The coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellations and postponements of most big-ticket sports tournaments. If the lack of sporting action has left a void in your day, here’s something to satiate that hunger — a pick of classic matches by our correspondents from the years gone by that you should revisit.
MAGIC IN MOSCOW
May 21, 2008. Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow). The stage was set for the first All-England UEFA Champions League final. The Red Devils were gunning for their third while The Blues were going for their first.
Manchester United vs Chelsea lived up to its billing, producing one of the most memorable finals in the history of the competition in front of a capacity crowd of 67,000.
The day (May 21) held a special significance for United as it marked the 100th anniversary of the club’s first league triumph, the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, and the 40th anniversary of its first European Cup triumph in 1968.
At Luzhniki, United’s talisman and No. 7 Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 26th minute, towering over Michael Essien and reaching a loopy Wes Brown cross to head the ball home. Close to half-time, Frank Lampard made the most of a defensive error from United and slotted home past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to pull Chelsea level.
With the second half turning barren, the contest spilled into extra-time. Chelsea was down to 10 with four minutes to go as Didier Drogba saw red for slapping Nemanja Vidic. The Blues, however, held on to force a shoot-out.
Carlos Tevez (United) and Michael Ballack (Chelsea) were on the spot before Michael Carrick and Juliano Belletti made it 2-2. To everyone’s surprise, Ronaldo failed to find a way past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal. Lampard made no mistake off the next as Chelsea nosed ahead 3-2. After Owen Hargreaves and Ashley Cole found the target, it was Nani’s turn to keep the contest alive. He coolly deposited the ball in the net, leaving it to John Terry and Chelsea to drill home the final nail in United’s coffin.
In an incredible climax, Terry slipped on the approach, ramming the ball into the left upright. Ronaldo and United’s collective sigh of relief would have been heard all over Russia!
Anderson gave United the lead (5-4) for the first time before Salomon Kalou restored parity. Ryan Giggs converted without much ado, throwing the spotlight on Nicolas Anelka. The French star decided to go to van der Sar’s left, but the United goalkeeper guessed right. His spectacular save broke The Blues’ hearts.
SATHIYAN SHINES ON THE BIG STAGE
G. Sathiyan, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and India’s highest-ranked player, sent shockwaves through the international table tennis fraternity when he humbled World No, 5 and teenage prodigy, Harimoto Tomokazu.
In the quarterfinals of the team event of the 2019 ITTF Asian table tennis championships, India faced a formidable Japan. Though the Indian paddlers crashed to a 3-1 defeat, Sathiyan emerged with flying colours, showing that he had the artillery to outgun even the top players.
Wrapping up the first game 11-4 even before one could pronounce his opponent’s name (Harimoto Tomokazu), Sathiyan grew in strength and confidence to take the next 11-7. Though Tomokazu came out firing on all cylinders in a do-or-die game for him, the Indian kept his cool to seal the tie.
Sathiyan’s victory against a top-5 paddler, and that too in straight games, made it a red-letter day for Indian table tennis.
India survives a Bangladesh scare in Bengaluru
Host India entered the 2016 T20 World Cup as one of the favourites, but ran into a spirited Bangladesh side at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on a memorable night (March 23).
Batting first in its Group 2, Super 10 clash, the Men in Blue could manage only 146 for seven. Suresh Raina top-scored with 30 while the others struggled to get going.
Bangladesh raced to 55 for one in the eighth over before the Indian spinners struck thrice to put the skids on the chase. A revival saw Bangladesh needing 11 off the final six deliveries. Hardik Pandya was entrusted the task of denying Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah, both eager to take their team past the finish line.
Mahmudullah’s single brought Mushfiqur into the firing line. However, the latter proved he was up to the challenge as he smashed a four through extra-cover. Six off four balls soon became two from three, thanks to Mushfiqur’s audacious lap-sweep that sailed to the boundary. Audacity turned into overconfidence as Mushfiqur went for glory off the fourth delivery. His attempted pull landed in Shikhar Dhawan’s hands at deep midwicket.
With Mahmudullah back on strike, Bangladesh had the edge. Inexplicably, the experienced campaigner too decided to finish things off only to perish to a smart pouch by Ravindra Jadeja at midwicket.
One ball, two runs. The ice-cool Dhoni discussed the modus operandi with Pandya before going back to his spot behind the stumps. Removing one glove in order to help him throw quickly and accurately, the wicketkeeper waited.
Shuvagata Hom was on strike and Mustafizur Rahman was stationed at the other end. The canny Pandya bowled short and wide, giving Hom no room to hit. With the ball travelling past the batsman, it was a sprint battle between non-striker Mustafizur and Dhoni. The Indian whipped off the bails just before the bat landed, the giant-screen confirming the dismissal. India had pulled off a heist.
Pawan Sehrawat: One-man army
The seventh season of the ProKabaddi League (PKL) witnessed an incredible feat when Pawan Sehrawat shattered two records in one night. When Bengaluru Bulls took on Haryana Steelers at the Tau Devilal Sports Complex in Panchkula on October 2, 2019, no one would have expected the spectacle that was to follow.
As the Bulls raced away to a 59-36 victory, Sehrawat went on a scoring spree, earning a whopping 39 raid points. Even as he rewrote Pardeep Narwal’s two-year-old record for most points in a PKL contest, the man whose record had been broken was watching it from the stands! When the cameras zoomed on him, Pardeep smiled and applauded the Hi-Flyer’s achievement.
Sehrawat, the stand-in captain of the defending champion, became the first player in the league to contribute to all his team’s raid points. He also broke Narwal’s two-year old record for most points scored in a single PKL match.
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The 2019 season was a career-defining one for Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. He reached six consecutive finals, including the US Open, where he had a big opportunity to create a ripple and history by becoming the first player outside the ‘Big 3’ to win a Grand Slam after Stan Wawrinka in 2016.
Standing across the net was a Spaniard with 18 Majors against his name and, as always, ready for a battle.
When Rafael Nadal took the first two sets 7-5, 6-3, all seemed over for Medvedev. At the changeover, a tired-looking Russian sat in his chair, dripping in sweat and probably wondering about his return flight.
With nothing to lose, Medvedev decided to go for broke. The ploy worked as he won the third set (7-5). Suddenly, finding his rhythm and A-game, rthe Russian went on to clinch the fourth too (6-4).
When the chips are down, Nadal is a more dangerous opponent. Medvedev realised this as the Spaniard fought back in dramatic fashion. After nearly five and half hours of scintillating tennis, it ended 6-4 in Nadal’s favour in the final set. It was a final between a champion and a champion in the making.
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