Posted on

Salah hits four as Liverpool crush Watford

Monitoring Desk

LIVERPOOL (Agencies): Mohamed Salah struck four times in rampant Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing of Watford that lifted them back into third spot in the Premier League on Saturday.

The unstoppable Egyptian needed only four minutes to put his side in front and he doubled his tally just before halftime. He set up Roberto Firmino for a cheeky effort early in the second half before placing a shot through a crowd of Watford defenders to complete his first Liverpool hat-trick.

There was no respite for Watford at a snowy Anfield as the clinical Salah smashed in his fourth goal in the 85th minute — from his fourth shot on target. Salah’s majestic display moved him four goals clear of Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot, with 28, and his 36 in all competitions is the most by a Liverpool player in a debut season for the club.

Liverpool have 63 points from 31 games, two more than Tottenham Hotspur who have played 30. More importantly, they are now seven points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea in the tussle for the top four and Champions League qualification. “The goals we scored were unbelievably good, and the boys didn’t stop. That’s how football should be, so I’m really happy with the performance,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said.

“For Mo to be involved in five goals is fantastic but to score four is even more fantastic.” Salah is the first Liverpool player to score four goals in a league match since Luis Suarez in 2013 and it took him only four minutes to get started, firing in after his ball control and pace left Watford’s defence floundering.

Liverpool, who needed a positive response after losing to Manchester United last week, went off the boil for much of the first half but Salah tapped in Andy Robertson’s cross close to halftime to move past the 33 goals scored by Fernando Torres in his first season at Anfield in 2007-08.

When his cross picked out Firmino who finished with his back to goal for Liverpool’s third in the 49th minute it was a matter of how many the hosts would score. Salah sealed his hat-trick when he wriggled into the area and stabbed the ball past Watford keeper Orestis Karnezis and added his side’s fifth when he pounced to smash home a loose ball after another fine Liverpool move.

Watford had decent spells in the first half and Roberto Pereyra did strike the crossbar with a second-half free kick, but they were easy pickings for Klopp’s slick side. Defeat left Watford in 11th spot, a comfortable eight points above the relegation zone.

“It was a real tough day for the whole team — 5-0 is a pretty embarrassing scoreline,” Watford defender Adrian Mariappa said. “Today Salah was on it and he punished us.”



Posted on

15 suspected bookies arrested

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: As Karachi prepares to host Pakistan Super League (PSL) final, Sindh Police claimed to have arrested on Sunday at least 15 bookies, including a local TV channel employee, allegedly preparing to place bets on PSL matches.

According to Karachi’s SSP Clifton Tauqqeer Naeem, the Darakshan Police officials recovered a total of Rs6.5 million in local and international currency, 39 mobile phones, three laptops and expensive watches during a raid at a bungalow on Khayaban-e-Badban in Defence Housing Authority (DHA). The police officer claimed that at least 88 bookies were currently active in the city. Last week, Islamabad Police claimed to have arrested 29 men during a raid on a gambling den in Saidpur Village where the suspects were betting on PSL matches. The Police confiscated stake money of Rs80,000, 30 mobile phones, cans of beer and 400 grammes of hashish. The raid was conducted by Kohsar police around dusk under the supervision of ASP-Secretariat Zohaib Ranjha. All 29 suspects were locked up in the Kohsar police station.


Posted on

4th Inter-Provincial Games begin

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR (APP): The 4th edition of the Inter-Provincial Games under the aegis of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and with the collaboration of Directorate General Sports KP and KP Olympic Association got under way here with great enthusiasm witnessed among the participating players.

President Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Lt. Gen ® Arif Hassan formally inaugurated the colorful Games. Former Hockey Olympian Munzur Ul Hassan, Secretary Sports, Tourism, Culture and Youth Affairs Muhammad Tariq Khan, Secretary POA Khalid Mehmood, Vice President POA Syed Aqil Shah, DG Sports KP Junaid Khan, Director Female Games KP Miss Rashida Ghaznavi, Chairman Pakistan Volleyball Federation Ch. Yaqoob, former DG PSB Dr. Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera, Organizing Secretary Zulfiqar Ali Butt, Director Operation Syed Saqlain Shah, officials, players and large number of spectators were also present.

A total of 1700 athletes and more than 160 officials are taking part in 25 different games comprising archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, bodybuilding, gymnastics, handball, hockey, ju-jitsu, kabaddi, karate, rowing, rugby, softball, squash, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, tug-of-war, volleyball, weightlifting with 11 disciplines for female and 25 for males.

