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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Champions League final

Man Utd won Europe's top club trophy for the third time

Manchester United won the Champions League by beating Chelsea 6-5 on penalties after a dramatic 1-1 draw.

Cristiano Ronaldo headed United in front after 26 minutes but Frank Lampard equalised before the interval.

Lampard and Didier Drogba hit the woodwork before the striker saw red in extra time for slapping Nemanja Vidic.

Ronaldo missed his penalty, but John Terry hit the post with a kick that would have won it for Chelsea and Edwin van der Sar saved from Nicolas Anelka.

It sparked wild celebrations for Sir Alex Ferguson and his players in the Moscow rain as United won Europe's elite trophy for the third time, a triumph made more poignant as it came 50 years on from the Munich air crash.

Ferguson had made it his mission to take the trophy back to Manchester this year in memory of those who died, and those who survived, in the tragedy in Munich in February 1958.

And it gave the 66-year-old Scot his second Champions League triumph, repeating the success against Bayern Munich in Barcelona in 1999.

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Chelsea captain Terry had to be consoled by boss Avram Grant as he broke down in tears after missing the penalty that would have given his side the trophy.

He slipped in his run-up on turf made treacherous by a torrential downpour and sent his kick against the upright.

The penalty shoot-out capped a thrilling game with passages of play of the highest calibre, with United dominating the first half but Chelsea showing huge reserves of character, resilience and ability to dominate after the break.

United may have been fuelled by the fates, however, and they rode their luck before Sir Bobby Charlton - a survivor of the Munich disaster - joined the players in the ceremony as they went up to collect their medals.

The opening exchanges amounted to little more than sparring, but the game burst into life after 20 minutes following an aerial collision between Paul Scholes and Claude Makelele that left both players with a yellow card and the Manchester United veteran with a bloody nose.

Ferguson suffered penalty heartache before

Ronaldo had been giving Michael Essien a torrid time, and his threat was transformed into tangible results after 26 minutes when he soared above the Chelsea defender to meet Wes Brown's cross and head his 42nd goal of the season.

Chelsea were almost gifted an equaliser in bizarre circumstances seven minutes later when Van der Sar was forced to claw away a header from his own defender, Rio Ferdinand, after Drogba forced Lampard's cross into the six-yard box.

Petr Cech somehow denied Manchester United a second in the 34th minute after a stunning move that swept from one end of the field to the other in an instant and left Chelsea exposed.

Wayne Rooney found Ronaldo with a raking pass, and his cross was delivered to perfection for Tevez, whose header was blocked by Cech - who then recovered to make a magnificent one-handed save from Michael Carrick's follow-up effort.

Tevez was denied again four minutes before the interval when he escaped the attentions of Makelele but could not slide in Rooney's low cross.

United were left to regret their missed chances when Chelsea took advantage of several slices of good fortune to equalise on the stroke of half-time.

News conference: Chelsea boss Avram Grant

Essien's shot was speculative at best, but two crucial deflections off Vidic and Ferdinand saw the ball fall kindly for Lampard, who slotted in a neat finish - and his celebration demonstrated that the goal was dedicated to the memory of his late mother Pat, who died in April.

Chelsea were transformed by the equaliser, passing with purpose and looking the more likely side.

And the much-debated Luzhniki Stadium pitch was suddenly starting to exert an influence, with both Ferdinand and Lampard suffering from cramp.

Drogba had been a peripheral figure for much of the game, but he produced a moment of brilliance with 13 minutes left when he curled a right-foot shot against the post from 25 yards.

There was a moment of history three minutes from the end of normal time when Ryan Giggs replaced Scholes to make his 759th appearance for United, beating the previous club record held by United legend Charlton, who was watching from the stands.

John Terry slips as he takes his penalty for Chelsea
Terry slipped at the vital moment in the shoot-out

Chelsea boss Grant bizarrely left it until two minutes into extra-time to make his first change, sending on Salomon Kalou for the disappointing Florent Malouda.

The woodwork denied Chelsea again seconds later when a superbly disguised pass from Michael Ballack set up Lampard, but his shot rebounded to safety off the bar with Van der Sar beaten.

United were left cursing 10 minutes into extra time when Chelsea captain Terry headed off the line miraculously from Giggs after Patrice Evra had shown pace and strength to fashion the opening.

Rooney had suffered a frustrating evening, and he looked less than satisfied when he was hauled off as United introduced the pace and unpredictability of Nani.

Drogba was sent off four minutes from the end of extra time by Slovakian referee Lubos Michel for slapping Vidic after an ugly melee developed when Chelsea felt Tevez had been unsporting in returning the ball after a break for players to be treated for cramp.

Tevez and Carrick were on target for United as the shoot-out started, with Ballack and Juliano Belletti following suit for Chelsea.

Ronaldo then made a hash of his effort, stopping in his run-up before seeing his kick saved by Cech.

