Karim Benzema lauded the qualities of Zinedine Zidane as a coach and a man after his decision to leave the top job at Real Madrid for a second time.

It was announced on Thursday that Zidane would depart the hot seat at the Santiago Bernabeu after a season in which Madrid failed to win a trophy.

However, Zidane did lead them to the LaLiga title in 2019-20 and Benzema, speaking while on international duty after his surprise recall for France, was full of praise for the 48-year-old.

"He's a very great coach, on a human level, he's the perfect man," he said.

"With me, he's magnificent. I'm disappointed that he is leaving Real, but that's how it is. Life goes on."

Madrid ended the last campaign with an 18-game unbeaten streak (W13 D5) in LaLiga – the longest current undefeated run of any team in the competition, and their best such spell without a loss within the same league campaign since March 2014 under Carlo Ancelotti (W15 D3).

Benzema was involved in 32 goals in LaLiga this season (23 goals and nine assists), representing his best tally in a single campaign in the league after surpassing the 2015-16 term (31 – 24 goals and seven assists).

That form put him back in Didier Deschamps' plans ahead of France's Euro 2020 campaign, which begins against Germany on June 15.

Benzema had been frozen out by Deschamps since 2015 after becoming embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The 33-year-old has denied the claims and is due to stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October.

He is now ready and raring to go once again on the international stage, where he is particularly looking forward to teaming up with Kylian Mbappe.

Asked how the Paris Saint-Germain striker stacks up against the world's best, Benzema said: "I don't like to compare, but he's a young player, a phenomenon.

"I was able to train with him, we play in one touch, there is movement, he puts a lot of speed, he is skilful. He's a very, very good player. "

Benzema won the most recent of his 81 caps for France against Armenia in October 2015, scoring twice in that 4-0 friendly victory to take his Les Bleus goal tally to 27.

Granit Xhaka is "proud" to hear of interest from new Roma coach Jose Mourinho, but the Arsenal midfielder insists his focus is solely on Euro 2020.

Former Tottenham manager Mourinho was appointed as Paulo Fonseca's replacement at Roma shortly after he was dismissed by Spurs in April, with his contract starting ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Yet speculation is already rife that Xhaka, Arsenal's former club captain, is one of Mourinho's priority transfer targets.

Xhaka has spent five seasons at Arsenal since joining from Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach, though the Switzerland international has not always been a popular figure with the club's fanbase.

Nevertheless, he has featured consistently in the first team under Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta, and the 28-year-old – who played more minutes in all competitions last season than any other Arsenal outfield player – still has two years left to run on his contract.

Xhaka is already with the Switzerland squad as they prepare for Euro 2020, and pressed on his future, he told Swiss-German publication Blick: "Of course I read the rumours too. But now I'm one hundred per cent focused on the national team. 

"That's more important than Arsenal or rumours right now. I still have a two-year contract in London, and at Arsenal they know what they have got in me. When the time comes and we can, and may have to talk about a transfer, I'll be there."

Asked to comment on what Mourinho's reported interest means to him, Xhaka added: "Honestly, I didn't hear what Mourinho said, but that makes you proud. 

"Everyone knows Mourinho, knows what he has achieved. Mourinho knows how to win titles. You can now see what work I have done over the past few years."

WHAT COULD XHAKA BRING TO ROMA?

Xhaka scored one goal in 2020-21, providing two assists and creating 20 chances in total, with all of those opportunities coming in open play.

Roma would also benefit from Xhaka's consistent availability. Of Arsenal midfielders, only Bukayo Saka (46) made more appearances than Xhaka in all competitions.

Bryan Cristante (48), Lorenzo Pellegrini, Gonzalo Villar (both 47) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (46) ranked ahead of Xhaka for appearances in terms of Roma midfielders, but the Swiss started more games than any of them (42).

Xhaka's passing accuracy of 89.89 per cent ranks him third out of Roma and Arsenal midfielders to play at least 10 times across all competitions, with only Mohamed Elneny (92.08) and Martin Odegaard (90.38) bettering his success rate.

It is Xhaka's defensive work that perhaps goes under the radar, especially with his tendency to lunge in recklessly, a trait that has seen him receive three straight red cards in his Arsenal career, but he is far clear in the recoveries rankings, having regained possession 281 times in 2020-21, with Cristante (235) Roma's best player in that regard.

