Monday, August 27, 2012

Roberto Mancini may be frustrated over Manchester City's transfer policy but the buzzword is sustainability

Brian Marwood, Manchester City’s sporting director, joins the well-heeled and well-keeled in Monaco on Thursday, where he will attend the Champions League draw and listen to the Uefa president, Michel Platini, talk about the importance of financial prudence.
Roberto Mancini may be frustrated with Brian Marwood over Manchester City's transfer policy but the buzzword is sustainability

Laying down the law: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini gives instructions to Mario Balotelli Photo: ACTION IMAGES

By Henry Winter

 In the background will be the clinking sounds of yachts, Champagne flutes and roulette wheels, making Monaco a slightly surreal setting for a discussion on tightening belts and balancing books. Marwood, though, does not need any advice from Platini’s Financial Fair Play document or any prompting on the need for fiscal restraint. Contrary to popular perception, the buzzword “sustainability” has long been heard within the corridors of power at City.

The owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, initially invested lavishly, including more than £500 million on transfers, in making City competitive, in reaching the Champions League and winning the Premier League. The Sheikh will sanction further signings this week, starting with Swansea City’s Scott Sinclair, possibly Benfica’s Javi Garcia with Roma’s Daniele De Rossi a long shot, but the mantra of “sustainability”, of building a club with solid economic foundations, will remain a priority. Good.

Even with some late outlays City’s spending has slowed, a frustration for Roberto Mancini, the manager clamouring for high-class recruits as the clock ticks down to Friday’s transfer deadline.

The fascinating dynamic between the measured Marwood and City’s driven, occasionally emotional, manager provides the human incarnation of the current great debate over transfer budgets.

There’s no falling-out, just a tension inevitably heightened in the final week of the transfer window. With Mancini too smart to criticise Mansour or the chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, Marwood is the easiest target on which to vent any annoyance over club policy.

For those of us who admire Marwood and Mancini, the feeling remains that two good football men can work in tandem to shape a robust future for City. As players, Mancini the striker would certainly have enjoyed the service from a winger like Marwood.

The 52-year-old Englishman is not some faceless accountant sitting behind a desk stymieing the manager’s plans. Marwood has acquired an extensive knowledge of the game while racing down the flank at Hull City, Sheffield Wednesday, Arsenal, Sheffield United, Swindon Town, Barnet and England (for 10 minutes against Saudi Arabia).

He has been chairman of the Professional Footballers Association, a media pundit and cut his teeth in the business of sport working for Nike. He deserves Mancini’s respect.

And gratitude. Marwood focuses on the long-term success of City as well as short term. If Mancini sees out his new five-year deal, he will probably be fielding some of the players Marwood has drafted into the academy, like two highly-regarded attackers, the Spaniard José Ángel Pozo and the Portuguese-Brazilian Marcos Lopes.

Mancini and Marwood share much in common. Both are hugely ambitious for City to find a permanent place amongst the European elite. Both are strong family men with sons trying to make their way in the game (James Marwood on loan from Gateshead at Halifax Town, Andrea Mancini at Valladolid B while Filippo Mancini remains on City’s books).

Marwood has an office close to Mancini’s at Carrington where they own one of the most amazing coffee machines ever conceived by an Italian designer.

Maybe the pair need to have the occasional quiet espresso and enhance a working relationship that is so important to City’s prosperity. Mancini should reflect that he is fortunate to possess a good squad anyway, that he has retained the stars that won the title, losing only Adam Johnson, a bit-part player anyway. M

ancini should also remember that certain other managers have players imposed on them by their club’s owners.

Marwood does not interfere with his manager’s transfer choices. Any private reservations that Marwood might have harboured about Roque Santa Cruz were put to one side as he brought in a striker coveted by Mark Hughes, Mancini’s predecessor.

The manager’s desire for a player is paramount yet now set alongside the club’s view of the value being realistic. This is where “sustainability” enters the equation, demanding the sums add up. City eventually ended their pursuit of Eden Hazard because of the cost for the Belgian playmaker which eventually hit £32 million.

They also baulked at paying a £6 million fee to Hazard’s agent, John Bico. Mancini is understood to have ultimately agreed with City’s refusal to countenance such expenditure. Hazard’s duck-to-water landing in English football must still be a frustration for Mancini to behold.

Similarly, City’s interest in Robin van Persie cooled because they would have had to make the Footballer of the Year the second highest earner in the squad after Yaya Touré. Again, “sustainability”. Again, there must be irritation for Mancini in watching Van Persie hitting the ground running, shooting and scoring for Manchester United.

Mancini is a fine coach, a Premier League winner deservedly rewarded with that long contract, but he is not infallible. His decision to play three at the back against Liverpool, particularly giving the hapless Kolo Touré a starting place ahead of Joleon Lescott, was ill judged (although rectified late on). The Italian’s loyalty to his compatriot Mario Balotelli, a controversial striker who needs to contribute more consistently, remains debatable.

His recent purchases have been intriguing. Sinclair’s switch from Swansea for £6 million has aroused some surprise as Mancini does not particularly deploy wingers, one reason behind Johnson’s determination to seek regular action at Sunderland.

Jack Rodwell has already arrived for £12 million from Everton. Again, Rodwell’s recruitment raises issues. The midfielder is very capable technically. His tendency to play the ball conservatively, usually passing short to the likes of Yaya Touré, may simply be showing respect to his new, illustrious team-mates while settling in. Rodwell has not really charged forward with the ball, something he is capable of.

While it is encouraging from an English perspective to see Sinclair and Rodwell getting a chance of involvement in the Champions League (with a nod of sympathy to Johnson), it would surely have worked better for Marwood and Mancini to pool that cash for a more sustained assault on the barricades that Roma have erected around De Rossi. If they are to progress from the Champions League group stages, De Rossi is more likely to guide their path than Sinclair or Rodwell.

Marwood and Mancini need to improve their communication. It’s good to talk. They are on the same side.

I’d give up IPL for Test return, insists Morgan as England prepare for ODI series

By Paul Newman
The riches of the Indian Premier League were said by Andy Flower last week to be the 'catalyst' for the breakdown in Kevin Pietersen's relationship with England.

Eoin Morgan promises it won't distract him. Morgan is one of the few  England players other than Pietersen who has proved attractive to IPL owners, even though he failed to play during his two-month stint with the Kolkata Knight Riders earlier this year.

That did not stop him earning around £220,000 for his eight weeks sitting on the Kolkata bench and spurning the chance to try to regain his lost Test place by working on his first-class game with Middlesex.
On the up: Morgan is keen for a return to the Test side
On the up: Morgan is keen for a return to the Test side

Yet, Morgan, the most important batting talent in an England one-day side who finally start their NatWest Series against South Africa on Tuesday at the Ageas Bowl, insists he will resist the lure of the East next year if there is any chance of returning to the Test middle order.

'I came across from Ireland as a 15-year-old to try to play Test cricket and it remains my priority,' said Morgan, who was dropped after scoring just 82 runs in six innings against Pakistan at the start of this year.

'I've had a little sniff of it and absolutely loved it. I was in the  England team when we became No 1 in the world and nothing comes close to the experience of being in a winning Test side.
Outcast: Pietersen's chances of ending his exile remain remote
Outcast: Pietersen's chances of ending his exile remain remote

'If it came about that I was back in the Test team around the next IPL, I would be the happiest man in the world. And if I'm in the frame but not quite in the team, then I might have to look differently at whether I play the full IPL. I looked into that this year but I was a long way away after being dropped so I didn't investigate playing more county cricket  too closely.'

If Pietersen is unable to bring his exile to an end before the Test trip to India in November - and chances of that remain remote - then Morgan will be hoping to claim the final batting place in the squad by spearheading England's attempt over four matches to at least remain on top of the one-day rankings.
Asset: Morgan is the most important batting talent in an England one-day side
Morgan has averaged only 30 in his 16 Tests - 10 fewer than his one-day mean - and struggled in the long game even before his ordeal at the hands of Pakistan.

But England still rate him very highly and have not discarded him from their Test thoughts, even though he has now fallen behind Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor and possibly Ravi Bopara in the pecking order.

'The route to the Test team came through one-day performances for me and the bigger picture for me remains Test cricket,' said Morgan, who has made two of his four one-day centuries at the Hampshire venue.

'I'm a better player now than I was at the start of the year. I think I've proved that in bursts. Hopefully, I can prove that again during this series.'

Pietersen played for Surrey at Taunton yesterday while England captain Andrew Strauss has extended his week’s holiday, so there has been little chance for the pair to thrash out the former’s problems.

Yet, Sportsmail understands England hope to be nearer to knowing whether they will be able to welcome Pietersen back by the end of this week.

They must move quickly because time is running out before they name their Test squad for India and their centrally contracted players before leaving for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka on September 13.

England have not yet begun the process of renewing their contracts, which usually begin with informal one-on-one talks between Flower and each player.

Until Pietersen has had the chance of a full and frank exchange with his captain, he remains unlikely to get as far as contract discussions.

Having been dropped in favour of new signing Robin van Persie, substitute Rooney's day was ruined in a collision with Hugo Rodallega

Red alert: Wayne Rooney is stretchered off with a leg injury
Red alert: Wayne Rooney is stretchered off with a leg injury

John Peters / Getty

Sir Alex Ferguson hailed his new-look attack after Manchester United hung on to claim their first league win of the season.

As Old Trafford reeled with first the dropping and then the crocking of Wayne Rooney – the England striker being ruled out for four weeks after suffering a nasty gash – Fergie could at least celebrate first goals for new boys Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa.

Rooney had been left out of the starting line-up – and his nightmare got worse after he came on and ­suffered the injury following a clash with Hugo Rodallega.

Rooney chased in to block the Fulham player’s shot and was caught just above his knee by ­Rodallega’s follow-through.

“It is a very bad cut,” said ­Ferguson. “He went straight to hospital. It looks like he will be out for four weeks. It’s a bad one.”

The month lay-off will mean Rooney misses England’s next two games. Both are World Cup qualifiers, with a trip to Moldova followed by a clash with Ukraine at ­Wembley.

England boss Roy ­Hodgson will have to ­review his limited attacking options and there are some who will recall Rooney’s lacklustre ­performances at Euro 2012 who will claim he’s not much of a loss to his country at the moment.

