After a couple of months off, Ben Ainslie returned to the San Francisco bay to take part in the latest leg of the America’s Cup World Series circuit.
His racing team, J.P. Morgan BAR, didn’t have the best of times in August, finishing second to bottom in the fleet racing table and losing their first round match race. The Olympic gold medallist got off to a decent start here though, winning the qualifier against Italy’s Luna Rossa Swordfish. Unfortunately, the win sees the British team head into the quarterfinals against America’s Oracle Team USA Spithill, the team that won the whole competition last time around. Should Ben and company manage to win this tussle, they’ll probably square up to the other US team – the one that came second. Pessimism aside, it’s all practice before the America’s Cup proper and any result better than two months ago is definitely welcome.
Mixed fortunes in the two UEFA Champions Leagues last night – both Birmingham and Glasgow’s ladies teams crashed out at the Round of 32. It was particularly bitter for Birmingham who went into the second leg 2-0 up. They also squandered a bunch of chances as they lost 3-0 after extra time and can only blame themselves. The men’s teams did marginally better, with Arsenal securing a confident win, but Manchester City’s qualification hopes are hanging in the balance… again.
Andy Murray returned to action with his brother this time and produced a nervy win to reach the next round of the Japan Open, a competition Andy also has a singles interest in. Should there be anyone that cares, it wasn’t such good news for England’s polo team, who lost their second consecutive match and end up as the Super Nations Cup’s worst team. A sad day for all polo fans, I’m sure you’ll agree. Also, I’ve included disability sport in the blog for the first time since the Paralympics. It’s not that I don’t want to show it, it’s just that the websites for these competitions are pretty shoddy and it’s hard to get results. Nevertheless, good matches for Lucy Shuker among others, who won in straight sets.
For now, I’m suspending “Yesterday’s Top Performers”. It’s becoming painfully clear towards the end of the year that there are hardly any sporting events going on during the week and even fewer that Britain are winning in. I’ll consider moving to the end of the week and establishing a “Week’s Top Performers” like I did a few weeks ago, but we’ll see. It’s a lot to do on a weekend (or Monday), so don’t get your little hopes up.
Instead, today I’ll throw out some baseless predictions as the Europa League returns tonight with three English clubs. It’s a hard competition to predict – playing in Europe’s second-tier tournament suggests that a team isn’t good enough for the Champions League. While that may have been true at the end of last season, it seems to me more like it’s a position of flux, where teams may have been improving or declining. Take the 2012/2013 league table for instance; although Spurs are currently 5th and heading for another spell in Europe, Newcastle are 10th and Liverpool lie in 14th, having been in the relegation zone the previous weekend. As things stand, neither look like making it next year, but how are they doing in this year’s competition?
Liverpool are at home today and, despite their poor league form, I reckon they’ll teach struggling Udinese a lesson. Not a harsh one, maybe a light one like Business Studies 2-0 for Liverpool. Not such good news for Newcastle against group leaders Bordeaux, but I reckon home advantage will lead to a 0-0 stalemate. Spurs are the only British side playing away from home but I don’t think that will help hapless Panathinaikos. A 3-0 win for Tottenham may sound generous and I’ll probably be wrong, but it’s hard to bet against them after rivals Arsenal did the same to the stronger Olimpiacos last night.
While we’re at it, let’s go full circle and return to the America’s Cup World Series. With Ben Ainslie Racing against one of the Oracle Teams tomorrow, I anticipate the Brits will lose heavily, ending their run in the match race tournament. There’s still plenty to play for in the fleet races, considering it starts today and I expect they’ll build on last time’s performance. Is a seventh place finish too much to hope for now that they’ve had time to gel? I’ll let you know in a week.
Football: UEFA Women’s Champions League
Round of 32
Verona (ITA) 3-0 Birmingham City Ladies
Verona win 3-2 on aggregate after extra time.
Fortuna (DEN) 0-0 Glasgow City Ladies
Fortuna win 2-1 on aggregate.
Football: UEFA Champions League
Arsenal 3-1 Olimpiacos (GRE)
Arsenal top of the group with 6 points.
Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Manchester City third in the group with 1 point.
Sailing: America’s Cup World Series
Match Race Qualifiers
J.P. Morgan BAR beat Luna Rossa Swordfish
Polo: Super Nations Cup
England 6-8 Hong Kong
England finish 4th/bottom of the tournament.
Tennis: China Open
Colin Fleming/Ross Hutchins beat Yu Chang/Zhe Li 6-3 6-3
Tennis: Rakuten Japan Open
Andy Murray/Jamie Murray beat Eric Butorac (USA)/Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 5-7 6-3 10-4
Wheelchair Tennis: US Open USTA Wheelchair Championships
Women’s Wheelchair Open Singles
Lucy Shuker beat Katharina Kruger (GER) 6-2 6-4
Quad Wheelchair Open Doubles
Anthony Cotterill/Adam Field beat David Jordan/Marc McLean (USA) 6-2 6-2