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The week in numbers: w/e 20/3/11

Evans won Tirreno-Adriatico by 11 seconds

21 – Australia’s Cadel Evans became the 21st different winner of the Tirreno-Adriatico seven-day cycling race, defeating Robert Gesink by just 11 seconds.

1 – Australia’s Matt Goss became the first non-European to claim the Milan-San Remo one-day classic, winning a thrilling eight-man sprint in Saturday’s 102nd edition of the race.

2Inter Milan became only the second club ever to win a Champions League knockout tie after losing the first leg at home. They won 3-2 at Bayern Munich, going through on the away goals rule after the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate.

0 – Number of representatives from Germany, Italy, England and France in the quarter-finals of the Europa League – the first time this has happened in the history of the Europa League/UEFA Cup.

27Barcelona‘s 2-1 win over Getafe means they are now unbeaten in their last 27 La Liga matches, a new club record.

8 England‘s points total in the 24-8 defeat to Ireland which denied them a grand slam. It was their lowest score in a Six Nations game since a 31-6 loss to France in March 2006.

25 Brian O’Driscoll scored his 25th Five/Six Nations try against England, breaking the competition record set by Scotland‘s Ian Smith between 1924-33.

18Novak Djokovic improved his 2011 record to 18-0 by defeating world number one Rafael Nadal 4-6 6-3 6-2 in the BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells. Djokovic had already guaranteed he would move up to the number two spot by defeating Roger Federer in their semi-final.

60:23 – At his first competitive attempt at the distance, Mo Farah won the New York half-marathon in a new British record time of 60:23.

The cricket World Cup in numbers

131 Ireland‘s 131-run defeat by South Africa was their largest losing margin in a World Cup match, surpassing their 129-run loss to New Zealand in 2007.

Duminy fell one run short of a century against Ireland

99 – In that same game, South Africa’s J P Duminy became only the second batsman (after Adam Gilchrist) to be dismissed for 99 at a World Cup.

183 Shane Watson and Brad Haddin put on 183 runs, the highest opening-wicket partnership for Australia at the World Cup, as they cruised to a seven-wicket win over Canada.

2 – The NetherlandsRyan ten Doeschate scored his second century of this tournament, tying with A B de Villiers and Sachin Tendulkar. However, his 106 was not enough to avoid defeat as Paul Stirling‘s 101 (off 72 balls) helped Ireland to a six-wicket win.

206Bangladesh‘s 206 -run defeat by South Africa – they were bowled out for just 78 – was their largest margin of defeat in a World Cup match, and their second-largest in all one-day internationals.

34Pakistan ended Australia’s 34-game winning streak after bowling out the defending champions for just 176.

0Kenya‘s 176-run defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe ensured they finished this World Cup with no wins from their six games. The Netherlands were similarly winless.

21 – The West Indies lost their last eight wickets for just 34 runs as they were beaten by India by 80 runs in the final group phase match. They have not beaten a Test-playing nation in an ODI since June 2009 – a period of 21 months.

The Premier League in numbers

31 – Including blocked attempts, Tottenham had 31 shots in their goalless draw with West Ham.

Van Persie averages exactly a goal per game in his last 19 appearances (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

19 – In scoring Arsenal‘s equaliser in their 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion, Robin van Persie improved his record to 19 goals in his last 19 Premier League games.

28 – West Brom have now failed to keep a clean sheet in 28 consecutive matches – a new Premier League record.

1Steven Reid‘s third-minute goal in that game marked the first time Arsenal had conceded a goal in the first 15 minutes of a league game this season – making them the last team to do so.

4Stoke City‘s 4-0 win over Newcastle marked the first time they have ever scored more than three times in a Premier League game.

22Junior Hoilett‘s 93rd-minute equaliser in Blackburn‘s 2-2 draw with Blackpool should have come as little surprise. There have now been 22 goals in the last ten minutes of matches involving these two teams this season.

18Everton‘s 2-1 win over Fulham was their 18th straight home league win against these opponents (and the tenth in the Premier League era).

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, The Times@InfostradaLiveCricinfo and @StatManJon.)

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The original Ronaldo, and still the best

Brazilian Ronaldo scored the fastest goal in t...

Image via Wikipedia

The Brazilian striker Ronaldo, one of the greatest players of modern times, announced his retirement from football with immediate effect yesterday.

The 34-year old had originally intended to stop playing at the end of this season. However, Corinthians‘ early elimination from the Copa Libertadores brought forward his decision.