Only Mkhitaryan (75) went in for more tackles than Xhaka (74), though his tackle success rate was down at 50 per cent, lower than 10 other Arsenal or Roma midfielders who have played at least 10 times last term.

Naomi Osaka kicked off her bid for a maiden French Open title with a battling straight-sets win over Patricia Maria Tig on day one at Roland Garros.

The second seed, who has failed to get beyond the third round in four previous attempts, won 89 per cent of her first serve points on her way to seeing off Tig 6-4 7-6 (7-4) in a time of one hour and 48 minutes.

She had 39 winners to 35 unforced errors and will now take on Ana Bogdan – a 6-1 6-3 winner against Elisabetta Cocciaretto on Sunday – for a place in the last 32.

Osaka, who announced before the tournament that she would not be doing post-match media duties, had just one clay-court victory to her name heading into the second grand slam of the year, but she soon found her groove against world number 63 Tig.

However, after earning an early break of serve, the Australian Open champion squandered three set points in the eighth game as Tig hit back.

Osaka made her superiority show in the following game to take a 1-0 lead in the match and held throughout a tight second set, which went the distance.

Tig, who reached the third round in Paris last year, initially held her own but Osaka pulled away to take the tie-break 7-4 on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Data Slam: Osaka seeking more major glory

World number two Osaka has now won her last 15 matches at grand slams and, even accounting for her record on clay, she will take some stopping in Paris. 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 39/35
Tig – 19/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 1/3
Tig – 4/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 2/10
Tig – 1/2

Thiago Silva claims he was scapegoated during his time at Paris Saint-Germain and is thankful to Frank Lampard for bringing him to Chelsea last year.

The Brazilian centre-back was speaking after the Blues' 1-0 win over Manchester City in Saturday's Champions League final at Estadio do Dragao.

Silva became the oldest player to appear for Chelsea in a major European final, overtaking Claude Makelele, but the 36-year-old lasted only 39 minutes before limping off injured.

He is also only the fifth player to play in the Champions League final in consecutive seasons with different teams, after Marcel Desailly, Paulo Sousa, Samuel Eto'o and Alvaro Morata.

Kai Havertz netted the only goal of the game in Porto three minutes after Silva exited the field as Chelsea became the third English side, after Manchester United and Liverpool, to lift the trophy more than once.

The victory was particularly sweet for Silva, who was a beaten finalist with PSG against Bayern Munich last August in his final game for the club before departing as a free agent.

The French giants fell short in all eight of Silva's seasons at the Parc des Princes, but the experienced defender feels he was unfairly singled out for blame after each disappointment.

"This is the most important moment of my career," he told RMC Sport. "It's unforgettable. I didn't manage it with PSG but today I'm happy. I hope PSG do it one day, too.

"Every time PSG were eliminated, people tried to find a culprit and it was always me. That's a shame because I really gave everything.

"But I hope they win it because I have left a lot of friends there. I will always stay red and blue."

Silva arrived at Chelsea shortly after PSG's loss to Bayern last August after being persuaded to join by then-head coach Lampard.

The former midfielder guided Chelsea through the group stage unbeaten, but he was sacked in January and replaced by Tuchel following a disappointing run of domestic results.

But while Tuchel – the third different German coach to win the Champions League in the past three seasons – has received much of the plaudits, Silva was also keen to praise Lampard. 

"This is special, in what is my first year here," he said. "Tuchel has changed the team mentality, but it is also important to talk about Lampard.

"Without him I would not be here. So, thanks to him for letting me sign here. I'm very happy and I hope he is, too."

Including his 39-minute appearance in the final, Silva featured eight times for Chelsea in their successful Champions League campaign.

The former Milan man, who won all four of his duels against City before leaving the pitch, is set to be out of contract again next month and has yet to agree fresh terms.

Asked if he will stay on at Stamford Bridge, Silva said: "We will see. We must take it season by season." 

Liam Reddy's 90th-minute penalty save earned Perth Glory a 2-2 draw with Wellington Phoenix at Eden Park in a result that leaves both sides' A-League Finals hopes hanging in the balance.

Phoenix opened the scoring in Sunday's match through Tomer Hemed's fifth goal in four games.

