By Ayyaz Malik
After falling in short in 1981 and in 2005, a big congratulations is in order for Premier League leaders Liverpool who beat South American champions Flamengo 1-0 in the Club World Cup in Qatar.
The Reds, who have won six European titles in their history, have fallen short twice before in their history at the final stage to Brazilian opposition in this competition (lost 3-0 to Flamengo in 1981 and 1-0 to Sao Paulo in 2005.
In 1981, it was the same opponents that Jurgen Klopp’s men faced on Saturday 21st December in Qatar. Thirty-eight years ago it was the Brazilian side Flamengo who came out victorious on that day as we know. The German, was hoping to hoping to steer his side to glory here.
The South American side who are managed by Jorge Jesus, once manager of Portuguese giants Benfica, has transformed the Rio De Janeiro based side after they were struggling in third in Brazil’s Serie A, but the veteran coach inspired his side to top spot and championship glory.
With attacking and expansive football opponents were blown away by Flamengo’s approach. Key to their approach were Bruno Henriques and the lethal Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa, a striker who is on loan from Inter Milan.
Barbosa was the leading scorer in this years Copa Libertadores with nine goals, so Van Dijk and co, knew that they had to be on top of their game, before the final. After beating Monterrey of Mexico in the semi-final 2-1 thanks to a late Roberto Firmino winner , it was the Liverpool striker who would score again in the final.
After being the better team in normal time, and overall, Liverpool had to wait for the first half of extra time to get the goal they needed to reward their dominance. Liverpool went close through Mohammed Salah, who forced Flamengo Diego Alves into a stunning save and Firmino who hit the post when arguably he should have scored.
With those chances and a penalty claim controversially getting turned down, it was starting to feel like this wasn’t Liverpool’s day. Match winner Roberto Firmino however, was able to provide a bit of calmness The Reds needed, in turn helping his side come Club World Champions for their first time in their very proud history.
In what was already a good week for Liverpool after their triumph in Qatar, it was further boosted with the fact that second-placed Leicester were well beaten by champions Manchester City 3-1.
That 3-1 away defeat for The Foxes now means that top of the table Liverpool are now 10 points in front, but crucially have a game in hand over Leicester and 14 over Man City, who closed the gap on Brendan Rodgers’ side to just one point.
Off the pitch, there have been two new managerial appointments. Carlo Ancelotti at Everton and Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.Arteta agreed a three and a half year deal to take charge at The Emirates.
Ancelotti, a three-time Champions League winner with AC Milan and Real Madrid, has agreed a four and half year deal with The Toffees.
A good appointment by the Everton board for them to be able to lure someone of that quality to Merseyside, and the man himself has spoken of bold ambitions for the club, stating that he wants to help the club get back to Champions League qualification contention.
The last time Everton were competing for Champions League qualification contention was in 2005, under former manager David Moyes. Ironically, in this weekend’s round of fixtures, the two teams would face each other in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off. It wasn’t the best spectacle for the neutral, and the game finished 0-0.
The final game on Sunday saw Tottenham host Chelsea, the winner of this one would see them finish the weekend in fourth spot. This game between the two, of course, is a rivalry between two London clubs, but also saw the master vs student scenario with Jose Mourinho’s Spurs side taking on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side.
Two goals from Brazilian Willian helped Chelsea defeat 10 man beat Tottenham 2-0. The Blues, with this win, arrested a difficult period which saw Lampard’s young side lose to Everton and Bournemouth in recent weeks.
In what was surely a difficult assignment for Frank Lampard coming up against his mentor Mourinho, it would turn out that he would be the manager with all smiles by full time as his Chelsea side remained in fourth after a difficult period of late.
Sadly this game, won’t be remembered solely for what happened on the pitch as there was reported racial abuse from the stands.
With the euphoria of Pakistan playing a home test match series, actually at in Pakistan for the first time in 10 years, the 1992 World champions were able to seal a 1-0 series win over Asian rivals, Sri Lanka.
The 1996 World champions Sri Lanka who are now coached by former Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur, became the first side in 10 years to tour the region for a test series. This was due to off-field incidents, but on the field, this second test match showed the world of cricket, why Pakistan needs cricket to be played in Pakistan.
