Good Week/Bad Week: Sky Sports takes a look at the winners and losers from the last seven days
By Ben Hampshire & Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 28/04/14 5:39pm
So much can change in a week of sporting action and, sure enough, there have been numerous highs and deflating lows over the past seven days.
In a week where the Premier League title race took another dramatic twist, Liverpool slipped up against Chelsea and handed the initiative to Manchester City, while Saracens booked a Heineken Cup final date with defending champions Toulon by dismantling last year's finalists Clermont.
Everton's quest for European football took another turn for the worse with a 2-0 reverse to Southampton, while pre-tournament favourite Ding Junhui suffered a shock first-round exit at The Crucible as snooker's World Championships got underway in Sheffield.
Jose Mourinho and Manchester City
There is little surprise Jose Mourinho’s detractors have been so quick to label the Portuguese manager a hypocrite following Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield. Yes, this was the same man who quipped the phrase “19th century football” and accused West Ham of “parking the bus” earlier in the season, but the knee-jerk criticism of Mourinho is overshadowing a fantastic week for Chelsea.
While the Premier League narrative has been awash with landslides, football demands a multitude of attributes and over the past six days, Chelsea have produced two commanding defensive displays to neutralise two of the most dynamic attacking sides in the world of late, Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, yet their praises have been muted.
The latter handed the initiative in the Premier League title race to Manchester City who, after beating Crystal Palace 2-0, must simply win their three remaining fixtures to usurp the Merseysiders and claim a second league crown in three seasons. Away from the title race caps must also be donned to Ryan Giggs, whose temporary tenure as Manchester United manager started in victorious fashion with a 4-0 triumph over Norwich, with two substitute goals from Juan Mata.
When you take into account Saracens’ bleak record against French opposition and the fact they had never reached a Heineken Cup final, their 46-6 victory over Clermont on Saturday becomes even more sublime. Mark McCall’s side rewrote history as they dismantled a European heavyweight to give their ambitions of a Premiership and Heineken Cup double a huge shot in the arm.
Saracens produced a combination of brutal defensive might and stunning attacking flair to dismantle Clermont and nobody can devalue the level of opposition posed by Vern Cotter’s star-studded line-up, nor their desire to succeed on European rugby’s premier stage as well as the lucrative Top 14.
After a heroic performance at Twickenham the London club, who hold a nine-point cushion at the Premiership summit, have a ground-breaking double in sight but reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulon stand in their way of claiming the European crown at the Millennium Stadium in May.
As tense finishes go, they rarely come as exhilarating as Manchester Thunder’s dramatic final-second victory over Surrey Storm to claim netball’s ZEO Superleague title. The Worcester Arena was left startled as teenage shooting sensation Helen Housby clinched a last-gasp goal to seal the crown for Manchester.
The talented youngster from Cumbria secured the win with just one second remaining on the clock. League runners-up Thunder recycled the ball before finding Housby in space and the 19-year-old nailed a sensational winner.
In a contest which was continuously toing and froing, Manchester pulled level in the closing stages and as Surrey’s concentration dwindled, Thunder raced up court, where Housby remained calm and collected under pressure to secure the title and add to their 2012 success.
The Barcelona Open has been Rafael Nadal’s fiefdom for the majority of the past decade – winning eight times in nine years - but it was Kei Nishikori’s name being etched on the trophy on this occasion. The Japanese ace claimed the first claycourt title of his career with a straight-sets victory over Santiago Giraldo.
With Nadal suffering a shock quarter-final exit to compatriot Nicolas Almagro, the door was opened for the dominion to be broken. Almagro’s exit to Colombian Giraldo at the semi-final stage ensured the title would be heading overseas.
Fourth seed Nishikori, returning to action in the event after almost a month out with a groin injury, prevailed 6-2 6-2 to become the first non-Spaniard to win the tournament since 2002. Nishikori broke three times while taking the first set and twice more in moving 5-1 ahead in the second as he made light work of Giraldo.
Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri landed a remarkable eagle on the final hole to claim the US$750,000 prize fund after a spellbinding last day at the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters. The 26-year-old survived a gamut of emotions on the closing day to seal a one-shot victory.
Lahiri, who gets married next month, secured the title with a four-under-par 68 at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club on a fiercely-contested final day, which saw Korea’s Baek Seuk-hyun finish a close second alongside Australian rookie Cameron Smith.
Trailing by a shot heading into the final round, Lahiri burst out of the blocks with successive birdies from the second hole, before unleashing an almighty scream on the 18th as he watched his 20ft eagle putt disappear into the cup.
Liverpool must have thought he had one hand on the Premier League trophy until Sunday. Then along came Jose Mourinho's Chelsea who 'parked two buses' at Anfield, according to Brendan Rodgers before sealing a classic smash and grab victory.
Demba Ba opened the scoring just before the break after skipper Steven Gerrard had slipped and then Willian then made sure of the 2-0 win deep in injury time to cut the Merseysiders' lead at the top of the table to just two points. Rodgers' side have now handed the initiative to third-placed Manchester City, who, with their far superior goal difference, can win the title should they win their three remaining games.
Liverpool supporters can only hope and pray neighbours Everton can do them a massive favour on Saturday when City travel to Goodison Park while the Reds take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on the Monday night football, before welcoming Newcastle on the final day of the season. It looks like the title race is set to go right to the wire!
Two-time champions Munster suffered another Heineken Cup semi-final defeat in France losing 24-16 to defending champions Toulon in Marseille, 12 months on from losing to Clermont at the same stage of the competition.
It was English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson who was once again the hero of the hour, kicking 21 of Toulon's points, which proved just enough despite the Irish province throwing the kitchen sink at the star-studded hosts, coming from 18-9 down at half-time to score the game's only try through winger Simon Zebo.
However, Rob Penney's men were left to rue some costly penalties in the closing stages of both halves as their record 11th European Cup semi-final appearance ended in defeat. Toulon now face Saracens in the showpiece at the Millennium Stadium on May 24. Ian Keatley and Zebo were 'gutted' with the result while Penney was understandably disappointed: "We just couldn't control possession well enough. We made too many errors."
Two-time UK Champion and 2010 Masters champion Ding seems to be cursed in his adopted hometown of Sheffield. The world No 2, who moved to the Steel City as a teenager, suffered a shock first-round exit to Crucible debutant Michael Wasley.
China's great title hope Ding was making his eighth appearance at the World Championship, but has only progressed beyond the second round just twice, reaching the semi-finals in 2011. His loss to the world No 73 was all the more remarkable considering he came into the tournament having equalled Stephen Hendry’s record of winning five ranking title and was many observers favourite for the crown.
Wasley, the 24-year-old Gloucester potter prevailed 10-9 after a breathtaking and hastily arranged third session which finished after midnight. "Nearly every time I win a tournament, the next one I lose in the first round. Maybe I just win too much," said 27-year-old Ding.
Root was passed fit to return from a broken thumb playing for England against the West Indies last month and replaced Andrew Gale - both at No 4 in the batting order and as captain - for Yorkshire's trip to Lord's to take on Middlesex.
But at Lord's, the ground where he made a Test-best 180 against Australia last year, he was out for a duck on his return to county action. Root lost the toss and made a five-ball duck as Yorkshire were bowled out for 178. Steven Finn trapped Root lbw as he continued his rehabilitation after a difficult Ashes tour.
In his brief Test career, Root has been shunted up and down the order but, with Kevin Pietersen now in international exile he is eyeing the number four berth the South Africa-born batsman used to occupy for England. "If I can get more opportunities in the summer to bat where I am batting now then I need to make big scores," said Root. "It hasn't happened today (Sunday) but I'm very hungry to make sure that if I do get more opportunities, I really put my name forward for a place in the team."
Wirral Cricket Club
Would you want to play for Wirral CC 1st Xl? They posted the humiliating total of just three runs against Haslington on Merseyside in a Cheshire League match over the weekend. Just one player - the number 11 - avoided being bowled out for a duck with Hasslington player Ben Istead - a 17-year-old Sandbach College student - took six wickets for one run.
Only the eleventh man managed to mark the scoresheet, with the remaining two runs given as leg byes. This after the opposition scored just 108 in their innings. The loss, while unprecedented in the history of the third division Cheshire Cricket League club, is not the lowest score ever recorded. That dubious honour belongs to Somerset club Langport, who were dismissed for zero against Glastonbury in a 1913 match.
The lowest score for a first-class match is six, made by The Bs against England at the old Lord’s ground in 1810, while the lowest Test match score on record is 26, by New Zealand against England in 1955. Wirral number eight Matt Garrett, who was out for zero, told Sky Sports: "It was a bit of a whirlwind. I don't really know how you explain the score on a single cricket scorecard - it's unprecedented."