Late charge gives Mollema surprise win over sprinters

Best known as a climber, Mollema sheered away from a front group of around 35 riders to take victory a few metres clear of Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, with Argentina’s Massimo Richeze in third.


Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali remains the overall race leader.

“I had thought of going for the overall but I could see pretty quickly in the first part of the race that wasn’t going to happen,” Mollema, sixth in the Tour de France, told reporters.

“Instead of fighting for 15th or 20th in Madrid, I decided to go for stage wins. I already got third in one stage, and today it’s all paid off.

“There’s only four Belkin riders left in the Vuelta, but I think the morale in the team hotel will be pretty high tonight,” he added.

On a fast-paced chaotic stage, a mass attack by Spanish squad Movistar and Danish team Saxo-Tinkoff 25 kilometres from the finish of the flat 189-km stage split the bunch into several groups.

“We’d been warned by our team management there would be a dangerous point in the race with around 25 kilometres to go where it could split in the winds, and that’s what happened,” Mollema said.

“We got three of our four guys in the front group, so that was pretty good.

“Then I was waiting for the right moment, and with 500 metres to go I shot away and didn’t look back until I had 50 metres left to go.”

With all the main favourites in the front group, Nibali stayed 28 seconds ahead of American Chris Horner in the overall standings with Spain’s Alejandro Valverde 1:14 behind the Italian.

Nicolas Roche of Ireland moved up to fifth overall ahead of Italy’s Domenico Pozzovivo, who dropped to sixth.

On Thursday, the Vuelta returns to the mountains with a 186.5-km stage culminating with a six kilometre, lung-bursting steep ascent to Pena Cabarga in northern Spain.

“It’s a climb I like very much. I have very good memories of it,” said Nibali, who took the lead of the 2010 Vuelta at Pena Cabarga.

“I did very well there before and maybe I’ll do something this time round again, perhaps go on the attack.”

The Tour of Spain finishes on September 15 in Madrid.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

Guardiola and Mourinho lock horns again in Prague

New Bayern coach Guardiola and Mourinho, back for a second stint at Chelsea, have tangled repeatedly in their careers especially when the Spaniard was at the helm at Barcelona and the outspoken Portuguese held the reins at Real Madrid.


Both clubs are unbeaten in their respective leagues this season but Mourinho knows his team will have their work cut out to repeat their 2012 Champions League final win over the Bavarians.

The Chelsea coach hailed Bayern’s “fantastic” feat in landing a Champions League-Bundesliga-German Cup treble last season.

“Only great teams with a great mentality, with fantastic football qualities … manage it,” said Mourinho, who also captured a Champions League-Serie A-Italian Cup treble with Inter Milan in 2010.

“To play against the best team in the world last year … is a big challenge for us. It is good for us to measure where we are in terms of playing against the best,” he told

The Chelsea squad are still adapting to life under Mourinho, who left Real for Stamford Bridge in the close season to succeed Rafael Benitez.

The Londoners have had an extra day to prepare for the Super Cup after drawing 0-0 at Premier League title rivals Manchester United on Monday.

Mourinho can call on Brazil defender David Luiz for the first time this season following a hamstring injury while Spain playmaker Juan Mata could come back into the side after being left on the bench at Old Trafford.

Chelsea’s new signings from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o and Brazil midfielder Willian, are not in the 26-man squad.


Bayern playmaker Bastian Schweinsteiger has travelled to Prague but faces a race against time to recover from the ankle injury he sustained in the 1-1 Bundesliga draw at Freiburg on Tuesday.

Holding midfielder Javi Martinez is also in the squad despite having had an abdominal injury.

“There is no desire for revenge,” club president Uli Hoeness said, referring to the shootout defeat in the Champions League final at Bayern’s Allianz Arena 15 months ago.

“Last season we were the best team in Europe.”

Arjen Robben scored the 89th-minute winner when Bayern beat fellow Germans Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final in May under Guardiola’s predecessor Jupp Heynckes.

