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Champions League: Xavi's magic substitutions lead Barcelona to thrilling win over PSG

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Paris, April 11 (IANS) Barcelona’s manager, Xavi Hernandez, showcased his tactical genius by making two substitutions that led directly to goals, propelling his team to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night.

The game was an emotional rollercoaster, with Barcelona initially taking the lead, only to fall behind, and then executing a stunning comeback.

Brazilian forward Raphinha scored twice, including the opener in the first half, taking advantage of a mistake by PSG’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to net his first Champions League goal at the 37-minute mark, reports Xinhua.

PSG quickly turned the tables after halftime, with Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha scoring to give the Parisians a 2-1 advantage.

It was at this juncture that Xavi made a tactical masterstroke. In the 61st minute, he brought on Rodri and Joao Felix for Lamine Yamal and Sergi Roberto, a change that quickly paid off.

Pedri, just two minutes after coming on, lofted a perfect pass to Raphinha, who calmly finished past Donnarumma, drawing the teams level.

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In the 76th minute, Xavi’s strategic acumen was on display again when he substituted Andreas Christensen and Ferran Torres for Frenkie de Jong and the key player Raphinha. Christensen scored with a header from a corner just a minute later, sealing a dramatic comeback for Barcelona.

“Pedri came on and helped us a lot. I’m very proud of the team. Christensen also came on and helped,” Xavi said. “Tactically we did really well.”

Since Xavi announced his departure from the team at the end of the season following a January defeat to Villarreal, Barcelona has been unbeaten in 12 matches across all competitions, a stark contrast to PSG’s previous unbeaten streak of 27 matches, which ended with this loss.

“We made things a bit difficult for ourselves. We managed to turn things around in the second half and could have had a third (goal),” PSG coach Luis Enrique said. “Everything’s still open for us and we will go there with ambition.”

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The return leg is set for April 16 at Barcelona’s home ground.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Kuldeep picks 3-19 as India thrash Bangladesh by 50 runs, inch closer to semi-finals

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North Sound (Antigua), June 22 (IANS) Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav shined with a game-changing spell of 3-19, while fast-bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Arshdeep Singh picked two wickets each as India thrashed Bangladesh by 50 runs to claim their second Super Eight stage win in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Saturday.

After vice-captain Hardik Pandya top-scored with an unbeaten 27-ball fifty and smashed four boundaries and three sixes in India making 196/5, their highest total in the competition, Kuldeep bowled a wonderful spell on a pitch having bounce and a bit of grip to leave Bangladesh in disarray.

The rest of the bowlers produced another outstanding show, and the fielders backed them up very well to restrict Bangladesh to 146/8 and inch closer to the semi-finals. India will confirm their semifinal spot if Afghanistan fail to beat Australia at St Vincent. Chasing 197 was always going to be an uphill task for a middling Bangladesh batting line-up.

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Despite the stiff target, Tanzid Hasan began strongly by hitting four boundaries, followed by Litton Das smashing two boundaries. Pandya got the breakthrough for India when Litton couldn’t control a pull shot on a wide outside off delivery and was caught at deep mid-wicket.

Tanzid was dropped on 24 by Rishabh Pant off Bumrah but was trapped lbw on the back leg by a stunning googly from Kuldeep. Towhid Hridoy was next to fall as Kuldeep got a leg-break delivery to turn in slightly and go past the attempted slog-sweep to trap him plumb lbw.

Though Najmul Hassan Shanto and Shakib Al Hasan hit some boundaries, Kuldeep took out the latter by forcing him to mistime a loft to cover. More success followed India as Bumrah deceived Shanto with an off-cutter sliced to short third man, followed by Arshdeep bowling a similar delivery to take out Jaker Ali.

Rishad Hossain impressed onlookers with his hitting abilities by smashing a four and three sixes, before giving a top edge on pull to extra cover off Bumrah, who finished with an economy rate of just 3.2 in another comprehensive win for India.

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Brief scores:

India 196/5 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 50 not out, Virat Kohli 37; Tanzim Hasan Sakib 2-32, Rishad Hossain 2-43) beat Bangladesh 146/8 in 20 overs (Najmul Hossain Shanto 40, Tanzid Hasan 29; Kuldeep Yadav 3-19, Jasprit Bumrah 2-13) by 50 runs

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Keshav Maharaj credits 'small moments' behind unbeaten campaign

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Gros Islet (St Lucia), June 22 (IANS) South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj feels that the team has found ways to win “small moments” in the game that has helped them to stay unbeaten in the T20 World Cup so far. South Africa are cruising in the showpiece tournament with a six-match winning streak. Proteas have kept calm during the crunch situations and prevailed over their opponents in four close matches including the one-run win over Nepal in the group stage.

“If you look at previous World Cups, the small moments, we haven’t really won. It’s good to see that all the games have come really close and we’ve found a way, so it’s building the character within the team. And it prepares us for certain opportunities that we could get and cross over the line in those small moments, [these] are things that we’ve never done before. So, it’s good to see us getting into that,” Maharaj said.

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The left-arm spinner went on to say that South Africa have made every effort to get past the “hurt” caused by the 2023 ODI World Cup semi-final exit in India.

“This team believes that we can be really great as a unit. Obviously, with the last World Cup, bowing out in the semi-finals, it’s both the character and there’s a lot of hurt. So, we just take it one game at a time and focus on trying to get the results to go our way and not looking at the negatives, just trying to highlight the positives as much as possible,” Maharaj said.

