Inside Ground

SAFF U-19 Women's: Bangladesh, India declared joint champions

Publish: 01:34 PM, 09 Feb, 2024


Hosts Bangladesh and India declared joints champions in the four-nation South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-19 Women's Championship '2024 after a two-hour-long delayed decision following the match commissioner's shameful fault in the final on Thursday.

The title deciding and tense- packed final match between two neighboring rivals was locked in 1-1 goals in the stipulated 90-minute at the Bir Shreshtha Shaheed Shipahi Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur  here Thursday evening.

Then the match moved toward the tie breaker where it was again locked in 5-5 goals in the five each shots.

The final match was again locked in 11-11 goals in the sudden death session of the tie breaker that made match officials confused.

The match commissioner then surprisingly advised the match referee to decide the fate of the final through a toss (by a coin) in place of continuing the sudden death session as per bylaws.

India won the toss and started  their maiden title celebration, but Bangladesh team refused the referee's illegal toss decision and stayed in the field alongside their huge local fans.

Complying to the Bangladesh protest and reviewing the tournament's bye laws,  the commissioner and referee changed their decision

and advised both the teams to continue the sudden death session to decide the champions.

But India regretted  the new decision and  left the field immediately saying that they did not expect any result  but the champions.

Finally, both the teams declared joints champions by SAFF authority as the match commissioner admit his fault

Minister for Youth and Sports Nazmul Hasan Papon, who is also the President of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), was present  in the match as the chief guest,  also played a good role for an amicable settlement.

Earlier in the day's match, Sibani Devu, who made a hattrick in India's 10-0 goals victory over Bhutan in tournament opener, put India ahead in the very 8th minute by a cool placing shot, off a Nitu Linda's through pass,utilising the lapses of Bangladesh defender and custodian Swarna Rani Sarkar (1-0).

When the match was almost heading for a Indian victory, then Bangladeshi wonder girl Sagorika again came to rescue Bangladesh scoring the match equaliser in the 4th minute of the stoppage

time amid huge enthusiasm from local fans (1-1).

It was the 4th goal for Sagorika in the ongoing tournament, scoring twice against Nepal and two against India -- one in the group match and another in the final..

Incidentally, it was also the 4th successive win for Bangladesh against India after winning  the SAFF U-19 Women's Championship title in 2021 beating India twice--first in the league match and the 2nd in the final match

Bangladesh also smartly reached the final of the ongoing meet with an all-win record securing nine points from straight three league matches beating Nepal 3-1, India 1-0 and outplaying all losers Bhutan by 4-0 goals.

India booked a seat for the final crushing Bhutan by 10-0 goals, outplaying by Nepal by 4-0 goals and losing to hosts Bangladesh by 0-1 goal.

Bangladesh team :  Swarna  Rani Sarkar, Afeida Khandokar, Ruma Akter,  Joynob Bibi Rita, Surma Jannat, Munki Akhter, Sapna Rani, Masamat Sagorika, Puja Das, Eti Khatun and Bonna Khatun.

SAFF U-19 Women's   Bangladesh   India  


Inside Ground

Collins and Alexandrova fight into Miami semi-finals

Publish: 03:34 PM, 28 Mar, 2024


Danielle Collins and Ekaterina Alexandrova will meet in the semi-finals of the WTA Miami Open after victories in the last eight on Wednesday. Collins powered into the last four with an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 win over France's Caroline Garcia before Alexandrova emerged triumphant from a near two-hour three set battle with American fifth seed Jessica Pegula.

Thursday will see the opening semi-final with three-time Miami winner Victoria Azarenka up against fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina, the highest ranked player left in the tournament.

Garcia went into the match against Collins on the back of an upset win over third-seeded American Coco Gauff but was unable to get a foothold against the Floridian.

Garcia still appeared to be troubled by an injury to her right shoulder and received some treatment early in the second set.

Collins broke to go 5-3 up in the first set and then held serve for the set, then in the second set broke in the third game and never looked back as she wrapped up the win in one hour and 19 minutes.

Collins reached the semi-finals of Miami six years ago as a qualifier and at 53rd is the lowest ranked semi-finalist in the tournament.

The 30-year-old American is now 4-0 against Garcia and has yet to lose a set to the Frenchwoman but said the numbers didn't tell the true story.

"I think against someone like Caro, it forces me to be more concentrated. I know I don't want to give her an inch or she can get in there," Collins said.

