Rory McIlroy struggled on his return to Kiawah Island with a three-over-par 75 in the opening round at the US PGA Championship as playing partner Brooks Koepka impressed.

McIlroy won by eight shots the last time the PGA Championship was staged at Ocean Course in South Carolina in 2012 and was installed as the favourite of many after ending a winless streak of almost two years at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago.

However, the four-time major champion – seeking a first major title since 2014 – landed his very first shot into the water on a windswept morning before recovering somewhat with back-to-back birdies on Thursday.

McIlroy – a two-time PGA Championship winner – was level par at the turn after dropping another shot on the par-five 16th, but he managed just one more birdie compared to five bogeys as he closed for 75, eight shots behind Corey Conners.

Koepka played down expectations heading into the tournament due to a knee injury and he started slowly with a double-bogey on his first hole, though the two-time PGA Championship winner recovered well with two birdies in the next three holes.

After turning in 36, Koepka picked up three shots in four holes on the front nine to complete an impressive turnaround that saw him earn a share of the lead before Conners soared to the summit as he aims to add to his successes in this event in 2018 and 2019.

"I felt like an idiot," he told Sky Sports Golf when reflecting on his cagey start. "It was probably a poor club choice off 10. I thought three-wood would have carried, but it didn't. I also didn't find the face, it barely hit the face!

"The first rule is, if you're in trouble, get the hell out. I couldn't reach the green and it was a bad lie, so I didn't know where I was going. I just tried to hit a sand-wedge up by the green instead of just chopping it out.

"So it was a mental mistake there, and I deserved every bit of that double-bogey. But it kind of helped me refocus. I can't play with any mistakes, maybe one a day, and that was my one, and I got it out of the way on the first hole."

Koepka is joined on three-under par by former champion Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland. Aaron Wise and Sam Horsfield.

Bradley's opening round included four birdies and just one dropped shot, coming on the par-four 13th, while Hovland bounced back from an opening bogey with four birdies.

Collin Morikawa is one shot further back after bogeying his final hole, the defending champion joined on a first-round 70 by Martin Laird, who was also let down by a couple of dropped shots on his final two holes.

Justin Thomas finds himself way down the standings, meanwhile, after carding a three over that included a double-bogey on the 18th, while US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau had a mixed first day as he posted a level-par 72.

World number one Dustin is among the late starters, along with Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not got their hands on the Stanley Cup since 1967.

A member of the "Original Six", Punch Imlach's Maple Leafs conquered their Canadian rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, for their 13th Stanley Cup 54 years ago.

It was Toronto's fourth championship in the 1960s, which formed the second of two recognised dynasties from 1947 to 1951 and from 1962 to 1967.

The celebrations then stopped for the Leafs, leading to the longest active title drought in the NHL – 52 consecutive seasons (not including the 2004-05 lockout).

But, after years of pain and false hope, are Sheldon Keefe's Leafs – spearheaded by Auston Matthews and a supporting cast that includes Mitch Marner – finally on the cusp of ending their long-standing drought?

It has been more than four decades since the Leafs and Canadiens faced off in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As the Leafs, who have not won a playoff series since 2004, prepare for the mouth-watering first-round showdown, we look at the team's rise from pretenders to genuine contenders, using Stats Perform data.

 

Leafs find their way under Keefe

There were high hopes when the Leafs and Ontario native Mike Babcock came together in 2015. Toronto made the Stanley Cup-winning head coach the highest paid in NHL history following his success with the Detroit Red Wings.

One of the most coveted coaches at the time, the championship-chasing Leafs viewed Babcock as the perfect man to oversee the culmination of rebuild in pursuit of the ultimate prize. Despite a talented roster, the franchise's vision did not materialise – Toronto never made it out of the first round of the playoffs following three consecutive postseason appearances. Babcock's style did not go down well at Scotiabank Arena.

The Leafs eventually fired Babcock in November 2019 and Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe was promoted to the top job.

At the time of Babcock's departure, the Leafs led a league-low 21.1 per cent of the time. This season, Toronto rank second for the highest percentage of time leading (45.4), just behind the Colorado Avalanche (45.5).

This season's percentage of time leading is the highest mark in Leafs history, eclipsing the 43.1 per cent recorded in 1924-25.

