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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Spurs get serious, look to finish off Milan

Posted: 07 Mar 2011 08:14 PM PST

LONDON, March 8 — Tottenham Hotspur can underline their credentials as viable Champions League contenders tomorrow by adding the knockout-stage scalp of AC Milan to that of holders Inter, who they beat in the group stage.

Spurs fans have enjoyed a Champions League debut season beyond their dreams as they delivered a swashbuckling 18-goal romp through the group stage.

Now, having produced a performance of defensive maturity in the San Siro to match any of the competition's grand names and added the huge bonus of Peter Crouch's superb away goal, the Londoners have become a team others will want to avoid.

Redknapp, whose side ripped Inter Milan apart 3-1 in the group stage, said he intended to maintain his attacking approach.

"When you have that advantage in a two-legged game, if you sit back and think you have the lead then you find yourself in trouble," he said.

"We have to treat it as a one-off and we have to go for it. It's not natural for us to sit on a 1-0 lead for 90 minutes.

"We will pick an attacking team and have a go at them; that's how we have got to play."

Spurs drew 3-3 with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday and though the result was disappointing, Redknapp was pleased to see Gareth Bale come through a 20-minute run unscathed and to see Jermain Defoe back among the goals.

Bale, who tormented Inter home and away, missed six weeks with a back problem but should start tomorrow to add attacking width on the left and compliment the threat of Aaron Lennon on the right.

Rafael van der Vaart, who is behind much of the side's best attacking work, should also be fit after a calf injury.

Defoe scored twice on Sunday, his first league goals for 11 months, and with Roman Pavlyuchenko also on target and Crouch looking the part in Europe, Redknapp has good options.

Serie A leaders Milan have won three straight league games since losing the first leg but they are missing several key players and have a dire record in England.

Milan problems

In 14 visits, the seven-times European champions have won once and lost nine times, including last season when they were thrashed 4-0 by Manchester United at the same stage.

Midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng is doubtful to face his former side after hurting his ankle in Saturday's 1-0 win at Juventus.

His absence would be a real blow given that midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini are injured, Mark van Bommel is ineligible and Gennaro Gattuso is suspended.

Coach Massimiliano Ambrosini may have to employ a makeshift midfield of Clarence Seedorf, Mathieu Flamini and German youngster Alexander Merkel or play left back Marek Jankulovski further forward. The Czech won over doubters at the San Siro, who assumed his Milan career was over after being on the fringes for over a year.

"A player that I really like at the moment, who is doing really well, is Jankulovski," Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani said.

Striker Alexandre Pato is expected to recover from flu to replace the ineligible Antonio Cassano. — Reuters


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Boom times as England host badminton elite

Posted: 07 Mar 2011 05:46 PM PST

Nathan Robertson, mixed doubles runner-up with now retired Gail Emms at the Athens Olympics and world champion with her in 2006, looks to go one better at the Olympics in London next year. — Reuters pic

MILTON KEYNES, England, March 8 — Despite the wet, grey and chilly weather in Milton Keynes, there is a spring in the step of players and officials alike at England's National Badminton Centre.

The country is on the brink of an unprecedented spell of top-class, global badminton more than sufficient to dispel any gloom.

It kicks off with the All England tournament in Birmingham this week (March 9-13) followed by the world championships at Wembley in August, and the Olympics at the same venue in 2012.

The cornucopia follows Liverpool and Manchester staging major European championships in the last couple of years, but for global tastes the best is yet to come.

"I can't imagine this ever happening again, certainly not in my lifetime," Badminton England (BE) chief executive Adrian Christy told Reuters.

The All Englands have long been known as the Wimbledon of badminton and as ever all the big names will be on parade.

The return of top badminton to Wembley when the world championships come to call in the summer adds fresh relish.

"To have the worlds at the Olympic venue is not only a great opportunity and an exciting time for us but also for the athletes, teams, coaches and of course the fans that are going to be coming in August," Christy said.

New generation

The hope is that English players, without medals at major global events in recent seasons, can rise to the occasion.

Nathan Robertson, with current playing partner Jenny Wallwork, optimistic of the new generation. — Reuters pic

Nathan Robertson, mixed doubles runner-up with now retired Gail Emms at the Athens Games back in 2004 and world champion with her in 2006, will retire after the London Olympics, but he sees a new generation coming through and is optimistic.

Still a leading medal hope himself, the 33-year-old told Reuters: "I can see we've got a young squad that's improving.

"We're still a few steps behind the strongest nations like China but we've players in the squad who have had world-class performances and beaten players who are in the top 10 in the world.

"The performances have been there in the past and those players are definitely improving so it's just a case of if they'll get there in time."

Robertson's playing partner Jenny Wallwork, excited as the big tests draw near, said: "We've had some great results in the last six to eight months, beating three of the top four pairs in the world.

"So it's just about us carrying on and hopefully getting more scalps like that and progressing from there."

International debut

Men's doubles player Andy Ellis made a huge impression on his international debut last month when he and Chris Adcock stretched world No. 1s Carsten Mogenesen and Mathias Boe to the limit.

In an epic clash at the European team championships, the English duo won the first game 29-27 and led 14-8 in the decider only to be pipped by the vastly experienced Danes 27-29, 21-19, 21-17.

Ellis told Reuters: "They're the top pair in the world but we put some real scares on them."

The 24-year-old is bullish as the All Englands loom. "It's a good chance to test ourselves," he said.

"I think now is the time we all have to prove to ourselves that we are good enough and we can be the best in the world. I for one do think Chris and I can be the top pair in the world."

Officials hope the high-profile events, laced possibly with medals, will have the crowds clamouring in a country that traditionally nurtured the sport and where it continues to have a healthy grass-roots appeal.

Around 86 per cent of secondary schools play badminton and an estimated one million people enjoy the sport each month.

Chief executive Christy said: "We want to use London as kind of a catalyst to present our sport to a whole new audience. What a fantastic legacy that would be." — Reuters


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