Enable Inc. will host the first annual Baseball Fantasy League Game at Waterfront Park in Trenton on Sept. 22 at 7:05 p.m. Former major league stars Goose Gossage, Art Shamsky, Ed Kranepool, Donn Clendenon, Scott Bradley, Steve Rogers, Paul Blair and others will team up with amateur players from throughout the state to play ball. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at numerous places throughout the state. Call (609) 987-5003, ext. 20, for more information. The rain-date for the event is Sept. 23 at 1:05 p.m. A charity softball game will be held on Sept. 28 at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park in South Amboy on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s N.J. Race for the Cure. Participating in this event will be the Sayreville PBA Local 98 and the Sayreville Panthers, a women’s softball team,. Donations/tickets are $5. Please bring your own lawn chairs as seating will be limited. Middletown Babe Ruth Baseball/Softball League will be accepting registrations for their 2002 spring baseball/softball season on Oct. 20 and Nov. 17 from noon to 3 p.m., and Sept. 26 and Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Middletown Library on New Monmouth Road. Registrations will be taken at the Middletown Babe Ruth Clubhouse, McMahon Park, Atlantic Avenue North on Sept. 22, 29, Oct. 13, 27, Nov. 10 and 24 from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, call (732) 495-6608. The following clinics and leagues are being offered at GoodSports, Aberdeen, within the next two months: a men’s open hockey league starting Oct. 3; youth and men’s roller hockey tournament on Oct. 27 and 28 for ages U10-U17 and men’s divisions ($350 per team); youth instructional soccer for ages 4-8 on Thursdays from 4-5 p.m., starting Sept. 20 ($85 per child); and one-day soccer tournaments for U10 to U12 boys and girls. Call (732) 290-0003 for more information. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Monmouth County (BBBS) will hold its 12th Annual Golf Classic on Sept. 20 at Spring Lake Golf Club. BBBS matches at-risk children with adult volunteers who act as friends, confidants and mentors. The donation for the event is $300 per individual golfer, and $1,600 for a corporate foursome. The price includes a full day of golf and club service. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. with golfer goodie bags, including a Greg Norman golf shirt. For more information, call (732) (732) 544-2224, or visit www.bbbs.org. The Holmdel Stallions Fury girls U16 traveling team has openings for several experienced players for the winter/spring 2002 season. Soccer must be a priority. Candidates must be born on or after Aug. 1, 1985. No residency requirement. Call (732) 946-9585 or e-mail [email protected] for more information. The Aberdeen-Keyport women’s fall softball league is holding registration. The 18-and-over teams will play on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. from September through November. For more information, call (732) 264-7039. YMCA of Western Monmouth County is looking for teams for its men’s basketball league. Games are played on Thursday evenings beginning in early October. Fee is $450 per team. If interested, call Bob at (732) 462-0464, ext. 21. The YMCA is also looking for teams for its women’s basketball league, which plays on Wednesday evenings starting in early October. The fee is $450. Call Bob at (732) 732-0464, ext. 21, if you are interested. The YMCA is looking for teams for its flag football league. Games will be played on Sunday mornings beginning in early October, and the fee is $450 per team. Call Bob at (732) 462-0464, ext. 21 if interested. The Central Jersey Express U-16 baseball team concluded its season at the Pretzel City Tournament in Reading, Pa., where the Express reached the semifinals and lost to the eventual champion the Canadian Extreme. The Express are made up of area players: Anthony Cangialosi, Peter Eadicicco, Doug Frueh, Mike Henningan, Brian Kulig, Geoff Lau, Chris Marino, John Mazzola, Jordan Noval, Ralph Protano, Kyle St. Angelo, Joe San Pietro, Dave Sauchelli, Phil Tortorelli and John Walsh. The team is coached by Lou Protano and assistant J.P. Noval. The Jersey Dreamers, an U18 fastpitch softball team, is looking for three or four dedicated, quality players to complete its