Sport by HamzaMoussawi

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                           | pdf edition | Tuesday December 17 2013                                                       Sport
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Ashes 2013-14: Australia beat England to
reclaim the urn
Australia reclaimed the Ashes from England before Christmas with
a third successive landslide victory, despite Ben Stokes’s maiden
Test century Page 2


England’s injury problems may open door
for Danny Cipriani to return
Stuart Lancaster, England’s head coach, is expected to have Sale’s
Danny Cipriani watched this week while Luther Burrell may be
combined with Billy Twelvetrees as a centre partnership Page 2


Amir Khan growing in confidence that
Floyd Mayweather fight is likely
Amir Khan’s possible fight against Floyd Mayweather could be held
in May and Khan said: ‘It’s the fight I’ve always been after’ Page 3




Tim Sherwood handed                          Gianfranco Zola                              Ashes 2013-14: Five             Vitali Klitschko
Tottenham chance as                          resigns as Watford                           ways it all went wrong          vacates WBC title
André Villas-Boas is                         manager Page 6                               for England Page 7              to focus on Ukraine
sacked Page 4                                                                                                             ‘freedom’ fight Page 9
                                             Napoli offer                                 Cronulla Sharks
Champions League                             Liverpool’s Daniel                           fined $1m and coach             Elise Christie aiming
draw pits Arsenal                            Agger a reunion with                         suspended over                  to bring back a medal
against Bayern Munich                        Rafael Benítez Page 7                       supplements program             from Sochi Winter
in last 16 Page 5                                                                        Page 8                          Olympics Page 10




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Page  G24 Sport                                                                  Tuesday December 17 2013               08:31 GMT

                                                                       however, as Prior drove expansively at Johnson only to give
                                                                       a straightforward catch to Haddin. The partnership had been
Ashes 2013-14: Australia beat England to                               worth 76.
reclaim the urn                                                            By now though Stokes had reached 93 with a memorable
                                                                       century in sight, a landmark he reached by pulling Johnson fine
• Australia 385 & 369-6d; England 251 & 353                            to the boundary. It had taken him three and a half hours, from
• Australia won by 150 runs                                            115 balls with 16 fours, and he had spent 44 unfazed minutes in
                                                                       the 90s. Clarke now brought on Lyon, and Stokes greeted him
Mike Selvey at the Waca                                                by moving yards down the pitch to drive him first for six and
                                                                       then four, forcing the field back. At lunch, England were 332 for
                                                                       six, which represented 81 runs in the session, good progress on
                                                                       the “deck of death”.
                                                                           It was Lyon, though, who ended Stokes’s resistance in the
                                                                       third over after lunch, the batsman underedging a sweep to
                                                                       be well caught by Brad Haddin. It brought in Graeme Swann
                                                                       rather than Stuart Broad, who was still struggling with the foot
                                                                       bruised by Johnson during the first England innings. But Swann
                                                                       went to Lyon and shortleg, Bresnan pinged a catch to deepish
                                                                       mid off, where Rogers took a flying catch to give Johnson a third
                                                                       wicket. Anderson could only fend off Johnson to short leg.



Australia celebrate victory over England. Photograph: Paul             England’s injury problems may open
Kane/Getty Images                                                      door for Danny Cipriani to return
Australia won the third Test by 150 runs and regained the Ashes
35 minutes after lunch on the final day when England were              • Stuart Lancaster expected to have fly-half
finally dismissed for 353. To Mitchell Johnson went the honour         watched
of the final wicket, his fourth, when Jimmy Anderson was taken
                                                                       • Luther Burrell may be given an
at short leg, but not before Ben Stokes had completed a brilliant
maiden Test century. Stokes was finally out shortly after the
                                                                       opportunity at centre
interval for 120, an innings which is certain to secure his place in   Robert Kitson
the England side.
    There were odds being offered before play of 100-1 on an
England win, which seemed particularly ungenerous even
given the ease with which Stokes had played the previous
evening. The Australian side were coltish in their warm-ups,
confident that wicket-taking ought only to be a matter of time
and the Ashes would be theirs.
    The cracks on the pitch had opened further but as David
Gower, one of England’s more successful batsmen at the
Waca has said, the ball generally does too much from them,
spectacular but rarely destructive, and the key is to concentrate
on the 99% of deliveries that do not hit them, something that
Stokes in particular managed.
    Clarke began his final assault on the mountain with Johnson
                                                                       Danny Cipriani has not played for England since 2008 but
and Harris, despite the new ball being only 13 overs away, a
                                                                       his form for Sale may lead to a recall for the 2014 Six Nations.
strategy he used to great effect in the first innings when the
                                                                       Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
England batting subsided at a similar stage. Three overs from
Johnson though were sufficient for him to be replaced by               Most countries have injury issues at this time of year but
Siddle, while at the other end, Stokes eased Harris elegantly          the shortage of fit English backs available for the Six Nations
through midwicket for the first boundary of the morning.               continues to be a headache for the national management. Manu
    When Watson then replaced Harris at the Prindiville Stand          Tuilagi, Marland Yarde and Christian Wade, plus the forwards
End, Prior caressed him away to the point boundary whereupon           Alex Corbisiero, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft, are all set to miss
Stokes off drove Siddle to bring up the 50 partnership. When           the entire championship, while Ben Foden and Joel Tomkins
Stokes ran Watson to the third man fence, he moved into the            are expected to sit out a large chunk of the tournament.
90s.                                                                      Although Brad Barritt is hoping to be back in contention after
    The new ball became due at 278 for five and Australia took         being ruled out for the entire autumn series, Stuart Lancaster
it immediately, but England had added 32 in the first hour until       and his fellow coaches will have no option but to promote
drinks, without loss. Refreshed, Prior then took successive            several players from the Saxons when the Six Nations squad is
boundaries from Harris, to third man and through midwicket.            confirmed a fortnight before the opening fixture on 1 February
The sixth over with the new ball brought the breakthrough              against France in Paris. The next three rounds of Premiership
theguardian.com © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                      theguardian.com
Page 3 G24 Sport                                                                   Tuesday December 17 2013              08:31 GMT

