State of the Premier League championship race

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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With no European prizes left to chase this season, England’s top clubs are focussed on winning the Premier League title, although that goal looks beyond all but Chelsea.

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Arsenal and Liverpool, both in the top five with eight matches left, have the added incentive of trying to win the FA Cup but leaders Chelsea, champions Manchester City and a rejuvenated Manchester United are focussed just on the main prize.

Chelsea are strong favourites to finish as champions for the first time since 2010 as they lead with 67 points, six clear of City with a match in hand.

Arsenal are a point further back after winning nine of their last 10, while United, fourth on 59, have also been in excellent form, winning their last four including a 2-1 win at Liverpool.

Chelsea have led the table since the third week of the season and, despite a slight dip in form with two draws in their last four games, appear too far ahead to be caught.

Coach Jose Mourinho is confident of a third title with the club after successes in his first spell in 2005 and 2006.

Champions League

The other battleground is the one for next season’s Champions League places and, while Arsenal and Manchester United have forged ahead of them, Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur are still hoping for a top four finish.

Europa League

The consolation for Liverpool, Southampton and Spurs if they miss out on the Champions League could be a Europa League place. With League Cup winners Chelsea set to play in the Champions League, their Europa spot will go to the sixth or seventh-placed team depending on who wins the FA Cup.

Relegation

Six clubs — Hull City (28 points), Aston Villa (28), Sunderland (26), Burnley (25), QPR (22) and Leicester City (19) — are involved in the battle to avoid relegation.

Villa’s form has picked up since Tim Sherwood took over as manager six weeks ago, while Sunderland need a quick improvement under their new coach Dick Advocaat to avoid slipping into the bottom three.

Burnley might take heart from their recent 1-0 win over Manchester City, but QPR and Leicester look doomed to an immediate return to the Championship.

Cup

Holders Arsenal face Reading in one FA Cup semi-final while either Liverpool or Blackburn Rovers, who meet in a quarter-final replay on April 8, face Aston Villa in the other semi.

Promotion

The tightest league in Europe has seen the Championship lead change hands throughout the season with Bournemouth, who have never played in the top flight, currently top, a point ahead of Watford who occupy the other automatic promotion spot.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Toby Davis)


State of the Bundesliga championship race

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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With eight games left to play defending champions Bayern Munich are 10 points clear at the top and with just two defeats and on track to celebrate a 25th German title and their 24th Bundesliga crown, since the top league’s introduction in 1963.

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Coach Pep Guardiola’s team has shown superb consistency despite struggling with a long injury list that has included Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Alaba, Philipp Lahm, Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Holger Badstuber and Franck Ribery.

They have conceded only 13 goals in 26 games so far, scoring 70 for the best offensive and defensive records in the league.

Champions League

With the top spot all but decided, there are three Champions League qualifying places up for grabs, two of them leading to the group stage and one to the last qualifying round.

Second-placed VfL Wolfsburg are on course to take one of them, having opened up a seven-point lead over Borussia Moenchengladbach in third.

Led by Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Dutch striker Bas Dost, the Volkswagen-backed club should comfortably hold on to second place and secure a retur to the Champions League for the first time since the 2009/10 season.

Gladbach, on 47 points, look set to battle it out with Bayer Leverkusen, who are two points behind them, and possibly Schalke 04, on 39, for third and the last automatic group stage spot.

Surprise package Augsburg, who are a further point behind, also have an outside chance of a top-four finish though their form as dipped since the league restarted in January

Europa League

Last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund have launched a recovery since the winter break and are hoping for a top six finish and Europa League action next season.

However, competition is tight with Schalke, Augsburg and Hoffenheim, on 37, separated by just two points.

Dortmund have 33, one behind Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen, another comeback team who imploded during the first half of the campaign but are now eyeing a European spot.

Relegation

A bitter relegation battle has been raging for months with bottom side VfB Stuttgart, champions in 2007, showing signs of a recovery, having lost one of their last four games.

Paderborn are a point ahead on 24, with former European champions Hamburg SV on 25, level with Freiburg. Hanover 96, who have 27 points, and Hertha Berlin, on 29, are also still in the mix, although the capital club have also been improving.