The Leafs have long been judged by the Babcock era, but the 40-year-old Keefe is finally utilising this highly skilled squad, while helping John Tavares rediscover his best form.  

Toronto also appear to finally have the kind of physicality it needs for the demands of playoff hockey. Complementing their exciting roster with the experience of premier top-line center and former San Jose Sharks All-Star Joe Thornton also bodes well as the Leafs enter the postseason as one of the heaviest teams in the league – 201.1 pounds, only behind the Vegas Golden Knights (207), Dallas Stars (203.1), Washington Capitals (202.9), Anaheim Ducks (202.6) and Tampa Bay Lightning (202.4).

 

Matthews in a league of his own

The Leafs wasted no time selecting Matthews in 2016 when he was widely considered the top prospect of the NHL draft.

Matthews hit the ground running, becoming the first player in modern NHL history to score four goals in his debut. He also set a Leafs record with 40 goals in his first season, while becoming just the second rookie since the 2004-05 lockout to achieve the milestone.

The centerpiece of the franchise has taken his game to another level this season.

Matthews, who has developed into arguably the best goal-scorer of his generation, tallied a remarkable league-high 41 goals in just 52 games in 2020-21. He managed 47 in 70 regular-season appearances last year. The last Leafs player to lead the NHL in goals was Gaye Stewart in 1945-46.

Matthews' performance led to the best goals-per-game average (0.79) in franchise history, topping Charlie Conacher's record of 0.77 that had stood since 1931-32. The 23-year-old Matthews already has 199 goals and 351 points in his career.

He ranks 14th all time for the most goals before age 24, but he finds himself in good company on a list that is topped by Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky (405) and includes Mario Lemieux (300), Steven Stamkos (222), Alex Ovechkin (219), Sidney Crosby (215) and Jaromir Jagr (202).

 

Toronto's dynamic duo

While Matthews is the star, Marner is the other half of Toronto's terrific duo.

A much-loved figure in Toronto, Marner has always been a great young player with loads of potential. The 24-year-old right wing took a step forward this season as a model of consistency for the North Division champions.

Marner, who was a fourth-round pick a year before the Leafs brought in Matthews, ranks fourth in the NHL in points (67) and assists this season (47). And with the Ontario-born winger on ice, the Leafs have scored 89 goals and conceded 57 this season – a differential of plus-32. That differential shrinks to just plus-6.0 without him.

Keefe paired Matthews and Marner together midway through last season and it is a move that continues to pay dividends. Marner has assisted on 25 Matthews goals this year, ahead of Edmonton Oilers duo Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid (22) for the most in the league.

Marner and Matthews are also the first pair of team-mates in NHL history to have five 60-point seasons together before turning 24. (This is based on their age when they reached 60 points. Marner achieved the feat before celebrating his 24th birthday.)

With Matthews and Marner leading the way, the Maple Leafs have a real shot of not only beating their rivals in the first round but in ending one of the longest active title droughts in North American sports.

Zinedine Zidane should be spared any blame if Real Madrid fail to win LaLiga this season, according to the club's former goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Madrid are two points behind leaders and city rivals Atletico ahead of the final round of fixtures.

Atleti travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid while Madrid are at home to seventh-placed Villarreal.

If Atleti are crowned LaLiga champions it means Madrid will end the season without a major trophy, and there has been speculation in Spain that Zidane will quit as head coach.

Casillas, however, claimed his former Madrid team-mate should not be vilified if they end up without any silverware this season, given his previous achievements.

Zidane has twice won LaLiga and landed a hat-trick of Champions League titles as Madrid boss in addition to winning the Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup all on two occasions.

"Zidane can't be criticised for anything," Casillas, who made 510 LaLiga appearances for Madrid, told Radio Marca.

"What he has achieved is incredible, and is only in the reach of very few or even a single person.

"I would have preferred Real Madrid to be sat in first, but I hope that Real Valladolid can help us win this weekend. I wish everyone luck, but let's see if we have a little more ourselves and we can win LaLiga."

Fernando Santos is confident Diogo Jota will be fully fit for Portugal's Euro 2020 campaign, despite the Liverpool forward's troublesome foot problem.

Jota sustained the injury in last week's 4-2 win over Manchester United  at Old Trafford – a game in which he scored – and has missed the Reds' subsequent two games.

However, Klopp revealed on Tuesday that the 24-year-old has a small chance of returning for Liverpool's final match of the season at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday.

