Kenya’s Angella Okutoyi departed on Monday to compete in the junior category of the first tennis Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, that runs from January 22 to 29 in Melbourne.
The 2021 Africa junior champion, who is ranked 60th in the world, will also play at the J1 Traralgon tournament in Australia from January 14 to 19 as she seeks to break into the global top 30.
“I have practised for two weeks after breaking for Christmas. My preparations have been good,” Okutoyi told Tennis Kenya before departing for Australia, adding that she has been putting in double the effort so that her hard work bears fruit.
Okutoyi prepared for the Grand Slam tournament at the residence of retired Kenyan tennis star Phillip Illako, who was the top-seeded African in 1984 and led the country’s Davis Cup team in 2017.
She is among 46 players enlisted for the main draw in the girls’ category of the Australian Open, where she will be making her maiden appearance.
In November 2021, Okutoyi was ranked 142nd in the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and swept aside top seed Aya El Aouni (126) of Morocco 6-3, 6-3 to be crowned the African junior champion in the finals played in Sousse, Tunisia.
Okutoyi last won an ITF tournament during the J4 Nairobi II in January 2021 on her way to her then-career-high ranking of 127.
Real Madrid and FC Barcelona renew rivalry when they meet in the first semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Wednesday night.
Set to clash in the second “Clasico” of the season, both teams flew out on Monday, with Barcelona duo Ferran Torres and Pedri set to join their team-mates later after having to wait for the results of a PCR test for Covid-19.
The first semifinal of the Super Cup pits the winners of last season’s Copa del Rey (Barca) against the side that finished second in La Liga (Madrid), with Real Madrid clear favorites to progress to the final after winning 2-1 in the Camp Nou earlier this season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men travel to Riyadh with a five-point lead at the top of La Liga, while they have a 17-point gap over Barca after last weekend’s results that saw Madrid beat Valencia 1-1, while Barca was held 1-1 in Granada.
In theory, Barca coach Xavi Hernandez will be able to welcome back Pedri and Ansu Fati on Wednesday night, although neither is likely to start after struggling with injuries all season. Ferran Torres could also make his Barca debut after some financial maneuvering saw Samuel Umtiti sign a new contract on lower wages on Monday, lowering the club’s wage ceiling to allow Torres to be registered.
However, with the Spain international only just recovering from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since October, he too is unlikely to start.
Xavi is definitely without Eric Garcia, Sergi Roberto and Martin Braithwaite through injury, while Frenkie de Jong and Ronald Araujo have both traveled but are doubts after picking up injuries last week in the Copa del Rey. Araujo has trained, but was shown with his arm in a sling after needing an operation on two broken bones in his hand.
Real Madrid has no such problems, although Gareth Bale’s back injury has prevented him from traveling, and Ancelotti will be at full strength for Wednesday night, with Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema (who have 30 goals between them in La Liga) leading their attack.
The winner on Wednesday will play either Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao, who meet on Thursday, although Athletic midfielder Raul Garcia on Monday made his thoughts clear about playing the tournament thousands of miles from home.
“I can’t see any reason to play a competition from our country over there. There is nothing more to say, people don’t think about the fans anymore,” commented the veteran in a press conference.
Striker Sofiane Boufal’s goal was enough to help Morocco defeat Ghana in the first Group C match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on Monday evening.
Both heavyweights struggled to create chances in the opening clash, frequently making some good passes before hitting the ball out of play.
The game looked set to end in a goalless draw, but a mix-up in Ghana’s defense in the 83rd minute allowed the ball to fall to Boufal, who smashed home from close range.
“The most important thing is that we have achieved our goal. This result motivates us and gives us the confidence to face the next game. We will continue to work and stay focused on our objectives,” Boufal said afterwards.
Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac said that “it was a difficult game for us. After all, two great teams of African football were on the pitch. Morocco scored from the first opportunity they had. We still have two games to go and we will stay focused on them.”
In Group C’s other game, a first-half goal by Aaron Salem Boupendza helped Gabon defeat AFCON debutants Comoros.
Friday sees Morocco face Comoros, while Gabon take on Ghana.
Earlier on Monday, Senegal’s Sadio Mane scored a 97th-minute penalty to secure a 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe in Group B. Elsewhere in the group, left wing-back Issiaga Sylla earned Guinea a 1-0 victory over Malawi.