The original has long since been replaced in the ranks of Real Madrid‘s galácticos by a young pretender with the same name. But, world-class talent though he is, I suspect the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo will never hold the same place in the hearts of many football fans as his predecessor, the man christened Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima.

Ronaldo explained that it was time for him to bow out, as the ravages of injury and ageing have taken their toll:

I wanted to continue, but I can’t. I think of an action, but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time.

It’s very hard to leave something that made me so happy. Mentally I wanted to continue, but I have to acknowledge that I lost to my body.

A glittering career

Ronaldo was a member of two World Cup-winning squads, scoring a record total of 15 goals in World Cup finals matches. He is only one of two men to be named Fifa World Player of the Year three times. And he also played for five European Cup winners – PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan – but never won Europe’s premier cup competition himself.

Having moved from Brazilian side Cruzeiro as a 17-year old after the 1994 World Cup (in which he was a non-playing squad member), he proceeded to terrorise defences all over Europe. In two seasons with PSV Eindhoven, he scored 54 goals in just 58 games before earning a big-money transfer to Barcelona. In just one season at the Catalan club, Ronaldo netted 47 goals at virtually a goal per game, topping the La Liga scoring chart and scoring the winning goal in the Cup Winners’ Cup final. Aged 20, he became the youngest ever player to become World Player of the Year.

The following season he was signed by Inter Milan for a then world record fee of £19.5m. In five seasons with the nerazzurri, he scored 59 times in 99 games, including once in Inter’s 1998 UEFA Cup final triumph. He won his second World Player of the Year award in 1997, at which point he was almost universally acknowledged as being the best player in the world.

In the 1998 World Cup, Ronaldo scored four times to help Brazil reach the final but suffered a fit the night before the game and was dropped and then reinstated to the starting line-up. He played poorly, and France won 3-0.

However, he found redemption at the 2002 tournament after recovering from two serious right knee injuries, the second of which he suffered just seven minutes into his first comeback game. He scored eight times, including both goals in the final as Brazil beat Germany 2-0 to win a record fifth Jules Rimet trophy, earning him his third World Player of the Year.

World Cup success was followed by another big-money move to Real Madrid, where he scored twice on his debut at home to Alavés (see below) and finished the season with 23 league goals to lead Madrid to the La Liga title. Ronaldo’s 2003/04 season was curtailed by injury, but not before he had scored a memorable Champions League hat-trick at Old Trafford, where he was applauded off the field by the Manchester United fans.

At the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo scored three times to pass Gerd Müller to become the record goalscorer in World Cup finals tournaments, with 15. He would finish with 62 international goals in just 97 appearances for Brazil.

Following a succession of injury and weight problems and the arrival of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo was transferred to AC Milan in January 2007. In his 4½ years at the Bernabéu, he had scored a total of 98 goals (in 164 games). He would play just 20 times for the rossoneri (scoring nine goals) before suffering a serious left knee ligament injury in early 2008. Milan released him at the end of the season.

Ronaldo subsequently returned to Brazil to play for Corinthians, where he played 31 times in two years before announcing his retirement just over a week after their 2-0 Copa Libertadores defeat to Colombian side Deportes Tolima.

Ronaldo’s goals and appearances tally varies depending on exactly which games you count, but according to BBC Sport he finished his career with an incredible 326 goals in 466 games, the vast majority played in either La Liga or Serie A.

A special talent who could have been even better

At his best, Ronaldo was a terrifying centre forward who was nigh on unplayable, possessing a combination of electrifying pace and brutish physical power – he was just as likely to run past defenders as run over them. He regularly left opponents in his wake with his close control and ability to shift the ball quickly between his feet, even at full speed. And although he was not a prolific header of the ball, he was as natural a finisher with either foot as there has ever been.

However, it is for his flaws as much as his genius that Ronaldo is so highly revered. Throughout his career he struggled with weight problems. A naturally heavy-set man, his hefty mass is likely to have contributed to his repeated knee injuries.

His injury setbacks were heart-breaking, and ultimately compromised his longevity at the pinnacle of the game. The mystery and drama surrounding his presence at the 1998 World Cup final underlined just how important he was even to what was arguably the best team in the world at that time. Then his redemptive return at the 2002 World Cup was the stuff of which fairytales are made.

And, like many of his superstar compatriots, he is said to have rather enjoyed the party lifestyle, perhaps a little too much.