South Africa’s next match against West Indies in Antigua on Sunday will feature a showdown between the teams’ left-arm spinners. South Africa boasts Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi while West Indies relies on Akeal Hosein and Gudakesh Motie, who have been their standout bowlers in the tournament with Hosein claiming nine wickets and Motie eight in six matches.

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Maharaj acknowledged the spin battle, stating, “It’s always a battle of the spinners. I’m just going about my business. They’ve bowled exceptionally well in the tournament. I’ve watched quite a few spells of them, so obviously they’re quite a dominant force as well. They [West Indies] have got a very strong batting line-up, but [I will] just try to stick true to my processes and my principles.”

“It’s more a case of focusing on each and every game, not getting too ahead of ourselves. We’ve been very focused on our processes and trying to win each and every game and letting the rest take care of itself,” he added.

–IANS

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Football: Bayern Munich’s rehab and conditioning coach Thomas Wilhelmi passes away at 57

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Munich, June 22 (IANS) FC Bayern Munich have announced the death of Thomas Wilhelmi, the German club’s rehab and conditioning coach who has died at the age of 57 following a long illness. Wilhelmi worked for Bayern since 2007 and played a big part in the numerous successes of the last 17 years.

“Our entire club, and not least the coaching staff and the team with whom Thomas Wilhelmi worked so intensively for so long, are in deep mourning. Thomas Wilhelmi loved and lived FC Bayern and his profession: he always had his finger on the pulse of the players and was always there for them, especially during periods of injury, when top athletes need the most encouragement,” said Jan-Christian Dreesen, CEO of FC Bayern.

“For over 17 years, he was part of the team behind the team and could always be relied on. He made an invaluable contribution to the many titles over this long period. We will never forget him, and his human and professional qualities. Thomas Wilhelmi will always be a part of the FC Bayern family. Our thoughts are with his wife and two daughters,” he said.

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Wilhelmi joined the club in 2007 from Bayer Leverkusen and worked under various coaches, including Jupp Heynckes, Louis van Gaal, Pep Guardiola, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Jürgen Klinsmann, Carlo Ancelotti, Hansi Flick, Niko Kovac, Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel.

For players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry, and Alphonso Davies, he was an important support, particularly during their rehab periods. During his time, FC Bayern won 13 Bundesliga titles, the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup twice, seven DFB Cups, the UEFA Super Cup twice, and the German Supercup nine times.

–IANS

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Hockey Pro League: Flawless Dutch women secure second straight title with three matches to spare

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Utrecht (Netherlands), June 22 (IANS) Returning to action for the first time since February, the Netherlands Women defeated Germany 4-0 for a dominant win – their 13th from 13 matches this season – and secured their fourth title overall with three matches to spare in FIH Hockey Pro League here on Saturday. The odds were stacked against their opposition, Germany, who had not beaten the Dutch in regulation time since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as the home team, which was on the cusp of wrapping up a second straight title, came out strong and never allowed them many chances.

Just a month before the Paris Olympic Games, the World and FIH Pro League winners Netherlands made a triumphant return to international duty with a comfortable win. The first half was evenly contested and it was essentially two sharp plays from the Dutch that made all the difference.

The prolific Yibbi Jansen fired them ahead from a quickly taken free hit in the 8th minute. It was then Luna Fokke who laid off to Jansen before covering 20m to complete a sensational deflection and double the home side’s lead. The third quarter was hotly contested with both teams squandering a single penalty corner opportunity each.

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The final period served up plenty of action, the Dutch stealing the ball from the pushback to win a penalty corner which Jansen rocketed home to extend her lead at the top of the women’s goal-scoring list with 1an impressive 17 goals so far this season.

Frederique Matla then slotted in a drag flick two minutes later for her side to put one hand on the trophy. And while the Germans had a strong spell in the middle of the quarter, it was not enough to make any dent in the significant deficit, with the Dutch reasserting control to close out the match and with that, the title.

–IANS

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WTA Tour: Gauff, Kalinskaya advance in Berlin after Jabeur, Sabalenka retire

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Berlin, June 22 (IANS) World No.2 Coco Gauff advanced to her second semifinal in Berlin Ladies Open after No.10 Ons Jabeur retired with illness. Gauff edged Jabeur in a tightly contested a 68-minute set, winning 7-6(9). After dropping the opening set, Jabeur was assessed by the trainer and doctor and retired.

It was a disappointing end for Jabeur, who gamely saved a total of 10 set points to take Gauff to the brink in the first set. The American saved two set points in the tiebreak but ultimately prevailed to advance to her third career grass-court semifinal.

“I was happy with how I was able to play,” Gauff was quoted as saying by WTA Tour in a report on its website. “Of course, I send my best wishes to Ons. It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”

Gauff will face fifth seed Jessica Pegula in the semifinals. Pegula closed out her rain-interrupted quarterfinal against Katerina Siniakova to win 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 and advance to her first grass semifinal of her career.

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Jabeur’s was the second retirement of the day in Berlin. No.24 Anna Kalinskaya advanced to her first grass-court semifinal after No.3 Aryna Sabalenka retired due to a shoulder injury. Earlier in the week, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova (right hip injury) and No.4 Elena Rybakina (abdominal pain) also retired mid-match.

Kalinskaya led 5-1 in the first set before the reigning Australian Open champion decided not to continue. Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck area assessed and treated at 4-1, and tried to play through the injury. But after another game, the No.2 seed made the decision to retire. It is the first injury retirement of Sabalenka’s WTA Tour career.

–IANS

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