LOS ANGELES: The Golden State Warriors are set to begin their quest for a third straight title, and this time it’s up to someone else to try to stop them.With LeBron James gone to the West and this year gone entirely from the postseason, the Eastern Conference headquarters for the NBA Finals won’t be in his home for the first time since 2010.He played for the title for eight straight years, which may have been great for the TV ratings but lately wasn’t much good for the competition. The Warriors swept Cleveland last year after winning 4-1 in 2017.Teams are lining up to seize his old spot atop the East, all capable of providing the intrigue that was absent the last couple years.There’s Milwaukee, with Giannis Antetokounmpo in position to exit June fully atop the NBA with a title and an MVP award.Or Toronto, humiliated by the Cavaliers in the last two years but armed now with a former NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard.It could be Philadelphia, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons anchoring perhaps the most talented starting five outside of the Bay Area.And don’t forget Boston, the presumptive East favorite in the preseason that can still live up to expectations.The best player is gone, but maybe things will be better.“I think the parity and the competition in the East, and not knowing and everyone having a sincere chance maybe in the East that did not, when not you look between Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia,” TNT analyst Chris Webber said. “All of those story lines, new young stars that’s coming in.”The long road to get to the finals begins Saturday with four games, including the top-seeded Warriors against the Los Angeles Clippers in the West. No. 2 Denver faces No. 7 San Antonio in the other West opener, while No. 3 Philadelphia meets No. 6 Brooklyn, and No. 2 Toronto takes on No. 7 Orlando in the East.On Sunday, the overall No. 1 seed Bucks face No. 8 Detroit, and No. 4 Boston hosts No. 5 Indiana in the East. In the West, No. 3 Portland and No. 6 Oklahoma City meet in a matchup of Northwest Division rivals, and No. 4 Houston and No. 5 Utah square off in the opener of a series between two of the strongest teams in the second half of the season.It’s the start of postseason that looks different far beyond just the absence of James for the first time since 2005.It includes Denver, in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Brooklyn is a playoff team for the first time since 2015 and Orlando is back for the first time since 2012.The Warriors, of course, haven’t just been going to the postseason every year, but getting all the way to the finals once they do. They’ve done that four straight years, winning three of them, and with a strong finish after some occasional lapses surged to the best record in the West.Still, this playoff path could provide them plenty of obstacles. The Warriors may need to get by scoring champion James Harden and the Rockets, who took them to a seventh game last year in the conference finals, just to get back to that round this time.“It doesn’t matter who you play in the playoffs, you’re going to get tested. Everybody’s good,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.Get out of the West, and the Warriors may have to then get on a plane. They had home-court advantage in all four finals against Cleveland, but Milwaukee and Toronto both finished with better records and would host Games 1 and 2 if they win the East.And there could be the distractions about their future, with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson able to become free agents this summer.The Warriors wouldn’t be alone when dealing with that. Toronto (Leonard), Philadelphia (Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris) and Boston (Kyrie Irving) all will be trying to win a title with players who could then leave them.But those are issues for July. First, it’s all about just getting to June.“It’s a great feeling,” Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton said. “Playoffs don’t always come around. I’ve been a part of that couple years but it’s been a great season so far. I know guys been itching to get to this first playoff game.”
Chelsea moves into top 4 after draw with Burnley
JEDDAH: Saudi sides Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad returned to action on Monday for Matchday Four of group stage play in the AFC Champions League 2019. Ahli defeated Persepolis FC of Iran 2-1 in a Group D match thanks to Omar Al-Somah who struck twice on minutes 30 and 84 at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. The…
JEDDAH: Saudi sides Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad returned to action on Monday for Matchday Four of group stage play in the AFC Champions League 2019.
Ahli defeated Persepolis FC of Iran 2-1 in a Group D match thanks to Omar Al-Somah who struck twice on minutes 30 and 84 at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.
