Tearful Busquets delighted to play his part in record-equalling Spain win

By Sports Desk June 23, 2021

Sergio Busquets had to wipe away the tears after reflecting on his experience of missing Spain's opening two Euro 2020 matches after testing positive for coronavirus.

The Barcelona midfielder was not part of Spain's squad for their Group E draws with Sweden or Poland after being made to self-isolate.

However, Busquets returned to the starting line-up for Wednesday's 5-0 win against Slovakia as Spain equalled the largest margin of victory in a European Championship game.

Own goals from Martin Dubravka and Juraj Kucka bookended strikes from Aymeric Laporte, Pablo Sarabia and Ferran Torres in La Roja's emphatic victory in Seville.

Spain are the fifth different side to win by five goals in the competition after France (1984), Denmark (1984), the Netherlands (2000) and Sweden (2004).

And the record-equalling win for Spain was a particularly emotional occasion for Busquets, who was named the official man of the match for his impressive midfield display.

"I'm excited to be here," he said through tears in his post-match interview. "I had a pretty bad time at home for 10 days not knowing if I would return or not.

"This result was what we needed. The fans were behind us and we played well from the beginning. We were so much stronger today and got the luck we didn't previously have.

"I accept the criticism we have faced, but not the lack of respect and more from people who have also been here."

Busquets won all three of his aerial duels against Slovakia, gained possession five times and played a joint-high two key passes.

He was taken off with around 20 minutes to play, but the midfielder put that down as a precautionary measure.

"I feel very well," he added. "Just before I was taken off I felt my calf a bit and the coach did not want to risk it.

"Hopefully now I can continue to accumulate minutes. Today is another step for me and now I'm prepared for anything that comes."

Spain needed a victory to guarantee a place in the last 16, where Croatia now await in Copenhagen next Monday, after being held by Sweden and Poland.

The victory for La Roja was their landmark 50th at major tournaments, making them the fourth European side to reach that milestone after Germany, Italy and France.

Sarabia, who scored the third of Spain's goals and assisted Torres' flicked finish, hopes his side can use the victory to build confidence in the knockout stages.

"We needed this to restore people's enthusiasm," he said. "The team played 20 very good minutes, with brutal intensity. We deserved the victory.

"We know the Croatia game will be difficult, but we also know the potential of this team."

Related items

  • Saints' position among offensive elite under threat without Michael Thomas Saints' position among offensive elite under threat without Michael Thomas

    The New Orleans Saints have long since enjoyed the benefit of continuity on offense in Sean Payton era, but in 2021 they will have to contend with some significant changes.

    For the first time since the 2005 campaign, the Saints will begin a season with a quarterback not named Drew Brees as their starter.

    Brees' retirement was regarded by some as overdue but, if his decision to ride off into the sunset was not viewed as a damaging one for New Orleans, the loss of the receiver with whom he had built a devastating rapport certainly is a significant blow.

    NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Friday that Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the season having undergone ankle ligament surgery in June.

    Thomas was limited to just seven games last year because of persistent ankle injuries and the procedure to fix those problems will, at least in the opening weeks, rob the Saints' 2021 starting quarterback of a two-time first-team All-Pro who has blossomed from 2016 second-round pick into one of the most dependable wideouts in the NFL.

    Renowned for his route-running and his proficiency in making contested catches, Thomas produced at a historic level in 2019.

    He broke the single-season receptions record with 149, racking up a career-high 1,725 receiving yards at an average of 107.8 per game.

    Per Stats Perform data, Thomas registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the ball is catchable, on 76.1 per cent of his 184 targets.

    That was the fourth-highest rate among wide receivers in the NFL. Only one player who finished above him, Corey Davis (69), had even 50 targets.

    Thomas was tied for the second-most burn yards per route, trailing only Stefon Diggs (3.9) with an average of 3.6.

    He got open on 83.2 per cent of his targets, though he did so with an average depth of target of 8.1 yards, illustrating the Saints' dependence on shorter passes in the latter stages of Brees' career.

    Thomas will now miss out on the chance to quickly develop an even better understanding with the two quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, vying to be Brees' successor.

    The frustration of that for the Saints will be two-fold. Winston's aggressiveness -- he was second in the NFL in air yards per attempt (10.7) in his last season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019 -- could unlock Thomas' potential as a downfield receiver to a greater extent than Brees did.