Group B’s next round of matches sees Senegal lock horns with Guinea, while Zimbabwe face Malawi.
Ten-man Juventus completed an incredible comeback win on Sunday as they fought back from 3-1 down to overturn Roma in a topsy-turvy 4-3 thriller, with Wojciech Szczesny making a result-saving save to deny a penalty.
Juve opened the new year with a 1-1 tie with Napoli, and it had Giorgio Chiellini back to the squad in Sunday’s game after he recovered from Covid-19. Roma had to play without injured Leonardo Spinazzola and Stephan El Shaarawy, while Rick Karsdorp and Gianluca Mancini were suspended.
Roma went ahead in the 11th minute when Jordan Veretout’s corner found Tammy Abraham for a twisting header.
It sparked a controversy in the 13th minute as Lorenzo Pellegrini’s attempt in the box struck De Ligt’s hand, but the referee waved play on.
The away side got back on level terms minutes later, as Paulo Dybala collected the ball on the edge of the box, before finishing with a trademark left-footed curler.
The Old Lady was forced to make a change in the 30th minute when Federico Chiesa limped off with an injury after a collision with Chris Smalling, making way for Dejan Kulusevski.
The Giallorossi restored the lead straight after the break, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s rocket took a huge deflection off Mattia De Sciglio to loop over Szczesny before Pellegrini added another with a stunning free-kick.
However, Juve turned around the game just in a matter of minutes, as Manuel Locatelli’s header and Kulusevski’s deflected strike helped the Bianconeri to equalize before De Sciglio atoned for his error by sweeping it in.
It was not finished yet, Matthijs De Ligt was sent off in the 81st minute after his second yellow card for a handball in the box, but Szczesny played heroics to parry Pellegrini’s spot-kick.
With the win, Juve still ranks fifth with 38 points, three points behind Atalanta who destroyed Udinese 6-2 on Sunday and has a game in hand.
Inter Milan took revenge on Lazio by defeating the Biancocelesti 2-1, claiming the opening win in 2022 after its away fixture against Bologna was postponed due to COVID-19.
Alessandro Bastoni’s stunner out of the box gave the Nerazzurri a 1-0 lead, before Lazio’s hitman Ciro Immobile scored the equalizer, but it was Bastoni’s night as his assist for Milan Skriniar helped Inter seal the win.
Inter Milan continued leading the table with 49 points, one point ahead of AC Milan who beat Venezia 3-0 away, thanks to Theo Hernandez’s double on top of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s opener.
Also on Sunday, Napoli beat Sampdoria 1-0 on Andrea Petagna’s winner, Sassuolo sailed away with a 5-1 victory against Empoli, Spezia narrowed past Genoa 1-0, Salernita won Hellas Verona 2-1 away.
Recalling memorable moments, personalities and games from this week in LaLiga history…
11 January 2016: Messi moves to five Ballon d’Ors
There was tension at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on 11 January 2016 as the Ballon D’Or ceremony progressed. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo had won the trophy in the two previous years, but Lionel Messi had led Barcelona to five trophies including LaLiga and Champions League during 2015.
In the end the decision was clear, Messi won 41% of the votes cast, Ronaldo was second with 28%, and another Barça attacker Neymar third with 8%. The mood among the trio was friendly, with Ronaldo saying at a shared news conference that “Messi’s left foot is pretty good, better than mine.”
“I’d take both of his feet,” said Neymar, to smiles all around. “Cristiano has many great qualities, which every player would like to have,” said a gracious Messi, then 28 and at the peak of his powers, as he won a fifth Ballon D’Or. (He now has seven, after winning again in 2019, when he won his 10th LaLiga title, and again in 2021).
13 January 2019: Messi scores his 400th goal in LaLiga
2019 also saw Messi set even more personal records – with his 400th LaLiga goal arriving on 13 January, when a swish of his left boot sent the ball flying past Eibar goalkeeper Asier Riesgo during a 3-0 victory over the Basque side at the Camp Nou.
Luis Suarez got Barça’s other two goals that night, but as often around FC Barcelona, it was all about the team’s talismanic number 10. Blaugrana statisticians calculated that 327 of Messi’s first LaLiga 400 were scored with his favoured left foot, 58 finished with his right, 14 with his head and one had gone in off his hand. It took the Argentine, then 31 years old, just 435 LaLiga games to reach the mark.