As a result, by his late twenties Ronaldo’s body simply could not take the regular punishment in the way it once had, and his effectiveness in the final five years or so of his career was compromised as a result. But whenever he was fit enough to set foot on a pitch, he was a terrifying sight to behold for opposition teams and fans alike. I well remember watching him take the field for a Champions League tie against my side Arsenal in 2006 – by which time he was well past his best – and watching, terrified, as he set off on one of those trademark bull-runs of his.

I only ever had the opportunity to watch Ronaldo perform in the flesh once. But what a game it was – his Real Madrid debut in October 2002 – and what a performance he put on, even though he only played the final half-hour. Here’s the story of a very special evening in Madrid – a personal tribute to the genius of Ronaldo.

Real Madrid 5 Alavés 2, Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, October 2002

It’s amazing that 71,000 people could be so quiet.

Especially the crowd at Real Madrid’s Bernabéu stadium, gathered to watch arguably the greatest – certainly the most expensive – team in the world. A side boasting such virtuoso performers as Zinedine Zidane, Raúl, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos. And yet one missing its latest star attraction, the centre forward who has yet to make his debut for the club.

That’s not to say the ground is completely silent. The crowd applauds politely in appreciation of individual moments of skill. Contentious refereeing decisions are met with a chorus of disapproval. On two occasions the background murmur is punctuated by huge roars of appreciation following Real goals. But it’s not unlike watching the prologue before the first act proper – as if everyone’s saving their energy for the arrival of the main man.

There had been a tantalising glimpse of him warming up before the game. A cameo greeted by a stage whisper communicating his arrival around the ground. A hint of what is to come.

His next appearance finds him bouncing up and down on the touchline, waiting in the wings to come on, itching to take centre stage. The game has progressed to 2-1 in favour of Madrid courtesy of goals by Zidane (a stunning volley after barely a minute) and Figo, themselves leading men in any other cast. Everyone in the stadium senses a twist in the tale, but nobody quite knows what it is.

Within 60 seconds, the plot unfolds. A quick, flowing movement is ended with a rapier-like finish. Gol! 3-1. An explosion of celebration, the entire stadium shaking with the noise – 71,000 people suddenly awakened. Adulation rains down on the new star, and he flashes a familiar, toothy smile to the waiting cameras as he returns to his mark, ready for the next act.

15 minutes later, and the scene is set once more. Steve McManaman darts in on goal, but he knows his role in this production is one of straight man. He provides the cue, and sure enough the striker delivers the punchline with aplomb. 4-1.

The rest is merely subplot. A goal apiece brings the score to 5-2. With time running down, amazingly some people are making an early exit. Don’t they realise that they haven’t seen the encore yet?

The only shame here is that for once the great man fluffs his lines. Presented with the opportunity for one final flourish, he places his shot just wide. But it is a minor footnote, no more, one that will have no impact on the critics’ rave reviews the following morning.

The curtain comes down, and the hero of the moment takes a bow, graciously accepting the standing ovation to which he is fully entitled.

His name? The crowd chanted it fervently as the two teams walked off the pitch – a supporting cast of 21, with one leading man – “Ronaldo! Ronaldo!”

———-

Farewell, Ronaldo. You will be remembered by football fans long into the future. Not least thanks to the magic of YouTube:

The week in numbers: w/e 14/11/10

David Haye successfully defended his WBA heavyweight crown (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

7:53 – In their all-British WBA heavyweight title fight, defending champion David Haye stopped Audley Harrison after 1:53 of the third round. In total, the fight lasted just seven minutes and 53 seconds.

0 – Neither boxer landed a single punch in what can only be described as a cagey first round (if you’re being charitable) – or a crap one (if you’re not).

1 – Harrison threw 32 punches but landed just one, in a contest which was as one-sided as it was short.

8Manny Pacquiao beat Antonio Margarito to win the WBC light-middleweight title after a unanimous and overwhelming points decision. He is the only boxer to have ever won world titles in eight different weight categories.

18 – 18-year old Sam Twiston-Davies rode Little Josh to victory at the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, earning his trainer father Nigel his third win in the race.

4Barcelona‘s Xavi Hernández is the only player in La Liga to have completed more than 100 passes in a single game – he has now managed this feat four times this season.

2010 F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

256 – Final points total of Sebastian Vettel, who won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Formula 1 drivers’ title. At the end of a 19-race season, he beat runner-up Fernando Alonso by just four points.

23 – At 23 years and four months, Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton‘s mark as the youngest ever F1 world champion.

0 – Vettel had not led the drivers’ championship at any point before yesterday’s race.