The Dutch winger played under Mourinho during his first spell in charge at Chelsea between 2004 and 2007 and is looking forward to locking horns with his former boss again.

“Chelsea have had two wonderful years and now their old coach has returned,” said Robben.

“I think very highly of Mourinho. It will be a great match.”

Probable teams:

Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Dante, David Alaba, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, Franck Ribery, Mario Mandzukic.

Chelsea: Petr Cech, Cesar Azpilicueta, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Marco van Ginkel, Ramires, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar, Fernando Torres.

Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

(Writing by Tony Jimenez in London; Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin; Editing by Ed Osmond and Sonia Oxley)

Confident Springboks re-focus for All Blacks challenge

Steve Hansen’s world champions beat Argentina 28-13 in Hamilton but will face the Springboks at Eden Park without the calming influence of captain Richie McCaw, who suffered a knee injury and is expected to be out for up to five weeks.


The winner of the clash on Saturday should seize the initiative for the southern hemisphere championship title with the All Blacks having to travel to Argentina and South Africa for their final two games.

The Springboks, however, return home for clashes against the Wallabies in Cape Town and then New Zealand in Johannesburg and with a victory in Auckland, which would be the first loss by the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009, would put them in the driving seat for the title.


Meyer’s side had been expected to have been tipped over by the Wallabies, having had several players travel from Europe to join the team in the week of the test following club commitments.

“We just need to keep humble because (this) week will be a hell of a challenge,” Meyer told reporters after their victory at Lang Park.

“I’ve learned that you just get the game out of the way because the next game is going to be a tough encounter.

“There are still three tough games to come down the line. The world champions are waiting and we just have to be focussed, keep our feet on the ground and focus on this one.”

The victory on Saturday was built on a superb forward display and enveloping defence, which shut down the Wallabies options and forced them into errors, even when on attack.

“It’s always difficult to play catch-up away from home,” Meyer added of their mindset ahead of their road trip.

“Our defence was awesome and we spoke about having to win the game without the ball.”

The Springboks massive loose forward trio of Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw monstered the Wallabies at the breakdown and should they be selected against the All Blacks, will provide a massive test of the locals’ resolve.

Number eight Kieran Read is expected to step into McCaw’s shoes as captain while Sam Cane will fill the number seven jersey with selection debate over whether impressive rookie Steven Luatua is thrown into the pressure cooker environment or Liam Messam returns after recovering from his hamstring injury.

“Our loose forwards, people have said they may lack pace but what they bring to the party, I love having them in my team,” Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said of his trio.

“You need to lay the platform with your forwards and our forwards did that.”

De Villiers, who finished off a brilliant blindside try in Brisbane on Saturday, added he felt his side was becoming mentally tougher as they advanced through the competition.

“For a team to go forward and to evolve we need to learn from our mistakes. We have learned,” the 32-year-old added.

“The composure was there (on Saturday) and the guys did what was needed. It was still not a perfect game by a long shot but I thought we used our opportunities better.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Napier, New Zealand; Editing by John O’Brien)

South Africa ride Argentina scare for late win

Argentina led for much of the encounter after tries from flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon and centre Marcelo Bosch, but indiscipline in the final 10 minutes allowed South Africa to edge ahead and hold on for victory.


“We’ve got mixed feelings … We took a step forward with regard to last weekend since we radically changed our image and attitude,” Leguizamon told reporters.

“But we lacked something to have won the match … We needed to be a bit more disciplined with regard to the penalties.”

Bosch said: “We’re left with a bit of a sour taste, feeling we could have won it, but I think the team today still can feel successful for what they gave on the pitch.”

Wing Bjorn Basson scored the visitors’ only try, with Steyn kicking the rest of their points to take them to the top of the four-nation tournament’s standings on points difference from title holders New Zealand.

The Springboks and All Blacks have nine points after two rounds, with Argentina on a single point and Australia yet to break their duck after two defeats against New Zealand.

