Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Atletico Madrid: Ousted champions' grip on top-four spot loosened

By Sports Desk April 30, 2022

Atletico Madrid missed the chance to strengthen their grip on a Champions League qualification place after they slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

On the day Atletico saw their LaLiga crown taken by bitter rivals Real Madrid, Diego Simeone's men started sluggishly and were duly punished inside 10 minutes when Mario Hermoso turned Inaki Williams' cross into his own net.

Williams, who was a constant threat, then sealed all three points in the 56th minute from the penalty spot. 

Atletico remain in fourth, yet fifth-placed Real Betis can cut the gap to just a point if they overcome Getafe on Monday. Athletic, meanwhile, remain eighth.

Athletic's bright start was rewarded in the eighth minute when Hermoso deflected Williams' cross past Jan Oblak after the forward outmuscled Jose Gimenez.

Williams came agonisingly close to scoring for himself soon after, the 27-year-old's inswinging cross from the left missing everyone and bouncing off Oblak's left-hand post.

Geoffrey Kondogbia flashed wide as Atleti woke from their slumber shortly before the interval, while Yannick Carrasco saw an effort deflected just past Unai Simon's upright after a surging run.

Athletic doubled their advantage a few moments after Antoine Griezmann had thundered a free-kick against the crossbar, Williams clipping his spot-kick down the middle after Hector Herrera had brought down Iker Muniain just inside the area. 

Muniain and Nico Williams were denied in quick succession by Oblak as Athletic looked to add further gloss to the scoreline, while Angel Correa saw an effort deflected against the post deep into stoppage time for luckless Atletico.

 

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    Wayne Pivac can understand the reasons behind South Africa naming an almost entirely new team to face Wales in their second Test but says his side will not take the second-string Springboks lightly.

    Reigning world champions South Africa beat Wales 32-29 last weekend in Pretoria with the final kick of the ball in a thrilling start to the three-Test series.

    The sides reconvene in Bloemfontein on Saturday in a game Wales, who have now lost three in a row against their opponents, must win to keep their hopes of a series triumph alive.

    The hosts surprisingly named 14 changes to their side for this weekend's showdown when announcing their squad on Tuesday, with experienced lock Eben Etzebeth – in line for his 99th cap – the only player to retain his place in the XV.

    Among the fresh faces in the Springboks' side are uncapped pair Kurt-Lee Arendse and Evan Roos, while four others – Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ruan Nortje, Deon Fourie and Grant Williams – could make their debuts from the bench.

    Welsh rugby great Gareth Edwards accused South Africa of "disrespecting" Wales with their selection, but Pivac was more understanding when asked about the mass changes at his news conference on Thursday.

    "From our point of view, it's a big focus on what we can improve from the last Test match," he said. "We are in a different part of the cycle; really we're at the end of our season, and they're at the start of theirs. 

    "They've got their reasoning why they did it. They've got depth and quality throughout the squad and some experience in this team. So we're certainly not taking them lightly at all.

    "There are players playing there with an opportunity to impress for the third test, so we know they'll come out strongly and represent their country like anyone else in that jersey. So for us, it's around what we can control and that's our performance.

    "It hasn't changed our preparation at all. It is going to be 15 rugby players in green shirts, and we are expecting more of the same."

    Unlike their opponents, Wales have stuck largely with the same group that came agonisingly close to pulling off a big result last weekend, with wing Alex Cuthbert replacing Josh Adams in the only change.

    Adams is among the replacements, as is uncapped prop Sam Wainwright after Tomas Francis returned home following the concussion suffered in the first Test.

    Elsewhere, George North will equal Stephen Jones' record as the most-capped Wales men's international back when making his 104th appearance.

    Pivac's side head into the contest on a run of four successive defeats, each coming by a margin of four points or fewer – not since a six-match losing streak between February and November 2020 have they endured a worse run.

    South Africa: Gelant, Arendse, Kriel, Esterhuizen, Fassi, Pollard (c), Hendrikse; Thomas du Toit, Dweba, Nyakane, Etzebeth, Orie, Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Roos.
    Replacements: Marx, Mchunu, Koch, Nortje, Elstadt, Fourie, Williams, Willemse.

    Wales: Williams, Rees-Zammit, North, Tompkins, Cuthbert, Biggar (c), Hardy; Thomas, Elias, Lewis, Rowlands, Beard, Lydiate, Reffell, Faletau.
    Replacements: Lake, Wyn Jones, Wainwright, Alun Wyn Jones, Navidi, Williams, Anscombe, Adams.

     

  • McIlroy dials it in and Schauffele finally converts – The stats that defined June on the PGA Tour McIlroy dials it in and Schauffele finally converts – The stats that defined June on the PGA Tour

    Whatever data Mark Horton is supplying his PGA Tour clients these days, it seems to be paying off.