After naming him in Portugal's 26-man squad on Thursday for next month's rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament, Santos confirmed Jota is on course for a swift return to action.

"The information I have is that he is clinically fit and that on the 27th he will start training with his colleagues," Santos said at a news conference on Thursday.

"Those in charge of the clinical department got in touch with me after seeing his tests. I wanted to make sure every player was analysed. That's something I had to weigh up.

"I fully believe in the reports the health and performance department have showed me."

Jota made an excellent start to his Liverpool career following a reported £45million move from Wolves, but he has struggled with injuries in the second half of the campaign.

A knee problem sustained in December kept him sidelined for nearly three months, though his value to the Reds when available is clear.

He has nine goals for the Merseyside outfit in 18 Premier League appearances, 12 of which have been starts, outperforming an xG of 6.4 from 46 shots.

That cutting edge could come in handy for Portugal if they are to match their achievement of five years ago and retain their European Championship crown.

The big surprise in the Selecao's squad is the inclusion of Pedro Goncalves, who has yet to be capped at senior international level.

The 22-year-old scored 23 goals in 32 Primeira Liga appearances for Sporting CP this term to finish top of the scoring charts en route to ending his side's 19-year wait for top-flight glory.

"I may not have seen him in the national team, but I have all the necessary information on him," Santos said when asked to explain his decision.

"I have taken into account everything he has done this season. He is here because of the obvious quality he has.

"He's someone we considered when he was at Famalicao and we continued to watch him at Sporting. I went to the stadium to observe and he was close to being called up before.

"One of the criteria to consider was, beyond quality and tactical knowhow, picking players who can provide different characteristics.

"It took me hours to make the final call with regards to the squad. Yesterday I still had 30 players. It's about finding the right qualities and assembling the puzzle."

Portugal are among the favourites to go all the way in this year's rescheduled tournament, which has been delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of familiar faces are included in the squad, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix.

Ronaldo will be 37 by the time next year's World Cup comes around, but Santos is adamant Euro 2020 will not be the last tournament to feature the Juventus forward.

"It is always very difficult to think like that with him," Santos said. "He is a machine. He takes great care of himself.

"Cristiano, the way he takes care of himself and treats himself, we can never say no. There are many factors and it will depend a lot on his motivation.

"I believe he will be at the next World Cup. As for the next Euros, I think it depends a lot on how he will be prepared psychologically and physically."

Portugal begin their title defence against Hungary in Budapest on June 15, before facing Germany in Munich four days later.

Santos' side round off their Group F campaign against fellow heavyweights France on June 23.

Portugal Euro 2020 squad:

Rui Patricio (Wolves), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rui Silva (Granada); Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Nelson Semedo (Wolves), Jose Fonte (Lille), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Pepe (Porto), Nuno Mendes (Sporting CP), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund); Danilo Pereira (Paris Saint-Germain), Joao Palhinha (Sporting CP), Ruben Neves (Wolves), Joao Moutinho (Wolves), Renato Sanches (Lille), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Sergio Oliveira (Porto), William Carvalho (Real Betis), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City); Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Rafa Silva (Benfica), Andre Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Pedro Goncalves (Sporting CP).

Mathieu Valbuena revealed he was not consulted by Didier Deschamps over the surprise recall of Karim Benzema to the France squad.

Real Madrid striker Benzema is due to stand trial in October regarding an allegation of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former France team-mate Valbuena over a sex tape.

The 33-year-old Benzema strenuously denies putting pressure on Valbuena to pay the alleged blackmailers, who were said to be threatening to release a video featuring the former Marseille and Lyon player.

Since the claims of blackmail emerged in late 2015, Benzema was dropped from the France squad and looked to have no future with Les Bleus, at least until his case was heard in court.

However, a surprise recall came on Tuesday when Benzema was selected for France's Euro 2020 squad, and he looks set for a key role in the team during that tournament.

Valbuena told RMC Sport: "Did the coach call me? No, and I don't expect anything from anyone. When you're at the top, everyone is talking about you; when you disappear a little from the radars, you expect nothing from anyone.

"I make my life, I enjoy myself on the pitch. I expect nothing from Didier or anyone else. If you want to know if he called me, I say no."

Now with Greek club Olympiacos, Valbuena, 36, also last played for France in 2015.