But United boss Ferguson was full of praise for Van Persie and Kagawa, who both scored in his team’s victory over the Cottagers.

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United picks up a leg injury
Bloody hell! Rooney checks out the sizeable gash on his inner leg
Tom Purslow / Getty

Fergie said: “I thought it was a fantastic goal by Van Persie. And Shagawa did well too. It’s early doors but they will develop an even better understanding.

“I started with just Robin up front but we normally do that. We played with one up a lot last season. ­Sometimes it was Wayne or Ashley Young or Danny Welbeck or Ryan Giggs.”

Fulham took a third-minute lead through Damian Duff, but United stormed back and were 3-1 ahead.

But Ferguson was not pleased with the way United almost threw away their lead as Martin Jol’s side got back into the game and came agonisingly close to an equaliser.

“I felt very nervy at the end,” he said. “We were in cruise control at half-time. In the first half, we were fantastic. We had made such a good start and our intensity was ­terrific.

“But we saw the two sides of ­Manchester United. We made a bad mistake for them to make it 3-2 (a Nemanja Vidic own goal) and then it became a match all of a sudden.

“We couldn’t keep up the high tempo of the game and our game went downhill.”

Fulham boss Jol said: “In the ­second half we played really well and should have got at least a point.”

Meanwhile, Chelsea remained top of the Premier League after a convincing 2-0 victory over ­Newcastle, with goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.

Erratic Murray wins opener, Robson through

Andy Murray beat Alex Bogomolov Jr in round one of the US Open while fellow Brit Laura Robson won through in the women's draw.
By Reuters | Eurosport
Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates match point after his men's singles first round match against Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia on Day One of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 27, 2012 (AFP)
Eurosport - Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates match point after his men's singles first round match against Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia on Day One of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National

Murray overcame cramps, erratic serving, unforced errors and blustery conditions to defeat Russian Bogomolov 6-2 6-4 6-1 before admitting a possible player strike of the 2013 Australian Open would be damaging to the sport.

Murray recorded his victory despite landing only 49 per cent of his first serves and being broken on four occasions in a muddled start to his quest for a breakthrough Major championship.

The Olympic gold medallist appeared irritable in his first outing at Flushing Meadows and made 31 unforced errors in a performance he rated "a six or seven out of ten."

"I didn't serve very well but I only lost seven games in three sets so I must have done something well," Murray said.

"I played fairly well from the back of the court. I just would have liked to have served a bit better.

"A little bit of cramp - it was very, very humid on the court today. Maybe I didn't take enough fluid. I haven't played that many matches in that sort of humidity for a while so it's probably a bit of a shock to the body."

Murray said players were united in their push for an increased percentage of revenue from major championships but hoped a strike would fail to materialise.

"Who knows what is going to happen. I hope it doesn't come down to that," Murray said. "That's bad for everybody, really."

Strike action was first proposed at a heated player meeting before the Australian Open in January that led to a public rift between Rafael Nadal and world number one Roger Federer.

Nadal, an 11-time Grand Slam champion, subsequently quit his role on the players council.

"When we went through the player meeting at the Aussie Open, it was pretty brutal," Murray said. "Everyone was speaking up. The whole tour was kind of together. They still are.

"The majority of players want to see a change in the Grand Slams."

Murray declined to discuss the likelihood of a strike.

"Have no idea," he said. "There's so many things that go into something like that with lawyers, forming unions, all sorts of different scenarios that need to be thought through first.

"Right now it's a long way away, but I don't know how serious everybody is about it. If in the next month or two months they get everything sorted and ready to go then I'll have a better answer at that time."

Bogomolov failed to win his serve in the first set and blew a chance to lead by two breaks in the second set.

Murray, who lost this year's Wimbledon final to Federer, faces Croatian Ivan Dodig in the second round as he attempts to convert the momentum of Olympic success into a first triumph in a major.

"I knew after that match (the Olympic final) that everything you've gone through as a player was worth it," he said.

"I've had many tough losses. I've played tennis properly since I moved over to Spain when I was 15, so about ten years I've been playing. I've had a lot of doubts after losing.

"Even after the Wimbledon final, you have a lot of doubts about yourself. But after winning a match like that you kind of forget about all those things. It's definitely, definitely worth all the hard work."

In the women's draw, it was a mixed bag for British hopes on the opening day of action in New York.

Laura Robson, who won a silver medal in the mixed doubles with Murray at the London Olympics, progressed to the second round with a 6-3 7-6(6) win over American Samantha Crawford.

The 18-year-old secured a 6-3 7-6 (6) victory over the qualifier to set up a meeting with three-times US Open champion Kim Clijsters.

Robson was comfortable in the opening set but dropped to 0-3 early in the second before finally rediscovering her touch to take the set to a tie-break, which she won to six.

But it was a day to forget for Heather Watson, who lost 6-2 6-3 to Li Na.

Chinese star Li came into the tournament on the back of an impressive victory in Cincinnati, and was a class above the 20-year-old, ranked 71 in the world.

The ninth seed shared the first games with her opponent, even having to save a break point, before reeling off five games in a row to win the first set.

Watson, the former US Open junior champion, responded with an early break in the second to lead 3-1, but again the Chinese roared back, helped by a consistent first serve.

The match was all but won when rain intervened with Li 5-3 ahead in the second set, and after a lengthy delay, it was a brief return to court for Watson for her exit to be confirmed.

She lost four of five points on her serve following the two-and-a-half-hour rain delay, punching a backhand into the net on match point.

Olympic athletes to celebrate victory in London parade

Jessica Ennis Photo: Press Association

Up to 800 athletes from the Olympic and Paralympic Games will take part in a special victory parade through London on Monday September 10.

The Our Greatest Team Parade is being organised by the Mayor of London with the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association.

Victoria Pendleton is one the athltetes tipped to take part. Credit: Press Association

Team GB finished third in the medal table after winning a total of sixty-five medals:

    29 gold medals
    17 silver medals
    19 bronze medals

Members of the public will be able to watch the parade as it travels along Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street, passing St Paul's Cathedral, continuing along Fleet Street, past Aldwych and into The Strand, before reaching Trafalgar Square.

The Brownlee brothers won gold and bronze in the triathlon. Credit: Press Association

A big screen at the base of Nelson's Column, with live commentary, will allow spectators to cheer on the athletes as the parade makes its way past Trafalgar Square. There will also be a special ticketed area reserved especially for groups who made an "invaluable contribution to the success" of Team GB. A Greater London Authority spokesperson explained:

    These will include 14,000 volunteers, members of the blue light services, military personnel, Team GB and ParalympicsGB coaches and support staff, friends and family of the athletes involved, as well as schoolchildren from every London borough.

Mo Farah celebrates with Greg Rutherford who won the gold in the Men's Long Jump on 'Super Saturday' Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the parade would be an opportunity for the public to show their appreciation of the tremendous achievement of the athletes.

    No sporting heroes will have been more lauded, no achievements more celebrated, and no nation more passionately proud than at the Our Greatest Team Parade, which will sweep through central London in a glorious miasma of colour, noise and excitement.

    This is a chance to celebrate the heroes and heroines who have thrilled us with their skills, sportsmanship, and grace during London's spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games, and whose names and triumphs will live on for centuries to come.

London Irish and Scotland's Joe Ansbro remains in hospital after breaking neck against Munster

Joe Ansbro, the Scotland and London Irish centre, has broken his neck in a pre-season match against Munster. The game took place last Friday but news that the grafting, hard-hitting centre would be out of the game for several months was only confirmed on Sunday.
London Irish and Scotland's Joe Ansbro remains in hospital after breaking neck during friendly against Munster

Hospitalised: Joe Ansbro is recovering in a Cork hopsital after breaking his neck Photo: AP

By Mick Cleary

 His father, Paul, expressed the deep-rooted fears of many when he said: “Your blood runs cold when you hear about it and it’s something that every parent worries about.”

He added that there was “nothing malicious” in the incident in which his son took contact when contesting a ball. “It’s a fantastic rough game and these things unfortunately cannot be ruled out.”

The player remains in hospital in Cork but is expected to be able to fly home later this week. Initial fears that he might have suffered a catastrophic injury were to be allayed.

“He was really lucky that it was what they call a stable fracture and there’s no nerve damage,” said Paul Ansbro. “Joe has still got movement in his hands and feet. He’s got a triple fracture of the C1 vertebra at the top of his spine. They’ve put a metal halo on his head and that’s got to be in place 24/7 for three months.”

The incident will have triggered unwelcome memories for many Scotland followers of the career-ending injury of another back-line player, Thom Evans, who was within a millimetre of paralysis following an accidental clash with Wales full-back Lee Byrne in 2010. Evans, whose brother Max still plays for Scotland, never recovered sufficiently to be able to contemplate carrying on with his rugby career. He was among many in the game who tweeted their sympathy and best wishes yesterday.

“Just woke up to news of Joe Ansbro,” tweeted Evans, who has gone to Los Angeles to try to forge a career in film alongside his partner, model and actress Kelly Brook. “My thoughts are very much with him and his family. I wish him a speedy recovery.”

Evans was treated by Scotland team doctor James Robson, who will also help oversee Ansbro’s recovery programme. “The management of the injury Joe has sustained typically involves a period of between six to eight weeks immobilisation, then a further four to six weeks of rehabilitation before he can look at a return to the game,” said Robson.

Ansbro, 26, has just established himself as an important element in the national team. He made his international debut against South Africa two years ago and was part of the Scotland squad that went to the World Cup in New Zealand 12 months ago. He scored a try in the opening game against Romania and partnered Sean Lamont in midfield for Scotland’s final game of that tournament, the 16-12 pool defeat by England in Auckland.

Ansbro, who switched clubs from Northampton to London Irish a year ago, is a forceful presence on the field, and scored a try in Scotland’s last match, the 17-16 victory over Samoa in Apia. His contribution to that unbeaten tour, however, might be best remembered for an incident that has become a YouTube hit, the accidental head-butting clash with fearsome flanker Alasdair Strokosch. The pair came running in from opposite directions to join a huddle of Scotland players exultant at the final whistle of their 9-6 win over Australia. The two collided and fell backwards with a gash appearing over Ansbro’s eye.