fixtures, therefore, are significant for players such as Luther
Burrell, Jonny May, Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell, George
Ford and Danny Cipriani, all of whom have been nudging the
                                                                      Amir Khan growing in confidence that
selectors this season.                                                Floyd Mayweather fight is likely
    It would be a mighty bold step to lob raw youngsters
such as Watson and Nowell straight into a Test environment            • ‘It’s the fight I’ve always been after,’ says
at the Stade de France but Burrell proved he can handle               Khan
the big occasion in Dublin at the weekend when he helped
                                                                      • Las Vegas in May projected for possible
Northampton to their rousing win over Leinster. It is
understood the management are weighing up whether the
                                                                      match
Yorkshire-born centre could, if necessary, play alongside Billy       Sean Ingle
Twelvetrees as they ponder solutions to their ongoing midfield
conundrum.
    Picking Burrell at 12 would require certain adjustments,
with Twelvetrees likely to be required to defend at 13. Barritt,
scheduled to return for Saracens next month, would offer a
more experienced option if his form is sharp enough, with
Tuilagi unlikely to be seen in an England jersey again before
the summer tour of New Zealand following surgery on a torn
pectoral muscle.
    Croft – who is due back in April – Parling and Corbisiero are
also all hopeful of being available for the series against the All
Blacks in June, when Stuart Lancaster’s side will be playing
three Tests plus a midweek fixture against the Crusaders
in Christchurch. They are planning, accordingly, to take an
                                                                      Amir Khan said of hopes for a fight against Floyd Mayweather
expanded squad which, theoretically, could see a player like
                                                                      in May: ‘We’re very close now, not too far away’. Photograph:
Cipriani re-enter the England frame. “Keep delivering at
                                                                      Bennett Raglin/Bennett Raglin/Getty for BET
training and in games and it would be only a fool who would not
pick someone in form like that,” suggested Steve Diamond, the         After months of speculation and rumour, Amir Khan is
Sale director of rugby.                                               increasingly confident that he will soon be named as Floyd
    It is believed at least one England coach will attend Sale’s      Mayweather’s next opponent. Talks are at an advanced stage
game against London Irish this Friday and Cipriani, last seen         for the pair to fight in Las Vegas in May and Khan’s camp are
in an England shirt against Ireland in 2008, will be desperate        hopeful that the fight will be announced in the first week in
to maintain the positive form and attitude which has attracted        January. Contracts have not yet been signed but it is understood
increasingly favourable notices. If Toby Flood, currently             that the fundamentals have been agreed.
nursing a strained buttock suffered against Montpellier on                It is also significant that Khan, who has not stepped into the
Sunday, decides to sign for a French club next year, there is         ring since a messy victory against Julio Díaz in Sheffield in April
definitely space for an extra fly-half going forward.                 and has spoken little about the Mayweather fight, is bullish
    Cipriani, Owen Farrell, Freddie Burns, George Ford and            about the prospects of it taking place. “It’s the fight I’ve always
Henry Slade are all different types of player but Australia’s         been after and we’re very close now, not too far away,” he said.
renaissance over the autumn Tests underlined the value of             “Hopefully something is going to be announced within the next
selecting a distributor with a little bit of X-factor about him.      couple of weeks.”
Cipriani has finally been showing glimpses of the performances            Khan, who was due to fight the IBF welterweight champion
which earned him Test recognition in his Wasps days, although         Devon Alexander this month before pulling out with a potential
a fast-track return to the Six Nations continues to be a long shot.   £10m purse to fight Mayweather in the offing, could be
                                                                      considered fortunate to be getting a shot at the man recognised
                                                                      as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The Bolton-
                                                                      born Khan has not fought since being put down by the ageing




  *
                                                                      Díaz in a narrow points win, and has lost two of his past four
                                                                      fights. He has also never fought at welterweight.
                                                                          Two things work in Khan’s favour. First, he is popular in
                                                                      the United States because of his come-forward style, and his
  From Beirut to Big Brother, Murdoch to                              thrilling victory over Marcos Maidana in 2010 looks all the
  Millionaire,                                                        better now given the Argentinian’s destructive popping of
  discuss the hot topics in the media on                              Adrien Broner’s bubble on Saturday. Second, the lack of an
                                                                      obvious challenger to Mayweather, especially given that Manny
  not one, but two blogs Organ Grinder and
                                                                      Pacquiao fights under the Top Rank banner while Mayweather
  Greenslade                                                          fights for Showtime, makes it easier for the Khan fight to be
  blogs.theguardian.com/organgrinder/                                 made.
  blogs.theguardian.com/greenslade/                                       Khan will not have fought for 13 months by the time a
                                                                      projected fight with Mayweather takes place but he believes
                                                                      that his time working with his trainer Virgil Hunter has made
theguardian.com © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                      theguardian.com
Page  G24 Sport                                                               Tuesday December 17 2013                 08:31 GMT