The Iranians avoided a shutout when Shoja Khalilzadeh scored in the third minute of injury time.
The victory avenged a 2-0 defeat on Matchday Three against Persepolis and gave the Jeddah-based Ahli 6 points in the group with Persopolis on 4 points.
Ittihad, another Jeddah-based club playing away to PFC Lokomotiv in Tashkent, Uzbekhistan, settled for a 1-1 draw in the Group B match.
Ittihad won their last match against 10-man Lokomotiv on Matchday Three behind a penalty goal in injury time by Fahad Al-Muwallad.
On Monday, winger Al-Muwallad was again in good form, his 10th minute corner kick finding Brazilian forward Romario Ricardo da Silva who converted for the match icebreaker.
Temurkhodzha Abdulklholiqov tallied the equalizer for the hosts eight minutes before the halftime break. Lokomotiv team captain Islom Tukhtakhodjaev was shown the red card in the 75th minute. The result had Ittihad on seven points in Group B from four matches and Lokomotiv on four points.
Ahli triumph, Ittihad draw in AFC Champions League
ROME :The breakthrough under Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Then the coronation at Real Madrid. And now another title at Juventus. If ever there was a need to emphasize Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact as a footballer, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner did it again this weekend by helping Juventus to the Serie A title in his…
ROME :The breakthrough under Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Then the coronation at Real Madrid. And now another title at Juventus.
If ever there was a need to emphasize Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact as a footballer, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner did it again this weekend by helping Juventus to the Serie A title in his first season in Italy.
In doing so, the 34-year-old Ronaldo became the first player in history to win league titles in the English Premier League (with United), the Spanish league (Madrid) and Serie A (Juventus).
“I’m very happy to have won in England, Spain and now the league title in Italy as well,” Ronaldo said. “It meant a lot to me and it means a lot to us as a team.”
Other players have won titles in three of the five major European leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France) but nobody had previously put together the combination of England, Spain and Italy.
David Beckham played in four of the top leagues but only won titles at United (six), Madrid (one) and Paris Saint-Germain (one), having failed to lift the Serie A trophy during his two loan spells at AC Milan.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic won four Serie A titles (three with Inter Milan and one with AC Milan), the Spanish league with Barcelona and four French championships with PSG.
Brazil fullback Maxwell was on many of those same teams as Ibrahimovic and also won in Italy, Spain and France.
Then there was Arjen Robben, who won the Premier League twice with Chelsea before adding a Spanish title at Real Madrid and seven Bundesliga trophies at Bayern Munich.
Another Dutchman who achieved the feat was Mark van Bommel, with titles with Barcelona, Bayern Munich (two) and AC Milan.
While Juventus also won the league in the seven seasons before Ronaldo’s arrival, there was no doubting his impact in Turin. With 19 goals and six assists in 27 Italian league matches this season, Ronaldo played a part in nearly 40 percent of Juventus’ goals.
So it came as no surprise when his dangerous cross from a sharp angle was redirected in by a defender as an own-goal for the winner in Juve’s 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Saturday — giving the Bianconeri more than the single point they needed to secure a record-extending eighth straight title with five rounds remaining.
It’s the sixth league title of Ronaldo’s career.
The first came as a 22-year-old at United, ending a four-year drought for Ferguson’s squad as Ronaldo scored 17 goals — three fewer than Didier Drogba’s league-best 20.
That was just a warmup for what came next.
In 2007-08, Ronaldo led the Premier League with 31 goals and helped United to the league title and the Champions League trophy.
Another Premier League title came the following season as Ronaldo finished second in the scoring charts with 18 goals, behind only Nicolas Anelka, who had 19 for Chelsea.
While Ronaldo won only two Spanish league championships in his nine seasons at Madrid, he also helped the team to four Champions League trophies — including three consecutive European titles over the last three seasons.
When Juventus acquired Ronaldo in a €100 million ($112 million) transfer last year, the expectation was that he would help end the club’s long chase for a Champions League trophy.
