Middletown United has lived up to its name

first_imgThe Middletown United girls U11 soccer team is busily preparing for its second fall campaign in the Monmouth Ocean Soccer Association, and coach Joe Dodi has high hopes for his team. Dodi said that his team was formed just over a year ago with a group of Middletown residents and two players from nearby Rumson. This fall, the United will play a 10-game schedule and also compete in tournaments in both Jackson and Hazlet. Middletown competed in the league’s National Four division a year ago and compiled a 3-5-2 mark. The team posted a 3-5 record in the spring, playing the National Five division, but Dodi said the team’s emphasis on skill development is beginning to pay off. “While we do play to win, we try and show the girls that it’s not all about winning and losing,” Dodi said. “We work hard to make it fun for the girls and we really concentrate on developing their individual skills. We don’t just want them to kick the ball; we want them to think about what they’re doing and make a play. We concentrate on ball possession.” The coach noted that former Middletown South and Rutgers standout Tara Froelich serves as the team’s full-time trainer – regularly running skill drills and working on basic skills. “Tara’s a good role model for the girls,” Dodi said. “She relates well with the girls because Tara was in their shoes and she’s an excellent teacher.” The United took their name after the famed Manchester United team in the English Premier League – even though Dodi, who grew up playing soccer in Ghana, roots for Chelsea. “United is a key word for us because that’s what we expect from the girls, after all they’re all in this together, and we want them to work with each other,” Dodi said. The United roster includes Alex Barriero, Madison Curtis and Alexa Colavito; three versatile athletes who can play just about any position on the field. Other members of the team include Rachel Caballero, Madeline DeFelice, Tori DeSpirito, Emma Dodi, Taylor Drever, Sara Fallon, Amanda Fogarty, Lindsay McKean, Brianna Pruden and Logan Ryan. Coach Dodi, who is assisted by Michael Fallon, stressed that all of the United’s players can play at least two positions. “We want them to know the game from different positions,” the coach said. “Our goal is to keep possession of the ball, and the girls are doing that and they’re having fun. They’re also learning to work together and they never give up. The wins will come.” – Warren Rappleyealast_img read more

Rockets blast off to 2-0 start on the mat

first_img The Raritan High School wrestling team is off to a 2-0 start as it seeks its sixth consecutive Shore Conference Class A Central championship. Coach Rob Nucci’s team has downed Red Bank Catholic and Monmouth Regional thus far and also finished seventh overall in the recent Richmond (Va.) Invitational Tournament. The Rockets have been quite successful in recent years, reaching the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II finals each of the past five years. Last season, Raritan compiled a 22-2 mark, with its only losses coming against powerful Jackson in the Shore Conference tourney and South Plainfield in the CJ Group II title match. In addition, the Rockets won the Manchester Hawk tourney. “Our expectations are always high, so we’re looking to do even better this year,” said Nucci, now in his seventh season at the Rockets’ helm. “We’re proud to have won our division five times, and we want to make it six. Ultimately, we really want to win the Group II sectional.” With a strong group of returnees led by 171-pound ace Dan Seidenberg, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Hazlet. A year ago, the junior posted a 37-4 mark and went on to finish second in his weight class at the Meet of Champions. Seidenberg took second at the District 22 competition and won the Region VI meet, and is already 7-0 this time around. Dan Bilowus (160 pounds) and juniors Cody Mooney (125) and Chris Van Sechtman (119) have all posted six wins in the early going. Bilowus was 24-11 last season, while Mooney went 27-10 and Van Sechtman was 20-13. Both Bilowus and Van Sechtman finished second in District in their respective weight classes, and Mooney took third. Bob Hornacek (140), who won 19 times last winter, is 5-2. Meanwhile, Raritan opened the season without the services of 135-pounder Billy Voutsinas, who is close to returning from a knee injury.Ayear ago the junior posted a 27-4 mark and won the District 22 competition. Freshman Ryan Lynch has filled in admirably, posting a 5-3 record. The Rockets’ lineup also includes seniors Justin Jackson (130), 1-2; Ryan Putnam (145), 5-2; and Pat Susino (152), 4-2; juniors Jon Deangelis (112), 2-2; Nick Hungerford (171), who is off to a fine 6-1 start; and heavyweight Matt Walsh, 3-3, who won nine matches last year. Several sophomores dot the Raritan lineup as well. Aaron Cruz (189), 3-2, and Sebastian Lodato (215), 1-3, both saw some varsity action last year. At 103 pounds, Matt Mitchell moves up from the junior varsity, where he won the MVP award last year. Mitchell is 3-2. “We have a good mix of veterans and some good newcomers, most of whom wrestled quite a bit over the summer to prepare for the season,” Nucci said. “I’m hoping that they can step up and really help us out. So far, everyone has been doing pretty well; they just have to keep their focus, because we have a very difficult schedule.” Raritan faces a tough test on Saturday when it hosts a quad match with St. John Vianney, Hillsborough and Sayreville. During the holiday break, the Rockets will head south on the parkway for the Brick Memorial Tournament. “They’ll both be good challenges for us, and we can assess where we are as a team,” Nucci said. BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer last_img read more