The sports disciplines of cycling (men & women) and judo (men & women), is not included. The golf and shooting have expressed their unavailability so all the four games are not part of the Games. The colorful opening was started with the recitation from Holy Quran by Nida Niat, followed by a smart March Past. World Gold Medalist in Wrestling Inayat Ullah carried the national flag, followed by a FC contingent holding the Olympic Flag. The torch bearers led by double gold medalists Khalid Noor formally flamed the Games Torch. Soon after the March Past Lt. Gen (Retd) Arif Hassan announced the commencement of the Games, balloons and pigeon were released in the air with banners inscribed with different game slogans. It is for the first time that contingent of Gilgit-Baltistan (100), FATA (150) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (100) took part alongside Balochistan (300 athletes), Punjab (300), Sindh (300), Islamabad (100), and KP (300) are taking part.

Lt. Gen Arif Hassan also lauded the govt of KP for approving a grant of more than Rs. 40 million for the organizing committee of the KP Olympic Association. He said that for the large interest of the promotion of sports in the country, the POA keen to provide maximum participation to the youth of AJK and GB. He urged upon Governor KP to extend support to FATA Olympic Association so the youth of FATA can actively participate in these Games. He said more facilities would be ensured to AJK, FATA, Islamabad and GB so that its players could come up at par with Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and KP. In a question, about Athletics, he said, two groups each from Sindh, Balochistan turned up and such issue would be resolved when both Pakistan Athletic Federation and POA jury committee would sit together by Sunday evening. DG Sports Junaid Khan assured that the govt of KP is very keen to extending full support to the POA for holding the Games. He said govt of KP is extended all out support for hosting the Games as all facilities of various disciplines have already been revamped to ensure international standard to the players.

He said newly constructed Abdul Wali Khan Sports Complex Charsadda, Hayatabad Sports Complex Peshawar, Peshawar Sports Complex, and University Campus Peshawar are the main venues for different Games. He said Governor KP will grace the occasion as guest at the closing ceremony. A request has already been made to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the presentation ceremony on March 20.

Earlier, folk dances Mehsud, Khattak Dance, and Versatile Dance Company Lahore’s have traditional dances of Kalasha, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK, traditional Athern of Waziristan Agency FATA, turned the whole complexion into a melodious one. The participating athletes also joined the dances grounds enthusiastically on the traditional numbers.

Posted on

Islamabad United to face Karachi Kings today for spot in PSL final

F.P. Report

DUBAI: The former champion of Pakistan Super League (PSL) and top of the points table, Islamabad United and Karachi Kings will each other in the playoff of the third edition of PSL at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium tonight on Sunday.

The winner of tonight’s game will cement its place in the final of the tournament which is scheduled to be held in Karachi on March 25. The losing team will play the winner of Peshawar Zalmi vs Quetta Gladiators eliminator game in Lahore, in one more shot at a berth in the final.

Islamabad United, who top the points table this season after winning seven out of 10 matches in the third edition of PSL.

Karachi Kings, at second position, have won 5 and lost 4 matches.

Posted on

PSL teams turn attention towards playoffs

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: The Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) group stages have ended and teams turn their attention towards the playoffs, having to make adjustments for the foreign players who have opted out of travelling to Lahore and Karachi for the eliminators and final.

With tickets for all three games already sold out, anticipation and excitement has not been dampened by the players who have pulled out of the tournament. A number of English players, including Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Sam Billings and Kevin Pietersen, will not be coming to Pakistan.

“I am not available for the Pakistan leg of the PSL. It’s been a long winter for me and I have been away since December so unfortunately I am unavailable,” said England skipper Morgan, who was captaining Karachi Kings in the absence of Imad Wasim.

Islamabad United, who qualified for the first qualifier, will be missing the firepower of Hales and Billings at the top of the innings.

Quetta Gladiators, meanwhile, will miss Jason Roy who joined just two days back. Even bigger losses for the two-time finalists will be that of Kevin Pietersen and the current holder of the Fazal Mehmood cap Shane Watson.

Quetta skipper Sarfraz Ahmed is under no illusions regarding the hit his team will suffer once they lose this devastating trio of batsmen.

“We played really well in the pool matches last year and finished top of the league,” said Sarfraz. “Our top performers were foreign players so we naturally missed them in the final. That was a huge setback for our team and we lost the final because of that.”

However, the wicketkeeper batsman believes they have had more time to prepare for the eventuality of these players opting out and therefore are better equipped this time around of dealing with their absence.

“This year we know that we will be missing our top performers again,” he said. “That will surely reduce the morale of the team but we are planning to groom and polish our local talent in a way that they are able to perform for the team in the knockout stages.” Sarfraz also discussed the way his team has always been written off but have managed to confound the critics time and again.

“Nobody expected us to qualify for the final four once again,” said Sarfraz. “However, we have shown exactly what we are capable of and there is no reason for us to stop believing in ourselves or to change the way we play. We need at least one of the top six batsmen to stay till the end so that people can go for it from the other end.”

The National Stadium of Karachi, meanwhile, is still undergoing final touches as it prepares for the big final, with tickets for the game having been sold out within 12 hours of going online.

