NFL

Allen and Bills hold firm to beat Patriots and take control of AFC East

By Sports Desk December 26, 2021

The Buffalo Bills took control of the AFC East standings as they held firm to defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Bill Belichick's men, winners in the reverse game this month, had hoped to avenge a 38-9 defeat in Week 16 in Foxborough last season – that 29-point margin is the second largest the Patriots have suffered in their coach's storied 21 years in charge.

Yet despite threatening a fightback in the third quarter, the Patriots succumbed 33-21 Josh Allen inspired Buffalo to a valuable win.

Allen completed 30 of 47 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. In so doing, he joined Peyton Manning as the only other player with multiple three-passing-touchdown games at New England since Belichick's arrival in 2000.

The Bills quarterback was instrumental in a 13-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter that helped to quash hopes of a New England comeback after they had pulled to within five points on the scoreboard.

"The offensive line must have liked their Christmas presents because they played great today. I'm so happy for them and our team to go on the road and get this win," Allen said.

Buffalo (9-6) will see out the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, while the Patriots (also 9-6) face the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins.

Bittersweet for Odell Beckham Jr as Jefferson breaks record in Rams win

The Los Angeles Rams moved clear at the top of the NFC West as they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 30-23 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Odell Beckham Jr's touchdown helped the Rams move to 11-4 and edge clear of the Arizona Cardinals, who lost 22-16 to the Indianapolis Colts, although they and Los Angeles are still guaranteed a playoff spot.

His Griddy celebration was especially pointed as, with just under 13 minutes left in the third quarter, OBJ saw his record for most receiving yards in a player's first two NFL seasons surpassed by Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Bucs end 14-year wait for division title

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take their Super Bowl defence into the postseason after securing the NFC South title on Sunday.

The Bucs' 32-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers sealed their first division title since 2007 as they advance into the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2002.

Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and one touchdown as they made it back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time.

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  • Champions League final: Only Klopp stands between Ancelotti and immortality on night of destiny in Paris Champions League final: Only Klopp stands between Ancelotti and immortality on night of destiny in Paris

    There is a debate to be had that, even if Real Madrid lose Saturday's Champions League final at Stade de France and Carlo Ancelotti never lifts another trophy again, the Italian will still be able to stake a claim as being remembered as the greatest coach of all time.

    After all, he has already won 22 trophies across a managerial career spanning 27 years that has seen him coach 10 different clubs in five different countries. Indeed, he this month became the first coach to win each of the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and LaLiga.

    There is no questioning Carlo's credentials, then, but victory against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in Paris really would take the 62-year-old into 'GOAT' territory as the outright most successful coach in terms of major European honours.

    Ancelotti is currently level with Alex Ferguson and Giovanni Trapattoni in that regard with seven UEFA club competition triumphs – three Champions Leagues, three Super Cups and one Intertoto Cup, a much-derided competition that is now defunct.

    Many would suggest a better barometer of determining the true Greatest of All Time would be to simply look at how many Champions Leagues or European Cups, as it was formerly known, a manager has won. In that case, Ancelotti is level with Bob Paisley and Zinedine Zidane with three apiece.

    Triumphing for a fourth time in UEFA's showpiece competition, having previously done so with Milan in 2003 and 2007, and Madrid in 2014, would therefore set Ancelotti apart from the rest.

    The hugely experienced coach has a great record when it comes to Champions League finals, too, with victories in three of his previous four such matches. The only exception to that? In 2004-05 when Liverpool famously beat Milan on penalties in a game they trailed 3-0 at half-time.

    CARLO'S CUP PEDIGREE

    The glitz and glamour of a Champions League final was far from Klopp's mind in that campaign when in his fourth season in charge of Mainz. The 2004-05 season was just as memorable for the German club's supporters as Liverpool's, though, as they finished 11th in what was their first top-flight campaign.

    Seventeen years on, Klopp now has a shot at becoming one of 17 multiple-time winners of the European Cup/Champions League, level with the likes of Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and even Manchester United great Ferguson.

    He went all the way with Liverpool in 2019, triumphing over domestic rivals Tottenham, but his previous two finals in the competition ended in disappointment, with defeat against Bayern Munich as Dortmund boss in 2013 and against Zidane's Madrid as Liverpool manager in 2018.