him a more complete fighter. “The break has been so good            Roma.
for me because over the last few years I’ve been training or            The club felt the 44-year-old Sherwood’s talents lay more
fighting all the time and this time I’ve focused on building my     in coaching and he was duly granted the title of technical
relationship with Virgil,” he said. “Next time I go into camp I’m   coordinator to oversee the under-21 development squad and
going to know exactly what I’m doing with him. I’ve already         youth set-up. His impressive progress with the junior sides has
been working on correcting the mistakes I’ve made in the past,      been noted, with Levy content to lean on him in the short term.
so you’re only going to see an improvement.”                            He will be assisted by Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey
    It would have to be some improvement. Khan is regarded          for the immediate future, starting with visit of West Ham
as a 13-2 outsider by the bookies to beat Mayweather, who           in the Capital One Cup quarter-final and Sunday’s trip to
is undefeated in 45 fights, but he believes he can spring a         Southampton, while Steffen Freund and Tony Parks will
surprise. “Boxing’s all over the place at the moment with all the   continue as part of the coaching staff. With a burgeoning
underdogs coming through to win,” he said.                          reputation Sherwood may become a contender to take the job,
    “Shawn Porter was the underdog against Alexander then           at least on an interim basis to the end of the season, if his initial
Broner was beaten and knocked down by Maidana. It’s the time        stint proves successful.
of the underdogs. If I get the fight against Mayweather I have no       Levy is considering his options and will sound out more
doubt I can go and take it.”                                        experienced figures but he is still to determine the best
                                                                    approach, with many of those under consideration for the long
                                                                    term potentially out of reach until the summer at the earliest.
Tim Sherwood handed Tottenham                                           Principal among them is Fabio Capello, who is contracted
chance as André Villas-Boas is sacked                               with Russia until the World Cup finals but still owns a property
                                                                    in London and has worked regularly with Baldini throughout
                                                                    his career. The 67-year-old Italian would not represent a
• Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey will                               progressive appointment, however, and has not ventured into
assist new man                                                      club management since leaving Real Madrid in 2007 prior to a
• First game in charge against West Ham on                          four-year stint in charge of England, but he has the reputation
Wednesday                                                           and authority to take over at White Hart Lane. Capello was
                                                                    actually at Sunday’s game as a pundit for Sky Italia when
Dominic Fifield
                                                                    Liverpool won 5-0 to condemn Villas-Boas to the sack.
                                                                        There is admiration, too, for Southampton’s Mauricio
                                                                    Pochettino, though prising him away from the south coast
                                                                    club’s ambitious chairman, Nicola Cortese, would be easier said
                                                                    than done. Luciano Spalletti, currently at Zenit St Petersburg,
                                                                    FC Basel’s Murat Yakin – Baldini was in Basel for the Swiss
                                                                    club’s Champions League victory over Chelsea last month – and
                                                                    Swansea’s Michael Laudrup would also be considered.
                                                                        Guus Hiddink, who had been favoured by the board as a
                                                                    natural interim appointment having fulfilled similar duties with
                                                                    Chelsea in 2009, is understood to have indicated a reluctance to
                                                                    take up the position. He will take up a permanent role with the
                                                                    Holland set-up after the World Cup.
                                                                        Villas-Boas’ dismissal was confirmed in a brief meeting with
Tim Sherwood, left, and Les Ferdinand will be joined by Chris       Levy at the club’s Enfield training ground , after discussions
Ramsey to run first-team affairs at Tottenham for the time          between the chairman and the owner, Joe Lewis, overnight.
being. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA                                The Portuguese had envisaged taking training as normal,
                                                                    having spoken at length with Levy and Baldini the previous
Tim Sherwood will have an opportunity to stake his claim to
                                                                    evening, and had even arrived at the complex with Christmas
succeed André Villas-Boas at Tottenham Hotspur after the club
                                                                    presents for members of staff. He left towards the end of the
turned to their highly rated technical coordinator to oversee
                                                                    afternoon – along with his staff José Mário Rocha, Luís Martins
first-team affairs following the dismissal of the Portuguese.
                                                                    and Daniel Sousa – having said his farewells to the players, with
    Villas-Boas was dismissed in the wake of the home trouncing
                                                                    his exit technically “by mutual consent and in the interests of
by Liverpool on Sunday with the Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy,
                                                                    all parties”.
unconvinced he could deliver Champions League qualification
                                                                        His team sit seventh in the top flight but the brutal nature of
this season despite the club having spent £107m in the summer
                                                                    their defeats by West Ham, Manchester City and now Liverpool
to revamp the squad.
                                                                    had undermined faith in his ability.
    He departed after 18 months in charge and with the team
                                                                        Levy and Lewis had been angered initially by the 3-0 home
only five points adrift of fourth place but the psychological
                                                                    defeat by West Ham in October, a result which prompted an
effects of heavy defeats by West Ham, Manchester City and then
                                                                    intense examination of Villas-Boas’ suitability to fulfil longer-
Liverpool had eroded the board’s faith in his ability.
                                                                    term ambitions. The hierarchy had sanctioned a huge spend
    Sherwood, a former Tottenham midfielder, was a member
                                                                    over the summer on seven new players, including three club
of the coaching staff during the Harry Redknapp era and was
                                                                    record fees, reinvesting the money raised by Gareth Bale’s sale
under consideration for the role of technical director over the
                                                                    to Real Madrid and more.
summer before Levy turned instead to Franco Baldini, then of
theguardian.com © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                     theguardian.com
Page  G24 Sport                                                              Tuesday December 17 2013                08:31 GMT