Cup

Dortmund could also secure a European ticket through the German Cup where they face Hoffenheim in the last eight. Holders Bayern take on Leverkusen, ensuring one of the Bundesliga heavyweights will not reach the semi-finals. With Gladbach on track for a Champions League spot, the chances are even higher for Dortmund to grab a plae in Europe via through the Cup.

Promotion

Ingolstadt are edging closer to their maiden Bundesliga promotion as the Audi-backed team dominate the second tier competition with just three league defeats all season and a three-point lead over Kaiserslautern, who have 46.

Darmstadt, another former Bundesliga club, are third, a further point behind, with that place leading to a relegation/promotion playoff with the 16th-placed Bundesliga finisher.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)


State of the La Liga championship race

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Leaders Barcelona have a four-point advantage over second-placed Real Madrid with 10 games left and are well placed to secure their fifth La Liga title in seven years.

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Luis Enrique’s side have what looks on paper to be a slightly trickier run-in, with trips to champions Atletico Madrid, who are fourth, and fifth-placed Sevilla and a home game against third-placed Valencia.

Real, who have a superior head-to-head record over Barca which is used before goal difference to separate teams with equal points, also have to play at Sevilla and host Valencia.

Champions League

Barca and Real are almost certain to claim Spain’s first two automatic berths in Europe’s elite club competition and Valencia and Atletico Madrid look set to battle it out for the third.

The pair are currently separated by a point, while Valencia have a superior head-to-head record after beating Atletico 3-1 at home and drawing 1-1 at the Calderon.

Sevilla are four points adrift of Atletico in fifth, while Villarreal are a further six points behind in sixth and their chances of Champions League football next season appear remote.

Europa League

If Sevilla miss out on a Champions League spot, they can at least console themselves with a place in the Europa League, the competition they won last season and in which they remain alive this term.

Villarreal have a five-point lead over seventh-placed Malaga and are in a strong position to claim the second Europa League berth. Malaga are five points clear of Athletic Bilbao in eighth.

Relegation

Five points adrift at the bottom and on a nine-match losing streak, Cordoba are almost certainly doomed.

The usual scrap among the teams in the second half of the table to avoid the drop will likely involve all the sides below 12th-placed Espanyol, who have 34 points.

Only six points separate Getafe on 29 points in 13th and Granada on 23 points in 19th, with Eibar, Elche, Deportivo La Coruna, Almeria and Levante in between.

King’s Cup

With Barca almost certain to qualify for the Champions League, their rivals in the King’s Cup final, Athletic Bilbao, are virtually assured of a Europa League place regardless of who wins the showpiece at the Nou Camp on May 30.

Barca are chasing a record-extending 27th Cup triumph, while Bilbao are seeking their 24th and first since 1984.

Promotion

Real Betis and Sporting Gijon are first and second in the Liga Adelante and best placed to claim the two automatic promotion spots.

Las Palmas, Girona, Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza are currently in line for a place in the playoffs, with the likes of Ponferradina, Llagostera, Leganes, Numancia, Alaves, Alcorcon and Lugo close behind.

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)


Taiwan’s indoor LED-lit farms

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Chang Chen-kai is part of Taiwan’s new generation of high-tech farmers that is harnessing the island’s technological edge in light-emitting diodes to grow vegetables indoors under bright LED lights.

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Chang works in an air-conditioned “grow-room” at a plant factory operated by ARWIN, a biotechnology company, where plants grow in nutrient-filled water instead of soil and the temperature and humidity are controlled. LED lights imitate the cycle of night and day.

These high-tech indoor farms yield more crops per area than soil, and don’t need traditional toxic pesticides. Plants grown under LED lights grow twice as fast because the intensity of lights and nutrients provided in the water, growers say.

“To grow vegetables in the water (under lights), you need less land,” Chang said, and “you don’t need pesticides.”

Such plant factories are gaining popularity for raising everything from common lettuce to the exotic ice plant, a thick leafy vegetable from South Africa that looks like it has water bubbles on its leaves and can fetch $US400 ($A527) per kilogram.

In recent years, Taiwanese manufacturers have been able to produce cheaper LED lights that consume less electricity and give off light that mimics the intensity and spectrum of sunlight.