    Zidane may have been replaced by Ancelotti in the Madrid dugout, but this weekend presents Klopp – and indeed Liverpool – with a shot at redemption. Having won two trophies already with the Reds this season, Klopp's cup final record looks a lot better than it did just a few months ago.

    He has now won eight of his 18 finals, which compares to 16 victories from 22 finals for Ancelotti across all competitions. In percentage terms, Klopp has won 44 per cent of finals he has contested, while Ancelotti has won 73 per cent.

    A FAMILIAR FOE AWAITS

    Ancelotti and Klopp are no strangers to one another, of course, with Saturday's showdown set to be their 11th meeting in all competitions. Ancelotti edges the overall record from the previous 10 encounters with four wins to Klopp's three.

    Despite managing an Everton side far inferior to Klopp's Liverpool, Ancelotti lost just one of his three Merseyside derbies during his season-and-a-half in charge of the Toffees.

    That includes three successive games without defeat, culminating in a 2-0 win in February 2021 – Everton's first Anfield victory since 1999 and their first win either home or away over Liverpool since 2010.

    Ancelotti certainly had Klopp's number in the most recent of their battles, although the results of his two finals against English clubs in European competition have been mixed – the aforementioned shoot-out loss in 2005 and a 2-1 win two years later, both during his time with Milan and both against Liverpool.

    The Italian has certainly stood the test of time, with his 70 per cent win rate in his second stint with Madrid bettered only by the 75 per cent enjoyed the first time around in the Spanish capital, and now a shot at history – a fourth Champions League and an eighth European trophy – awaits.

    Against a familiar opponent in both Liverpool and Klopp, and in a city where he helped grow Paris Saint-Germain into a force to be reckoned with just over a decade ago, the stage is set for Ancelotti to further strengthen his claim as being the greatest of them all.

  • Steelers hire Omar Khan as general manager Steelers hire Omar Khan as general manager

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Omar Khan as their new general manager.

    Khan, who was most recently Pittsburgh's vice president of football and business administration, has worked for the Steelers for 21 years.

    He replaces long-time GM Kevin Colbert, who in January announced his decision to step down after the 2022 NFL Draft.

    "I am extremely excited for this opportunity to be the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Khan.

    "I would like to thank Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, and Kevin Colbert for their support throughout this process.

    "I am ready for this challenge and grateful to continue the success we have had on the field during my first 21 years.

    "I look forward to completing our football operations staff and working tirelessly to build another championship football team for Steelers Nation and our community."

     

  • French Open: Nadal brushes off Moutet to seal 300th grand slam match win French Open: Nadal brushes off Moutet to seal 300th grand slam match win

    Rafael Nadal recorded his 300th grand slam match win by easing into the third round of the French Open, beating Corentin Moutet in straight sets.

    The 'King of Clay' is in search of a record-extending 22nd major title at Roland Garros, where he was dethroned by Novak Djokovic last year.

    On this evidence, Nadal is in the form to re-establish his dominion of the tournament, overcoming a spirited home hope, who enjoyed the benefit of vocal support from the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Wednesday evening.

    Nadal will see room for improvement having failed to serve the match out in the third set, but a 6-3 6-1 6-4 win was never in doubt.

    The tone for a procession was established when Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set, and Moutet's dream of playing his idol soon appeared to be turning into a nightmare.

    Nadal won the second set in commanding fashion behind an excellent first serve, but found Moutet's resistance more stern in the third.

    That spirit was exemplified by Moutet breaking Nadal's serve with the Spaniard ahead 5-3. However, Nadal immediately responded in kind, dominating Moutet from the back of the court and wrapping up a landmark victory when the Frenchman sent a lob long at the end of an entertaining rally.

    Nadal will face Botic Van De Zandschulp in the third round.

     

    Data Slam: Nadal 107-3 opponents

    As well as being his 300th grand slam match win, Nadal's triumph was his 107th at Roland Garros. He has still only tasted defeat in Paris three times. The fifth seed won all 11 of his first-serve points in the second set of another impressive display.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 27/22
    Moutet – 16/24

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 1/2
    Moutet – 0/3

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 7/12
    Moutet – 2/4

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