    Yet the new personnel, while enjoying fine reputations on      for Pep Guardiola but have not stopped winning. They are
paper, have taken time to adapt to the Premier League and the      unbeaten in the Bundesliga, although they did lose their final
team’s stodgy and conservative play has failed to enthuse those    Champions League group game against Manchester City last
in the boardroom. They have scored only 15 goals in 16 league      week.
games, a reality that has overshadowed their serene progress           City’s last-16 draw, meanwhile, will cause further scrutiny
in the Europa League which has led to a knockout tie with the      of Manuel Pellegrini’s concession that he was unaware another
former Spurs manager, Juande Ramos, who is now with the            goal at Bayern Munich tinyurl.com/nesbcq2 would have won the
Ukrainian club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.                              group phase and avoided playing a side of Barça’s status. City
    The Portuguese was contracted until the summer of 2015         beat Bayern 3-2 in last week’s final group match, after coming
and following his brief and unhappy tenure at Chelsea, which       from 2-0 down after the opening 12 minutes. But Pellegrini later
ended abruptly in March 2012, may now seek to re-establish         admitted he did not know a fourth goal would have pushed
his reputation abroad. “The club can announce that agreement       the holders into second place and allow his team to win their
has been reached with head coach, André Villas-Boas, for the       section.
termination of his services,” read the club’s statement. “The          While there was no guarantee that City would have managed
decision was by mutual consent and in the interests of all         a fourth, finishing second in the group meant they would face
parties.”                                                          one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Paris Saint-
                                                                   Germain or Borussia Dortmund.
                                                                       “Very tough, we are happy because we are here and we will
Champions League draw pits Arsenal                                 fight for the trophy, but it’s true that it could be maybe better,”
against Bayern Munich in last 16                                   City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain, who held the same
                                                                   position at Barcelona and spent seven years as a player with the
                                                                   Catalan club, told Sky Sports.
• Manchester City will face Barcelona in                               While Pellegrini has dryly laughed off his ignorance by
knockout round                                                     apologising for not being able to score four goals at the home of
• Manchester United play Olympiakos;                               the European champions, privately he may feel otherwise.
Chelsea face Galatasaray                                           Champions League last 16 draw in full
• Look back through Gregg Bakowski’s blog                             Manchester City v Barcelona
of the draw                                                           Arsenal v Bayern Munich
                                                                      Olympiakos v Manchester United
Jamie Jackson                                                         Milan v Atlético Madrid
                                                                      Bayer Leverkusen v Paris Saint-Germain
                                                                      Galatasaray v Chelsea
                                                                      Schalke 04 v Real Madrid
                                                                      Zenit St Petersburg v Borussia Dortmund




                                                                     *
Bayern Munich, who will face Arsenal, in the Champions
League, are the defending champions. Photograph: Friso
Gentsch/DPA/Corbis
Arsenal and Manchester City paid a heavy price for finishing
second in their Champions League groups when they drew
Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively in the last 16 of the
competition.                                                         Compare and buy
   The other English clubs, having topped their groups, have,
on paper at least, been handed easier ties. Manchester United
                                                                     Use our free independent
will play Olympiakos while Chelsea will face an old friend in        comparison services to switch
Didier Drogba as they were drawn against Galatasaray.
   For Arsène Wenger’s team it will be a repeat of last season’s
                                                                     suppliers and save money on
meeting in the last 16, when the eventual winners eliminated         all your household bills.
the English team on the away-goals rule. Bayern won the first
game at the Emirates 3-1 before losing 2-0 at home with Olivier
                                                                     theguardian.com/money/
Giroud and Laurent Koscielny getting the goals for the visitors,     compareandbuy
the latter with four minutes of the tie remaining.
   Since then, Bayern have swapped their coach Jupp Heynckes
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Page  G24 Sport                                                                  Tuesday December 17 2013               08:31 GMT

