can give you a competitive advantage.”
Having been RR’s most economical bowler this season, Ashwin also expressed his thoughts on the importance of economy when it comes to the net run rate scenarios. “I feel sometimes in cricket, we can just get caught in the whole ‘picking up wickets or making runs is great’ thinking, but somehow or the other, I keep reiterating that each role in the game is very, very important,” said Ashwin, who has scored 183 runs and picked up 11 wickets at an economy of 7.14 this season.
Skipper Sanju Samson is leading the franchise for a second full season, but says “not much has changed” in the way he leads. “I think I’ve actually developed and kept on learning as a batter and also as a captain. I’m really enjoying the responsibility of leading this team, especially with so many experienced players in our side. I think when you lead a side, it’s very important to have that kind of perspective where you allow people to come and talk to you in pressure situations and allow them to express their ideas,” stated the 27-year-old.
He added, “I do receive a lot of information, a lot of suggestions from Ash bhai, Yuzi or even Devdutt, when he’s in the slips, even though he’s one of the youngest members of the team. So, I’m really enjoying the unity and the willingness of everyone to contribute to the team, and I think it’s very important to listen to everyone. But I also know that the final call has to be from my side, and I have to take the ownership of each and every decision made by the team.”
Over the course of the season, players like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Riyan Parag and Kuldeep Sen have received a lot of backing, and Sanju has explained the thinking behind it. “I think to be very honest, I have also come through the same path with our franchise. I know how they might be feeling, so it’s very important for me as the captain to tell them what we expect out of them and tell them how good they are.”
Sanju added, “It’s very important to keep on reminding youngsters about how special they are and to make them realise that they are something special, that’s why they are finding a spot in such a strong team like ours. On top of that, I just make sure they have the freedom to go out there and express themselves.”
Your victories are inspiring generations in sports: PM Modi to Thomas Cup team
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with Thomas Cup team of the badminton champions, who shared their experiences of the tournament. The players talked about different aspects of their game, life beyond badminton and more.
The Prime Minister told the team that they will win many more medals in the course of time. They have to play a lot and bloom (khelna bhi hai khilna bhi hai) and have to take the country into the world of sports. “Now India can’t lag behind. Your victories are inspiring generations for sports”, the Prime Minister added. Kidambi Srikanth talked about the great feeling among the player about being recognized by the Prime Minister in a proud way. The Prime Minister asked the team captain about his leadership style and challenges.
The Prime Minister said, “On behalf of the entire country I congratulate you and your entire team as after decades, Indian flag has been firmly planted. This is not a small feat…Keeping the nerve and team together under tremendous pressure is something that I can understand very well. I congratulated you on phone but now I am feeling the joy of complimenting you in person”. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy conveyed the elation and tribulation of the last ten days. He recalled the memorable support that he got from the team and support staff. He said that the team is still re-living the moments of victory.
Chirag Shetty also narrated his journey of the tournament and recalled coming to PM residence with Olympic Contingent. The Prime Minister said that he noted the disappointment among a few players when some of them could not win a medal at the Olympics.
The Prime Minister inquired about the bout of food poisoning that Lakshya faced during the tournament. When asked about his advice for young children who are taking up the sport, Lakshya asked them to devote their full attention to training. The Prime Minister asked Lakshya to recall his strength and balance that he deployed when faced with the trauma of food poisoning and remember the lessons learnt for harnessing his strength and resolve.
HS Prannoy said that this is even a more proud moment as the team could win the prestigious tournament in the 75th year of India’s independence. He said that pressure was immense in the quarter final and semi-final and he was happy that that could be overcome due to the support of the team.
Prime Minister greeted the youngest of the lot, Unnati Hooda who complimented the Prime Minister for never discriminating between medallists and non-medallists. The Prime Minister told her that he firmly believes that Unnati will shine as her name indicates. He told her that she has a long way to go and she should never allow victories to make her feel complacent.
Treesa Jolly told about the excellent family support she received for her sporting quest. The Prime Minister said that the country is proud of the way that our women team played in the Uber Cup.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister said that this team has infused tremendous energy in the country by winning the Thomas cup. A long wait of seven decades finally came to an end. ‘Whosoever understands Badminton, must have dreamt about this, a dream that has been fulfilled by you’ “Such successes inject great energy and confidence in the entire sporting ecosystem of the country. Your victory has done something that cannot be accomplished by greatest of the coaches or the oratory of the leaders”, PM Modi said.
Referring to Uber Cup, the Prime Minister said while we wait for victory we will also make arrangements for that. He expressed the belief that the quality athletes of the present team will soon get better results. “Our women team has shown their time and again their class. It is just a matter of time, if not this time, next time we will surely win”, he added.
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