“I’m not at all surprised by what the Pumas did, they played very well, with a lot of passion playing typical Argentine rugby,” South Africa’s coach Heyneke Meyer said.

It was South Africa’s first away victory in the southern hemisphere’s elite competition since beating New Zealand in Hamilton in 2009.


South Africa, who were held to a 16-16 draw by Argentina in the same fixture in Mendoza last year, had expected a response from the Pumas after their abject display seven days ago.

But while the home side showed more physicality and passion, South Africa were nowhere near as slick as they made numerous handling errors.

Leguizamon barged his way over for the opening try inside four minutes as the Pumas made all the early running.

Steyn and Pumas captain Felipe Contepomi traded penalties after that, before the Springboks hit back to level the score at 10-10, Basson crossing the line unopposed after the visitors spread the ball wide.

Argentina continued to impress with their enterprise and had their second try three minutes before halftime when good play from wing Gonzalo Camacho got them close to the Springbok line and outside centre Bosch crashed over, with Contepomi adding his second conversion.

Steyn added a second penalty, but the Springboks still trailed 17-13 at halftime.

The match threatened to boil over in the second period as first Springbok flanker Francois Louw accused an opponent of eye-gouging, before lock Eben Etzebeth claimed he was bitten.

There was no immediate visual evidence of either incident.

Steyn closed the gap to a point with another penalty five minutes after halftime and his team edged ahead with eight minutes to play after the Pumas were penalised for collapsing a maul.

The Springboks managed to play the remainder of the match in the Argentina half and were rewarded with another penalty when the Pumas again collapsed a maul for Steyn to convert his fifth penalty.

(Reporting by Nick Said in Cape Town; Additional reporting by Rex Gowar)

Tokyo’s bid a high-stakes gamble for Japan PM, Abenomics

The right to host the games, to be decided on Saturday in Argentina, would likely boost Abe’s popularity, and could potentially spur his signature pro-growth policies for the world’s third-biggest economy.


A successful Tokyo bid would boost confidence – a key ingredient of Abe’s economic success so far – and bring real gains in terms of construction and tourism. Failure could dent Japan’s stock markets in the near term, analysts say, causing complications for Abe.

The premier made the Tokyo bid personal on Thursday, breaking away early from a Group of 20 summit in Russia – a highly unusual move for a Japanese leader – to make a last-ditch plea to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires to choose Tokyo over rivals Madrid and Istanbul.

Tokyo had been seen as a safe choice ahead of Istanbul, which was rocked by violent anti-government protests this year and doping bans on dozens of its athletes, while Madrid was plagued with high unemployment, deep recession and the resulting social unrest.

But in recent weeks, Japan has returned to the global headlines with a series of damaging disclosures about the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant 230 km (140 miles) from Tokyo. The plant’s operator has been forced to reverse denials and admit that hundreds of tonnes of radioactive water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean each day, and radiation levels have spiked.

Abe’s government said this week it will spend almost half a billion dollars to try to fix the water crisis. Critics said the government’s sudden embrace of the issue was aimed largely at winning the Olympic bid.

“The world is watching to see if we can carry out the decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, including addressing the contaminated water issues,” Abe told cabinet ministers on Tuesday as they decided on the emergency measures.

Online betting site Paddy Power rates Tokyo the strong favourite ahead of Saturday’s IOC decision at odds of 8-to-15, versus 2-to-1 against Madrid and 9-to-2 against Istanbul. But many commentators and people close to the selection process say the Spanish bid is gathering pace fast.

People close to Abe are privately expressing confidence in Tokyo’s bid, despite the growing global concerns over Fukushima, where conditions appear to be worsening two and a half years after the nuclear plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami.


A Tokyo win could push up the Nikkei stock average by more than 10 percent in the short term to around 15,600, near this year’s high, said Eiji Kinouchi at Daiwa Securities.

