MLB

MLB playoffs 2021: Dodgers avoid elimination to force Giants decider as Astros and Braves clinch

By Sports Desk October 12, 2021

There will be a winner-takes-all Game 5 in the National League Division Series (NLDS) after MLB World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers avoided elimination with a 7-2 win over the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants had the chance to book their spot in the NL Championship Series (NLCS) on Tuesday, but they were instead blown away by the Dodgers, who levelled the best-of-five matchup at 2-2.

Mookie Betts and Will Smith homered for the Dodgers in Los Angeles, where ace Walker Buehler gave up just one run on three hits while striking out four batters in 4.1 innings.

The deciding Game 5 will take place at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Thursday.

 

Astros reach fifth straight ALCS

The Houston Astros will face the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) after crushing the Chicago White Sox 10-1. Houston became the third team ever to appear in five successive league championship series. Astros star Carlos Correa tied Albert Pujols for the most playoff RBIs among active players after reaching 54, while Jose Altuve also hit his 19th postseason homer – matching George Springer and future Hall of Famer Pujols for fourth all-time.

 

Houston get to Hendriks and White Sox

On a rough day for the White Sox, closer Liam Hendriks conceded a three-run homer off Altuve in the top of the ninth inning. White Sox team-mate Michael Kopech allowed three runs on three hits in 0.2 innings.

 

Freeman sends Braves through

Freddie Freeman was the hero in Game 4, hitting a two-out home run in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Atlanta Braves came from behind to top the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 en route to the NLCS. Freeman's 428-foot go-ahead bomb was the furthest opposite-field homer of his career. The Braves will feature in back-to-back championship series for the first time since they advanced to eight straight from 1991 to 1999.

 

Tuesday's results

Houston Astros 10-1 Chicago White Sox
Atlanta Braves 5-4 Milwaukee Brewers
Los Angeles Dodgers 7-2 San Francisco Giants

 

Dodgers at Giants

NL West rivals the Dodgers and Giants will put it all on the line in Thursday's do-or-die showdown. Both teams have won an incredible 107 games this season as the Dodgers prepare to pit Julio Urias against Logan Webb.

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    Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand declared "we haven't seen" a player like Jude Bellingham at his age after the Borussia Dortmund teenager helped guide his team to a 4-1 Champions League win at Sevilla.

    Bellingham scored one and assisted one as Dortmund eased to victory in Spain on Wednesday, with other goals coming from Raphael Guerreiro, Karim Adeyemi and Julian Brandt, while Youssef En-Nesyri pulled one back for the hosts.

    Bellingham, 19, who captained the Bundesliga side, became just the second teenager to score in the first three games of a Champions League campaign.

    The only other player to achieve that feat is his former BVB team-mate Erling Haaland, who did so with Salzburg in the 2019-20 season.

    Bellingham's tally of three Champions League goals this season is already a joint-high among English teenagers for a single campaign, along with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, back in 2004-05.

    "What he's doing in his position at his age, we haven't seen," Ferdinand said, working as a pundit for BT Sport.

    "The best of our generation, [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard, [Paul] Scholes, [Patrick] Vieira, Roy Keane, they weren't doing this.

    "He's still got to go on and prove it over a long period of time, but they weren't doing what he is doing right now [at the same age].

    "Influencing games at this level, captaining teams at this level, and mentally this kid's a beast."

    Fellow pundit and former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole added: "Along with Erling Haaland, he's the best young player in the world, that's for sure.

    "I watched him play for England over the two [Nations League] games [against Italy and Germany] and he was our best player.

    "His dad I believe was a semi-pro footballer so he's obviously been guided right... When we grew up with Frank [Lampard] and his dad was a footballer obviously, a top footballer, and Frank had this maturity about him... Bellingham's got that as well, coupled with his undoubted God-given talent and his drive, he's unstoppable."

    Bellingham has long been linked with a move back to England, having joined Dortmund from Birmingham City in 2020, with Liverpool, Manchester City, United and Chelsea all reportedly keeping an eye on developments, along with LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

    "One thing that's for sure – whoever gets him – is [his] temperament," Ferdinand said.

    "When you're making big transfers and big moves like that in the spotlight, temperament is a key element you need to get right. This kid has already proved that it isn't a question mark."

