MLB

Dodgers stay alive, Astros force Game 7

By Sports Desk October 17, 2020

The Los Angeles Dodgers stayed alive in the MLB playoffs, while the Houston Astros forced a Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Dodgers reduced the Atlanta Braves' National League Championship Series (NLCS) lead to 3-2 with a 7-3 victory on Friday.

Will Smith crushed a go-ahead three-run homer off Braves pitcher Will Smith in the sixth inning and the Dodgers never looked back.

Corey Seager went two-for-four with two homers and three RBIs for the Dodgers.

It came as both starters struggled – Dustin May getting through just two innings for the Dodgers while A.J. Minter was removed after three for the Braves.

Travis d'Arnaud's sacrifice fly and Cristian Pache's RBI single had the Braves on track before Seager and Smith stepped up.

In the American League Championship Series (ALCS), the Astros became the second team in MLB history to fall 3-0 behind in a best-of-seven series and force a Game 7 thanks to a 7-4 win over the Rays.

Houston broke the game open in the fifth inning through three of their stars.

George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa all brought in runs as the Astros opened up a 4-1 lead – one they would not relinquish.

Framber Valdez delivered a fine start for Houston, striking out nine and conceding just three hits in six innings.

Both the NLCS and ALCS continue on Saturday.

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  • A-League: City kings of Melbourne after demolition derby A-League: City kings of Melbourne after demolition derby

    Melbourne City enjoyed one of their finest A-League wins on Saturday as they destroyed Melbourne Victory 6-0 in the derby.

    A run of four defeats in five home games in the top flight ensured Victory were certainly the underdogs coming into the contest, but the one-sided nature of this loss will pile further pressure on head coach Grant Brebner.

    City were looking to win back-to-back games against Victory for the first time in A-League history, but a dominant start faltered when Jamie Maclaren missed a penalty after 18 minutes.

    Victory held out until nine minutes before the break, when Maclaren steered home following a Nuno Reis corner.

    Two goals in four minutes after the break from Florin Berenguer and Rostyn Griffiths put the visitors in charge, and it got worse for Victory in the final quarter of an hour.

    Connor Metcalfe struck twice in three minutes, blasting in off the post before tapping in a Maclaren cut-back, before Stefan Colakovski's precise low strike with effectively the last kick of the game triggered boos from the home fans.

    Victory ended the match, the 2,000th in the competition's history, without even a shot on target as they stay rooted to the bottom of the table. City are into fourth.

    In the earlier game, Sydney FC recovered to draw 1-1 with Brisbane Roar at Moreton Daily Stadium.

    Substitute Bobo scored his first goal of the season for the Sky Blues 71 minutes in after Dylan Wenzel-Halls had put Brisbane ahead.

    They remain three points ahead of Sydney in the table, with the reigning champions eighth after winning just three of their opening nine games.

  • Luis Suarez: Real Madrid's 'old' enemy leading Atletico back towards LaLiga title Luis Suarez: Real Madrid's 'old' enemy leading Atletico back towards LaLiga title

    The last derby was a rare off-day for Atletico Madrid – and for Luis Suarez.

    On a run of seven wins in a row and two goals conceded, with no LaLiga defeats all season, Diego Simeone's men were second best in a 2-0 defeat last December. As for Suarez, his 73 minutes on the pitch yielded a single, wayward shot.

    Still, that result turned out to be an aberration. Three months on, Atleti head into Sunday's game at the Wanda Metropolitano with a five-point lead over Real Madrid and Barca at the top of the table, and with a game in hand. Suarez, meanwhile, has scored 11 of his 16 LaLiga goals this term since that chastening day at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

    Suarez's form for Atleti has made a complete mockery of Barca's decision to cast him aside last year, the suggestion the striker was "too old" to be relied upon looking more foolish by the week as he spearheads their charge for a first league title since 2014.

    Indeed, given his record against Madrid and the state of the league table, this weekend could be the moment Suarez tips the balance of the title race inexorably in Atletico's favour.

    OLD HABITS

    It wasn't simply being told to leave by Barca that left Suarez so incensed; it was being made to feel he was no longer good enough for "a great team".

    "That's what I did not like," he told France Football. "If I hadn't done anything at a club like Barca for three or four seasons, I would have understood.

    "But, every year at Barca, I scored more than 20 goals per season. I have always had good statistics, just behind Leo [Messi]."

    So he is again. Suarez's 16 goals in 21 league games this term puts him second in the top-scorer standings, three behind Messi. Add in assists, and only his old team-mate (23) has had more direct goal involvements than Suarez (18) in LaLiga this season.

    While Suarez is no longer as explosive as he was at Liverpool and in his earlier Barca years, he has lost little of his ruthlessness. Discounting the two penalties he has converted this term, Suarez has scored 14 times from an expected goals value of just 9.6. That differential of 4.4 is the biggest in the division, save for that of 'El Comandante', Levante's 33-year-old star striker Jose Luis Morales (5.0).

    It follows that Suarez has a shot conversion rate (including blocked shots) of 23.9, the fourth-highest figure for any LaLiga player with at least 10 goals this season, the best being Roger Marti with 31.3.

    The Uruguayan also boasts a big chance conversion rate of 63.2 per cent, having scored 12 out of 19 this term. No player to have scored from at least 10 big chances can match that success rate. That cutting edge in a team that has conceded just 16 league goals in 24 matches is a potent combination.

    CAN SUAREZ STOP THE DERBY ROT?

