Boca Juniors thrown out of Libertadores for fan violence

Paraguay-based CONMEBOL also hit Boca with a $200,000 fine and ordered the club to play four home games behind closed doors and another four away games without its fans.

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Four River Plate players were taken to hospital after they were sprayed with an irritant by fans of their bitter rivals on Thursday, causing their Libertadores Cup derby to be abandoned at halftime.

The River Plate medical team had said the players were suffering inflammation of the cornea and needed days to recover.

The rivalry between the two Buenos Aires sides is one of the most heated in the world. It pits Boca, a traditionally working-class team, against up-town rivals known as the “Millionaires”.

The last 16 second leg tie at Boca’s Bombonera stadium was deadlocked at 0-0 when the incident occurred in the tunnel as the players came out for the second half.

Following CONMEBOL’s decision, reached at an emergency session, River advanced to the quarter-finals where they will face Brazil’s Cruzeiro.

The incident was just the latest in a long line of violent events to blight football in South America.

In 2013, a Bolivian fan was killed by a flare fired by Corinthians fans during a Libertadores match.

In Argentina, an average of five people died each year in fan-related violence between 2000 and 2009, according to reform group Salvemos al Futbol, cited in a recent Insight Crime report.

Most of the deaths are related to fights between the barras bravas, Argentina’s hooligan firms.

(Reporting by Daniela Desantis, writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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England weaker without Pietersen: Clarke

Australia’s Test cricket captain Michael Clarke says he would love to see Kevin Pietersen back in the England side, but with the Ashes looming, perhaps not too soon.

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While he feels for Pietersen, Clarke – at Sydney Airport on Sunday prior to leaving for the two-Test tour of the West Indies – let Andrew Strauss know that England are a weaker side without the prolific South-African born batsman.

Strauss, England’s new director of cricket, last week said a “massive trust issue” would prevent Pietersen from returning to the England team, with Test series coming up against New Zealand and then Australia starting in July.

Clarke, who will captain Pietersen in the Melbourne Stars’ Big Bash T20 side next summer, had mixed feelings over the saga.

“There’s probably two sides for me: there’s the personal side where obviously I feel for KP, because I get on well with him and I’d love to see him back playing for England,” Clarke said.

“His form has been outstanding and he’s still a great player and I know he wants to play, so I feel for him on that side.

“The other side (is) we go there soon to play against England, so any team without Kevin Pietersen in it I don’t think is as strong.

“I have tried to stay pretty quiet and stay out of it.

“I think the last thing we can afford to do as an Australian team is get caught up in what’s happening in England or West Indies or anywhere else.”

Clarke, who was dogged by fitness issues in the lead-up to Australia’s World Cup win last month, said he felt fit and healthy.

West Indies won their last Test against England to square the recent three-match home series 1-1 and Clarke said the world No.8-ranked team possessed a very good bowling attack.

“I think they swung the ball well, whether that was with the brand new ball or reverse swing,” Clarke said.

“They’ve got some handy spinners as well, so I think the conditions we’re about to face are going to be very similar to the subcontinent.

“I think the wickets will be slow and low and will spin and they are coming off some form against England.”

He said conditions would dictate if Australia fielded a dual spin attack, with uncapped leggie Fawad Ahmed supporting offie and first-choice tweaker Nathan Lyon.

Australia will be forced to make a minimum of two changes to the team that played their last Test against India in Sydney back in January.

Batsman Joe Burns didn’t make the touring party and paceman Ryan Harris is being rested for the Ashes series.

Clarke and Mitchell Johnson are the likely replacements, while Mitchell Marsh and Adam Voges are batting options, and Ahmed and paceman Peter Siddle offer bowling alternatives.

At 34, Clarke accepts the upcoming tours of the West Indies and England will be his final visits to those territories, now he has retired from one-day international cricket.

Although focused on the West Indies, Clarke would clearly love to win an Ashes series in England, where he has been part of the last three losing campaigns.

