Good Week/Bad Week: Sky Sports takes a look at the winners and losers from the last seven days
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 05/05/14 3:08pm
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 entered a penultimate round, Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by relegation-threatened Norwich and Manchester City seized their advantage and took top spot with a 3-2 triumph over Everton, while Amir Khan appears to have turned the leaf on a new chapter of his career.
Fulham and Cardiff were both condemned to relegation from the Premier League, while London Broncos endured an 11th successive Super League defeat and their coach Tony Rea shouldered the burden of their woeful run.
Gus Poyet could not resist a jig a joy down the Old Trafford touchline as Howard Webb blew the full-time whistle on Sunderland’s first victory at Manchester United since 1968. It was a perfectly understandable response from the Uruguayan coach as their win condemned rivals Fulham and Cardiff to relegation.
Cast your mind back only three weeks ago, when Sunderland were propping up the Premier League table, seven points adrift of safety. The Black Cats were winless in their last eight outings, seven of which they lost, leaving Poyet on his knees praying for a miracle and claiming “there’s something wrong in the football club”.
Since when it seems Sunderland have changed little, yet beaten Chelsea, thumped Cardiff City, drawn away to Manchester City and their latest win over United leaves them on the verge of retaining their top flight status and Poyet quipped: “A ‘miracle’ was the word I used a few weeks ago, and apparently every now and they happen.”
It has been a while since Amir Khan stole headlines in the boxing world, but his victory over Luis Collazo appears to have been more than just a win. Could it be that as the sun rose in Las Vegas a bright new chapter in the Bolton boxer’s career dawned?
Khan’s quest to share a ring with Floyd Mayweather was seen by many as little more than a big-money punctuation point of his career after lurching from trouble to trouble inside the ring. Against Collazo, though, Khan produced a dazzling combination of speed, power and, most importantly, self-control.
Now, the prospect of Khan going head-to-head with Mayweather may not be as unthinkable, especially given the way Mayweather struggled to subdue the Marcos Maidana to keep his perfect record intact. While 27-year-old Khan showed signs his career was on the up, Mayweather, at 37, offered glimpses that his glittering career may be starting to falter.
Chilean golfer Felipe Aguilar produced a thrilling comeback on the final day at Laguna National in Singapore to claim The Championship title. Having birdied the penultimate hole, Aguilar holed a stunning approach shot to eagle the 18th and snatch his second European Tour victory.
Aguilar started the day four shots behind Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat and Anders Hansen but came through with a round of 62 to clinch the title at 22-under par. Hansen was ahead for the majority of the day until Aguilar’s spectacular finish was couple with a double bogey from the Dane at the 16th.
Hansen eventually finish a shot behind and a share of second place with American David Lipsky, while Aguilar claimed only his second win on the professional tour, his lone previous success being at the Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open in February 2008.
The defending Aviva Premiership champions booked a 10th successive semi-final appearance by giving Sale Sharks a thorough hiding at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The hosts may have restored some respectability late on with a flurry of tries, but it all the joy was etched on the face of the Tigers as their bid to retain their crown rumbled on.
It was a display of intelligence, physicality and accuracy against a lacking Sale side, who saw their charge towards a play-off berth thwarted in front of their largest home crowd of the season. Leicester now look set to face Northampton Saints in the semi-finals, over whom they hold a considerable spell.
Leicester’s victory was mainly thanks to the efforts of former England international Toby Flood, who touched down two tries after coming on as a 29th-minute replacement. Selection policy in the England hierarchy determines no player plying his trade on foreign soil can claim international honours, but Toulouse-bound Flood offered glimmers of what could be missed.
There was little positive to be gleaned from a 4-1 reverse to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium as Fulham were consigned to Championship football. Radio updates of Sunderland’s lead at Old Trafford told them they were sliding out of the top flight, while Fulham fans witnessed a story of surrender in sunny Stoke-on-Trent.
Darren Bent, pilloried by the Fulham faithful, suffered his third relegation, Scott Parker his second, but the raw reality of enduring the drop was new for the likes of John Arne-Riise, once a Champions League winner. There are plenty of questions to be asked at Fulham, after a season which has seen three different managers at the helm and end in relegation.
One thing is for sure however, Fulham will no longer be able to paper over the cracks as they prepare to rebirth and challenge for an immediate return to the Premier League. Although, it is not certain whether Shahid Khan bought into the prospect of relegation when he bought the club from Mohamed Al Fayed last summer, the man who steered Fulham from the fourth tier to top flight football.
It has been a record-breaking season for snooker’s World No 1, but Neil Robertson will not be seeing his named grace the World Championship trophy this time around. The ‘Thunder from Down Under’ endured semi-final heartache in a tense clash with Mark Selby.
Earlier in the week Robertson had become the first man to make a century of centuries in a season, eclipsing the previous record of 61, by a considerable margin. His bid for the world title came to a crashing halt as he was edged out by Selby in a Crucible classic.
In a thrilling contest, Robertson and Selby exchanged leads numerous times before the Leicester potter eventually claimed victory after midnight in a tense finale. Although delighted by his achievements earlier in the week, Robertson will head home disappointed at missing out on a chance to claim only a second world title.
London Broncos’ search for a Super League victory will extend to a 12th match and under new leadership following the departure of coach Tony Rea. The capital side were handed an 11th successive league defeat by St Helens on Thursday night, before Rea left the club.
Broncos woes were compounded on Sunday as Bradford Bulls, who started the season on minus six after entering administration, found themselves in the black. The Bulls’ superior score difference saw them usurp the Broncos, who are now left to prop up the Super League table.
The London side remain without a point in 2014 and although scoring three tries against the title-chasing Saints, their hopes of causing an upset were soon extinguished. Rock-bottom Broncos face a trip to Huddersfield Giants – winners of the 2013 League Leader’s Shield - on Saturday with their pitiful run set to extend even further.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior’s hopes of a return to the England setup suffered another blow as he was ruled out of action with an Achilles injury. Prior is now running out of time to convince the selectors he should be in the squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka, which starts on 12 June.
Prior began the campaign playing as a batsman only and scored a hundred against Middlesex in April but then missed a pair of matches. It was hoped that he could again play as a specialist batsman in the coming days at Old Trafford but he has not been named in the travelling squad due to the Achilles problem.
Prior is one of England's best-ever wicket-keeper/batsmen and averages 40.83 in his 75 Tests, with seven centuries. However, he was dropped after struggling in the first three Tests of this winter's 5-0 Ashes hammering at the hands of Australia, and with his replacement, Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow, coming into form at just the right time Prior’s international career could be on the brink.