                                                                       being replaced by Avram Grant – had been less distinguished
                                                                       but Vicarage Road regulars remained optimistic Zola was the
Gianfranco Zola resigns as Watford                                     man to lead Watford back into the Premier League.
manager                                                                    After spending much of last season appearing poised for
                                                                       automatic promotion they eventually finished third, beat
• Hornets currently lie 13th in the                                    Leicester in the play-off semi-final and then stumbled against
Championship                                                           Palace at Wembley. “Last season was such an amazing time,
                                                                       for the players, the staff and the supporters,” wrote Zola in his
• Zola writes letter to club’s fans on official
                                                                       open letter to fans. “And I loved that journey. Every minute of
website                                                                it brought a new challenge, different experiences and a lot of
Louise Taylor                                                          learning. I have had supporters tell me that the Leicester game
                                                                       in May tinyurl.com/o8nxe4b was the most amazing moment in
                                                                       their time supporting their club.
                                                                           “I will always remember having been welcomed so warmly
                                                                       to this wonderful football club, to have been supported so fully
                                                                       and to have been able to share moments of excitement and joy
                                                                       that will always live with me.
                                                                           “But this game does not wait and does not stop. There is
                                                                       always the next challenge and a new environment ahead which
                                                                       means nothing is ever the same.
                                                                           For now, I want to wish the players, the staff, the fans and
                                                                       everyone else who has Watford Football Club at heart my best
                                                                       wishes for the future. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to
                                                                       serve this club and I am sure we will see each other again one
                                                                       day.”
Gianfranco Zola’s Watford had been expected to be
challenging higher up in the Championship table. Photograph:
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Gianfranco Zola made the decision to resign as manager of
Watford on Monday “in the best interests of the team”.
    He leaves the Championship club on a run of nine League
games without a win and 13th in the table, eight points short of
the play-off zone. It represents a major disappointment to both
directors and their former manager after last season’s play off
final defeat to Crystal Palace tinyurl.com/p9ljaks .
    Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat against struggling Sheffield
Wednesday – Watford’s fifth straight reverse at Vicarage Road
– appears to have been a tipping point, with Zola explaining his
reasoning to supporters via an open letter posted on Watford’s
official website.
    “First of all, this decision has not been made quickly. I
mentioned after the game on Saturday that I wanted to think
about things overnight and that is exactly what I have done,”
said the 47-year-old former Italy international. “I must place




                                                                         *
Watford Football Club first in my thoughts and it is for this
reason that I have taken my action.
    “I feel that it is in the best interests of the team that
somebody new is given the chance to bring the success which
we have all hoped for and worked very hard for. It is for a
variety of reasons, and not just over one matter or one moment,
that I feel this is the right decision for me, in the best interests     The Guardian digital edition
of the club – and I know I can trust you, the supporters, to
respect my decision fully.”
                                                                         Read the Guardian on the web
    Watford’s board issued a statement saying that it was with           exactly the way it was printed.
“great sadness” and “full respect” that they accepted Zola’s
resignation and spoke of their “sincere gratitude” for his
                                                                         With award-winning Guardian
achievements at Vicarage Road.The former Napoli and Chelsea              photography accessible from
creator had brought a touch of glamour to Hertfordshire after            anywhere in the world.
being recruited by Watford’s new Italian owners, the Pozzo
family, during the summer of 2012.                                       theguardian.com/digitaledition
    His previous managerial experience – a two-year stint in
charge of West Ham United between 2008 and 2010 before
theguardian.com © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                      theguardian.com
Page  G24 Sport                                                             Tuesday December 17 2013                08:31 GMT


Napoli offer Liverpool’s Daniel Agger a                            Ashes 2013-14: Five ways it all went
reunion with Rafael Benítez                                        wrong for England

• Benítez wants to sign Dane on loan in                            The selection issues, preparation problems
January                                                            and tactical troubles that saw the urn slip
• Mamadou Sakho preferred to Agger                                 from England’s grasp
against Spurs                                                      Vic Marks at the Waca
Andy Hunter




                                                                   England’s Alastair Cook contemplates an Ashes defeat.
Daniel Agger was made vice-captain at Liverpool this summer        Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA
to fend off interest from Barcelona, but is now a January target   Preparation
for Napoli. Photograph: Matt West/BPI/REX                             The management will insist that there were no surprises.
Rafael Benítez wants to capitalise on Daniel Agger’s               With so much analysing going on that is bound to be the
predicament at Liverpool and take the defender on loan to          case. But after victory in England they were taken aback by
Napoli in January.                                                 the aggression, the pace and the overall excellence of the
    Representatives of the Italian club contacted Liverpool on     Australians (they were not alone in that).
Monday regarding a temporary deal for the 29-year-old when            It did not help that England played the entire 2013 series on
the transfer window reopens. The Denmark international,            surfaces where the ball seldom rose much above knee height,
who was brought to Anfield from Brondby by Benítez in 2006,        where reverse swing, slow turn led to an attritional style of
recently lost his place at the heart of Liverpool’s defence and    cricket, which was foreign to the Australians. It was all rather
Napoli have moved quickly to test Brendan Rodgers’ resolve to      different in Brisbane and Perth and they were startled when the
keep the centre-half.                                              ball kept whistling past their eyebrows.
    Rodgers made Agger vice-captain in the summer after               The 82-page menu was an easy source of ridicule, but in
Barcelona’s interest in signing the defender on a permanent        terms of attention to detail how was it that Stuart Broad, given
basis but he has been the one to miss out as the Liverpool         the unique vagaries of bowling at the Waca, did not play here
manager continues his search for a settled partnership in          earlier in the tour? He was bound to be a critical bowler for
central defence.                                                   England in Perth and on the first morning he could barely stand
    Kolo Touré was selected in preference to Agger for the         up on the rock hard surface and bowled lamentably.
Premier League defeat at Hull tinyurl.com/nu9foxf , only for the   Selection
Dane to make an immediate return for the 5-1 win over Norwich          England shuffled their pack for each Test and there was a
tinyurl.com/p2b725w . Illness then cost Agger his place against    certain logic to their selections on each occasion (except that
West Ham, giving the £18m summer signing Mamadou Sakho             they obviously should have picked Ben Stokes earlier even
the opportunity to stake his claim. The French international       though no one seemed to notice this at the time). However
retained his place for Sunday’s 5-0 rout of Tottenham tinyurl.     the notion of a mighty, tall reservoir of fast bowlers was soon
com/ofuest8 .                                                      replaced by the feeling that they had three unusable pacemen
    Whether Liverpool will be receptive to a loan deal for Agger   in the party. Steven Finn remained “a work in progress”; they
is uncertain. The influential defender has attracted interest      seemed a little surprised that Chris Tremlett, who played at
from the Spanish champions and Manchester City in recent           Brisbane, bowled about 4mph slower than three years ago
seasons and a permanent offer could yet be forthcoming.            (recently that has generally been the case during his sporadic
                                                                   appearances for Surrey); the uncapped Boyd Rankin was
                                                                   considered too much of a gamble.
                                                                       It was ominous that before the Brisbane Test Australia
                                                                   knew their best side; England didn’t. John Inverarity, the
                                                                   chairman of the Australia’s selectors, who is rarely involved
                                                                   with unsuccessful cricket teams for long, made some shrewd