13 January 2018: Villarreal’s first LaLiga win at the Bernabeu
History was also made at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on 13 January 2018, although the majority of those present did not celebrate too much. Real Madrid dominated possession and managed 28 shots at goal over the 90 minute, but a number of excellent saves from Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo kept it scoreless.
Cristiano Ronaldo had 11 efforts at goal without success, including one shot from just three yards which the Portuguese poked uncharacteristically wide. As the game moved towards added time, Madrid threw more players forward, but were caught on the break as a splendid Villarreal counter-attack was finished sweetly by Pablo Fornals. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane could not believe what he was seeing, as his reigning LaLiga title holders fell 16 points behind leaders and 2018-19 champions elect Barcelona.
15 January 2006: A collectors item for Zidane against Sevilla
Zidane had a happier day at the Bernabeu on 15 January 2006, when Sevilla arrived for a top of the table LaLiga clash. The Frenchman set up teammate Guti for Madrid’s opening goal, only for Sevilla’s Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano to smash in an equaliser after half-time.
Zidane restored Madrid’s lead from the penalty spot, before Guti repaid his earlier assist with a sensational back-heel which freed the Frenchman inside the area to make it 3-1 by firing confidently to the top corner. Sevilla kept battling, and the Andalusians’ defender Aitor Ocio pulled one back at a set-piece.
Zidane would not be denied though, and slammed in a left-footed shot from the edge of the area to complete the scoring, and complete the only LaLiga hat-trick of the galactico’s career.
The 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) kicked off in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde on Sunday, as tens of thousands of fans watched a dazzling opening ceremony.
With fireworks, traditional costumes and joyful songs by Congolese singer Fally Ipupa, the ceremony comprised hundreds of dancers exhibiting Cameroon’s cultural diversity and hospitality.
Over 40,000 people flocked to the newly inaugurated Olembe Stadium, 13km north of Yaounde.
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya arrived earlier at the stadium, giving the green light for the championship.
Earlier, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe in his inaugurating speech welcomed all African teams participating in the football jamboree, wishing them good luck.
“We can host a successful tournament. It’s gonna be the best that’s ever taken place. We must believe. Today shows that we believe in the people of Cameroon and the people of Africa,” Motsepe said.
Cameroon faces Burkina Faso in the tournament’s opener.
On Saturday people of all ages, clad in the country’s green, red, yellow colors and blowing their loud vuvuzelas joined a public parade in a neighborhood in Yaounde to cheer on the team.
Among them was 25-year-old Andrew Geli who was already making arrangements to drape himself in Cameroon’s colors and paint the flag on his face.
“I can’t believe that the Africa Cup of Nations is taking place in my country in my lifetime. It’s like I am still dreaming if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up,” Geli told Xinhua as he continued blowing the vuvuzela.
“Everything is near, preparations are going very quickly, we hope that all of Africa will join us for this very, very beautiful celebration,” said football fan, Joseph Messi Awana.
The official song of the tournament plays in popular spots of Yaounde and football gadgets and flags are in high demand ahead of the game.
Cameroonians hope AFCON marks a new chapter for a country divided by sociopolitical and ethnic crises.
Even President Paul Biya said last week the football bonanza should help enhance unity and solidarity.
“As a nation, we have the duty and opportunity to remind the world that we are a united and indomitable people, capable of displaying this fighting spirit that has enabled us in the past to win great battles,” Biya said in a televised address to the nation.
“We want it (AFCON) to be a great moment of brotherhood. Let us offer our guests the rich cultural diversity that has earned our country the nickname “Africa in miniature”,” he added.
To boost fraternity among the people and visiting fans, the government has established viewing sites for fans in all the 10 regions of the country. In Yaounde alone, about eight fan parks and viewing sites have been set up, able to cater to some 20,000 supporters.
The nation has been preparing to host the tournament since 2019, but it was replaced by Egypt due to preparation delays and security concerns. It was then awarded the 2021 edition, which was again postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for almost four years, not just me, not just my children but … all of Cameroon. It is an exciting time to be a Cameroonian. Fans are anxious to support the team and welcome other Africans here,” said sports analyst, Julius Tabe.