Japanese shares saw a 1-month fillip after Nagano won the rights to the 1998 winter Olympics, while shares in Athens and London rallied for 1-3 months after they were chosen to host their summer Games.

A Tokyo Olympics stock index of 79 companies that would benefit from a local Games, compiled by Okasan Securities, has gained 47 percent this year, outpacing the broader market’s 35 percent gain.

Tourism shares on that index, such as Tokyo Disney Resort operator Oriental Land Co and Tokyo Dome Corp, have outperformed other Olympic shares, said Takashi Kusaki, Okasan’s deputy general manager, suggesting there may be a pullback after the decision. But he said success for Tokyo could spur more gains for developers, such as construction firms Taisei Corp, Obayashi Corp and Shimizu Corp.

That’s because a win could mean a noticeable bump for the economy as it gears up for the Games. The Tokyo bid committee reckons hosting the Olympics would boost the economy – from construction and higher prices – by 3 trillion yen ($30.14 billion) over the coming seven years.

That amounts to just 0.3 percentage point of Japan’s GDP growth a year, but Nomura equity strategist Masaaki Yamaguchi said there would be a multiplier effect, such as aiding the government’s “Cool Japan” initiative to promote “anime” cartoons and other aspects of Japanese pop culture.


The link between stocks, confidence and Abenomics means the Olympic decision could even affect one of Abe’s most pressing policy decisions: whether to go ahead with a planned doubling of the national sales tax, Japan’s biggest attempt in years to get its runaway public debt under control.

Abe is to decide early next month whether to proceed with the first step of the tax hike in April.

Some people close to the premier say that winning the Olympic hosting rights would boost confidence, share prices and the broader economy enough to offset much of the economic dent from the tax hike, making it more likely he will approve the increase.

“In his heart of hearts, Abe probably wants to delay the tax hike,” said a person close to him. “But if we get the Olympics and there’s only minimal economic turmoil from (any U.S.) air strike on Syria, he’ll probably have to swallow the tax hike.”

Winning the bid could boost Abe’s support ratings, which are high by Japanese standards at 56 percent, according to the latest Kyodo News survey, but are down from a June high of 68 percent. That could embolden him to press on with economic structural reforms needed to elevate Japan’s growth longer-term.

On the other hand, if Tokyo loses on Saturday, Abe’s popularity and potentially even his political aims could suffer.

“The ladder would be pulled out from under the market and the Nikkei could drop 500 points on Monday,” said Daiwa’s Kinouchi.

($1 = 99.5350 Japanese yen)

(Additional reporting by Ossian Shine and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

Spenders Spurs drawn with sellers Anzhi in Europa League

Group K opponents Spurs, who had been linked with Anzhi’s Brazilian playmaker Willian before he joined Chelsea instead along with the Russian club’s Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o, have brought in several new faces.


Tottenham have already broken their transfer record twice with the signings of Spain striker Roberto Soldado and Brazil midfielder Paulinho amid media reports that their Wales forward Gareth Bale will join Real Madrid in a world record deal.

The draw for the group stage of Europe’s second-tier club competition also featured Cypriot side APOEL, who have replaced Fenerbahce, and Norway’s Tromso, reinstated in place of Besiktas after the Turkish clubs lost appeals against match-fixing bans.

APOEL feature in Group F with France’s Bordeaux, Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, while Tromso are in Tottenham’s group along with Moldovan outfit Sheriff.

Former European champions PSV Eindhoven were drawn in Group B alongside Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, Ukraine’s Chornomorets Odessa and Bulgaria’s Ludogorets.

Sevilla, who won back-to-back UEFA Cups – the predecessor to the Europa League – in 2006 and 2007 will face Germany’s Freiburg, Portugal’s Estoril and Czech side Liberec in Group H.

Holders Chelsea and last season’s runners-up Benfica are competing in the Champions League.