Mater Dei boys not likely to make state tourney

first_imgYoung team may not make Shore Conf. tourney BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent With a young team that starts five underclassmen, Mater Dei boys basketball coach Bob Klatt expected his team to suffer from some growing pains this year. But the veteran coach (now in his 12th year) admits that even he is a bit surprised at just how frustrating this season has been to this point. “We lost seven games by a total of 20 points,” he said. “We’ve been right there in just about every game we’ve played, and have been leading in a lot of those games before finding ways to fall apart in the end.” The result is a 6-10 season that will leave the Seraphs on the outside looking in of the upcoming state tournament. “Our goal was to make the (postseason) tournaments, but we didn’t make the state tournament,” Klatt said. “We lost on Thursday at Keyport when their kid hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. “We still have an outside shot at making the Shore Conference Tournament, but there’s very little room for error.” The cutoff for the SCT is Feb. 10, which means the Seraphs will need to play nearperfect basketball over the next couple of weeks to get back to the .500 mark. And while Klatt knows his team is capable, he also realizes that his players need to develop that killer instinct needed to win the tight games. “I thought we’d have some growing pains this year, but not as many as we’ve had,” he said. “We’ve just been missing too many open shots down the stretch and not making our free throws when we need them. We had Rumson-Fair Haven beat but missed three front ends on one-andones in the final minutes.” The strength of the Mater Dei team has been its backcourt, where a pair of sophomores, Glenn Holik and Chris Jetter, has emerged as the team’s top offensive weapons. “Glenn is scoring about 15 points a game, and Chris is at about 14,” the coach said. “Those two have been carrying us all year.” The frontcourt is made up of three juniors – Dan Treubig, Nick Kelleher and Pat O’Boyle. O’Boyle is the tallest of the three at 6-foot-1. Sophomores Mike Gallo and Mike Glenn also see quite a bit of playing time, as do the team’s only seniors, Justin Vega and Jeremy Wedick. While the Seraphs’ record is a bit disappointing to Klatt, he is not at all disappointed with his team’s effort. “They come to play every day,” he said. “They definitely bring it everyday, andwe’ve been in every game but three this year.” And that paints a rosy picture for the future of this program. “We’ve got seven guys coming back next year, so we think next year’s going to be a big year for us,” Klatt said. “These kids are starting to realize how fast this game is and they’re getting better.” If the Seraphs are to qualify for the SCT, they’re certainly going to have to earn it. This week alone, they face the two top teams in the Shore’s Class B Central Division in Asbury Park (Monday) and St. Rose (Thursday). “It’s not going to get any easier for us, that’s for sure,” Klatt said. Then again, nothing’s come easy to this team all season. Notes… While the SCT cutoff is Feb. 10, the state tournament cutoff is this Saturday; meaning teams must have a .500 record by the end of the day to be eligible. The SCT is slated to begin on Feb. 13 at the home of the higher seeds, while the state tournament will start on Feb. 25. It’s beginning to look like a quiet postseason locally, at least for the boys. Entering the week’s action, only CBA (13-5), Middletown South (13-4) and Keyport appear to be locks for either postseason tournament, while Holmdel, at 6-9, still has an outside shot at qualifying for the SCT. In addition, both CBA and Middletown South are still in the hunt for the A North title, with the Colts trailing division-leader Freehold Township by one game, and theEagles down two in the loss column. On the girls side, local teams are having more success, starting with St. John Viannney, who at 14-3 looks like the frontrunner for the top seed in the SCT. The Lancers could run the table on the rest of their schedule, making them a solid pick as the team to beat in the Shore. Raritan and Middletown South are also enjoying strong seasons, with the Rockets entering the week at 10-4, and the Eagles playing to a 10-3 mark. Both teams will play in both the state and Shore Conference tournaments. Mater Dei’s girls are also looking like a postseason team at 8-5, as is Keyport (9- 6). Meanwhile, the Holmdel girls have some work to do if they hope to qualify for the postseason, entering the week at 6-9.last_img read more