The damage that day was superficial. Sadly, Ansbro was not as fortunate this time.

Tennis: Federer and Azarenka are world's top players

(AGI) Rome - Swiss Roger Federer is at the top of the men's ATP and the Byelorussian Victoria Azarenka are at the top of the women WTP in the world tennis classification. Andreas Seppi, seeded 27, is Italy's best male player and Sara Errani is Italy's best female player. Federer is followed by the Serb, Novak Djokovic and Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Then comes British player Andy Murray, Spaniard David Ferrer, France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the Czech Tomas Berdych, Agentine Juan Martin Del Potro, Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic and, to close the top ten, the American John Isner. . .

Madrid's troubles continue, while Serie A and Bundesliga get going

Madrid's stuttering start continues with defeat

Real Madrid's disappointing start to the season continued as they suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at Getafe despite leading at half-time.

Jose Mourinho's side had won their last seven league meetings against their local rivals and appeared set for another triumph when Gonzalo Higuain put them ahead in the 27th minute.

However, Getafe hit back in the second half to stun their star-studded opponents with goals from Juan Valera and Abdelaziz Barrada.

That completed a forgettable first week to the new campaign for Mourinho, who's expensively-assembled team started their title defence with a 1-1 home draw against Valencia last weekend before losing 3-2 to arch rivals Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa on Thursday.

There were no such worries for the Catalans, thanks to Lionel Messi who scored twice in the last 15 minutes as his side survived a scare against 10-man Osasuna to continue their winning start to the new season with a 2-1 victory.

Osasuna won the corresponding fixture last season 3-2 and it looked like another upset was on the cards when Joseba Llorente volleyed the home side in front in the 17th minute on Sunday.

Striker Nino then had a great chance to double Osasuna's lead in the 70th minute, but he hit the post when clean through and 10 minutes later Barca were ahead and on their way to three points.

Messi, as has often been the case, was the spark behind the comeback, and he drew the teams level in the 75th minute when he stabbed home Alexis Sanchez's pass to finish off a move he himself had started with a trademark darting run.

Osasuna were aggrieved that goal was allowed to stand after Alexis had appeared to be offside when he received the ball earlier in the move, and the home side's veteran midfielder Patxi Punal was handed his marching orders for taking his protests too far.

Barca quickly made the most of their man advantage as, in the 80th minute, summer signing Jordi Alba picked out Messi near the edge of the area and the Argentina superstar rolled a low shot into the far corner for the match-winner.

Meanwhile, Sevilla came from behind with 10 men to claim a valuable point from a 1-1 draw in the first Andalusian derby of the season at Granada.

The visitors had goalkeeper Diego Lopez sent off just after the half-hour mark when he upended Antonio Floro Flores inside the area and, despite his replacement Andres Palop saving Guillherme Siqueira's penalty, Mikel Rico rattled in the rebound to give Granada the lead.

However, Alvaro Negredo headed home a minute before the break to bring Sevilla level and Michel's side defended relatively comfortably in the second half until a late flurry from the hosts saw Darwin Marchis head two golden opportunities over and Floro Flores hit the crossbar.

Elsewhere, former Tottenham man Helder Postiga left it late to earn Real Zaragoza victory over 10-man Espanyol.

In a bad-tempered encounter which saw eight players booked, Alvaro Vazquez lit the touchpaper by firing hosts Espanyol ahead with a powerful finish just before half-time.

Juan Albin received his marching orders for a second booking after the interval and Antonio Apono levelled from the penalty spot.

A constant menace in the second half, Portuguese striker Postiga chipped away at Espanyol's resolve and got his reward two minutes from time to earn Real a 2-1 win and their first points of the season.

Brazilian Leo scored his first senior goal for Rayo Vallecano as they continued their 100 per cent start to the season with a 2-1 win at Real Betis.

The visitors went ahead within two minutes as Piti tapped in, but Betis responded immediately and Jorge Molina headed in his third goal of the campaign moments later.

Despite withstanding an early Betis onslaught at the beginning of the second period, Rayo looked the more co-ordinated team throughout and deservedly got the winner on the hour mark when Lass Bangoura teed up Leo to rifle low past Fabricio in the Betis goal.

Marseille lay down early marker

Marseille powered to the Ligue 1 summit as they maintained their 100 per cent start to the season with a 1-0 win over reigning champions Montpellier at Stade de la Mosson.

Andre-Pierre Gignac struck the winning goal in the 77th minute, capitalising on an error in the Montpellier backline, as OM moved two points clear at the top of the table with three wins from three under new boss Elie Baup.

Defeat for Montpellier leaves them inside the relegation zone and still searching for their first win three matches into the defence of their title.

Big-spending Paris St Germain remained frustrated in pursuit of their first victory as they were held to their third draw in as many games - a goalless stalemate at home to Bordeaux, who dropped points for the first time this season.

Earlier in the weekend, Valenciennes and Toulouse had joined Lyon at the top of the fledgling Ligue 1 standings overnight after respective victories over Ajaccio and Nancy.

VA picked up their first home win of the season with a 3-0 triumph over Ajaccio at the Stade du Hainaut.

Strikes from Mamadou Samassa and Loris Nery, and a David Oberhauser own goal, were enough to see off the challenge of the visitors, who had Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi sent off in the first half for a two-footed challenge.

Moussa Sissoko's early strike lifted TFC to a 1-0 win over Nancy. Nancy had their chances to cancel out Sissoko's 10th-minute strike in an open encounter, but saw their hopes hit by the 48th-minute dismissal of Andre Luiz as Toulouse held on to register back-to-back wins.

The pair moved on to seven points from three games alongside Lyon, who drew 1-1 at Evian.

Elsewhere, Yann M'Vila showed why several of Europe's top clubs want to sign him with a stunning late winner as Rennes ended the unbeaten start of Bastia and kick-started their own season by beating the 10-man visitors 3-2 in a dramatic match.

Rennes, who came into the game on the back of two defeats, led through Romain Alessandrini's 21st-minute opener but were soon pegged back by Francois Marque.

The hosts led again through Jonathan Pitroipa five minutes before half-time, only for Sylvain Marchal to level again in the 74th minute, even after Bastia had had Araujo Ilan sent off.

But when M'Vila fired in an outstanding third from long range, Bastia were finally defeated.

Welcome back, Samp

Sampdoria made a winning return to Serie A with a shock 1-0 victory at AC Milan as Andrea Costa scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute and, although the Rossoneri hit the woodwork twice, their fans made their feelings clear at the final whistle.

Another of the newboys, Pescara, were given a less-than-friendly introduction to life in the top flight as they were beaten 3-0 by Inter Milan.

The Delfini, second-tier champions last season, were always going to be up against it at the Stadio Adriatico and so it proved as Wesley Sneijder got Inter up and running with 17 minutes gone.

Diego Milito then caught them cold with a second two minutes later before Phillipe Coutinho wrapped things up for Andrea Stramaccioni's men.

Meanwhile, Lazio also opened their campaign with a 1-0 victory at Atalanta, courtesy of Anderson Hernanes' 18th-minute goal.

Napoli's bid to improve on last term's top-five finish got off to a flying start with a 3-0 victory in Palermo. Marek Hamsik, Christian Maggio and Edinson Cavani all scored for the Partenopei.

And Zdenek Zemen's return to Serie A as coach of Roma was not a winning one as his men played out a 2-2 draw with Catania.

Giovanni Marchese and Alejandro Gomez twice put the visitors in front but the Giallorossi responded with goals from Pablo Osvaldo and Nico Lopez.

Siena, who are trying to overturn a six-point deduction for their part in a match-fixing scandal, could only manage a goalless draw against newly promoted Torino.

Business as usual for the big two

Bayern Munich made a perfect start to the Bundesliga season with a convincing 3-0 win at local rivals and top-flight newcomers Greuther Furth.

Thomas Muller put the Bavarians in front just before half-time, with Mario Mandzukic and Arjen Robben - via a deflection - on target in the second half for Jupp Heynckes' men.

Furth rarely threatened Manuel Neuer's goal as they were given the toughest of introductions to life among Germany's elite.

Claudio Pizarro and Bastian Schweinsteiger both missed chances to make it a greater margin of victory for Bayern, who nevertheless took all three points to follow the example of defending champions Borussia Dortmund, who started the season with a 1-0 home win over Werder Bremen.

Mario Gotze scored an 81st-minute winner after coming on as a late substitute, after Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie had cancelled out Marco Reus opener in the 11th minute.

Hanno Balitsch scored the only goal as Nurnberg secured their first win over Hamburg in 20 years. He netted in the 68th minute to seal a 1-0 victory, lashing home from close range after Per Nilsson's header had hit the bar.

Hamburg nearly grabbed a point but Marcell Jansen's header one minute into second-half stoppage time went off the crossbar. Robert Mak had the final chance at the other end but his shot went just wide right from 20 yards out.

Juan Arango's set-pieces held the key as Borussia Monchengladbach began with a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim. The Venezuela midfielder delivered the free-kick from which Mike Hanke headed the first-half opener and then curled in the winner direct from another with 11 minutes remaining.

Elsewhere, Eintracht Frankfurt came from behind to defeat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 on their return to the top-flight.

Stefan Kiessling gave Leverkusen the lead after half an hour but Frankfurt were unfortunate not to find an equaliser before the break.

Stefan Aigner levelled in the 57th minute before Martin Lanig headed in a winner in the 82nd minute giving Armin Veh's side a winning start after one season in the second tier.

Bas Dost scored a last-gasp goal on his Wolfsburg debut to seal a narrow 1-0 victory at Stuttgart, who missed a penalty. Vedad Ibisevic spurned the chance to put Stuttgart in front in the 87th minute when his spot-kick was saved by Diego Benaglio, and less than three minutes later, Dost clinched victory for the Wolves, who managed only three wins on their travels all of last season.

Time for Vince Young to embrace Canadian summers, or retire to Austin

When a team trades for Tarvaris Jackson to take your job it's a clear sign that maybe the whole NFL scene just isn't your gig.

Former University of Texas/God quarterback Vince Young was cut by the Bills after the team traded to acquire Seahawks QB Tavaris Jackson. That has to sting.