1 – Price in pounds paid in 2005 by Red Bull for the old Jaguar team. In just their sixth season, Red Bull have won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

46Inter Milan‘s unbeaten 46-match streak at home ended last night after their 0-1 loss in the derby against AC Milan.

25 – Points scored by England‘s Toby Flood in their 35-18 win over Australia at Twickenham.

17 – England’s 17-point margin of victory equalled their biggest ever win over the Wallabies.

46Scotland succumbed to a record 46-point defeat at Murrayfield, losing 49-3 to New Zealand.

The Premier League week in numbers

Robert Huth - drought-breaker

697Robert Huth‘s opening goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Birmingham broke Stoke‘s run of 697 minutes without a goal against the Blues.

15Michael Essien scored the only goal in Chelsea‘s 1-0 win over Fulham on Wednesday night. Chelsea are undefeated in the 15 league games in which Essien has scored.

4Bolton‘s 1-1 draw at Everton on Wednesday made them the first team in Premier League history to draw four consecutive games 1-1.

10 – Number of changes to Blackpool’s starting XI made by manager Ian Holloway for the midweek trip to Aston Villa. Blackpool lost 3-2.

92:26 – In Arsenal‘s 2-0 win at Wolves on Wednesday, Marouane Chamakh posted the longest time between two goals by the same player in the same Premier League match.

37 – Time (in seconds) of Chamakh’s first goal, the fastest in the Premier League this season and the quickest ever by Arsenal in the Premier League era.

2 – Wolves have now conceded a goal in the first minute of their last two games, against Arsenal on Wednesday and against Bolton on Saturday.

10 – Wolves continued their streak of never having won a Premier League game in November, having drawn two and lost eight of their ten matches.

Johan Elmander - away-day specialist

6 – Bolton’s Johan Elmander has now scored six league goals this season, all away from home.

7 – Saturday’s 4-2 win over Blackburn was Rafael van der Vaart‘s seventh Premier League game at White Hart Lane, and the first in which he has failed to score, having scored seven in his previous six. He is yet to score away from home.

25Fulham achieved a creditable 0-0 draw at Newcastle, but have nonetheless gone 25 consecutive away games without a win.

0 – In failing to find the target in their goalless draw with Birmingham, Manchester City remain the only Premier League team without a headed goal.

47 – Even though they drew 0-0, West Ham and Blackpool attempted 47 shots (including blocked efforts) between them, the most by both teams in a single game this season.

4 – In recovering from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Aston Villa, Manchester United became the fourth Premier League team to remain unbeaten in their first 13 games. Only the Arsenal 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ went the entire season unbeaten, however.

39Nedum Onuoha‘s opening goal in Sunderland’s surprise 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge broke Chelsea’s run of 39 straight league goals at home without reply.

The NFL week in numbers

3 – Number of San Francisco touchdowns negated by penalty in the 49ers‘ game against the St Louis Rams. The Niners also had an interception chalked off due to a defensive penalty, but still rallied to win 23-20 in overtime.

0 – There are now no winless teams in the NFL after the Buffalo Bills beat the Detroit Lions 14-12.

25 – In losing at Buffalo, Detroit set a new NFL record by losing their 25th straight road game – a streak dating back to 2007. The previous record of 24 straight road losses was also set by the Lions, between 2001-03.

David Garrard completed a 50-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired (image courtesy of jaguars.com)

50Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard threw a 50-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Thomas on the final play of regulation to give the Jaguars a 31-24 win over the Houston Texans.

16 – Seconds remaining in overtime when Santonio Holmes scored the game-winning touchdown to give the New York Jets a 26-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns. It was the third latest touchdown in regular season overtime history. (In 1996, Michael Jackson scored with 10 seconds left as the Ravens defeated the Rams, and in 1978 John Jefferson scored as time expired in overtime for the Chargers against the Chiefs.)

2 – The Jets, who won 23-20 in overtime at Detroit last week, are the first team in NFL history to win road games in overtime in consecutive weeks.

3 Denver quarterback Tim Tebow’s first NFL pass went for a three-yard touchdown to running back Spencer Larsen, making him only the third rookie quarterback since 1991 to register a touchdown on their first career pass attempt (also Atlanta‘s Matt Ryan and Pittsburgh‘s Kordell Stewart) (Denver 49 Kansas City 29).

1 – The Broncos led 35-0 in the second quarter, and are the first team since at least 1950 to have a first half lead of 35-plus points and a first half deficit of at least 35 points in two games in the same season. (The Broncos trailed 38-0 in the first half against the Oakland Raiders in week seven.)

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, @StatManJon and NFL.com.)

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