That well-taken strike was cancelled out by substitute Bruno Fornaroli's composed finish past Oliver Sail, before Callum Timmins completed the turnaround with a sensational long-ranger.

Perth were unable to hold on for a first away win in seven attempts, though, as another Wellington substitute in Jaushua Sotirio curled in an equaliser six minutes later.

There was still time for more late drama as Cameron Devlin went down under a challenge from Nick D'Agostino, only for Ulises Davila's resulting penalty to be kept out by Reddy.

Wellington are now unbeaten in a club-record 10 A-League games, but they are one point outside the top six having played a game more than Macarthur, while Perth are two points further back.

Brisbane Roar still have work to do if they are to seal a Finals berth, meanwhile, after losing 2-0 at Western Sydney Wanderers in the second of Sunday's matches.

Wanderers had lost three games in a row heading into the contest at Bankwest Stadium, but goals from Bernie Ibini and Bruce Kamau kept their slim top-six hopes just about alive.

Daniel Margush starred for the home side with six saves, including a couple of fine stops to keep out Riku Danzaki either side of Ibidi's 20-yard shot into the bottom-left corner.

The visitors pushed hard for an equaliser and had a penalty shout rejected when Jesse Daley went down inside the box under contact from Ziggy Gordon.

With players committed forward, Roar had a chance to pick off their opponents late on and Kamau made the most of his opportunity by chipping the ball over Jamie Young at his near post to seal the win.

Fernando Tatis Jr. did it again, hitting a two-out, three-run home run in the ninth inning to tie the game before the San Diego Padres got another long ball in the 12th to defeat the Houston Astros 11-8. 

Houston led 6-1 after seven before the Padres scored two in the eighth, then three on the Tatis shot in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. 

The teams traded runs in the 10th and 11th innings before Wil Myers homered with one out in the 12th -- two batters after Houston intentionally walked Tatis -- to provide the winning margin. 

The victory kept San Diego (34-19) ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays (33-20) for the best record in MLB.

 

Giants pound rival Dodgers

The San Francisco Giants pounded out 16 hits as they defeated the rival Los Angeles Dodgers 11-6 for their second consecutive win after dropping four straight to the defending World Series champions. Logan Webb allowed only one hit and did not walk a batter while striking out seven for the Giants. 

The New York Mets scored seven runs in the sixth inning to run away from the Atlanta Braves in a 13-2 rout. James McCann had four hits, including the first of five home runs the Mets hit in the game, while the entire Braves lineup managed only one extra-base hit. 

For the second consecutive day, a young Detroit Tigers starter shut down New York Yankees batters, as Spencer Turnbull allowed only three singles in a 6-1 Detroit win. 

 

Diamondbacks, Orioles skids continue

A late rally came up short as the Arizona Diamondbacks fell 7-4 to the St Louis Cardinals for their 13th consecutive defeat, while the Baltimore Orioles were swept in a double-header by the Chicago White Sox to run their losing skid to 12 straight. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates held Colorado Rockies batters to just six hits in 49 at-bats in sweeping a double-header with 7-0 and 4-0 victories. Colorado hitters struck out 14 times after their best player, shortstop Trevor Story, landed on the injured list earlier in the day due to right elbow inflammation. 

 

Rendon on the run

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon had to cover a lot of ground to get to this foul pop off the bat of the Oakland Athletics' Matt Olson, then made a blind heave to double off Tony Kemp. 

 

Saturday's results

Chicago Cubs 10-2 Cincinnati Reds
Boston Red Sox 3-1 Miami Marlins
Detroit Tigers 6-1 New York Yankees
Minnesota Twins 6-5 Kansas City Royals
Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago White Sox 7-4 Baltimore Orioles
Chicago White Sox 3-1 Baltimore Orioles
San Diego Padres 11-8 Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels 4-0 Oakland Athletics
St Louis Cardinals 7-4 Arizona Diamondbacks
Seattle Mariners 3-2 Texas Rangers
San Francisco Giants 11-6 Los Angeles Dodgers
Pittsburgh Pirates 7-0 Colorado Rockies
Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 Colorado Rockies
Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 Washington Nationals
Milwaukee Brewers 6-2 Washington Nationals
New York Mets 13-2 Atlanta Braves
Toronto Blue Jays-Cleveland Indians (postponed)

 

Giants at Dodgers

Kevin Gausman (5-0, 1.53 ERA) looks to stay unbeaten for the San Francisco Giants as they visit Clayton Kershaw (7-3, 2.94) and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Joel Embiid's career night led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 132-103 rout of the Washington Wizards, pushing the top seed in the Eastern Conference to the brink of a series sweep. 

