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Chelsea ease pressure on Pochettino with classy Cup win at Villa – ARN News Centre

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Chelsea responded to a troubling week with a superb 3-1 win at Aston Villa to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup and put a smile back on the face of Mauricio Pochettino on Wednesday.

Successive heavy losses in the Premier League had left manager Pochettino under intense scrutiny ahead of the fourth-round replay, but first-half goals by Conor Gallagher and Nicolas Jackson put Chelsea in control before Enzo Fernandez delivered a sublime free-kick after halftime.

Villa, who are on the fringe of the Premier League title race and 15 points above Chelsea, were outplayed pretty much from start to finish as their Cup hopes evaporated and Moussa Diaby’s late effort was a mere consolation.

Eight-time FA Cup winners Chelsea will host Leeds United in round five in a throwback to the 1970 final.

Nottingham Forest scraped into the fifth round as they edged out second-tier Bristol City on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the City Ground. Forest will host Manchester United next.

Pochettino’s pre-match news conference on Tuesday had seen the Argentine field questions about whether or not he still had the backing of the club’s owners with his side in 11th place in the league despite a massive outlay on signings.

Bizarrely the former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris St Germain manager also came under fire from the wife of his experienced defender Thiago Silva who took to social media calling for change after a 4-2 home drubbing by Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Veteran Silva was left on the bench at Villa Park but Pochettino’s young guns finally delivered the kind of sustained display that has been sadly lacking this season.

“I think so,” he said when asked whether it was the best performance since he took charge last summer.

“I’m so happy with the performance. It’s about being solid and consistent and that’s the most difficult for a young team to find the balance. Today I was so pleased, the team were ready to compete, ready to fight with energy and attitude.”

Chelsea’s league campaign has been terrible by the club’s standards but they have reached the League Cup final against Liverpool later this month and will now be confident of a quarter-final berth in the FA Cup.

Villa actually began brightly but were stopped in their tracks in the 11th minute as Jackson pulled the ball back for Chukwunonso Madueke who teed up Gallagher to sidefoot a clinical finish into the roof of the net.

With confidence surging, Chelsea doubled their lead in the 21st minute as right-back Malo Gusto’s cross was headed past Emiliano Martinez to send the 7,000 visiting fans wild.

Enzo Fernandez’s impact at Chelsea has failed to justify the more than 100 million pounds the club splashed out to sign him.

But he showed his class with an unstoppable curling free kick that had his World Cup-winning Argentina teammate Martinez clawing at thin air.

The joy amongst the buoyant Chelsea fans was unrestrained and while one victory will not take the spotlight off Pochettino, Wednesday’s performance might just prove to be a turning point.

“It was exactly the reaction we wanted and needed. It wasn’t about wanting a reaction. We needed it. Fair play to all of the boys,” Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell told ITV.

“We wanted that pressure. We thrived off it. The confidence before the game in the changing room was the best it’s been.”



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Humbert dominates Bublik to seal ATP 500 glory – ARN News Centre

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Ugo Humbert produced a ruthless masterclass to defeat Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik in straight sets and seal ATP 500 victory in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday night.

The French No5 seed, who rises to a career-high World No14 after his heroics in Dubai, made it a clean sweep of six titles in six ATP finals with a clinical 6-4, 6-3 dismantling of No7 seed Bublik, the World No19, at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

Humbert, who defeated compatriot Gael Monfils, Britain’s Andy Murray, World No8 Hubert Hurkacz, and World No4 Daniil Medvedev to reach the final, unleashed his full repertoire of booming forehands and laser-like double-handed backhands to eclipse Bublik, who progressed past 2022 Dubai champion Andrey Rublev in a dramatic semi-final, which saw the No2 seed disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

After tight opening exchanges where the pair were evenly matched, the final stayed on-serve until the 10th game when Humbert, who had failed to convert break points in Bublik’s two previous service games, finally broke the Kazakh’s resistance to clinch the first set 6-4. 

With Bublik delighting the Dubai crowd with a combination of whipped forehands and a deft array of dropshots, Humbert, relaxed and controlled, raced into a 3-1 second set lead after breaking Bublik. From there, the 25-year-old left-hander relied on his own dominant serve – unbroken throughout the final – to close out the match on his second Championship point.

“I played a fantastic level all through the week, but it was not easy,” said Humbert, who claims the winner’s prize of $550,140. “I really don’t know how I stayed calm. I have too much respect for [Bublik], he’s such a nice guy on and off the court, and congratulations to him on a great start to the year.”

