The series started last Friday at the Rita Flynn indoor courts and ended yesterday with a thriller of a match that was the decider.PNG were one up winning the first match on Friday 47-46.Singapore hit back in the next match with a strong performance to come away with a 48-36 win.But the PNG girls worked hard in yesterday’s decider to edge out the Singaporeans to win the series 2-1.The PNG U-21 squad will now be trimmed down from 20 to 15 players.The final 12-member team will be selected in August to participate at the Regional World Cup qualifying tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, from September 24 – 27 this year.
Picture: PNG Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko, (third from right), with the Tongan PM ‘Akilisi Pohiva, (third from left), during a visit in February. Photo: Facebook / Justin Tkatchenko MP A PNG delegation visited Nuku’alofa in February to assess the local facilities and indicated a willingness to help refurbish Teufaiva National Stadium.However last month Tonga’s Games Organising Committee CEO, Feleti Sevele, said that work was yet to begin and uncertainty remained.But PNG Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko said they had not forgotten about Tonga.Mr Tkatchenko said a submission regarding assistance is ready for the PNG National Executive Council.”NEC is a National Executive Council where 36 ministers sit on there and make decisions for this country,” he said.”NEC will decide what funding that they will give to Tonga, [to] help them with the main ground stadium and the high performance centre.”The minister remained confident that a positive decision would be made within the next week.”It will be granted by NEC, which the Chairman is the Prime Minister and NEC, National Executive Council, will make a declaration on what assistance they can give, understanding out current economic situation,” Tkatchenko said.”We are not going to let our countrymen down in Tonga. We have made a commitment, the Prime Minister still stands by his commitment. We will assist wherever we can, but also we will assist in technical assistance too, through human resource.”
Titles in Brisbane and on home soil in Sofia sandwiched Dimitrov’s second Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open, where he came agonisingly close to beating Rafael Nadal.The Bulgarian, who won the Queen’s Club title in 2014, suffered only his second defeat of the year to David Goffin at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam last week.But the 25-year-old believes he is a better player than when he beat Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2014 and has targeted success on grass.”The grass-court season is going to be a big thing for me with Queen’s and then Wimbledon around the corner,” he said. “I’ve seen the field, it’s going to be very strong again, but I’m excited to see what my form is going to be like.”Every year, coming back to Queen’s brings me great memories to me. I won the tournament a few years ago and I love it. It’s the best way to prepare for Wimbledon, and to perform out there on the grass at Queen’s is a really, really amazing feeling for me.”Three-time major winner Wawrinka has also been added to the field for the tournament, which begins on June 19, while last year’s Australian and US Open champion Jamie Murray is committed to play in the doubles field.
Salah defended his crown after scoring 44 goals for Liverpool and Egypt in 2018, the 26-year-old finishing as the 2017-18 Premier League Golden Boot winner with 32 goals.Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also made the three-man shortlist for the award.The nominees for the main award made up the front three in CAF’s Africa Best XI of the year, with Guinea’s Naby Keita providing further Liverpool representation in a midfield completed by Atletico Madrid and Ghana’s Thomas Partey and Manchester City and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez. K I N G M O @MoSalah has been named CAF African Player of the Year for the second successive year. pic.twitter.com/ySmqzO4Xbq— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 8, 2019The back-four was split between Serie A and the Premier League, with Juventus and Morocco’s Mehdi Benatia alongside Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly – an international colleague of Mane’s.Ivory Coast duo Serge Aurier and Eric Bailly won approval thanks, in part, to their displays for Tottenham and Manchester United, while Uganda’s Denis Onyango of South African club Mamelodi Sundowns was recognised as Africa’s best goalkeeper.Africa’s best XI #AiteoCAFAwards18 pic.twitter.com/FQhnsncR0d— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 8, 2019Morocco full-back Achraf Hakimi, currently on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid, was named African Youth Player of the Year. Hakimi’s national-team boss Herve Renard collected Men’s Coach of the Year.Thembi Kgatlana and Desiree Ellis made it a South African double in the women’s player and coach categories, although Nigeria’s third consecutive triumph at the Africa Women Cup of Nations saw them scoop the team award.In November, Mauritania qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals for the first time in their history – a feat good enough to secure Men’s National Team of the Year.
