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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Barca, Man Utd boosted by Champions League omens

Posted: 03 Apr 2011 07:52 PM PDT

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (right) celebrates scoring with team mate Javier Hernandez (left) during a 4-2 victory over West Ham in their English Premier League match at Upton Park on April 2, 2011. — Reuters pic

LONDON, April 4 — Favourites Barcelona and three-times winners Manchester United have the Champions League formbook on their side ahead of this week's quarter-final first legs when Europe's top table again offers a veritable feast.

United's opponents Chelsea could only draw 1-1 in the Premier League at Stoke City on Saturday when a host of Champions League sides also struggled with Real Madrid going down 1-0 at home and Inter Milan losing the Milan derby.

United visit Chelsea on Wednesday knowing the away side in the first leg have gone on to win the tie in each of the last two seasons when there was an all-English quarter-final.

Chelsea managed the feat in 2009 when they eliminated Liverpool after a 3-1 first-leg victory at Anfield and Liverpool prevailed over Arsenal in 2008 following a 1-1 draw in the opener at the Emirates.

The only one-nation quarter-final last term, when Olympique Lyon beat Girondins Bordeaux, reversed the trend to give Chelsea European hope having seemingly lost touch with United in the Premier League title race.

Another carrot for Carlo Ancelotti's side is the chance to be the first team since Inter in 1965 to win the European Cup in their home city with the final being played at Wembley.

Getting past Alex Ferguson's machine, who just keep on winning despite never hitting top gear and appearing to lack the class of old, will be difficult, though, with United gunning for another league, cup and Champions League treble.

"It's great to be in competition for three trophies but obviously that doesn't mean anything if you don't win," said fit-again centre back Nemanja Vidic, who remembers United's 1999 treble when Ferguson won the first of his two European Cups.

"It would be a great achievement to win all three trophies but it will be very hard to do, especially if you look at the teams we are facing. It is possible, though."

Mouthwatering treat

Chelsea's task is not quite as tough as knockout round novices Shakhtar Donetsk's mission when they travel to the Nou Camp on Wednesday to face Barca, 1-0 winners at Villarreal on Saturday to take a big step towards the Spanish title.

Barcelona got through a thrilling last-16 tie with Arsenal and if their quarter-final mirrors that high-class drama, football fans across Europe are in for another treat.

"What makes the difference is the desire to be champion," said Barca coach Pep Guardiola, while acknowledging the importance of world player of the year Lionel Messi.

"He has played a lot of games and is not injured, that's a good sign."

The omens are not good for Shakhtar given that in the past four seasons, the two outsiders in the quarter-final draw have always been eliminated, although the Catalans did lose at home to the Ukrainians in the group stage in 2008.

Schalke will not like that statistic either before Tuesday's (tomorrow's) game at holders Inter, although their 3-0 capitulation to Milan in the scudetto race on Saturday will boost the Germans.

Former Inter coach Jose Mourinho, bidding to be the first manager to win the Champions league with three clubs, lost his first domestic home league game for nine years when Real went down 1-0 to Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

The nine-times winners welcome Champions League debutants Tottenham Hotspur, whose path to the final in their home city looks slightly easier given the doubts over Real main man Cristiano Ronaldo's fitness for Tuesday's first leg.

Mourinho is, however, a master at playing games with the opposition long before the players cross the white line and no one would be surprised to see the Portugal winger in the team, especially an injury-hit Spurs defense. — Reuters

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Lewis overhauls Tseng to claim year’s first major

Posted: 03 Apr 2011 07:30 PM PDT

Stacy Lewis of the US tees off on the 16th hole during the final round on her way to winning the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship golf tournament in Rancho Mirage on April 3, 2011. — Reuters pic

RANCHO MIRAGE, April 4 — American Stacy Lewis overhauled world number one Yani Tseng to claim the year's first major and her maiden LPGA Tour title with a three-shot victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship yesterday.

Trailing champion Tseng by two shots on another blustery day at Mission Hills Country Club, Lewis mounted an early charge with birdies at the second and third then held her nerve to finish with a three-under-par 69 for a total of 13-under 275.

After calmly dropping a short putt for par at the 18th to seal victory, a relieved Lewis lifted a clenched fist into the air then was mobbed by friends, family and fellow golfers who showered her with champagne.

Later, Lewis joined hands with her caddy, sister, mother and father and then jumped into a water hazard.

"I can't believe it, I felt like I was going to throw up all day," Lewis told reporters. "I can play with the best in the world, I knew I could hang with Yani and I did.

"I played great today, I hit the ball the best I have all week.

"It was tough with the wind but I hung in there and made some key putts."

Tseng, who claimed last year's title by one shot over Norway's Suzann Pettersen, walked onto the first tee confident of retaining it, kissing the trophy before her opening drive.

But the long-hitting Taiwanese saw her chances for a fourth major title disappear with back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17 to finish with two-over 74, three behind Lewis.

Morgan Pressel, the 2007 champion, had a disastrous round that included quadruple, triple and double bogeys on way to a four-over 74 but still managed to hang on for a share of third with American compatriots Katie Futcher (69), Angela Stanford (73) nine shots behind Lewis on four-under 284.

Michelle Wie was one shot further adrift alone in sixth after returning a three-over 75.

An icy cool Lewis played spotless golf through the opening 12 holes erasing her two shot deficit and building a two-stroke lead.

The 26-year-old American saw her advantage trimmed to one after her only bogey of the day at the 15th but Tseng followed with back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17 to hand Lewis a three shot cushion stepping onto the 18th tee.

"It was a tough day out there," said Tseng, who has already won four times this year. "It was very windy today and the green was pretty firm and it was very hard to adjust my distance and the speed of my putting.

"Stacy really played awesome out there. She handled the pressure really well and she played great.

"I did my best. I tried my best today and I didn't give her any shots today.

"I hung in there until the last putt and smiled the whole way, whole day. So it was good and it was very good experience for me this time.

"Golf is golf, so this is normal. I just didn't play well." — Reuters

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