VY went to Buffalo in the offseason to backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, and continue to try to become a more prototypical NFL passer. Obviously it didn't take.

By the looks of he hasn't found another team yet.

Given his age (28), his athletic ability and the fact he has been to the Pro Bowl (along with every other active NFL player) he may get a look somewhere else. Why not?

If VY wants to really play again his better bet may be to look north of the border and play Canada. According to this report from, the Montreal SomethingOrOthers have added YV to their negotiation list.

No, Canada is not the NFL but according to this VY can make a few hundred K playing football. That beats working.

It would require a certain degree of pride swallowing. We are talking about the QB of the National Title winning team, the No. 3 overall pick of the NFL draft, and a guy who has had some success in the NFL.

If VY doesn't want any part of the Canadian summers, and no other team calls, go to Austin. Go be king. Some fat cat booster will give you a job doing nothing where you can collect a check tell stories of the long run on the 4th-and-87 to beat Kansas. To tell the stories of how you beat OU. And no one wearing burnt orange will ever tire of the USC game.

(BTW: This play makes me barf)
Facebook Mac Engel

Brewers bash 3 HRs in 9th, rout Cubs

Sports Network

Chicago, IL –  Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in a nine-run ninth inning, as the Milwaukee Brewers blew open a close game at Wrigley Field and ran away with a 15-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Braun went 4-for-6 with a home run, three runs scored and five RBI, while Ramirez homered twice and drove in four in the Brewers' sixth win in seven games. Carlos Gomez had four of the club's 21 hits, including a solo homer.

Marco Estrada (2-5) earned a second straight victory after allowing three unearned runs on six hits and three walks in a five-inning start.

Justin Germano (2-4) surrendered five runs on 10 hits over five-plus innings to take the loss. Brett Jackson's solo homer highlighted Chicago's offense.

The Cubs, who were coming off a series win over the Rockies, were within two runs, 6-4, before Alex Hinshaw's forgettable outing in the ninth.

The reliever walked Norichika Aoki to start the inning and gave up a single to Rickie Weeks in front of Braun, who launched his 35th home run of the season onto Waveland Avenue.

Ramirez followed with his first multi-home run game with the Brewers, and Hart ended Hinshaw's night by hammering a pitch into the last row of seats in left- center.

Lendy Castillo was just as ineffective in relief as he gave up four more runs, one coming on an RBI single by Braun.

His effort was bad enough for the Cubs to bring in utilityman Joe Mather to pitch. Mather allowed a pinch-hit RBI single to Jeff Bianchi before retiring pinch-hitter Martin Maldonado for the final out.

Ramirez gave the Brewers an early lead when his NL-leading 43rd double knocked in Braun in the first inning.

The Cubs responded with three two-out, run-scoring hits in the fifth. Anthony Rizzo blooped one off Ramirez's glove to plate David DeJesus and scored on a double by Alfonso Soriano, who crossed home on Starlin Castro's base hit.

Braun and Ramirez were at it again in the fifth, with the former hitting an RBI double down the left-field line and the latter crushing a two-run homer to left-center for a 4-3 lead.

Aoki tacked on an RBI single in the sixth and kept the Brewers in front with a sliding grab in right field to strand a pair in the seventh.

Jackson and Gomez traded solo shots in the sixth and eighth, respectively.

Game Notes

The top four hitters in Milwaukee's lineup -- Aoki, Weeks, Braun and Ramirez -- combined for 12 hits, nine runs and 10 RBI ... Ramirez played eight-plus years for the Cubs before signing with the Brewers in the offseason ... Chicago struck out 15 times, eight against Estrada ... The last Cubs position player to pitch was Gary Gaetti on July 3, 1999 against the Phillies ... The Brewers swept last week's series with the Cubs and have taken six straight in the series overall.

Carroll picks Wilson's performance over Flynn's pay

By Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY
This was not a Moneyball type of deal.

In March, the Seattle Seahawks landed the hottest quarterback in free agency when they gave Matt Flynn a $6 million signing bonus and guaranteed $10 million of a three-year contract.

It seemed a given that Flynn, after prepping as Aaron Rodgers' backup with the Green Bay Packers, would get the chance to prove he could be a starter. That chance might ultimately come.

    MORE: Seahawks player notes

But not now.

Coach Pete Carroll is rolling with the most stunning move of the preseason, naming third-round rookie Russell Wilson as his starter. This is unquestionably the right move, because Wilson won the job on merit.

Wilson, all of 5-11 and 206 pounds, will become the lowest-drafted rookie quarterback to open a season since fourth-rounder Kyle Orton for the Chicago Bears in 2005. Wilson was chosen in the third round, 75th overall. He received a signing bonus of roughly $620,000 and has a base salary of $390,000.

In this salary-cap age — when many positions are slotted before training camp — it is rare that Carroll will let his big-money quarterback ride the bench while a rookie runs the offense.

Yet it is also another indication that Carroll — who sprung the shocker of the draft when he selected West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin 15th overall — is a high-risk gambler who cannot be easily predicted.

Carroll picked Wilson the old-fashioned way, allowing the rookie to compete for the job with Flynn and since-traded incumbent Tarvaris Jackson.

Maybe Carroll, 14-18 in his first two seasons, has finally found his man. Since arriving, he has kicked Matt Hasselbeck to the curb, traded for Charlie Whitehurst, signed Jackson and Flynn as free agents and drafted Wilson.

Athletic, with a rocket arm, Wilson will be among a record five rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 1 — and the only one who wasn't a first-rounder.

He won Carroll over a little bit at a time, from the predraft evaluations to the minicamps, from training camp and through the preseason.

In his first exhibition start Friday at the Kansas City Chiefs, Wilson led the Seahawks to scores on his first six possessions, had a 134.8 passer rating that included two touchdown throws and rushed for 58 yards on two carries. Meanwhile, Flynn nursed an elbow injury that Carroll maintains did not factor into the decision.

Wilson also directed 11 drives off the bench in his first two preseason games, producing five TDs and a field goal. In 10 preseason series, Flynn hasn't guided the first team to a touchdown.

"Times have shifted, and if we don't acknowledge that, then we're just putting our head in the sand," Carroll said during a conference call. "Times have changed with the young guys. And it goes to their upbringing. They've come to us with a savvy that's just about unrecognizable, because they know so much."

In Week 1, 10 teams will field a quarterback in his first or second season. That seems astonishing when considering how much is invested in the most difficult position in football, if not in all sports.

After spectacular debuts in lockout-squeezed 2011 by Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals, the bar on rookie quarterbacks undoubtedly was raised. Jon Gruden, who quizzes rookie quarterbacks for his predraft specials on ESPN, gave Wilson a thumbs up Monday.

"Special kid, man," Gruden text-messaged. "I loved him. Got into a big argument with Mel Kiper on the draft set."

Wilson played three years at North Carolina State in a West Coast system similar to the Seahawks' scheme. He played his final season at Wisconsin in a vertical, play-action system. He's a fast learner and big-time leader. He went to Wisconsin as a grad student, learned the playbook in three weeks and was voted a team captain.

Why did he last so long in the draft? He isn't the prototype when it comes to size. But neither is Drew Brees. Wilson has built his game to compensate for his lack of height with his playbook wit, timing, rhythm and athleticism.

Expecting him — as a rookie — to get the best of the ferocious defense fielded by the division-champion San Francisco 49ers might be asking too much. Yet with Carroll's gutsy decision, Wilson will get the chance.

Contributing: Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell

Red Sox just getting started?

By Joe McDonald |

BOSTON -- There was a moment during the Boston Red Sox's 8-6 win over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday at Fenway Park that spoke volumes.

It also made one contemplate what the recent, nine-player blockbuster trade that involved shipping first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford and pitcher Josh Beckett -- and their $250 million in contracts -- to the Los Angeles Dodgers really means for the Red Sox organization.

Because don't think ownership and general manager Ben Cherington are done making changes. This is only the beginning.

The moment during Sunday's game came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia clearly was safe on a ground ball to third base but was called out by first-base umpire Dan Bellino. Pedroia and first-base coach Alex Ochoa both were fuming. With that, manager Bobby Valentine sprinted up the steps of the dugout, losing his balance and nearly toppling over in his haste to defend his player's case.

Eventually he got out there. He was animated and finally ejected from the game. It was the fifth time this season he's been tossed, but this one seemed to have a little more meaning behind it.

After the game, Valentine was asked whether he expected to be back next season. He simply said, "Yeah."

Valentine was asked why he thought he would be back.

"I answered the question, yeah," he said. "I have a contract for next year, that's why. Obviously."

Ownership gave Valentine a vote of confidence for the remainder of the season but never mentioned anything about next season. With all the changes the club has made, not just this weekend but throughout the season, one would have to think there's a 50-50 chance Valentine will be back.

Then there's the trust factor.

Are the lines of communication open and honest between Valentine, Cherington and ownership? And what does this blockbuster deal really mean?

It's evident the club wants a new culture on and off the field. Overall, this trade was a really good thing for everyone involved.

Beckett easily could be considered the most hated man in Boston. Crawford is a good person and a great talent but probably knows that signing with the Red Sox was a mistake from the start. Gonzalez is a great player, no doubt, but he had his issues and was not the type of leader this club needed.

If the Red Sox are willing to get rid of those three players, it's a sure indication that no one -- manager, staff or players -- is safe. The organization has made it obvious it will do anything to achieve total reconciliation.

So now Cherington has a 3-0 count.

Will he get the green light to swing away, or will he remain patient and attempt to draw a walk?

The deal should put the club in a position to be successful financially and in the clubhouse, even though the current players don't seem to like the trade.

"I'll tell you what, those are some of the best teammates I've ever been around," said reliever Mark Melancon, who recorded his first save of the season on Sunday. "I'm not just saying that. Every one of those guys was fantastic. It's depressing that they're gone. Every one of them brought a lot to the table. It's unfortunate that we lost them. Great guys. They brought nothing but positive stuff to this clubhouse."

Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles said the chemistry among the players has been sound all season.

"The whole year we've all gotten along," he said. "A lot of things were taken out of context through the media. We didn't have any bad seeds in this locker room. We all got along really good with each other. We've had fun, and I think all the younger players who come up see that and fall right in.