Ronaldo did his part by scoring a hat trick to overturn a first-leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the opening knockout round and goals in both legs of the quarterfinals against Ajax but the Bianconeri were still eliminated by the Dutch club.
“Next year is a new page, the fans all want it and so do we,” Ronaldo said. “It is an important trophy, but it’s difficult to (win).”
A Champions League title with Juventus would enable Ronaldo to match another multiple nation and multiple team record — joining Clarence Seedorf as the only players to win the trophy with three different clubs.
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Four-star Everton pile on the agony for Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer LIVERPOOL: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s problems since taking over as permanent Manchester United manager intensified with a humiliating 4-0 loss away to Everton on Sunday.Defeat at Goodison Park — United’s sixth in eight games — also dealt a huge blow to the Red…
Four-star Everton pile on the agony for Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
LIVERPOOL: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s problems since taking over as permanent Manchester United manager intensified with a humiliating 4-0 loss away to Everton on Sunday.Defeat at Goodison Park — United’s sixth in eight games — also dealt a huge blow to the Red Devils’ hopes of playing in the Champions League next season.Goals from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott inflicted the largest defeat on United since they lost by the same scoreline at Chelsea three years ago.But, after starting his reign with eight consecutive victories, the best start ever made by a manager at the club, former United striker Solskjaer is now collecting some other, very unwanted, statistics.This latest loss means United have now leaked 48 league goals, the most they’ve conceded in a season, since letting in 63 back in the 42-game 1978/79 campaign.Sunday’s loss also means United have conceded in 12 consecutive games for the first time since December 1998 while, under Solskjaer, the Reds have lost five consecutive away games for the first time in 38 years.United looked second best even before the hosts scored twice inside the opening half-hour, conceding a succession of corners from which Everton threatened.It was another type of set-piece, a long throw-in by Digne, from which Everton took the lead after 12 minutes when the full-back launched the ball deep into the United area.Dominic Calvert-Lewin helped the ball on with the flick of his head and Richarlison sent a spectacular scissor-kick finish flying past David de Gea.After a humbling 3-0 Champions League exit at Barcelona in midweek, it was not the start Solskjaer had been looking for. Everton soon made the situation worse for the visitors.After 27 minutes, Everton cleared a United corner and immediately broke on the counter-attack, with winger Bernard playing a delightful ball inside to Idrissa Gueye.He, in turn, released Sigurdsson who, with Nemanja Matic backing off, unleashed a magnificent 25-yard shot which bounced just in front of the diving de Gea on its way into the bottom corner.Richarlison might have given Everton the lead even earlier. His 10th minute shot drew an amazing reaction save from de Gea. From the rebound the Brazilian hurried his follow-up effort wide.With the recalled Romelu Lukaku booed every time he touched the ball by his former fans at Everton, United had little response to an impressive effort from the home side.In between the goals, United star Paul Pogba’s long diagonal pass freed Marcus Rashford who could only poke his effort over from a tight angle.Everton effectively killed the game in the 56th minute. De Gea punched clear a Sigurdsson corner to the unmarked Digne who sent a superb, first-time volley flying back past the United keeper from 20 yards.Three minutes later, and from the same left wing, another Sigurdsson corner almost crept in at de Gea’s near post before the Spaniard stuck out a boot to clear off his line.Even though Richarlison had limped off through injury, the agony was not over for United with the Brazilian’s replacement Walcott continuing the rout in the 64th minute.Sigurdsson again carved out the opening with a brilliantly-timed through ball which allowed the former England international the space to sprint into the area and beat the advancing de Gea.Not until the 86th minute, and a comfortably saved Anthony Martial strike, did United have a shot on target.Meanwhile Everton, who had not beaten a ‘big six’ rival in 25 attempts before last month, have now won consecutive home matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and United while keeping three clean sheets in the process.