TingMao Agricultural Biotechnology was an early pioneer, starting its plant factory in 2007, and today is the leading producer of LED-grown vegetables in Taiwan. It has also set up its own restaurant using vegetables from its factory to allow consumers to taste the vegetables themselves.

But Lily Chang, a food writer and professor at Innovative Institute of Technology, isn’t convinced that LED-grown vegetables are as nutritious as those grown in soil.

“Natural soil-based plants get nutrients from soil,” she said, that are “extremely difficult for us humans to manufacture.”

Consumers should insist that the government to draw up regulations on the chemicals used in the water of LED-grown plants and hygienic standards, she said.


Dyke’s reform could work if clubs are brave enough – Wenger

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Dyke has proposed changes to the home grown player rule in English football to help more “top quality” players break through.

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He wants the minimum number of home grown players in a club’s first team squad of 25 to be increased from eight to 12, phased in over four years from 2016.

Frenchman Wenger, who has been working in England since 1996, said on Thursday that while he could see some initial problems with Dyke’s proposals he was happy to contribute to the quality of the England team.

Over the years Wenger has often fielded Arsenal teams with few or no English players but his current squad includes England players Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

“I support every single measure that improves the English national team but it has to be efficient,” he told a news conference before Arsenal host Liverpool on Saturday.

“Sometimes what looks a good solution is not necessarily the right one. What is the heart of the problem?

“First of all between 1966 and 1996 there were no foreign players in England and it didn’t improve too much the performances of the national team.

“I think between the age of 16 and 21 the English youth teams, until now, have not performed. So that’s the heart of the problem.

“Let’s get better at that level, then if there is a problem integrating these players in the top teams, we have to do something about it.

“I think today you have to be very brave to integrate the young players in the top teams because the pressure is very high,” he added.

Wenger’s comments came after a letter by ex-England managers Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren was published saying the prospects of winning another World Cup will suffer unless reforms are introduced.

England have only been world champions once back in 1966.

England manager Roy Hodgson used youngsters Raheem Sterling, 20, Harry Kane and Ross Barkley, both 21, and Nathaniel Clyne, 23, in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania and an Italy friendly in the last week and Wenger said that was encouraging.

“I still believe when the players are good enough, they play. You speak about Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Nobody stops the quality, no matter where they are from. So let’s focus on that first,” he said.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)


Al-Shabaab storms Kenyan university

Posted on: June 6th, 2019 by
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At least 14 people were reported killed on Thursday when Islamist militant group al-Shabaab stormed a university campus near Kenya’s border with Somalia, taking Christian students hostage and battling security forces over several hours.

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Police and soldiers surrounded and sealed off Garissa University College and were attempting to flush out the gunmen, the head of Kenya’s police force, Joseph Boinet, said.

Al-Shabaab, which has links to al Qaeda and a track record of raids on Kenyan soil, claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn attack, in which scores were wounded.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, said it was holding many Christian hostages inside.

“We sorted people out and released the Muslims,” he told Reuters. “Fighting still goes on inside the college.”

“The attackers shot indiscriminately while inside the university compound,” Boinet said in a statement, adding police had been guarding the university’s four hostels at the time.

At least 14 people had been killed, a policeman at the scene said, while the Red Cross said 50 students had been freed. Others managed to escape the compound unaided.

“We heard some gunshots and we were sleeping so it was around five and guys started jumping up and down running for their lives,” an unnamed student told Reuters TV.

Sixty-five people were wounded, the country’s National Disaster Operation Centre said on its Twitter feed.

Four had been airlifted to Nairobi for treatment. “We have 49 casualties so far, all with bullet and (shrapnel) wounds,” said a doctor at Garissa hospital.

CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS

Al-Shabaab, which seeks to impose its own harsh variant of sharia law, had separated Muslims from Christians in some of its previous raids in Kenya, notably late last year in attacks on a bus and at a quarry.

Its repeated raids, together with attacks on churches by home-grown Islamist groups, have in recent years strained the historically cordial relations between Kenya’s Muslim and Christian communities.

Thursday’s attack also marked a setback in a drive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to persuade foreigners the country is safe to visit.

On Wednesday, he urged Kenyans abroad to help woo tourists back despite the wave of militant violence, criticising a warning from Australia of a possible attack in Nairobi and an advisory from Britain urging its citizens to avoid most coastal resorts.