Posted on

Players’ absence hurt Lahore, says Aqib Javed

Monitoring Desk

DUBAI: Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Lahore Qalandars’ head coach and director cricket Aqib Javed has said that the absence of Chris Lynn and Angelo Mathews hurt their plans in the third edition.

Javed, while talking to ESPNcricinfo in a video interview, said Lahore picked a strong team in the draft which would’ve helped them do wonders in PSL3.

“It is quite frustrating You need to win five or six matches to qualify for the next round in any tournament. But if you lose the first six matches on the trot, it is very disappointing,” said Javed while talking about the Lahore’s dismal start of the tournament.

“A lot of things changed from the time the draft took place till the start of the tournament, he added. “We were depending a lot on the big players. We lost Lynn and Mathews, then unfortunately Cameron Delport’s mother passed away. Such players are important for the team. They are match-winners and that is why you pick them in the higher platinum category.”

He continued by saying that their replacement selections were not as good as their initial picks. “So when your preferred players are not coming, you get to pick players in the replacement draft. And it’s understandable that you won’t get a like-for-like replacement for the platinum players and you have to go to the gold or silver category. This has been one of the biggest loss for us,” he said.

Aqib then laid his plan out which they had made while picking players for the third edition of the PSL. “According to the draft picks, we had a really strong team,” he revealed. “We had two Pakistanis who are very good in this format. Four overseas batting options were also outstanding. Sunil Narine is very good and he showed that last year. And then we had Brendon, Lynn and Mathews, so if you have such good top six batsmen then you need a Sohail Akhtar kind of all-rounder at number seven. Then the idea was that Umar will keep for us. So if you don’t get both these options [Lynn and Mathews] all our plans fell apart.

Lahore, after six consecutive defeats, came back strong and bagged three victories against Multan Sultans, Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators, but Aqib believes a few earlier matches should have gone in their favour too. “There were a few close matches which could’ve ended in our favour.

In the first game, we had a huge batting collapse where we lost seven wickets for five runs. We should have won that game,” he explained.

“There were few others as well, like the Super Over game [against Islamabad] which could’ve gone either way. We dropped Russell and the ball went for six, so that was a huge turnaround.”

On Lahore’s comeback

Aqib thinks Lahore showed true character by not letting their heads fall even when they had nothing to gain from the remainder of the four matches.

“After losing those six games, it was tough. You can actually see how the team management and the captain keep everyone together and create hope amongst the team. They motivate the team to play for their pride and play their best,” he said.

“You can see how we won the last two games; the Lahore-Karachi game has been one of PSL’s best games ever. So, when you are focused you can turn things around.”

Posted on

FIFA lifts three-decade ban on Iraq

Monitoring Desk

BOGOTA: FIFA has lifted its three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football, a move hailed by the country´s sports authorities on Saturday as a boost for its most popular game.

“We are allowing international matches to be staged in the cities of Arbil, Basra and Karbala,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters after a meeting of the FIFA Council in Bogota.

The three cities had been allowed to organise friendlies in the past year provided the security situation was “stable”. Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra. FIFA said it could not “yet” agree to a request from the Iraqi authorities to organise matches in the capital Baghdad, but Infantino promised that the city´s application would continue to be studied.

The three cities selected are among the more secure in Iraq. Basra and Karbala both lie south of Baghdad, far from the battlefields north and west of the capital where the security forces fought the Daesh group from 2014 to 2017.

Arbil is the capital of the country´s autonomous Kurdish region. The Iraq Football Association welcomed FIFA´s decision but vowed to “spare no effort for games to be played in stadiums in other provinces, including Baghdad”. “This decision puts our sport back on the rails,” it said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who declared victory over Daesh in December, said the lifting of the FIFA ban was the “fruit of stability in terms of security and of the successes achieved by Iraq.” For years, Iraq has been busily building stadiums and lobbying stars and the sport´s governing bodies for a return to the international fold.

Friday´s decision followed an international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra on February 28, their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years. It was watched by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) head Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa who said “the time has come” to end the three-decade ban. The first home competitive games could come as early as next month as two Iraqi clubs have fixtures in the AFC Cup which were postponed pending FIFA´s decision.

Infantino said it would be for the AFC to decide where they were played. “FIFA has given the green light for the resumption but the organisers of the championship must take the final decision,” he said. Iraq has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The ban, covering all but domestic matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in Arbil led FIFA to promptly reinstate it.



Posted on

ICC fines Shakib over bad behavior

Monitoring Desk

COLOMBO: The International Cricket Council (ICC) Saturday fined Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan over his aggressive behaviour during a thrilling Twenty20 match against Sri Lanka.

The sport´s world governing body said Shakib pleaded guilty to the charge of “conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game” at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Friday. He was also awarded a demerit point. Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka by two wickets in the ill-tempered match to reach the final of the tri-nation tournament.