roster for the 2002 team. The Dreamers are composed of former players from a Premier U16 team, which was the winner of three tournaments before moving up to U18 competition. For further information, call Warren at (732) 972-8848, or Craig at (732) 683-1541 for more information. The Samaritan Center will hold its 11th annual Jim Flanagan Golf Outing on Sept. 24 at the Cranbury Golf Club. Cost of the event is $125 per person and includes locker, 18 holes of golf, greens fee, golf cart, barbecue lunch, multi-course dinner, golf awards, door prizes and a cash bar. Dinner guest special is $25. All proceeds will benefit Samaritan Center’s programs. Samaritan Center is a full-time food pantry and crisis center serving the Manalapan-Englishtown area. Call (732) 446-1142 for more information. The Peninsula Eagles boys U10 soccer team, the spring 2001 league and Jackson Summer Classic champs, is seeking two dedicated and experienced players to compete with the team in the Monmouth-Ocean Soccer Association and tournament play. Players must be born after Aug. 1, 1991. If interested, call Al Sambade at (732) 747-5994 for more information. The Jersey Storm U12 in 2002 select travel baseball team is looking for a top pitcher. The team plays 50-70 times a year and has won numerous tournaments. In 2002, the team’s schedule includes several out of state tournaments including participation in the Cooperstown Dreams Park tournament. To schedule a tryout, call (609) 259-4003. The Manchester Magic, a 15U fall baseball team, who is the defending Mid-Atlantic League champs, will hold tryouts for the 2002 season. Call Ron Nametko for more information at (732) 818-0271. The West Long Branch Sports Association is seeking qualified basketball coaches for its Mid-Monmouth program teams. These teams compete in six divisions, which travel throughout Monmouth County from October through February. The divisions are: intermediate boys (10 and under), intermediate girls (10U), junior boys (10 and over), junior girls (10 and over), senior boys (14 and under) and senior girls (14U). These are competitive leagues and teams that will be selected based on tryouts. Anyone interested should contact Bob Aitkens during the day at (732) 842-0444 or (732) 870-0641 at night, or e-mail him at [email protected]
Month: May 2020
The Monmouth Coast Shooting Stars advanced to round three of N.J. state cup play by shutting out the Somerset Hills Lightning 2-0. In MAP play, the Stars defeated their rival the Manalapan Hot Shots, 2-1, in a highly contested match. The Stars’ MAP record is 3-1-1 at the midseason mark. Overall the Stars are 13-4-1, with nine shutouts. The Stars traveled to Somerset Hills for an easy state cup win. Outshooting their opponents almost 4-to-1, the Stars rattled the Lightnings’ goalie. Caitlin Holtz opened the scoring in the first half with a pass from Kaitlyn Grimes. Mallory Baker struck again for the Stars on a pass from Lauren Florio. CNJ Hot Shots are the next matchup for the Stars in state cup play on Oct. 20. The Shooting Stars vs. Manalapan Hot Shots matchup is always a great spectator game. The Stars played smart, giving the Hot Shots no opportunities for corner kicks and stifling their quick forwards. Manalapan scored quickly at the four-minute mark, but the Shooting Stars came back with a through ball by midfielder Julie Lancos to attacking forward Jenna Lippi. The half ended at 1-1. Liza Grimsgaard set up Baker midway through the second half to take the lead. The Stars dominated play but the score remained 2-1. Both wins were significant team efforts. The shutout was earned by goalie Tara Sodon. Defenders Lancos, Kim Bruno, Grimes, Natalie Capasso, Mary Conklin and Michelle Jackson have become seasoned tacklers against some of the best teams on the East Coast. Supporting the attack are Baker, Drew Cavanaugh, Jaime Costa, Florio, Lexie Gray, Grimsgaard, Holtz, Lippi and Kelly Martin. Technical skills continue to frustrate opponents. The Shooting Stars were one of two N.J. teams selected to play in the Under 13 Cup Flight of WAGS. The weekend culminated in a 1-0 shutout against FC Blast of Ohio after losing to FC Bucks Lightning of Eastern Pennsylvania (eventual WAGS Cup champions) and Vista Sting of Virginia. The Shooting Stars are coached and trained by Linda Napoli and assisted by Jim Holtz.
BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer The Raritan High School girls tennis team’s record is rather deceiving at 6-12, but the Rockets have played very well in the Shore Conference’s highly competitive Class A Central division. The division includes some of the top teams in the state, let alone the conference, in Manasquan, Holmdel, Rumson-Fair Haven and RBC, and the Rockets get to play each of them twice. In addition, Raritan has lost 3-2 decisions to St. John Vianney, Monmouth Regional, Colts Neck and Freehold Township. “This is a tough conference and we knew going in that this year it would be an uphill battle,” Rockets coach Gary Schlenker said. “Yet the girls have stayed positive and they’ve played hard in every match. I’ve been at this school for a long time and the kids here always play tough. This team is no exception.” There have been several bright spots, including victories over Howell and Group IV Edison, a match that came down to the final game in second doubles. Raritan won on freshman Kim Minor’s with darkness descending. At the top of the lineup, Samantha Miller has posted eight wins. The sophomore battles for every point and has played through an annoying shoulder injury throughout the campaign. This year Miller developed a drop shot and is working to improve on her serve. Kristin MacDonald, a tricaptain, holds down the second slot. She has six wins, including a success against Edison. Sophomore Paulina Kauzljar, recently moved into the third spot after being promoted from the junior varsity and has five wins to her credit. Both McDonald and Kauzljar keep the ball in play and pounce on opposition miscues. Kaitlin McGlynn and Lisa Szuczplak, the Rockets other captains, are at first doubles where they have won seven times. McGlynn is better known for his basketball talents, while Szuczplak is a key member of Raritan’s softball team. The duo relies on athletic ability using different formations to confuse opponents, Schlenker said. Minor is paired at second doubles with sophomore Allysa Leminski. The two have recently moved into the starting lineup and have three wins, including the victory over Edison. “This is a good team and even though our record is not great the girls have played well,” the coach said. “Next year they’ll be even better. We’ve got 25 players on the JV and several of them should get a chance on varsity next year. We have a lot of potential. Knocking off Edison, which was 10-5 at the time, was huge. That shows what the team is capable of.” BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer
CBA makes its case as the state’s most improved team BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer PHOTOS BY JEFFGRANIT staff Above, CBA’s Mike Kuhn (who finished with a team-high 18 points), knocks the ball away from Seton Hall Prep’s Ashton Gibbs during the Colts’ Group A final loss on Saturday in Toms River. At right, senior guard Derek Becker tries to score over Seton Hall’s Ralph Jones, while below, CBA players have different reactions as the final seconds click away on what was a memorable season. For those who saw this season’s CBA basketball team early in the year, a trip back to the group final for the Colts hardly seemed plausible. CBA looked like a team suffering from some kind of post-Dan Werner syndrome, as they struggled to find any continuity in their offense, and basically looked anything like what we’ve come to expect from a team coach by Ed Wicelinski on both ends of the floor. That only makes what the Colts accomplished the rest of the way that much more remarkable. Simply put, by season’s end, the Colts had regained their status as one of the state’s elite teams, reaching the NJSIAA’s Non-Public Group A final on Saturday before falling to (who else?) unbeaten Seton Hall Prep, 56-45. It marked the third straight year in which the Pirates have beaten CBA in the group final, and the second time this year, with SHP knocking off the Colts, 51-43, at the Piggly Wiggle Roundball Classic championship game in South Carolina in December. The Colts’ performance on Saturday resembled a microcosm of their season. They fell behind early, as the 30-0 Pirates raced out of the gates to 19-8 lead after the first quarter. Led by junior guard Ashton Gibbs (19 points), Seton Hall looked poised to post a lop-sided score on a Colt team that didn’t appear to have the firepower to match the North A champs. But like they did after a slow start to their season, the Colts started to jell in the second quarter, as their defensive intensity and ability to throw different looks at the Pirates changed the momentum. Led by Justin Schwartz’s eight points and Mike Kuhn’s five, CBA stormed back and managed to cut the lead to 31-25 going into halftime. The Pirates then got the better of play in the third quarter (thanks mostly to the cold shooting of the Colts, who were 16-for-44 for the game, and just 3-for 17 from behind the arc), and built the lead back to double-digits, 45-35. However, the end of the third quarter gave the Colts’ another spark. With just over a minute left in the quarter, Schwartz (17 points) sparked a 12-2 CBA run carried over into the fourth, and cut what was a 14-point Seton Hall lead to just four. Schwartz scored eight points during the run, and for the first time, CBA seemed poised to make a run at upsetting the team that has been its nemesis (they’re 0-7 against SHP all-time). That’s when Gibbs took matters into his own hands again, nailing a clutch three-pointer, before the Pirates were able to hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the win, and earn another trip to this week’s Tournament of Champions. With the loss, the Colts’ season came to an end. It may not have been their greatest season in terms of championships won, but Wicelinski has repeatedly called this year’s squad “a special group.” This was not the most talented CBA team we’ve seen. But they played as hard, and overcame as much adversity, as just about any team the Lincroft school has produced in its storied history. Early in the year, spectators watching CBA play may have found themselves scratching their heads, asking themselves, “This is CBA?” By the end of the year, once the Colts had found the recipe needed to resemble what we’ve come to expect from the Shore’s top program – championship-caliber basketball – those same fans had changed their tune, saying self assuredly, “ This is CBA.”