Garcia said she had felt the pace of back-to-back tournaments.

"It's been a long two weeks for the body for me, between the back at the beginning and then the she shoulder which came back," she told reporters, adding that the shoulder issue was a recurrence of a previous injury.

"I think it's nothing too serious but (shoulder) is always quite problematic for a tennis player," she said, before adding that Collins had played "an amazing match".

Collins intends to retire at the end of the year but while she agreed she had a relaxed look to her play, she rejected the idea that it was a result of her impending departure from the sport.

"I think I feel pretty relaxed, but that could be due to a number of things. I've got a new hobby. I'm playing some more golf, running more, Pilates, all of these different things," she said.

"My dog is here. I'm feeling relaxed because I get to be with him at night. I don't know," she said with a smile.

- Home favorite -

Alexandrova beat home favorite Pegula 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, showing plenty of grit in a third set where both players showed signs of fatigue.

Pegula broke to go 4-3 up in the first and broke again to clinch the set but the Russian fought back, breaking in the first game of the second set.

Again 14th seed Alexandrova broke early in the third but she let Pegula back into the set when she double-faulted on break point to leave the set balanced at 3-3.

The pair produced a fantastic rally in the subsequent game which Pegula was able to hold, but at 4-4, Alexandrova struck the decisive blow with Pegula going long on a back-hand return on the second break point.

The Russian held to grab the win and fell to her knees in joy at the result.

Alexandrova, who upset world number one Iga Swiatek in the previous round, said it was tough to break down Pegula's gritty defense.

"I couldn't understand how it was possible to return that ball it was always back. She was everywhere so I needed to do something," she said. "I tried to wait and use any opportunities that I got."

The win was Alexandrova's third against a top five player this year and she said her success was the result of developing patience.

"You have to wait and wait and something is going to come - and then you have to use it," she said.

Collins   Alexandrova   Miami semi-finals  


Inside Ground

Returning Halep rails at Wozniacki after 'cheat' comments

Publish: 01:45 PM, 20 Mar, 2024


Simona Halep returned to tennis on Tuesday, losing in three sets to Spaniard Paula Badosa at the Miami Open and then hit back at Caroline Wozniacki after the Dane criticised the decision to give her a wildcard into the tournament.

Former world number one Halep was given a warm welcome by the Miami crowd before fading as she lost 6-1, 4-6, 3-6 in her first game since the 2022 US Open.

But while the Romanian flags and chants of her name showed she retains plenty of support after having her doping ban reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week, former world number one Wozniacki questioned the way Halep was allowed into the tournament.

"This is not directly at Simona, but if someone purposely cheats, if someone has tested positive for doping... I understand why a tournament wants a big star in the tournament, but it's my personal belief, and it's not a knock on anyone, but it's my personal belief that I don't think people should be awarded wild cards afterwards," said the Dane.

"If you want to come back, and it's been a mistake, I understand, you should work your way up from the bottom. That's my personal opinion upon things.

"Simona's situation has obviously dragged on for a long time. She got her suspension reduced. It wasn't a clearance, it was a reduced sentence," she added.

Asked about Wozniacki's comments, Halep said she did not understand her motivation.

"Why did she say that? I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't cheat. I didn't dope. So it's better if we read the decision from CAS that it was a contaminated supplement, it wasn't doping. I never had something to do with doping. I never doped, so I'm not a cheater.

"Thank you to the tournament for giving me the wild card and have the possibility to play in such a big tournament. It was great to be back," said the 32-year-old.

"Only one person being negative about me is not that important because I have hundreds of people that are giving me love, so I will take that," added Halep.

Halep looked like her old self in the opening set, cheered on by a small but passionate crowd, including many of her compatriots, she struggled later in the near two-hour contest.

There were the familiar chants of 'Simona' as she broke to go 4-1 up in the first set and the fist-pump showed the level of motivation after her lengthy, enforced absence.

But she needed treatment to her shoulder during the second set and she lost the accuracy of her serve while looking increasingly tired.

But she was upbeat about her fist match after such a long absence from the court.

- Positive emotions -

"It felt really good. I had emotions, but positive emotions. To see the crowd supporting me so nice gave me a lot of energy. The level of tennis was pretty good. Unexpected, I think, for most of the people.

"At this high level, like Paula played, I think I did a good job today. So I'm happy with the first match coming back," she said.