  • Vlahovic 'honoured' to play with Di Maria as Juventus clinch crucial win Vlahovic 'honoured' to play with Di Maria as Juventus clinch crucial win

    Dusan Vlahovic said he was "honoured" to play alongside Angel Di Maria after the Argentina international claimed three assists in Juventus' Champions League win over Maccabi Haifa.

    Adrien Rabiot scored a brace either side of Vlahovic's cool second-half finish as Juventus triumphed 3-1 to boost their hopes of progressing from Group H on Wednesday, but Di Maria was the star of the show.

    At 34 years and 233 days old, Di Maria became the oldest player to record a hat-trick of assists in the Champions League since data began in 2003-04, as well as the first player to do so for an Italian club.

    Since Di Maria made his first Champions League appearance in the 2007-08 season, meanwhile, only Lionel Messi can match his tally of 35 assists in the competition.

    Asked about Di Maria's influence by Sky Sports, Vlahovic said: "I don't know what to say. I am honoured to have the opportunity to play with him, to see him every day, to learn from him. I would like to make the most of my moments with him on the pitch."

    Vlahovic was pleased to see Juventus end a three-match losing streak in the Champions League, but saw room for improvement in his own performance.

    "I could do better and do more," he added. "I had to make better use of the assists of my team-mates, but we won. We have to improve and work with our heads down in silence.

    "Attackers live on goals. I am always focused on the team, then the goals come as a consequence. 

    "If I think I have to do something, I just put weight on myself and I don't do things with clarity. I have to be more calm and focused."

    Meanwhile, under-pressure Bianconeri coach Massimiliano Allegri praised Di Maria's display, but was concerned by his team's lack of control in the final 15 minutes.

    "Di Maria is good, the important thing is to get the ball to him, the first and second assists were of excellent craftsmanship," he said in his post-match news conference.

    "The boys immediately realised that you cannot not play for a quarter of an hour. The games must be closed earlier, this does not mean to stop playing, but to play less and be more bad.

    "We were too light, then the games are about psychology, and we risked 2-2. This doesn't have to happen.

    "The defensive phase is a mental issue. Everything seemed easy, we gave up as a team. We didn't foul [ahead of] their goal, that's not good. Goal difference will also be important."

    Looking ahead to next week's return fixture in Israel, two-goal hero Rabiot said: "We will have to be concentrated, but with this attitude, I am convinced that we will win. We must continue like this.

    "I'm happy to have scored, but it's more important to win, and tonight we did it well. We played well - a little less in the second half - but we're on the right path."

  • 'Madrid want to finish the group as soon as possible' – Kroos targets early last-16 qualification 'Madrid want to finish the group as soon as possible' – Kroos targets early last-16 qualification

    Toni Kroos insists Real Madrid want to secure qualification for the Champions League knockout stages "as soon as possible" following victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

    The holders maintained their 100 per cent start in Group F with first-half goals from Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior sealing a 2-1 win at Santiago Bernabeu.

    Despite converting just two of their 36 shots on goal, Madrid moved five points clear at the group summit after winning their opening three games in the competition for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign.

    Los Blancos could book their place in the last 16 with victory over Shakhtar in the return fixture in Warsaw next week, which would be the ideal scenario for Kroos.

    "The idea is to finish the group as soon as possible," the midfielder told Movistar+. "We have nine points out of nine, we have played three very good games, and we want another victory in Warsaw. 

    "There are days when the ball does not want to enter, it has been a game to win 7-1 or something. But in the end, it is three points, and it has been a deserved victory.

    "In the end, it's hard to believe we won only 2-1, but there are days like that. The ball will go in over the next few games."

    Head coach Carlo Ancelotti warned his players against complacency after they were pegged back against the run of play by Oleksandr Zubkov's spectacular strike.

    But the Italian was thrilled at seeing his side creating so many chances; Madrid only registering more shots on goal in a single Champions League match against Roma in March 2016.

    "[I am] satisfied because I think we played very well; the front three combined very well in front, pressing more," Ancelotti added. "We have had many opportunities, but we have not succeeded. The important thing was to have opportunities.

    "We have lowered the intensity [at 2-0 up]; we thought we were comfortable. I gave a call for attention at half-time because the game was not over.

    "It's pretty normal that it can happen. We were playing very well, it seemed easy, but these were the dangerous matches. You get ahead of yourself. 

    "I think it's important to leave this group behind next week, so we can focus on the league."

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