    Meanwhile, Thomas' dependability would be a significant aid to an interception-prone quarterback or to a passer in Hill whose only four pro starts came last season.

    Instead of enjoying those possible benefits, with Thomas on the sideline, Payton and the Saints have the imposing challenge of maintaining their offensive consistency without a Hall of Fame quarterback and without their All-Pro wide receiver.

    The Saints are used to life among the NFL's offensive elite, but with the two most important parts of the equation on that side of the ball out of the picture, at least for the start of 2021, they face being removed from the top table.

  • Sri Lanka squeeze home to deny India series sweep in Colombo Sri Lanka squeeze home to deny India series sweep in Colombo

    Sri Lanka claimed a much-needed victory in the third and final match of the ODI series against India, chasing down a revised target of 227 with three wickets to spare in Colombo.

    Opener Avishka Fernando made 76 and, despite a late wobble, Sri Lanka sealed just their second victory in 11 completed 50-over fixtures, with this their first success since beating Bangladesh in late May.

    A much-changed India had reached 147-3 before a lengthy rain break changed the complexion of the innings. Following the resumption, they lost their final seven wickets for 68 runs to be bowled out for 225.

    Prithvi Shaw (49), debutant Sanju Samson (46) and Suryakumar Yadav (40) all made useful contributions, while Akila Dananjaya and Praveen Jayawickrama claimed three wickets apiece for the hosts.

    Sri Lanka's reply included a maiden half-century in the one-day format for Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who reached the milestone with successive boundaries during a second-wicket partnership worth 109.

    Krishnappa Gowtham - another new name included in the India XI - eventually ended the stand, dismissing Rajapaksa for 65 in his opening over, while the impressive Fernando departed for 76 with victory in sight.

    Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka had departed for a first-ball duck too, but Ramesh Mendis' unbeaten 15 saw the hosts across the line with 48 balls remaining.


    Fresh faces for India

    India had the chance to equal their record for most consecutive ODI victories against Sri Lanka, having gone into the contest on a five-match winning streak. However, a side featuring no fewer than five debutants was unable to seal a sweep.

    Still, wicketkeeper-batsman Samson impressed in a run-a-ball innings that included five fours and a six, while fellow new faces Chetan Sakariya and Rahul Chahar both claimed two wickets.

    Moving on up

    This result was timely for Sri Lanka – and not just because of their recent wretched run of form in the white-ball format.

    They sat second from bottom in the ICC's Cricket World Cup Super League prior to the game, with only Zimbabwe below them in the standings. This win lifts them one place, above the Netherlands, as they battle to qualify for the 2023 50-over tournament, which will be held in India.

  • Jeongeun Lee6's 61 at Evian Championship equals lowest round ever carded at a major Jeongeun Lee6's 61 at Evian Championship equals lowest round ever carded at a major

    Jeongeun Lee6 enjoyed a remarkable round on day two of the Evian Championship as she recorded a 10-under-61 to equal the record for the lowest round ever played at a major by a man or woman to hold the lead heading into the weekend.

    Previously, Lee6's South Korean compatriot Kim Hyo-joo was the sole holder of the record, having shot 61 in Evian seven years ago on her way to claiming a first LPGA Tour title.

    Having also enjoyed a fine first round of five under – one off overnight leaders Yealimi Noh and Pajaree Anannaukarn – Lee6's 61 on Friday means her score of 127 over 36 holes is the lowest in majors history, surpassing the 128 Brooks Koepka managed at the 2019 PGA Championship.

    Lee6 – who adds a number to her name due to the fact five other Jeongeun Lees were on the LPGA Tour when she started – made a solid start that had her two under by the fourth hole after starting on the 10th, and she made it to the turn at four under for the day.

    She then picked up another couple of birdies on holes one and four, but it was the final four where she truly came into her own.

    Lee6 rattled off four birdies in succession, including a 16-foot putt on the last hole that remarkably showed no hint of nervousness despite the gravity of the achievement it confirmed.

    Even with the historic nature of her feat, Lee was reserved at the end as she said: "I try to keep it on the fairway and keep it on the green and I focused on putting speed. That's it.

    "I had a lot of birdie chances. I could play easily. My putting was really, really good, so, yeah, that's it."

    Nevertheless, Lee6 is not so far clear that she cannot worry about those chasing her, as Anannarukarn enjoyed another impressive day to sit tied for second with Ariya Jutanugarn on 12 under – the latter's 63 was bettered only by Lee6.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.