The 52-cap midfielder said he understood why Benzema was being brought back into Deschamps' squad.

"If he can bring more to the France team, so much the better for the Blues," Valbuena said.

"It will play out on the pitch. For me, Didier Deschamps comes out the winner in all cases. If the France team works, we will say that he had to adapt despite a difficult context.

"If France performs less, we will not blame him. That's what he knows how to do well, he knows how to make his squads. In attack, he has no guarantees, he made his choices. I think he will come out a winner either way."

Benzema scored a brace in a friendly against Armenia on his last appearance for France in October 2015.

His form for Real Madrid has often been exceptional in the years since, landing him three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles during his absence from the France squad.

Lyon Open top seed Dominic Thiem was stunned in straight sets by Cameron Norrie in the last 16 on Thursday for the "biggest win" of the Briton's career.

Thiem was handed a bye to this stage and fell at the first hurdle on a day of upsets, the world number four sending down four double faults and losing serve three times as he lost 6-3 6-2.

Norrie now has 10 victories on clay in 2021, compared to seven before this year, and will face qualifier Arthur Rinderknech – a surprise 6-7(7) 6-2 7-5 winner against Jannik Sinner – in the quarters.

"I'm so pleased to win. It's the biggest win of my career and my highest-ranked win," Norrie, who had never previously beaten a top-five opponent, said in his on-court interview. 

"It's such a beautiful day in Lyon. I couldn't be happier to get the win today and to get another match on the clay before Roland Garros."

Third seed Diego Schwartzman also exited the competition on Thursday with a 6-3 7-5 defeat to Richard Gasquet, who eased over the line despite letting two match points slip.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is now the strong favourite to triumph in France after starting his campaign with a convincing 6-1 6-4 victory over Tommy Paul.

Yoshihito Nishioka upset Gael Monfils 4-6 6-3 7-6(2) in an impressive comeback victory and now awaits Tsitsipas in the last eight.

At the Geneva Open, rising star Casper Ruud kept his momentum going with a 2-6 6-1 6-4 win over Dominik Koepfer to make it 12-4 on clay this season.

Ruud recovered from a sloppy first set by holding his serve in the following two sets to reach his fourth successive clay court semi-final on the ATP Tour.

Next up for the third seed is a meeting with Pablo Andujar, who beat youngster Dominic Stephan Stricker 4-6 6-4 6-4.

Elsewhere, Laslo Djere overcame Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-7(2) 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals and will face Denis Shapovalov later on Thursday after the Canadian recovered from a set down to beat Marco Cecchinato 6-7 7-5 6-1.

The winner of that match will meet Pablo Cuevas, the Uruguayan having ended Grigor Dimitrov's run with a battling 7-6 6-3 win.

Gianluigi Buffon has hailed Juventus' supporters for the "infinite affection" they have shown him as the goalkeeper prepares for the curtain to come down on his career with the Turin club.

Buffon re-joined Juve two years ago having spent 2018-19 at Paris Saint-Germain, but over the course of his second spell he has been second choice to Wojciech Szczesny.

The 43-year-old, who won 176 caps for Italy between 1997 and 2018, recently announced he will leave the Bianconeri at the end of the season but has not yet decided if he will continue playing or retire.

The veteran keeper could make his final appearance for Juventus in Sunday's Serie A clash with Bologna, with Andrea Pirlo's side battling to finish in the top four and secure Champions League football next season.

Buffon joined Juventus from Parma in 2001 and has won 10 Serie A titles, making more appearances in Italy's top-flight (657) than any other player.

He claimed his fifth Coppa Italia winner's medal after Juve's 2-1 win over Atalanta on Wednesday and posted an emotional tribute to Juve fans on Instagram.

"You were the frame within which I painted my Bianconeri history," Buffon said of the fans.

"In 20 years you never abandoned me, you always supported and encouraged me. Together we sank and together we were reborn.

"Together we experienced infinite joy and together we experienced profound disappointment.

"A simple thank you would never be sufficient to repay the infinite affection you showed me uninterrupted for 20 years."

Liverpool have announced plans to create a new supporters board to give fan representation at executive levels of the club and put them "at the heart of its decision-making processes".

The plans, which will be formalised before next season, come in the wake of fan-led protests over Liverpool's involvement in the failed European Super League.