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    "Hortsy (Horton) is unbelievable," Horschel said after his win. "He's been on my team since 2014. First year he comes on the team we win the FedExCup. He's very English and he's very blunt, and we had a conversation before he joined my team about my record on the PGA Tour and things I didn't do well.

    "My short game wasn't very good and I had stone hands. And this week I showed him finally that I have a short game that can live up to the golf course and save me at times."

    Horschel's game at the Memorial wasn't just good, it was unprecedented. His +13.58 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green was the most at an event in his PGA Tour career and best since the 2018 Wyndham Championship (+10.74, tied for 11th). It broke his long-time career record of +13.07, set a decade ago at the 2012 Sanderson Farms Championship.

    He was the fourth Memorial winner since 2003 to rank first in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green as well as Greens in Regulation (53), joining Patrick Cantlay (2021), Jason Dufner (2017) and Tiger Woods (2012). He also finished the week ranked second in Proximity to the Hole, his third time on Tour ranking in the top-two and more than four feet closer than his previous average in eight previous starts at the Memorial.

    Credit to Horschel for his performance. And in the meantime, Horton will keep crunching the numbers.

    "He just tells me where I need to be on holes, where guys are making bogeys, where the birdies are coming from, the perfect way for me to plot my way around the golf course," Horschel explained. "That's what I love to do. I love to put my ball here, put the ball there. And he backs me up with that data that's he's been giving me for the last eight years."

    SCHAUFFELE FINALLY CONVERTS

    Xander Schauffele knew the record. The numbers don't lie.

    0-4 lifetime. Oh for four. Goose egg.

    That was Schauffele's career record on the PGA Tour when holding a 54-hole lead or co-lead. The now six-time Tour winner was still waiting to successfully convert a third-round position atop the leaderboard into a victory, and the Travelers Championship was one more opportunity to do it.

    "In the past when I had a 54-hole lead or close to the lead, my Sundays felt really fast," he said. "And I'd be sitting back in the hotel or at a house on Sunday [afterward] thinking, 'What happened today?'"

    This time, he said, Schauffele wanted to stay in the present and focus on the task at hand, which was each and every shot. They would all be critical to stave off Cantlay, who trailed him by only a stroke entering the final round, with more players not far behind.

    "I told [my caddie] to hold me accountable on the first hole walking up there," Schauffele said. "And he did a really great job, and both of us were pretty much dialled in from the first hole."

    That they were. Schauffele finished the week hitting 63 greens in regulation, leading the field and tying his most hit during an event on Tour in his career. He also hit 63 earlier this season at the WM Phoenix Open, where he tied for third, and hit 60 twice at both the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Championship (T2) and CIMB Classic (T3).

    That precision helped Schauffele finish with a Strokes Gained: Total of +16.39, the most at an event in his career. His previous best total was +15.31, set in 2020 at The CJ CUP.

    Schauffele trailed Sahith Theegala by one stroke as he approached the last, but the tournament leader closed with a double-bogey before Schauffele hit his approach to 3 feet, setting up the winning birdie. It marked his first individual PGA Tour title since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    "It's been a year where my stats have been very solid, just haven't really put in four good rounds of golf," Schauffele said afterward. "I think subconsciously or without myself even really knowing I was getting a little impatient. And this week I was just trying to be self-aware as possible to just stay as patient as possible. I had to just realise that I put the work in and if I can just sort of do what I've been doing and just focus a little bit more throughout the day that it will pay off in a big way, and fortunately it did."

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    "Seeing that southerly wind again, I knew I needed to go out and shoot 5-or-6-under par to have a chance to win," he said.

    Simple enough. McIlroy posted an eight-under 62 to edge Tony Finau by two strokes for his 21st PGA Tour victory.

    "You needed to keep your foot down, you needed to keep your foot on the pedal," McIlroy said of his mindset. "I got off to a faster start today than I have done the previous few days."

    McIlroy has feasted in final rounds this year, joining Finau as one of only two players on Tour with four final rounds of six-under or better this year. Prior to his eight-under 62 in Canada, he also posted a pair of six-under 66s at The Players Championship and The CJ CUP to go along with an epic eight-under 64 at The Masters.

    It marked his third final round of 62 or better en route to a PGA Tour win, something no other winner has done more than once since 1983. He also shot a final-round 61 to win the 2019 RBC Canadian Open, as well as a 62 at the Wells Fargo Championship.

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    Andreas Christensen hopes he is not the only defender to leave Chelsea for Barcelona this close season, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso both appearing to be targets for the Catalan club.

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    Barca sporting advisor Jordi Cruyff was also asked about the Blues pair and said: "It is true that the change of ownership at Chelsea delays everything a bit.

    "We want to reinforce several positions of the team, and we have several names on the table.

    "What has struck me the most is that all the players open their eyes when they hear the name of Barca and are willing to lose money to adapt to the salary scale.

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    "We don't want to talk about names, because they have a contract with their clubs, but it is true that we are looking to reinforce positions that we consider fundamental."

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