theguardian.com © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                 theguardian.com
Page 8 G24 Sport                                                                    Tuesday December 17 2013              08:31 GMT

decisions. Australia dropped David Warner for the ODI series in
India, which meant that the brilliant, wayward left-hander was
jolted into examining his game before this series began. They
                                                                        Cronulla Sharks fined $1m and coach
ensured that there were no more lame duck left-handers in the           suspended over supplements program
middle order. Instead they picked George Bailey, an incomplete
Test batsman, but one who can whack off-spinners back over              • Coach Shane Flanagan suspended over
their heads. And they picked Mitchell Johnson, which was                findings
hardly an act of genius.
                                                                        • Rumours club could move to Queensland
Swann and the ugly ducks
   Simple, traditional aggression was the key for Australia with        Tom Lutz
bat and ball. No one felt this so keenly as Graeme Swann. They
knew Swann was a gifted striker of a ball, who has scored vital
runs down the order in he past. Johnson tore into him and he
picked up a pair in Brisbane.
   The Australians were just as merciless with the bat against
Swann. David Warner, despite his left-handedness always
attacked and if ever he ran past the ball Matt Prior missed it.
All the right-handers down the order were equally forthright.
They kept clearing the boundary, acts of calculated aggression,
brilliantly executed. Swann, still the best finger spinner
available, bowled better in Perth especially in the second
innings but even then Shane Watson spoilt his figures with
22 runs from an over. The “bowl dry” strategy, implemented
                                                                        Cronulla Sharks NRL coach Shane Flanagan looks on during a
superbly by Australia here and by England three years ago,
                                                                        training session in Sydney Photograph: DAN HIMBRECHTS/
never came to pass. The Aussies would not allow that to
                                                                        AAPIMAGE
happen.
                                                                        Cronulla Sharks have landed a proposed $1m fine and their
Tiptoeing through the Ashes                                             coach Shane Flanagan has been provisionally suspended
    England tiptoed into the series. Australia, under the
                                                                        following the NRL’s investigation into the club’s 2011
uncomplicated guidance of Darren Lehmann, tore into it.
                                                                        supplements program.
England seemed set on the elimination of errors, clutching on
                                                                           The NRL chief executive, Dave Smith, announced the
to their recent record against Australia; not too many bad ball
                                                                        findings at a press conference and said the investigation
or rash shots (although there were to be plenty of them against
                                                                        indicated that Flanagan had “failed to ensure a safe working
the short ball). Mitchell Johnson, absent from the Test series
                                                                        environment” for his players. Smith also said that the findings
in England, epitomised the difference. He bowled fast and
                                                                        were provisional, and the Sharks and Flanagan would be able to
with raw aggression. For the first time in years Test batsmen,
                                                                        respond before punishments are confirmed. The fine could also
especially those down the order, worried about their physical
                                                                        be reduced by $400,000 and Flanagan’s ban reduced to nine
well-being. Broad looked like a Michelin man when he came out
                                                                        months if certain conditions are met.
to bat in Perth in the first innings though unfortunately there
                                                                           The Sharks’ head of strength and conditioning, Trevor Elkin,
was no extra protection on his foot. Johnson took his quota of
                                                                        has also been provisionally suspended.
top-order wickets but he kept polishing off the tail in no time.
                                                                           “Information of a serious nature has been presented, and
    The only time that England bristled to any effect was when
                                                                        following a thorough and rigorous assessment, I have formed
inspired by Stokes in Perth when the game was just about up.
                                                                        a preliminary view that the Club is in breach of the rules and
Amazingly he struck England’s first century of the series in their
                                                                        that action needs to be taken with respect to the registrations of
sixth innings, batting with wonderful judgment and freedom.
                                                                        two individuals,” Smith said. “Before any final determination
He trusted his instincts and took the Aussies on in a manner
                                                                        is made, I will give full consideration to the contents of any
that none of his colleagues could emulate with bat or ball in
                                                                        response made by the club, Mr Flanagan and Mr Elkin.”
three Tests.
                                                                           The NRL said its preliminary findings indicated that the
Miscellaneous                                                           Sharks had “exposed players to significant potential risks
   It didn’t help that it rained before the start of the series, that   to health” while Flanagan had “failed to take appropriate
Cook lost the toss at all three venues, that Jonathan Trott was         action when he became aware that unsafe practices had been
not fit to play.                                                        employed in the administration of supplements to players”.
   But let’s not pretend that this made any difference to the              A statement on the NRL website laid out the details of the
outcome. England were outplayed in every department (most               charges tinyurl.com/p5kym65 . The statement said that “the
notably in the field, where they have been quite good recently).        breach notice against the club contains proposed penalties that
Some senior ECB employees will be sitting uneasily in their             include a fine of $1m, $400,000 of which will be suspended
chairs. Ashes thrashings often lead to heads rolling.                   subject to the satisfaction by the club of a number of conditions
   Geoff Miller and Hugh Morris will have to go (whoops, they           including completion of an independent governance review
already have).                                                          and further governance changes.”
                                                                           In relation to Flanagan it said that: “It is proposed that
                                                                        his NRL registration be suspended for 12 months. It is also
                                                                        proposed that this period may be shortened to nine months if
theguardian.com © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                       theguardian.com
Page  G24 Sport                                                               Tuesday December 17 2013               08:31 GMT