“It would be very special there’s no doubt about it,” Clarke said. “I think the last time we won the Ashes in England was 2001, so it’s been a long time.”

Clarke said he had not spoken to anyone about a mooted rebel T20 league.

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Golovkin extends his KO streak

Gennady Golovkin stopped Willie Monroe Jr in the sixth round to retain his WBA and IBO middleweight titles with his 20th consecutive knockout victory.

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Kazakhstan’s Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) put on another showcase performance at the Forum in Los Angeles, knocking down the American twice in the second round and again in the sixth round of his 14th consecutive title defence.

“It was a good big drama show,” Golovkin said. “I was happy with my performance. Willie is a very tough fighter.”

When Golovkin floored Monroe (19-2) with a long series of heavy punches in the sixth, the challenger declined to continue after his final trip to the canvas.

“I’m done,” Monroe told referee Jack Reiss.

Golovkin delighted a Southern California crowd of 12,372 backing the Kazakh champion who has gone from anonymity to stardom in less than three years.

Golovkin made the fight with Monroe when he couldn’t entice bigger-name fighters into the ring, and he named names after the fight, calling out Miguel Cotto and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Golovkin intends to fight two more times this year, staying busy and growing his own reputation as one of the world’s pound-for-pound best fighters.

Eariler, Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez also defended his WBC flyweight title in style with a furious second-round stoppage of Mexican veteran Edgar Sosa.

Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) seized the chance provided by his first showcase on HBO with a masterful performance against Sosa, a talented veteran contender. Chocolatito battered Sosa around the ring in the first round and dropped him three times in the second.

“I’m very happy with my performance,” Gonzalez said. “He was a tough fighter, but my power was too much.”

Throwing sharp combinations and showcasing power in both hands, Gonzalez floored Sosa (51-9) twice with brutal right hands before finishing him with a multi-punch barrage against the ropes with 23 seconds left in the second round, forcing referee Raul Caiz Jr. to step in.

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Battered Suns not looking for sympathy

Gold Coast are in a world of pain, but coach Rodney Eade doesn’t expect people to feel sorry for them.

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The Suns remain mired near the foot of the AFL table after copping a 92-point hiding from West Coast in Perth on Saturday night.

Gold Coast conceded 12.0 in the third quarter alone, with the performance one of their worst since entering AFL ranks in 2011.

The Suns had just 18 points to their name at three-quarter time before adding some junk-time goals in the final term.

The month ahead looks even more painful for the Suns, with games against Collingwood, Hawthorn, Sydney, and Fremantle to come.

Gold Coast’s horrid run on the injury front has played a major role in their demise this season, with stars such as Gary Ablett, Nick Malceski, Jack Martin, David Swallow, and Jaeger O’Meara among a bulging injury ward.

And silky midfielder Harley Bennell could be added to that list after copping a heavy knock to his knee against the Eagles.

Eade said he felt sorry for his team’s young defence during West Coast’s onslaught on Saturday night.

But he knows his team won’t receive much sympathy from rival clubs.

“There is nothing in the rule book that says people have to feel sorry for us,” Eade said.

“It is a concern when you have got so many players who can use the ball who are out of the side.

“It just exposes guys who are being asked to play roles they are probably not used to.

“We are getting thin on the ground to be honest.

“But we have to regroup and hopefully get a few players back next week.”

Forward Tom Lynch (calf) and Luke Russell (illness) are expected to return against the Magpies, but Ablett is still weeks away as he struggles to recover from a shoulder issue.

Meanwhile, West Coast are shaping as a top-four smoky after their fourth win on the trot kept them in second spot on the table.

The Eagles will start as hot favourites in Saturday’s clash with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, and they’ll have a fresh Jeremy McGovern and Josh Kennedy to unleash against the Saints.

McGovern was a late withdrawal from the Suns’ clash because of a corked calf, while Kennedy was subbed out late in the third quarter as part of a preservation plan.

