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Monday, September 3, 2018

Romelu Lukaku Double Relieves Pressure On Jose Mourinho

Two goals from Romelu Lukaku brought Jose Mourinho a much-needed 2-0 win at Burnley on Sunday, although it was another eventful and controversial afternoon for his Manchester United side. England international Marcus Rashford, only on the field for 10 minutes as a substitute, was sent off after 70 minutes for a headbutt on Phil Bardsley who had clipped the United man's ankles in cynical fashion. Just two minutes earlier, Mourinho had also seen Paul Pogba miss a penalty with the chance to put the visitors out of sight.

But Lukaku's first-half double was enough for a well-earned three points as United bounced back from consecutive defeats to Brighton and Tottenhamthat had put Mourinho under the spotlight.

Lukaku opened the scoring on 26 minutes, after a period of bright and direct football from Mourinho's team.

Alexis Sanchez was recalled to Mourinho's starting line-up and responded by setting up the opener as Lukaku rose impressively between two defenders to head the Chilean's cross past Joe Hart.

A second goal before the break looked inevitable, although it took until the final minute for it to arrive as Luke Shaw chased onto Sanchez's back heel and into the Burnley area.

The ball eventually landed with Jesse Lingard on the edge of the area and, after his shot took deflections off both Charlie Taylor and Ashley Westwood, Lukaku was well positioned to turn and sweep in from six yards.

It was a rewarding first period for Mourinho and his team, not to mention the 2,400 visiting supporters at Turf Moor who showed their backing for Mourinho.

In contrast, there was a demonstration by fans against the club's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward with a plane flown over the Lancashire ground towing a banner that read: "Ed Woodward, a specialist in failure."

It was a poignant comment from supporters who clearly blame Woodward's lack of action in the transfer market for the club's poor start to the season - rather than their high-profile manager.

That lacklustre opening to the campaign saw United in danger of losing three of their first four league games for the first time since 1986.

Mourinho, though, had looked relaxed even before kick-off, joking with officials in the tunnel and shaking hands with players from both teams as they exited the dressing rooms.

And within minutes of kick-off, that confidence looked well placed as United dominated.

Lingard, alone, was presented with three decent chances inside the opening nine minutes, one of which drew a slightly panicked save from Hart.

Hart also saved well from Lukaku, as he and Sanchez looked to convert a three-on-two break, while his opposite number David De Gea remained a virtual spectator.

The Spanish keeper was finally forced into action after 63 minutes, comfortably stopping Chris Wood's header at the foot of his post.

But that was a rare respite for Burnley who needed Hart to save from a Sanchez half-volley and to parry a fierce shot from Shaw before the late controversies.

Roger Federer's Unreal Shot At US Open Leaves Nick Kyrgios Dumbfounded

Few would go against claims that Roger Federer is the GOAT in the sport of tennis. On Saturday, the Swiss maestro gave yet another sneak peek of his greatness with a spectacular shot that not only left the crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium dumbfounded but also got a priceless reaction from his opponent Nick Kyrgios. The Australian hit an almost perfect cross-court drop shot that most players would not have even tried to retrieve but Federer is not your average player. The 37-year-old not only chased down and retrieved the ball but struck a jaw-dropping winner around the post.

"It was definitely one of the more unique ones," said Federer, who raced forward and wide on a sharply angled shot from Kyrgios, stretched and flicked a forehand around the post.

Kyrgios's eyes widened in astonishment as the ball landed in his court and could be heard opining at the ensuing changeover "That's got to be the greatest shot in tennis."

Federer said it was all instinct -- it's not a shot that can be practiced.

"You don't get an opportunity to hit around the net post very often, because in practice the net is out further and the court is more narrow.

"For a shot like this to happen in a practice, you will will be running into a fence and you will hit it into the net.

"These shots can only really happen on a big court where you play with the singles posts in the doubles alley."

Federer went on to beat Kyrgios 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 to reach the US Open last 16.

The second seeded Swiss will be seeking a 13th appearance in the US Open quarterfinals when he plays Australian John Millman, who reached the last 16 of a major for the first time with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin.

India's Best Foot Forward Wasn't Good Enough Against England: Virat Kohli

Team India skipper Virat Kohli on Sunday said that his side produced a fine performance on Day 4 at the Rose Bowl but their effort wasn't good enough as they lost the fourth Test by 60 runs, handing England an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. "Thought we were in with a fifty-fifty chance last night. Didn't get a good start, England applied a lot of pressure. All in all it was a challenging day, we put our best foot forward but it wasn't good enough," Kohli said at the post-match presentation.

While crediting the hosts for their clinical performance, the 29-year-old added that India did not make too many mistakes in the Southampton Test. Kohli also said that India will only focus on the positives heading into the final Test at the Oval in London. "Don't think we made too many mistakes today. Credit to them. Weren't many negatives for us from this game. Need to focus on positives. Have to take heart going into the final Test," Kohli said.