Reds owner John Henry signed the club up for the breakaway project last month before they backed out, with the American later issuing an apology where he acknowledged fans had been "let down".

Subsequent talks between Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan, the Spirit of Shankly (SOS) group and official supporters' trust members has seen the creation of a "new engagement model".

According to a club statement, this promises "deeper consultation with supporters on fan-facing strategic decisions".

The Reds said the consultation process will be enshrined in the club's Articles of Association and a legally binding memorandum of understanding between the club and the Official Liverpool Supporters Trust will be entered into.

"The supporters board will hold regular meetings with the club and the chair will be invited to attend LFC's main board meetings when fan-facing strategic matters arise," the statement posted on the club's website said. 

"The existing fan forums structure will remain in place but will be reshaped into three main working groups to cover ticketing, matchday experience and equality, diversity and inclusion.

"This will ensure operational issues and projects continue to be discussed by club officials and supporters. When appropriate, these matters will also be represented at the supporters board level."

Liverpool made the announcement on the same day they revealed their new kit for the 2021-22 season.

Hogan said: "The focus over the last few weeks of dialogue has been to find a long-term solution that is in the best interests of Liverpool and its supporters – one that we firmly believe is not only meaningful but also wholly in keeping with the values and aspirations of the club.

"While these changes are significant, it is important to stress that the current fan forums have also worked incredibly well since they were introduced four years ago and it is crucial that they continue in addition to the supporters board in order to give us a range of engagement options.

"There is still a lot to discuss with representatives of the Liverpool Supporters Trust in the weeks ahead but having these principles in place is a great step forward and we look forward to formalising the details of the structure."

Joe Blott, chair of SOS, added: "After discussions of the past weeks, we believe this is a unique deal and recommend its acceptance. 

"We see this as a chance to help shape the future of our club and put us at the forefront of changing football in general."

Coco Gauff continued her fine form with a 6-3 6-3 quarter-final triumph over fellow American Amanda Anisimova at the Emilia-Romagna Open.

In a contest between two teenage stars, it was 17-year-old Gauff who sealed her second semi-final spot in as many weeks, having made the last four at the Internazionali d'Italia.

Third seed Gauff will face Katerina Siniakova next, after the Czech followed up her win over Serena Williams with a 7-5 6-1 defeat of Caroline Garcia.

"I was pretty satisfied with the way I played," Gauff said, after fending off Anisimova.

"I do think I could have served a little bit better, but other than that, I was pretty happy with the way I played."

Despite her valid concerns, Gauff won 72 per cent of points after landing her first serve and forced six breaks to win in style, reeling off six games on the trot from 3-0 behind in the second set.

The other semi-final will see second seed Wang Qiang take on Sloane Stephens.

Wang prevailed 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 7-5 against Petra Martic, while Stephens saw off Sara Errani 6-3 6-0.

It was another rain-affected day at the Serbia Open, where Maria Camila Osorio Serrano managed to get past Kamilla Rakhimova 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Anna Kalinskaya and Reka Luca Jani were locked at one set apiece in the only other match to get started before the weather halted play.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen has undergone treatment on a knee injury, Barcelona have announced.

The Germany international has had what Barcelona described as a "therapeutic procedure" on the patellar tendon of his right knee.

Ter Stegen announced on May 17 that he would miss the Euro 2020 finals in order to make a full recovery.

His decision came after Barca's shock home defeat to Celta Vigo meant they could no longer win the LaLiga title.

"I have decided together with the medical team of the club that I will do a complementary intervention on my knee," Ter Stegen said via an Instagram post.

"I'm sad that I will miss Euro 2020 this summer with Germany. For the first time in many years I will be a fan at home supporting my country, I hope we win it!

"After the summer break, when we are back on the pitch I hope to be able to play with fans [in attendance] once again, I miss it!

"Thank you for your support throughout a difficult season and stay healthy!"

Earlier, Barca also announced midfielder Pedri will miss the final match of the season against Eibar on Saturday after being given permission to start his holidays early.

The 18-year-old has played 52 times in all competitions under Ronald Koeman this season, making him the second-youngest in history to reach a half-century of appearances for the club, behind only Bojan Krkic.

Since 2013-14, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic have been the only two other players to have appeared in 50 games in their first campaign at Barca.