After being dismissed for 191 in the first innings, Lahiru Kamara and Lasith Embuldeniya, both taking four wickets. The tourists Sri Lanka were able to gain an 80 run lead over the home side Pakistan.
Sri Lanka could have been facing a different challenge in the first innings if it wasn’t for former captain Sri Lanka Dinesh Chandimal (74) Dilruwan Perera (48) making vital contributions to help their side gain a first-innings advantage of 80.
At this stage, it was advantage Sri Lanka, but centuries from Shan Masood (135), Abid Ali (174), captain Azhar Ali (118) and star player Babar Azam (100 not out) meant after being all out for 191 in the first innings, Pakistan were able to declare on a mammoth 555-3.
Facing a mammoth 476, Sri Lanka despite a century from opener Oshada Fernando (102 not out and a fifty from Niroshan Dickwella (65), they were well beaten here. All the Pakistani bowlers did take a wicket, but it was teenage sensation Naseem Shah who was the chief tormentor for the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Sixteen-year-old Shah finished with second innings bowling figures of 5-31, which helped condemn Sri Lanka to a 263 run defeat. From the Sri Lankan viewpoint, there’s good and bad to be taken from this series.
The good thing for them was that they were able to take this game into the final day, but after starting the final day on 212-7, they rather tamely lost their final three wickets without adding to their overnight total.
This win for Azhar Ali’s men against their Asian rivals meant that Pakistan win the two-match series 1-0, after the first game in Rawalpindi was washed out for the large parts.
Arch-rivals India, who were tied 1-1 in their three-match series, came out on top in a high scoring encounter, winning by four wickets. Home side India won the toss and elected to field, which seemed like a bad decision as the tourists made an impressive 315-5 in their fifty overs.
Half-centuries from Nicholas Pooran (89) and captain Kieron Pollard (74 not out), helped the defending T20 World champions see a total that seemed a difficult one to chase (316 to win).
Despite this uphill task, India acquitted themselves well. Fifties from Rohit Sharma (63), KL Rahul (77) and captain Virat Kohli (85), helped the Indians make a tricky target, just that little bit easier to chase.
With King Kohli at the crease (as he’s affectionately known), the run chase seemed to be going at a canter for India, until Keemo Paul bowled him out for 85. At that stage, the game was potentially on a knife-edge at 286-6, with four overs to go and just four Indian wickets left.
From the home side viewpoint, Ravi Jadeja(39 not out) and Shardul Thakur (17 not out) were able to ensure there was no further alarm as they helped their side win the game by four wickets, and a 2-1 series win.
The week ahead
With this being the Christmas period in the Premier League, games will be coming thick and fast with games on Boxing day and just two days later for some teams. After winning the Club World Championship, just five days after that Liverpool face the tough trip away to Leicester City on Boxing day.
The Foxes who are managed by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will be desperate to get one over his old team in the title race.
Just like in the game against Manchester City, we just feel although it will be close, Liverpool will have just too much for Leicester, but that’s not a bad thing. Our prediction: Leicester 0-1 Liverpool.
With the festive break, International cricket will be resuming on Boxing day as England being their test series against South Africa. The tourists, who scored 456-7 in their match against South Africa A, will be hoping to go into the game with some form of confidence, especially due to the fact that Ollie Pope and Joe Denly hit hundreds in the same game.
The first of four test matches between England and South Africa begins on Boxing day at the famous Supersport Park, in Centurion. Tourists England will be hoping they have Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach will be available after the trio fell ill.
As for domestic cricket, that will still be very much continuing and in particular the BBL. Last years Big Bash winners Melbourne Renegades, are bottom after losing their first two games.
Sydney Thunder lead the Big Bash League table with five points, one point ahead of Melbourne Stars, who have played one game fewer.
As for Melbourne Renegades, they will be looking to arrest their poor form, especially with the games coming thick and fast in Australia’s premier domestic T20 tournament. The Sports desk at Asian Sunday will bring you all the latest news and updates on this year’s BBL, as well as other bits of news in the world of sport.
That’s it for the sports round up this week, see you same time next week!