“The elbow is still recovering,” Simpson said of the injury Kennedy suffered two weeks ago.

“So to get full recovery, he needs to get through four to six weeks.

“We’ve just got to make sure when we see an opportunity to give him a break, we take it.

“It was a good suggestion from our medical staff.

“Kennedy wasn’t too pleased, but I think we get a fresh JK next week.”

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Bailey stars in Vixens’ upset over Fever

The Melbourne Vixens’ trans-Tasman netball title defence is still alive thanks to an upset 56-48 win over the West Coast Fever on Sunday.

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They were led by brilliant shooting from Vixens’ goal-shooter Karyn Bailey, who ended the match with 39 goals from 42 attempts and the MVP award.

The Vixens remain in fourth place on the ladder, but edged closer to the third playoff spot – occupied by the NSW Swifts – with the victory at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena.

Following recent loses away to the Swifts and Queensland Firebirds, the Vixens’ title defence was hanging by a thread, and they responded with an emphatic triumph over the Fever, who heading into round 12 were Australian conference leaders.

Bailey was the stand-out, leading the scoring while also creating space in the goal circle for her shooting partner Tegan Philip (17 goals from 24 attempts).

For the Fever, Caitlin Bassett was again accurate with 35 goals from 38 attempts and Natalie Medhurst had 13 goals from 17 shots.

Slow starts have blighted the Vixens’ season, but they were fast out of the blocks in front of a packed house of 5380.

They led 16-13 at quarter time and controlled the momentum of the match from then on.

The Fever didn’t get their usual amount of shots away as Melbourne’s defenders asserted their dominance.

Geva Mentor at goal-keeper was strong, ending the match with three deflections and two intercepts.

With third place in the Australian conference now a battle between the Vixens and the Swifts, the final place could be decided next weekend when the two teams face off in Melbourne again at Margaret Court Arena.

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Gerrard feels the Liverpool love as he bows out

Even if Crystal Palace denied him a fairytale ending, with Gerrard unable to perform any heroics in a 3-1 defeat, the famous Kop end rose to salute one of their own in a match where the result was secondary.

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“I’ve been dreading this moment,” he told the crowd over the public address system. “I am going to miss it so much.

“I’ve loved every minute of it and I’m absolutely devastated I’m never going to play in front of you supporters again.”

The pre-match music set the mood — ‘Simply The Best’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, ‘The End Of The World As We Know It’, and a nod to his Los Angeles Galaxy future with ‘Kids In America’.

Even if the former England skipper has heard the chant of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ more often than he can remember, the fans gave him an unforgettable rendition as he stood with his three daughters on the field.

The refrain was echoed on countless banners, the supporters thanking him for some of their greatest memories including an unforgettable 2005 Champions League success, as the 34-year-old midfielder emerged from the tunnel to a guard of honour from both sides.

High-fiving each Palace player as he moved down the line, Gerrard applauded the stands on his 354th appearance at Anfield in all competitions.

“The first time you ever play for Liverpool Football Club is a dream come true,” he said later. “Everything else after that was a bonus for me.

“Before I go, before the tears come…I’ve played in front of most supporters around the world but let me tell you, you are the best,” he told the crowd as the cheers rose to a crescendo.

Manager Brendan Rodgers promised it would be a match players would tell their grandchildren about and there could be no doubt about that, even if much of the action was far from memorable.

“I asked members of staff if they could describe Steven Gerrard in one word, what word would that be,” he added. “It’s Liverpool. Not just Liverpool as a football club but Liverpool the supporters and Liverpool the city.

“He’s a wonderful symbol for the people here and is an icon of the club.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Young gun Parker fires the Swans

One of Sydney’s youngest guns, Luke Parker is stamping himself as a captain-in-waiting at the AFL club.

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Parker earned more plaudits after he ensured Sydney go into Saturday’s AFL grand final rematch against Hawthorn on a positive note, providing the inspiration, energy and big plays in Saturday’s 43-point home victory over Geelong.