Any doubts that Brazil are serious contenders for next year’s World Cup were swept away by a majestic 3-0 victory over world champions Spain as they won the Confederations Cup in front of an ecstatic crowd at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday.Inspired by Neymar and Fred in attack, David Luiz at the back and the indefatigable Paulinho thundering around the midfield, Brazil ended Spain’s record run of 29 unbeaten competitive matches and brought back memories of their glory days with their fifth straight win of the tournament.They began with a scrappy goal from Fred after some shocking Spanish defending in the second minute, went 2-0 ahead when Neymar lashed an unstoppable angled left-foot shot past Iker Casillas a minute before halftime, and wrapped up the match and the title when Fred plundered a third with another angled shot two minutes after the re-start.A crucial stop from Luiz after 41 minutes was vital to the victory, however.With Brazil 1-0 ahead and Spain beginning to finally make an impact, the world champions looked set to equalise with a Pedro shot that had beaten goalkeeper Julio Cesar.But with the ball about to cross the line, Luiz sprinted from nowhere, stuck out a leg, and diverted it away for a memorable clearance.“I owed that one to Julio Cesar after giving away the penalty against Uruguay,” he told reporters.“I managed to pay back the debt and help the team.”Three minutes later Neymar scored at the other end and Spain were on their way to their first competitive defeat for three years.Spain, who have dominated the world scene for the past five years with two European titles and the World Cup, were swept aside.They suffered their biggest competitive defeat since losing 3-0 to Wales in a European qualifier 37 years ago.Sergio Ramos, who scored in the semi-final penalty shootout victory over Italy on Thursday, fired wide with a poor penalty after 54 minutes.Worse was to follow when fellow defender Gerard Pique was sent off for a lunge on his new Barcelona team mate Neymar who again stole the show and was named Player of the Tournament.RIGHT MANBrazil went into the tournament with an indifferent set of results following the re-appointment of 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari last November, with just two wins, four draws and a defeat from his opening seven matches.The debate had already began over whether he was the right man for the job but his team provided an endorsement with wins over Japan, Mexico, Italy, Uruguay and now Spain.Sunday’s performance was the best of them all, with Fred’s second-minute goal lifting the crowd and Neymar’s strike raising them higher still.After Fred scored his second of the night and his fifth of the competition in the 47th minute, sheer joy descended on the Maracana as Brazil chalked up a third successive win in the competition that FIFA use as a test event for the following year’s World Cup.Although the performance was spellbinding, Neymar, among other players, stressed that Brazil still had a long way to go before securing an unprecedented sixth world title.“Let’s keep calm, let’s keep our feet on the ground,” he said. “We did very well and we are on the right track.“We needed this time to train, we get to know each other and to work together and we are much better than we were.”Julio Cesar added: “There is a lot still to happen, there’s a year to go until the World Cup, but I really wish that this was the World Cup. But we’re delighted and it was an amazing experience.”One explanation for Spain’s poor performance was their exhaustion after the gruelling, energy-sapping semi-final win over Italy in the heat of Fortaleza on Thursday.And while it is too early to make Brazil World Cup favourites it is also too early to write Spain off.“We had a bad night,” Casillas said. “But anyone thinking this team is finished should think again.”