"We have a lot of good character people in here. Throughout the course of the year we've had a lot of good character people, and when you keep adding good character people, our team has fun and we're trying to win ballgames. I know it's been a tough year and it's not what we wanted it to be, but at the end of the day we still have to come to the park and do the job that they're paying us to do."

Newcomer James Loney played his first game for the Red Sox on Sunday. So far, he's the only major league addition from the megadeal, and along with some players recently called up from Triple-A Pawtucket, the clubhouse had a different vibe to it, especially without Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett.

It will take some time for the new atmosphere to jell, and the players know that.

"I think sometimes it does," Aviles said. "But other times it could be an instant thing because everybody knows that we're pretty much at a point that everybody's getting evaluated. I know there are a lot of younger guys up here, too, so that extra energy that comes in helps."

Even though the Red Sox are not mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, the club already is focused on the offseason and 2013. In fact, the next six weeks will be a buffer, as the Red Sox already have begun to put their plan into place.

The remaining games on the schedule also will serve as a six-week tryout for a lot of players. Rookie Ryan Lavarnway likely will catch the bulk of the games. Even though Aviles has played well and has remained relatively healthy this season, rookie Jose Iglesias also will see playing time.

Pedro Ciriaco has played extremely well and given himself a serious opportunity to play full time next season.

"He's been great," Pedroia said. "He's hitting the ball on the barrel. He's running the bases well and has played great defense. He's been awesome, and he's learning, too. He's playing the game right. It's fun."

Then there's next season.

It appears that Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz could be shut down for the remainder of the season with a lingering right Achilles strain. At the very least, it's likely he'll be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday.

If his season is over, he's proved -- once again -- that this club needs his production on the field and his presence in the clubhouse. Even though he does not want to talk about his contract situation (he will be a free agent again this offseason), it's obvious he wants a long-term deal to remain and ultimately retire in Boston.

With considerably more salary flexibility, Cherington should sign Ortiz to a multiyear deal.

"In this game, when you're capable of doing what I do, it's a plus, I don't care what anybody says," Ortiz said. "It's hard to hit a damn baseball. It's harder than what anyone can imagine, and if you put two, three David Ortizes in your lineup, you're going to have some results -- I guarantee you that.

"You want a guy who's capable of hitting the ball and produce runs for you. That's what everyone is looking for right now. They don't care if you're a catcher, first baseman or DH. If you produce, trust me, you're going to play."

Ortiz's focus right now is to get healthy, and he wants to play again this season before he starts to think about his contract. He was asked whether he thought that the recent salary dump would help his situation.

"I don't know. All I can control right now is doing my job," Ortiz said. "The offseason, negotiations and stuff like that, it will take care of stuff on its own."

The new Red Sox outlook eventually will take care of itself, too. Cherington has made the right decisions in the wake of a horrible season. Changes will continue to happen until the club becomes a perennial winner again.

Whether Valentine remains in the equation remains to be seen, but it appears as though the Red Sox have drawn a line in the sand. Now it's time to totally clean things up.

"There are a lot of good people trying to do the same thing together," Valentine said.

Ford hits home run for Orioles

By Christopher Dabe
Baltimore Orioles' Lew Ford bats during a MLB baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Sunday, July 29, 2012, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Photo: Nick Wass, FRE / BE
Baltimore Orioles' Lew Ford bats during a MLB baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Sunday, July 29, 2012, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Photo: Nick Wass, FRE / BE

Lew Ford hit his first major league home run in more than five years Monday night.

The Port Neches-Groves graduate now with the Baltimore Orioles led off the second inning with a home run to right field. He last hit a home run in the major leagues on July 29, 2007, while with the Minnesota Twins.

Ford went nearly five years without playing in a major league game until the Orioles called him up in July from Triple-A Norfolk. Ford began the season with an independent league team in Long Island, N.Y., and he played recent seasons in Japan and Mexico.

The right-handed hitting Ford hit the home run off Chicago White Sox left-hander Francisco Liriano.

The home run landed just inside the right field foul pole and Ford smiled as he crossed the plate and stepped into the dugout, according to a video posted on

Rasmus, Blue Jays rally past Yankees 8-7 in 11

Toronto Blue Jays' Colby Rasmus hits a three-run home run off of New York Yankees relief pitcher Rafael Soriano in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, at Yankee Stadium in New York.
Associated Press

NEW YORK — On a night when it was downright dangerous to be a Toronto pitcher, Colby Rasmus and the banged-up Blue Jays pulled off a stunning comeback.

Rasmus hit a three-run homer off Rafael Soriano with two outs in the ninth inning and Toronto took advantage of Derek Lowe's wild pickoff throw in the 11th to beat the New York Yankees 8-7 Monday, snapping a seven-game losing streak.

"Real pleased with the way guys competed all the way through," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We didn't roll over and we kept coming at them. ... These are those games, in the 11th inning on the road you win it. Sometimes if they go the other way they can almost feel like two losses."

Moments after Rasmus' drive put Toronto up 7-6, Derek Jeter tied it with a home run off Casey Janssen. But the last-place Blue Jays didn't cave, scratching out a run two innings later to stop an eight-game slide at Yankee Stadium.

Yorvit Torrealba singled leading off the 11th for his third hit and pinch-runner Mike McCoy scampered to third when Lowe's pickoff attempt got past first baseman Eric Chavez and rolled into foul territory up the right-field line. Lowe (8-11) was charged with an error.

After a strikeout, Adeiny Hechavarria hit a slow grounder toward third that forced Jayson Nix to charge the ball. McCoy waited until Nix threw to first, then dashed home and slid in ahead of Chavez's throw to the plate.

"Great instincts," Farrell said.

Torrealba had a two-run shot and Adam Lind also went deep in his first plate appearance for the Blue Jays since coming off the disabled list. Missing slugger Jose Bautista and several other regulars, Toronto had dropped a season-worst eight straight on the road.

"When you come here to play in Yankee Stadium, man, anything can happen. I think everybody knows that," reliever Darren Oliver said.

Robinson Cano homered twice and Nick Swisher hit a two-run drive for New York.

Oliver (3-2) pitched two hitless innings for the win, Toronto's first at Yankee Stadium since May 23, 2011.

It was a costly loss for the AL East leaders. Slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira was pulled with a left calf injury and sent to the hospital for an MRI that revealed a Grade 1 strain. Teixeira said he expects to miss at least a week, maybe two — the latest blow to the middle of New York's power-packed batting order.

Alex Rodriguez has been sidelined since July 25 with a broken left hand but was cleared to take batting practice Tuesday.

"It's very frustrating," Teixeira said. "We've had our share of bad luck, as most teams in baseball have. We'll have guys step up."

Rookie right-hander David Phelps gave the Yankees another solid spot start, this one in place of injured Ivan Nova, and New York opened a 6-3 lead in the fifth.

Hechavarria got Toronto's comeback started with a two-out RBI single off Cody Eppley in the seventh.

"Nice to win and get to experience it with the guys," Lind said. "I know it was a big lift."

Moises Sierra and Rajai Davis singled in the ninth to bring up the slumping Rasmus, who drove a breaking ball deep into the second deck in right for his 21st home run.

It was Soriano's third blown save in 36 chances since taking over as closer in May for injured Mariano Rivera. New York fell to 69-5 when leading after eight innings.

Soriano left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

"He's been so good for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's done a great job. Just tonight wasn't his night."

Four times the Yankees hit sharp comebackers that caromed off the body of a Blue Jays pitcher.

Henderson Alvarez took the worst one, Russell Martin's hard grounder that smacked off the starter's leg in the fourth and careened into shallow right field for an RBI single. Alvarez hobbled over to the first base line and bent over in pain. He was checked by a trainer and walked slowly off the field with a bruised left shin.

"That's just the way the season's gone," Lind said.

X-rays were negative and Alvarez is day to day. Aaron Laffey relieved and was given all the time he needed to warm up.

Alvarez also was checked by the trainer in the second inning after Chavez's comebacker deflected off his pitching hand for an infield single. He threw a couple of warmup pitches and appeared to be OK.

"We've got like the MASH unit right now. It's crazy," Oliver said.

Chavez had another infield single in the eighth that hit reliever Aaron Loup. Laffey recovered from a body shot to throw out Jeter in the sixth. Laffey has a bruised left calf and is day to day.

"In some ways we dodged a couple of bullets," Farrell said.

NOTES: Bautista, back on the disabled list with a left wrist injury, was examined by a hand specialist in Cleveland and was on his way to New York to rejoin the team, Farrell said. The Blue Jays were awaiting test results. ... RHP Phil Hughes (12-11, 4.15 ERA) starts Tuesday night for the Yankees against struggling LHP Ricky Romero (8-11, 5.63). ... RHP Jason Frasor (right forearm) threw another bullpen and is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend.
—Copyright 2012 Associated Press

Francis, Rockies blank Dodgers

Jeff Francis throws five shutout innings and punches out six batters as the Rockies silence the Dodgers' bats. (AP)
Jeff Francis throws five shutout innings and punches out six batters as the Rockies silence the Dodgers' bats. (AP) wire reports

 DENVER -- Josh Beckett was decent in his Dodgers debut.

On this night, though, he needed to be dazzling.

The right-hander tried to keep Los Angeles in the game until the team's recently obtained big hitters could come through at the plate.

Only, it didn't go accordingly to plan.

Jeff Francis and three relievers combined on a four-hitter as the Colorado Rockies beat Beckett and the Dodgers 10-0 Monday night.

 "We didn't expect to get shut out, that's for sure," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Beckett (0-1) was acquired in a nine-player megadeal deal with the Boston Red Sox over the weekend. His career in Los Angeles got off to an inauspicious start when he gave up a leadoff homer to Tyler Colvin on his second pitch, a 91-mph fastball that ended up in the second deck.

He allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings as the Dodgers fell 2½ games behind idle San Francisco in the NL West.

"I've only been here a couple of days," Beckett said. "I'm still feeling things out. As I move forward, I'll get more comfortable."

Meanwhile, Francis (5-4) settled right in. He scattered three hits in five innings and struck out a season-high six batters. Josh Roenicke, Rex Brothers and Matt Belisle combined to close it out, with Belisle pitching 1 2/3 innings to earn his second save this season.