Pedri has played in all 37 of Barca's previous league games this season, starting 28 times.

Chelsea and Leicester City have been charged by the Football Association (FA) following a scuffle between both sets of players during the closing stages of Tuesday's Premier League match.

Tempers flared in added time at Stamford Bridge after Ricardo Pereira caught former team-mate Ben Chilwell with a bad challenge near the touchline, sparking a melee that also involved some members of the coaching staff.

Three Leicester players – Ricardo, Nampalys Mendy and substitute Daniel Amartey – were booked by referee Mike Dean for their part in the incident, which came three days on from Leicester's 1-0 win against Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

Amartey was at the centre of controversy following that triumph at Wembley after footage emerged of the midfielder – again an unused substitute – throwing a Chelsea pennant to the ground.

Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger admitted his side used that perceived act of disrespect as motivation in the midweek league encounter, the Blues coming out on top 2-1 to keep their top-four hopes in their own hands.

The fallout from that latest meeting now continues, with the FA charging both clubs with failing to control their players.

"Chelsea FC and Leicester City FC have both been charged with a breach of FA Rule E20.1 following their Premier League fixture on Tuesday 18 May 2021," a statement from the FA read on Thursday.

"It is alleged that both clubs failed to ensure their players and/or club officials conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from provocative behaviour during the 93rd minute. 

"Chelsea FC and Leicester City FC both have until Tuesday 25 May 2021 to provide their respective responses."

Chelsea are third in the Premier League heading into their final game of the season away at Aston Villa, one point better off than Liverpool in the final Champions League qualification spot.

Leicester are level on points with Liverpool but require a five-goal swing on the final day if they are to finish above the Reds.

Andrea Vendrame edged out Chris Hamilton in a two-man sprint finish to claim his maiden stage win at a Grand Tour on Thursday.

The Italian took the honours at the end of the Giro d'Italia's 212-kilometre 12th stage from Siena to Bagno di Romagna, during which riders contended with hellish climbs and drastic changes in the weather.

INEOS Grenadiers' Egan Bernal still leads the way by 45 seconds in the fight for the maglia rosa, safely navigating through mountain passes and peaks reached via gradients of up to 15 per cent, while sporadic downpours made the sharp descents a white-knuckle ride.

Gianluca Brambilla crossed the line third but was relegated a place, with George Bennett promoted to the podium position following a "jury decision", according to Bennett's Jumbo-Visma team.

There might have been a better outcome for Brambilla had he and fellow breakaway rider Bennett decided to work together rather than against one another, with some apparent bickering between the two effectively ending the hopes of both.

There were no major changes in the GC standings, but Trek-Segafredo veteran Vincenzo Nibali did get seven seconds back thanks to a typically bold ride to keep his slim hopes alive.

Ahead of him at the front of the pack it was compatriot Vendrame who tasted success on home soil, the AG2R Citroen Team rider getting the better of Hamilton to finally win a stage on what is his fourth appearance at the Giro.

 

STAGE RESULT  
 
1. Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroene Team) 5:43:48
2. Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) +0.00
3. George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) +0.15
4. Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) +0.15
5. Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani CSF Faizane) +1.12

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS
 
General Classification
 
1. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 48:29:23
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) +0.45
3. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +1.12

Points Classification
 
1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 108
2. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 91
3. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) 91

King of the Mountains

1. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroen Team) 96
2. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 48
3. Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) 24

Dennis Bergkamp has warned Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke that Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and a group of legendary former players "are here to stay" in their bid to buy the club.

Swedish billionaire Ek declared an interest in buying Arsenal, whom he has supported since he was eight, in the wake of the European Super League collapse last month.

The 38-year-old has the full backing of Gunners icons Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, but he revealed last week that his initial offer to purchase the club was rejected.

Ek is not giving up hope of persuading Kroenke to sell, however, and Bergkamp – echoing previous comments made by Henry – accepts it will be a long process.

"We can't force anyone to sell. I understand that," Bergkamp told Voetbal International. "In addition to that offer, Daniel has now reached out twice to Josh Kroenke and his bankers. 

"Whatever Kroenke's intentions are, it would be good if we at least have a conversation with each other, in the interest of the club. 

"Regardless, Daniel is not a quitter and neither are we football boys. We are here to stay. The crazy thing is that we cannot imagine how the current players feel. 