Embiid established a new playoff career high with 36 points in just 28 minutes, making 14 of 18 shots from the floor and adding eight rebounds. 

Embiid had 25 points and seven rebounds at the interval as Philadelphia built a comfortable lead before pulling away in the second half. 

Embiid's previous playoff career high was 34 against the Boston Celtics last season. 

Tobias Harris added 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, while Ben Simmons had 14 points and nine assists for the Sixers. 

Philadelphia made an impressive 58.6 per cent of their shots from the field (51 of 87) while limiting Washington to 38 of 96 shooting (39.6 per cent). 

Russell Westbrook led the Wizards with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists while Bradley Beal scored 25. 

Game 4 is Monday in Washington. 

 

Giannis, Bucks sweep out Heat

The Milwaukee Bucks avenged last season's loss to Miami in the conference semi-finals by completing a four-game sweep of the Heat with a 120-103 victory. Milwaukee outscored Miami 64-39 in the second half to wrap up the series and will next face the winner of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series. Giannis Antetokounmpo had his first playoff triple-double for the Bucks with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists, while Jimmy Butler turned in a quieter triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a losing effort. It was the first playoff series since 2014 in which Butler failed to reach 20 points in at least one game. 

Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley paced the top-seeded Utah Jazz to a 121-111 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, holding off a second-half surge from the underdogs. Mitchell scored 29 points and Conley had 27 points, six rebounds and eight assists for Utah as they took a 2-1 series lead. 

Norman Powell's 29 points led the Portland Trail Blazers past the Denver Nuggets 115-95 to level their series at 2-2. 

 

Nuggets' shooters nowhere to be found

The Nuggets had a rough shooting night all the way around in their loss to Portland. Denver made only 32 of 94 shots from the field (34 per cent), including just 13 of 44 (29.5 per cent) from three-point range, and Nikola Jokic led the scoring with just 16 points on seven of 18 shooting. 

 

Morant spins it in

Ja Morant put on a show in a losing effort for the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 28 points to give him 101 in the series. Morant is the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 100 points over his first three playoff appearances and the first since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970. Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan are the other two. 

 

Saturday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 120-103 Miami Heat
Portland Trail Blazers 115-95 Denver Nuggets
Philadelphia 76ers 132-103 Washington Wizards
Utah Jazz 121-111 Memphis Grizzlies

 

Suns at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers look for a commanding 3-1 lead in their series against the Phoenix Suns after winning the last two games. 

Jordan Spieth birdied his last hole to retain a one-stroke lead heading into the final round at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Jason Kokrak had joined 2016 champion Spieth atop the leaderboard before the latter stepped up to birdie the 18th in the third round at Colonial Country Club on Saturday.

Former world number one Spieth signed for another four-under-par 66 to remain the player to beat ahead of Sunday's finale in Fort Worth, Texas.

Spieth, whose 40-hole bogey-free streak ended at the par-four fifth hole, is eyeing his second PGA Tour title of the season, having ended his four-year trophy drought via last month's Texas Open.

A three-time major champion, Spieth only dropped two shots as he finished with six birdies, including three across a flawless back nine to be 15 under through 54 holes.

Fellow American Kokrak stayed within a shot of Spieth courtesy of his third-round 66.

Sergio Garcia – the 2017 Masters champion and 2001 Charles Schwab Challenge winner – is five strokes off the pace following his two-under-par 68.

Ian Poulter (64) surged up the leaderboard, improving 26 positions to be tied for fourth at eight under alongside Sebastian Munoz (70).

Former world number one and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose (69) is 10 shots behind Spieth, defending champion Collin Morikawa is two strokes further back after his 72, while Justin Thomas (71) slipped to 46th – 14 shots adrift.

Pep Guardiola insisted he "did the selection best to win the game" after Manchester City slumped to a 1-0 Champions League defeat against Chelsea in Porto.

Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute goal on the end of Mason Mount's brilliant throughball was enough to deny City their first success in Europe's top competition.

Premier League champions City lacked their usual fluency and mustered a solitary shot on target over the course of the contest, despite sending record goalscorer Sergio Aguero on for a farewell appearance late on.

The Opta expected goals (xG) figures for the match were 1.35-0.45 in Chelsea's favour.

Guardiola sprung a selectorial surprise before kick-off by omitting Fernandinho and Rodri and starting with Ilkay Gundogan at the base of his midfield.

The ploy backfired as City struggled for control throughout the match, especially in the first half, but Guardiola insisted his process was the same as the one that preceded this season's triumphs over Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, along with last year's similarly dispiriting quarter-final reverse against Lyon.

"I did my best in the selection. Like last season against Olympique Lyon, like it was against PSG and Dortmund," the City manager told a post-match new conference.

"I did the selection best to win the game, the players know it. I think Gundogan played good, was exceptional. We missed a little but in the first half to break the lines. In the second half it was much better.

"It was a tight game. We had enormous almost chances.

"Against Chelsea it's not easy but it wasn't for them either. They had the goal and Werner's shot in the first half and Pulisic in the second half.

"We struggled a little bit for the long balls, they used the second balls and after they run.

"In that moment, you need inspiration and quality. There were three or four moments with crosses from the byline but we did not arrive."

In City's 61 matches across all competitions in 2020-21, this was only the second time neither Rodri or Fernandinho featured in a starting line-up.

Explaining his rationale, Guardiola said he hoped Gundogan would quicken the tempo of City's play.

The Germany international completed an impressive 76 of his 80 passes (95 per cent) but the club's top scorer this season was unable to have a decisive influence as he created a solitary chance and did not attempt a single shot.

"I decided a decision to have quality players," Guardiola said.

"Gundogan played many years in this position, to have speed on the ball, find the small players, the brilliant players in between the lines and this was the decision."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel conceded Guardiola's gambit had led to some raised eyebrows in his camp.

"I expected Fernandinho to start," he said. "He chose a very offensive line-up, a very technical line-up, it was very hard to steal the balls and recover the balls.

"Everything else we more or less expected. We expected them to try and pin us on the sides very wide, so it was very important that we stepped out with Toni [Antonio Rudiger] and Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] to support our midfield.

"It was important to stay in a block in the front five to avoid diagonal switches of play for the number 10s. We had to play with a strong bond and a genuine belief and this is what we did."

City's cause was not helped by Kevin De Bruyne departing with a nasty-looking head injury following a collision with Rudiger before the hour, for which the Chelsea defender was booked.

"I don't know about the pain he has in his face, I didn't see him or speak to the doctor because I came to speak with all of you, Hopefully it will not be a big problem," said Guardiola, who was also keen to flag the achievements overall of a campaign where City won a third top-flight title in four years and a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

"I would like to say it was an exceptional, exceptional season for us. It is a dream being here, unfortunately we could not win," he added.

"We tried, we could not do it and we will work to come back one day."

Chelsea star Mason Mount savoured the climax to "a long, long journey" after the Blues beat Manchester City 1-0 to win the Champions League on Saturday.

Premier League champions City were eyeing a 2020-21 treble, and instead Chelsea claimed their second Champions League crown thanks to Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute goal.

Mount split City's defence with a sublime throughball for Havertz, who became the first player to score his maiden Champions League goal in the final since Ilkay Gundogan in 2013.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea nullified City to become the third English side to win the Champions League on two occasions, after Liverpool (2004-05 and 2018-19) and Manchester United (1998-99 and 2007-08).

Mount – the first English player to provide a Champions League final assist since Manchester United's Wes Brown in 2008 – revelled in the feat afterwards.

"I can't put it into words – it's impossible," Mount told BT Sport. "I've played in two finals for Chelsea, FA Cup and we've lost them both, and the way that hurt.

"To go all the way in the UEFA Champions League, I can't put it into words – it's such a special occasion.

"City have top, top players, it was such a tough game. We get one goal, kind of on the break, and then we defended for our lives.

"What it means to us is unbelievable; it's a long, long journey to get to this moment here."