Area teams chase state soccer titles

first_imgBY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent This is the time of year when the very best high school soccer teams in the state begin to distinguish themselves. For a select handful of local teams that qualified for the NJSIAA state tournaments, last week’s play represented a start to what they hoped would be the road to a championship. For some, the state tournament came at the perfect time, as they entered the postseason playing some of their best soccer. For others, it was a chance to start anew. The Christian Brothers Academy boys soccer team entered the Non-Public South A tournament as the sixth seed. But as a team that is a perennial contender for the sectional crown, the Colts were hoping to take some teams by surprise en route to winning a title. They opened play with a game on Nov. 6 against a third-seeded Notre Dame team, which had championship aspirations of its own. Fortunately for CBA, the Colts offense was in high gear, as they scored two goals in the first half and three more in the second to upend Notre Dame, 5-3, and advance to Monday’s semifinal round. Scott Thomsen, Pat Rafferty and Jim Delnero each scored in a 13-minute span of the second half as CBA took a 5-2 advantage. Mark Pratico also had a goal and an assist while Tim Brennan notched two other goals for the Colts. CBA was clearly the better team in this one, outshooting Notre Dame, 16-8. CBA goalie Chris Vullo made five saves to preserve the win, as the Colts improved to 10-7- 1 on the year. CBA was hoping to have similar success on Monday when they took on St. Joseph of Metuchen in the semifinals. CBA entered this game with heavy hearts, as they sported black armbands to honor the memory of Brother Andrew O’Gara, president of CBA since 1991 and principal from 1979 to 1991, who passed away at age 80 on Saturday. However, the Colts persevered and scored a 2-1 overtime win, leaving them just two wins away from claiming their first Non-Public A. On Thursday, the Colts will play topseeded St. Augustine for the sectional title at Holmdel High School. The Raritan Rockets were the only other local boys team in action last week, as the Rockets took on Delaware Valley in the CJ Group II tournament. The top-seeded Rockets got a Pat Langan goal in the 53rd minute after Jim Armenti was taken down in the box. Once in front, the Raritan defense took it from there, preserving a 1-0 win over the eighth-seeded Terriers. With the win, Raritan advanced to Monday’s second round, where they took on Delran. Unfortunately, the Rockets’ dream of a sectional title ended there, when Vinnie Carollo broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the 64th minute and the No. 4 Bears knocked off the top-seeded Rockets. The St. John Vianney girls soccer team got the fourth seed in the Non-Public South A tournament, and made that seeding stand up with a 2-0 win over fifth-seeded Bishop Ahr on Nov. 7. Jen Mulvey scored two goals (her team leading 15th and 16th tallies of the year) as St. John Vianney dominated every aspect of the game to defeat the Trojans. After SJV failed to score in the first half, Mulvey finally put her team ahead 1:47 into the second half. Her second goal came in the 79th minute when she was open in the 18 and one-timed a shot from Fare to the lower left. Meanwhile, the Lancer defense, led by defenders Kirsten Danna and Freeman, held the Trojans without a shot on goal by winning nearly every 50-50 ball. With the win, SJV advanced to Tuesday’s second round, where they were to face eighth-seeded Pope Paul VI. With a win on Tuesday, the Lancers would have earned a spot in the sectional final, set for tonight at Holmdel H.S. The Holmdel High School girls also advanced out of the first round of the CJ Group III tournament with a 2-1 win over Ocean Township on Nov. 4. The 10th-seeded Hornets got the go-ahead goal from freshman Lauren Reidy at the 58:23 mark to break a 1- 1 tie. Reidy also had her hand in the Hornets’ first goal, setting up Angela Pento. With the win, Holmdel earned a shot at second-seeded Wall Township on Nov.7, where they saw their season come to an end with a 3-1 defeat. Holmdel finished the year at 10-10. The Raritan girls earned their spot in the CJ Group II tournament, but lost their opener 1-0 to No. 7 Delran, despite a strong game from keeper Samantha Lindo (10 saves).last_img read more