Colvin had a big day at the plate, adding a two-run triple as part of a seven-run eighth inning that broke open a tight game. Wilin Rosario had a two-run homer in the frame.

Francis worked his way out of a sticky situation in the fifth after yielding a one-out single to Luis Cruz and a double to A.J. Ellis. Francis struck out Beckett and then Shane Victorino -- on a 68-mph curve -- to end the threat.

He slightly pumped his fist as he walked off the mound -- a rare show of emotion by the usually reserved pitcher.

"It was kind of the turning point in the game," he said.

With Francis and Beckett on the mound, this was a rematch of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. In that contest, Beckett went seven innings and allowed one run en route to a 13-1 win. It set the tone for the series as Boston swept the Rockies.

Since that time, Francis underwent shoulder surgery that sidelined him for all of 2009 and spent last season with Kansas City. He began this year in the minors for Cincinnati, before returning to Colorado, which drafted him with the ninth overall pick in 2002.

In his tenure with the Rockies, Francis has been quite productive on the mound. He's among the franchise leaders in wins (60), starts (166), innings (965) and strikeouts (654).

So, was this one of his most memorable wins?

"It's funny, you know, because it's only five innings. In the world of starting pitchers, it's really nothing to get excited about," Francis said. "Within our role on this team, it's our job. That's what we go out there to do. So, it is very satisfying. It's weird to stand here and think I did a really good job -- I threw five innings."

The Dodgers are hoping a change of scenery for Beckett results in a change of fortune. He struggled this season in Boston, going 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA.

Beckett was a key part of the Red Sox on their way to the `07 World Series title, but he also was regarded as one of the ringleaders when the team struggled last September and missed a playoff spot on the final day of the season. Reports of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games surfaced afterward, and Beckett's bombastic demeanor aggravated fans.

But that's all in the past for Mattingly, who said before the game that Beckett gets "a little bit of a do-over, for a guy that's coming from a place that there is a negative vibe all around him."

After the game, Mattingly said he liked what he saw.

"(Beckett) did what we ask our guys to do," he said. "We just couldn't do anything for him."

In the deal with Boston, the Dodgers also picked up Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto, which meant inheriting around $275 million in contracts. That's a lot of payroll for the Dodgers to take on and has some referring to the team as the Yankees of the west.

"I don't know if I'd go that far yet," pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. "The Yankees have a tradition of winning that the Dodgers have, but we haven't won in a while. It's been 20-someting years since we won a World Series. Yeah, the Yankees can spend some money.

"And apparently we can do that, too, now."

The Dodgers also recently acquired infielder Hanley Ramirez from Miami and Victorino from Philadelphia - deals that increase expectations. It's postseason or bust for the Dodgers.

"If we don't make the playoffs and don't go to the World Series, then it's not a good season," Kershaw said. "That's probably true in any season, but our team, if you look at it on paper, we should win games, we should perform on the field and should make the postseason and we should go deep into the postseason. There are no excuses now."


    Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki (groin) and 1B Jason Giambi (viral syndrome) were scheduled to play Monday night with Double-A Tulsa before returning to Denver for more evaluation.
    The Dodgers will send LHP Chris Capuano (11-9) to the mound Tuesday against RHP Tyler Chatwood (3-3).
    2B DJ LeMahieu drove in two runs and pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge singled in another for the Rockies.

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

U.S. Open tennis: It goes from queasy to easy for Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova, seeded No. 3, rolls to 6-2, 6-2 first-round win over Melinda Czink, then breezily describes illness that caused her to skip summer hard-court season.
Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova returns a shot during her first-round match against Melinda Czink. (Al Bello / Getty Images / August 27, 2012)

By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

August 28, 2012

NEW YORK — Maria Sharapova hadn't played a tennis match since she lost to Serena Williams at the Olympics, winning only one game with the gold medal on the line. And it might have seemed Sharapova had been mostly absent that day in London as well.

But Monday in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open, the No. 3-seeded Sharapova was regally dominant. She beat Hungarian veteran Melinda Czink, 6-2, 6-2.

And afterward Sharapova had some fun describing what turned out to be a nasty virus that caused her to pull out of all the North American hard-court warmups between the Olympics and the Open.

Because her stomach hurt so badly, Sharapova was sent for tests. "It was really weird," she said. "They told me I was fine, not pregnant. I'm like, 'Can I get my money back?'"

Sharapova was also eager to deny a rumor that she was going to marry her fiance, Sasha Vujacic, the former Lakers guard who is playing professionally in Turkey, in Istanbul in November.

"I'm definitely not getting married in Istanbul in November," she said. "I'm surprised everyone believed that."

Kim Clijsters, a three-time winner of this tournament who is retiring at its end, struggled early in her first match before beating 16-year-old Victoria Duval, 6-3, 6-1, in 51 minutes. Duval, who received a wild card into the tournament, is ranked No. 562 in the world and played her first Grand Slam-level match on the biggest court in the world.

Clijsters won her 22nd consecutive Open match; she missed the tournament in 2011 because of an injury and couldn't defend the titles she had won here in 2009 and 2010.

Olympic men's gold medalist Andy Murray and Wimbledon winner Roger Federer also had uncomfortable moments Monday.

The top-seeded Federer actually had his serve broken by American Donald Young in the second set and that caused Federer to frown. But he still won his way to the second round, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Young, 23, has won only three matches this year and had recently ended a 17-match losing streak, yet last year he made it to the fourth round of the Open. But Federer, taking aim at his sixth U.S. Open title, didn't give Young much cause for hope.

And maybe it was a two-hour rain delay that made the third-seeded Murray so cranky earlier in the day. The Scotsman was overheard saying some bad words in Ashe Stadium and was seen bouncing a racket or two off the court, especially in the first set when he struggled to hold his serve.

But in the end it was Murray with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 first-round win over Alex Bogomolov Jr.

Murray, 25, said he struggled with the humidity.

"I got a little bit of cramps," he said. "I need to stay better-hydrated."

Murray also became choked up after the match when he was asked on court about winning the Olympic gold medal. "It's the biggest win of my career," he said. "To play for your country in a home Olympics, to win a gold medal, it was perfect.

Defending champion Samantha Stosur wins first-round match | U.S. Open tennis


Defending champion Samantha Stosur of Australia beat Petra Martic of Croatia 6-1, 6-1 in the first match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

By The New York Times

NEW YORK — With the first storm clouds of the U.S. Open bearing down on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Monday, the biggest challenge for defending champion Samantha Stosur of Australia was whether she could polish off Petra Martic of Croatia before the raindrops arrived.

The answer was a definitive yes. Stosur, seeded seventh, took 51 minutes to put the final touches on a 6-1, 6-1 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium, site of her only Grand Slam tournament title. Her reward this year was to kick off the first round and beat the weather, which halted play for several hours after Stosur was safely off the court.

"I was really looking forward to getting this year's tournament started," Stosur said after the match. "Last year was the highlight of my career, so it's really nice to come back to a place where I feel so comfortable."

Andy Murray of Britain had to wait through the rain delay, a U.S. Open tradition these days, to play Alex Bogomolov Jr. But Murray motored through his first-round match with urgency similar to Stosur's.

The Olympic champion was not sharp in the opening games of the match, but he soon became comfortable, demolishing Bogomolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.

"I thought it was a six or seven out of 10," Murray said of his performance. "I didn't serve particularly well at the beginning of the match, but I won in three sets against a tough player and that's what I needed to do."

Bogomolov, a former American player who competes for Russia, could not make much of early service breaks against Murray in the first two sets. Eventually, Murray overpowered him with deep, angled shots Bogomolov could only watch helplessly.

Stosur had a chance at a perfect first set. Martic did not win a point until the fifth game as Stosur raced to a 5-0 lead. Martic had not played since Wimbledon because of injury. She served well and accurately but managed seven winners to Stosur's 22.

"I think it was a really good start," Stosur said. "I thought I served really well. There isn't really anything that I'd say I have to go out on the practice court and work on."

Russian Maria Sharapova kept the schedule at Arthur Ashe Stadium running as smoothly as possible after the rain delay.

Sharapova, who won this year's French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, defeated Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-2, 6-2. The match took 1 hour, 7 minutes, which left Sharapova enough time to wave to fans with some daylight remaining.

In evening matches, three-time U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters, 29, beat 16-year-old American Victoria Duval 6-3, 6-1 and Roger Federer of Switzerland defeated American Donald Young 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Belgian Clijsters extended her career — she has said this is her final tournament.

Clijsters missed last year's U.S. Open because of an abdominal injury.

"It was very disappointing for me last year to not defend my title," said Clijsters, who has won the two previous years she has competed at the event. "It's an honor to be playing in front of this crowd this year."

Federer Wins Easily; After a Sluggish Start, So Does Clijsters

Roger Federer was his effortless self Monday in the first round of the United States Open. He was never threatened as he dismantled Donald Young, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, to stretch his record in Open night matches to 22-0.
 “It makes a lot of fun,” Federer said of playing at night. “It is a lot of pressure since I’m going out as the big favorite to win.”

Federer’s play was swift, his backhand winners crushing. After winning his seventh Wimbledon singles title, Federer, 31, has regained his stature as the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

For the 22-year-old Young, this season has been disastrous. He had lost 17 consecutive matches and was ranked 81st entering the Open. Young has won only three matches all year.

“You look at it and you see yourself at the second line, and you don’t expect that,” Young said of drawing Federer in the first round.

Young, who reached the fourth round of the Open last year, walked onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing yellow headphones. His plan was to not beat himself up mentally. Many players have had similar missions against Federer. A lot of them have failed once Federer makes difficult winners look easy.

Young began the match strong. But once Federer broke his serve to go up, 4-3, in the first set, Young never recovered. Federer won 83 percent of the points on his first serve, and several of his service games required mere minutes to complete.

Young often yelled at himself in frustration and anger, something he had done all year. He shook his head a number of times as his new coach, Roger Smith, watched closely.

Federer, never giving much emotion, noticed how Young, even in defeat, played well at times.

“I’m happy to see he’s playing better,” Federer said of Young. “I think now he has to work on getting the right conditioning. I hope he takes advantage of it because he has a great game.”

