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The sports express – February

Football

  • February saw the return of European football, starting off with the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League and the round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League. In the Champions League, Manchester City and Bayern Munich cruised to comfortable first-leg wins over Borussia Monchengladbach and Lazio respectively, while Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid also took first-leg leads. Meanwhile, Juventus suffered a shock defeat from Porto, while PSG dominated Barcelona in their first leg, courtesy of a Kylian Mbappe hat trick. In the Europa League, Leicester was surprisingly knocked out by Slavia Praha
  • Manchester City continued their stranglehold on the Premier League, winning all of their matches in the month of February and currently look on course for a comfortable title win. Manchester United and Leicester follow in 2nd and 3rd respectively, with one of the highlights of United’s month being a 9-0 win against Southampton. Liverpool continued their horror run, losing against Brighton, Leicester and Everton with the derby loss to Everton being their first loss in the Merseyside derby at Anfield in 22 years. Meanwhile, Chelsea continue to remain unbeaten under new manager, Tomas Tuchel
  • A 3-0 Milan derby win for Inter Milan ensured a commanding lead for them in the Serie A title race over city rivals AC Milan. Juventus in the midst of an inconsistent season has also closed the gap on 2nd place AC Milan who have been suffering heavily from injuries including one to star Swedish forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  • An inconsistent month of February for Atletico Madrid including draws against Celta Vigo and Levante as well as a loss against the latter ensured that the La Liga title race was still alive and kicking with both Real Madrid and Barcelona closing the gap on Atletico following strong recent form in the league. Atletico Madrid still holds a slender lead going into the business end of the season but the title race is certainly on.
  • Bayern Munich suffered a couple of hiccups in the Bundesliga, including a draw against struggling Arminia Bielefeld as well as a loss against Eintracht Frankfurt, which allowed a RB Leipzig team in red hot form to come with two points of the serial winners. Meanwhile, Marco Rose, the current Borussia Monchengladbach coach was confirmed as Dortmund manager for the next season while arch-rivals, Schalke 04 remain rooted to the foot of the table and seem destined to be relegated
  • Surprise package Lille maintained their slender lead in the Ligue 1 table over giants Paris St Germain, with both Lyon and Monaco following close by making the Ligue 1 season into a genuine 4 team title race, It currently seems that Lille and PSG are the teams to beat, but both Lyon and Monaco will also fancy their chances in what has been a rather inconsistent season for defending champions PSG, who haven’t had the best start to the league under new manager Mauricio Pochettino

Cricket

  • The England India test series got underway in Chennai with Joe Root continuing his sizzling form with a double century on the way to a famous England win with notable contributions from Jack Leach, Dom Bess and the ageless Jimmy Anderson who bowled a candidate for one of the greatest overs of recent times with a stunning display of reverse swing. The pitches for the 2nd and 3rd tests were drastically more bowler-friendly with the second test in Chennai going India’s way thanks to centuries from Rohit Sharma and Ravi Ashwin while debutant Axar Patel also made his mark with a 5-wicket haul on his test debut. The 3rd test was also the first test match at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad which was christened the Narendra Modi International Cricket stadium. The first test match at the ground, a day/night affair ended inside 2 of the allocated five days as a combination of a spin-friendly pitch and the skiddy nature of the pink ball led to a series of low scores and dominance from Axar Patel, who picked up a 12 wicket haul while English captain Joe Root also claimed a surprising 5-8. India leads the series 2-1 going into the final test match, again at Ahmedabad.
  • Pakistan played South Africa in a series at home with Pakistan winning the test series 2-0 with outstanding contributions from debutant Nauman Ali who picked up a 5-wicket haul as well as Mohammed Rizwan who notched his first test century. However, the sweetest moment of all came when Hasan Ali returned from a lengthy injury layoff to take a 10-wicket haul with a searing display of skiddy pace. The T20I series also ended 2-1 in favour of Pakistan with highlights including a sublime century from Mohammed Rizwan and Dwaine Pretorius’s 5-wicket haul in South Africa’s only win on the tour.
  • An inexperienced West Indies team under Kraigg Brathwaite sealed an unexpected 2-0 win over Bangladesh in a series that will be forever remembered for Kyle Mayer’s double century on debut, the very first double century by a debutant in the second innings. The second match was an extremely tense affair with Rakheem Cornwall bowling his side to the brink of victory before sealing the win with a sharp catch of Mehidy Hasan Miraz at slip off the bowling of Jomel Warrican
  • Australia postponed their tour of South Africa, citing health risks while also starting a T20I series against New Zealand where Devon Conway scored 99 not out in the first match of the series
  • The IPL auction took place in Chennai with Chris Morris becoming the most expensive player in the history of the IPL when he was bought for 16.25 Cr(approx $2.28 million)  by the Rajasthan Royals. Other notable buys were Jhye Richardson and Rilee Meredith by the newly renamed Punjab Kings, Glenn Maxwell and Kyle Jamieson by Royal Challengers Bangalore and Moeen Ali and Krishnappa Gowtham by Chennai Super Kings. IPL 2021 will also make history by being the first IPL edition with no participation from Sri Lankan players

Tennis

  • The 2021 Australian Open concluded with a 9th Australian Open victory for Novak Djokovic who also won his 18th Grand Slam title, moving within 2 of the overall record. He achieved this by dismantling Danil Medvedev in straight sets in the final. In the Women’s singles edition, Naomi Osaka continued her domination on hard courts beating Jennifer Brady in the final to win her 4th Grand Slam title.

F1

  • There were significant changes made to the Australian GP track layout to make overtaking better and the race a bit more exciting for the fans
  • The plans for an F1 race in Rio De Janeiro was cancelled after taking the economical downfalls from Covid-19.
  • Nikita Mazepin together with all Russian drivers competing in FIA-run Championships, not only in F1, will be banned from racing under the Russian flag from 2021.
  • Lewis Hamilton was confirmed as the driver for Mercedes but it was only a 1-year contract which got fans thinking if 2021 will be his last season with Mercedes or even in F1.
  • The calendar was finalised with the Portuguese GP being announced to take the 3rd race of the 23 race season.
  • The Paul Ricard circuit has reprofiled 70% of its track to improve overtaking and drainage.
  • FIA and F1 have announced that the engine development is frozen until 2022 and the teams now only get one chance before the season starts to take as much power from their PU. 
  •  Fernando Alonso was involved in a bicycle accident in Swaziland and was reported to have a broken jaw because of it. He is fully recovered and back to training for the 2021 season.
  • Redbull confirmed they will be taking over the F1 engine development of Honda to power their cars till 2025. This was a result of Honda getting out of F1 to focus more on electric car development.
  • Ferrari is confident they found the lost power from their engines and now have faster straight-line speed.
  • Pirelli has announced its tyre compounds for the entire season at once when they usually announce them as the season progresses.
RACALBS

The author RACALBS