Handchen Cup tie leaves Eagle hockey team empty

first_img Middletown High School South’s Nick Malvasi (far left) and Brick Township’s Brendan David (3) try to gain possession of a loose puck during the Handchen Cup final played Feb. 25 at the Red Bank Armory. The teams played to a 4-4 tie and are Cup co-champions. PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff Coming off a bittersweet 4-4 Shore Conference Handchen Cup championship tie with Brick Township on Feb. 25 at the Red Bank Armory, Middletown High School South’s hockey team immediately focused on its next goal when it played host to Mount Olive in the NJSIAA Tournament against on Feb. 28 at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall.Middletown South has moved back to the Non-Public A bracket from the B bracket this year and is seeded No. 5. Mount Olive is No. 28. Middletown South last year reached the Non-Public A finals, dropping a 7-3 verdict to Chatham to finish 15-8-3.But the team feels it needs a little redemption in that state tournament from the Handchen Cup. With top-seeded Middletown South (16-5-3) holding a 3-0 lead, settling for a tie for its third Handchen Cup in four years after coming into the game off an 11-0-2 run left it feeling short of its goal. Middletown High School South’s Jimmy Burns celebrates with his teammates after the Eagles scored a goal during the Handchen Cup final. “Can we bounce back? Absolutely,” coach Stanley Gutt said. “We took this one as a loss. This tie propelled us to enter the states with a meaner and angrier attitude to put teams away. We were up, 3-0, and didn’t do that. We gave them a second chance. We had a shot that looked like a fourth goal when we were up 3-0 go off the post, and if that went in, we would’ve been in great shape.”Middletown South played Brick Township with a healthy lineup for the first time this season, and that will help in the opening round and, if it wins that game, in the second round in Wall on March 1 against the winner of Marlboro vs. Westfield.It will be a high-pressure situation for a team that carries 13 seniors who have been around for the three Handchen Cup titles, including the first line of Tyler Ralph, Chris Connor and Zach England, the latter two leading the team in scoring. All five defensemen are seniors, led by Jim Burns, while Gutt said Matt Himmelberg also “has been playing great.”“We’ve been playing great on the power play,” Gutt said. “When we’re hustling on it and doing what we can, the power play can be deadly. We didn’t have many opportunities against Brick, and then we had Burns out for a 10-minute misconduct and we lost our quarterback for that.”During that stretch of injuries early in the season, Burns was out with Lyme disease and Ralph missed a long stretch with a concussion.But they’ve been back at full speed, and it appeared that Middletown South was on its way to another cup when it took a 3-0 lead on goals by defenseman Brian Walsh, Connor on a power play and defenseman Dan Wojcik. And Trevor Ralph was paying superbly in goal. He ended up with 44 saves. Brick pulled to 3-2 when England put in a rebound just 48 seconds later to push the lead to 4-2, but Tyler Martin tipped in a shot with 2:02 left in the second to get Brick (13- 5-4) to within 4-3. Brick’s David Kearns tied it with 3:39 left in the third period. It was the second time this season that Middletown South squandered a hefty lead, the other time a 5-1 edge against Freehold Township before the Eagles pulled out a 7- 6 victory.“If we’re down, we will come back,” Gutt said emphatically.But playing a five-minute overtime, as mandated by the Shore Conference, as opposed to the 15-minute overtime period in NJSIAA tournament games, left some fans feeling a need to see both teams in more time on the ice.Gutt was somewhat satisfied to leave with the tie.“They had a little more steam left than we did,” Gutt said. “They out-hustled us. They deserved to win.”Tyler Ralph felt differently.“I can’t believe this happened,” he said. “I wish it was a 15-minute overtime, because it was getting exciting and everybody was battling hard. I think we both deserved it, but there should have been a champion.”But Gutt and his players hope to get something more out of an up-and-down season in which the Eagles finished in second place in Shore Conference A Division by one point but also twice beat cross-town rival Middletown North, including once for the Mayor’s Cup.Despite the large number of seniors, Gutt spoke assuredly about the future with a junior varsity developing good talent for the future in a fine season and two junior defensemen who looked sharp early in the season, Cole Ditzel and Anthony Burtus — but both have been sidelined late in the season with injuries. BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent Middletown H.S. South shares Cup with Brick Township after 4-4 tie last_img read more