"We have always played for the championship ourselves. We know how the fans feel. We have already had a meeting with a supporter delegation. 

"We sense more and more enthusiasm on their side. That is very stimulating."

Since the Kroenkes secured majority ownership of Arsenal in April 2011, the club's only major trophy successes have been four FA Cup triumphs.

Their best league finish was second in 2015-16, but they have not placed in the top four since and could be without European football next season for the first time in 26 years.

With Arsenal fans expected to protest against the current regime ahead of Sunday's home match with Brighton and Hove Albion, Bergkamp can understand their frustration.

"I played an important part of my career at Arsenal and had a testimonial there," said the Dutchman, who won three Premier League titles with the Gunners, including the famous 'Invincibles' season of 2003-04.

"The club is in my heart. I have become a fan of players, just like Patrick and Thierry. I recognise the Arsenal from our own time less and less.

"The ambition to win top prizes is in Arsenal's DNA. Never accepting loss. That mentality has slowly disappeared. 

"I sense resignation about the current situation. That is serious. As if, given the financial situation, it is normal for Arsenal to end in the middle bracket. 

"That does not belong to this club. Arsenal's DNA must be restored."

Ek's personal fortunate is believed to be worth around £3.4billion, making a takeover viable should Kroenke be talked into walking away.

"Daniel has been an Arsenal fan all his life and has been worried about the downturn at the club for some time," Bergkamp said. "When the Super League dominated the news for days, Daniel just about exploded. 

"That was when he wanted to continue and contact us. During a Zoom meeting with Thierry, Patrick and I, he shared his concerns and plans with us. That made an impression from the first moment. 

"It immediately became clear to me how deep Daniel supports the club. I think that's important: Daniel doesn't see a takeover as buying a nice toy. On the contrary.

"He understands the passion of a football fan because he is one himself. He also wants to significantly increase the influence of the fans. Among other things by giving them a place in the club management. We think that is very important. 

"We want to get close to the supporters. Daniel likes transparency anyway. Just look at how he communicates about this, via Twitter, clear to everyone. 

"Another important point is that Daniel understands that Arsenal's problems cannot be solved just like that. Pumping in some extra money and firing the manager, for example, will not get you there. 

"Structural changes must take place. This is the backbone of Arsenal. This is a far-reaching, long-term project. 

"No matter how much money is involved in English football, Arsenal is and will remain a football club, which must also be managed as such, at all levels."

Tim Tebow expressed his gratitude to the Jacksonville Jaguars after being given the chance to reboot his NFL career.

Reports that the Jaguars had signed the former Denver Broncos quarterback surfaced last week and were confirmed on Thursday.

Tebow is set to play tight end as he seeks to prove he has what it takes to make it at the top.

"I want to thank the Jaguars for the opportunity to compete and earn the chance to be part of this team," the 33-year-old said.

"I know it will be a challenge, but it is a challenge I embrace.

"I am dedicated to taking the direction of our coaching staff and learning from my team-mates.

"I appreciate everyone's support as I embark on this new journey."

An ill-advised first-round pick of the Broncos, Tebow took his last NFL snap on December 30, 2012 for the New York Jets.

Since that game Tebow has spent the bulk of his time as a college football analyst and playing minor league baseball for the New York Mets organisation.

However, he retired from baseball in February and is now back in the NFL, where he is poised to reunite with the coach with whom he enjoyed a remarkably successful college career at Florida, Urban Meyer.

Meyer became the Jaguars' head coach in January. He won two of his three National Championships in college with Florida, with Tebow helping them to glory in 2006 and leading the Gators to the title in 2008 having won the coveted Heisman Trophy in 2007.

But Tebow's success in college did not translate to the NFL.

Picked 25th overall in the 2010 draft, his limited arm strength proved a significant hindrance to his hopes of becoming Denver's long-term starting quarterback.

He replaced Kyle Orton as the starter in 2011 and led Denver to a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime in a 29-23 Wild Card round triumph.

Yet he finished that season with a completion percentage of 46.5 that was the lowest of any quarterback to attempt at least 100 passes and was released by the Broncos in 2012 following their trade for Peyton Manning.

Fruitless spells with the Jets, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles followed but, after failing to make the grade as a quarterback, Tebow will hope his athleticism can allow him to enjoy a prolonged second act as a tight end.

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