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Team Nigeria dazzles at ITTF French Para Open

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Ahmed Koleosho

Four Nigerians narrowly missed gold medal spots at the ITTF SQY French Para Open 2021, as the quartet of Ahmed Koleosho, Faith Obazuaye, Nasiru Sule, and Isau Ogunkunle had to settle for silver medals in their respective individual events at the three-day championships held in Voisins les Bretonneux, a Paris suburb in France.

Having fought his way to the final, Koleosho who is second seed narrowly lost to France’s Yorick Adjal in the final 3-2 (11-9, 11-9, 10-12, 5-11, 12-10), while Ogunkunle also lost to Korea’s Young-gun Kim 3-0 (11-6, 13-11, 17-15) in the men’s class four.

In the Men’s Class five, Nasiru Sule who was unbeaten from the group stage to the final stage, was also unlucky against Norway’s Tommy Urhaug as he lost 3-0 (12-10, 12-10, 11-5).

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Both Kim Hakjin and Frenchmen Clément Berthier secured gold beating top-seeded opposition in the finals; Kim Hakjin overcame Hungary’s Endre Major (6-11, 4-11, 11-9, 11-7, 13-11); Clément Berthier accounted for Nigeria’s Victor Farinloye (11-7, 11-8, 11-7) in the men’s class eight.

2018 Commonwealth Games silver medalist Faith Bazuaye failed in her quest to win the gold medal in the Women’s class 10 as she was beaten in the final by Hungary’s Alexa Szvitacs 3-1 (9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-4).

Likewise, Kim Gitae maintained a consistent performance level. In the group stage he accounted for Frenchman, Lucas Creange, the no.2 seed (12-10, 11-7, 10-12, 11-8), in the final when they met again, he repeated the performance (11-8, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5).

Notably at the semi-final stage Lucas Creange had beaten Hungary’s Peter Palos, the top seed (6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5), the player against whom in the same round he had experienced defeat at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (14-12, 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 13-11).

In the women’s event, Great Britain’s Fliss Pickard, the no.2 seed, secured the class 6 title at the expense of Poland’s Katarzyna Marszal, the top seed (11-4, 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7).

Nigeria is expected to battle for gold medals in two finals of team events.

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Portuguese league discuss ‘disgrace’ after team starts with nine men

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An injury to goalkeeper Joao Monteiro who was playing outfield for Belenenses forced the game with Benfica to be stopped after the home team was left with just six men

Portuguese league officials met on Sunday to discuss the farcical game between Belenenses and Benfica, which had to be called off in the second half after Belenenses started with only nine players, including two goalkeepers, due to an outbreak of Covid-19.

Belenenses played one of their goalkeepers, Joao Monteiro, as an outfield player and had no substitutes at the Estadio Nacional where Benfica strolled into a 7-0 lead before half-time on Saturday.

The Primeira Liga game was called off by referee Manuel Mota three minutes into the second half, after Belenenses were reduced to six players. They had emerged after half-time with only seven players before Monteiro went down injured.

According to reports in Portugal, Primeira Liga officials met on Sunday morning to discuss the controversial fixture and whether any disciplinary action sohuld be taken against Belenenses.

The Portuguese health ministry also issued a statement on Sunday, saying “it does not comment on the holding of games, whether in football or any other sport”.

Belenenses president Rui Pedro Soares said on Saturday the game was a “disgrace” and criticised the league for effectively forcing the club to play, under threat of being deducted points.

“What happened today was a great shame, there is nothing to justify what happened,” he said. “Never in my life have I witnessed such dignified behaviour as from those nine players.”

After informing the league “that we didn’t wish to play the match, we were told we had eight players able to play” and “not turning up could be considered an unjustified absence”, said the Belenenses president.

Benfica president Rui Costa described it as a “black page for Portuguese football” but insisted “Benfica simply complied with the regulations” and were “not responsible” for the match being played.

Reports in Portugal claimed Belenenses were without 14 players due to Covid, as well as three members of staff.

Belenenses coach Filipe Candido had indicated on Saturday that he would have to promote some under-23 players due to injuries and suspensions.

Supporters in the stadium chanted: “The league is a disgrace.”

Read Also: Serie A: Napoli mark Maradona anniversary with dazzling win

The decision to go ahead with the fixture also drew criticism from players, with the Belenenses team posting a joint message on Twitter that read: “Football only has colour if it has competition. Football only has colour if it has sporting truth. Football only has colour when it is an example of public health. Today, football has lost its colour.”

Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva wrote: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?”

Belenenses sat 16th in the Primeira Liga at the start of the game while Benfica were third.

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Russians knock holders Spain out of Davis Cup

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Daniil Medvedevs singles win built the platform for the Russians to reach the Davis Cup quarter finals

Russia knocked reigning champion Spain out of the Davis Cup on Sunday to set up a quarter-final against Sweden.

The Russians’ tie against the depleted Spanish team came down to a late-night doubles encounter in Madrid.

Aslan Karatsev and world number five Andrey Rublev won 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 against Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez to win Group A and deprive the Spanish team of the chance to play in front of a home crowd in Madrid on Thursday.

The Russians, playing under the name of the Russian Tennis Federation because of sanctions against Russian sport for doping, made a bad start to the tie when Lopez beat Rublev 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the opening singles rubber.

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev stepped up to bring the tie level with a 6-2, 7-6 (73) win over Pablo Carreno Busta, before the doubles decided the match.

Britain booked their place in the last eight with a come-from-behind victory over the Czech Republic on Sunday and will play Germany in Innsbruck on Tuesday.

Kazakhstan and Croatia also reached the last eight.

Dan Evans’ surprise 6-2, 7-5 loss to world number 143 Tomas Machac left Britain needing to fight back to secure a second straight win and take top spot in Group C.

But Cameron Norrie overcame a second-set blip to see off Jiri Lehecka 6-1, 2-6, 6-1, before Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski teamed up to beat Machac and Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-2 in Innsbruck.

“We’ve been underdogs and managed to get wins. The Czech team played well – very young team. Machac turned into a top 20 player overnight!” British captain Leon Smith told the BBC.

The ties in Austria are being played behind closed doors due to new coronavirus restrictions in the country.

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British number one Cameron Norrie helped his country into the Davis Cup quarter-finals

France, after winning against the Czechs and losing to Britain, are out of the tournament.

Germany backed up their shock victory over Novak Djokovic’s Serbia by fighting back to edge out hosts Austria and go through as Group F winners.

Serbia had to settle for second place but progressed to a quarter-final against Kazakhstan in Madrid on Wednesday as one of the best runners-up.

Dominik Koepfer lost 6-1, 7-5 to Jurij Rodionov to put the Germans in trouble, but Jan-Lennard Struff levelled the tie by cruising past Dennis Novak 7-5, 6-4.

Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz completed the job in the doubles, as they did against Djokovic and Serbia on Saturday, winning 6-3, 6-4 against Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald.

– Angry crowd –

Croatia just needed to win one rubber against Hungary to wrap up first place in Group D and the 242nd-ranked Nino Serdarusic did just that in the opening match against Fabian Marozsan in Turin.

His 6-4, 6-4 success helped avoid a nervy finish to the tie for the two-time winners, as Marin Cilic lost the second singles 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to impressive Hungarian youngster Zsombor Piros.

Italy will have the advantage of home support when they face the Croatians in Turin on Monday.

Kazakhstan moved into the knockout stage by downing 2019 runners-up Canada in Madrid.

Kazakhstan, which beat Sweden on Saturday, emerged victorious again thanks to singles wins for Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik, over Brayden Schnur and Vasek Pospisil respectively.

Read Also: Serie A: Napoli mark Maradona anniversary with dazzling win

Bublik drew the ire of the Spanish crowd for delivering an underarm serve at 4-4 in the second set, but that only seemed to spur him on.

“As one legend says, when you go to sleep guys, know that I won because of you,” he said to the crowd, referring to US Open champion Medvedev.

The tournament was postponed last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Serie A: Juve’s Chiesa set to be missing until new year

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Federico Chiesa 211128 injured G 1050

Italy forward Federico Chiesa could be out of action until after the Serie A winter break, his club Juventus confirmed on Sunday, after he picked up a thigh injury in his side’s 1-0 defeat to Atalanta.

Juve’s fifth defeat of the Serie A season on Saturday, at home to Atalanta, leaves them eighth in the standings, and they will have to try to turn around their fortunes during a busy December without one of their key players.

Read Also: EPL: Jorginho penalty earns point for Chelsea after howler gifts Man Utd opener

The Turin club said in a short statement on Sunday that Chiesa had picked up a “low-grade lesion of the hamstring of the left thigh”.

They added he was expected to be unavailable until after the winter break in Italy, which runs from 22 December to 6 January.

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