For most Cameroonian football legends, the tournament has been a long time coming. The last time Jean Paul Akono played for the national team, Indomitable Lions of Cameroon was half a century ago.
“I remember and no one has ever forgotten the sad memory of how Cameroon hosted the 8th edition of AFCON in 1972 and we lost at the semifinal stage. I assure you that those who are still alive and who participated in this AFCON do not have enough strong words to tell you what happened in the country at that time, the famous February 5, 1972. It was terrible, all of Cameroon was touched and it was as if the sky was falling,” the former player and coach of the Indomitable Lions told Xinhua in Yaounde.
“But my most ardent wish is that our players, our indomitable Lions today can do the revenge for us and that we can win this AFCON. I think it will be the sweetest of all the AFCON we have won away from home,” he added.
“So much has changed since last hosting the Africa Cup of Nations in 1972. Fifty years later, it’s time to reintroduce ourselves to the world,” said Samuel Eto’o Fils, president of Cameroon Football Federation and four-time winner of African player of the year.
Eto’o has been sharing his experiences with the Indomitable Lions during training sessions in the build-up to the tournament.
“Listen to your coach and be focused. Give the best of yourself. We need to win,” Eto’o told the players on Saturday during their last training session to the opening of the tournament.
Cameroon will be seeking a sixth title and must work hard to achieve that goal, said Roger Mila, former Cameroonian striker and Confederation of African Football Best African Player of the last 50 years.
“It’s true we are the hosts but to reach the utmost level, that is, the final and perhaps win the trophy, we need to be very powerful on the pitch and off the pitch,” Milla told Xinhua before the kick-off of the tournament.
Fans at the tournament have to follow strict anti-COVID-19 measures to be able to watch the game.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Cameroonian authorities have stressed that proof of vaccination and presentation of a negative COVID-19 test result will be mandatory to access the stadium during the competition. Wearing face masks is also obligated and social distancing will be strictly applied. Stadiums will operate between 60 to 80 percent of capacity.
“The 80% maximum capacity will only apply for matches of the host country Cameroon while the rest of the matches will be capped at 60% of the stadium capacity,” CAF said in a statement prior to the kick-off of the championship.
With stadiums that feature cutting-edge equipment and first-class infrastructure, Cameroon looks forward to staging “the best AFCON ever,” said Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, the country’s Minister of Sports and Physical Education.
AFCON matches will be played in the capital, Yaounde, coastal town of Douala, West regional chief town of Bafoussam, Garoua in the North region and the Anglophone southwestern seaside resort town of Limbe where armed separatists have threatened to disrupt the game. The separatist fighters have already set off two improvised explosive devices in the town.
The army has deployed additional ammunition and troops to the region to secure fans and players. Locals told Xinhua, hundreds of troops now conduct systematic checks of vehicles and passengers entering the town and undertake day and night patrols.
Cameroon will play in Group A with, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Cape Verde while Group B includes Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi. Group C comprises Morocco, Ghana, Comoros and Gabon while Group D has Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau. Group E is made up of Algeria, Sierra-Leone, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire and Group F has Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia.
The 24-nation tournament will run from Sunday to February 6.
Borussia Dortmund reduced Bayern Munich’s lead in the standings after rallying back from two goals down to beat passive Eintracht Frankfurt 3-2 in the 18th round of Bundesliga on Saturday.
The “BVB” started powerful into the encounter as Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp had to tip Thomas Meunier’s dangerous shot around the far post in the 2nd minute before Erling Haaland headed into the arms of Trapp two minutes later.
Frankfurt couldn’t gain a foothold into the clash but it was still the “Eagles” who broke the deadlock against the flow of the game as Filip Kostic’s free kick into the box allowed Rafael Santos Borre to stun Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel in the 15th minute.
Dortmund was shocked and things went from bad to worse as Frankfurt made it two after Borre dispossessed Marco Reus inside the box before slotting his brace past Kobel with 24 minutes gone.
The hosts should have made it three at the half hour mark but for all that Jesper Lindstrom hit only the side netting following a counterattack.
Dortmund showed a sign of life in the closing stages of the first half as Donyell Malen rattled the woodwork following a rebound from very close range.
Frankfurt started brightly into the second half, but Lindstrom couldn’t triple the lead with only Kobel to beat from inside the box.