Chelsea have lifted the trophy in six of their seven major European finals in their history, with this their fourth European success in the Roman Abramovich era alone (Champions League in 2020-21 and 2011-12, Europa League in 2012-13 and 2018-19).

Kai Havertz takes the glory and Timo Werner did everything but score, running Manchester City ragged for over an hour, rewriting the narrative surrounding Chelsea's spending spree of last year.

But perhaps the smartest move by those pulling the strings at Chelsea has been to keep N'Golo Kante, a colossus of this Champions League final; crowding, cramping City's style, always lurking and looking, Kante was absolutely pivotal to the dark blues bossing this match.

The talk was, going back 12 months, that Chelsea were thinking about selling Kante.

Billy Gilmour was emerging, Mason Mount was everything Frank Lampard has ever looked for in a midfielder, and with a big-money Havertz deal in the pipeline it seemed the face of Chelsea's midfield would be a young one.

Kante had endured injuries, and then he was reluctant to immediately return to training when the Premier League's lockdown ended in June, seeking clear assurances of coronavirus safety where others were perhaps in a hurry to get back to Cobham.

Was he as committed as others? Was his injury track record a worry? Lampard – remember him? – memorably killed the Kante exit talk at a stroke last June when he labelled the Frenchman "one of the best midfield players in the world".

"I actually would have loved to play with him, the type of player he is," Lampard said in a news conference. "He has everything, and coming back to Chelsea and managing this club, having N'Golo Kante, is something I really wanted to appreciate and work with."

Lampard presumably watched this final, regardless of his sacking by Chelsea in January, and how he must have again admired the Parisian's all-action efforts.

At full-time, former England and Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand declared on BT Sport: "Kante put on a masterclass in how to retrieve the ball, to defend, to then break things up and be a menace in that midfield. He controlled the game."

Joe Cole, the former Chelsea playmaker, went one step further, saying: "I don't think there's a more important player for his team in world football than Kante. We've watched a showpiece game and with him it looked like man against boys. He drove that Chelsea team."

Before this game, Kante had started seven games and came off the bench six more times in the Champions League this season.

Heading into the final, there had been just six midfielders in this season's competition with a passing accuracy above 85 per cent (Kante: 86.39), an accuracy into the final third of above 80 per cent (82.14), more than 40 ball recoveries (63), over 500 touches (511) and 25 possession wins in the midfield third of the pitch (42).

The others have been Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Toni Kroos – hopes of silverware for Los Blancos ended with the semi-final defeat to Chelsea – plus Atletico Madrid's Koke and the City pair of Rodri and Fernandinho.

That's the City pair who started this final on the substitutes' bench, both having been almost ever-present throughout the European campaign, victims of Pep Guardiola's latest big-match team selection twaddle.

By half-time, Chelsea were in front and Kante was in charge.

Former City midfield hardman Nigel de Jong tweeted: "Not the first half you want to see as a city fan... Kante is running the show at the moment stretching that midfield out. Restore a holding midfielder is key here."

De Jong had nailed it. Thomas Tuchel, the Chelsea boss, must have been relieved the Dutchman sent the message on social media rather than as a text to the City dugout.

Ben Chilwell had made an early dash down the left and Kante burst forward, the furthest Chelsea man upfield. Although the move came to nothing, it was a sign he would not simply sit deep.

Moments later, Kante was helping out right-back Reece James against Phil Foden. In the 12th minute it was Kante bursting on to a pass on the edge of the City penalty area, albeit without having the sass to outwit Ruben Dias.

When City broke at pace after Werner twice went close, it was Kante on the edge of the 18-yard box there to make the crucial interception, and a minute later the five foot, seven inch Frenchman was winning the ball in the air at the other end of the pitch but heading just off target from left-back Chilwell's cross.

Proving a terrific nuisance, a hawk constantly surveying the field for his next prey, Kante pinched the ball from Kevin de Bruyne and raced from his own half deep into City territory, feeding Havertz who might have done better but had the ball whipped away from his left foot as he prepared to unload a shot.

Havertz, suddenly with a taste for goal, did better just before the break after Mount's delicious throughball, the young Englishman stepping into an area of the pitch where on another day he might have encountered Fernandinho or Rodri.