Kenyatta was due to address the nation about the Garissa attack later on Thursday.

Grace Kai, a student at the Garissa Teachers Training College near the university, said there had been warnings that an attack in the town could be imminent.

“Some strangers had been spotted in Garissa town and were suspected to be terrorists,” she told Reuters.

“Then on Monday our college principal told us …that strangers had been spotted in our college… On Tuesday we were released to go home, and our college closed, but the campus remained in session, and now they have been attacked.”

Al-Shabaab had previously carried out attacks in Garissa, which lies around 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the porous Somali border.

Many Kenyans living in the crime-ridden frontier regions blame the government for not doing enough to protect its citizens from the militants.

Having declared it would punish Kenya for sending troops into Somalia to fight it alongside African Union peacekeepers, it was also responsible for a deadly attack in 2013 on the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Akwiri, Edith Honan and Humphrey Malalo; Writing by John Stonestreet; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)


At least 54 dead in Russian trawler sinking

Posted on: June 6th, 2019 by
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At least 54 crew on a Russian fishing trawler died and 15 were missing after it sank in freezing waters off the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Western Pacific Ocean late on Wednesday, officials in the area said.

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Sixty-three of the 132 people on board the Dalniy Vostok were rescued with the sea’s temperature near zero degrees Celsius

, Viktor Klepikov, coordinating captain of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky maritime rescue coordination centre, told Reuters.

“The rescue operation is going on, we are still looking for 15 people,” Klepikov said. “At this time we do not know what might have caused the tragedy.” Russia’s TASS news agency cited a deputy head of the Kamchatka region as saying the crew might have violated safety rules by exceeding the capacity of cargo storage.

“According to preliminary information, the shipwreck occurred while hauling a 100-tonne fishing seine,” TASS cited Sergei Khabarov as saying.

The Russian Interfax news agency cited an unidentified source at the region’s rescue centre as saying that large amounts of drifting ice might have damaged the body of the ship, which sank within 15 minutes.

Russia has a dismal air, road and water safety record, with negligence and corruption often the cause of accidents.

In 2011, an ageing, overcrowded tourist boat sank in Russia’s Volga River, killing nearly 130 people in one of the worst post-Soviet ship disasters.

The trawler was carrying 78 Russian nationals, as well as 54 foreign nationals from Myanmar, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Vanuatu.

It sank in the Sea of Okhotsk, 330 km west of Krutogorovsky settlement in the Kamchatka region and 250 km (155 miles) south of the city of Magadan.

The home port of the trawler, which was owned by Magellan LLC, was Nevelsk in Russia’s Sakhalin region.

(Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Paul Tait)


Good friend O’Meara thinks Tiger will play at Augusta

Posted on: June 6th, 2019 by
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Former world number one Woods, whose ranking has plummeted to a mind-boggling 104th, has struggled badly for form and fitness this season and has played only twice on the PGA Tour.

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His manager Mark Steinberg told Reuters earlier this week that the 39-year-old American had played 18 holes at Augusta as he continued to assess whether his game would be “tournament-ready” for the first major of the year.

“Deep down I think he will play,” said O’Meara at a media viewing of Woods’ first U.S.-designed golf course at BlueJack National, an hour’s drive from Houston.

“I hope he plays but I also understand he is doing what he needs to do for him. Everybody struggles in the game of golf and no-one is immune to struggling.

“Let’s face it, for a long time Tiger didn’t have to struggle and nobody dominated a sport like he did,” added O’Meara.

The 1998 Masters and 1998 British Open champion said 14-times major winner Woods always gets extra motivation when he is written off.

“He certainly dominated golf for quite a while but then a couple of years ago when I didn’t think he was swinging the club that well he won five tournaments in a season and was named ‘Player of the Year’,” said O’Meara.

“He’s the kind of athlete and individual that when people start to doubt him … that is a good motivating factor for him to turn it around.”

The Houston native, who now plays on the Seniors Tour, has been signed up by the Tiger Woods Foundation as an ambassador for the BlueJack National.

“I was around Tiger for the first 11 years when he came out on tour and he had a big impact on my life and my career,” said O’Meara.