By Mitch PhillipsThe Ryder Cup delivered yet again on Friday as Europe produced a stirring fightback to win three and halve one of the foursomes matches against the United States and take a 5-3 lead after a typically tense and hugely entertaining first day.The US had much the best of the morning fourballs, the highlight being a remarkable performance by rookie duo Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth to hammer Ian Poulter and Scottish new boy Stephen Gallacher 5 & 4.That helped the visitors to a 2 1/2-1 1/2 lead after a session where gusting winds made low scoring difficult but merely added to the drama for the fans who swamped the Gleneagles course.Europe roared back in the alternate-shot foursomes format, as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson got their second point of the day with a two-up victory over Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson having earlier hammered Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5 & 4.Europe’s strongest pair on paper, world numbers one and three Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, struggled almost all day and were well beaten by Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the fourballs.They looked to be going down again when they trailed Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler by two with two to play in the afternoon but a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th by McIlroy and a brilliant second from deep rough by Garcia on the last enabled them to scramble the unlikeliest of points.“I think that half was as a good as a win,” said European captain Paul McGinley.“We have seen in Ryder Cups over the years how important momentum is and we showed real strength of character to respond to that American surge and get blue back on the board.”That surge was begun by Spieth, 21, and Reed, 24, – the youngest partnership in the history of the event – who were nerveless and relentless in taking down Europe’s ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ Poulter with a run of five birdies in six holes around the turn.“It was very quiet around our group and that was a goal we had to achieve,” said Spieth.Spieth and Reed were somewhat surprised to be told after their dazzling debuts that they would be sitting out the afternoon’s action and Watson might come to rue his decision after the foursomes turnaround.Poulter, who had won 11 of his previous 12 matches, also kept his clubs in the bag in the afternoon but nobody was questioning that move as the wildcard selection looked a pale shadow of the demonic player who sparked Europe’s Miracle of Medinah comeback two years ago.The third American debutant, albeit a 35-year-old one, also had a day to remember as Walker twice chipped in to help secure a morning half, again with Fowler, having trailed Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer by two after 15.Mickelson and Bradley, who won all three games they played together two years ago, struggled for form in a ragged fourball against McIlroy and Garcia but Mickelson splashed a trade-mark beauty of a bunker shot for a point-clinching birdie on the last hole.It was a fitting way for the ever-popular left-hander to mark becoming the first American to appear in 10 Ryder Cups, but, as ever, he deflected the glory.“The eagle that Keegan made on 16 gave us a huge momentum boost, the shots he hit there were just stupendous,” he said.The afternoon did not go so well, however, as hugely impressive French debutant Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell beat them 3 & 2.Lee Westwood and rookie Jamie Donaldson played some of the best golf of the day to beatJim Furyk and Matt Kuchar two-up after all four had sat out the fourballs.Those matches had begun many, many hours before, on a crisp, bright morning amid a tumultuous atmosphere around the huge stand surrounding the first tee.“It’s amazing – we didn’t even have grandstands in 1977, it was just the gallery ropes,” American Watson said in comparison with his first taste of the Ryder Cup at Royal Lytham in England.Webb Simpson set the tone for a forgettable personal day when he topped the opening drive of the whole event – perhaps unnerved by being introduced as his partner Bubba Watson, one of the most recognisable figures in the game.Two years ago the duo won both their matches 5 & 4 but this time they failed to muster a birdie between them as they lost by the same margin to Rose and Stenson.“The captain put a lot of faith in us by putting us out first and then keeping us together,” said Rose.“It was a great day, really special.”The US now face an uphill battle if they are to claim their first win on foreign soil since 1993 when Watson first captained but the veteran was in no mood to concede.“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “And it’s all probably going to be really close come Sunday.”