Kante teed up Werner for a half-chance before the whistle came for the interval, a cute chip into the penalty area from the right wing showing another unsung aspect of his repertoire.

It continued into the second half, Kante sliding in to take the ball off De Bruyne with a clean tackle as the Belgian darted towards the edge of the Chelsea box.

When De Bruyne went off, dazed by Antonio Rudiger's bodycheck, he might well have been seeing double. But he had endured an hour of that with Kante anyway, or at least it must have felt that way, more often than not finding the Frenchman on his heels.

And so Chelsea's other players raised their game to match Kante, and now they are European champions again. He won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and the shortest man on the pitch won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team won more.

In every way possible, he rose to the challenge.

Kai Havertz scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea won the Champions League for a second time by beating Manchester City 1-0 in an all-English final in Porto.

Chelsea forward Havertz saved his first Champions League goal for the biggest stage at Estadio do Dragao on Saturday, opening the scoring late in the first half.

Thomas Tuchel's hugely impressive, well-drilled side held on to break City hearts, denying the Premier League champions a treble in their first Champions League final.

Tuchel had suffered the agony of defeat in the biggest game in European club football last year as Paris Saint-Germain boss, but his fellow German Havertz ensured he got the better of Pep Guardiola for a third time in just over a month.

City, surprisingly starting without both Fernandinho and Rodri for only the second time this season, had the first chance when Ederson sent Raheem Sterling clear with a brilliant pass, but the forward's poor touch allowed a combination of Reece James and Edouard Mendy to advert the danger.

Timo Werner's intelligent runs and pace was unsettling the City defence, but he missed his kick when Germany team-mate Havertz picked him out before finishing tamely after Mason Mount presented him with a glorious chance.

A magnificent tackle from Antonio Rudiger denied Phil Foden when he looked set to open the scoring and it was Chelsea who took the lead after Thiago Silva had limped off.

Mount was the architect, spotting a huge hole at the heart of the City defence and threading a pinpoint throughball for Havertz, who rounded Ederson and slotted home three minutes before the break.

City suffered another big blow early in the second half when a tearful and shaken Kevin De Bruyne was forced off with a black eye following a collision with Rudiger, who was shown a yellow card.

The verdict from referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz and the VAR was no penalty when City thought James had handled before Fernandinho replaced Bernardo Silva.

Substitute Christian Pulisic spurned a golden opportunity to give Chelsea breathing space 18 minutes from time, failing to hit the target after Havertz played him in on a blistering break.

Guardiola sent on Sergio Augero for his final City appearance but there was no dream swansong for City's record goalscorer, Riyad Mahrez slicing a shot just wide deep into seven minutes of stoppage time as Chelsea held on to be crowned champions of Europe.

Trae Young helped the Atlanta Hawks regain the advantage in their first-round series against the New York Knicks, who saw Julius Randle endure another playoff outing to forget in Game 3.

Point guard Young led his team with 21 points as all five of Atlanta's starters reached double figures in a 105-94 triumph on Friday.

His eight-for-19 shooting performance was supplemented by 14 assists, making the 22-year-old just the third player since the merger with 80 or more points and at least 30 assists in his first three career playoff games, a feat also achieved by Kevin Johnson and Chris Paul.  

"I feel like I've prepared my whole life for these days, these moments," Young said after helping his team go 2-1 up in the best-of-seven series in the Eastern Conference.

However, it was the defensive effort that was the bedrock for Atlanta's victory, including keeping the struggling Knicks to just 13 points in the second quarter.

The visitors were unable to claw back the deficit after trailing 58-44 at half-time, not aided by Randle remaining cold on offense.

The 26-year-old made just two of his 15 attempts in total, with both successes coming from beyond the arc. He became the first Knick to go 0-for-eight or worse on two-point shots in a playoff game since Patrick Ewing did so 27 years ago.

Randle is now shooting 20.6 per cent on two-pointers across the series, making just seven of his 34 tries. It is the lowest success rate in a three-game span by any player with that many attempts in the past 30 postseasons.

His meagre offensive output is in stark contrast to his efforts in the regular season: Randle averaged a career-high 24.1 points per game to help the franchise end an eight-year playoff drought, while he became an All-Star for the first time.

For Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, the key is reacting to the situation on each possession, particularly as Atlanta's ploy of sending two and three players at Randle is leaving others open elsewhere.