“I may not have won the two majors I won in ’98 if Tiger had not come into my life. He’s been a great friend.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)


World Autism Awareness Day: Push for more awareness in culturally diverse communities

Posted on: June 6th, 2019 by
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For Kirsty Lee and her parents, ordinary family outings such as trips to the supermarket or birthday parties are full of worry.

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They face the anxiety that strangers will think the 11-year-old naughty if she suddenly screams, lashes out or runs away.

This is because Kirsty has autism, a lifelong developmental disorder. 

People with the disability typically struggle with communication and social interaction. They may also display repetitive or restricted behaviour.

Kirsty was diagnosed with autism at three years old. But her parents spotted something was not quite right early on.

“When Kristy was about 18 months I and my husband compared her with our friend’s child. And we saw she was different,” said mother Nhung Nyugen. 

“Kristy didn’t respond to her name. She didn’t know how to play with her toys. She preferred to play by herself. She cried or hid away when visitors came.”

One in every 100 Australian children suffers from autism, but public awareness is still lacking.

On World Autism Awareness Day, organisations that help the 115,000 Australians with the disorder are seeking to demystify the condition.

“Some cultures see autism as a curse on the family. Something shameful. What we are trying to say is, yes autism is a lifelong condition, but there is support out there for them.”

Positive Partnerships has released a short animated video to highlight the challenges some families from diverse cultural backgrounds face when dealing with the disorder. The film ‘A Family Journey’ is available in seven languages.

“Some cultures see autism as a curse on the family. Something shameful. What we are trying to say is, yes autism is a lifelong condition, but there is support out there for them,” said Positive Partnership’s Karen Jones. 

In another short film ‘Spectrospective: Stories of Autism’, which is being screened in Victorian cinemas on Thursday, people share what it’s like living with autism. The project was initiated by Amaze, the peak organisation for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Victoria. 

Its chief executive Fiona Sharkie hopes the film will raise awareness of the disability. 

“When you have met one person with autism you have seen one experience of autism. It presents very differently in every different person. We say there are no two people with autism that are the same,” Ms Sharkie said.

World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2. 

 


Hockeyroos beaten 4-1 by China

Posted on: May 7th, 2019 by
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A Hockeyroos side featuring a mix of senior and junior women went down to China 4-1 in the opening match of a three-game series at Sydney Olympic Park on Thursday night.

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Clinical penalty corners carried the visitors to victory, the first after just two minutes from Qiuxia Cui.

China also scored through penalty corners in the 26th and 43rd minutes through Mengyu Wang and Quianquian Bao, respectively.

Four minutes later Emily Smith, with help from Amelia Spence, broke the ice for the Hockeyroos, scoring from a field goal in the 47th minute after excellent build-up play from Mariah Williams.

The goal gave Australia hope at 3-1 but a quick counter-attacking field goal from Meiyu Liang ten minutes before the final siren completed China’s night.

Queenslanders Savannah Fitzpatrick and Renee Taylor and New South Wales player Kate Hanna made their senior international debuts in what was Australia’s first competitive match since winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, eight months ago .

Captain Madonna Blyth said it would take time for the new players to get comfortable.

“We’re lucky that we’ve got the depth coming through and that we can blood three new players in this tournament as well as a couple of girls that have only had a handful of games.

“To get back out there and to get back into the pace and speed of international hockey is great leading into our tournament coming up in New Zealand, so the next couple of games for us is really important in our development and we want to make sure that we get off to a better start on Saturday.”

Coach Adam Commens said the inexperience of the team was obvious.

“Not only did we have three debutants but we had a number of players playing in new positions.

“We started off pretty slowly and I thought our second half was a better performance. I think we saw that if you give China space they’re able to move the ball well and they were really efficient in their finishing tonight.

“I certainly think we need to get back to a more aggressive style of defending.

“Our trademark hockey is having a really smothering style of defence and tonight we didn’t see that at all.”

Commens said he was happy with the performances of the debutantes.

“I thought they showed glimpses of what we’re after with the Hockeyroos. Certainly you don’t expect them to be world’s best in their first performance but they showed some great composure at times and some good level of skill and they worked hard and that’s all you can ask.”

The second match is on Saturday afternoon, also at Sydney Olympic Park.