By Andreas VouAFTER what has been a hectic few weeks for the club, Apollon will be eager to get back in action on Thursday when they take on Borussia Monchengladbach on Matchday 3 of the Europa League (10.05pm).Despite a hugely successful last two seasons which have seen Apollon lift the Cyprus Cup as well as reaching the groups stages of the Europa League two years running, the board of the Limassol club opted to part ways with manager Christakis Christoforou two weeks ago.The shock decision came largely due to two heavy defeats which led the board to lose faith in the 50-year-old. Apollon were beaten 4-0 by Villarreal in their second Europa League group match in Spain and then suffered defeat by the same scoreline at the hands of Nea Salamina a few days later in the Cyprus championship.The man chosen to take over at the helm is 54-year-old Ioan Andone who now has the unenviable task of preparing his side for their trip to Monchengladbach. Thursday’s match will be Apollon’s first game in over two weeks due to the international break coupled with the pause in the Cypriot first division last weekend.Monchengladbach have not made an ideal start to their European campaign having drawn against both Villarreal and FC Zurich 1-1.As far as league form is concerned, however, they are surpassing all expectations as they currently lie second in the Bundesliga just two points behind Bayern Munich and came away with a comprehensive 0-3 victory over Hannover on Saturday.Apollon sit a place above the Germans in Group A, despite their heavy defeat to Villarreal last time out, thanks to their 3-2 win against Zurich on Matchday 1. Ibrahima Traore and German international Christoph Kramer have returned to training and are once again at the disposal of manager Lucien Favre after missing the game against Hannover through injury and illness respectively. Apollon welcome back Spanish midfielder Marcos Gullon from suspension and have a fully-fit squad to choose from. Monchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl recalls the last time his side faced a team from Limassol and that a high level of focus would be needed to take all three points from Thursday’s encounter. “The team from Limassol is a difficult opponent. Two years ago, we had endured difficult times in a Europa League match with the other team from Limassol, AEL, but in the end we won 2-0. Thursday’s match requires the necessary concentration to win it.”As far as the pressure on new boss Andone to get a result, Apollon press officer Fanourios Constantinou downplayed such a suggestion and instead spoke of his confidence as to what lies ahead.“We are not expecting miracles. It has pleased us that, from his comments, he showed that he knows where he is. Our target is the league and this fills us with confidence.“It is a tough match, a big test against one of the best teams we have had in Europe. We will go up against a very strong side. We hope to worthily represent Cypriot football and the history of Apollon,” he concluded.
By Martyn HermanWorld number one Novak Djokovic ended Kei Nishikori’s impressive debut at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-1 3-6 6-0 semi-final victory at the O2 Arena on Saturday.The Serb was rattled by a mid-match onslaught from the Japanese who came back from a poor start to dominate the second set, only for his challenge to fizzle out in the decider.Things could have been different had Nishikori, the first Asian man to qualify for the year-ender, converted the two break points he had in the first game of the deciding set.But Djokovic held firm and quickly regained control to march towards a 31st consecutive victory on indoor courts.He set up a match point with a searing crosscourt forehand winner and US Open runner-up Nishikori then double-faulted to end the contest after one hour 27 minutes.Djokovic had gone through the group stage with wins against Marin Cilic, Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych for the loss of a mere nine games, a tournament record.The 27-year-old, who has already clinched the year-end world number one ranking, can become the first man since Ivan Lendl (1985-87) to win three consecutive Tour Finals crowns if he wins on Sunday against either Roger Federer or Wawrinka, who face each other later in an all-Swiss semi-final.