he successfully completes further education and training and
demonstrates to the satisfaction of the NRL that he is familiar
with and understands his obligations as head coach.”
                                                                    Vitali Klitschko vacates WBC title to
    There are rumours that the punishment may force the             focus on Ukraine ‘freedom’ fight
club to move to central Queensland. “If that did eventuate,
and I won’t make any comment about the likelihood of                • Heavyweight champion says he will run
that happening [to the Sharks], we would be ready to go             for Ukraine presidency
immediately,” Denis Keeffe, the chief executive of a proposed
                                                                    • Boxer says WBC offers ‘possibility to
Rockhampton-based club told the Courier Mail this week
tinyurl.com/phzad8p .
                                                                    return to boxing’
    “We would prefer to have a licence to build our own club. If    Associated Press
the NRL says there is a licence for a current club available then
we would be interested too. We have plans that can be brought
forward pretty quickly.’’ The NRL can take away a club’s licence
if they decide it is insolvent.
    The NRL’s investigation is separate to Asada’s 10-month
inquiry into the club, which has seen 14 members of Cronulla’s
2011 squad interviewed.
    Earlier this week, the Sports Medicine Australia spokesman,
Dr Peter Larkins, said that any findings against Cronulla would
create havoc. “There will be legal ramifications, I would have
thought, from player managers who come in and bring action
against the club for inappropriate governance of those players.
    “If you’re on a half-a-million contract and you’re suspended
from playing and you can prove that the club somehow put you
                                                                    Vitali Klitschko speaking during an opposition rally in Kiev.
in that position by its actions, then you’d take actions against
                                                                    Klitschko says he unlikely to box again. Photograph: Viktor
the club, I would think. I think it will be messy.”
                                                                    Drachev/AFP/Getty
                                                                    Vitali Klitschko is to step away from boxing to focus on politics
                                                                    after being appointed “champion emeritus” by the World
                                                                    Boxing Council. The move leaves the WBC heavyweight title
                                                                    vacant and, although Klitschko could decide to return to the
                                                                    ring to fight for it, he says that is unlikely.
                                                                        The 42-year-old, who boasts a 45-2 record with 41 KOs,
                                                                    has been heavily involved in the political crisis in his home
                                                                    country, where pro-European Union demonstrators have staged
                                                                    large-scale protests in Kiev against the refusal by the president,
                                                                    Viktor Yanukovych, to sign a deal for closer integration with the
                                                                    EU.
                                                                        Klitschko, the leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance
                                                                    for Reform and a member of the Ukrainian parliament, has
                                                                    emerged as a leader of the opposition movement and has
                                                                    confirmed he will make a run for the country’s presidency.
                                                                        In a statement Klitschko said: “I want to thank the WBC and




  *
                                                                    its president, Don Jose Sulaiman, for the support in our fight for
                                                                    democracy and freedom in Ukraine. It was and is a great honour
                                                                    to hold the WBC title and I’ve always done it with pride. The
                                                                    offer of the WBC gives me the theoretical possibility to return
                                                                    to the boxing ring which I cannot imagine at all to the current
                                                                    state.
  Are you getting the best deal on                                      “Right now, my full concentration is on politics in Ukraine,

  your mortgage?                                                    and I feel that the people need me there. My brother Wladimir
                                                                    will ensure more sporting success and I will – as always
  Compare over 8500 mortgages                                       – support him as much as he currently supports me in my
  online to find the best deal for                                  political fight.”
                                                                        Klitschko’s younger brother Wladimir, 37, is the WBA
  you.                                                              (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO world heavyweight champion.
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  compareandbuy

theguardian.com © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                   theguardian.com
Page 10 G24 Sport                                                              Tuesday December 17 2013                08:31 GMT

                                                                    year cycle has shown continual improvement on results at a
                                                                    world level, with more skaters winning more medals in more
Elise Christie aiming to bring back a                               disciplines than ever before.
medal from Sochi Winter Olympics                                       “This is without doubt the strongest British team we have
                                                                    ever put together, and a number of the selected athletes have
• Scot named in GB’s five-strong short-track                        opportunities of bringing home medals from Sochi.”
skating squad
• Christie hopes to build on Vancouver 201                          Colin Tizzard warns of virus in stable of
experience
                                                                    King George hope Cue Card
Press Association

                                                                    • Big-race favourite looking well for Boxing
                                                                    Day feature
                                                                    • Sprinter Sacre tests likely to be released
                                                                    on Tuesday
                                                                    Chris Cook at Milborne Port