The incident involving Shakib took place after the second ball of the final over of the Bangladesh innings when he came to the edge of the boundary and asked his batsmen to come off the field. The Bangladesh team alleged that the square-leg umpire had signalled a no-ball and then changed his decision, prompting Shakib to call the batsmen back to the pavilion.

Reserve player Nurul Hasan, who was sent on to the field with a message from the Bangladesh dressing room, was also involved in a spat with Sri Lankan skipper Thisara Perera.

Nurul also pleaded guilty to unruly behaviour and was also fined 25 percent of his match fee and awarded one demerit point. ICC match referee Chris Broad said Friday´s incidents were disappointing, and the penalties were imposed without a formal hearing because the players did not contest the charges.

“I understand that it was… tense and an edge-of-the-seat match with (a) place in the final on the line, but the actions of the two players were unacceptable and cannot be condoned as they clearly went overboard,” Broad said. “Had the fourth umpire not stopped Shakib and the fielders remonstrating, and then the on-field umpires not intervened between Nurul and Thisara, things could have become worse.”

Shakib had led protests against the umpires when the second ball of the final over was deemed legitimate despite Sri Lanka´s Isuru Udana bowling two bouncers. A bowler can bowl only one bouncer — above shoulder height to the batsman — in limited-overs cricket, but the decision lies with the umpire.

Needing 12 to win off the last six balls, Mustafizur Rahman was run out on the second delivery and there was pandemonium when Shakib gestured to his batsmen to come off the field. The batsmen stayed put, however, and Mahmudullah steered the Tigers to a thrilling win with a six off the penultimate ball. Bangladesh will face India in the final of the tri-series, which has been organised to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Sri Lanka´s independence from Britain.


Posted on

Afridi doubtful for qualifier

Monitoring Desk

DUBAI: Flamboyant all-rounder Shahid Afridi is doubtful for his PSL team Karachi Kings’ qualifier against Islamabad United on Sunday in Dubai. Sources privy to the matter have confirmed that Afridi, 38, has pain in knees again.

“The same injury kept him out for a couple of matches earlier and he’s now facing the same problem,” said the source. “He’s eager to play and wants his side to win the match, his availability will be known only after MRI tests conducted later on Saturday evening,” the source added.

Posted on

Kasatkina ousts Williams to reach semi-finals

Monitoring Desk

Indian Wells: Russian Daria Kasatkina toppled her third top-10 player in a row Friday to reach the WTA Indian Wells final, shocking world number eight Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

The 20-year-old Kasatkina rallied to claim the biggest victory of her career and defeat seven-time Grand Slam winner Williams, extending a year-long assault on top players, Grand Slam winners and former world number ones. Kasatkina, seeded 20th, next faces either world number one Simona Halep or Japan’s Naomi Osaka in Sunday’s final.

Serving for the match, Kasatkina clinched the victory on her second match point as she raced out to a 40-0 lead. Venus hit a cross-court forehand winner on the first match point but then dumped a backhand into the net to end the two hour, 49 minute marathon showdown.

Ultimately the young Russian proved to be too strong for the 37-year-old Williams, who appeared to hit a wall at about the two and a half hour mark. The turning point came in the third set as Williams was left breathing heavily on her chair after holding serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead.

Williams, who was winning matches in Indian Wells before Kasatkina was even born, has enjoyed a longevity in tennis that is rarely achieved. But in the end she didn’t have the legs to stay with the rising Russian star, who won the final three games. Kasatkina fired one ace, hit five double faults and broke Williams’s serve seven times in the entertaining match.

Williams hit more winners, 45-30, and broke Kasatkina six times but she also made five double faults — some at crucial moments in the match. “Anyone who gets used to losses should give up on life,” Williams said. Kasatkina continues her Cinderella run through the California desert tournament as she goes for her second WTA title. She highlighted 2017 by claiming her first crown in Charleston, beating fellow teenager Jelena Ostapenko in the final.

– Four champions – Kasatkina has beaten all four reigning Grand Slam champions in the past year, including US Open champ Sloane Stephens twice. She did it for the second time in Indian Wells, winning their third round match 6-4, 6-3.

After eliminating Stephens she beat two top 10 players to get to the semis — world number two Caroline Wozniacki in three sets in the fourth round and then No. 10 Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the quarters. Before running headlong into the Russian juggernaut it had been smooth sailing for Williams into the semis as she did it without having to play someone ranked in the top 20.

In the third round she defeated her sister Serena, who had a protected ranking of 22 after she took 14 months off to have a baby. Kasatkina is now 2-1 overall against Williams having beaten her the first time they play in Auckland in 2016. “I really just make too many errors. That’s pretty much all — I mean, I have to stop making that many errors against her,” Venus said.