anathinaikos into semis
Defending Euroleague champions Panathinaikos BC reached the semi-finals after beating visiting Maccabi Tel Aviv 86-85 in Athens on Thursday. Dimitris Diamantidis scored 25 points, including five free throws in the last 15.7 seconds, and made a crucial last-second steal. David Blu scored 14 points for Maccabi. Panathinaikos won the decider in the best-of-five quarter-finals series to get a chance to defend their title next month in Istanbul. The six-time Euroleague champions will face CSKA Moscow on May 11, while another Greek team, Olympiacos BC, will play Barcelona in the other semi-final. A tense game ended in a free-throw lottery, with Panathinaikos missing five of six before Diamantidis made five of his last six free throws to give the edge to the Greek side.
Rangers bids mulled
Three takeover bids for Scottish champions Rangers are being considered by the administrators trying to rescue the financially stricken club, who hope to accept one of them next week. While administrators now expect Rangers to exit bankruptcy protection before the end of the season, they revealed on Thursday that the club’s debt could exceed US$200 million. However, joint administrator David Whitehouse insisted that they now see “light at the end of the tunnel” following the worst crisis in the club’s 140-year history. The three bidders still in contention are groups from the US and Singapore who have not been identified, and the so-called “Blue Knights” consortium fronted by former Rangers director Paul Murray. “Whitehouse said the most likely way of exiting administration would be by securing a Company Voluntary Arrangement — a legal procedure to help rescue a struggling firm by agreeing deals with creditors over the repayment of debt.
City’s Balotelli in accident
Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli was involved in a car crash on Thursday, although the striker was said to have emerged unharmed. The 21-year-old Italian was in a collision with another vehicle on Medlock Street, near Deansgate in Manchester’s city center. Although Balotelli was unscathed, a passenger from one of the cars was taken to hospital.
Juan Aurich grab Copa win
Peru’s Juan Aurich earned their first win in this season’s Copa Libertadores with a 1-0 victory over Bolivia’s The Strongest in Chiclayo, Peru, on Thursday. Javier Araujo scored the game’s only goal in the 20th minute to give the Peruvian side their first victory in five matches in Group 1. The victory moves Juan Aurich to three points after five matches, while The Strongest remain on seven points. Santos, the defending champions, lead the group with 10 points, with Internacional of Brazil on eight.
Stoner the favorite at Qatar
World champion Casey Stoner threw down the gauntlet to his rivals in impressive style on Thursday when he topped the first free practice for the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar. The Australian Honda rider clocked 1 minute, 56.474 seconds to edge out former champion Jorge Lorenzo on a Yamaha with Ducati’s Nicky Hayden almost half a second off the pace in third. Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who has won this race three times, endured a miserable start to his season, managing just the 10th best time, over a second behind Stoner. Stoner will start as favorite for tomorrow’s race, having won four times in the elite class in six visits.