Striker Harry Kane sees himself as one of the leaders in the current England side, the 23-year-old has said ahead of his first senior appearance under Gareth Southgate in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland.Premier League Golden Boot winner Kane has scored five goals in 17 appearances for the Lions and the Tottenham striker is already looking ahead to taking on more responsibility.“I see myself as one of the leaders now in the team and I’m looking forward to it,” Kane said at a sponsorship event.“I’m only 23 but I feel that there are a lot of younger players in the team compared to me and I have a good relationship with them.”Kane said the presence of Tottenham team mates helped them build stronger bonds.“I have a good relationship with all the players, the older, the younger and there are quite a few Spurs boys in there as well,” Kane said.“It helps as we play with each other, train with each other day-in, day-out, so we know each other very well on the pitch, but off the pitch also.“If someone is feeling a bit down, or if they’re not quite right then we are there to know that and help them out.”England travel to Scotland for the Group F World Cup qualifier and Kane expected a tougher encounter than their 3-0 win in the reverse fixture in November.“It is a massive game; everyone knows how big England versus Scotland is with the rivalry that we have,” he said.“We know it will be a bit tougher doing it away from home but, with the team we have got and the confidence we have got, we know we just have to go out there and not get too caught up in the moment.”
Maria Sharapova’s hopes of a title-winning return to the Australian Open were unceremoniously crushed by Angelique Kerber as the battle of the former champions ended 6-1 6-3 in the German’s favour on Saturday.The Rod Laver Arena evening clash between the only two grand slam winners left in the women’s draw had the feel of a showpiece final rather than a third-round clash but it was Kerberwho rose to the occasion.Sharapova, back in Melbourne after testing positive for a banned substance here in 2016 resulting in a 15-month ban, had looked menacing in the opening two rounds.But Kerber, who plummeted down the rankings last year after finishing the year before at number one, broke her serve in the first game of the match and that set the tone for what followed.She streaked away with the first set and although 2008 champion Sharapova briefly threatened a fightback after falling behind in the second, it was not to be the Russian’s night.A fluffed drop shot attempt at 3-4 followed by an unforced error gave 2016 champion Kerber breathing space and she finished the contest in the next game.
Liverpool ripped apart Manchester City with three goals inside the opening 31 minutes as they won their Champions League quarter-final, first leg tie 3-0 on Wednesday.Anfield has witnessed many memorable European nights over the years and this will take its place among the most spectacular as a simply devastating, first-half display was crowned with goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane.The tie may not be over, with 90 minutes remaining at the Etihad on Tuesday, but Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp, who has enjoyed more wins over City counterpart Pep Guardiola than any other manager, will be delighted as his commitment to attacking football was amply rewarded.Liverpool are the only team to have beaten City in the Premier League this season, with a thrilling 4-3 victory in January, and they repeated the formula of that success by attacking City’s defence from the outset.Roared on by a particularly vocal home crowd, Liverpool put the Premier League’s champions-elect under intense pressure from the first kick and it took just 12 minutes for City to crack.After a City corner, James Milner launched the ball forward, Salah broke from the halfway line and played the ball inside to Roberto Firmino.His shot was blocked by City keeper Ederson but Firmino pounced on the loose ball and slipped it to Salah, who fired home.City responded with a swift counter-attack of their own but Leroy Sane, who had broken from deep, screwed the ball wide when he could have played in team mate Kevin De Bruyne.UNSTOPPABLE DRIVELiverpool were rampant though and harrying City off the ball in midfield when Milner won back possession and moved it straight to Oxlade-Chamberlain.The former Arsenal midfielder unleashed an unstoppable drive from 25 metres to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute.City were now reeling and looked nothing like the team that has marched so convincingly to a 16-point lead in the Premier League and it was not long before Juergen Klopp’s side made it 3-0.Salah floated a teasing cross from the right towards Mane, who rose above the City defence to power a header past Ederson and send the Anfield crowd into delirium.City came out brightly after the break though, finally managing to find some composure with their passing.Liverpool were unable to get back into their first-half rhythm and they suffered a blow when Salah went off injured in the 52nd minute.Guardiola’s side were back in their familiar role of controlling possession, but were struggling to create chances with Sane wasting a promising opening at the back post, one of a series of frustrations for the German left winger.A miserable night for Sane, who was superbly handled by young Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, was completed when he was ruled offside as he broke down the left and crossed for Gabriel Jesus to put the ball in the net.Yet the fact that City’s late pressure was accompanied by audible tension from the Liverpool fans was a reminder that the tie is not over. Few teams could overturn a 3-0 deficit against Liverpool but Guardiola’s side is certainly one of them.