CLIJSTERS KEEPS CAREER ALIVE Kim Clijsters, the three-time United States Open champion, remained calm in the moment as the crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium cheered on a young American player it had probably never seen before. Victoria Duval, playing in her first Open, had surprised the fans by winning three consecutive games to lead Clijsters in the first set, 3-2.

Before the match Clijsters, 29, joked that she was almost twice as old as the 16-year-old Duval, who said she hardly slept on the eve of the Open. But Clijsters had her own nerves to overcome. She knew this was the final tournament of her career.

Clijsters settled down, found her rhythm and eventually figured out Duval to win, 6-3, 6-1, in the first round.

“It was a special occasion for her, but she did well,” Clijsters said. “I was nervous maybe just as much as she was. It doesn’t get any easier the longer you play.”

Clijsters, who missed last year’s Open with an abdominal injury, extended her winning streak in the tournament to 22 matches.

“It was very disappointing for me last year to not defend my title,” said Clijsters, who had won the Open the previous two years, and also in 2005. “It’s an honor to be playing in front of this crowd this year.”

Duval, who speaks like the teenager she is in a high-pitched voice, said she was grateful for the opportunity to play Clijsters, a player she said she grew up idolizing.

At times, Duval showed the agility and footwork that has made her a rising talent.

After Duval took the lead, Clijsters played closer to the baseline, allowing her to respond more quickly to Duval’s forehands. When Clijsters needed a point on serve, she went for aces.

Once she took command of the match, Clijsters sprayed forehand winner after forehand winner into the corners.

“I’ve always felt very comfortable on hard courts,” Clijsters said. “There are a lot of great emotions and positive feelings when I’m out here. I felt like I was playing a lot better in the second match. It’s good to be able to see my play go in the right direction.”

No TDs for Jets again in 17-12 loss to Panthers

The Jets sputter on offense but might have found their new right tackle in Austin Howard (77). (Getty Images)
Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –  The New York Jets' offense has been grounded for three games.

Whether it's Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow at quarterback, it hasn't mattered. The Jets' anemic offense just hasn't been able to get into the end zone.

Three preseason games. Seven field goals. No touchdowns.
Carolina Panthers defensive back Sherrod Martin (23) sacks New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow (15) in the fourth quarter of their preseason NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, August 26, 2012. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS)
"We've got to score touchdowns instead of field goals to win," Sanchez said after a 17-12 loss to Carolina on Sunday night. "We understand that. We'll keep improving."

They better, and soon because they're running out of time.

Sanchez, Tebow and most of the starters will not play Thursday night in the preseason finale at Philadelphia, so the Jets (0-3) certainly have a lot to work on before the regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 9. All of that sneaky wildcat stuff the Jets have planned with Tebow will have to wait a few more weeks — when the games actually count.

"When Week 1 comes around, all bets are off," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said, "and the guns are firing."

They sure weren't in this one — for either team. But, Tebow almost got the Jets into the end zone with a late drive in the final seconds.


The Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) are the first team since the 1977 Atlanta Falcons, according to NBC, to go without a touchdown in its first three preseason games. That's a span of 12 quarters, 35 drives and 174 plays.

"Well, I've said it before," Sanchez said. "We're saving our good stuff for the regular season."

Jets fans sure hope so because they haven't seen much to be excited about so far — particularly from the offense. The Panthers, though, were pretty proud of themselves.

"Any time you can hold a team to field goals, I think you've accomplished something," coach Ron Rivera said.

Tebow, who entered in the third quarter, got the fans at MetLife Stadium fired up with a dazzling 20-yard run in the fourth, but threw an interception three plays later.

Tebow faced a third-and-16 from the Jets 34 and ran around in the backfield, eluded Ryan Van Bergen and then took off and slipped through a few other tackle attempts by the Panthers (2-1) before being taken down for a 20-yard gain by Reggie Smith. Tebow pumped both fists and yelled at the crowd chanting "Tee-boww! Tee-boww!"

But three plays later, Tebow was intercepted easily by Smith.

"It was kind of good news, bad news with Tim," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.

Tebow got the Jets in scoring position again in the closing moments, again with the fans chanting his name, but threw four straight incompletions from the Panthers 27 to end the game.

"I felt like we had it the whole time," Tebow said. "I still feel like we should have had it. I feel like we just came up one or two plays short."

Tebow finished 4 of 14 for 55 yards and the interception, but certainly had the Panthers (No. 20) nervous. He ran five times for 45 yards.

"It's a nightmare," Rivera said of facing Tebow. "Heck, I was in San Diego trying to stop him when he was in Denver. He's an exciting football player. There are things he does that brings excitement and gets his teammates going. He's a guy if you keep the game close gives you a chance to win. He's a different type of football player, a different type of quarterback."

Cam Newton was held mostly in check by the Jets, going 6 of 15 for 60 yards, but he got the Panthers (No. 20) into the end zone with a touchdown pass to Louis Murphy.

"Offensively, we have to do a better job sustaining drives," Newton said. "We got some first downs, but we stalled at the end."

Backup QB Derek Anderson put Carolina ahead to stay with a 1-yard touchdown toss to Gary Barnidge, making it 17-12 with 11:31 left.

Sanchez played well into the third quarter, going 11 of 18 for 123 yards and an interception, but got little help from his receivers. On consecutive plays in the third quarter, Sanchez hit Holmes in the mask and the receiver couldn't corral the pass. On the next play, Sanchez hit Stephen Hill in the chest, but the rookie couldn't control the ball and it bounced off his arms and into the hands of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Five plays later, Newton connected with Murphy, starting for the injured Steve Smith, for a 9-yard touchdown that put the Panthers up 10-9 with 1:16 left in the opening half.

Jonathan Stewart was injured on the drive, twisting his right ankle when he took a handoff and went down the right sideline for 7 yards before he was knocked out of bounds on a hard hit by LaRon Landry.

Rivera said X-rays "were completely negative" and he didn't believe it was a high ankle sprain.

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis had a sack in his first game since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last September.

"It was unbelievable," Newton said. "I went over to him when we were on the sideline and flat out told him it's fun to see him out there, and especially how passionate he is and how much he means to this team."

The Jets lost three key players to injuries as tight ends Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Josh Baker (right knee) and linebacker David Harris (ankle) all left in the first half.

Baker appeared to sustain the most serious injury in the second quarter, when he was hit on the right knee by a Panthers defender while trying to catch a pass from Sanchez in the end zone. Baker stayed down for several minutes, was helped to the sideline and then carted to the locker room.

NOTES: While the Jets didn't get into the end zone, two fans nearly did. Two men — wearing only underwear and sneakers — were tackled by security behind the end zone before they could get onto the field of play. ... Josh Brown, competing with Nick Folk for the Jets' kicking job, made a 34-yarder but missed a 45-yard attempt wide left in the third quarter. ... Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum needed a few stitches after injuring an arm earlier Sunday while riding his bike with his family. ... Panthers rookie LB Luke Kuechly was in on a game-high 10 tackles.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Officials: NASCAR fans warned of lightning, rain

Fans leave the stands after the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race was postponed due to rain on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
Fans leave the stands after the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race was postponed due to rain on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

By Dan Gelston
AP Sports Writer

LONG POND, Pa.—NASCAR fans at Pocono Raceway were advised over public address systems and through social media to take cover when lightning and heavy rain hit the track near the end of the race.

The warnings weren't enough to avoid tragedy at the track on Sunday.

Lightning strikes at Pocono after a rain-shortened NASCAR race killed one fan and injured nine others, one critically, racetrack officials said.

Multiple lightning strikes occurred behind the racetrack's grandstands and outside one of the gates as fans were leaving, Pocono spokesman Bob Pleban said. It wasn't immediately clear how many of the fans were actually struck by the lightning itself or were injured by related jolts.

"Unfortunately, a member of our raceway family here, a fan, has passed away," Pocono President Brandon Igdalsky said in announcing the death. He provided no details about the victim but expressed condolences to his family.

Igdalsky later posted on Twitter, "My family and I are praying for all those that were involved in the lightning strikes. ... Difficult evening for all."

The victim was in or near his car in a parking lot after the race had ended when lightning struck the car, Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen said. Bystanders performed CPR on the man, who had gone into cardiac arrest, until paramedics arrived, Allen said. They took him to the track's medical facility, where efforts to revive him failed. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The Pennsylvania 400 was called because of storms, with 98 of the 160 scheduled laps completed. As the storm approached, the track posted messages on its Twitter page to more than 22,000 followers near the end of the race encouraging fans to "seek shelter as severe lightning and heavy winds are in our area."

The attendance was estimated by the track at 85,000. Public address announcements were made before the storm and the end of the race for fans to take shelter and evacuate the grandstands, Pleban said.

Racetrack officials were reviewing the logs of when the announcements were made, he said. There was no order to evacuate the track premises.

Jeff Gordon, who won the race, said at a post-race news conference that he could hear a huge crack as he walked down the pit road during the storm. "You could tell it was very close," he said. "I mean, that's the thing that's going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by that."

Kyle Manger, a spectator from New Jersey, told The Sporting News that he saw people hit by lightning near the Turn 3 grandstands.

He said when the severe weather began, he and some friends ran to their truck. "The visibility was very poor and all of a sudden (I) saw a bolt of lightning right in front of our windshield," he said. "When it became a little more visible, we saw two bodies next to a destroyed tent with people scrambling."

One person remained hospitalized in critical condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, Pleban said. Three people were taken to hospitals with minor to moderate injuries, and five others were treated on the scene, he said.

"We are deeply saddened that a fan has died and others were injured by lightning strikes following today's race at Pocono," NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said. "Our thoughts are with them as well as those affected by this unfortunate accident."

Gordon's team, Hendrick Motorsports, also offered sympathies on Twitter, writing, "Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the lightning" at Pocono Raceway.
© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

EYES ON LONDON: Lebron, Team USA face Argentina

Associated Press

LONDON –  Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:



Lithuania gave the Americans a scare in their last game. Now LeBron James and Co. face a team even more talented.

Team USA plays Argentina on Monday, looking to reassert themselves after nipping Lithuania 99-94 on Saturday. Carmelo Anthony says the game woke them up and they're ready to get back to dominating.