By Martyn HermanSEASONAL cheer has been scarce for Louis van Gaal after a six-match winless sequence for his Manchester United side intensified rumours that he will be sacked and Stoke City are unlikely to be offering any solace in their Boxing Day clash on Saturday (2.45pm).While another Dutchman, Guus Hiddink, begins the job of rebuilding Premier League champions Chelsea’s season at home to Watford, Van Gaal enters the hectic holiday schedule with his prospects about as bright as a Christmas turkey.After consecutive 2-1 defeats by relegation candidates Bournemouth and Norwich City dropped United out of the top four, hot on the heels of their Champions League exit, Van Gaal can ill afford another defeat at Stoke.Stoke manager Mark Hughes, a former United great, joined the debate about United’s woes when he said Van Gaal’s assistant Ryan Giggs had an “outstanding chance” of taking the Old Trafford hot seat should Van Gaal depart.Hughes has warned his players they will need to reach the level they achieved in outclassing Manchester City this month to withstand any United backlash.“I have been asked whether this is a good time to play United but I am always wary of that because these type of clubs more often than not bounce back emphatically,” he said.“They will be desperate to get back on track at the weekend. Manchester United know themselves that they are in a period of transition and are in a different cycle.“But we are fully aware as to how difficult a challenge they will pose to us on Boxing Day.”Hiddink will hope to carry on where he left off when he returns to the Stamford Bridge dugout for the first time in six-and-a-half years on Saturday (5pm).Surprise leaders Leicester City, meanwhile, will just try to carry on as they have done all season, when they visit Liverpool (5pm) at the start of Britain’s annual Christmas feast of football that will see 30 Premier league games in nine days.Hiddink eschewed the chance of a relaxing holiday, returning to help Chelsea out of a pickle after a calamitous start to the Premier League season which resulted in Jose Mourinho’s sacking.When he took on that challenge in 2009 after Luiz Felipe Scolari’s departure, he lost only one of his 22 matches in charge and signed off triumphantly at Wembley Stadium with an FA Cup final victory over Everton.His job looks tougher this time with Chelsea in 15th place, having lost nine of their opening 17 games.“The league is very strong, especially this year,” Hiddink said at his Wednesday news conference. “Any team can kill another team. It’s changed (since 2009) it’s very competitive now.”Watford crushed Liverpool 3-0 last weekend to move to within a point of the Champions League places, while Leicester showed no signs of faltering as they beat Everton at Goodison Park.Such is Leicester’s progress that few would be surprised if they won on Merseyside for the second week running, especially with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez proving unstoppable with 28 goals between them so far.Leicester clinched the Christmas number one spot, a year after propping up the table at the same period, but Italian manager Claudio Ranieri says his side, who have scored in every game to stand two points clear of second-placed Arsenal, cannot afford to look down.“It’s like a climber. If you look below, ‘Ah, my God!’” Ranieri, whose side face Manchester City at home three days after Liverpool, said this week.Arsenal begin their Christmas fixtures away at Southampton (9.45pm) before a home match against Bournemouth while third-placed Manchester City host Sunderland (5pm) and fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur welcome Norwich (5pm).
Brazilian police are considering charging a group of US Olympic swimmers with vandalism and giving false testimony, Rio’s police chief said on Thursday, accusing them of lying about an incident that has marred South America’s first Games.Three of the four swimmers involved in the incident at a Rio gas station are being prevented from leaving the country pending the outcome of the police investigation. The fourth, gold medallist Ryan Lochte, returned to the United States on Monday.“In theory, they could be held responsible – by they, I mean one or two or all four of them – with falsely reporting a crime and vandalism,” the head of Rio’s civil police, Fernando Veloso, told a news conference.Police began investigating the incident after Lochte told US television they had been robbed by gunmen impersonating police officers who pulled over their taxi in the early hours of Sunday, as they returned to the Athletes’ Village from a party.Their swimming competition had finished.Veloso said there was no robbery as described by the swimmers and that investigations instead revealed that the swimmers’ taxi had pulled into the station where they behaved in a hot-tempered way and damaged the station’s bathroom.They broke a mirror and a soap-holder, he said, adding that they handed over a small amount of cash as compensation.Earlier, Brazilian TV aired a video that showed the swimmers did not tell the whole truth in their original accounts.The security-camera images broadcast on Globo TV appeared to show the swimmers – who also included another gold medallist, Jimmy Feigen, as well as Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger – in a dispute with staff at the gas station, a fact police say they did not mention in their accounts.The video does not show them causing any breakage, but only being hustled out of the bathroom by uniformed employees. Security guards then prevent the swimmers from leaving in a taxi and the Americans appear to offer them money from their wallets.Three of the swimmers are made to sit on the ground with their hands in the air. At one point, Lochte stands and appears to argue with the guards but is made to sit down again.On Sunday, Lochte had told NBC that the taxi he was travelling in with his three team mates was flagged down by robbers posing as police and they held a gun to his head during a robbery. He made no mention of stopping at a gas station.NBC host Matt Lauer said late on Wednesday that Lochte repeated a slightly modified version to NBC in an interview not yet aired, saying the swimmers had stopped at a gas station and that a gun was pointed in his direction during the robbery.The Shell service station is close to the Olympic Park where sporting action has been overshadowed over the past two weeks by a string of muggings and robberies, including incidents involving other athletes and two visiting government ministers.