There are 48 clubs across 12 groups. Group winners and runners-up advance to the knockout stage where they will be joined by eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage. The final will staged in Turin, Italy, in May.

(Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Tiger’s practice may be restricted by ailing back

Woods collapsed to his knees in pain with a spasm on the 13th hole during Sunday’s final round of The Barclays in New Jersey and though he recovered to nearly force a playoff, his ongoing back issues have forced a change of plans this week.


The world number one pulled out of his good friend Notah Begay III’s charity event on Wednesday and kept himself away from practice sessions at the TPC Boston until Thursday’s pro-am competition.

That cautious approach came after Woods received a series of treatments for his back, some of which will continue for the rest of this week.

“Ice, stim (stimulation), ultrasound, soft tissue (massage), make sure the firing sequence is good, it’s in the proper sequence, and plenty of rest, something I’m not real good at, but I was forced to do it,” Woods said when asked about his treatment in recent days.

“I’m going to have to do it, I don’t want to have to do it. So hopefully my back will stay where it’s at right now if not improve, so I can start doing the other little exercises, start strengthening it and getting back to where it needs to be.”


Woods’ careful build-up to this week’s playoff event meant he initially planned to play fully only the first nine holes during Thursday’s pro-am but, after feeling an improvement in his back, he went on to complete the full round.

“It is obviously a lot better since Sunday,” said Woods, who tied for second at The Barclays, a stroke behind winner Adam Scott of Australia.

“I hadn’t swung a club since Sunday at the Barclays, and it was nice to go out today and feel comfortable and be able to hit shots.

“I was only going to play nine holes and chip and putt on the back nine, like I did at the Barclays, but it felt good so I continued playing today.”

Woods, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour this season, is known for putting in plenty of time on the range after his rounds but he said that strategy may have to be limited this week.

“It’s a day-to-day deal on how I feel, whether I’m going to practise or not after, whether or not I’m going to get a little bit tight now,” he told reporters.

“(I’m going to) go eat. If I get a little bit tight, then I probably won’t hit balls. But I’d like to putt a little bit, get a feel for the speed of the greens. As far as hitting balls, it’s going to be day-to-day.

“This was, as I said, the first day I hit balls or swung a club since Sunday. And it was a pleasant surprise to go out there and play without any discomfort.”

Woods will feature in a star-studded group for Friday’s opening round at the TPC Boston, having been paired with Masters champion and world number two Adam Scott, and third-ranked American Phil Mickelson, the winner of this year’s British Open.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

Messi in Argentina squad missing four suspended players

Messi, who suffered a hamstring injury during Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday, is expected to be fit by the time group leaders Argentina visit Asuncion for the match on September 10.


Higuain, top scorer in the South American qualifying competition with nine goals in 11 matches, was sent off against Colombia while midfielder Mascherano was shown a red card versus Ecuador in Argentina’s last two qualifiers in June.

However, striker Sergio Aguero is back after missing the 2-1 win over Italy in a friendly in Rome last week.

Coach Alejandro Sabella, who named an 18-man squad, is also without suspended first choice centre backs Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez who have two bookings in the competition.

Second-placed Colombia can catch Argentina at the top of the South American group if they beat Ecuador on September 6 while Sabella’s team can secure a berth at the next year finals in Brazil with a victory in Paraguay four days later.

Argentina, who lead the standings on 26 points and have three matches to go, do not play on September 6 when the eight other nations have qualifiers, most of whom have four matches left.

Colombia have 23 points, Ecuador and Chile are on 21, while Uruguay and Venezuela have 16 in the nine-nation group. The top four qualify for the finals while the fifth-placed team goes into a playoff against an Asian qualifier for another spot.

Paraguay, World Cup quarter-finalists in South Africa in 2010, have had a poor campaign and are bottom with eight points. However, they gave Germany a fright in a 3-3 draw in a friendly in Kaiserslautern last week on new coach Victor Genes’s debut.


Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Monaco), Mariano Andujar (Catania)

Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Fabriccio Coloccini (Newcastle United), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Cristian Ansaldi (Zenit St Petersburg)

Midfielders: Ever Banega (Valencia), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Erik Lamela (AS Roma)

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St Germain), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan)

(Reporting by Luis Ampuero; Writing by Rex Gowar in London; Editing byKen Ferris)

Joyous Afghans celebrate football win with dancing, gunfire

The national men’s team beat India 2-0 to win the South Asian Football Federation championship in Kathmandu late on Tuesday, Afghanistan’s first international football title, sending tens of thousands of joyous Afghans into the streets.


Fans in cars and on motorbikes joined others on foot, cheering, blowing horns and waving Afghan flags throughout the night. Many danced in the streets of the capital, Kabul, after crowding around television sets in their homes, restaurants and coffee shops to watch the match.

“Now I know what being proud feels like, this is the happiest time in my life,” said fan Ahmad Bashir, an Afghan flag draped over his shoulders.

“I have no idea what we will do if we ever win the World Cup,” he said.

Most of those out in the streets of the strictly conservative Muslim country were men, although some families in cars joined in the celebrations, many shouting “Zendabad Afghanistan!” (Long Live Afghanistan!).

Afghans have struggled under the weight of three decades of conflict, stretching back through the occupation by former Soviet forces, a civil war, austere rule under the Taliban and then another 12 years of war since the Taliban were toppled.

Such celebrations would have been unimaginable under the Taliban, who banned music and television and forbade women access to education and most public gatherings.

The Taliban also banned most sport, and even used the national football stadium in Kabul for public executions.

“Our youths proved that we have the ability to make progress and win,” Karzai said in a statement issued by the presidential palace. Karzai’s office tweeted a picture of him watching the match in the palace.

Celebrations continued throughout Thursday, a brief respite for Afghans who fear increased violence as most foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of next year.

The night erupted into gunfire in Kabul and elsewhere across Afghanistan immediately after the match as fans fired AK-47 assault rifles – commonplace in many Afghan households – and even machine-guns into the air in celebration.

Witnesses said many of those firing into the air had been police. The gunfire panicked some residents, who feared an attack by the Taliban, and led to warning sirens being sounded in some foreign embassies.

The Afghan interior ministry and the intelligence agency congratulated the national football team in a statement.

They had to send out a second statement on Thursday urging people to stop the celebratory gunfire because of the risk posed by bullets falling back to earth.

(Editing by Paul Tait)

Time for Cooper jeering to stop, says All Blacks coach

Cooper has been on the receiving end from All Blacks fans for the past three seasons after the 25-year-old flyhalf enraged the country of his birth for “cheap shots” on New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw in international matches.


Benched for the Rugby Championship opener in Sydney, Cooper was jeered by All Blacks fans when he came on for the last quarter of Australia’s 47-29 loss and is likely to receive worse if given game time in Saturday’s return match in Wellington.

Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper on Monday labelled the jeering “unreasonable” and “below the belt” on Monday, and Hansen also suggested he had had enough of it.

“Two things, firstly we are probably all over it. Secondly, he probably brought it all on himself,” Hansen told New Zealand media on Tuesday.

“I don’t boo him and I’ll continue not to boo him. I think he’s a good player and not a bad bloke either when you have a quiet chat to him.

“But it probably would be good if we all got over it.”

Cooper was branded “Public Enemy Number One” in New Zealand at the 2011 World Cup, and booed every time he touched the ball.

The vitriol has even followed him at provincial level, and he was abused by fans in Christchurch when his Super Rugby side Queensland Reds lost to the Crusaders in the playoffs.

All Blacks winger Julian Savea also suggested fans should quit the catcalls.

“Nah, it’s not (good),” New Zealand media quoted Savea as saying. “If someone was booing me all the time I know it would be pretty tough. I don’t know what else to say on that, but I guess it’s tough on (him).”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)