A beaten but upbeat Bublik reflected: “This week has had almost everything for me, and I can’t wait to come back here again in 2025. Before the final, I thought if I won I would dedicate it to my son, but sorry, maybe next time,” said the 26-year-old, who pockets the runner-up prize of $296,000.

In the men’s doubles final, the Netherlands’ Tallon Griekspoor and Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff narrowly defeated Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and the USA’s Austin Krajicek 6-4, 4-6, 10-6. With a pair of service breaks enough to settle the opening two sets, Griekspoor and Struff came from 1-3 down in the deciding super tiebreak, winning nine of the last 12 points to claim a maiden Dubai title and shared prize pool of $180,700. Beaten finalists Dodig and Krajicek share a runners-up purse of $96,370.
 
“It’s the first time we’ve played together, so maybe we should keep it one week,” Griekspoor joked during the post-match ceremony. “We played really well and had a great time, it was a lot of fun on court. I had such a pleasure on court this week.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. 
 



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F1 season opens with Verstappen in ‘a different galaxy’ – ARN News Centre

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Max Verstappen could not have hoped for a better start to his bid for a fourth-consecutive Formula One title, with even rivals hailing his crushingly dominant display in Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as being in “a different galaxy”.

The Dutch driver took the chequered flag 22.4 seconds clear of his teammate Sergio Perez driving a similar RB20.

He did it having started from pole, led every lap and with the fastest lap to complete a ‘grand slam’.

“Unbelievable, I think today went even better than expected,” said Verstappen.

“It was a lot of fun, I felt really good in the car.

“It’s special to have these kind of days, where it all feels perfect and you feel at one with the car.”

A close-run qualifying on Friday and a constant changing of the guard in practice, with three different teams occupying top spot in the three sessions and none of them Red Bull, had raised the prospect of a closer-run race on Saturday.

The seemingly untroubled ease of Verstappen’s win in the first race of a record 24-round season swiftly dashed those hopes, instead giving way to a sense of resignation and foreboding.

The 26-year-old, barely breaking a sweat as he got out of the car, had similarly won last year’s Bahrain season-opener from pole.

But that wasn’t as commanding as his win on Saturday, with his winning margin then half what it was this year and no fastest lap.

Nevertheless, it set the stage for Verstappen to sign off 2023 with 19 wins from 22 races.

With his Red Bull harder to catch, at least on the evidence of the 2024 season opener, there is every possibility he could go better.

Rivals are not ruling out the prospect.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said when asked if Verstappen could be uncatchable. “(We) just have to acknowledge his performance levels are really strong.

“I think today Max is not in a different league but he’s in a different galaxy — the performance is extraordinary.”



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Ireland claim first ever test victory – ARN News Centre

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Ireland claimed their first test victory when they beat Afghanistan by six wickets on Friday in a one-off match in Abu Dhabi.

Irish skipper Andy Balbirnie took charge in the run chase with an unbeaten half-century.

Ireland, who acquired test status along with Afghanistan in 2017, had lost seven straight matches before they eventually beat the Asian side in a low-scoring affair that finished inside three days.

“A lot of our guys didn’t get to play test cricket. Hopefully people back home want to be test cricketers. We knew it would be attritional stuff,” Balbirnie said.

“There’s a lot of cricket in the world… We’ve created results, and created history. The monkey is off our back, very special to do that.”

After dismissing Afghanistan for 155 in the first innings where seamer Mark Adair picked up five wickets (5-39), Paul Stirling (52) helped guide Ireland to a total of 263 to give them a 108-run lead.

Adair picked up three more wickets to clean up the top order in the second innings but Afghan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi (55) helped them post 218 to give Ireland a modest target of 111 runs to win.

Ireland found themselves in deep trouble at 13-3 when Naveed Zadran dismissed Peter Moor and Curtis Campher for ducks in the second over, but Balbirnie led from the front with an unbeaten knock of 58.

Lorcan Tucker also came in and steadied the ship (27 not out) as they patiently stitched together a 72-run partnership before Tucker hit the winning runs for a famous victory.

“I’m buzzing. Obviously very nice to get a win. Absolutely chuffed,” said Adair, who was named player of the match.

“Test cricket is pretty difficult. I think we’ve got a really good bowling group. In the last year, we’ve played a lot of cricket.”

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