As the match progressed, Frankfurt handed over control, allowing Dortmund to halve the deficit in the 71st minute when Haaland set up for Thorgan Hazard, who made no mistake from the edge of the area.
Marco Rose’s men pressed frenetically and leveled the score through Jude Bellingham in the 87th minute before Mahmoud Dahoud utilized a rebound to slot home the decider in the 89th minute.
“We didn’t put the result beyond doubt and retracted with the lead. Dortmund gained momentum and punished us for our passiveness,” Frankfurt’s head coach Oliver Glasner said.
Elsewhere, Hoffenheim bounced back against Augsburg and secured a 3-1 win to capture the third spot in the table. Leipzig crushed Mainz 4-1 by courtesy of Andre Silva’s brace. Freiburg was held to a two-all draw by bottom side Arminia Bielefeld. Bayer Leverkusen shared the spoils with Union Berlin following a 2-2 game and newly promoted Greuther Furth played out a goalless draw with Stuttgart.
Bayern Munich striker and captain of Poland national team Robert Lewandowski won the Polish Sport Personality of the Year in Warsaw on Saturday evening.
The Sports Personality of The Year is believed to be the most prestigious sport prize in Poland. Lewandowski’s victory was not a surprise as the 33-year-old was seen as a strong favorite after leading Bayern to another German title.
“I want to say thank you to all Polish athletes as I’m proud of all Polish successes. We have talent and huge potential to be on the top. I keep my fingers crossed for all athletes from my country,” Lewandowski said on the scene.
“I’m really proud that I won. It’s a special reward for me as it is connected to Poland. I have been living abroad for 12 years so I really appreciate that and everything which is connected to my country has a special meaning for me,” the football player added.
“I also want to thank my family, who support me, and the teammates as I’m just a member of the team. I receive some questions about the possible retirement but, to be honest, I don’t want to do that and I don’t even think about that,” Lewandowski concluded.
The second place was taken by hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, who stood on the highest podium at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Motorcycle speedway rider Bartosz Zmarzlik was third.
Newcastle United were stunned by League One (third tier) team Cambridge United in the FA Cup third round on Saturday afternoon.
The team that has recently been taken over by a Saudi Arabian backed group, and who on Friday signed England defender Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid, were beaten by a 55th minute Joe Ironside goal in the biggest surprise of the round on Saturday.
Trippier was in the starting 11 for the game and coach Eddie Howe will be disappointed after fielding his strongest side against a rival from two leagues below his team.
Andros Townsend’s extra time goal gave Everton a narrow 3-2 win away to a battling Hull City in a pulsating Cup tie.
Tyler Slater put the Championship side ahead in the first minute, but Demarai Gray and Andre Gomes put Everton ahead with goals in the 21st and 31st minutes.
Ryan Longman then curled home a lovely goal to level the goals in the 74th minute and the second division side were inches away from a win in the 81st minute when Keane Lewis Potter’s effort bounced back off the post.
Southampton also needed extra time to get past second tier Swansea City 3-2, with the Premier League team playing with 10 men after Yan Valery’s red card.
Shane Long’s 102nd minute goal decided a game which either of the two sides could have won.
Chelsea had few problems as Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku were among the scorers as they beat fifth tier Chesterfield 5-1 in a game that was as good as over as the Premier League side led 4-0 at the break.
Leicester City qualified for the next round with few problems as they won an all-Premier League tie 4-1 at home to struggling Watford.
The FA Cup holders cruised past the visitors thanks to goals from Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Marc Albrighton.
Championship side Huddersfield Town shocked Premier League strugglers Burnley with goals from Josh Komora (74 minutes) and Matty Pearson (87 minutes) cancelling out Jay Rodriguez’s opener.
Crystal Palace came from behind to win away to Championship level Millwall in a south-east London derby. Benik Afobe put Millwall ahead in the 17th minute, before Michael Olise and Jean Philippe Mateta turned the score around in the 46th and 58th minutes.
Brighton won away to second tier opposition, but needed to wait until the eighth minute of injury time for Neal Maupay to seal their late comeback against West Brom, who had led though Callum Robinson’s 47th minute goal.
West Brom were reduced to 10 men with 20 minutes left to play when Cedric Kipre was sent off, but it wasn’t until the 81st minute that Jakob Moder drew the Premier League side level.
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