Scenes in Manchester as United win

Lampard was successful from the spot and Owen Hargreaves scored under pressure before Ashley Cole's penalty took Chelsea to the brink of victory.

Nani scored to prolong the tension, but with defeat staring United in the face, Terry threw them a lifeline with his miss.

Substitutes Anderson and Kalou traded successful kicks before Giggs threw all the responsibility on Anelka as the shoot-out reached sudden death - and it proved too much for the striker, who saw his penalty palmed away by Van der Sar to crown United as kings of European football once again.


Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown (Anderson 120), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Hargreaves, Scholes (Giggs 87), Carrick, Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney (Nani 101).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, O'Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre.

Booked: Scholes, Ferdinand, Vidic, Tevez.

Goals: Ronaldo 26.

Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Makelele (Belletti 120), Lampard, Joe Cole (Anelka 99), Drogba, Malouda (Kalou 92).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Shevchenko, Obi, Alex.

Sent Off: Drogba (116).

Booked: Makelele, Carvalho, Ballack, Essien.

Goals: Lampard 45.

Man Utd win 6-5 on penalties

Att: 69,552

Ref: Lubos Michel (Slovakia).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo 7.80 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Ovechkin goes loonie after Russia beats Canada

One last bit of coverage from the IIHF World Championships title game between Russia and Canada, and it thankfully isn't about how NHL-style rules infringed on what should have been a spectacular and dramatic overtime.

The tradition of burying a loonie at center ice dates back to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, when legend has it a Canadian icemaker put the coin under a logo in the middle of the rink so referees could use it as a guide for face-offs. Canada's men and women both won gold that year, and the coin ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2003 at the World Championships, the Canadians hid a loonie in the padding beneath the Team Sweden net; Canada would win the championship in overtime on an Anson Carter goal against Mikael Tellqvist.

Burying the coin in the ice has now become part of Team Canada ritual and lore. The Russians were aware of its legend as well, and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals became a human ice-chipper after his team's victory:

From the Canadian Press:

No one wants that tournament to end the way this one did. After Ilya Kovalchuk scored the winning goal in overtime, the Russians celebrated by chipping away at centre ice and unearthing a loonie that had been secretly planted there to bring the Canadians luck.

Alex Ovechkin kissed it repeatedly and passed it around to his teammates before a group of players tried to plant a pole with the Russian flag in the hole they had made. The lucky loonie that was buried in the ice at Salt Lake City in 2002 ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame but one can only assume the one from this world championship went back to Moscow on the Russian charter.

Suddenly, we have visions of a Canadian player flying over to Russia, punching his way through several dozen guards and booby traps, grabbing the coin and proclaiming, "This belongs in a museum!"

"Saskatchewan Doan and the Quebec City Loonie," coming soon to a cinema and drafthouse near you...


The 10 Best Dunks in the History of College Basketball

After much research and many hours of debate, I am proud to present the best dunks in the history of men’s division 1 college basketball. All factors were taken into account to make the list: the situation, power, distance, hang time, type of dunk, presence of defender, and athleticism. There is no denying that this list is the true list of the most memorable and best dunks in college basketball to date.

10. UNC vs Duke 1995: The Jerry Stackhouse “Donkey Kong” Dunk

These rivals clash twice a year, producing some of the greatest finishes in college basketball. This 1995 thriller was nothing less, when the two teams battled through two overtimes. In what Rasheed Wallace deemed “the Donkey Kong Dunk”, UNC’s Jerry Stackhouse powers over 14 feet of Duke post player, while fouled twice, and still manages the reverse slam. Just listen to the excitement in Dickie V’s voice. Note he nearly jumped from the opposite block.

9. Louisville vs. Florida St. 1989: Everick Sullivan’s “Masterpiece”

Sullivan was most noted in this game for hitting a 3 in overtime at the buzzer to give Louisville the win. However, this dunk has been largely forgotten throughout the years. Sullivan manages to take off from the block, spin in midair, and complete a 180 slam while being fouled. The athleticism required to pull off this move is simply unbelievable.

8. Georgia Tech vs. NC State 2007: Isma’il Muhammad Climbs NC State

When Muhammad cleared Engin Atsur in midair during this game, one could only think about the Vince Carter dunk during the Sydney Olympics. It’s rare to see a player completely clear the defender (Deron Washington did in a lay up over Greg Paulus), but Isma’il is the only one I can remember in this decade to actually dunk it.

7. Cincinnati 1999 – The Melvin Levett “Superman” Put-Back

What’s better than jumping over a defender? How about jumping over your own player. Melvin Levette did just this in the 1999 NCAA tourney as he managed to clear his own player while rising 3 ft above the rim for a put-back dunk. Truly, this is one of the greatest put-backs in NCAA basketball history.

