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UCL: Man City rout Real Madrid to reach final ‘on beautiful night’

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Manchester City demolished Real Madrid 4-0 to march into the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons with a 5-1 aggregate victory at a raucous Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

A semi-final delicately poised after an electrifying 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu turned into a rout as Pep Guardiola’s City slickers dispatched the Spanish giants with consummate ease.

Bernardo Silva’s first-half double gave City control and the hosts took gleeful revenge for last season’s heartbreaking semi-final loss to the 14-time champions with Manuel Akanji credited with City’s third and Julian Alvarez adding a forth.

With Inter Milan in the final, City will be favourites to deliver the trophy Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour has craved since buying the club in 2008, having lost to Chelsea in the final two years ago.

City are unbeaten in 26 home Champions League games and that run was never in danger once Portuguese midfielder Silva whipped a shot past Thibaut Courtois in the 23rd minute and then headed his side’s second in the 37th.

The second half became a formality as holders Real, bidding to win the trophy for a sixth time in 10 seasons, were powerless to stop a relentless City side closing in on a treble.

Carlo Ancelotti’s record 191st game in charge of a Champions League team became a night to forget for the wily Italian who, for once in his illustrious career, had nothing up his sleeve.

“It’s a beautiful night for us. We knew it was going to be tough,” Silva told BT Sports. “But to beat this Madrid team 4-0 at home, it was a wonderful. A wonderful feeling to be in the final again, and hopefully this time we can win it.”

City launched 69 attacks, according to UEFA data, and but for some incredible saves by Real keeper Thibaut Courtois, they would have run up a much bigger score.

“The opponent was better than us by a large margin,” Dani Carvajal, one of four Real starters with five Champions League titles for the club, said. “They were a superior opponent.”

Expectancy and tension hung heavy in the air before kickoff inside City’s fortress, even more so as the clash was billed as a de-facto final with Inter, in their first final for 13 years despite a mediocre Serie A season, awaiting the winners.

Manchester City are three games away from emulating the treble after two seasons. Pic by @MCFC

Journalist for 25 years with leading publications in India and UAE such as The National, Mumbai Mirror, DNA, Indian Express and former Sports Editor of eIndia.com. Now managing editor of Headline.ae, part of MEMc (https://www.memc.co)

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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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AFP

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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@cricketireland/ X

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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