"They loaded up on him pretty good. When a team does that, when they put two or three guys on you, you've got to make the play," Thibodeau said in his post-game media conference.

"You've either got to get easy buckets in transition, or off drive-and-kick, you've got to keep moving around.

"He's seen a lot of that this year, but when you have a second and a third guy, that can make it tough. But that should lead to rebounding and open threes on the back side, so we've got to trust the pass."

He added: "The big thing is to get rid of the ball and make plays early. When you do that, you can usually get high-percentage shots. When you get the second defender on the ball, their responsibility is to get rid of it and make plays for their team-mates."

Game 4 of the series takes place in Atlanta on Sunday.

Kai Havertz became the first player to score his maiden Champions League goal in the final since Ilkay Gundogan in 2013 when he broke the deadlock for Chelsea against Manchester City on Saturday.

Germany international Havertz – a big-money signing from Bayer Leverkusen ahead of the 2020-21 campaign – put Thomas Tuchel's side ahead three minutes before the interval in Porto. 

The 21-year-old had made 20 appearances in the competition with the Blues and Leverkusen without scoring prior to that strike. 

He was teed up by Mason Mount, who became the first English player to provide a Champions League final assist since Manchester United's Wes Brown against the Blues in 2008. 

Havertz is the youngest German player to have netted in the European showpiece match since Lars Ricken for Borussia Dortmund against Juventus in 1997.

Thiago Silva, meanwhile, became Chelsea's oldest player to appear in a major European final, aged 36 years and 249 days. He overtook Claude Makelele, who was 35 years and 93 days when he faced United 13 years ago.

The Brazilian's game ended early, however, the Brazil international substituted with an injury in the 39th minute. 

Marc Marquez apologised to Maverick Vinales for his persistent towing at the Italian Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo secured a fourth consecutive pole position in style. 

Vinales was visibly frustrated after Marquez followed him out of the pits for the final Q1 run and stuck with him when he abandoned his out-lap. 

After moving ahead of Vinales in the pit lane Marquez then dropped back in behind him for their flying lap knowing the Monster Yahama rider could not pull in again. 

It worked perfectly for Marquez, who pulled to the top of the timesheets ahead of Vinales with only a lap to go.

Vinales, meanwhile, was pushed down to third by Aleix Espargaro, leaving him 13th on the grid and out of Q2.

Marquez, who will start Sunday's Grand Prix from 11th, apologised to Vinales but insisted what he did was in the rules. 

"We checked the list, the fastest guy was Vinales, so we chose him because he was the fastest guy [not to get into Q2 directly], but if it was another one [faster] we would choose another one," the six-time world champion said. 

"And then just I followed him, it was the tactic because it was the only way to improve.

"I would like to be in another level and another position to push in front and have the others follow me, like many times in the past. But I'm not like this.

"But I know, because I had that feeling in the past, how Maverick can feel. For that reason, I saw Vinales after the session and we spoke about it and I apologised.

"But in the end, it's inside the rules. In the limit but inside the rules, and what I did was try to find the perfect situation to do my 100 per cent and to take the best result possible."

Vinales' team-mate Quartararo, meanwhile, was in supreme form, sealing another pole position courtesy of a new lap record of one minute and 45.187 seconds. 

Quartararo became the first Yamaha rider to secure pole at Mugello in the premier class since Valentino Rossi, and the 22-year-old hailed his record lap as the best of his life. 

"This was probably the best lap I have ever done in my life," he said. "This is the type of track where you can really feel the adrenaline. I was on the limit everywhere. In the first sector, I was moving all the time, but I just said 'I'm going to send it'. 

"I really wanted to do the fastest lap today, and it worked. I'm actually really looking forward to seeing the onboard lap, because for sure it will look amazing.

"Today was a good day. I really wanted this pole position, because I know it's important for us for the race. I enjoyed that lap."


Provisional classification

1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 1:45.187
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Team) +0.230s
3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) +0.245s
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Gresini) +0.351s
5. Jack Miller (Ducati Team) +0.411s
6. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +0.556s
7. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +0.558s
8. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.809s
9. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.889s
10. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) +0.897s
11. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +0.938s
12. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda) +1.206s

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.