In the Southampton Test, England scored 246 and 271 runs in the first and second innings respectively after opting to bat first.

In reply, India scored 273 runs in their first innings before getting bundled out on 184 runs in the second innings, thus losing the match by 60 runs.

England's Sam Curran once again displayed his all-around brilliance as he notched up scores of 78 and 46 and claimed two wickets.

Kohli heaped praise on the 20-year-old and said that Curran has been a find of the series for the hosts.

"Would like to congratulate Sam Curran, nice find for England and he's doing well," Kohli said.

Kohli also said that he agrees with his rival captain Joe Root that the series has been competitive, so far. "Joe was saying, it might not look like it but it has been a competitive series," Kohli said.

England, who have already sealed the series 3-1 will host India in the fifth Test and final at the Kennington Oval in London starting from September 7.

Moeen Ali Annihilates India As England Seal Series With 60-Run Win

Indian batting once again wilted miserably under trying circumstances as a relentless England recorded a comfortable 60-run victory in the fourth Test to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. Chasing a tricky target of 245, India were bowled out for a paltry 184 on the fourth day on a pitch where survival wasn't a problem but run-scoring definitely was. India have never chased a target of 200 plus outside the sub-continent in the past three decades and the script didn't change this time round. What will hurt Virat Kohli and his men most is the fact that they were beaten by one of the weakest teams in recent times.

An ageing bowling attack of Jimmy Anderson-Stuart Broad along with off-spinner in Moeen Ali (5/63 and 4/71) tormented the Indians just like they did during the 2014 series. Under Ravi Shastri's coaching, India have now lost Test series in all those countries, which are considered to be tough places for touring teams. While the Indian coach has repatedly stressed about being a good travelling side, save Trent Bridge Test, there hasn't been indications enough to show that Kohli's team is ready to beat the best when conditions are alien.

Under Shastri-Kohli duo, India have lost in Australia (where MS Dhoni captained in two Tests), in South Africa and now in England. The inconsequential final Test will be played at the Oval from September 7. It was never an easy chase but what baffled all and sundry was the irresponsible batting by the middle and lower order, who gave up without a semblance of fight after a 101-run fourth wicket stand between skipper Virat Kohli (58, 130 balls) and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane (51, 159 balls).

Once Kohli was snuffed out by Moeen with a delivery that turned and bounced sharply to kiss his glove into the forward short-leg's hands, India's challenge was as good as over. From 122 for 3, India slumped to 163 for 9 in the next hour with none of the batsmen showing willpower to fight.

To Moeen's credit, he used the rough well and got more purchase from a slowish track than Ashwin, who had wasted an opportunity to give his team the required cushion in helpful conditions. Both Kohli and Rahane were taken through classical off-break where Moeen tossed it up and also got the deliveries to spin back sharply. Rishabh Pant (18) proved his critics right as he failed to curb his impetuosity, going for rash lofted shot to be holed out by the only man in the deep.

Hardik Pandya (0) is far from finished product as far as all-round capabilities are concerned and he couldn't negotiate Ben Stokes' swing. Ravichandran Ashwin (25) did put up a fight in the end but that wasn't enough with Sam Curran dismissing him to win the series for Emgland. The writing was on the wall when India were reduced to 22 for three in the first hour with KL Rahul (0), Shikhar Dhawan (17) and Cheteshwar Pujara (5) being dismissed cheaply.

Rahul got a wicked delivery that kept low knocking he stumps back. Pujara got one from Anderson that came back sharply while Dhawan was out in his now customary fashion poking it to the slip cordon. Dhawan's mode of dismissal showed that he hasn't learnt one bit about his shortcomings against the swinging deliveries outside the off-stump, which has repeatedly brought about his downfall. With 113 runs in 8 innings, time is running out for Rahul, who might be benched in the next Test. Ditto for Dhawan, who might find his Test career coming to an abrupt end with only 158 runs in six innings so far.

With Prithvi Shaw in that dressing room and Mayank Agarwal waiting in India, the current set of openers are living on borrowed time. Kohli and Rahane then showed as to why they were a cut above rest. They were prepared to wait for loose deliveries and grind it out in a workmanlike fashion. Kohli got a slice of luck when TV replays showed that he was plumb leg before but TV umpire Joel Wilson's howler provided him with a reprieve. Rahane on the other hand had dead batted most of the deliveries hitting only one boundary in the process. Both played Moeen with a lot of caution. However once Kohli was dismissed, it was an uphill task for India from thereon.