The Team GB’s short-track skaters for the 2010 Winter
Olympics are, from left: Jack Whelbourne, Richard
Shoebridge, Charlotte Gilmartin, Jon Eley and Elise Christie.
Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Elise Christie has promised to learn from experience as she
prepares to head to next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi as one
of Great Britain’s best hopes of bringing back a medal from 7-23    King George VI Chase favourite Cue Card, with Joe Tizzard
February. The 23-year-old from Livingston was one of a five-        riding, on their way to victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock
strong squad of short-track skaters confirmed for the Games ,       last time out. Photograph: John Giles/PA
along with Charlotte Gilmartin, Jon Eley, Richard Shoebridge
                                                                    Cue Card, the 11-4 favourite for next week’s King George VI
and Jack Whelbourne.
                                                                    Chase, was reported as being in excellent health by his trainer,
    Christie was a teenager when she made her Olympic debut
                                                                    Colin Tizzard, here on Monday but some of his stablemates are
at Vancouver in 2010 and her inexperience told as she failed
                                                                    not so well and the possibility exists that the best horse in the
to get beyond the last 16 in any of her events. But she will go
                                                                    yard may yet catch a badly timed infection. “We’ve had a low-
to Sochi after a run of success which led to her being crowned
                                                                    grade virus about,” Tizzard said, “and we will have it for the
the overall 1,000m World Cup champion last season, as well as
                                                                    rest of the season.”
becoming the first British woman to win an individual world
                                                                        Asked about the general health of his string, the trainer said:
championship medal. “With the experience I’ve already gained
                                                                    “They’re not running that well, they’re not. We’ve only had
from Vancouver, I hope I can go to Sochi and do more than just
                                                                    15 winners at 9%. We’ve had a bug about, there’s no two ways
take part this time,” she said. “I want to compete for medals
                                                                    about it, and we will have a few more. Some of them have been
and I’m going to fight to be at the top of the pack.”
                                                                    running atrocious.”
    Her team-mate Eley finished fifth in the 500m final in Turin
                                                                        Tizzard pointed in particular to Masters Hill, who “stopped
in 2006 and believes he is part of the best Great Britain squad
                                                                    as though he was shot” after making a single mistake in a race
yet as he prepares to hunt his first medal at his third Games.
                                                                    at Wincanton last month. Then, having apparently recovered
Eley said: “In some ways I’m more excited because I’m part
                                                                    in the interim, he ran a fine race in defeat at Cheltenham on
of the strongest ever squad that Team GB has sent to a Winter
                                                                    Saturday.
Olympics, and history could be made in Sochi.”
                                                                        “It doesn’t last as long in the good ones,” the trainer
    Great Britain’s last short-track medal was won by the current
                                                                    explained. “They have it for two or three days and they get over
Great Britain coach, Nicky Gooch, when he claimed a bronze at
                                                                    it. The lesser ones, it seems to drag on for three weeks. We all
the 1994 Games in Lillehammer. The current squad is clearly
                                                                    get flu, we all get colds, don’t we? Everyone goes through a spot
in good heart despite the disappointment of neither the men’s
                                                                    where you’ve got a bug about. Some will get it later on. You get
nor women’s relay teams managing to make it through the
                                                                    spells where some yards win nearly everything, then they go
qualifying process.
                                                                    quiet for six weeks. It’s always been the same. We don’t want
    The performance director, Stuart Horsepool, said: “I’m
                                                                    Cue Card coughing on Christmas Day, do we? But we can’t stop
very pleased with the athletes that have been selected for
                                                                    it anyway. We take every precaution we can.”
Sochi. They have all worked incredibly hard to for the right to
                                                                        Those precautions will not, however, include putting Cue
be part of Team GB. The short-track programme over the four
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Page 11 G24 Sport                                                  Tuesday December 17 2013   08:31 GMT

Card in isolation ahead of his big target at Kempton. Tizzard
explains that, at this point, in a yard of 70 horses, only two
appear to be coughing, but then those that have flopped have
generally not shown obvious signs of illness in advance.
    “There’s no doubt it’s been going on,” said Joe Tizzard, son
of the trainer and Cue Card’s jockey. “If we knew which ones
it was affecting at home, we wouldn’t run them. But it’s on the
racecourse it seems to come out. If a horse isn’t himself, then
I’m not hard on them because they get over the virus quicker.
He might have already had it this year and we got away with it.
He was definitely not as good as he can be at Exeter.”
    That was a reference to Cue Card’s seasonal reappearance,
when he was a disappointing third. Since then, he has given
both Tizzards a career high in Haydock’s Betfair Chase and, for
now, both men are satisfied that he remains close to his peak.
    Nicky Henderson expects to receive the results on Tuesday
from a trachea wash carried out on Sprinter Sacre on Monday.
The results of a similar test a fortnight ago were sufficiently
worrying to prevent the horse running in the Tingle Creek, even
though he was outwardly healthy.
    The trainer is hoping for a better outcome this morning,
which would allow the horse to make his seasonal reappearance
in Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase next week. “He worked well
on Saturday, seriously well,” Henderson said. “It was hard to
believe there might be anything wrong with him.”
    Rock On Ruby, last year’s champion hurdler, enjoyed an
easy success on his chasing debut at Plumpton, beating a 25-1
shot after their only other rival unseated. The winner made one
notable mistake and Harry Fry, his trainer, hopes to find him a
similarly weak race before stepping him up in class.




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