Sixty-two crews are entered for this year’s Cyprus Rally, the fourth round of the European Rally Championship (ERC).The action starts on Friday morning at a stage near Klavdia just outside Larnaca with free practice (from 7 until 9 am) and then qualifying, which begins just after 10am and will determine the choice of starting order for the rally proper, which gets underway from the Finikoudes seafront in Larnaca on Saturday at 8.30am.This year’s event has attracted crews from 19 different countries: 39 from Cyprus, three from Hungary, two from the Czech Republic, Great Britain and Russia and one crew from Portugal, Poland, Finland, Germany, Turkey, France, Spain and Italy as well as Brazil and Argentina.As the rally also counts towards the Middle East Rally Championsip, there are also crews from Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. Russia’s Alexey Lukyanuk, who won here in 2016, heads the ERC Drivers’ standings on 83 points, with Portugal’s Bruno Magalhaes, winner of the Acropolis Rally in Greece two weeks ago, chasing hard in second place on 69 points. Norbert Herczig of Hungary lies third with 40 points and Nikolay Gryazin and Ricardo Moura round off the top five, both on 30 points. With eight rounds in all, there’s everything to play for – and, of course, the kudos and prize money up for grabs on the last two ‘Golden’ special stages of the rally on Sunday afternoon.Probably the favourite to take the winner’s laurel is five-time Cyprus Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar, who is very familiar with our terrain – although the move to Larnaca this year means there’s a slightly different feel to some of the special stages. Lukyanuk is well aware of the Qatari’s experience and record in Cyprus. “We know Nasser can be really fast and if it takes too much risk to compete with him maybe we will think to back off a bit and score as much points as we can without taking any extra risks,” he said.Ten of the Cypriot crews will compete for points in the ERC, headed by last year’s Cyprus champions Simos Galatariotis and Anotnis Antoniou in a Skoda Fabia R5. They secured fourth place in the Acropolis Rally and are hoping for an even better result on home turf. Meanwhile, upcoming contender Alexandros Tsouloftas in a Citroen DS3 R5 showed his speed and talent last year and will be looking to impress again. The ERC3 category will include 2WD cars and there are two female drivers in the starting line-up: Briton Catie Mannings and Canary Islander Emma Falcon.The rally covers a total distance of 758.36km of which 204.92km are Special Stages.After the Ceremonial Start on Friday evening at 6.30pm at Finikoudes, the action will begin in earnest on Saturday with crews covering six special stages to the north and west of Larnaca. They will spend the night in parc ferme before setting off on Sunday to tackle another seven stages, including the Super Special Stage in the heart of Nicosia. The ceremonial finish will be at Finikoudes at 6:30pm on Sunday night.
Apoel produced yet another lacklustre performance and went down 2-0 to Flora Tallin of Estonia but went through after their 5-0 win in Nicosia.Despite bossing the first half and missing a number of chances to take the lead Apoel fell behind in the 32nd minute after Kams beat goalkeeper Waterman at his near post. Five minutes later Poom doubled the score giving the Estonians a glimmer of hope of overturning the first leg deficit.In the second half Apoel improved slightly and had the chance to reduce the arrears early on in the half but their captain Nuno Morais failed to beat Toom from the penalty spot.Apoel’s manager Bruno Baltazar was already under pressure after his team were knocked out of the Champions League by the unfancied Suduva and after this display calls for his dismissal will intensify.
Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis is through to the next round of the US Open after his opponent, the Russian Youzhny, withdrew with the Cypriot leading by 2 sets to 1 and 3-1 in the fourth set. Mikhail Youzhny was forced to leave the court after the searing heat got the better of him. He was escorted off the by his trainer suffering from cramps and unable to flex his left knee.Baghdatis will now face the Frenchman Lucas Pouille who defeated the German Yannick Maden by 3-0 in the first round.