    Atleti followed December's derby defeat by winning 10 of their next 12 games, the only slip-ups being a Copa del Rey shock at Cornella and a 2-2 home draw with Celta Vigo on February 8 (in which Suarez scored twice).

    However, including that result, they have won only twice in their past five league matches, a run that has emboldened Barca and Madrid's title hopes and left fans wondering whether 'Hay Liga' after all.

    A dip in form before a derby is never positive, but Atleti in particular need no extra pessimism. They have not won any of the most recent nine league meetings with Madrid, their longest run without a victory under Diego Simeone, and they have not even scored in the previous three. Only once in their history have they gone four league derbies without a goal.

    Madrid are also the only team to play a league match at the Wanda Metropolitano without ever losing (one win, two draws), with Simeone having won only 12.5 per cent of league games against opposite number Zinedine Zidane, his worst return against any coach from at least four meetings.

    But Suarez has happy memories of facing Los Blancos. Although he's gone two games without scoring against them, his goal record overall reads nine scored in 12 league appearances versus Madrid, the most of any player since his first season in Spain in 2014-15.

    What's more, he has an all-important side-kick back in form.

    JOAO, THAT'S IMPRESSIVE

    Joao Felix's sublime strike against Villarreal secured a valuable three points for Atleti last time out and ended his own month-long goal drought. He responded with a stony-faced 'shushing' celebration, to which a delighted Simeone responded: "I love it when players rebel."

    Simeone will be desperate to see his €126m man in a similar mood come Sunday. Not only is he Atleti's most exciting individual talent, but he's also the man who has brought the best out of Suarez this season.

    Joao Felix has created eight chances for Suarez in LaLiga in 2020-21, more than any other Atleti player. Of his four assists, three have been for the former Ajax man; only Marcos Llorente has provided as many for Atleti's number nine.

    Perhaps Suarez has found a kindred spirit in Joao Felix: supremely talented, decisive, and "rebellious". What better double act to deploy in the Atleti's most important LaLiga derby in seven years?

  • Man City aren't stronger than Man Utd - Nani hopeful ahead of derby Man City aren't stronger than Man Utd - Nani hopeful ahead of derby

    Manchester City will be aiming to open up a surely unassailable 17-point gap over Manchester United with a win in Sunday's derby, yet former Red Devils winger Nani insists the Premier League leaders are not stronger than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side. 

    United have received plenty of negative press lately for their poor recent record when facing other members of the so-called 'big six', with last weekend's 0-0 draw at Chelsea the sixth successive game against such calibre of opponent in which they have failed to score. 

    Five of those six matches ended 0-0, while the last time United managed to get a goal against the league's biggest clubs was the 6-1 humiliation by Tottenham in early October. 

    Such omens do not offer a particularly bright outlook ahead of their trip to the runaway leaders, with City heading into the weekend just one match away from setting a new club record, having now gone 28 games unbeaten across all competitions.

    But ex-United star Nani, who lost four of his eight games against City for the club, insists sheer ability alone is not the reason for the gap in the table. 

    Speaking to Stats Perform News, Nani said: "What I have seen of this team and what I saw from last season, United are building a strong team. They are building a young, strong team, so that's very good. 

    "Man United have a great coach now and it's a matter of time [before they challenge for honours]. I think some of the players need to get more experience, learning fast how they win certain games in certain moments, because I see moments where there is no chance of losing any points and yet they lost. 

    "That's why now, if you see the top of the table, it makes a little bit of difference because otherwise they would be sharing the position in the table with Man City. 

    "I don't see Man City stronger than Man United, I see they look more experienced, and they are in a good form. I think the next game will be important for the end of the season if they beat Man City, we have all the chance and I think we're going to win it because that is a different game. But they have to go with everything." 

    Despite his confidence in United, Nani appreciates the job Guardiola has done in 2020-21 – after all, City took just 12 points from their first eight matches amid a sluggish start to the season. 

    Yet, Guardiola turned things around and City have not dropped a single point since being held to a 1-1 draw by West Brom on December 15, Nani singling out the manager's influence in restoring the confidence of certain key performers.

    "I think Guardiola has been doing a great job this season, to get the team together," Nani added. "They seem a very confident team when they play.

    "He brought back some players whose confidence was down, like Bernardo Silva. He put Joao Cancelo [in] - Cancelo is doing fantastic for the team, and all the players at the front, they are not scoring so many goals as before, but they have been important.

    "There are players who last season did not appear so much, like [Ilkay] Gundogan, who this season has been amazing. He scored so many goals and is giving so many assists. So, it's important when you don't have important players available, like Kevin De Bruyne, you can bring another player who can appear and help the team."

    While Nani alluded to Silva's increased importance, it's another Portugal international who is seen as arguably the catalyst to City's improvement this season: Ruben Dias.

    The centre-back fits in perfectly with Guardiola's philosophy of building from the back and has formed an outstanding partnership with John Stones – when playing together they have won 13 of 14 Premier League matches this term, keeping 11 clean sheets, and Nani believes Dias has proven himself one of the best around.

    "Yes, he's proved already that he's one of the best in the world," Nani continued. "I think if people don't think that, then very soon they will change their mind because the way he's been performing for the team, the way he has been helping in a defensive way, that is one of the reasons in the second half of the season City is performing and conceding less goals.

    "It's also partly [down to] John Stones. I think it's important when the defence of the team is solid, it's much easier for the ones who play at the front to perform and to be more relaxed to create the chances to score."

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