So many sports happenings, so little time – but we’re here to help. Yahoo News Singapore picks the top sporting moments of this past week, and tries to make sense of what happened.
Deadlock #1: Bore draw at Old Trafford benefits no one
The weekend’s biggest football match was a damp squib. Manchester United had been unbeaten in the English Premier League (EPL) since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as manager in December. Meanwhile, their fierce rivals Liverpool have been locked in a tense tussle with Manchester City for the league title.
It had been shaping up to be an intense battle at Old Trafford on Sunday, with fans from both sides eagerly anticipating what would have been a very satisfying victory for either club. Frustratingly for the fans, the match turned into a disjointed and stale 0-0 draw after early injuries – to Man United’s Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino – saw both sides make tactical adjustments that dulled the attacking momentum of both teams.
While Liverpool returned to the top of the EPL table, one point ahead of Man City, they wasted a great opportunity for a statement win. Three points at Old Trafford would not only have given them greater breathing space atop the standings, but it would have also ended their rivals’ 12-match unbeaten EPL streak and given the Reds a vital morale boost.
But, as their former captain Steven Gerrard would say, “We go again.” The EPL title race is set to go right down to the wire.
Deadlock #2: Keeper disobedience spells big trouble for Sarri
Meanwhile, Manchester City faced Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday. After 120 minutes of a 0-0 deadlock, City eventually clinched the Cup after winning the penalty shootout 4-3.
But the real story of this deadlock wasn’t about the winners. It was about the losers – specifically beleaguered Blues manager Maurizio Sarri and his first-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Astonishingly, Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted for the penalty shoot-out after apparently suffering from cramps. Watch this extraordinary, cringeworthy scene:
Sarri tried to sub off Chelsea's goalkeeper, Kepa…but he refused to leave, and Sarri flipped out 😳
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 24, 2019
Disobeying substitution orders is a definite no-no in professional football. Furthermore, Chelsea’s substitute keeper Willy Caballero is known to be excellent at saving penalties. No wonder Sarri was apoplectic with rage at the sidelines, and at one point seemed to march off to the dressing room as if he was quitting his job on the spot.
And while Arrizabalaga did make a save from Leroy Sane in the shootout, he also let Sergio Aguero’s attempt squirm beneath his body. But it was all academic after his very public show of disobedience. Being the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, the Spaniard is unlikely to be given the boot just one season into his Chelsea career.
Which leaves Sarri in a precarious position. He was already being lambasted by fans for being inflexible in his tactics. Now he’s been undermined by a public mutiny from one of his better players.
How will the Blues’ owner Roman Abramovich deal with this fiasco? It certainly feels as if Sarri will not be long for the Chelsea dugout.
Deadlock #3: Home United break Albirex stranglehold on trophies
In Singapore, there was yet another football deadlock. This time it was in the Saturday curtain raiser to the new Singapore Premier League (SPL) season – the Community Shield match between Albirex Niigata and Home United at Jalan Besar Stadium. Both sides were again tied at 0-0 after 90 minutes, and as there was no extra time, the match went to penalties.
And there was a surprise development: Albirex actually lost. The Japanese club based in Singapore had won the last 11 trophies available to local football in the last three years, and went the entire last season unbeaten. But Home United had the last laugh on Saturday, pipping Albirex 5-4 on penalties.
Was it a sign to come, or a mere blip in Albirex’s dominance? For Singapore football’s sake, let’s hope the other SPL clubs can be encouraged to take the fight to Albirex this season, and try to match the Japanese club’s superior professionalism. It would mean that local football is at least improving to the required standards to chase regional honours.
Deadlock #4: Tight end, dramatic finish in the Super League Triathlon
Any inaugural sports event hopes to start off on the right foot, and the first season of the Super League Triathlon enjoyed a dramatic final leg at the OneDegree15 Marina Club in Sentosa Cove on Sunday, that should augur well for this innovative endurance series.
In the women’s category, Katie Zaferes had been the most consistent triathlete for the entire four-leg series, which had seen races in Isle of Jersey, Malta and Mallorca. The 29-year-old American had built up a sizeable lead atop the overall leaderboard, and was looking to add the icing on the cake with a convincing win in the Singapore leg.
But France’s Cassandre Beaugrand had other ideas. The 21-year-old was neck and neck with Zaferes in the Enduro race, a tough format whereby the triathletes had to do three legs of a triathlon (300m swim, 5km bike and 1.6km run). As they swopped leads in the final running lap around Sentosa Cove, Zaferes seemed to inch ahead in the final straight, but Beaugrand somehow found one last burst of speed.
The duo crossed the line at the same time in a virtual deadlock. It was only after a period of deliberation before organisers finally deemed Beaugrand to have won by a mere two centimetres. The win also gave Beaugrand the Singapore leg victory, as she came in second in Saturday’s Eliminator race.
Zaferes still wrapped up the overall title with 113 points, a massive 37 points ahead of second-placed Dutchwoman Rachel Klamer. Beaugrand was third overall with 65 points.
Zaferes said, “I’m both a little happy and a little disappointed because it was so close and I gave everything I had (in the Enduro race). I think Super League just makes you better all-round because have to work on every little thing – physically, mentally and even emotionally. The pressure is high, even for me.”
The men’s overall title race also came right down to the wire, especially after leader Vincent Luis of France suffered a tyre puncture during Saturday’s Eliminator race, allowing a glimmer of hope for South Africa’s Commonwealth Games gold medallist Henri Schoeman and 2016 Olympic silver medallist Jonathan Brownlee to overtake him on Sunday for the title.
Yet the 29-year-old Luis rose to the occasion and ran a wonderfully-planned Enduro race. Knowing he had to win the race to be assured of the title, the Frenchman kept up with Schoeman and Brownlee all the way until the final running laps. A superb sprinter, he then pulled confidently away from his rivals to win the race, and pipped Schoeman by a mere two points for the overall title.
He said, “It’s a little bit crazy and I still can’t believe it and I’m over the moon. After
yesterday I wasn’t sure if I wanted to race today, I was really disappointed. But that’s racing. You can be out for yesterday and win today, and that’s why we love it.”