Levante hold on for draw
Levante UD had two players sent off, but still held on for a 0-0 draw at home to Real Zaragoza in La Liga on Friday, denying the visitors much-needed points in their battle to avoid relegation. The Valencia-based side had midfielder Papakouli Diop red carded for a high challenge after 53 minutes and, as the hosts weathered a late siege, defender Pedro Lopez got a second booking. After being knocked out of the Europa League at the last 16 stage by Rubin Kazan in mid-March, Levante have suffered a dramatic loss of form. They have won only one of their last eight La Liga games, but Friday’s draw leaves them in 12th place with 42 points and three matches left to play. Zaragoza’s bid to avoid the drop has stalled after two straight wins to leave them 16th with 34 points, two points above the relegation zone.
Palace suffer Murray blow
Crystal Palace’s Glenn Murray was carried off on a stretcher as the London side were held to a 0-0 draw by archrivals Brighton & Hove Albion in a Championship (second tier) playoff semi-final first leg on Friday. Forward Murray was surrounded by paramedics when he fell to the ground in agony after badly twisting his knee midway through the second half. The second leg at Brighton, managed by former Uruguay midfielder Gustavo Poyet, will be tomorrow. Today, Leicester City take a 1-0 lead into their second leg at Watford. The two winners go into the playoff final at Wembley on May 27 which decides who joins champions Cardiff City and second-placed Hull City in securing promotion to the Premier League.
Lille climb to fourth
LOSC Lille Metropole’s Salomon Kalou struck twice in a 3-0 victory over Stade de Reims as they climbed to fourth in Ligue 1 and kept their European qualifying hopes alive on Friday. The Ivory Coast forward netted after 20 minutes and wrapped up the win in the 77th with his 13th goal of the season after Dimitri Payet had doubled the lead just after the interval. Lille have 60 points with two games left, three behind Olympique Lyonnais in the third and final Champions League spot. Lille dominated 15th-placed Stade Reims although they looked uncertain at the back with goalkeeper Barel Mouko, 34, playing his first Ligue 1 game in place of Steeve Elana, who was dropped after conceding seven goals in the last two league games.
Japan thrash UAE
Japan continued their brilliant run in the Asia Five Nations with a 15-try, 93-3 rout of hosts UAE on Friday. Japan, who have already clinched a sixth straight Asian title, were held to just seven points in the first 20 minutes, but the spirited UAE defense gave away after that as the visitors ran in 15 tries. UAE’s only points came after 50 minutes of play when James Ham kicked a 35-yard penalty. Japan led 41-0 at the break, with Yuta Imamura grabbing a first half hat-trick of tries. They then completely dominated the second half, adding eight tries to seven in the first half. Takashi Kikutani also ran in a hat-trick for Japan, while Imamura added another in the second half to take his final tally to four. Only nine conversions were made, with Harumichi Tatekawa succeeding five times. Despite the 90-point loss, UAE coach Duncan Hall was pleased with his team’s efforts. “It was a fantastic effort. The scoreline doesn’t take into account our application. Against the odds, it was fantastic,” Hall said.
UCI wants blood bags
The International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed on Friday that it will appeal against the decision by a Spanish court to refuse access to more than 200 sachets of blood that were seized in the Operation Puerto case against the disgraced doctor, Eufemiano Fuentes. “The UCI can confirm that it will appeal the decision of the Madrid court of 29 April not to release to the UCI and other anti-doping organizations the more than 200 bags of blood and other evidence gathered in police raids in 2006, which were presented in the trial of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes,” the body said in a statement. A Madrid court last month handed Fuentes a one year suspended sentence for endangering public health in the way he performed blood extractions and transfusions on a number of high-profile cyclists before the doping ring was dismantled in 2006.
SA coach Kirsten to quit
Cricket South Africa (CSA) says national coach Gary Kirsten has decided not to renew his contract and will leave his role this year. CSA made the announcement on Friday. The former batsman led South Africa to the top of the Test rankings after his appointment on a two-year contract in August 2011. CSA says Kirsten informed the board he will be leaving and cited “family reasons” for his decision. Kirsten has a young family and has often taken time out from his cricket duties to be with his wife and children. He coached India to the World Cup title in 2011 before returning to his home country.
Swann, Bresnan return
Off-spinner Graeme Swann and allrounder Tim Bresnan were included in England’s 12-man squad for the opening Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, marking their international returns from five-month absences following elbow operations. The pair last played for England in the drawn fourth Test in the 2-1 series victory against India in December. Both then underwent operations and missed the drawn three-Test tour of New Zealand in March before making their comebacks in county cricket this season. Swann replaces left-arm spinner Monty Panesar and Bresnan comes in for back-up seamer Graham Onions. Young batsman Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow retain their places in the continued absence of the injured Kevin Pietersen.
Samoa pick newcomers
Super Rugby regulars Jack Lam and Alapati Leiua are among six uncapped players included in the Samoan tour party for three Tests in South Africa next month. New Zealand-born flanker Lam, a former Australian schoolboy international, and specialist center Leiua both play for the Wellington Hurricanes. Scrumhalf Auvasa Faleali’i, recently signed by Australia’s Waratahs, is also among the newcomers in a 31-man squad selected by coach Stephen Betham. Hooker Manu Leiataua from North Harbour in New Zealand’s domestic competition, Japan-based center Brandon Va’aulu and Isaia Tuiua, a center with Spanish club Vigo, are the other uncapped players. Winger David Lemi, who captained Samoa when they beat Wales in Cardiff in November, was not named in the squad, but two more players are still to be added. Samoa face the Lions in Johannesburg on June 1, followed by Tests against Scotland in Durban on June 8 and Italy in Nelspruit on June 15. They are to play a further Test in Pretoria on June 22 against one of South Africa, Italy or Scotland.