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Hamilton conjures up magical Brazil win from 10th to reignite title race

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Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium

Lewis Hamilton won the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday in one of his all-time great drives from 10th on the grid with championship leader Max Verstappen second to give a major boost to his quest for a record eighth world championship.

Hamilton had to overcome a mountain of adversity with his first win since Russia which left him 14 points adrift of Verstappen with three races of the season remaining.

The Mercedes seven-time world champion’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who started on pole, took third.

With a new engine, Hamilton produced a peerless Sunday afternoon drive that was anything but sedate to overcome penalty points after his car was judged to have breached technical rules on Friday and notch up win number 101.

That saw him demoted from pole to last in Saturday’s sprint race where he took fifth to leave him 10th on Sunday’s Interlagos grid after another penalty for what Mercedes hoped would be their trump card now under the bonnet.

After overtaking 24 cars over 24 hours, and allying all his innate skill to his car’s greater power in the straights and Mercedes’ foot perfect team tactics, Hamilton was top of the podium, a couple of rungs higher than some of even the most favourable forecasts.

“What a race. The team did a great job, Valtteri did a great job. With the penalties, it’s the hardest race weekend I’ve had,” said Hamilton.

He said his father had reminded him of a race in Bahrain during his days in F3 “when I started last and finished first”.

“I never thought we would close the gap like we did today – just never give up and never stop fighting. It feels like a first as I haven’t had a win for a long time.”

Verstappen said: “We tried everything we could today, it was a good battle but at the end we missed a little pace. But it was good fun.

“We still have a decent lead so today was a bit of damage limitation. I’m confident, in the coming races we will come back stronger.”

– ‘Thank-you Valtteri’ –

Hamilton was on target to get a point for the fastest lap until Red Bull hauled in Sergio Perez (fourth) for a change of tyres on the penultimate lap in a move that duly paid off.

Bottas managed to hold Verstappen, starting alongside him on the second row, at the first bend but the Red Bull driver took the lead shortly after.

Hamilton was picking off the cars ahead of him with ominous ease and his cause was helped by the intervention of a safety car with debris on the track left by a collision between Yuka Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri and the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.

‘Thank you Valtteri’ Hamilton then said to his Finnish teammate who had been instructed to slow down to let the world champion inherit his third place.

After the key players in the 2021 championship had pitted twice Hamilton surged past Verstappen on lap 59 at the third attempt.

His initial overtake looked to have succeeded until Verstappen forced him wide in a move that appeared to be calculated by the leading car’s driver but the stewards having studied all the video footage from all angles available decided to take no action.

When told that Verstappen was not being investigated on the team radio Hamilton replied “Of course not” with understandable sarcasm after all the obstacles he was having to overcome.

Read Also: WCQ: Gundogan scores twice in Germany’s win

And so, a weekend in Brazil that got off to a rocky start had a near-perfect ending for Hamilton who not only pulled victory from the jaws of both F1’s technical rule book and Red Bull but also crucially prevented his arch-rival pulling too far ahead as the gripping title battle nears its conclusion.

Near-perfect as Hamilton was fined $5,000 for undoing his safety belt on his victory lap in breach of the rules to accept a Brazilian flag from a track marshall.

Qatar makes its F1 debut as host of next Sunday’s latest fix of the sport’s refreshingly exciting circuit drama followed by Saudi Arabia and the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in mid-December.

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Chelsea striker Kerr bowls over pitch invader

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Sam Kerr 211208 attacks G 1050

Chelsea striker Sam Kerr was cautioned after doling out some rough justice to a pitch invader during a Women’s Champions League match against Juventus in southwest London on Wednesday evening.

The Australian was described by her coach Emma Hayes as the best striker in the world after helping Chelsea seal a domestic treble with two goals in the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.

Kerr showed skills more in keeping with the Australian Rules code she played as a child when she barged into the fan who had run onto the Kingsmeadow pitch late in Wednesday’s game, leaving him in a heap on the ground.