Virat Kholi: England were braver than us in tougher situations

SOUTHAMPTON: Virat Kohli felt that England were "braver in tough situations" compared to India which was the difference between the two sides in the fourth Test that the home team won by 60 runs to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.

"They were braver in tough situations than us. Those contributions from lower-order have been significant," Kohli said at the post-match presentation, referring to contributions from the likes of Sam Curran.

He termed Curran as a find for England in the ongoing series while maintaining that the series has been more closely fought than the scoreline would suggest.

"Joe (Root) was saying, it might not look like it but it has been a competitive series. We will not throw in the towel, we will come out with same intensity at The Oval," the Indian captain said.

Kohli gave the home team credit for setting up a tough target of 245 on a pitch where scoring runs wasn't really easy.

"I thought England did well to give us that target. They batted well in third innings. Seeing how the pitch was, how the ball was turning, they applied themselves. Don't think we made too many mistakes today but credit to them."

The Indian skipper denied that he and Ajinkya Rahane felt the pressure during their century partnership that one wicket might lead to collapse.

"We never thought like that (of an impending collapse). Usually with a big partnership you're always in the chase. But we were always under the pump. The pressure was non-stop," Kohli said.

But he did admit that his dismissal in both the innings was a factor in India's fortunes.

"I thought about my dismissal as well in the first innings, if I had carried on we would've got a larger lead. Nothing to take away from Pujara. He played so well to get us that lead."

Despite most of his batsmen having failed in this Test and bowlers were unable to wipe the tail out in both innings, Kohli didn't find too many negatives with the performance.

India vs England: Cheteshwar Pujara defends teammate Ashwin.....

Southampton: Cheteshwar Pujara defended teammate Ravichandran Ashwin after a poor outing by the premier off-spinner left India with the possibility of facing a daunting task in the fourth Test against England.

England relied on Jos Buttler's gutsy half-century to take a competitive lead of 233 runs by stumps on the third day.

In contrast to Moeen Ali's five-wicket haul, Ashwin struggled to get going on Saturday and finished with 1-78 in 35 overs despite his good bowling form earlier in the series.

Pujara though defended his teammate.

"I don't think he had a bad day. He didn't get too many wickets but he kept on bowling in the right areas. Sometimes as a bowler you do have such days when you are bowling but you might not end up picking too many wickets," Pujara said.

The Tamil Nadu off-spinner couldn't use the footmarks created by the trio of Mohammed Shami (3/53), Ishant Sharma (2/36) and Jasprit Bumrah (1/51).

First-innings centurion Pujara said, "Someone like him, he is a clever bowler, and he has done really well for us throughout the domestic season as well as overseas. So, I don't think he has bowled badly at all.

"But yes, the pitch has slowed down a lot and that could be the reason some of his balls didn't go through as much he might have wanted.

"It is their team combination. I don't think it matters too much, but being an off-spinner, Ashwin bowls well to left-handers. I don't think it makes a huge difference."

Pujara said that the key to winning the Test would be batting well on a slowing track in the second innings, especially against Moeen Ali.

"The most important thing was scoring some runs in the last Test match. I had been batting well throughout the season although I didn't get too many runs in county cricket. But I was playing on some challenging wickets. Sometimes even if everything is correct you do get out.

"I just accepted that fact and kept working on my game. I don't think there was anything wrong with my technique or my game. So I just trusted it and it paid off in the last Test match and when I got fifty. I knew that I was up for a big one. I was batting well, so I just kept on batting, and things worked well for me in this innings."

Despite Pujara's 132, India finished with 273 runs in the first innings, after losing five wickets for 34 runs.

"When he bowled in the first innings the wicket was a little quicker. Obviously some of our batsmen could have batted well against him (Moeen Ali), but he is a good bowler.

"Obviously I am not trying to take any credit away from how he bowled. But we still should have batted better against him. I think in the second innings, our batsmen will have a better gameplan against Moeen."

He said the pitch at the Rose Bowl is behaving like those in the Indian sub-continent and could favour the visiting batsmen in the fourth innings.

"I don't think it was a tough day for us, in the sense, looking at the pitch it has slowed down a bit. Looks like it is slightly easier to bat. And we have got lot of experience playing in such conditions back home. We started off well in the first innings but we lost too many wickets in the middle phase which, if we had batted well, we could have got 100 or 150 runs lead.

"But that is something in the past. All the batsmen, they have realised what they need to do and in the second innings we will put up a good show after bowling them out early tomorrow," Pujara said of the game situation.

England lead the five-match series 2-1 with the final Test to be played at The Oval in London.

"I have played some county games and even played a Test match here in 2014. Looking at this pitch it always slows down a bit, but the kind of wicket it is here, we have played on such wickets in India that tends to slow down as the game progresses.

"Even the bounce is low. Most of our batsmen are used to such bounce and it could be in our favour in the second innings," he said.