The 22-year-old midfielder was the third youngest member of the team, but he displayed the savvy and composure of a seasoned veteran as he did it all, notching career-bests in goals (5), kicks (20) and marks (11) and laying five tackles.

Parker proved a steal at No.40 in the 2010 draft and Swans coach John Longmire, who isn’t renowned for lavishing praise on individuals, labelled him a “beauty.”

“His will is enormous, he just makes himself become a good player and wills himself to the contest,” Longmire said.

Rated “a gun” by Geelong coach Chris Scott, Parker is already a premiership player and best and fairest winner,

Promoted to the Swans leadership group this year, it’s surely a matter of when, and not if, he ascends to the status of captain or co-captain.

Teammates recognise and relish his leadership.

“He was just doing all he could to try and will us along and he was able to do it,” said swingman Sam Reid on Swans TV after the game.

“Parkesy leads from the front every week,” added midfield colleague Tom Mitchell.

Parker insisted the Swans hadn’t yet given much thought to avenging last year’s crushing 64-point grand final loss to the Hawks but he made it clear they were up for the challenge.

“I think it’s going to be really tight at the end of the year and if you can win these big games like last night and next week, then hopefully it puts you in good stead for the end of the season,” Parker said on ABC Radio’s Sunday Huddle.

Mitchell 21, the second youngest member of the team that vanquished Geelong, also had a career night.

Mitchell, who has battled to cement a place in the team, notched a career-high 33 disposals against the Cats and equalled his best top flight goalkicking effort with three majors.

It seems Mitchell has convinced his teammates and coaching staff he has added the defensive starch to his prolific possession-getting.

“He’s been able to pick up on that massively over the pre-season and get that right,” Parker said.

“Now with him coming in, we all have full trust that he’s playing his role and he’s going to put his head over it when he needs to.

“The main thing is we want to be the hardest two-way team. It’s good to see the young boys are buying into it.”

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Richmond AFL boss calls for calm

Richmond president Peggy O’Neal has sought to calm rumblings about the AFL club, pointing to how far they have come in the last five years.

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A season of great expectations for the Tigers has started with a 2-4 win-loss record and growing unease about whether they can make the finals again.

Speaking before Sunday’s crucial match against Collingwood at the MCG, O’Neal said the club remained determined to build sustained success.

She said the media or fans baying for blood would not distract the Tigers hierarchy.

“No matter if you’re flying or failing on the field, we don’t make reactive decisions based on the latest view in the media or the vocal minority,” O’Neal said.

“Every part of our business looks at the facts – we ask hard questions and collectively, we find a way forward.

“That’s been critical to the narrative that’s been Richmond over the last five seasons and these first six games.”

O’Neal noted that in 2010, Richmond started the season with nine-straight losses.

They had a debt of $5 million and were playing “home” games in Cairns.

She said their Punt Rd facilities were an embarrassment and membership was stagnant.

“Critically, the underlining philosophy was that no one person was going to fix the club – there was no messiah,” she said.

“It would require all of us to be single-minded in pursuing success and we acknowledged that it was a strategy that would require us to stay the course for a very long time.”

O’Neal said the Tigers are now debt-free, have full control of a redeveloped Punt Rd headquarters and are at record membership.

“I’m not recounting this to congratulate ourselves – we’re not satisfied (and) there’s much more to do,” she said.

“We have gotten enough right to ensure the club has a solid foundation upon which to build its future.

“That’s what only stable, united football clubs do.”

O’Neal said it is critical that the Tigers stay the course and do so rationally.

“One of the greatest challenges for those within the club is to make decisions that are not driven by emotional outbursts, to not rise to the bait, to not be volatile,” she said.

“In my legal practice, I came to realise it was rare for a good business decision to be made once emotion ruled the day.”

O’Neal acknowledged the only antidote to losing is winning.

“But that (win-loss) record doesn’t detract from where we started and where we hope to be,” she said.