Halep's career had been on hold since October 7, 2022, the date of the start of her provisional suspension after testing positive for roxadustat at the US Open.

The winner of the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon singles titles was then caught up in a second affair, this time "irregularities" in the data of her biological passport.

She was handed a four-year ban by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) which would have effectively ended her career.

Halep appealed to CAS in February, arguing her positive test for roxadustat -- used to treat anaemia and banned as a blood doping agent -- was the result of a tainted supplement.

CAS determined that Halep had "established, on the balance of probabilities" that the banned substance did come from the contaminated product and her violations were therefore "not intentional."

CAS also ruled that the "irregularities" cited by the ITIA in Halep's biological passport, a longterm monitoring tool of an athlete's blood indicators that can provide evidence of doping, did not, in fact, support "the doping scenarios put forward by the ITIA."

Halep had protested her innocence and refused to accept the ITIA decision, which would have kept her off the courts until October 6, 2026.

Simona Halep   Spaniard Paula Badosa   Caroline Wozniacki   Miami  


Inside Ground

Sabalenka sent packing at Indian Wells as Medvedev, Gauff advance

Publish: 01:52 PM, 14 Mar, 2024


American Emma Navarro shocked Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka to reach the Indian Wells ATP-WTA Masters quarter-finals on Wednesday as Coco Gauff sailed through.

Navarro, ranked 23rd in the world, pushed Sabalenka hard on a breezy Stadium Court to notch her first career win over a top-five player 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

US Open champion Gauff, seeded third, celebrated her 20th birthday with a dominant 6-0, 6-2 victory over Belgian Elise Mertens.

It wasn't quite so easy for last year's men's runner-up Daniil Medvedev, but the fourth-seeded Russian managed the windy conditions to post a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

Medvedev next faces seventh-seeded Holger Rune, who saved a match point then roared through the second-set tiebreaker on the way to a 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 victory over 2022 champion Taylor Fritz.

"It was a crazy match," Rune said. I managed to raise my level in the end of the second set. I just kept believing. I was always behind in the match, I was struggling to break his serve, but once I found my rhythm ... especially the tiebreak was very good for me and then I just gained confidence."

Medvedev said consistency was the key to his victory in windy conditions.
"I think in general I played well. I was really consistent," said Medvedev, who had just 13 unforced errors as he moved a step closer to a first title at Indian Wells -- the only hardcourt ATP Masters tournament he has never won.

In other men's matches, American Tommy Paul ended Italian Luca Nardi's dream week with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Nardi, who lost in qualifying but gained a place in the main draw as a "lucky loser" thanks to a withdrawal, was coming off a stunning upset of world number one Novak Djokovic in the third round.

Paul will play for a place in the semi-finals against ninth-seeded Casper Ruud, who rallied to beat French veteran Gael Monfils 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

Navarro's victory over world number two Sabalenka continues a strong season for the 22-year-old, who won the WTA title in Hobart and reached the semi-finals in Auckland and San Diego.

"It's definitely cool to be able to play an opponent like that and feel like I can hang and I can win," she said. "I've worked really hard over the years to kind of just get to this point and be able to play at a level that can compete with the best players in the world.

"I think that showed today," she added.

Sabalenka, meanwhile, has found it frustrating since her successful title defense at the year's first Grand Slam. The Belarusian's fourth-round exit follows her opening-match defeat in Dubai last month.

After the two exchanged just two breaks of serve in the first two sets, Navarro came out ahead as they traded three straight breaks in the third to take a 3-1 lead.

She broke Sabalenka again to seal the match, finishing with 22 winners to 14 unforced errors while Sabalenka's 38 winners were countered by 34 unforced errors.

- Learning experience -

Sabalenka, who saved four match points to win her opener against 64th-ranked American Peyton Stearns, acknowledged that she never really got comfortable in the California desert this year.

"I tried to adjust," she said. "I would say that we did our best and we'll learn."

Navarro next faces face ninth-ranked Maria Sakkari of Greece, a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 winner over France's Diane Parry.

Gauff, who turned 20 on Wednesday, will next face China's Yuan Yue, who beat Daria Kasatkina 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

"Feels good -- finally got a win on my birthday," Gauff said after what she called a "pretty straightforward" victory.