New season, same old story for Baghdatis in Auckland

first_imgBy Nemanja BjedovMarcos Baghdatis lost to unheralded American lucky loser Steve Johnson 5-7, 7-6(3), 4-6 in the opening round of the Heineken Open in Auckland in a match that was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening local time, but was postponed due to rain and played on Wednesday morning.Baghdatis had a big opportunity to close out the first set when he broke for the first time to lead 5-4, but he stumbled instead and lost three consecutive games to lose the first set 7-5.He was then on the brink of elimination in the second set, but he fought hard to force a tie-break before prevailing 7-3.In the decider, Johnson scored the crucial break to take a 5-4 lead and then his big serve held firm to win the match.World No. 160 Johnson fired 13 aces and broke serve three times to claim victory in just over two hours in what was the first meeting between the two players.The American, who made the main draw despite losing to compatriot Bradley Klahn in qualifications, then went on to upset a lethargic fourth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-5, 6-4 in the last match of the day session.“To beat those two guys on the same day is definitely pretty special and I am definitely going to remember this one for a while,” said Johnson who reached an ATP-level quarter-final only for the second time in his career.This is a 15th first round exit for the 28-year-old Cypriot since February last year, who after accepting a wild card for the Auckland event, lost the 90 ranking points he earned last season for reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane.As a result, Baghdatis recorded a 22-place drop from 87th in the rankings at the beginning of the year to his current 109th place, which is his worst ranking since August 2009.Baghdatis will now have to focus on the first Grand Slam of the season – the Australian Open which begins on Monday in Melbourne.The Limassol native, who is nowadays more famous for his racket-busting meltdown at last year’s event, reached the third round in Melbourne last season and he needs to at least repeat the same this time out or he will face another drop down the rankings.last_img read more

Adams faces daunting task to keep Canaries singing

first_imgBy Josh ReichNorwich City sit five points above the relegation zone but new manager Neil Adams will be eyeing a daunting fixture list nervously as he seeks to ensure Premier League survival for the Canaries.Previously youth team coach, Adams was promoted to the top job on Sunday when Chris Hughton was sacked after nearly two seasons in charge, the club finally losing patience following a number of limp performances that culminated in a 1-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion the previous day.The change comes with just five matches remaining in the season, leaving Adams to navigate a tough run of fixtures beginning at Fulham, one position below 17th-placed Norwich, followed by games against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.Having spent three seasons in the Premier League, four losses in the last six matches convinced the board a managerial change was needed if the team was to summon the resolve to make it a fourth.Despite enjoying some positive results in February, Norwich’s performances had become increasingly listless, with Hughton’s job coming under scrutiny following a number of public utterances by chief executive David McNally.Adams, who made more than 200 appearances for the club and guided Norwich to the FA Youth Cup last year, is undaunted by the task ahead, however, and has backed the team to do what was required to avoid the drop.“People know what this club means to me, and so it goes without saying that we will be doing everything possible to ensure that we maintain our top-flight status for next season,” he said in a statement on the club website (www.canaries.co.uk).“These final five games will be a huge test for us, and everyone must step up to the mark. But with the full backing of these magnificent Norwich supporters, we will have every chance of achieving our objective.”NORWICH HOPEFULNorwich will be hoping a change in manager will provide the necessary boost in fortune but as their rivals in the relegation scrap have shown, a new face in the dugout does not guarantee success.Sunderland, who face Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, replaced controversial Italian Paolo Di Canio with Gus Poyet in October when they had mustered one point from seven matches.They are still bottom, albeit with three matches in hand, but still have to play Everton and Manchester City.Nineteenth-placed Cardiff appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in January after a period of turmoil at the Welsh club when predecessor Malky Mackay fell out with owner Vincent Tan.They were one point above the relegation zone at that stage, but after just two wins in 13 matches, are six off Norwich and seeking divine inspiration to avoid an immediate return to the second-tier Championship.“We need to produce a miracle to stay up now,” the Norwegian said after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, one club who have benefited in a change of manager when Tony Pulis replaced Ian Holloway.“I am full of fight. If you produce a miracle – that sometimes happens in football – you are still capable of getting out of this and staying in the Premier League.”Fulham are onto their third boss of the season in German Felix Magath, following the sackings of first Martin Jol and then René Meulensteen.Saturday’s win over Aston Villa lifted them off the bottom to 18th on 27 points, one ahead of Cardiff and two above Sunderland, with Hugo Rodallega’s 86th minute winner giving Magath hope that all was not lost.“We take the win in the last minutes and that is a signal for everybody that we are fighting. We want to stay in the league.”West Bromwich Albion, level on 32 points with Norwich, have finally found some form under Pepe Mel.It took the Spaniard eight matches to record his first win at the club however, a wait Adams and Norwich will be desperate to avoid if they are to keep out of the bottom three come the end of the season.last_img read more

Euro draw tough on AEL and Ermis, Nicosia giants get off lightly

first_imgBy Andreas VouAPOEL start their bid to return to the group stages of the Champions League with a third-round tie against the winner of the match between Rabotnicki of Macedonia and HJK Helsinki.AEL have been handed the toughest possible draw as they were pitted against Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg.APOEL, the 2011/12 Champions League quarter-finalists, as a result of winning the Cypriot first division last season, entered the ‘Champions draw’ – a pool of teams who won Europe’s lesser ranked leagues. Rabotnicki and HJK Helsinki played out a goalless draw on Tuesday evening which leaves this Wednesday’s second leg wide open as to who will face Giorgos Donis’ side.This is the first year which sees two Cypriot teams in the qualification process of Europe’s top competition and, despite narrowly missing out on the league title, AEL were the ones who benefited from UEFA’s new system. However, the draw was anything but kind as they face Champions League regulars Zenit. APOEL’s first-leg will be on either the 29th or 30th of July which will be away from home and the return leg will be on 5/6 August.AEL will host Andre Villas-Boas’ men at the GSP stadium on the 29th of this month and will travel to Russia on the 6th of August for the return match.The draw was partly affected by the political unrest in Ukraine, with UEFA forbidding the meeting of a Russian side with one from the Ukraine. Zenit could not have been drawn against Dnipro and therefore the chances of drawing AEL were increased.In the Europa League, Omonia will face either FK Metalurg or FK Zeljeznicar, provided they see off Buducnost of Montenegro.The Nicosia club earned a vital 0-2 away win against Buducnost on Thursday which makes qualification to the next round almost a formality.European debutants Ermis Aradippou, the surprise packages of last season, were handed a tough tie against Young Boys, with the first leg to be played in Switzerland. The third round matches of the Europa League qualifying will take place on July 31st and August 7th. Champions League third qualifying round (29/30 July and 5/6 August)FK Rabotnicki (MKD)/HJK Helsinki (FIN) v APOEL FC (CYP)AEL Limassol FC (CYP) v FC Zenit (RUS)UEFA Europa League third qualifying round (31 July & 7 August)FK Budućnost Podgorica (MNE)/AC Omonia (CYP) v FK Metalurg Skopje (MKD)/FK Željezničar (BIH)BSC Young Boys (SUI) v Ermis Aradippou FC (CYP)last_img read more

Liverpool forced to FA Cup replay by dogged Blackburn

first_imgBy Tom HaywardLiverpool were left frustrated by Championship side Blackburn Rovers who defended heroically to draw 0-0 at Anfield on Sunday and force a replay in their FA Cup quarter-final.After an even first half Liverpool dominated after the break but wave after wave of attack was thwarted by a Blackburn side who had already accounted for Premier League sides Swansea City and Stoke city in the two previous rounds.Kolo Toure headed against a post, while Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling failed to break down their second tier visitors despite relentless pressure.Aston Villa – who beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 on Saturday – are the only side to seal a semi-final spot so far while Manchester United host holders Arsenal on Monday.Giant-killers Bradford City travel to Reading on March 16 for a replay after their 0-0 draw.last_img read more

Konta downs Zhang to book Australian Open semi spot

first_imgJohanna Konta ground down Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai 6-4 6-1 at the Australian Open on Wednesday to become the first British woman to reach the semi-finals of a grand slam in over 30 years.The 47th-ranked Konta battled nerves and a wayward serve at times but overpowered the 133rd-ranked Zhang from the baseline to wrap up the match in one hour and 23 minutes on a warm, sunny afternoon at Rod Laver Arena.After trading service breaks at the start of the second set, Konta roared to a 5-1 lead before sealing the win on the third match point with a lucky net cord that gave Zhang no chance.The last British woman to reach the semis of a grand slam was Jo Durie at the 1983 U.S. Open. Konta will seek to continue her fairytale run when she takes on German seventh seed Angelique Kerber for a place in the final.last_img read more