6. UNLV vs. Pacific – The Jarvis Basnight Hurdle

Just as good as Isma’il’s dunk, but nearly 20 years earlier and during the NCAA tournament. This dunk seems to last for ever as Jarvis launches himself within 2 feet of the freethrow line, cocks the ball back, and tomahawks it over the Pacific defender . . . while cleanly clearing him.

5. UCLA – The Baron Davis Behind the Back Fake and Dunk

Sometimes the dunk isn’t what makes the play. In this case, Baron Davis proves to us why the moments preceding the dunk are sometimes what makes the play beautiful. Just like the Jordan fake out of two defenders before dunking over Ewing, this is special simply because of the move. Just watch as Davis snaps the defender’s ankles.

4. NC State vs. Houston 1983 – The Larenzo Charles Dunk

Admittedly, this dunk is hideous. There is no flare to it, no hanging on the rim, but lots . . . and lots of celebration. If I were to make a list of the best dunks in college basketball, I would be a moron to leave this dunk out. Why? Because by dunking Derreck Whittenburg’s desperation shot, the “Cardiac Kids” won themselves a national championship. Maybe that’s why he strayed from the windmill or reverse dunk.

3. Kentucky vs. Mississippi State – Minnifield Goes Airborne

This dunk is often overlooked and many people have never seen it. However, the hang time and body control displayed by Dirk Minnifield during this dunk are unlike anything I have ever seen. After he launches from outside the lane, his knees and feet are level with the defender’s eyes. His vertical must be off the charts, because although science says no man can hang in the air for more than 1 second, I swear I think he defied the laws of gravity.

2. Pittsburgh vs. Providence 1988 – “The Night the House Came Down”

Ferocious beauty. Those are the only words I can think of to describe this dunk. Pittsburgh’s Jerome Lane places himself into the college history books with this dunk. He jumps from outside the block, posterizes a defender, and manages to shatter the backboard. Nothing else can really be said about this dunk, it’s simply that amazing.

1. UNC vs. Maryland 1984 – Air Jordan is Born

With only 10 seconds to go in the game, UNC’s Michael Jordan gave us a glimpse of things to come in the NBA. His hang time, the distance, and the “rock the baby” while the legs were splitting all make this dunk the best in college history. If you can deny its beauty, then you obviously are not a college basketball fan.

Did I leave any out? Let the debate begin.

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The return of #23

Will the Chicago Bulls select Derrick Rose with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft? We know Rose won't be wearing #23 - Michael Jordan's retired number - but will Rose become that Nike swoosh wearing, championship-winning, superstar Bulls fans have been waiting 10 seasons for?

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Mike Piazza announces his retirement from baseball

Mike Piazza waves to the Shea Stadium crowd after his final game as a New York Met on Oct. 5, 2005. He played nearly eight of his 16 major league seasons with the Mets and finished with 427 career home runs.
By Kathy Willens, AP file
Mike Piazza waves to the Shea Stadium crowd after his final game as a New York Met on Oct. 5, 2005. He played nearly eight of his 16 major league seasons with the Mets and finished with 427 career home runs.

BEVERLY HILLS — Mike Piazza, 39, who hit more home runs than any other catcher in history, announced his retirement Tuesday after no team was willing to sign him and offer significant playing time.

"I knew this day was coming, and over the last two years, I started to make my peace with it," Piazza said in a statement. "It has been an amazing journey. … I walk away with no regrets."

Piazza was a 62nd-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 who turned into a 12-time All-Star. He hit 396 of his 427 homers as a catcher during his 16-year career. He was willing to sign with a club that would provide playing time in at least half the games as a catcher or DH but received no offer, agent Dan Lozano said.

"After discussing my options with my wife, family and agent, I felt it was time to start a new chapter in my life," Piazza said in his statement. "It has been an amazing journey. … It has been a dream come true."

Tom Lasorda insisted the Dodgers draft the son of his hometown friend 20 years ago, and after hearing the news that Piazza was retiring, he had one last request.

"I would hope he would go into the Hall of Fame as a Dodger," says Lasorda, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997 after 20 years as manager of the Dodgers. "We're the one who gave him an opportunity. Here we are, from the same town (Norristown, Pa.), watching him grow up, and now we'll be into the Hall of Fame together.

"It's one of the greatest stories in baseball."

Piazza now may be eligible for the Hall of Fame in the same class as sluggers Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and pitcher Roger Clemens, who beaned him during the 2000 season and threw a shattered bat toward him during Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.

Piazza, who played for five teams, including the Oakland Athletics last season, has hinted that his preference is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a New York Met, with whom he spent eight years. The Hall of Fame determines the final decision.

"I have to say that my time with the Mets wouldn't have been the same without the greatest fans in the world," Piazza said in his statement. "One of the hardest moments of my career was walking off the field at Shea Stadium and saying goodbye. My relationship with (the fans) made my time in New York the happiest of my career."

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