Thursday's other quarter-finals were already set, with defending champion Carlos Alcaraz to take on Germany's Alexander Zverev and Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner to face Czech Jiri Lehecka.

Women's world number one Iga Swiatek will face returning veteran Caroline Wozniacki while Anastasia Potopova of Russia will play Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk.

Emma Navarro   Aryna Sabalenka   Indian Wells ATP-WTA Masters quarter-finals  


Inside Ground

India become number one Test side overtaking Australia

Publish: 04:55 PM, 10 Mar, 2024


India have climbed to the number one spot in Test cricket rankings following an emphatic 4-1 series victory against England.

The Indian team moved past Australia who are now second in the table, according to the rankings released by the International Cricket Council late Saturday.

India lost the opening Test against England before bouncing back to win the remaining four matches, including the final game which ended in Dharamsala on Saturday.

In January, India had slipped to second place in Test rankings after a drawn 1-1 series against South Africa.

Australia overtook India at the top after sweeping the three-Test series at home against Pakistan.

Currently Australia lead the two-Test series against New Zealand 1-0 following their 172-run victory in Wellington.

India will remain at the top regardless of the outcome of the second New Zealand-Australia Test in Christchurch.

India are already the number one team in one-day and T20 internationals. They are also at the top of the ICC World Test Championship Standings table.

India   Australia   Cricket  


Inside Ground

Madrid 'suffer' in Leipzig draw to reach Champions League quarters

Publish: 03:25 PM, 07 Mar, 2024


Real Madrid scraped through into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 1-1 second-leg draw against RB Leipzig on Wednesday, progressing 2-1 on aggregate.

The record 14-time champions were far below their best but did just enough over the two legs of the last-16 clash to edge out their Bundesliga opponents.

Despite Leipzig shading the game, Vinicius Junior opened the scoring in the 65th minute after being set up well by Jude Bellingham.

Willi Orban quickly levelled for the visitors but they could not find a second goal to force extra-time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said his team suffered and did not approach the game well mentally.

"We played badly, with little intensity, with worries ... the psychological aspect conditioned our game a lot," Ancelotti told Movistar.

"We played against an opponent with quality, who had nothing to lose, and we had the brakes on from start to finish -- we suffered, but the important thing was to get to the quarter-finals."

Ancelotti warned his players before the game they needed to be at their best to progress and showed his cautious side by playing four midfielders behind Bellingham and Vinicius.

The Italian brought Aurelien Tchouameni forward into defensive midfield, also deploying Eduardo Camavinga, Fede Valverde and Toni Kroos, as he looked to protect the 1-0 first-leg lead.

However Ancelotti's gameplan stunted Madrid's own attacking game without completely stifling Leipzig's.

"It was not our best day, but we have to be happy because the objective is complete," Madrid captain Nacho Fernandez told Movistar.

"When things don't go as you want, you have to battle, to fight, to play games like today's that make you grow and learn."

The German side had the better of the first half, albeit without carving out clear chances until just before the break.

Andriy Lunin palmed away a strike from Xavi Simons, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, while Lois Openda rifled a shot into the side netting.

Ancelotti shifted back to a more typical set-up for the second half, introducing Rodrygo at half-time for Camavinga.

It opened up the game at both ends and Vinicius began to have more influence after a quiet first half -- albeit not always for good. The Brazilian was booked for barging Orban in the back and then shoving the Leipzig captain.

- 'So tough' -

Vinicius' frustration quickly turned to joy though when Bellingham burst forward, showing superb timing to release the forward, who fired into the top corner at the end of a smart counter-attack.

Toni Kroos started the break and despite being outnumbered, Bellingham and Vinicius showed their decisive quality to send the hosts ahead.

Madrid's delight was short-lived though, with Orban levelling just three minutes later.

The Hungarian defender's excellent diving header from David Raum's cross set up a gripping denouement.

Madrid striker Joselu, on as a substitute, sent a tame effort at Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi before Dani Olmo hit the woodwork.

The former Barcelona youth player's lob dropped on to the crossbar and out of play as thousands of Madrid fans held their breath.

Europe's most crowned side were taken to the wire on a nervy night by Marco Rose's side, only founded in 2009, but steeled themselves and held on to progress.

"If you add the 180 minutes up, we clearly had the better chances -- I don't know how they scored today," Leipzig defender Benjamin Henrichs told DAZN.

"We played so well and it's so tough that we're out."

Champions League   Real Madrid