THE SPORTING WEEKEND’S FINEST MOMENTS
From the hat-trick heroes to the adrenaline-filled circuit in Australia, the derby Lords and comeback kings, legends and rising teenagers... it was one helluva weekend.
Here are a few of the big moments...
Much anticipated and even forecasted, the start of the new F1 season was heralded. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were again the pair to look out for but up stepped his team-mate Valtteri Bottas to steal the show on F1’s curtain raiser night in Melbourne, Australia. Spotting a new look, the 29-year-old Finn dominated the Australian circuit ahead of fellow Mercedes driver Hamilton (second) and title favourite Sebastian Vettel (fourth) to take the first win of the season after failing to win a race in 2018 season.
Austrian Dominic Thiem produced a sensational performance against 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer to win his first Indian Wells title and a first career Masters title. The world number eight won 3-6 6-3 7-5 to beco me the first Austrian since Thomas Muster in 1997 to win a Masters 1000 title, ending Federer’s bid for a record sixth title in Carlifornia. The 25-year-old following that win will move up to fourth in th rankings. Meanwhile Canadian Bianca Andreescu claimed the Indian Wells title after defeating three time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber. The 18-year-old won 6-4 3-6 6-4 to become the first wildcard entry to win the Indian Wells title and the fourth youngest champion after entering the competition ranked outside the top 150 at the start of the year. Andreescu will now move up to 24th in the world after claiming her 28th match win of the season- more than any other WTA player.
Rory McIlroy beat Jim Furyk by one shot to win the Players Championship in Sawgrass, and claim his first win in a year. The Northern Irish man is the second United Kingdom golfer to win the Players Championship and did pull clear with birdies on the 15th and 16th after Eddie Pepperell who finished two behind him had holed in a 50-foot putt on 17 to join McIlroy in a tie for the lead. After initially dropping back to 14 under after a bogey on the 14th, birdies on the 15th and 16th took him past Furyk as he closed out the win in the final two holes.
It was a double-wammy in football across Europe as hattricks were served up in Germany and Spain. Bayern Munich’s Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez scored a hat-trick to help his side put aside their midweek European wobble by thrashing Mainz 6-0 at the Allianz Arena, and so did Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi who scored thrice for Barcelona as they defeated Real Betis 4-1. The dimunitive Argentine first curled in a 20-yard free-kick, then toe-poked a second before clipping in the third that went in off the bar- it was a top draw finish. Bayern moved back atop the Bundesliga while Barcelona moved 10points clear at the top.
In other league action, the Milan-Derby seved up a thriller as Inter Milan defeated AC Milan 3-2 at the San Siro to move above them to third on the log. Mattias Vecino opened the scoring for Inter before Stefan De Vrij added a second. On loan Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko pulled one back for The Rosenneri but Martinez restored Inter’s two-goal lead with his side’s third on the night. Musacchio made it 3-2 but it was too late to stop Milan fom going down to their rivals.
A “Ronaldo-less” Juventus suffered their first defeat of the season in the Serie A as they went down 2-0 to Genoa. After midweek European heroics from the Turin side, Allegri’s men were sent back down to earth thanks to goals from former Juve player Stefano Sturaro and Goran Pandev. Despite the defeat, Juventus remain top of the table and 18points clear of second-placed Napoli.
In England, Liverpool moved back to the summit of the log after a 2-1 win at relegation threatened Fulham thanks to goals from Sadio Mane and James Milner, either side of Ryan Babel’s strike for Fulham. The Reds took full advantage of Man City’s league absence to return to the top, two points clear of Pep Guardiola’s City team. Man City themselves reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup courtesy of strikes from Bernado Silva, a Nordfeldt own goal and a late Sergio Aguero header after falling 2-0 behind. The Citizens will next play fellow Premier League side Brighton at Wembly. Manchester united were dumped out of the FA Cup by Wolves after they lost 2-1 at Molineux. Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota got the goals that saw Nuno Santo’s men reach the FA Cup semis for the first time since 1998.
Chelsea suffered yet another defeat as they went down 2-0 at Goodison Park to Everton. Second half strikes from Richarlison and Sigurdsson were enough to condemn the Blues to defeat and also dent their top four hopes as they remain in sixth and also now three points behind Arsenal who sit in fourth with 8 games to play.