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Manly out to continue Monday form

Manly will be out to continue its strong NRL record in Monday night football when they host Penrith at Brookvale Oval.

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The Sea Eagles have won their past five Monday night clashes, and since 2013 have lost just two of their past nine matches when playing in the final fixture of the round.

“Monday night’s traditionally have been very good for us,” coach Geoff Toovey said.

“The two years we had seven Monday night games were the two years we were in the grand final.

“Monday nights do seem to suit us and if we can take advantage of that this Monday it’ll be a positive for us.”

In contrast, the Panthers have lost both their Monday night clashes so far this season – to the Roosters in round three and the Cowboys in round five.

In fact, the mountain men haven’t won a Monday night game away from Penrith since 2010.

The real issue for Panthers coach Ivan Cleary will be how his side backs up for their next game against Parramatta in round 12 having lost 10 of 11 after playing the last game of the weekend.

However it’s this week’s opponents that will be the most pressing matter for Cleary, having watched his side fall to a heartbreaking 8-5 loss to Brisbane last start.

Key playmaker Jamie Soward came through unscathed after returning from a long-term back injury last week, while hooker James Segeyaro has also recovered from an elbow problem to make his first appearance in a month.

Toovey identified Penrith’s spine as their major threat this weekend.

“They have some senior players coming back in the side in the likes of Soward,” he said.

“I think [Matt] Moylan’s grown another leg from last year. He’s looking dangerous out the back there.

“And also with Segeyaro back playing, they can create something from nothing. He’s a big danger from dummy half.”

For Manly, centre Steve Matai returns from suspension, while Tom Symonds take the place of injured five-eighth Kieran Foran.

STATS THAT MATTER

– Brett Stewart scored tries 150 and 151 last week to equal Steve Menzies as the all-time leading tryscorer for the Sea Eagles. Stewart is 10th on the all-time tryscoring list and needs just one to equal Harold Horder in ninth.

– Stewart has scored 22 tries in his past 22 matches at Brookvale. Over the course of his career Manly has won almost 85 per cent of its matches at the venue when Stewart has scored. He needs seven tries to equal Menzies’ record of 88 tries at Brookvale.

– The Panthers have missed more tackles than any other team this season, missing more than 31 per game. Last week they missed their equal most this season (42) despite conceding just eight points.

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Storm building NRL title hopes on defence

Melbourne believe a renewed focus on goal-line defence is responsible for putting them atop the NRL ladder ahead of “rough waters” over the State of Origin period.

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The Storm put their pre-season training to good use as they held on in the face of a second-half onslaught by defending champions South Sydney for a 16-12 win at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Late in the first half, the home side showed their grit by repelling three goal-line drop outs and four consecutive sets with Souths unable to penetrate.

The Rabbitohs big pack shifted up a gear in the second half and pumped the Storm up the middle but, despite playing with 70 per cent of territory, they couldn’t find the necessary third try.

Storm skipper Cameron Smith, who led by example with a game-high 41 tackles, said they had identified goal-line defence as an area to improve.

“It’s probably been the best part of our game, our goal-line defence,” Smith said.

“That’s what we’ve turned around and we’ve worked extremely hard over the pre-season in that area.

“It brings confidence and energy when you turn a quality side away three or four times from your goal line.”

The Storm are perfectly positioned with a bye next week before losing Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Will Chambers to Queensland’s Origin campaign.

Coach Craig Bellamy said regardless of their ladder position he felt the team was in better shape than last year.

The Storm only has one more win than after round 10 last season but he felt they were playing with much more effort and consistency.

“What buoys us is that most of our guys are playing reasonably well and are putting plenty of effort in and I perhaps couldn’t have said that at the same time last year,” Bellamy said.

“I don’t like saying that but that’s what it looked like.”

But Bellamy said that with his key quartet about to go missing, it wouldn’t be all smooth sailing.

“It’s a nice position to be in but there’s going to be some rough waters ahead through Origin so we’ve just got to get through it.”

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