"It was a little bit tighter than what we expected," Anthony says. "Lithuania was focused, and it kind of caught us on our heels. We won't get caught on our heels again."

Argentina features NBA stars Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, who lost one game to France in pool play.

— Jon Krawczynski — Twitter



Hours after winning a second consecutive Olympic gold in the 100 meters, Usain Bolt took a moment to tweet a message of support for injured Jamaican teammate Asafa Powell.

Bolt — whose handle is (at)usainbolt — wrote: "Respect bossy..hope u get well soon.. You started this Jamaican take over (at)officialasafa"

Powell, who held the 100 world record from 2005 until Bolt claimed it in 2008, pulled up with a groin injury Sunday and finished last in the dash. Bolt won in an Olympic-record 9.63 seconds.

What's not clear is whether Powell will be able to help Bolt and Jamaica try to defend their title in the 4x100 relay. That event's heats are Friday night.

"I got out of the starting blocks and stumbled," Powell said Sunday at the stadium. "I reinjured my groin and I couldn't push."

— Howard Fendrich — Twitter



More than half of Ireland's 23 Olympic medals have been won in the boxing ring. Better make that 24.

We don't know yet whether bantamweight John Joe Nevin will get gold, silver or bronze. But courtesy of his 19-13 quarterfinal win Sunday night versus Oscar Valdez of Mexico, he's certain to win Ireland's first medal of the London games — a fact that sent London's sweat-infused, pint-to-chest Irish House into a beer-spilling frenzy of hopping humanity.

"You'll never beat the Irish!" many in the crowd inside Ireland's official London Olympic venue chanted in the main bar and on the rooftop terrace after Nevin's victory was announced. Things were less insane in the basement, which has been decorated with 1950s wallpaper and comfy chairs to look like the living room set of cult 1990s Irish priest sitcom "Father Ted."

Irish fans screamed at the three big-screen TVs in the main bar as Nevin, ahead in the points, was floored by a solid Valdez blow to the ribs in the third, final round. Much of what was said at that moment cannot be reprinted in a family publication. Nevin scrambled to his feet to rural Irish-accented encouragements of "C'mon, ye boy ye!"

— Shawn Pogatchnik — Twitter



Fencing has captured fresh imaginations in London.

Whether it is the heavier thrusting epee sword, the light, whippy foil or the slashing saber, it appears to have intrigued the locals here in the same way it might have attracted attention in Athens at the first Olympiad.

Fencing has been at every Summer Olympics since the birth of the modern games in 1896.

In London, spectators — some just knee-high — spent the intervals between bouts on the final day of competition thrusting, slashing and stabbing at similarly amateurish opponents with bendy blue plastic swords just outside the arena.

"Allez!" came the calls from instructors or parents to start them off.

There were then lines of beginners — old and young — learning the basic forward lunge attack in formation ahead of the men's team foil finals. Back foot stable, forward with the front foot and thrust out the sword. That's fencing 101.

Once you got inside, the top-level bouts on the pistes — long, thin mats 14 meters (yards) long and 1.5 to 2 meters wide — were a mind-boggling flurry of lightning-fast strokes and swipes. At times, it was exquisite skill.

Attack, block and counter: lunge, parry and riposte.

— Gerald Imray — Twitter



The Jacksonville Jaguars ended practice in a most unusual manner on Sunday — they watched the wife of one of their players win Olympic gold.

Not only did the Jaguars allow cornerback Aaron Ross to leave the team and be in London to watch his wife in person at Olympic Stadium, but the entire team huddled back home to watch the race as well.

Sanya Richards-Ross didn't let them down, either — winning gold in the 400 meters.

"Well, that was a good way to finish practice," Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said. "That was a neat experience for the players. I don't think any of them knew the outcome."

Mularkey invited the 1,200 fans at practice to watch the tape of the race with the team. He had the Jaguars video department tape the race off of a live Internet showing, as NBC wasn't going to broadcast the race until later in the evening.

Aaron Ross is expected back with the team in a couple days.

"This brought us a little closer as a team," Mularkey said.

— Tim Reynolds — Twitter



American swimmer Tyler Clary says he's considering a career as a race car driver when he hangs up his Speedo.

The gold medalist in the 200-meter backstroke said he's attended races at the track in Fontana, Calif., and, last year, participated with an off-road racing team.

"I want to take a serious shot at being a professional race car driver after swimming's over," Clary said on Sunday night's "Wind Tunnel" program on Speed Channel.

"It's funny because when you initially tell people that, you get laughs, complete surprise, but I know that this is something I could be really good at and, like I said, I want to take a serious shot at it."

He attended the IndyCar race at Long Beach this year. He also spent time with the CEO of the Skip Barber Racing School and is trying to find a way to participate in some of their programs.

"There's also the possibility of a shootout in January where I could compete against some other regional hotshots," Clary said. "If I had a way of saying, as far as racing goes, this is what I'll be doing after swimming is over, I'd be in a Formula One car. But I'm the type of guy that's ... just get me in a car and I'll be happy. If it's an Indy car, a rally car, a stock car, off-road racing would be amazing, too. Any of that stuff. I just really have a passion for auto racing and I really want to drive."

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter



They're loud, they're proud and they certainly know how to move a crowd.

The England Supporters Band has been following Britain's athletes around the Olympic Park for the past few weeks banging drums and blasting their trumpets, lifting crowd spirits wherever they go.

The band was founded when leader John Hemmingham took a bugle into a soccer game in 1993 to support his favorite team, Sheffield Wednesday.

The band is made up of more than 20 musicians, but there are rarely more than four playing at any time.

At the London Olympics a drummer, a trumpeter, a trombone player and a euphonium player perform a selection of the more than 100 songs in their repertoire to maintain the crowd's support level.

"We never practice the songs," drummer Steve Holmes said.

But they do give some forethought to what they play. In the men's hockey game between Britain and Argentina, the band played "Rule Britannia," cheered on by the crowd.

"We've had many duels with Argentina," Holmes said. "We're a bit cheeky with them."

— William Haydon — Twitter



A plastic bottle was thrown on the track of the men's 100-meter final about a second before the start, landing about 10 meters behind the runners.

Scotland Yard said a suspect is being held on suspicion of causing a public nuisance. Police said the 40-year-old man was heard shouting abusive language before he threw the bottle. His name was not immediately released.

Several runners said they didn't know about the bottle until reporters told them about it afterward.

The bottle bounced a few times and came to rest in the lane occupied by Jamaica's Yohan Blake, who finished second in the race.

"I was so focused, I didn't see anything," Blake said.



"Follow me, lads."

And with that, the volunteer, whose identity will remain our secret, took off running. One of my AP colleagues and I had just missed a bus to East London University to cover the U.S. men's basketball practice and were going to have to wait at least 30 minutes for the next one. Seeing — and hearing — our frustration, the kind gentleman hustled outside the busy terminal at the media press center, and was able to stop the bus before it left the Olympic Park area.

Running into the street, he flagged down the driver — a performance worthy of a gold medal.

I could only offer a handshake and my thanks to the stranger, who probably violated a half dozen rules and laws to get us on the bus.

"So naughty," the smiling driver said as we boarded.

— Tom Withers — Twitter



Water polo: It's like handball with added water.

I stopped by the water polo pool and the Copper Box that hosts handball at the Olympic Park today and was struck by how similar the two sports are. Water seems like the only difference.

The other thing that hit me. How tough both sports are.

I've never seen so many women sporting black eyes as I did at the polo pool.

— Mike Corder — Twitter



World champion Yohan Blake said he's not disappointed about his second place finish in the 100-meter dash, behind his teammate and training partner, Usain Bolt.

"I came close tonight. It has been really good running with the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt," Blake said.

"I'm not disappointed. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You never know what can happen. I think the 200 meters will be interesting."

Blake also hinted that he might run the 4x400 relay: "You never know. The finals. You never know."

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter



Sometimes, finishing third has its benefits.

Greg Searle was part of an eight-man British rowing crew that won bronze, a disappointment for the 40-year-old, who came out of retirement in hopes of replicating his gold-winning performance in Barcelona two decades ago. Searle was finding himself consigned to a footnote in a Great Britain team that has been collecting golds as quick as it can paddle.

But as Searle's Twitter feed — (at)GregSearle2012 — demonstrated Sunday, he's just had an Olympic brush with greatness.

"Look who I made friends with at the handball," he offers his followers in a teasing caption to a photo link.

Click! And there Searle is, displaying a Cheshire cat grim, arm in arm with ... Kate Middleton, a.k.a. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

See the photo here:

— Shawn Pogatchnik — Twitter



Usain Bolt thinks London has done a great job with the games, calling Britain, "a wonderful place."

And yes, the McDonald's over here tastes just as good as it does everywhere else. Bolt said he's had "a few nuggets, I'm not going to lie." He also had a wrap from his favorite fast-food place as part of his pre-race fuel.

"It was healthy, so don't judge me," he said, drawing laughs.

Bolt will be collecting his 100-meter medal on Monday, the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence from Britain.

"I wanted to give Jamaica a great birthday present, and I think that's a good start," he said. "I'm sure it will be a wonderful feat for all of the people in Jamaica to stand up and sing the national anthem."

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter




"I'm one step closer to being a legend." — Usain Bolt on winning the 100 meters in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record.

— Jon Krawczynski — Twitter



It's been called the longest sprint — a lot can happen in the 400 between the starting gun and the finish line.

Sanya Richards-Ross was behind Amantle Montsho of Botswana as they made the turn, but the tiny American runner accelerated through the stretch to win the Olympic 400-meter race Sunday.

Richards-Ross's time of 49.55 edged out the defending champion, Christine Ohuruogu of Britain, who also deployed a strong kick to finish in 49.70. American DeeDee Trotter won the bronze.

It was the first U.S. gold in track and field at the London Games — and it was a long time coming for Richards-Ross, who sobbed at the Beijing Bird's Nest Stadium when she finished third in 2008.

— Sheila Norman-Culp — Twitter


EDITOR'S NOTE — "Eyes on London" shows you the Olympics through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across the 2012 Olympic city and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item, and get even more AP updates from the Games here: