Good week/Bad week: The winners and losers from the last sporting week
By Sam Drury - Follow on Twitter
Last Updated: 14/04/14 7:42pm
It's been another incredible week of sport from Augusta to Anfield via Andalusia, but for every sporting hero there must be a villain.
The past seven days have seen Wembley host the FA Cup semi-finals, vital clashes at the top and bottom of the Premier League and some dramatic Champions League quarter-finals in the world of football.
There was also the small matter of the Masters at Augusta, the county cricket season picking up pace and the London Marathon to whet the appetite of sports fans across the country.
So with those and so many other events to consider, who have been this week winners and losers?
Brendan Rodgers’ side made it 10 straight wins as they moved a step closer to their first league triumph in 24 years with a dramatic 3-2 win over title rivals Manchester City on an emotional day at Anfield.
After an impeccably observed minutes silence for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool, as has become the norm in recent weeks, started the game at full throttle and led 2-0 at the break thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel.
But having been pegged back to 2-2 midway through the second half, it was Manuel Pellegrini’s team who looked most likely to kick on and take a vital three points. However, Coutinho’s crisp finish with just over ten minutes remaining was enough to ensure that the Reds remain in pole position in this enthralling title race.
The scenes of jubilation at the final whistle showed what it meant to Liverpool’s fans and players alike. “Listen, this is gone,” captain Steven Gerrard was heard to tell his troops in the aftermath. “We go to Norwich, exactly the same. We go together. Come on!”
It was comfortable in the end. Bubba Watson claimed his second Masters title by three shots, seeing off the challenge from 20-year-old Jordan Spieth thanks to an immaculate back nine.
Watson and Spieth went into the final round tied for the lead and it was the youngster who started brightest to move two shots clear before being reeled in by the 2012 champion at the halfway stage.
When Spieth found the water at the 12th, the way was left clear for Watson to secure his second major win and his second green jacket, presented to him by last year’s winner Adam Scott. The drama of his first triumph at Augusta may have been lacking but the composure shown by the now world No 4 was arguably just as impressive.
"I told my caddie up the 18th that I couldn't remember the last few holes, I was just hanging on and thinking about making pars," said Watson. And hang on he did as he secured his place in Masters folklore.
Sunday’s top of the table clash saw Saracens all but seal top spot in the Aviva Premiership with a 28-24 win over Northampton at Allianz Park.
David Strettle, Kelly Brown and Marcelo Bosch touched down for the hosts who moved ten points clear of Saints with just three games of the regular season remaining and they were worthy winners.
Late tries from Luther Burrell and George North brought the visitors within four of Sarries but the final score flattered Jim Mallinder’s men.
A home semi-final is now seemingly secured and the victory was the perfect way to mark skipper Steve Borthwick’s record breaking 263rd Premiership appearance.
‘Pac Man’ was back to his best as he beat the previously undefeated Timothy Bradley to regain the WBO welterweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday.
The Philippine boxer was also able to avenge his controversial defeat to the same opponent in 2012 and the scorecards showed that there was absolutely no doubt this time round, two scoring the bout 116-112 and the other 118-110, all in Pacquiao’s favour.
"He threw a lot of punches and I didn't want to be careless," said Pacquiao. "In the second half of the fight, I listened to my corner and they told me to work on the timing of my punches.”
The advice clearly worked as Pacquiao was at his best in the seventh round, pinning Bradley to the ropes with a ferocious barrage including a left that had the American rocking. It was a performance of real class and the prospect of a fight with Floyd Mayweather is being touted once again.
There was a time in the not too distant past when it would have been unthinkable that Messi and co would endure a bad week such was their dominance and superiority.
However, in recent times that air of invincibility has vanished and lately Barcelona have looked increasingly human, flaws revealing themselves as the cracks grow that much wider.
A Champions League exit to Diego Simeone’s impressive Atletico Madrid side was one thing, but going down to lowly Granada in La Liga at the weekend was something else entirely.
The defeat saw Tata Martino’s outfit leapfrogged by arch-rivals Real Madrid and trailing league leaders, and their Champions League conquerors, Atletico by four points with just five games to turn things around.
Six wins from seven games looked set to become seven from eight as Castleford went into the final 15 minutes of their clash with leaders St Helens leading 28-14.
However, a stirring late comeback saw Saints maintain their unbeaten record, producing three late tries to win 30-28.
The Tigers had got off to a fantastic start and led 18-0 and were ahead 24-6 up at half-time. Tries from Jonny Lomax and Tommy Makinson reduced the deficit but when Justin Carney went over on the hour the game as a contest looked over.
The visitors had other ideas, though, and tries from Jordan Turner, Adam Swift and Paul Wellens on his record-breaking 414th Super League outing stunned Castleford and consigned them to a second defeat of the season.
It's fair to say that English cricket is going through a pretty torrid time. Whitewashed in the Ashes, an early exit and embarrassed by the Netherlands at the World T20 and still searching for a coach who can try and turn things around.
For Jonny Bairstow, however, things weren't looking too bad having been chosen to keep wicket for England in the final two tests in Australia, the Yorkshireman looked in pole position to keep his place for the summer's first Test match against Sri Lanka in June.
A fractured finger suffered in a friendly match for Yorkshire could well have put paid to those hopes it seems. The county maintain that Bairstow will be fit in time for the five-day contest at Lord's, but being forced to sit on the sidelines for six weeks rather than getting valuable time at the crease will do his Test chances no good.
That Matt Prior, the man he replaced behind the stumps, showed signs of returning to top form with a quick-fire century for Sussex this week will hardly have made Bairstow feel any more sure of his place in the team either.
It was a night to forget for 'Snakebite' in Sheffield as he succumbed to two defeats.
Wright firstly lost 7-4 to Gary Anderson before falling 7-5 to Raymond van Barneveld in the night's final contest. The results mean he drops to third in the table behind Van Barneveld, with Phil Taylor, despite a dreadful start to the campaign, now only two points behind him.
Anderson and two-time world champion Adrian Lewis are a just point further back meaning Wright will need to return to winning ways quickly to avoid sweating over his top four place, having topped the table just two weeks ago.
Under pressure for the first time in the tournament, Thursday in Birmingham will provide a real test of Wright's mettle.
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