Read Also: UCL: Okafor strike sees Salzburg to historic win over Sevilla

The yellow card contributed to a frustrating night for Kerr and Chelsea as Juventus held on for a 0-0 draw, leaving the English champions needing a draw from a trip to Wolfsburg next week to be certain of progressing to the quarterfinals.

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UCL: Okafor strike sees Salzburg to historic win over Sevilla

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Noah Okafor 211208 G1050

Noah Okafor scored the only goal as RB Salzburg claimed a 1-0 victory over 10-man Sevilla at the Red Bull Arena on Wednesday to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history.

Salzburg finished as runners-up in Group G with 10 points from their six matches, one behind pool winners Lille. Sevilla ended in third place and will play in the Europa League playoff round.

The first half had little goal-mouth action but the game burst into life after the break as Salzburg were helped by a second yellow card for Sevilla’s key midfielder Joan Jordan on 65 minutes.

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The match was played behind closed doors without fans due to heightened COVID-19 restrictions in Austria, so the hosts were unable to celebrate their achievement with their supporters.

For two sides with reputations as attacking teams, it took 35 minutes of cagey football for the first shot on target as Ivan Rakitic warmed the palms of Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn.

It was the only occasion where either keeper was worked in the first half, though Sevilla defender Jules Kounde headed wide from a corner with the best chance of the opening period.

Sevilla should have been ahead minutes after the break when Munir El Haddadi had a free header six yards from goal but saw his effort come back of the crossbar.

It was a big chance the visitors would rue missing as Salzburg went up the other end and scored with an excellent team goal.

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Read Also: UCL:  Atalanta-Villarreal tie postponed due to snow

They finally managed to string passes together and Karim Adeyemi was worked into space on the left. His low cross into the box was turned in by Swiss forward Okafor.

Sevilla’s night got worse on 65 minutes when Jordan received a deserved second booking for pulling back the pacey Adeyemi and they were left to find two goals with 10 men.

Salzburg were able to comfortably hold out to the end, with Rakitic’s first half shot the only one Sevilla, who are second in Spain’s LaLiga, could muster on target.

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Clinical Lille beat Wolfsburg to reach UCL last 16 and top Group G

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Burak Yilmaz 211208 G1050

Lille reached the knockout stage of the Champions League for the second time when they claimed an emphatic 3-1 win at Wolfsburg and top spot in Group G on Wednesday.

The French champions needed a draw to advance but they played with ambition to end up with 11 points from six games, one ahead of RB Salzburg with goals by Burak Yilmaz, Jonathan David and Angel Gomes.

Wolfsburg, who scored a consolation goal through Renato Steffen, finished bottom of the group on five points and are eliminated from all European competitions.

The German side barely threatened while Lille, who have had a see-saw Ligue 1 season, made the most of their chances in front of barely 6 000 fans.

Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side had picked up only two points in their first three group games but they found their groove in a perfect return phase that put them on the brink of qualification ahead of kickoff.

They duly delivered to join fellow Ligue 1 club Paris St Germain into the last 16, which they had not reached since the 2006-07 season, when they were knocked out by Manchester United.

They went ahead in the 11th minute when Yilmaz netted with a left-footed effort after being set up by Nanitamo Ikone at the end of a quick counter-attack.

Wolfsburg stepped up a gear after the break but it was Lille who found the back of the net again in the 72nd minute after a quick combination between Gomes and David had put the hosts’ defence off balance.

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Read Also: UCL:  Atalanta-Villarreal tie postponed due to snow

Canada striker David is the first Lille player to score in three consecutive Champions League matches.

Five minutes later, Gomes, who had come on as a 68th-minute substitute, wrapped it up with a right-footed shot courtesy of Ikone’s second assist of the night.

Steffen pulled one back with a nice 20-metre strike one minute from time but it was too little, too late for Wolfsburg.

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